Explore for inspiration, then test and focus

Cultivate exploration:

As a leader, you want to encourage people to entertain “unreasonable ideas” and give them time to formulate their hypotheses. Demanding data to confirm or kill a hypothesis too quickly can squash the intellectual play that is necessary for creativity.

Then ruthlessly prioritize for focus:

[Force] teams to focus narrowly on the most critical technical uncertainties and [rapidly experiment for] faster feedback. The philosophy is to learn what you have gotten wrong early and then move quickly in more-promising directions.

From Gary P. Pisano writing on organizational culture for HBR. Concurrence from Paul E. McKenney, who emphasizes:

[S]tress-testing ideas early on avoids over-investing in the inevitable blind alleys.

But what kind of tests does Pisano suggest?

[do] not run experiments to validate initial ideas. Instead, […] design “killer experiments” that maximize the probability of exposing an idea’s flaws.

On building a culture of candid debate

A good blueprint for [building a culture of candid debate] can be found in General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s battle-plan briefing to top officers of the Allied forces three weeks before the invasion of Normandy. As recounted in Eisenhower, a biography by Geoffrey Perret, the general started the meeting by saying, “I consider it the duty of anyone who sees a flaw in this plan not to hesitate to say so. I have no sympathy with anyone, whatever his station, who will not brook criticism. We are here to get the best possible results.”

Eisenhower was not just inviting criticism or asking for input. He was literally demanding it and invoking another sacred aspect of military culture: duty. How often do you demand criticism of your ideas from your direct reports?

From Gary P. Pisano in The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures

Maintenance and renewal

Abby Sewell, with photographs by Jeff Heimsath, in The National Geographic:

Every spring, communities gather to take part in a ceremony of renewal. Working together from each side of the river, the villagers run a massive cord of rope, more than a hundred feet long and thick as a person’s thigh, across the old bridge. Soon, the worn structure will be cut loose and tumble into the gorge below. Over three days of work, prayer, and celebration, a new bridge will be woven in its place.

The Q’eswachaka bridge has been built and rebuilt continuously for five centuries.

The bridge is 120 feet long, over a gorge of considerable, but unstated, depth.

It’s said to be at -14.3811214,-71.484012.

Poke Your Tech Staff With Sticks, And Other Ideas

What a difference a year makes? Jessamyn was among those sharing her stories of how technology and tech staff were often mistreated in libraries, but there’s a lot of technology in this year’s ALA program (including three competing programs on Saturday: The Ultimate Debate: Do Libraries Innovate, Social Software Showcase, and Transforming Your Library With […] » about 600 words

Getting Things Done, And Feeling Okay About It

[The pictures tell this story, click through to see.] How's a guy supposed to feel when his manager gives him a copy of David Allen's <a href="" title=" Getting Things Done : The Art of Stress-Free Productivity: Books: David Allen">Getting Things Done</a>? » about 100 words

…And A Mechanical Turk To Rule Them All

Paul Bausch has concerns about Amazon’s Mechanical Turk:

I can imagine a world where my computer can organize my time in front of the screen better than I can. In fact, I bet [Amazon’s Mechanical Turk] will eventually gather data about how many [Human Intelligence Tasks] someone can perform at peak accuracy in a 10 hour period. Once my HIT-level is known, the computer could divide all of my work into a series of decisions. Instead of lunging about from task to task, getting distracted by blogs, following paths that end up leading nowhere, the computer could have everything planned out for me. (It could even throw in a distraction or two if that actually increased my HIT performance.) If I could be more efficient and get more accomplished by turning decisions about how I work over to my computer, I’d be foolish not to.

Foolish not to, but who wants to work at the behest of a computer? And that’s Paul’s complaint.