Don't Figure It Out, Find Out
Check out these articles on why Indonesian entrepreneurs are thriving and Silicon Valley crushed Boston’s Route 128 on its way to becoming the entrepreneurial Mecca of the US. The short answer is community.
Lou Mobley, my mentor, and founder of the IBM Executive School insisted that most keys to success lie outside the four walls of our business. It is the COO’s job to run the company, but the CEO’s job to mesh strategy with the ever changing outside world. The higher up in the organization you go the more important external factors are. And the earlier you realize this the higher you will get. As I wrote in my article for Forbes.com, Business Secrets of the Trappists, 99% of the people you need for success will never report to you.
Whether helping companies or individuals, the biggest problem I encounter is suffocating insularity. Company cafeterias may promote some interdepartmental interactions, but sprawling self contained campuses far from the madding crowd are a death blow to the kind of cross fertilization that these articles credit for Silicon Valley’s success. When I was working in New York City for MTV, I learned far more on my lunch hour and after hours just bumping into competitors than I ever did from internal strategy sessions dominated by sterile group think.
My own success depended enormously on what I like to call happy accidents, and developing the habit of becoming happy accident prone is critical. An old mentor of mine who started about six successful companies used to delight in storming into interminable meetings shouting, “Don’t figure it out! Get out there and find out!”
My mantra is less colorful: Get out from behind your computer, pick up the phone, and just chat with someone. You’ll be amazed at how many happy accidents will magically emerge. Meet everyone you can, and make it a habit to lunch and socialize with people outside your company and comfort zone. Invest in friendship every day even when you don’t see an immediate payoff, and that means offering to help another rather than using others.
Whether we are building a company, a business culture, or just trying to improve ourselves, we consistently overlook the old fashioned value of those dynamic open systems that we used to call community.
What do I do?
Go out to lunch with someone who doesn't work in your department.