Formula for success:
Get smart people together in a room.
If you can make this group diverse, so much for the better — diverse in opinion, in training, in expertise, in age, in background– in every way.
Give them some kind of content to act as a conversation starter.
Get them talking.
And then, magic can happen.
Two or three things made me realize just how critical this is to success.
First, I was recently presenting one of my business book briefings. (Where I present a book synopsis/briefing to a leadership team, and then kind of watch the magic of conversation happen).
One of the participants, an up-and-coming, sharp-as-they-come young leader, said that the real value of the session is that of simply getting the right people in a room talking about bigger picture concerns. The book briefing is a perfect conversation starter for such sessions.
Second, I read the terrific, substantive, comprehensive interview with Tim Cook at Fast Company: Tim Cook On Apple’s Future: Everything Can Change Except Values – In an exclusive Q&A, the current CEO discusses the Watch, how Steve Jobs informs Apple’s future, and how Apple lives “outside the box,” by Rick Tetzeli And Brent Schlender. Here’s the key excerpt for this post:
Question — Are you looking forward to Apple’s new campus? [The company is set to move into massive new headquarters in 2016.] Would you have created this kind of campus if you had been CEO when the decision was first made?
Tim Cook’s response — It’s critical that Apple do everything it can to stay informal. And one of the ways that you stay informal is to be together. One of the ways that you ensure collaboration is to make sure people run into each other—not just at the meetings that are scheduled on your calendar, but all the serendipitous stuff that happens every day in the cafeteria and walking around.
We didn’t predict our employee growth, so we haven’t had a campus that houses everyone. We are spread out in hundreds of buildings, and none of us like that; we hate it. Now we’ll be able to work primarily at that one campus. So, yeah, I’m totally behind that.
“Make sure people run into each other.” Pretty good strategy.
Three, I was in the midst of writing a moderately lengthy e-mail, and realized – “Why am I doing this? A phone call would be better, faster…” So, I called the person, and sure enough, that was better – and though not quite faster, it felt faster. It certainly felt more “connecting.”
Many years ago (mid 1970s), I was a youth minister. A good friend of mine, a very successful youth minister from Texas, whose youth group had grown in number pretty dramatically (he just attracted teenagers!), told me his philosophy.
“Put the teenagers in a bus, and take a trip. It doesn’t matter what the trip is for, as long as it includes lots of time on the bus. Get teenagers on the same bus for hours at a time, and as they grow close, they learn to rely on each other.”
“Make sure people run into each other,” says Tim Cook. “Put people in close quarters, like a bus,” says the successful youth minister.
Getting people together, to talk about important stuff. This is part of any formula for success.