Archive for October, 2009

Form Seeking Organizations

October 26th, 2009

images8I have been thinking about the notion of form seeking structures since being wowed by MIT researcher Neri Oxman during the BIF-5 Collaborative Innovation Summit. Neri’s exciting work has big implications for organization design as we move from self-limiting industrial era structures to self-organizing networked structures.

Neri is an innovative architect who plumbs the natural world for ingenious ways to create objects or structures that meld harmoniously with their surroundings. Her vision of design is not rooted in the philosophy of the Industrial Revolution, when the machine became the ultimate model of functionality-many parts working together as an integral whole, a kit of parts. Instead, Neri’s model of design is the biological world, where there are no assemblies or individual components, but mostly tissues made of single materials (like a leaf) redistributed perfectly to achieve balance and functionality. Read more

10 Ways to Recognize an Innovator

October 19th, 2009

pioneerCan you recognize an innovator when you meet one?  The old adage, you can tell a pioneer because they are the ones with the arrows in their backs, may be true but doesn’t help to identify innovators.

I used to think we could convert everyone to be an innovator or create a culture in which everyone could innovate.  I have changed my view after many years as a road warrior consultant and innovation junkie.  Proselytizing doesn’t work.  People are either wired as innovators or they aren’t.  The trick isn’t to create more innovators it is to identify them, connect them together in purposeful ways, and give them the freedom to innovate.  A leader’s job is to create an environment where innovators can thrive. Read more

Trust Your Audience

October 9th, 2009


My head is still buzzing with all the stories from this week’s Collaborative Innovation Summit, BIF-5.  The cliché, like a kid in a candy story, doesn’t seem to do the experience justice.  Two days of total immersion in bone jarring, compelling, and personal stories of innovation. The stories were so wonderfully eclectic as to defy any attempt at grouping them in convenient buckets.  The emotive storytellers were daring us to hone our pattern recognition and sense making skills.

Fortunately the 300 participants at BIF-5 were all wired the same way, we are all innovators.  The magical Trinity Rep theatre was jammed with innovators who share a belief that there is always a better way.  The room was overflowing with a collective self-awareness that we are always missing something and an obsession for discovery, making us open to exploring the gray areas between our silos, disciplines, and organizational boundaries. Read more