collective genius: The art and practice of leading innovation
Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove and Kent Lineback
Harvard Business Review Press (2014)
Valuable insights into the leader’s role in creating and sustaining a culture in which innovation thrives
When I started reading this book, I was reminded again of one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, judgment callsin which he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote to the Big Man theory of decision-making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment . That is, “the collective capacity to make good decisions and decisions when the need for them exceeds the scope of the direct control of any individual leader”.
Davenport and Manville may well have had collaborative innovation in mind, a process that Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback focus on in their book, collective genius. They share valuable lessons to be learned from teams that exemplify “the art and practice of innovation”; at a wide range of organizations including Acumen Fund, eBay, Google, HCL Technologies, IBM, Pfizer, Pentagram, Pixar Animation Studios, and Volkswagen.
o What does genius look like
o Why do you need leadership?
o The type of leadership required
o How leaders create the will and capacity to innovate
o The power and dangers of “creative abrasion”
o How to create and then maintain a culture (“ecosystem”) within which innovation thrives
Every person in a leader’s group, “whether it’s a small team or a large corporation, contains a slice of genius.” The leader’s task is to “create a place where all those cuts can be raised, combined and converted into collective genius”; The main goal of the book, therefore, “is to provide ideas, guidance, and real-life examples”; that will help leaders do that. It is also important to keep in mind that all organizations, whatever their size and nature, need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas. That is, collective genius is the result of collaboration, discovery-driven learning, and an integrative thought process by which decisions are made. Roger Martin speaks about this last point, in The Opposable Mindobserving that those involved in this process have “the predisposition and the capacity to sustain two [or more] diametrically opposed ideas”; in mind and then “; without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or another” they are able to “produce a synthesis that is superior to any of the opposing ideas”.
These are among dozens of business topics and topics of particular interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the extent of coverage for Hill, Brandeau, Truelove, and Lineback.
o How Pixar innovates (Pages 11-16)
o The paradoxes of collaboration (27-31)
o The paradoxes of discovery-driven learning (31-37)
o A new leader for HCL: Vineet Nayar (46-49)
Note: I invite you to review Nayar’s book, Employees First, Customers Second: Turn conventional management on its head.
o Lessons from a different kind of leader (64-67)
o A foundation to build on (78-87)
o The community drives the will (91-93)
o The importance of shared values (102-108)
o How people think (112-115)
o Creative abrasion (138-145)
o The role of the leader in creative agility (162-167)
o The role of the leader in creative resolution (184-189)
o The Wildfire Initiative (211)
o The right thing, and, but leaders are made rather than born (226-246)
I am deeply grateful to Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback for the wealth of information, insights, and advice they and others contributed to this book. Indeed, more than a dozen innovation leaders were, in fact, active contributors, almost co-authors, to the provision of “collective genius” found in all nine chapters and the Epilogue. Additionally, these primary sources represent the teams they led in their respective organizations.
To all involved, I now offer a sincere Bravo!