Tomorrow I’ll be joining several hundred individuals to discuss what The Economist has designated the Ideas Economy. As I look forward to the conversations, I am also stopping to take note of how much has been happening to me and to my organization over the last few months.
Perhaps you too have felt a surge in conversations that are full of possibility and synergies.
In March we launched this ReachScale site and outlined our model for the work we do. The first step is envisioning, which is described on a tab at the top of this page:
Envisioning is the first step in a four phase process that changes the way good is grown. This step is about looking at resources, opportunities, challenges, processes and talent with a new set of eyes. “Unlearning” is the term used by Hamel and Prahalad in their influential book, Competing for the Future. Think of brainstorming with the edges of your social network; then invite your edges to invite their edges.
New eyes, unlearning and edgestorming often lead to a search party. Seek out people who are thought catalysts–the ones who can experiment instead of just plan, ask questions instead of just answer. Then search for underutilized resources, challenges that connect across sectors and ecosystems, networks with common action agendas or purposes, and create something with hybrid vigor.
So far envisioning has exceeded my expectations and I want to thank all the corporate and social enterprise leaders that have offered their time and ideas to invigorate the process.
Seeking the “best of best” social innovations and the companies who are their natural scaling partners means that every conversation is relevant. The pure power that comes from hearing each social innovation as a viable solution and each company’s aspirations as viable opportunities has been transformative.
A few months ago I ordered the recent (published in April 2010) book from John Hagel and John Seely Brown, The Power of Pull. A few minutes into the read, on page 16, the following confirmation surfaced:
Meeting new people and finding new ideas can be fun in and of themselves. But attraction—and the serendipity that arises from it—takes on an increasing value as we look to attract and retain the attention of people who exist at the edge of our areas of interest and to increase the probability of serendipitous encounters at the most relevant times. Edges are the places that become fertile ground for innovation because they spawn significant new unmet needs and unexploited capabilities and attract people who are risk takers. Edges therefore become significant drivers of knowledge creation and economic growth, challenging and eventually transforming traditional arrangements and approaches.
As an advocate for transforming the traditional arrangements and approaches in the marketing activities of global companies, I see the social enterprise leaders as one of the most fruitful edges that companies need to explore. Social entrepreneurs understand attraction (as Hagel and Seely Brown describe it) intuitively. Their “chutzpah” in seeking to meet those unmet needs and asking others to contribute to their genius transforms arrangements. Social entrepreneurs embody experimentation and insightful attraction, and as a result they are some of the most interesting edge thinkers that corporate leaders can engage with to increase innovation.
The Power of Pull provides a lucid study of the concepts, but what I’m suggesting is that you can transform your own ability to innovate by seeking those social entrepreneur edges in every business in your portfolio. You’ll find many suggestions at this site on how to do that, but you can also refer to the Harvard Business Review as well where a recent article describes GE’s efforts to disrupt its existing business model:
Emerging markets are becoming centers of innovation in fields like low-cost health-care devices, carbon sequestration, solar and wind power, biofuels, distributed power generation, batteries, water desalination, microfinance, electric cars, and even low cost homes. If GE’s businesses are to survive and prosper in the next decade they must become as adept at reverse innovation as they are at glocalization…Success in developing countries is a prerequisite for continued vitality in developed ones.
Sometimes the synergies are just what you need to keep things moving forward.