Teamwork, the True Mother of Invention

Today’s New York Times (December 7, 2008) has a wonderful article by business columnist Janet Rae-Dupree, with this title (in the print edition, Business section, page 3; the online version has a different title).  She starts by quoting what I told her in a recent interview:

Innovation today isn’t a sudden break with the past, a brilliant insight that one lone outsider pushes through to save the company.  Just the opposite: innovation today is a continuous process of small and constant change, and it’s built into the culture of successful companies.

Of course, I was delighted to be quoted in the article, but what makes it a great read is that she ties my research in the hands-on experience of many other executives; as she points out about the above quotation, “it’s a perspective shared broadly in corporate America.”  She quotes a lot of sources you’ve already read about if you follow my blog: for example, Ed Catmull, president of Pixar, writing about collective creativity in September’s Harvard Business Review.  She quotes Drew Boyd, a Cincinnati businessman, describing the brainstorming research that I discuss in my book Group Genius–showing that brainstorming is so often used ineffectively.  She talks about how Einstein’s “lone genius” image has been exaggerated, citing Hans Ohanian’s book Einstein’s Mistakes (see my blog entry on that here).

And she closes with an example I didn’t know about: the Innovation Learning Network formed by a dozen health care systems, to exchange innovative ideas.  Kaiser Permanente came up with their KP MedRite program as a result of their participation in this network: the goal of KP MedRite is to make sure nurses aren’t interrupted while they’re dispensing medications.  The director of the network, Chris McCarthy, concludes that “the group effort allows us to move much more quickly and become successful much faster.”