The same day as my post below, I emailed a letter to the editor at the New York Times, and it was published today along with several other letters critical of Susan Cain’s article:
I enjoyed the interview with John T. Chambers, CEO of Cisco, in Sunday’s New York Times (Business section page 2, by Adam Bryant).
When Bryant asked “How has your leadership style evolved over time?” Chambers said this:
I’m a command-and-control person. I like being able to say turn right, and we truly have 67,000 people turn right. But that’s the style of the past. Today’s world requires a different leadership style–more collaboration and teamwork, including using Web 2.0 technologies.
And the final answer echoed this theme too: When asked “What’s changed in the last few years?” Chambers responded:
Big time, the importance of collaboration. Big time, people who have teamwork skills, and their use of technology. If they’re not collaborative, if they aren’t naturally inclined toward collaboration and teamwork…they’re probably not going to fit in here.
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.”