I’ve been a fan of Tom Davenport‘s work for several years. I noticed this recent article, coauthored by Tom, in Babson Insight on the ‘practice of ideas‘ and it gave me good food for thought. The article seems to be a riff on their latest book, which also looks like a good read (just added it to the wishlist). Also, I just noticed that Fast Company had an article on Tom and the concept of ‘idea practice’ earlier this year.
Now, after reading the Babson and FC articles, I’m feeling comfortable self-identifying as an ‘idea practitioner.’ I often find myself in the role of trying to bring new ideas into the workplace…tweaking, adding and subtracting where necessary, in order to find a fit. Sometimes it takes, sometimes not.
I’ll let you read the articles for yourself, but I did want to note a few things. First Davenport says in the FC article that good ideas have at least one of three features: improved efficiency, greater effectiveness, or innovations in products or processes. It seems to me that it’s going to be a very rare idea that increases both effectiveness and efficiency. Tom DeMarco (Slack) notes that, though the two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive, you don’t often find them wrapped up in one package. He poses the question that if you had to choose effectiveness or efficiency, which would you choose? Hopefully you said effectiveness. DeMarco makes a compelling case in Slack that explains why so many companies choose, against their best interests, efficiency over effectiveness. But I’m getting offtopic…
I also wanted to note that in the Babson article, they make a mention that many idea practitioners read a lot and read widely. I think that’s pretty key. I guess if a person were particularly creative, they could come up with ideas without any external prompts. I know that for myself, though, most of my best ideas are really just distillations, abstractions, or a synthesis of one or more other ideas from various external sources. That’s part of the fun of it for me, actually. I especially like the creative environment when I can toss ideas back and forth with one or two other people. I find that kind of creative session incredibly refreshing.
Besides weblogs, I’m a regular reader of both the Harvard Business Review and The Economist. Back when my employer would fullful my subscription addiction, I would read the hardcopies. Now I read both online, to some degree, and pick up the hardcopies in the library when I get a chance. Tons of brainfood, just from those two publications alone.
The last bit I wanted to note is evident in both the FC and Babson article. There is a heavy emphasis on finding internal champions for the idea, and on being able to sell your boss on the idea. I’ll just link back to Mike Hyatt’s excellent overview of how to sell the boss, which I also mentioned in an earlier post.