Friday, September 11, 2009

Listening ...

As i wrote earlier, i am these days reading Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker. Again, as i was reading yesterday, something from the book just came out, something i had to blog about. The point i am writing about is listening.

One of the sources of innovation, he says, is the unexpected. The unexpected failure (thats obvious), the unexpected success (here is a possibility that some of the assumptions that the organization had about the environment are not valid), or the unexpected external event (something external to the organization, or to its sphere, which could represent an opportunity for the organization). OK, i am not an expert at innovation (or anything else, for that matter, but lets just pretend you didnt hear that), so i am not going to dwell on this, except to start this conversation.

In the business ecosystem in which an organization operates, there are a number of unexpected things which happen from time to time. Have interacted with organizations, which have been able to create a new line of business from some experiments (usually done by a small group of folks as something they enjoy doing) which suddenly brought up something which had immense potential for the organization. The story about how Penicillin's medicinal properties were discovered are legendary. For those of us who havent read this, here it is. The idea is that there are a number of things happening in the organization, which, more often than not, the organization doesnt know about. And, since managers dont know about them, they dont know about the potential of some of these ideas to the organization. And this is where the idea of listening comes in.

This brings up the question of how. And this is where the tools of web 2.0 can play a role. By giving the control over creation of content and publishing it, web 2.0 tools can bring about a scenario where anyone anywhere in the organization can publish the things they are doing, what they are working on, and anybody anywhere else in the organization can pick up this idea, refine it, collaborate to take this idea further, and the organization has the tools available to be able to listen to all of this conversation. Doesnt matter if its about listening to employees, suppliers, customers, or any stakeholders. Point is, listening the way web 2.0 tools can enable it can enable the organization to build upon ideas which could germinate anywhere, within or outside the organization. There is one thing, though, which needs to be emphasized. And this is that the organization also has a role to play. People dont necessarily speak when they have an idea. The managers need to create a scenario where people are encouraged to speak, which is more like a scenario where the organization is seen as a facilitator for the ideas which people come up with, being receptive to them, and being open to the possibility of taking them further.

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