Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Twitter Trigger

I brew ideas. I find something I like and hold it in my head, waiting to attach it to something else I like. I trust a lot in being open to the knowledge that is in the world and believe that the right things are trying hard to find me. I believe in and love synchronicity. Here are the lines along which I am thinking or brewing today.

A few days ago in a conference call, I was asked to name some things that innovative organizations do that distinguishes them from less innovative organizations. I suggested that you can tell a lot about a organization and its commitment to sustainability planning or creating the specifics of its future by analyzing its meeting culture and the fullness of their group discussions. If I had remembered, I would have added that a more innovative group uses the Google 20% time rule by devoting at least 20% of every meeting to the big picture, the Big Why? of what it is that we do. Toyota calls this always remembering and centering on the objective behind the objective.

I spent most of today reading about two things and trying to find the details of the their intersection. The two things were surviving in a recession and how a good organizational culture gives your company a competitive edge. I finished the final chapter in Ram Charan's Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty. I am always reading Peter Drucker and Charles Handy, one and two pages at the time.

I am trying to get better at using Twitter. This is one of the best things someone tweeted last night (Thanks @redstarvip!)

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

This quote really connected all these ideas for me. One of the biggest challenges for a group that analyzes issues and makes decisions is to get the right group together and to think and decide well together.

Getting the right group together goes way beyond the requisite functional roles or operational departments present at the meeting. Innovative groups value their members for the thinking style and ability as well as the uniqueness of the perspective and experience they bring to the table. As President Obama has expressed in his cabinet selections and in numerous interviews regarding his strategy, the approach that Abraham Lincoln used, a team of rivals, will expand the opinions and options brought before the group to consider. So, first and foremost, the who in meetings is terribly important.

Secondly, expectations and behavior in meetings is important. The most common phenomenon in most meetings is that the real meeting takes place down the hall or in private offices after the public meeting, the one that absorbed a large chunk of everyone's time, is ended. Malcolm Gladwell alludes to this occurence in his book, Outliers, when he writes about social mitigation. I have written about it before, describing it as being grounded in Politeness theory in Evolving Beyond Niceness. "Niceness" prevents important issues and perspectives from getting proper attention. "Niceness" prevent total and expansive honesty from being applied to decision making. "Niceness" also disrupts the ability of the group to develop the kind of trust where contrary opinions are validated and valued, thus the Dr. Seuss quote -- in an incohesive group, there are always those that mind.

As long as the economy is tight, every organization in every industry will be having to address how they create value because all spending will be scrutinized more thoroughly. For groups making decisions, making full and interconnected decisions that address the important, not just the urgent, as Ram Charan says, is critical to their organization's future viability. Paying close attention to your organization's meeting culture will help you learn to make decisions that offer more value.