Archive for March, 2010

Cocoons and Innovation Don’t Mix

March 30th, 2010

images22Did you see the announcement that US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is turning to NASA scientists for help analyzing Toyota electronic throttles? Secretary LaHood, Why did you wait so long?  “We are determined to get to the bottom of unintended acceleration”, said LaHood. This comment coming after 8.5 million Toyota vehicles have been recalled over the last six months and probably just as many law suits on the drawing board. Why does it take us so long to look beyond the boundaries of our organizations for answers?  When will we figure out that solutions are rarely found inside the silos we cocoon ourselves within?  It is impossible to innovate from inside a cocoon.

I suspect that Secretary LaHood is only turning to NASA due to political pressure.  I am sure he preferred to keep the federal analysis within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that he oversees.  The problem is that they have been investigating sudden acceleration within the agency since 2004 and have found no throttle problems.  The pressure on the agency now to bring in outside expertise is too great to withstand.  Secretary LaHood has been drilled during Congressional hearings.  I doubt when he signed up for the job he thought he would have more air time than the Secretary of State.  The Secretary is a colorful character and fun to listen to. He even tweets for heaven’s sake. (@RayLaHood) Read more

Reboot Motivation

March 22nd, 2010

images21Dan Pink always makes me think.  Each of his books elicits an “AHA” moment with staying power.  Free Agent Nation changed the way I think about work and relate to institutions forever.  A Whole New Mind rescued the right side of my brain from its inferiority complex and ignited a long-term love affair with design thinking.  Dan’s new book, Drive, is no different.  It has crystallized my life-long instinct that our thinking about motivation and incentives is out of synch with the possibilities of the 21st century.  Time to reboot motivation.

The 20th century was all about management.  The North Star was how to get more people to go through the motions efficiently. Seeking personal meaning in work was a distraction. The best workers follow the rules, work hard, and smile.  Work boiled down to an algorithm rendering out any creativity or autonomy.  Fulfillment and empowerment were HR buzzwords and the “soft stuff” relegated to off-site retreats that don’t get in the way of real work.  Incentives in the industrial era were all about carrots and sticks.  Motivation was based solely on external factors including compensation, title, office, and promotion opportunities. Read more

Wake Up Call

March 8th, 2010

images2Calling all innovators and designers.  It is time to get below the buzzwords and to mobilize our networks with urgency and purpose. Waiting for public and private sector institutions to transform our urban economies won’t work. It is up to us to deliver on the promise of social media platforms and self-organizing networks. We must mobilize purposeful networks to address the big social challenges of our time including education, economic, and workforce development. I got a big wake up call last week while visiting Detroit for the first time.  Talk about a burning platform. If you need a call to action just visit Detroit and see the devastation for yourself.

This once great industrial city is a shell of its former self.  Detroit has lost half of its population going from a peak in the 1950’s of 2 million to under 1 million in the 2000 census.  It is expected that the population will settle below 700,000 as unemployment and home foreclosures continue to fuel out-migration.  What is to become of those that can’t get out and are left behind? Read more

Needed: Urban Innovation Hot Spots

March 2nd, 2010

bw-logo1My latest blog post about turning our cities in to innovation hot spots has been published in Business Week as part of a special report, Eye On Architecture 2010. You can see the article, Needed: Urban Innovation Hot Spots here.  My friend and editor, Helen Walters, has worked her magic on my original post. Clearly, Helen makes me a better writer.  I am looking forward to the roundtable discussion in Detroit this week.  I will share observations when I return.  I am excited to catalyze a needed conversation about how our cities can play offense to transform our economy.  Citizens are waiting.