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John Foster
Palo Alto
Playing at the intersection of people and organizations
Interests: Learning, leadership, organizations, social systems, adventure, guitar, my family, home construction & carpentry, running, games, play
Recent Activity
Hey Bob: At IDEO we try to practice what we call the "naive mind" when we start a project. Our culture deems a "clean slate" with diverse perspectives as powerful as an expert with deep experience. Often this fresh perspective (cracks in the bone), coupled with talented problem solvers (hunters) and our design process discipline helps us get to innovative outcomes faster than more traditional expert/advisor approaches. I'd also like to point out (to Hun Boon) that one shouldn't assume the Naskapi didn't know they were using a randomized strategy to design their hunts. They might have been using the method as a device to discipline their process.
Yes, I totally agree with the previous comment. Simply put, assholes don't collaborate. Innovation requires collaboration. I believe it has something to do with the size of the human cortex and all of the other innate goodies packed in there like oxytocin, a chemical that supports collaboration. Yet, we still have some basal instinctive behavior in the more ancient portions of our brain. At our best the cortex overrides the reptilian brain stem and we collaborate. P.S. Women seem to have more inclination to the collaborative tendencies and have more oxytocin than men.
This is a great example of a change in action. I want to underscore what I think is key in Bob's comments: That the team of "agents" is acting at an interpersonal level, meeting with people and knocking on doors. Scale on the internet, and expert advocacy do much to legitimize a movement, but interpersonal relationships are where the real action occurs. In social networking theory this is called the spread of a contagion. Simple contagions (like germs or fads) spread when only one person has to decide to act. Complex contagions require one or more people to reinforce your decision to act. This is when the strength of your relationships with others really matters. Check Damon Centola's work at MIT for more on complex contagions here: It goes something like, "I spoke with Joe and he's interested. You should check with him." When you check with Joe and he confirms, a more complex contagion (like getting a pedestrian mall to happen) start to snowball into reality. Whether it is in a family, a team, a company, or society at large, change comes from individuals. That is, system level change is preceded by individual change. There are many quotes and phrases you can lean on to remind yourself of this, like the famous Gandhi statement, "Be the change you are trying to create." But you not only have to "be the change" you have to advocate at a personal level if you really want it to come to life.
Hey Bob: I love this stuff and see many instances where this can be very practical. First, is leaders should always remember they are on stage, being "looked at" for cues. It's a powerful way to create movement or change. Second, I want to make note that baboons are hierarchical and taking cues from the dominant player works for them. But what if you want your organization to be "reciprocal" so it can deal with different external forces (threats/opportunities). Perhaps everyone should look out in different directions or go exploring like bees.
Toggle Commented May 19, 2009 on Of Baboons and Bosses at Bob Sutton
Nice case points April. I would add that that they are remaining user centered by getting Rypple in people's hands and watching closely. I've already see several new features come out. Adapt and evolve, don't over plan!
1 reply
Hey Diego: I love this one. We just had a big mistake on our team yesterday and everyone felt pretty badly about it. It was important for us to move forward and learn from it, and I think we will within the team, but I found myself wondering about the "reputation risk" we face when making mistakes in more distant relationships. I think over time people see a pattern of mistake, recover, win; but how do we make sure this doesn't turn into mistake, distrust, lose?