Greg Satell has an interesting and entertaining post entitled, The Next Really, Really, Really, Big Thing. He begins:
Everybody should be excited about the next big thing. And why not? It’s very, extremely big. Even bigger than anything that came before. No, really, it’s that freakin’ HUGE.
If you don’t want to get left behind, you’ve got to hop on this right away. Of course, you will need to be fast and smart and work late nights, but it will be worth it. You can’t go halfway on a thing like this. It’s all or nothing, baby!
He then runs through some of the previous “really big things” that didn’t turn out to be so big after all, including eCommerce, search and social media. They are big, yes, but REALLY big? And do they LAST? Greg is not so sure.
Greg’s suggestion for “the next really, really, really, big thing that will last" is, hold your breath:
Getting really smart, driven people to work together well
That's the next really big thing? The fact that this could even be considered as a bold new idea shows how badly management in the typical Fortune 500 company is broken.
Greg's point is that if you can get a group like that together and sustain them, they will be able to generate any number of really big ideas.
According to Greg, the elements to accomplish this include:
- In-House Training
- Focus On Intrinsic Motivation
- Best Practice Programs
- Coaches and Mentors
- Firing Nasty People
- A Community of Purpose
So the next big thing is really not so much in any particular idea but rather in how the idea will be developed. “The difference” says Greg, “will be made by the people, how they are developed and how they treat each other. If you wanna win a horse race, ya gotta have the horses.”
I’m inclined to agree that the next really big thing does indeed involve getting really smart, driven people to work together well. What I’m less sure of whether Greg has identified all the elements necessary to sustain that.
Some needed ingredients to sustain it
Experience shows that the following additional elements are essential to sustain "a group of really bright people working well together”:
- An intense focus on delighting those for whom the work is being done: It’s pretty easy to get a bunch of bright people working on something they all enjoy and believe in. But unless that something happens to be what turns other people on and gets their juices flowing, then the chance of the effort being sustainable is low. This is the Google Fallacy: the idea that if you get a bunch of bright people together and give them time and space to develop new ideas, they will come up with business winners. After almost ten years, the experience at Google is dismal: sure, they have come up with a lot of bright ideas, but of all the ideas generated, only Android is really making money. Bright people working together on something they believe in is fine, but unless the effort is tightly focused on who they are doing it for, the effort is unlikely to be a business winner.
- The need for dynamic linking: Having a handful of people doing their own thing is fine, but once an idea takes off and the group starts to grow, then the issue becomes: how is the work of this growing group is going to be coordinated, so that you get disciplined execution as well as innovation? If you introduce the traditional management approach of hierarchical bureaucracy, the air goes out of the balloon. To combine innovation with discipline, you need to coordinate the work in an Agile fashion, by what may be called “dynamic linking” i.e. (a) the work is done in short cycles focused on producing finished work for the ultimate customers. As The Power of Pull points out, you proceed “by setting things up in short, consecutive waves of effort, iterations that foster deep, trust-based relationships among the participants."
- A shift from economic value to values: The group’s goal also has to shift from a preoccupation with making money to a preoccupation with the values that will grow the group by generating innovation and customer delight, particularly radical transparency, continuous improvement and a culture of learning.
- Horizontal communications: The energy of the group is unlikely to be sustained if communications take place in the traditional top-down approach of boss to subordinate. Instead communications need to be horizontal conversations, with adult-to-adult interactions, human being to human being, using stories, metaphors and open-ended questions.
Thus it’s not enough just to have the horses. You have to have the other elements in place that keep the horses winning race after race.
To learn more
In effect, the next really big thing is the REINVENTION OF MANAGEMENT. It will have proFound effects on every organization in the world. It combines continuous innovation with disciplined execution. Because it is more productive than traditonal management, the economics make its adoption inevitable.
It is already happening. You can read about it in books like The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque, The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, Reorganize for Resilience by Ranjay Gulati, Leadership in a Wiki World by Rod Collins, The Responsible Business by Carol Sanford, or in my article, The Reinvention of Management.
For a comprehensive review of the principles and practices involved in reinventing management to elicit continuous innovation and disciplined execution, read my book: The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century.