This is the week our book goes on sale in bookstores, both online and brick-and-mortar. A case of books just arrived at my desk, but I decided not to open it until I get home, so I can share the experience with my wife, Caroline. [Right now you are probably gagging and saying, “C’mon, it’s a book, not a baby.” And you’d be right.]
Usually I am prone to be blase about milestones — I skipped my graduation ceremonies from HS, college, and grad school — but that hasn’t always served me well. In fact, not only am I going to attend parties for this milestone, but I’m also HOSTING them … one in DC, one in NYC. They are called “book launch parties” and come with wine, cheese, and a gift bag. If you know me, and you live near either of those cities, you’ll be getting an invitation. Stay tuned. With any luck, I’ll see you there.
I’m not good at naming things, so I always appreciate a good name. MI2 is the name of MedStar Health’s innovation group, the brainchild of Dr. Mark Smith.
[Note: I also like White Stag, the corporate innovation unit at The Hartford, and P&G’s FutureWorks has a nice ring to it.]
The moniker MI2 is an abbreviation for MedStar Institute for Innovation. The brief form calls to mind a covert intelligence unit, and indeed, Mark is a fan of le Carre novels. But his group is hardly covert, given that he reports directly to the CEO.
Dr. Smith is a bona fide growth leader. His offices are right next to the Emergency Department of the Washington Hospital Center, a sort of ground zero for the good, the bad, and the ugly in US healthcare, which is right where he wants to be. Mark has twenty-plus years of innovating without explicit permission, just a wide berth earned by being great at his day job. And his innovations have resulted in software acquired by Microsoft and a wonderful co-development partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, to mention just a few.
After seeing so much change (information technology) and yet so little (still focused on treating illness, instead of fostering wellness), one could expect someone in Mark’s position to move out to a comfortable office and step away from the fray. No chance. His fire burns brightly at the task ahead, and it is all too easy to be swept up in his optimism. A trait you’ll find in a lot of growth leaders, come to think of it.
Last week I was in Boston to help the team at Moso launch their ambitious project, the Unfinished Business School. I was joined by Dave Gray and Saul Kaplan as adjunct faculty as we filmed the first several installments of the Moso virtual academic program.
It was a blast! I was asked to set the framework for the program because, according to Moso founder Michael Dila, “Your point of view is SO Moso.” Hmm. Moso’s mission is to “close the gap between cutting edge thinking and cutting edge doing.”
Yep, that pretty well matches the point of view that my co-author (Jeanne Liedtka) and I espouse in our forthcoming book, Designing for Growth. Michael asked us to lend our Four Questions model of innovation to provide the meta-frame for the Unfinished Business School curriculum. [FYI: The four questions are: WHAT IS? WHAT IF? WHAT WOWS? WHAT WORKS?]
I have been interviewed several times but never have I spoken straight into a camera, so I came prepared with cue cards. The crew laughed, but the other faculty said, “Wish I’d done that.” I’m sure the results will be great across the board.
Once it is available, I’ll share how to get access to it.
I finished writing my first book last December, and it will be available in a week from today. It’s called Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers, and my co-author is Jeanne Liedtka from the Darden School at UVa.
Now, there are some things they don’t tell you when you write a book, things that you wouldn’t expect. For example:
1. You have a new boss: your PR firm. When your clients call, you should respond that day. When your PR firm calls, you should respond THAT SECOND.
2. People ask you to WRITE (didn’t I just DO that?). They ask you to write ARTICLES about the BOOK (you following me on this?). Wait, couldn’t I just have you reprint a section of the book? Noooooo, absolutely not.
3. People ask you to WRITE … another book. I mean, lots of people ask, as if that’s what I do. Hey, the first one isn’t even on the shelves yet, and you’re ready for the NEXT one?
The truth is, I like my PR agency and they are in my corner. I want PR because I want people to read my book, and I want my book to change some people’s lives for the better. Yes, I think it is that good. And finally, I will write another book. Just not this year (and probably not next year … but soon …).
This week my co-founder and partner of the past five years, Jeneanne Rae, launched her own firm, Motiv. A few months back, when she said, “I need to run my own show,” I hesitated maybe two seconds before I realized, “Of course you do.” Motiv will be a woman-owned business with a zeal for innovation and the savvy to help clients make the right bets in the face of uncertainty.
We’ll still collaborate on several matters, but many things will change as a new set of younger leaders fill the void left by Jeneanne. She raised us all up and we know to expect great things from her in the new format of Motiv. You go, partner.
Yes, it’s true, I am going Moso. Michael Dila has cooked up a concept for an online cohort of students to attend a 6-week “Unfinished Business School” and I have jumped in as adjunct faculty. In a week, I’ll be developing web content that will be piloted in June sometime.
It wasn’t hard to get enthusiastic. The Moso website says “Moso is a platform for the development of practical tools for innovation. We are closing the distance between cutting edge thinking and cutting edge doing.”
This is exactly the mission of the book Jeanne Liedtka and I just finished. And Michael correctly points out, “A book isn’t a practice. And it isn’t a community. To change behavior requires both of those.”
Touche, point taken. So the Moso Unfinished Business School is seeking to translate the content of our book (part of it, anyway) and move it from your brain/heart to your hands. I’m an innovator, which makes me a sucker for a noble experiment. I’ll share my thoughts about the Moso platform as I get deeper into it. Until then, consider me an optimistic fan of this platform and the inspiring entrepreneurial team behind it.
Last week I was in Minneapolis and had coffee with three veterans of corporate innovation: Ryan Armbruster (United Healthcare), Steve Fahrenholtz (General Mills), and Kelly Soyland (Good Samaritan Society). Each has spent at least six years focused exclusively on customer-centered innovation.
The Metrodome roof may have collapsed, but the energy of Minneapolis innovators is alive and thriving. Here are some of the gems that came forward:
• “You know how long it takes to know if your innovation model is working? To really know? Three years.”
• “Ethnographic research is essential, but distilling what you’ve learned is the key part – the one we often skip, because it is HARD.”
• “I told the organization two years ago we should be using prototypes instead of pilots – but we weren’t ready to learn that yet.”
• “We use design in two ways: UNDERSTANDING and MAKING. We get in trouble when we jump to the second role of design without completing the first.”
Next time, I’ll council with them over adult beverages instead of caffeine. No telling what I’ll hear!
Kevin Farnham and the team at Method launched their new collaboration with Central Saint Martins this week, called Method Design Lab. It is a mash-up of UK creativity and Silicon Valley entrepreneurship that seems rich with opportunity. Method plans to raise a private £20M investment fund to provide seed funding to the steady stream of innovative concepts that come out of CSM.
Just over a decade ago, I was an entrepreneur with a risky concept and I needed design thinking … and funding. I found both at IDEO, which took a venture stake in our firm and matched our software savvy with their design thinking mojo. My team provided the sweat, of course, and also the business strategy and business models. But we would not have made it over the hump without IDEO. I still owe them, especially Mike Nuttall.
I wonder where the business model exploration capability will come from in the Method Design Lab model. That’s not a prediction of failure by any means, just my hunch that MDL will need a repeatable approach to designing and prototyping business models to meet its goals. But as I said at the outset, I like the Method team and bet they will get there.
The other day my publisher at Columbia University Press, Myles Thompson, told me how to think about my forthcoming book (titled “Designing for Growth”, and not due out until early June). “Don’t think of it as an end, and don’t think of it as a beginning,” he advised. “Think of your book as a network.”
This sounded to me like the 21st Century version of the advice given to Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate” – plastic. But, lo and behold, the very next day my book – I mean, my network – connected me to Peter Sims, the author, along with Bill George, of a terrific book on Leadership (“True North”).
Peter has a new book coming out called “Little Bets,” and it is about how companies create innovation through a series of small experiments and discoveries, not bold gambles. He and I see the world the same way, and now we’re collaborating to get our ideas into the world more fruitfully.
My book is a network, indeed. I have already learned a lot from Peter, and our combined strength will probably grow as we add others. Stay tuned for specifics about the network effect from these two complementary books.
Do you think your physical work environment affects the quality and/or quantity of your work output? A few years ago the Chiat Day agency did an experiment with 100% flexible workspace. No one had a dedicated spot, all the furniture was on wheels, and people configured themselves dynamically according to the project they were working on.
The results were disastrous. They traded too much structure (i.e., cubicles) for too much chaos. (Steven Johnson describes this experiment in his wonderful book, Where Good Ideas Come From.) Buddhists know that the middle way is often the best, and work space studies show just that.
Our offices at Peer Insight put us on the edge of chaos, that fertile place where we configure ourselves according to project for part of our day, but still have a home base. It is easy to swap ideas with mates or put your head down and polish up an implementation plan.
The photo shows how it looked when I yelled “Air Raid!” and everyone got under their desks.