6518 Chapters
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CHAPTER 9 Balancing Influence and Innovation

Edmondson, Amy Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Still crazy after all these years.

Paul Simon

THIS FINAL CHAPTER CELEBRATES SMALL ACTION AS A CRITICAL component of realizing big vision. We explore the tension faced by any visionary leader trying to sell the future and build it at the same time. Like any tension, this one eludes a simple answer, but conscious management of the need for a dynamic balance—between influencing and innovating—emerges as a crucial leadership skill.

Steve Lewis and Harley Blettner remained upbeat through Living PlanIT’s oscillations from infinite possibility to nagging doubt. The company’s revenues were slowly growing. Although many employees had come and gone, others, like Rosy Lokhorst remained energized. “I still love it,” she gushed in 2014. “I never would have had these opportunities at Microsoft selling licenses. I’m having an impact.

“In the last two years we’ve worked harder than ever before,” she told us a year later, “and it’s starting to pay off in leaps and bounds. It is very gratifying to see the growth of our company and our team. Looking back, I am also grateful for the opportunity to grow personally, and I know I’ll learn a lot more in the stage we’re now entering, where precision in execution is key to capturing the momentum. I believe our team and our company culture will allow us to do that, and it ignites my passion every day to be working with such a great team of people.”

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CHAPTER 8 Confronting Culture Clash

Edmondson, Amy Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

There are two ways you encounter things in the world that are different. One is everything that comes in reinforces what you already believe and everything that you know. The other thing is that you stay flexible enough or curious enough and maybe unsure of yourself enough, or maybe you are more sure of yourself—I don’t know which it is—that the new things that come in keep reforming your worldview.

Jane Jacobs

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Anonymous

BY THE SPRING OF 2014, IT WAS CLEAR TO ALL THAT LIVING PLANIT’S CITY building was not unfolding as initially envisioned. Why had PlanIT Valley failed to materialize, at least by that point? Big Teaming was required: With all its genius, IT could not go it alone in the smart-city space, and Living PlanIT’s employees were predominantly from IT backgrounds. They saw the corporate world as stodgy and unimaginative. They saw real estate development companies as slow, antiquated, and anchored in the past. In IT anything seems possible—like creating a multi-billion-dollar company out of a PhD dissertation.

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CHAPTER 7 The Organization Man Revisited

Edmondson, Amy Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Once upon a time it was conventional for young men to view the group life of the big corporation as one of its principal disadvantages. Today, they see it as a positive boon. Working with others, they believe, will reduce the frustration of work, and they often endow the accompanying suppression of ego with strong spiritual overtones. They will concede that there is often a good bit of wasted time in the committee way of life and that the handling of human relations involves much suffering of fools gladly. But this sort of thing, they say, is the heart of the organization man’s job, not merely the disadvantages of it. “Any man who feels frustrated by these things,” one young trainee with face unlined said to me, “can never be an executive.”

William H. Whyte, The Organization Man

HE WAS THE PERFECT MAN FOR THE JOB.

Douglas West (a pseudonym) joined the Living PlanIT team as vice president of operations in November 2010. Clean-cut, straightforward, reassuringly competent, West had spent 25 years in the corporate world, working with architects, engineers, and real estate developers on large engineering and construction projects from design through execution and ongoing operations. Project management seemed natural to West; tasks, time lines, and critical paths appeared on whiteboards with astonishing fluency in his elegant architectural penmanship. He had all the right qualities: vision and pragmatism. He was drawn to the vision of PlanIT Valley, but he was not starry-eyed. Having spent most of his career in such high-tech regions as Denver and Silicon Valley, West recognized the extraordinary potential of innovation to change the world. He firmly believed that building and construction were heading into a “sea change,” and he was ready and willing to oversee phase 1 in the building of PlanIT Valley.

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CHAPTER 3 Bits and Bytes

Edmondson, Amy Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Dear, dear! How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is “Who in the world am I?” Ah, that’s the great puzzle!

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

LIKE MANY STARTUPS, LIVING PLANIT WAS MORE THAN A BUSINESS. It was a community of like-minded people who were passionate about building the future. In January 2011 Steve Lewis, Johanna Weigelt, Rosy Lokhorst, and a few others moved into sleek condominiums at the Vale Pisão resort after their quinta caught fire and nearly burned to the ground. Through a deal struck with the owners of the resort, Lewis and his entourage worked in the underutilized main clubhouse building—an expansive, light-filled modern space that looked out on the golf course and the fields surrounding the property. The clubhouse dining area served meals throughout the day, and a bar seemed to stay open all night, pouring local wine and other drinks that lubricated many a late-night talk among colleagues and the occasional visitors.

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CHAPTER 1 Building the Future

Edmondson, Amy Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Machiavelli, The Prince

BUILDING THE FUTURE. TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND CONSIDER WHAT THIS means, living in the twenty-first century. It doesn’t mean the next iPhone, the next electric car, or even the first molecular teletransporter (à la Star Trek). These could all certainly qualify as life-changing, history-shaping innovations, but building the future does not mean building isolated products. The lone innovator bathed in cathode-ray green lights in his garage late at night designing the next amazing thing is not the protagonist of our story.

We are interested instead in innovations that constitute a new order of things—interacting elements that must work together and simply aren’t worth much alone. When we talk about building the future, we’re talking about bringing new complex systems into being. This book explains why this is so hard and what leaders can do to make it easier.

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