“Kicking out the ladder” with Honda

A video I did awhile back for a campaign that Honda was running about empowered employees who don’t necessarily respect the corporate ladder.  Funny how the one comment on the video on YouTube refers to “kicking out the ladder” as what executives do so that no one can ever catch up to them.  To each his own.  I guess I’m more of a “What ladder?  There’s a ladder?” type person.

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Brainstorm mentioned in Fast Company

I have to say that I wasn’t totally surprised last week when an interview with Intuit’s founder, Scott Cook, turned up in Fast Company.  That’s the kind of thing he does.  But, I was definitely surprised that he talked a good deal about Brainstorm.

Scott on empowering employees…

“You’ve seen these people–the people who say: The boss doesn’t get it. The company doesn’t get it,” Cook explains. “They know how to fix it. They have ideas, but no one cares, and no one allows them to try what they think is right. It’s crushing to the human spirit and potential.”

Scott on what can come out of it…

Cook believes this attitude changes the nature of work–at least it did at Intuit. Several years ago, two of the company’s youngest employees noticed their way of idea collaboration had become outmoded. “They had only been there four months, and they looked at our system and said, ‘That sucks,'” Cook explains. “They said, ‘We can do a lot better.’ And they did.”

I think that Scott might have directly quoted us there.  We did say “that sucks.”  But, because of Intuit’s culture, it wasn’t a roll over and moan about it situation.  We did something.  And now that something is getting mentioned in outlets like Fast Company.  Wow.  I can’t wait to see where it goes…

…until the next day we find something that sucks and decide to do something about it.

Talking RDP, Collaboration, and Innovation on the “Innovators Mix”

A couple of enthused, innovative Intuit guys started a podcast where they interview other enthused, innovative people about what makes them enthusiastic and innovative.  You can hear my story on the Innovator’s Mix.

I talk about finding work after college, the benefit of working in rotational programs, how Brainstorm came to be (and take over my life), and how anyone can come up with innovative ideas as long as they pay attention in their daily lives.

Talking Innovation at the Bay Area CIO Meetup

Well, over the last three months I haven’t been able to keep up with this blog in the way I originally intended. There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on around Brainstorm and that’s taking most of my brainpower to handle. But, I was able to catch my breath a little bit this morning and track down a couple of items on the web I wanted to point to.

I was fortunate enough to get connected with Tatyana Kanzaveli (@glfceo) late last year for a speech about using social media tools to drive innovation. It went over well enough that I was invited back again for a panel on innovation with leaders from SAP and HP. Throughout both talks, I try to hit on themes that I think are central to effective innovation in large organizations:

  • Focus on problems, not technologies
  • The workers closest to the customer have the most relevant point of view
  • And lastly, passion trumps the org chart

If you’re interested, you can check out the solo talk and the panel discussion.  For whatever reason I’m not able to get the embedding to work from the LiveStream site.

Quote for the Week

“Obama should launch his own moon shot. What the country needs most now is not more government stimulus, but more stimulation. We need to get millions of American kids, not just the geniuses, excited about innovation and entrepreneurship again. We need to make 2010 what Obama should have made 2009: the year of innovation, the year of making our pie bigger, the year of ‘Start-Up America.'”

— Thomas Friedman in More (Steve) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Connecting the Dots

I was struck by a quote in Jon Meacham’s recent Newsweek piece, “In Defense of the Liberal Arts

“The next chapter of the nation’s economic life could well be written not only by engineers but by entrepreneurs who, as products of an apparently disparate education, have formed a habit of mind that enables them to connect ideas that might otherwise have gone unconnected.”

Meacham hits on something that I’ve felt, but haven’t been able to articulate.  An innovator is someone who can take two previously unrelated concepts and connect them in a valuable way.  In other words, innovators connect the dots.

A quick look through Google turns up a number of famous innovations created when someone connected the dots.  Vacuuming a carpet isn’t that different from filtering air in a factory (Dyson).  People would like to take their music with them wherever they go (Apple).  Linking to a web page is an implicit suggestion that the web page is relevant (Google).

Connect the dots!

Meacham goes on to make the case that Liberal Arts degrees (and colleges) are a difficult to value, yet crucial component of America’s ability to innovate.  I agree.  But, in my opinion, what matters is not so much that students be exposed to the Liberal Arts in and of themselves, but that they be exposed to a wide variety of disciplines.  It’s impossible to connect just one dot.

From my own experience in business, I find myself drawing on lessons learned from physics, philosophy, and political science as often as my formal business training (if not more).  It’s not that my business training wasn’t valuable.  It’s just that it’s not that interesting in isolation. But, when I layer on a capability to describe the world as a system (physics), perpetually seek to understand the nature of things (philosophy), and attempt to understand the context in which people operate (political science), I have the potential to make a discovery.

Without the additional layers, I’m not much more than a PowerPoint factory.

Aphorism for a New Year

It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

— Yogi Berra