In this issue:
Trans-formative Thinking |
How Multiple Mindsets Help You |
Where Innovation Flourished |
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Sustainability and Innovation
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Help your board take a broad overview of their governance. Link to Baldrige Perspective
Sustainability and Innovation
“The current economic system has placed enormous pressure on the planet while catering to the needs of only about a quarter of the people on it, but over the next decade twice that number will become consumers and producers. Traditional approaches to business will collapse, and companies will have to develop innovative solutions. That will happen only when executives recognize a simple truth: Sustainability = innovation.”
R. Nidumolo, C.K. Prahalad and M.R. Rangaswami, “Why Sustainability Is Now the Key Driver of Innovation,” Harvard Business Review, September, 2009.
Specialization in career fields, sectors, industries, job functions and even life roles helps us stay focused and creates fertile environments for discovery.
At the same time, specialization can lead to being narrow-minded. My doctor recently complained about having to use electronic medical record software (EMR). I sympathize with her learning curve. At the same time, she sounded like a sleep-dazed Rip van Winkle.
My doctor has other specialties; she is a medical school professor and mother who must use all kinds of computer tools in these spheres of life. Yet because of the paper-and-pen conventions of doctoring, she seems not to be "trans-forming" her thinking. EMRs help doctors spot patterns and correlate patient conditions, analyze trends, benchmark against best practices and understand populations. EMRs will help her think like a forensic detective and a public health practitioner—mindsets that are potentially transformative for her and her patients.
I was thinking about my doctor at a recent health quality conference. A hospital director described how electronic medical exchanges (EMEs) are like highway intersections that connect electronic medical records. These exchanges allow a soldier’s medical records to move seamlessly to the Veteran medical system. They help community health case managers coordinate patient care with hospitals and doctors’ offices.
The guy describing EMEs is an MD with a degree in epidemiology and expertise in quality improvement. He combines multiple specialties in order to think broadly, creating bridges that are “trans-forming” medicine and public health.
Here are questions to help you build bridges across specialties:
- What core disciplines does your sector, industry or organization rely on?
- What kinds of thinking, frameworks and methods are accepted ways of doing business in these disciplines?
- Where in your organization are people from outside those fields valuable? For what ways of thinking?
- What questions in your candidate interview processes invite people to show broad knowledge, interests and innovative thinking?
- When you do strategy development, what stakeholder voices encourage you to transcend conventional ways of thinking about your sector, industry and organization?
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How Multiple Mindsets Help You
My field, organizational development, encourages us to “trans-form”, that is, form ideas across disciplines.
So what? When I work with organizations, I use multiple mindsets for viewing organizations . One mindset does not suffice for seeing the complexity in you, your group or organization.
Here's an example. In order to understand a client organization, I ask what is going on within people (psychology), between people (communications), in and among groups (sociology), across the organization (anthropology and management theory) in the organization's environment and even the culture of the industry or sector (ecology, anthropology.)
How can you use these levels? When you embark on a change initiative, consider how people will be affected at these five levels:
- In the organization's environment
Such analysis will help you frame your vision for change and create a roll-out plan that reckons with real opportunities and barriers.
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Where Innovation Flourished
In the late eighteenth century, the Lunar Society in England’s industrial heartland was an informal monthly gathering of businessmen, equipment builders and amateur experimenters like Josiah Wedgewood, James Watt and Joseph Priestley. You notice I didn’t say they were industrialists, engineers and scientists because they didn’t think of themselves this way.
We moderns might call the group a think tank or a “community of practice”, that is, a group deliberately formed to think about problems from different viewpoints. Wedgewood might complain about a slow engine, which might lead Priestley to make an observation about steam, which might lead Watts to share a problem about pumps.
Their free-wheeling discussions about business and society led Priestley and Watts to become a sort of open source R&D lab. Such conversation led Watts to make steady improvements in the steam engine, for instance.
Here’s an idea: form your own “Mid-day Society”, a book group for lunchtime discussion. See:
Gleick, J. (2003). Isaac Newton. New York: Random House, Inc.
Johnson, S. (2008). The invention of air, a story of science, faith, revolution, and the birth of America. New York: Riverhead Books.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
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