Get Shorty (esau) Thu 5 Jul 07 13:07
Diego Rodriguez has an provocative thought on his Metacool blog, at the end of a post about Ron Dennis, CEO of racecar-maker McLaren and apparently a manager of Jobsian tendencies: http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2007/07/stephen-bayley-.html How does one organize for innovation? I'm beginning to think there's a bimodal answer at work: either build an organization around an exceptionally "right" individual like Jobs or Dennis, and have every aspect of it amplify their personal decision making abilities, or build a powerful network of individuals, a la Mozilla, which determines what is "right" based on the power of thousands of individuals -- some talented, some not so -- making deep bugs shallow. In other words, brilliant dictator, or brilliant network. Between those reigns the mediocrity of committees and task forces and focus groups. What do you think?
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 00:36
> bbrasch wrote: > > I'm exactly like that, looking for the logic behind what > my instinct likes. What's a good reason to skip that step? Depends what we're talking about - sometimes logic is irrelevant. If you can't decide what to order off the menu at a restaurant, but you can't stop looking at the steak, the risks are pretty low for just following your instincts and explaining them later. But if we're talking invention or design, you might need to justify your decision to someone else, which makes things more complicated. In either case the point stands - your creative instincts are almost always right in some way and you can almost always worry about understanding or explaining them later. That's the beauty of prototyping, sketching, free writing, or any creative outlet that has low pressure tied to it.
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 00:44
> Jet asked > > how do you think your book and _Blink_ overlap in terms of > being based on the same "broad background of knowledge > leading to a single decision" concept? Do you think > you're looking at different sides of the same process > or are there fundamental differences not obvious > to the naked eye? I found blink to be a wonderfully written enigma - He's a fantastic writer and it was a fun read, but it's impossible to know what Gladwell's actual opinions were. Great stories, but I didn't leave with many takeaways. But to compare the two books: They ask different kinds of questions. The Myths of innovation isn't worried much about what goes on in our brains or why (except for the first chapter), or how much we should trust our first, second or third instincts. Innovation is a process, usually a long one, a marathon not a sprint and there is plenty of room for mistakes. In fact mistakes are necessary for learning - so being wrong has value - interesting mistakes are good! The question of whether we should trust our split second instincts more or less has little impact on who's able to innovate and who isn't.
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 00:54
> Esau quoted Diego: > > How does one organize for innovation? I'm beginning to think > there's a bimodal answer at work: either build an organization > around an exceptionally "right" individual like Jobs or Dennis, > and have every aspect of it amplify their personal decision > making abilities, or build a powerful network of individuals, a > la Mozilla I have a definite aversion to bimodal anything :) (I didn't read all of Diego's posts on the subject, so I apologize if I'm too critical here). The Jobsian-centric view of Apple is partially a Myth. Jonathan Ive is no slouch and there are others involved in every Apple innovation whose names never leave Cupertino (Steven Levy's books "Insanely Great" about the Macintosh, and "The Perfect Thing" about the i-pod make this clear). Chapter 5 in the Myths of Innovation is all about the sole inventor mythology, and why it's so popular. On the other end, the open-source, distributed innovation model has its myths too. Most open source projects (Mozilla included) have a core group of 5 or 10 programmers who do most of the major work. Work from others gets filtered through them and they make decisions in fairly ordinary ways. And of course there is an entire spectrum of innovative ways to manage innovation that go on in between these polarized opposites. What if you have 3 sub-teams, and organize each one differently? What if you change your organizational model every 6 months? What if you we use an open source model to decide on goals/requirements but a Jobsian model for managing the design (or vice-versa)? The number of variants is huge!
Get Shorty (esau) Fri 6 Jul 07 08:28
Diego is being intentionally extreme in his post, but I think there's an valuable expansion of the sole inventor viewpoint when thinking of Jobs and others like him. Through force of personality and demanding vision, he aligns people around him like metal shavings around a magnet. Every decision is made with his approval in mind -- it's something between inspiration and intimidation (mostly the latter). In his book "The No Asshole Rule," Bob Sutton has a chapter he didn't want to write, "The Virtue of Assholes," in which he discusses how these strong leaders drive people to levels of performance they may not have achieved otherwise. (He feels it's never worth the trade-off, and most of his book is about the extreme damage assholes do to their colleagues and businesses.) Michael Lewis makes similar points in "Coach" about the value of tough love for pushing young athletes. And in the design and architecture world, the classic model is of a near-megalomaniac leader surrounded by micromanaged staff, who put up with it until they build their portfolios strong enough to open their own studio. I know enough about Edison to know the sole inventor label doesn't apply, but I don't know if he led his lab in a similarly uncompromising fashion.
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 10:15
Oh, I totally agree it's a common pattern - I just didn't agree that it's one of two ways to go about making innovation happen :) Apologies if I overstated my point. As a rule, the fewer people that need to be convinced, the easier risk taking becomes. There are simply fewer people to raise concerns and say no :) One easy way to increase creativity in big organizations is to centralize authority - even at the small team level - so some individuals now have more authority to take risks than others. The tricky part is, like the empererors of Rome, the more centralized authority becomes the less stable the system is.
bill braasch (bbraasch) Fri 6 Jul 07 11:18
some years ago, I was selling a software product to a New York company. Every time I was in town, they'd pull a group together and I would preach to them on the elegance of OnLine Help as the next step forward in three ring binders. This story somewhat dates me. Every time, the talk felt successful, but someone would ask why they couldn't just write this thing themselves instead of buying it. As I said, this was a while ago. We had a few secret herbs and spices in there that would take them some time, I would explain, so there were these things called licensed products you could get instead. Anyway, it never went anywhere, but then about a year later we got a call from a total stranger, an outside consultant who needed to get something done, and he licensed the product. He later won the technology achievement award of the year for his online risk management bulletin board. He had to abstract a few things to get it to work, and it wasn't even connected to an application, but he was that one person who could make the call. His solution still runs there, about 20 years past its initial release. Maybe your next book could be about how to find the people who don't have time to come to the sales presentations. Those are the deciders.
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 14:07
> Esau wrote: > > Diego is being intentionally extreme in his post, but > I think there's an valuable expansion of the sole > inventor viewpoint when thinking of Jobs and others > like him. Through force of personality and demanding > vision, he aligns people around him... I was thinking about your comments over lunch and don't think I gave a good answer. It's important to distinguish between leadership as a skill and the auteur model of managing work. I think any good leader has: 1) force of personality, 2) makes demands of his team and 3) aligns people around him. The question is how much a contribution individuals are allowed to make to the vision and how much feedback they're expected to contribute to the leaders behavior. In the auteur model, the stereotypical model of film makers and architects, the leader is expected to be the primary, and often singular, source of creativity. But there is no rule that says a great leader of an innovative project can't incorporate ideas from many people in the vision, and make adjustments to the vision based on creative contributions from anyone in the organization. In many cases famous auteurs were protected within their studios by not-so famous producers, or even studio executives. People who provided the buffer and political savvy to allow the auteur to be so self-centered.
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 14:15
> bbraasch wrote: > > Maybe your next book could be about how to find the > people who don't have time to come to the sales presentations. > Those are the deciders. It always pays to ask how a decision will be made - if they're not sure you are guaranteed it's not their call. And the numbers principle often applies: the more people in the room, the further from a decision you are. If it's just you and 3 people, you know you're in the right room. If it's a committee size event, odds are high they still in the early stages or they need you to make everyone feel involved. My first book, The art of project management, has a whole chapter (last one in the book) on politics and it's largely about figuring out who you need to convince, how to get to them and what to say. So if I haven't made a fool of myself yet in this discussion you might want to take a peek at it.
bill braasch (bbraasch) Fri 6 Jul 07 15:17
It looks great on that bookshelf you're filling up. I enjoyed the xref of quotes to sources. There's a 0 next to that book in the list, but I'm sure there're much experience drawn from the time you spent managing projects. A fellow named Frances Frank used to say that position was 'midway between the hydrant and the dog'.
Autumn (autumn) Fri 6 Jul 07 15:37
Hi, Scott, welcome to the Well. I think you accidentally overlooked (bratwood)'s question in <72> about the Buffalo State center.
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 6 Jul 07 18:55
Hi Autumn. I'm not familiar with the Buffalo State Center, so I wasn't quite sure what to say - but I can comment about this: > people skills and team trust rings through loud and clear. > I do believe that designers will begin to understand the > value of "meaning makers" and focus on human factors in > their work Some of the brightest engineers and designers I've worked with were absolute failures at explaining their ideas to others. In working with them it seems they were trained to focus on their brilliance and the things they made - everything else was no their problem. This is the "designer as artist" view of the world which is still surprisingly popular in design, and engineering, programs. So any design or creative training that doesn't spend 15% of its curricula on the real challenges creative people face: convincing others, listening to people with other expertise, being comfortable explaining the basics of what they do, presentation skills, persuasion tactics, etc. is doing them a dis-service. The bottleneck has rarely been on the creative side - it's on the human/political side. Chapter 4 in The Myths of Innovation is all about this - and how the responses people have to new ideas rarely have much to do with the idea itself - it has to do with their fears about change, fears that any creative person will need to expect and learn to persuade people to overcome, if they're going to change the world.
Get Shorty (esau) Fri 6 Jul 07 21:06
One response to this has been the rise of storytelling as an integral part of the design process. In the past, a graphic artist or renderer may have been employed to document the outcome of a particular program, sometimes in depth but more often to "prettify" the final deliverables. We (and others, I'm sure) now regularly hire people with communications backgrounds -- writers and graphic artists with experience in advertising or journalism, photographers, videographers -- to help tell the story of the design's contexts or create prototypes that are much more effective than even a looks-like/works-like model. A short video can put a new technology into a context that can rarely be conveyed in a conference room by a designer waving his or her hands in the air. And, I should add, these new designers are equally part of the process as industrial designers, engineers, and so on -- not mere bystanders working as embdedded journalists.
James Leftwich, IDSA (jleft) Sat 7 Jul 07 09:10
Scott, I enjoyed reading your book and am getting a much better sense of the nuances in your perspectives from your responses to questions here. Over the past 23 years as a design consultant, I've encounted a very vast range of company structures, cultures, and business cycle contexts, all of which have massive impact on how they conduct development, react to changing circumstances, seek efficiencies and stable business models, and ultimate thrive or decline. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the issues surrounding innovation in terms a few other dimensions present in the spectrum of modern businesses: 1) The differences in how innovation can be fostered/maintained in different scales of businesses (50-100 employee business vs. 8,000 employee business). How successfully can innovation really be inculcated in complex, multi- layered organizations which have a great deal of stability and dynamics that reinforce the old ways and attitudes? 2) The differences in how innovation comes into play in companies that are facing severely eroded marketplace success (take for example, the issues facing handset makers and phone network carriers today, in light of the appearance of the popular iPhone from Apple and AT&T). In other words, situations where innovation and repositioning (and quickly) are necessary to avoid severe loss or worse. Why do some companies and cultures cling to old myths about their relevance and processes that have evolved over better times, when the ground beneath their feet has changed? Such situations can benefit from agile (and perhaps in some ways, "reactive") innovation, but when this needs to occur relatively abruptly, it can mean a lot of organizational resistance and pain. The reason I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about this issue is that fostering innovation in a relatively stable, wealthy company that has lots of time and is seeking optimization is a very different thing than the more extreme situation of having to stop a company from plunging off a cliff after years of relatively non-innovative behavior.
bill braasch (bbraasch) Sat 7 Jul 07 11:35
then again, a plunge is a move forward. I suppose the inertia relates to the earlier comment on the number of people who need to be convinced to change. Sometimes it's easier to keep the brand and change the business: http://flickr.com/photos/bbraasch/749075344/ is an example taken on a recent flight. PBR, big in Japan!
I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Sat 7 Jul 07 12:25
(PBR is a very hip beer in the US these days.)
Clare Eder (ceder) Sat 7 Jul 07 14:43
<scribbled by ceder Mon 9 Jul 07 14:42>
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 9 Jul 07 15:02
> Esau wrote: > > We (and others, I'm sure) now regularly hire people > with communications backgrounds -- writers and graphic > artists with experience in advertising or journalism, > photographers, videographers -- to help tell the story > of the design's contexts This is awesome - in the software world, the closest thing I've seen is the rise of ethnography. There are lots of companies now that have ethnographers and I think it's for the same reason you mention: they tell stories. Of course they're telling stories about the customers, but it's the power of narratives that make things clear to people. I do think all creators, including computer science majors, should have some exposure to storytelling. Whether it's at the level of pitching ideas, or in how good narratives work - storytelling is a huge part of successful innovation.
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 9 Jul 07 15:14
> Jleft wrote: > > The differences in how innovation can be fostered/maintained > in different scales of businesses (50-100 employee business > vs. 8,000 employee business). I recommend reading The Innovators dilemma by Christensen, which is all about the challenges of maintaining innovation in established organizations. The fundamentals are the same - you still want to same kind of fostering: reward initiative, delegate authority, support experiments and risk taking, but in larger organizations there are more forces trying to protect the status quo. It gets harder to follow new ideas as the amount of change they require increases. But if as CEO your goal is still high ambition - you want continual change and reinvention - then you have to delegate the charter of innovation to your VPs and get them to delegate to their middle managers. The bigger the company, the less central the CEO or leader can possibly be in the frontiers. But it's rare that so much innovation makes sense - if I really had 8000 employees, and say 10 product lines, depending on my strategy for the next 2-3 years I'd be able to stack rack those product lines on how much risk they should be taking and how much innovation in those products they should be aiming for. Based on that strategy it'd be easy to say Product lines 1-3 should be taking big risks, 4-6 should be taking medium risks, and 7-10 should be conservative (relative to each other).
Get Shorty (esau) Mon 9 Jul 07 15:56
I haven't yet read it, but I have had many people, colleagues and others, recommend Christensen's sequel, "The Innovator's Solution," as an even better book. I really enjoyed Dilemma, but Solution uses successful cases to offer suggestions for what to do, rather than Dilemma's mostly negative (if illuminating) stories of what not to do.
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 9 Jul 07 16:51
I've read many of Christensen's books, but I find all of them, except for Innovator's Dilemna, hard reads. It's not that they're poorly written, it's that I find the advice heavily in the business school / CEO / Executive training program style. It's hard material for me to translate into practice as a manager, trainer or consultant. I can't help but feel when reading Christensen that he's assuming I'm a CEO or VP at a 10,000 person Fortune 500 company in an established industry. By far my favorite book in all of the research I did was Drucker's Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Unlike Christensen, I never feel Drucker is blanketing me in theory: his points have clear applications and his intention is pragmatism. I'd strongly recommend reading Drucker's I&E over any of the popular innovation books today (mine included).
I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Mon 9 Jul 07 17:04
Scott, Out of curiosity, why is your book so short? That is, why is it limited to questioning the myths of innovation? I was really hoping you'd get into some discussion and examples of how a workplace can create an environment that fosters innovation. I think you did a great job of dispelling the myth, but the immediate question I have is, "ok, so how do innovatve organiations come to be and stay that way"?
Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 9 Jul 07 17:37
Not sure I can answer that in any satisfactory way - Not that it isn't an interesting question, it's just that I've never seen a writer, a filmmaker, or any creator answer a question like this well :) But for fun, and entertainment value (watch Scott shoot himself in the foot), I'll give it a shot: The best answer is design: I did my best to make clear the goals of the book, to pick an interesting angle on a very well tread topic, and then write to satisfy those goals as concisely and enjoyably as possible for the reader. I don't think the book claims anywhere to be a handbook or manual, and I deliberately stayed away from tangents that went in that direction. I honestly didn't think a handbook can solve the problem of underlying and deeply believed misnomers about creative thinking, and as I mentioned in the preface, I wanted to strike at the roots of innovation, not the branches. However, I do think there's tons of advice and tactics in the book. Particular to how innovative organizations come to be: pg 40-51 on the seeds of innovation is a condensed history of many great innovators and companies and how they did what they did, including patterns that can be followed. And pg. 96-107 is my distillation of all the histories of innovation management I read (which were numerous). Any manager who frames their efforts around the 5 challenges listed in that section will have a fantastic playbook for thinking about their work.
Cupido, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Wed 11 Jul 07 05:47
>1) The differences in how innovation can be fostered/maintained in different scales of businesses (50-100 employee business vs. 8,000 employee business).< The impact of scale is an important but seldom addressed subject in many human activities. Most of us have seen differences in the dynamics of even going from five to ten people in a gathering. There may be scales at which some things,e.g. innovation, grow with little effort while other scales where the same things is damn near impossible. We talk of economies of scale, why not creativities of scale?
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 11 Jul 07 06:12
What an excellent question. In large organizations, I think there is sometimes suspicion of those who prefer to work, or who work best, individually or in very small teams.
Members: Enter the conference to participate