Collective Genius challenges the traditional view of innovation: that innovation comes from a mind of a genius and occurs in that one aha moment. We saw this same view discussed by Kelly brothers in Creative Confidence : Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. The essays in Collective Genius will help current and future organizational readers build a work environment that supports innovation and fosters collaborative problem solving.
Linda A. Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative. Greg Brandeau is the long-time head of technology at Pixar Animation Studios. Emily Truelove is a researcher and PhD candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Kent Lineback has spent more than twenty-five years as a manager and executive and, before that, several years as a consultant and a creator of management development programs.
Authors: Linda A. Hill, Greg Brandeau, Kent Lineback
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (June 10, 2014)
Collective Genius looks at the important relationship between leadership and innovation. The editors argue that both leadership and innovation has been studied for a long time as independent subjects. This book is an effort to look at the link between a leader and the culture of innovation. They believe innovation doesn’t happen in isolation or just by hiring talented individuals. Organizations need leaders who can synthesize the individual talent, what they call slices of genius, to produce innovative solutions – hence, collective genius. Very much like the Borg.
In chapter 2, Why Collective Genius Needs Leadership, Vineet Nayar of HCL Technologies discusses the various paradoxes involved in the innovation process and the challenges these paradoxes pose to organizations. Vineet Nayar points out that innovation inherently is a difficult process and you cannot simplify this process. What organizations need are leaders who can manage these difficulties. For example, he shows how innovation needs involvement and collaboration of all. However, he stresses that collaboration does not mean agreement because dissenting voices and radically different ideas are needed to come-up with innovative solutions. The essay shows how leaders need to manage these internal tensions in the organization by encouraging arguments in individual discussions, but still work toward a collective goal.
The first three chapters show how leadership is the key to innovation. It also points out that driving innovation is not easy and takes a lot of sustained effort. The next two parts of the book look at how innovation can work if the leaders and team members are willing and the leaders have their complete buy-in. The elements that drive innovation also create tension. Part I, Leaders Create the Willingness to Innovate, gives examples of how these leaders overcame these challenges and created the required willingness to promote innovation.
But desire or willingness alone cannot drive innovation. The ability to innovate hinges on collaboration, discovery-driven learning, and integrative decision-making. In Part II, Leaders Create the Ability to Innovate, the authors discuss how effective leaders use different techniques to handle paradoxical situations.
The book is a collection of stories or essays from leaders who have successfully created an environment conducive to innovation. Hidden in these essays are solutions that have worked and solved the fundamental problems that inhibit innovation. I believe most executives will identify with the problems and challenges discussed in the book. The elaborate discussion on what worked for these leaders in their specific situation can help readers think of new approaches to make the best of available resources.