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30 little, effective explosions

Imagine having your pick of 30 different fireworks.  Each has its own effects, but taken in combinations, they can really light up the sky.  That's the idea behind Leandro Herrero's Disruptive Ideas - 10+10+10=1000: the maths of Viral Change that transform organisations, a how-to follow-on to Viral Change.  There is a book website where most of the book contents are posted, and readers are encouraged to comment.  I was sent a review copy last year and have finally gotten around to it.

What makes a disruptive idea?  It's something that changes the way the  business runs, and it's something that can be started easily and create a wildfire of change (viral) through the organization.  It is definitely NOT something that requires a large implementation.  Each idea is described through stories around how the idea might impact an organization.  Herrero often touches upon popular management literature and turns it around with suggestions like "talk the walk" instead of the usual "walk the talk." 

The book contains three sets of 10 ideas, classified by the type of change: process changes, structure changes, and behavior changes.  The idea of the book isn't to apply all of the ideas, but to pick the few that make sense and fit for your organization. 

I particularly like the Imagine... portion under each idea.  In this paragraph, Herrero asks the reader to suspect disbelief and picture the organization as if it had already made the change.  What would be different as a result?  How does it feel?  Do you want it?

Here are some of the ideas that caught my attention:

  • Everything a project.  Treat every activity as a project with a beginning, management, and an end.  Projects get funded, they have plans, there is accountability.  Most interestingly, Herrero suggested that if it can't be treated as a project, then it is probably redundant.  As with many of the ideas, there are connections into many of the other sections.  I also get a connection to the Getting Things Done concept of working against personal projects.
  • Fix accountabilities (if nothing else).  Stop being wishy-washy and "democratic" in your business.  Many people can be responsible for a deliverable, but only one can be held accountable.
  • Fake project, beat Outlook.  Make it okay for people to protect their time with "fake" projects.  Block out time in the calendar and don't let meeting creep take over the day.  Luis Suarez has been an advocate of doing this, though not as loudly as he advocates for reducing email.
  • Un-cluttering.  People and businesses are doing too many things - particularly corporate initiatives, which means people are spending so much time preparing, meeting and managing that they have very little time to get work done.  Remove excess work in process and free people to get work done.  Types of clutter: email, meetings, crowded calendars, etc.
  • Face it, don't email it.  Email is addictive, and the corporate world needs a detox.  Herrero isn't necessarily advocating for "no email Fridays."  He suggests people should simply go and talk to one another more, and use more appropriate technologies for the given situation: IM, blogs, document management, etc.
  • Less PowerPoint, more stories.  Rather than killing people with bullets, tell stories that will spread around the organization.  This one feels very much linked to the email suggestion above: step out from behind the presentation and describe what you are doing.
  • Be imperfect.  In order to "learn from your mistakes" you need to make mistakes.  You must also be able to learn.  The other element of this idea is that of "good enough."  It is very easy to get stuck in "getting it right" and "right first time" - stuck so deeply that you don't do anything.  Accept that it isn't going to be perfect, but also accept that you will learn and adjust and modify as you move forward.
  • Collaboration (the volunteers).  Everyone in the organization is willing to help for the greater good of the organization and one another.  One element of this that wasn't touched on in the book is that volunteerism can really expand when there is a clear (and simple) direction and plan for the organization.  If everyone understands where the organization is going, they can see how to offer their assistance.
  • Reward outputs.  Be sure that the rewards you give people are for results, not for doing things well.  Sure, it is important to have good inputs, but if that is all you reward, then that is what you will get: inputs with big piles of stuff waiting to be completed elsewhere.  There is an obvious link in project management: focus on completing the project, not the individual activities within the project.
  • Can it be done differently?  Rather than looking at innovation as something the organization must do or must become part of the culture, focus on asking the question: "Can this be done differently?"  Innovation, as Herrero says, isn't a culture.  Innovation is doing things differently.  In the examples Herrero provides, I couldn't help thinking of Twitter for its ability to let people easily ask questions like "has anyone done this before" and "can I do this another way."

The full list of disruptive ideas are posted to the book website, where you can provide feedback or maybe even suggest your own.

What is an improvement?

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