Following Some Lines of Thought

I’ve run across a number of things that relate to recent posts, so I thought I’d put together a quick grab-bag selection today.

  • Yesterday I talked about Naomi Simson and innovation at RedBalloon. One thing that I forgot to mention is that in addition to growing incredibly quickly and being very successful financially, RedBalloon is also consistently rated by employees and outside evaluators as being a great place to work. I was reminded of this when I read a post this morning by Matt Perez called Creating a Great Place to Work. Matt’s firm NearSoft was just named one of the Top 20 Great Places to Work in Mexico, which is a great achievement.

    Being a great place to work is critically important when we are trying to make our organisations more innovative. As Dan Pink says in his book Drive, if we want creative (innovative!) work from people, we have to empower them, and give them the autonomy they need to come up with great new ideas. Compare that idea with NearSoft’s goal:

    we just aim to create a culture that people want to be part of and an environment that people want to be work in. And we (all) work hard at improving and innovating on it every day.

    And then look at what Naomi says:

    I really like the people I work with; the RedBallooners, I am interested in what drives them, what they are passionate about, I love discovering what journey they are on and what is important to them. This cannot be faked. I like people.

    The first step to being an effective manager is to like people. And be truly interested in them. If you’re a manager and don’t like people, perhaps you’re in the wrong job. Business is a people game.

    If you’re trying to be innovative, making your firm or your team a great place to work is a great way to start.

  • In my discussion of empathy and innovation, I mentioned the book Herd by Mark Earls. It’s a great book, and I’ll talk more about it soon. Today I just want to quickly mention a post on Mark’s blog that looks at the question of influence called Influence, Influentials, and the Influenced. He made this important point about influence:

    Influence is not something done by certain people to other people (as for example the pic above from New Scientist might suggest) it’s the result of those people we call The Influenced doing something in response to those we call Influential.

    As Duncan Watts and Matt Salganik noted in their important music-download paper, it’s more about the readiness of a population to adopt a behaviour than the behaviour of specific individuals.

    I.e. The Influenced do the heavy lifting of Influence, not the Influentials – and the fact that Influence is often mutual i.e. we all (well-connected or not) take cues from each other – that’s one important reason why the search for the Influentials is so prone to misunderstanding and dead-ends.

    This is something that we really need to think about when we’re trying to get ideas to spread. It suggests that we have a lot less control over the process than we often think we do. Furthermore, it suggests that strategies that involve pushing our message are likely to fail – another argument in favour of pull.

  • Johnnie Moore made some outstanding comments about that same post. He concluded with this:

    I think if we had more conversations about what we really care about, we might find innovation happens pretty much spontaneously.

    Another argument for pull strategies – something to which I obviously need to give some more serious thought.

  • One phrase that keeps coming up when talking about innovation in developing countries is “reverse innovation”. I ran across this a few times when I was doing background reading for my post on Anil Gupta and his fantastic Honey Bee Network which supports innovators in India. Here is one of the typical posts on the topic – Reverse Innovation in Action: Romanian Cars from a French Company on the German Autobahn. Here is how they define reverse innovation:

    We may be at the cusp of a new era where breakthrough innovations happen first in poor countries and those innovations subsequently are taken to rich countries.

    I love the idea, but I hate the phrase. Reverse innovation implies that the natural way for innovation to happen is for it to occur in developed countries, and then developing countries pick up the idea. This is wrong. Innovation can happen anywhere. There are incredibly exciting new ideas being tested right now in India, China and Brazil. For example, check out this idea from China:

    That’s not reverse innovation – that’s innovation. Ideas that originate in developing countries then flow to developed countries might be reversing the most common path of diffusion, but I think that calling this reverse innovation does an injustice to all the great innovators in these countries. As Anil Gupta says – “not all great ideas come from where we are.” Yep.

  • Finally, I have a new post up at the On Innovation blog called Evolutionary Innovation. It’s more thoughts on innovation lessons from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace.

Well, I think that has us about caught up….

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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