[EAS] Creative Noise

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Fri Jun 11 01:20:00 EDT 2004

Subject:   Creative Noise

(from INNOVATION, 9 June 2004)

In a world where competitors can copy our technologies, clone our
trade  secrets, and outspend us in the marketplace, our one true
competitive  advantage is the ability to think well together. We
must turn co-workers  into co-thinkers, says consultant Daniel
Elash, and develop thought  "partnerships" -- relationships formed
by people working with a common  purpose, a shared definition of
success. When people think synergistically,  they can create a
bigger impact than they could on their own, so there's reason to
collaborate. Thought partnerships require a familiarity with each 
other's goals and circumstances. After all, as Elash points out,
nobody is as smart as everybody. We must stop competing with other
departments, e.g., when the sales force makes promises the
production people can't deliver. People worry about making THEIR
numbers, instead of OUR numbers, so the whole enterprise is
sub-optimized. When things go wrong, we assign blame rather than
change our fundamental perspectives. Make smarter thinking a goal,
Elash suggests. Develop a common definition of success. Create the 
expectation of thought partnerships, and cultivate a company culture
where it is safe to think aloud, safe to think together. Reward
thinking that generates something new, rather than simply looking
for what's wrong with  someone else's idea. (CEO Refresher Jun 2004)

As the economy picks up in some respects, though not in others (EE
unemployment keeps rising--now 5.5% according to the IEEE), the
business wisdom of our day seems to me remarkably simplistic. That
could of course be my cynical response to a return to basic values
and common sense. But if it _is_ basic values, then why not simply
say it that way? Just as there is no need for endless remakes of old
movies, none better than the original, there is no reason why we
need pop-sociological remakes of the works of Dale Carnegie's "How
to Win Friends and Influence People" (1937) or Dr. Norman Vincent
Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking" (1952), each constantly
republished ever since.

These new discoveries of business wisdom are always much more
complexly put. Is it the quest for originality, or a loss of
longer-term memory? Or is it like those patterns I start seeing if I
stare long enough at the overlapping random dots of the
old-fashioned linoleum tile pattern on my bathroon floor, and think
myself creative for seeing faces, creatures, and all kinds of
meaningful patterns in those dots?  --PJK

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