Despite Shivers Down His Leg, Some Things Worth Thinking About

Umair Haque published a blog post yesterday on the Harvard Business Publishing web site which, despite being driven to some embarrassingly fawning prose by the author’s joy over Barack Obama’s election win, offers some food for thought. Entitled, Obama’s Seven Lessons for Radical Innovators, Haque suggests that Obama “is one of the most radical management innovators in the world today” and outlines 7 rules “for tomorrow’s radical innovators.”  In applying Obama’s campaign to these rules, Haque turns to making unsupported assertions that could probably be applied to any popular winning candidate from Andrew Jackson to Ronald Reagan.  Nonetheless, there’s value there, and I couldn’t help but read the principles with digital news organizations in mind. Here they are with my own comments:

  1. Have a self-organization design.  The end game here is the creation of a self-organizing business that combines the virtues of both tall and flat organizations.  With a “tightly controlled core, surrounded by self -organizing cells of” designers, programmers, and journalists, media companies may give themselves the best chance of weathering the storm they now face.

  2. Seek elasticity of resilience. The goal is “not to maximize outputs, or minimize inputs, but to remain resilient to turbulence.” This is partly enabled by #1.

  3. Minimize strategy. Sorry,I don’t get the point of this one at all.  Haque says that “strategy, too often, kills a deeply-lived sense of purpose, destroys credibility, and corrupts meaning.” Huh? Maybe he’s just saying not to get so wrapped up in the plan that you lose sight of the goal.

  4. Maximize purpose. Make your goal big enough to matter. This was a problem I always had with Newspaper Next’s “Jobs to be Done” strategy – it just seemed so… small.  This is the same problem with the death by a thousand cuts cost cutting strategy that most newspapers are employing these days.  The goal is to cut some costs – a really shortsighted and small goal.  The real goal is to transform the news business.

  5. Broaden unity. Yup, we need to unify our companies, not perpetuate silos.

  6. Thicken power. Lead by example, not fear (and only a little bit of greed).

  7. Remember that there is nothing more asymmetrical than an ideal. This is really part of maximize purpose, but the point is that no one gets excited about incremental improvement.  In times of great change and upheaval, you need to be driven by an ideal; a great purpose.

Good rules, now if only he told us how to implement.

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