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.

15 January 2010

Challenging Convention

Gary Hamel is one of the world's leading experts on strategy and innovation. He has penned countless articles and several tomes on these topics, including his latest, The Future of Management.

At The Masters Forum one year, Hamel talked of how convention stifles innovation. To illustrate, he focused on banks and asked - rhetorically - what might change in terms of day-to-day operations and/or strategic planning if two banks were to swap top management teams. His answer: nothing. Why? Because the banking industry has conventions - principles, practices, and protocols - which are followed by 99.99% of all banks and bankers. These conventions have been passed from one generation of bankers to the next, and their very deep roots virtually insure that any major innovations in banking will come from outside the industry.


For banks or bankers who want to challenge the conventions of the industry, Hamel suggested holding a conversation centered around these questions.
  • What are 10 things you would never hear a customer say about a bank or bankers?
  • What conventions do these statements represent?
  • If we overturn these conventions, what new opportunities or new ways doing business emerge?
This is a very useful framework. You can use it in the same way to challenge the conventions of your industry, and you can use it in a variety of other ways. For example, you can ask what 10 things you would never hear a visitor say about your website, and go on from there.

"To know what everyone knows is to know nothing." - Remy de Gourmont
"Engineers brought up and living in affluent Japan have no chance of understanding the needs of the next billion." - Fumio Ohtsubo, Panasonic president, as quoted by Financial Times
"Not only do we as individuals get locked into single-minded views, but we also reinforce these views for each other until the culture itself suffers the same mindlessness." - Ellen J. Langer
"The journey is hard, for the secret place where we have always been is overgrown with thorns and thickets of “ideas,” of fears and defenses, prejudices and repressions." - Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
"Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility." - Pablo Picasso
"Tunnel vision is a disease in which perception is restricted by ignorance and distorted by vested interest." - Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

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