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Innovating with Your Life

Inc.'s editor-in-chief offers an overview of select articles in the May issue.
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FYI

By George Gendron, Editor-in-Chief

Built to Last, the book contributor Jim Collins wrote with Jerry I. Porras, was still at the top of the best-seller lists when Collins left his professorship at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, moved back to his native Boulder, Colo., and set up a "management laboratory," as he calls it, in the elementary-school classroom where he attended first grade. Now he meets there with executives to discuss the "habits of visionary corporations."

He often shows them his first-grade report card, which hangs on the wall. On it is a note from his teacher. "Jimmy works very hard most of the time," the note reads. "He seems to be a mature boy who enjoys learning."

I can't help being fascinated by the direction Collins has taken since he became a best-selling author. It's as if he's applying to his own life the lessons he learned from the companies in Built to Last. One of those lessons was about the importance of figuring out what to do less of. These days, he's doing less teaching, which allows him to do more studying. Clearly, he thinks being a student helps keep him vital. That's probably why he works out of his first-grade classroom.

Being There
Regular Inc. readers will recognize the name of John Grossmann, whose last contribution to us was "Running Out of Time" in our February issue. He returns this month to write about one of the country's preeminent innovation gurus, the legendary Doug Hall. Hall had never before allowed a journalist to attend one of his seminars. He let Grossmann in but stipulated that he couldn't just observe and take notes. Grossmann had to get right in there and brainstorm with herbal-tea maker Celestial Seasonings.

Exactly what Grossmann contributed is a matter of some dispute. He refuses to confirm that he was the one who suggested "tea bags that fit over showerheads." He will admit only that he's a changed man after the experience. You can find his account on page 36.

Go Figure
I can't say that there's a single overriding thesis among the articles on innovation in this issue. On the contrary, they seem to advance startlingly different views. While Grossmann focuses on the creation of innovative products, Collins seems to say, "No, it's not the product. It's the company and the process."

Then along comes Steven Berglas, one of our regular contrarians. What's important, he contends, is the level of conflict in the process--a subject he knows something about through his work as a corporate therapist.

No, that's not quite right, Susan Beck suggests in her piece about Rob Ryan, the erstwhile high-tech entrepreneur who now does his innovating under Montana's big sky. It's not just product or process or conflict. It's your life.

Or is it really the way you think? So you might wonder after reading our interview with Richard Saul Wurman, the designer, writer, and Renaissance man who's been stimulating our thinking ever since we read his book Information Anxiety.

Damned if I know who's right. You decide.

Contributors
Journalist Susan Beck writes this month about high-tech innovation under Montana's big sky.

Frequent contributor John Grossmann tells (almost) all about brainstorming with herbal-tea maker Celestial Seasonings.

Steven Berglas, columnist, contrarian, and corporate therapist, describes the role of conflict in creative thinking.

Built to Last coauthor Jim Collins applies to his own life lessons he learned from visionary companies.

Last updated: May 1, 1997




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