Chris Trimble: Building Innovation Ecosystems

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The rate at which new ideas are generated is directly related to the effort invested in enriching social networks.

Says Chris Trimble in his Fast Company column:

"Entrepreneurs believe in the power of networking. Many are very good at it. They become good because they recognize that most people with interesting notions usually have only one piece of a puzzle. Often unexpected combinations of ideas, or chance meetings of people with complimentary perspectives, ignite genuine breakthroughs.

"Aspiring innovators from large companies are handicapped in the networking game — not because they lack skill, but because of the nature of their jobs. Once a business is proven and profitable, the name of the game is to make operations as efficient as possible. Employees at all levels are pulled into ever more specialized roles. Repeated tasks are joined together by rigorously documented processes. As a result, each manager’s web of connections increasingly mirrors the way today’s work is organized. Most connections are with managers with closely related specialties, who share similar perspectives, shaped by the demands of the same customers."

There is one other point Chris - I call it the "closing of the corporate mind". It's not just about people being comforatble with the status quo. It's about people hiring and surrounding themselves with their own kind. A tribal thing, perhaps? So the desis hang out with the desis, the Chinese with the Chinese, the Hicks with the Hicks, the golf-playing execs with other golf-playing execs, repugs with repugs, etc.

And as your colleague VG says, travel!

Trimble also mentions the "vast differences between communication networks and trust networks. Communication networks are the kind that are useful at the front-end of the innovation process because they enable the sharing of ideas. The back-end of the innovation process depends on trust networks, which require much heavier investments in time, energy, and goodwill.

Still boils down to people and trust, people! Put a value on that Mr. CFO Bean-Counter!

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I just came back from a talk at Dolby that was supposed to be on Auditory Scene Analysis (ASA), a topic on which I’ve spoken and that is the basis for some of the research I’ve started at the research Read More

3 Comments

Great point Christian. What you call "the closing of the corporate mind" is a huge obstacle to developing an innovations ecosystem.

But there's something more than tribal comfort and inertia that drives successful executives to develop "closed minded ecosystems." As grownups we believe it is our right to live and work in a "aggravation free zone."

Everything about new voices, new conversations, and new ideas brings aggravation. New voices ask dumb questions and don't understand protocal. New conversations require us to focus more intently to hear what is said and what is meant. New ideas include a lot of (seemingly) useless suggestions.

It's all aggravating and exhausting. And once we reach maturity we feel entitled to less aggravation not more. And so in our pursuit of working in an aggravation free environment we screen out the input that is the catalyst of innovative thinking. That's IMHO. What do you think?

Yes and no. I believe it really is based on how you view the world. If you think you know all the answers, you don't want to hear anything else. If you're intellectually honest, on the other hand, you will listen with an open mind.

Remember, Trimble is talking about networking- meeting people outside your normal boundaries. In the corporate world that's not easy since everyone wants to hang out around the safe-middle- very few look to the "edge" (as JSB and John Hagel might say) for new ideas...

Trackback wouldn't take, but I liked to your post here:
http://brentblog.typepad.com/brentblog/2006/02/innovation_insp.html

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This page contains a single entry by Christian Sarkar published on February 19, 2006 2:00 PM.

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