There is no such thing as a free hunch

Regular here Harold Jarche always has interesting things to say or pass on. One is a review of Steven Johnson’s new book, Where Good Ideas Come from: The natural history of innovation. The smart idea here is how smart ideas happen. And that is by bumping into each other. Clashing. Colliding. Challenging. Converging. Tapping one another on the shoulder and saying, hi. Finishing each other’s sentences. Making pauses pregnant.

In the not so good ole days, that would often happen via physical encounters. Two artists or scientists bumping into each other on a grand tour, trading insults and then inventing/creating new works that wouldn’t have existed – only existed – without this person to person connection. Or disconnection. If you’ve seen The Social Network though, the same rule applies. Ambitious nerd needing big idea to make it big meets privileged toffs with big idea that they don’t really need, and Facebook here we come. Via the courtrooms. The how of the Facebook idea though is only possible because of the encounter. 

Johnson’s idea is to say wouldn’t it be cool if the toffs and nerds could meet more often. Not just at Harvard, but in campuses cities and corporations everywhere. What if we planned and designed and built these structures to deliberately put people with bright ideas together? What if serendipity was the goal? The goal to make gut instincts and what ifs meet each other not just in conference lifts or canteens or tube rides, but everywhere. 

Of course, we’re soon back to the contested world of who owns the ideas (or rather, who owns the money some of those ideas make: there’s no such thing as a free hunch). But there is more to it than that. In today’s world, everyone in your company is daily exposed to more blogs, tweets, articles, conversations with clients, insights into competitor activity – all of which is inspiring ideas – than ever before. Your human capital is sparkling with ideas, brimming with knowledge and insights – by implication they actually probably unquestionably collectively know more about how the business can innovate than the board. How those ideas are set free, set free within the company for the benefit of the company, is a must. Acting on them too is a strategic priority. 

I think we have here the makings of something cool. A company where ideas are encouraged. Where they connect with each other, find each other, challenge each other. Where everything from the architecture of the building to the structure of meetings and use of blogs and wikis, culture and job description, works to make this happen deliberately and wilfully. A place were pleasant surprises are not surprising at all. 

The big question of course is who – what sagacious human capital – do those on the board (perhaps a new role is needed here – or can HR step up?) – need to collate, sift, interpret and act on the collective idea clashing pool within?

Orig on HubCap:

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