Design Your Life, Change the World

Michael Gordon‘s book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers – the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world. 


The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:

1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?

2) What’s the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?

The reason I’m helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world’s biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn’t making things any easier…

Are you a changemaker?  Go find out >> 

P.S. – you can download the PDF version here >>

The $300 House-for-the-Poor

Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).


The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation(inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.

What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.

This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered – without the traditional assumptions.

Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe – from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!

Orit Gadiesh on Curiosity


How do you encourage curiosity across a global organization?

Many consultants out there would rather just give answers and are even afraid to ask questions. We deliberately hire people who aren’t like that, even early in their careers, and senior consultants coach them on how to be inquisitive. Sometimes that means asking a client’s managers very difficult questions, really pushing them hard to reveal or do things they’re not comfortable with–getting a CEO to explain lagging sales, for example, or to acknowledge why a competitor’s pulling ahead. Other times that means encouraging constructive dissent–deliberately engaging with people who disagree with you and being willing to probe them on their point of view. That can be tricky, but persistent questioning usually produces the best solutions.”

Orit Gadiesh in an interview HBR, Sept. 2009

Remember when she debuted?  Too bad her purple reign is over…

“How GE is Disrupting Itself” by Immelt, VG, and Chris Trimble

VG has touched a chord with this article in Harvard Business Review


How GE is Disrupting Itself describes the concept of reverse innovation – how products developed in and for low-cost countries (like India and China) by multinationals (like GE) lead to growth – not only in the low-cost market, but at home as well.

VG says the article has touched an “emotional” chord with readers who are saying that this approach is just what “western” multinationals should be doing – designing products for the local market at a price-point which is within reach.

Check out the advertisement for one such product:

To me, this is just the first step to being truly global (as they say at Thunderbird). With business commitments at a local level, social commitments will surely follow. 

Now let’s see some “ecomagination” in action and build portable solar/wind electrical generators for off-grid villages at an affordable price-point. Right, Bob?

Customer-Driven Innovation: Interview with Gaurav Bhalla

Here’s my “Customer-Driven Innovation interview” with Gaurav Bhalla for the Emory Marketing Institute.
According to Bhalla, the key building blocks of value co-creation are:
Listening: learning about consumers’ experiences; their angst, frustrations, desires, and aspirations

Sustaining value co-creation conversations:
meaningful conversations that yield the raw material for co-creation
Experimenting and rapid prototyping: to manage risk, improvise, and enable speedy value co-creation
Execution: only when co-created value is delivered can the next round of value co-creation be initiated
Read all about it >>

Losing the Secret Ingredient in the H-Bomb

For decades nonproliferation experts have argued that, once unleashed, the nuclear genie cannot be stuffed back in the bottle. But they probably didn’t consider the possibility that a country with nuclear bomb-making know-how might forget how to manufacture a key atomic ingredient. Yet that’s precisely what happened to the US recently, and national security experts say this institutional memory lapse raises serious questions about the federal government’s nuclear weapons management.
Whoops! Is this what a military-industrial complex “senior” moment looks like?

World of Ends: Another Manifesto from Doc Searls and David Weinberger

The Cluetrain posse continues their journey:
1. The Internet isn’t complicated
2. The Internet isn’t a thing. It’s an agreement.
3. The Internet is stupid.
4. Adding value to the Internet lowers its value.
5. All the Internet’s value grows on its edges.
6. Money moves to the suburbs.
7. The end of the world? Nah, the world of ends.
8. The Internet’s three virtues:
a. No one owns it
b. Everyone can use it
c. Anyone can improve it
9. If the Internet is so simple, why have so many been so boneheaded about it?
10. Some mistakes we can stop making already
Details >>

Masao Nemoto: Is Your Culture Hurting Competitiveness?

A former senior managing director of Toyota Motor Corporation and renowned leader of their famous manufacturing system, Masao Nemoto is known throughout the world as a leader in quality control and process optimization. In a sense, he is one of the principal architects of the “Toyota Way.”
What we learn from Nemoto is far more than quality management. His ideas on leadership have been documented, and reveal the profound knowledge Nemoto infused into the day-to-day operations at Toyota.
One particular aspect of Nemoto’s thinking has been largely ignored by western companies to their own detriment: coordination between business units.
Nemoto insisted on a culture of shared responsibility. Here’s what Nemoto says:
“One of the most important functions of a division manager is to improve coordination between his own division and other divisions. If you cannot handle this task, please go to work for an American company.” (see his 10 leadership principles below)
Nemoto believed that critical tasks could not be left to a single business unit, but rather should be a collective responsibility.
What has this got to do with leadership?
Nemoto’s point of view says that leaders must lead across the company, not just their own fiefdom. It is ironic, to say the least, that the democratization of business happened first not in the West, but in Japan, at companies like Toyota. Or in Brazil, with Semco.
Note: OK, there are a few American companies in this camp as well: Zappos and W. L. Gore & Associates
Nemoto’s thinking went all the down to the individual worker on the assembly line. Everyone speaks, insists Nemoto, not just management. A direct result of this view is the work principle: problems must be solved at the lowest possible level. All employees take responsibility for problem solving, instead of pushing the issue upwards. Every worker in a process can be stop the work flow, without waiting for a supervisor to make the decision. It is this transparency which drives out defects and makes quality job one. Now wasn’t that a slogan we heard somewhere before?
Next time you bring your business unit heads around the conference table, ask yourself: “Are we competing against each other or against the competition?”
For reference, here are Nemoto’s 10 leadership principles:
1. Improvement after improvement. Managers should look continually for ways to improve the work of their employees. Advance is a gradual, incremental process. They should create all atmosphere conducive to improvements by others.
2. Coordinate between divisions. Managers of individual divisions, departments, or subsidiaries must share responsibility. Nemoto offers this advice to his managers:
One of the most important functions of a division manager is to improve coordination between his own division and other divisions. If you cannot handle this task, please go to work for an American company. A corollary of this is that upper management should not assign important
tasks to only one division.
3. Everyone speaks. This rule guides supervisors of quality circles at Toyota, ensuring participation and learning by all members. It has also been generalized to all meetings and the annual planning process. By hearing everyone’s view, upper management can create realistic plans that have the support of those who must implement them–an essential element in quality programs.
4. Do not scold. An alien concept to most managers. At Toyota the policy is for superiors to avoid giving criticism and threatening punitive measures when mistakes are made. This is the only way to ensure that mistakes will be reported immediately and fully so that the root causes (in policies and processes) can be identified and amended. Assigning blame to the reporter clearly discourages reporting of mistakes and makes it harder to find the underlying cause of a mistake, but it is difficult to train managers to take this approach.
5. Make sure others understand your work. An emphasis on teaching and presentation skills is important because of the need for collaboration. At Toyota, managers are expected to develop their presentation skills and to teach associates about their work so that collaborations will be fuller and more effective.
6. Send the best employees out for rotation. Toyota has a rotation policy to
train employees. There is a strong tendency for managers to keep their best employees from rotation. But the company benefits most in the long run by training its best employees.
7. A command without a deadline is not a command. This rule is used to
ensure that managers always give a deadline or schedule for work. Employees are instructed to ignore requests that are not accompanied by a deadline. The rationale is that without a deadline, tasks are far less likely to be completed.
8. Rehearsal is an ideal occasion for training. Managers and supervisors give numerous presentations and reports. In a QC program there are frequent progress reports. Mr. Nemoto encourages managers to focus on the rehearsal of reports and presentations, and to require that they be rehearsed. Rehearsal time is used to teach presentation skills and to explore problems or lack of understanding of the topic. Because it is informal, rehearsal time is better for learning.
9. Inspection is a failure unless top management takes action. The idea
behind this is that management must prescribe specific remedies whenever a problem is observed or reported. Delegating this task (i.e., by saving “shape up” or “do your best to solve this problem”) is ineffective. So is failing to take any action once a problem is defined.
10. Ask subordinates, “What can I do for you?” At Toyota this is called “creating an opportunity to be heard at the top.” In the first year of a quality-control program, managers hold meetings in which employees brief them about progress.
Three rules guide these informal meetings:
1. Do not postpone the meetings or subordinates will think their project is not taken seriously.
2. Listen to the process, not just the results, since QCs focus in on the process.
3. Ask the presenters whether you can do anything for them. If they ask for help, be sure to act on the request.
This philosophy can be generalized. If top management is perceived as willing to help with problems, employees are more optimistic about tackling the problems and will take management’s goals more seriously.
While reading these principles of Nemoto, I couldn’t help but be reminded of good old Deming.

Google in the White House? Will Vivek Kundra transform the Federalist CIO Bureaucracy?

The White House announced this morning that Vivek Kundra will be the administration’s Chief Information Officer.
It won’t be easy, since our government IT is basically a patchwork of competing departments (fiefdoms) and vendors (mercenaries) and CIOs (the entrenched aristocracy).
Here’s Kundra talking about his previous position:

Steve Ballmer‘s probably having a fit over at MS right now. Here’s his Howard Dean moment.
So what can we expect from Kundra? Three things to look for:
1) Transparency: of costs and just as important, procurement processes
2) Lower costs: through the use of open apps like Google Apps
3) Virtualization: everything in the cloud…
And who is Obama going to bring in as Chief Technology Officer (CTO)? I’d like to see JSB, but I’m getting this “Google in the White House” feeling, i.e. Eric Schmidt

Better Decision-Making: Tom Davenport and Peter Drucker

Here’s a brilliant post from “decision-making” guru Tom Davenport. He asks us to “make 2009 the Year of Better Decisions.”
Here’s what Davenport recommends:
1) Make a list of key decisions: not all decisions are equal, so you have to ask yourself what the key decisions are.
2) Classify decisions by type: For example, is the decision financial, personal, strategic, or tactical? By deciding how to treat different types of decisions differently, companies (and individuals) can become more effective.
3) Track decisions and their outcomes: without this, you can’t improve your decision-making abilities. And if things did go wrong, why did it happen?
4) Establish a decision-making coaching group: to improve decision-making across the company!
5) Create a decision-making process for the company: how do we make this decision? Davenport gives us an example from Air-Products (the company which, I believe, initially decided that not using an ERP system would be a competitive advantage.)
Good stuff.
I’d to bring Peter Drucker into the picture at this point. For Drucker, a decision has not been made until people know:
– the name of the person accountable for carrying it out;
– the deadline;
– the names of the people who will be affected by the decision and therefore have to know about, understand, and approve it—or at least not be strongly opposed to it—and
– the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.
And one more crucial point from Drucker:
Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives’ decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake. Decisions are made at every level of the organization, beginning with individual professional contributors and frontline supervisors. These apparently low-level decisions are extremely important in a knowledge-based organization. Knowledge workers are supposed to know more about their areas of specialization—for example, tax accounting—than anybody else, so their decisions are likely to have an impact throughout the company. Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level. It needs to be taught explicitly to everyone in organizations that are based on knowledge.
R.I.P. Peter!
I’m counting on Obama being a far-better decision-maker than Dick Cheney.

Seth Godin teaches the New York Times How to Compete

In my line work (consulting) I run into all kinds of executive mindsets. In the publishing world, however, these mindsets tend to be rather stodgy at best, reptilian at worst.
Publishers don’t understand the web. And Seth Godin takes the New York Times to task, pointing out so many obvious misses and near-misses, that you have to ask why. Why don’t publishers get it? Why do they insist on playing it safe, even as their ship sinks below them?
Godin’s answer is right on target: “organizations are run by people who want to protect the old business, not develop the new one.”
This is what VG talks about as well.
In just about any large company, the people running the show are great at yesterday’s business, not tomorrow’s.
Please read Godin’s post >>

Shoshana Zuboff: Obama’s Victory is Capitalism 2.0

Writes Zuboff in BusinessWeek:
“This column is dedicated to the top managers of American business whose policies and practices helped ensure Barack Obama’s victory. The mandate for change that sounded across this country is not limited to our new President and Congress. That bell also tolls for you. Obama’s triumph was ignited in part by your failure to understand and respect your own consumers, customers, employees, and end users. The despair that fueled America’s yearning for change and hope grew to maturity in your garden.”
Years ago I remember reading Zuboff’s In the Age of the Smart Machine and thinking that no one in corporate management really wants real transparency… and that the information value-chain she described was doomed to failure.
Luckily, I was wrong. Now Obama will bring process transparency to government and business.
Asks Zuboff:
“…can we invent a business model in which advocacy, support, authenticity, trust, relationship, and profit are linked?”
“Yes, we must,” she concludes.
Read the article >>
And read her book: The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism

Michael Porter: Why America Needs an Economic Strategy

“The stark truth is that the U.S. has no long-term economic strategy—no coherent set of policies to ensure competitiveness over the long haul. Strategy embodies clear priorities, based on understanding the strengths we need to preserve and the weaknesses that threaten our prosperity the most. Strategy addresses what to do, but also what not to do. In dealing with a crisis, experience teaches us that steps to address the immediate problem must support a long-term strategy. Yet it is far from clear that we are taking the steps most important to America’s long-term economic prosperity.”
That’s the Portermeister in BusinessWeek.
What he’s saying is Vote Obama 🙂

Shaping Strategy in a World of Constant Disruption: How to Manage Your Business Ecosystem

In this month’s Harvard Business Review, authors John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison provide a road map for the daunting task of shaping strategy as technology-driven infrastructures constantly change.
The article is called: “Shaping Strategy in a World of Constant Disruption” and you can download it here (thanks Deloitte Consulting!) >>
In my view this is a very timely piece of thinking from my heroes JH3 and JSB (and Lang Davison). I’ll dig into it later this month on
Wait, there’s more. Check out the podcast >>

What Would Peter Drucker Do?

Looks like Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ is thinking along the same lines we are (for a few seconds at least).
They’ve gone an dug up an old article Peter Drucker wrote for them: Planning for Uncertainty.
Here are some of the key questions:
– …traditional planning asks, “What is most likely to happen?” Planning for uncertainty asks, instead, “What has already happened that will create the future?”
– “What do these accomplished facts mean for our business? What opportunities do they create? What threats? What changes do they demand — in the way the business is organized and run, in our goals, in our products, in our services, in our policies? And what changes do they make possible and likely to be advantageous?”
– “What changes in industry and market structure, in basic values (e.g., the emphasis on the environment), and in science and technology have already occurred but have yet to have full impact?”
– “What are the trends in economic and societal structure? And how do they affect our business?”
– “What is this company good at? What does it do well? What strengths, in other words, give it a competitive edge? Applied to what?”
He ends with a serious warning for the bean-counters:
There is, however, one condition: that the business create the resources of knowledge and of people to respond when opportunity knocks. This means developing a separate futures budget.
The 10% or 12% of annual expenditures needed to create and maintain the resources for the future — in research and technology, in market standing and service, in people and their development — must be put into a constant budget maintained in good years and bad. These are investments, even though accountants and tax collectors consider them operating expenses. They enable a business to make its future — and that, in the last analysis, is what planning for uncertainty means.

And don’t forget his advice for retail strategy >>

God is in the Process: The Legacy of Michael Hammer

I have to say I was shocked when I saw the news about Michael Hammer. He was just sixty. Goes to show you how precious every second is. It may be that they need to do some process re-engineering up in heaven. Maybe make it more customer friendly or something…

Down here on Earth, process re-engineering isn’t as fashionable as it used to be. And I wonder how many people got laid off because of Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution (Collins Business Essentials).

But Hammer was misunderstood. His ideas were abused by company executives and the management consulting industry. Today his ideas live on in the heads of IT nerds and companies like Zara.

Where do you (and your company) stand? Check out the maturity models he created:
1) for process maturity, and 2) for enterprise maturity.

Too bad we didn’t see the one on leadership maturity.

Here are some fun links:
Put Processes First: Make High Performance Possible Michael Hammer
Michael Hammer: A Tribute to the Guru of Operations Anand Raman
Remembering Michael Hammer Tom Davenport

In the end, process matters. Even our buddy Drucker acknowledged that.
BTW, the other process guru who is still (very) alive and kicking isTom Davenport.

Peter Drucker on Knowledge Productivity

I love stumbling upon old Peter Drucker interviews. The insights he throws out with just about every breath are astonishing.
Here he is on knowledge productivity:
“There has been no increase in the productivity of knowledge work. I began to teach on my twentieth birthday. November 19, 1929, I gave my first university lecture. There has been no improvement in the productivity of college faculty since. If anything, it has gone down, because of committee meetings.
My distinguished colleagues spend God only knows how much time in committee meetings, and there has never been a committee meeting that produced any results. President Roosevelt said, If I want to make absolutely sure that nothing gets done, I appoint a committee.”

Good to know that committees still rule the world of both corporate and government decision-making.

Losing the Talent War: Immigration Policy and The Reverse Brain Drain

As a kid in India, the phrase “brain drain” meant someone smart just left India to work in the US.
Now it looks like the tables have turned:
“…more than 1 million highly skilled professionals such as engineers, scientists, doctors, researchers, and their families are in line for a yearly allotment of only around 120,000 permanent-resident visas for employment-based principals and their families in the three main employment visa categories (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3). These individuals entered the country legally to study or to work. They contributed to U.S. economic growth and global competitiveness. Now we’ve set the stage for them to return to countries such as India and China, where the economies are booming and their skills are in great demand. U.S. businesses large and small stand to lose critical talent, and workers who have gained valuable experience and knowledge of American industry may become potential competitors.”
Skilled immigrants create jobs:
“…more than half of the engineering and technology companies started in Silicon Valley and a quarter of those started nationwide from 1995 to 2006 had immigrant founders. These companies employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in revenue in 2006.”
We need a new policy on skilled immigration, Obama.
More info: an editorial by Alan Webber on the same topic>>

Nurturing Your Business Ecosystem: Lessons Learned from SAP

JH3 and JSB have written an insightful piece for BusinessWeek titled: How SAP Seeds Innovation: SAP’s collaborative Web sites and discussion forums give its customers ways to learn from SAP business partners as well as from each other.
So why does SAP succeed where others fail?
According to Hagel:
1) SAP generated its ecosystem, which consists of customers, business partners, experts and independent parties by addressing the needs of the participants

2) it focused on the needs of individuals, not just companies.
There you have it: people first.
Read the entire article >>

Everybody’s Going Surfin’ – Catching the Innovation Wave

The latest in a series of Innovation on the Edge articles to appear in BusinessWeek, Catching the Innovation Wave is a clever lesson in how innovation occurs at the relevant edge.

John Hagel and JSB ask executives to:
1. “find relevant edges that will test and push their current performance.”
2. “attract motivated groups of people to these edges to work together around challenging performance issues.”
3. “recognize that the people who are likely to be attracted to the edge are big risk-takers.”
4. “recognize that the edge fosters not just risk-taking, but very different cultures that are also ‘edgy.’ ”
5. “find ways to appropriate insights from adjacent disciplines and even more remote areas of activity.”
6. “bring users and developers of technology close together.”
7. understand “the loose practice network that evolved around big wave surfing.” Performance breakthroughs occur “when seasoned practitioners engage with the technology, especially in close-knit communities, and evolve their practices to better use it…”
Watch the surfing slideshow here, and read a longer version of the article on John’s blog >>

John Hagel’s FAST Strategy Webinar – May 9, 2007

Over the last sixty years, the average lifetime of companies on the S&P 500 list has declined by 80%, from 75 years to 15 years.
John Hagel asks: “What if everything you learned about business strategy is WRONG?”
According to JH3, the basic principles of traditional strategy – the principles still taught at most business schools and company executive education programs – are wrong:
· WRONG: Develop a detailed strategy before moving to operational implementation
· WRONG: Focus on a one to five year time horizon to develop robust strategies.
· WRONG: Pursue a portfolio approach to business initiatives to cope with growing uncertainty.
· WRONG: Strategy is a specialized discipline that needs to be pursued by experts.
So what’s the alternative? Hagel has developed a powerful approach he calls FAST STRATEGY and it’s being used by some of the world’s most successful (and innovative) companies.
On May 9, Hagel’s doing a webinar with titled appropriately – FAST Strategy: How to Get Results in Disruptive Markets

The webinar will provide you with a basic understanding of how to use FAST Strategy in both your business and as a personal tool to improve your career.
Check it out >>
Note: the way I see it is that Hagel normally charges $25,000 for an hour long presentation on strategy. And now you can join the conversation (live) for $1497.00 on May 9. That’s chump change, especially if your company pays for it! See you there>>

USA Today: IDEO, The Deans of Design

IDEO is all about experiential approaches. Its designers try to see and sense the world by getting inside the heads of their fellow human consumers. The firm-a dream come true for the concerned parents of liberal arts majors everywhere-employs anthropologists, cognitive psychologists, and sociologists, among other right-brain thinkers, to create, improve, or reimagine all manner of products, services, work spaces, and business systems. “It’s a very human-centered process,” says Tom Kelley, the firm’s general manager and brother of founder David Kelley. “Others approach a problem from the point of view that says, ‘We have the smartest people in the world; therefore, we can think this through.’ We approach it from the point of view that the answer is out there, hidden in plain sight, so let’s go observe human behavior and see where the opportunities are.” – from this article in USA Today
What a novel idea.
How come no one in the auto industry gets this?

Manasco on “The Wisdom of Communities”

My friend Britton Manasco blogs about the “Wisdom of Communities” here.
His point is “the future is increasingly about the wisdom of crowds — or, at least, communities.”
So people, says Britton, especially in the B2B world, tend to trust their peers and not the experts.
Britton’s right to some extent. But what he forgets is that a community is a group of individuals, some more passionate than others, focused around a practice or interest. The leaders of the community are viewed as experts (perhaps not in the academic sense), but certainly in the role of the teacher helping the novices get up to speed.
These “experts” rise to the top naturally. And unlike senior management in most American companies, they rise to the top by virtue of merit – the knowledge they share with their fellow community members. The wisdom of communities is thus not the wisdom of crowds, but the wisdom of the expert-practitioner. Often they’re amateurs. Which makes them even more believable, because they’re in it for the love of the game, not necessarily for the money like the “professionals.”
Ask yourself: How can we get customers to collaborate with our company/companies to co-create products and services that benefit everyone involved?
To me, that’s the real power of communities, aside from double loop marketing.

Chris Trimble: Building Innovation Ecosystems

The rate at which new ideas are generated is directly related to the effort invested in enriching social networks.
Says Chris Trimble in his Fast Company column:
“Entrepreneurs believe in the power of networking. Many are very good at it. They become good because they recognize that most people with interesting notions usually have only one piece of a puzzle. Often unexpected combinations of ideas, or chance meetings of people with complimentary perspectives, ignite genuine breakthroughs.
“Aspiring innovators from large companies are handicapped in the networking game — not because they lack skill, but because of the nature of their jobs. Once a business is proven and profitable, the name of the game is to make operations as efficient as possible. Employees at all levels are pulled into ever more specialized roles. Repeated tasks are joined together by rigorously documented processes. As a result, each manager’s web of connections increasingly mirrors the way today’s work is organized. Most connections are with managers with closely related specialties, who share similar perspectives, shaped by the demands of the same customers.”
There is one other point Chris – I call it the “closing of the corporate mind”. It’s not just about people being comforatble with the status quo. It’s about people hiring and surrounding themselves with their own kind. A tribal thing, perhaps? So the desis hang out with the desis, the Chinese with the Chinese, the Hicks with the Hicks, the golf-playing execs with other golf-playing execs, repugs with repugs, etc.
And as your colleague VG says, travel!
Trimble also mentions the “vast differences between communication networks and trust networks. Communication networks are the kind that are useful at the front-end of the innovation process because they enable the sharing of ideas. The back-end of the innovation process depends on trust networks, which require much heavier investments in time, energy, and goodwill.
Still boils down to people and trust, people! Put a value on that Mr. CFO Bean-Counter!

Open Source Collaboration: The Flu Wiki

The purpose of the Flu Wiki is to help local communities prepare for and perhaps cope with a possible influenza pandemic. This is a task previously ceded to local, state and national governmental public health agencies. Our goal is to be:
– a reliable source of information, as neutral as possible, about important facts useful for a public health approach to pandemic influenza
– a venue for anticipating the vast range of problems that may arise if a pandemic does occur
– a venue for thinking about implementable solutions to foreseeable problems
This is how the Internet is democratizing society… collaborative problem-solving in public health. Public health is too important to leave to the bureaucrats… Remember Katrina?
See their avian influenza outbreak maps.
This level of detailed information is what we want from our public institutions, but you can bet we won’t get it- for several reasons- political, economic, and sadly, policy.

Bill Gates on Knowledge Work

In his latest column in Newsweek, Bill Gates talks about knowledge as an adjective- as in knowledge economy, knowledge worker, knowledge networks etc.
He mentions Tom Davenport’s definition of knowledge: “Knowledge is information combined with experience, context, interpretation, and reflection.” .
And here’s where he says something interesting: “We’ve gone a long way toward optimizing how we use information, we haven’t yet done the same for knowledge.”
Says Gates: “Researchers at Microsoft and elsewhere are developing technology that can unobtrusively “watch” you working, then make suggestions about related subjects or ideas. Interestingly, even if the software makes a bad guess, it can still be valuable in helping spark new ideas. Computer scientists are also making progress against a long-held dream of “intelligent agents” that anticipate your needs and provide just-in-time information that’s relevant to the work you’re doing. Experimental programs known as reasoning engines can test your ideas against common-sense logic, spotting flaws in hypotheses and acting as “virtual subject experts” to help guide your thinking.”
I have an idea for Gates in this regard, but I don’t know how to get it to him (maybe I’ll ask my buddy Tom Davenport). But the knowledge in a knowledge network resides in the heads of people. Why not connect people to other people? Or better yet, to virtual communities on that topic? I’ve said too much already.

World Economic Forum, Davos 2006: Connecting Globalization & Innovation

John Hagel and John Seely Brown have prepared this paper for the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland January 25 – 30, 2006.
It’s called: Connecting Globalization & Innovation: Some Contrarian Perspectives. [registration is required].
In the introduction, they say:
“We are only now beginning to grapple with the full implications of a globalizing economy. Tom Friedman captured our imagination with the powerful metaphor communicated in the title of his new best-selling book – The World Is Flat – but he tells only part of the story. In the process, he may leave many with a misleading impression. The world is not just flattening; it is also creating significant new opportunities to innovate and build strategic advantage. Much has been written about globalization and innovation as distinct topics, but few analysts have focused on exploring the connection between the two. Those who understand this connection – whether they are well established Western enterprises or entrepreneurial companies in emerging economies like China and India – will be able to create economic value on an unprecedented scale.
“Many companies in China and India are developing an innovative set of management techniques specifically focused on exploiting these opportunities. They are pursuing a radical, yet very pragmatic, bootstrapping approach to build capabilities while addressing near-term market opportunities. In a world of intensifying competition and increasing uncertainty, even the very largest companies need to master these bootstrapping techniques to compete successfully.
The three contrarian messages:
1) Bootstrapping is not just for small, entrepreneurial companies.
2) The United States is no longer the global center of innovation in management practices.
3) Product innovation is not the most powerful form of innovation, even though this is what most Western executives focus on when they think about innovation.
Sign up and read the whole thing. It’s an eye-opener!

Britannica vs. Wikipedia vs. Digital Universe vs. Squidoo vs. ?

Who wants to be the knowledge repository for all mankind?
The race is on:
Encyclopædia Britannica: the free stuff is weak! [rank= 2,839]
Wikipedia: a controversy on quality [rank = 31]
Digital Universe: slow going in building out the “portals” [rank = 150,326]
Squidoo: too quirky? [rank = 6,290]
and of course there’s Google…
I’m betting on two things: “free” and “ease-of-use” – and the winner (today) is Wikipedia.

Underwhelming: McKinsey’s 2006 Predictions

The nerds at McKinsey are at it again with their sweeping generalities and “big-picture” historical perspectives.
The article – Ten trends to watch in 2006 – is rather underwhelming:
“Those who say that business success is all about execution are wrong. [what?!!] The right product markets, technology, and geography are critical components of long-term economic performance. Bad industries usually trump good management, however: in sectors such as banking, telecommunications, and technology, almost two-thirds of the organic growth of listed Western companies can be attributed to being in the right markets and geographies. Companies that ride the currents succeed; those that swim against them usually struggle. Identifying these currents and developing strategies to navigate them are vital to corporate success.
“What are the currents that will make the world of 2015 a very different place to do business from the world of today? Predicting short-term changes or shocks is often a fool’s errand. But forecasting long-term directional change is possible by identifying trends through an analysis of deep history rather than of the shallow past. Even the Internet took more than 30 years to become an overnight phenomenon.”
Here are the trends they’ve identified. Wow, I’m speechless.
Macroeconomic trends
1. Centers of economic activity will shift profoundly, not just globally, but also regionally.
2. Public-sector activities will balloon, making productivity gains essential.
3. The consumer landscape will change and expand significantly.
Social and environmental trends
4. Technological connectivity will transform the way people live and interact.
5. The battlefield for talent will shift.
6. The role and behavior of big business will come under increasingly sharp scrutiny.
7. Demand for natural resources will grow, as will the strain on the environment.
Business and industry trends
8. New global industry structures are emerging.
9. Management will go from art to science.
10. Ubiquitous access to information is changing the economics of knowledge.
Advice to CEOs – if this is the advice you’re paying McKinsey for, save your money! Just read your Economist and the Global Province every week and you’ll come out ahead!
Poor show, Mr. Davis. If you’re listening, Fred Gluck – it’s time to get back in and take names and kick some …

Getting Your IT Nerds to Innovate

Few studies have studied adoption of IS innovations by IS development (ISD) organizations. I just found a study that does.

Apparently researchers observed ten factors explaining radical innovation.
Seven factors were internal or organizational factors of which four characterize a configuration of capabilities that promote radical innovation within the firm. These four are: 1) Depth of Knowledge Resources; 2) Specialists; 3) Diversity of Knowledge; 4) Related Assets. The remaining three internal factors relate to features of processes where these capabilities are mobilized in ways that promote radical innovation. These three are: 5) Intra-firm Structural Linkages; 6) Experimentation; and 7) Technological Opportunism.
In addition to the seven organizational (internal) factors, three additional environmental (external) factors predict radical innovation within ISD organizations: 8) Environmental Dynamism; 9) Unit Autonomy; and 10) Adopters’ IT Strategic Congruence.
Read the report >>