The June issue of
Okay, so without a subscription to pricey Harvard Business Review, you won’t be able to read the entire article. But Collective Genius is worth the subscription. Authors Linda A. Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback share the story of Bill Coughran, senior vice president of engineering at Google from 2003 to 2011. Coughran led Google’s Systems Infrastructure Group, a division with more than 1,000 employees focused exclusively on creating the “engine” to support the company’s immense appetite for growth. I like this article because it reinforces the value of strategic foresight. Coughran’s challenge was not simply to meet Google’s needs today, but to anticipate the company’s needs in the future and to develop a plan to meet those needs. This excerpt from the article says it all: “To him, there was a bigger problem, a perennial challenge that many leaders inevitably come to contemplate: How do I build an organization capable of innovating continually over time? Coughran knew that the role of a leader of innovation is not to set a vision and motivate others to follow it. It’s to create a community that is willing and able to generate new ideas.”
Patrick Soon-Shiong is a billionaire, making him one of the wealthiest men in America. He is working on a project to “create a judicial innovation institute where data could be aggregated and then researched to develop public policy proposals, starting with the foster care system.” Patrick Soon-Shiong is another example of an individual who thinks symphonically. He is a surgeon who amassed a fortune “developing drugs and surgical procedures for diabetics, as well as a medication-delivery system for cancer patients.” But he is also a great example of someone who looks for the connections between seemingly isolated issues. His goal is to connect prosecutors, defenders, social services, law enforcement and others throughout the judicial system so they can work together more collaboratively and more effectively. Let’s hope he succeeds.
Tom Foster writes an interesting story in Popular Science about Slingshot, a water purification system developed by Dean Kamen. In “Pure Genius: How Dean Kamen’s Invention Could Bring Clean Water To Millions”, Foster describes why Kamen’s mindset is so important to his ability to innovate. “As is so often the case, innovation, when it strikes, is an obvious-in-retrospect connection between seemingly disparate ideas. Kamen’s unique brand of genius is that he can recognize those connections and see their potential where others can’t.” This is also an excellent article for those looking to explore how social enterprise can collaborate with the private sector in ways that are mutually beneficial and value-added. Kamen’s realization that his invention needed a partner with the expertise and ability to distribute it globally, he turned to Coca-Cola. It took Kamen years to get the project off the ground, but he did and the promise of being able to provide clean driving water to billions of people is now more possible.