Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Breakthrough Ideas for the 21st Century

It was November 9th 2001, just at the heels of that horrific morning of September 11th.  I remember traveling to New York City on client business just a couple of days before.  Interestingly while that client managed high end property, such as the (former) Sears Tower in Chicago, we didn't talk about September 11th.  At least not that I recall.

Instead, I remember two different conversations.  One business colleague who said that the stench around Ground Zero, site of the collapsed twin towers, was horrible.  I strained through the airplane window, as we descended, but couldn't fit Ground Zero.  I wanted to go there, but I was advised not to even try, because there was no way I could get even remotely close to it.  Then, I went to our New York City office, and spoke to the General Manager.  He related that some of his staff saw the crash directly out of their window, and were traumatized by it.  They were a safe distance away, but I imagine it all felt dangerously and shockingly close that morning.

Leonardo da Vinci sketch and notes on a helicopter idea

That preamble may not have anything to do directly with the following notes, but as I reflect now on what I wrote, clearly the ground beneath our feet and the landscape in front of us were like the shifting sand on shore at the very edge of a vast, turbulent ocean.  So that November 9th I took notes on the 2001 HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas for Today's Business Agenda (Harvard Business Review, Vol. 79, no. 3, pp. 123-128):
  • Even a great business model is not enough.
  • Change is changing. It is more about evolution than revolution, that is, about gradual, incremental change.  This is precisely how we framed, coached and practice leadership development. It was about “Dynamic stability.”
  • Ego makes the leader.
  • Only connect.
  • The biology century dawns. I like the research on sharkskin to come up with sleek, minimal-drag bodysuits for swimmers; on leaves to build more efficient solar cells; on butterfly wings to cool computer chips.
Here is the introduction to that HBR list:
Business is shaped by ideas. But how do you separate enduring ideas from passing fancies? In this, the first edition of the annual HBR List, our editors spotlight five breakthrough ideas that are truly shaping the future of business. [1] Even a great business model is not enough. The rise and fall of dot-coms left markets reeling and CEOs scratching their heads. The most important lesson of the debacle: squishy thinking about "business models" is no substitute for a distinctive strategy. [2] Change is changing. In recent years, pundits have urged executives to incite revolutions within their companies. But a growing group of experts now suggests that the best companies actually evolve through incremental change--change that builds on rather than subverts their heritage. [3] Ego makes the leader. By looking deeply into executives' psyches, we are beginning to unlock the enigma of leadership. While there will never be a single recipe for successful corporate stewardship, an understanding of the human ego can shed light on leadership's most fundamental components. [4] Only connect. In business organizations, what's really important about people is not their individual skills but the relationships they form with one another. By investing in "social capital," companies can often push their performance to a whole new level. [5] The biology century dawns. In the twentieth century, product innovations tended to spring from physics. But in the new century, biology may be the central source of innovation. From genomics to biomimicry, the study of life promises to change what companies sell and even how they operate.
Also reference: The Secret to Great Breakthrough Ideas - Ask Why?

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