More Collisions, Less Friction

In the latest edition of Boston University School of Management’s alumni eNewsletter, there’s a piece about “Tech, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll.”  TDRR was a night of networking and presentations bringing together “leading venture investors, industry professionals, research scientists, students, and budding entrepreneurs from BU and elsewhere” held this July.  BU has committed to establish itself as Boston’s new entrepreneurship hub, seeking to integrate disparate expertise to solve diverse challenges.  BU’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) Managing Director Vinit Nijhawan framed the challenge inspiringly: “Our goal is to increase collisions and reduce friction in bringing ideas to market.”  An elegant formula well applied.

Here’s another great case in practice.  In 2007, University of Pennsylvania Health System launched an initiative called Unit Based Clinical Leadership (UBCL) to drive better patient outcomes.  The imperative was to reduce variations in patient care.  They elected to form UBCL teams consisting of a physician, nurse, and quality coordinator who would together make interdisciplinary medical rounds.  The approach succeeded at tackling multiple challenges, including lowering – at this point, nearly eliminating – Blood Stream Infections while wringing significant cost savings.

From a third distinct industry, here’s yet another.  Back when current NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg ran Media empire Bloomberg L.P., he designed its then Midtown headquarters with the express intention of sparking interaction to generate information sharing and new ideas.  Two examples: the elevators opened on only the middle of six leased floors so that  everyone would interact, passing through the same doors when arriving at and leaving work.  Second, there was a food court brimming with free food and beverages to attract workers into chance encounters to hash out their ideas.  Today this media powerhouse boasts annual revenues topping $6.6 billion.

So, whether your organization is splintered in silos, you’d like to elicit wider stakeholder input, or you’re simply looking for some breakthrough ideas, the common elements in these cross-industry cases provide some working guidelines for application:

  • Bring together people from differing, complementary disciplines
  •  . . . in live, physical proximity to each other (no conference calls, please)
  •  . . . engaged in real-time problem definition, ideation and decision-making
  •  . . . taking the leap of faith the time will be productive enough to justify everyone’s presence.
  • Where might you apply these guidelines to increase collisions and decrease friction in your organization?


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