About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

26 March 2010

Jim Collins Is Curious George

I interviewed Jim Collins - author of the best-selling books Built to Last and Good to Great - after a Masters Forum session and asked him what drove him to put several years of research into writing each of his books. This was his answer:
"The ultimate driving force is curiosity and contribution. And the curiosity part really ties into this notion of what we jokingly call the Chimp. Be like Curious George, start with a question and look under the yellow hat to find what's there. To see, to truly understand, and go 'Ooh, that's really interesting.' And then second, to make a lasting contribution."
I might add that instead of doing research, writing books, and giving lectures to make enough money to live the good life, Jim writes books and gives lectures to fund his next research project and make his next contribution.

Two years after Built to Last became a best-seller, Jim was asked a question - by a management consultant during a dinner in San Francisco - that spawned Good to Great:
"What advice do you have for mediocre companies that want to dramatically improve themselves? Are they doomed forever to second-class performance?"
Jim rephrased the question slightly:
"How can I help people and companies go from mere goodness to greatness?"
And, set out to find the answer.

First, he set up a research lab in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado. Incidentally, the lab is housed in the same building where he attended grammar school and his conference room is his old first-grade classroom.

Then, he assembled a research team - made up of young graduate students from the University of Colorado - to walk with him on what turned out to be a five-year journey to answer his question. But, he didn't simply pick the first warm bodies that showed up on his doorstep; he chose bold, curious students - like himself - who wouldn't settle for just any answers. The team he chose took on the name Chimps, because of Jim's chimpanzee-like ways. And, it wasn't long before pictures of Curious George began to show up around the lab. In total, some 20 Chimps worked on the project at a rate of four or five a year. Their work involved: analyzing stocks, conducting interviews, collecting and coding articles, and fact checking numbers in the book. They were - to a person - fully and passionately committed to the idea of greatness. They were - as a team - willing to take full responsibility for the conclusions they drew from their research.

In addition to curiosity, Jim was looking some other characteristics in the people he hired to be Chimps. They had to be:
  • Smart
  • Willing to death march
  • Genetically encoded to be irreverent
  • Willing to tell him when he was wrong
  • Which, if any, of the five traits Collins looked for are also important to you? Why?
  • If any, some, or all of them are important to you, how are you making sure this is accounted for in your recruiting and selection process?
  • If you are able to find and hire people who possess the traits you say are important, are you capable of leading and retaining them? Are you sure?
  • If not, what can you do to either develop the necessary capabilities, or make sure you are not hiring people you can't keep?
"Curiosity, especially intellectual inquisitiveness, is what separates the truly alive from those who are merely going through the motions." - Tom Robbins
"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity." - Albert Einstein
"An accident is perhaps the only thing that really inspires us. A composer improvises aimlessly the way an animal grubs about. Both of them go grubbing about because they yield to a compulsion to seek things out." Igor Stravinski, Poetics of Music
"Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking;" - Leo Tolstoy

No comments: