Collective Genius is published by the Harvard Business Review Press and written by a team of management scholars, the lead of whom — Dr. Linda Hill — is unsurprisingly a Professor at Harvard. It’s a management book at heart, but one that focuses with unique specificity on the subject of leading innovation at creative companies. The book doesn’t talk much about management as a general discipline. Instead, it breaks down creative innovation into a series of processes, and demonstrates how some of the top firms it case studied have successfully managed those processes to deliver incredible results. Among the companies case studied are:
– Pixar, the first and foremost CG movie production studio in the world
– Volkswagen, widely and historically recognized for running the best marketing campaigns in the automotive industry
– eBay, with a specific focus on eBay Germany; that chapter is actually in itself a pretty cool entrepreneurship story of how that happened…
– and Google, which of course, is literally in the business of innovation
There are more. There’s a dozen or so case studies in total with this book, and it’s sort of unique in the way that it’s written, because we go into some serious depths into each of these case studies, each with its own purpose of proving the methodology this book is passing on regarding group innovation.
Typically I’m not too much into management books. After the first few, you realize they all say pretty much the same thing. But the concept behind Collective Genius that was particular intriguing to me was the defined process that it brought to this thing called “innovation”, which otherwise most of us would regard as a spontaneous thing. I love process. I’m all for spontaneity and the leisurely search for inspiration, but in the end, whether looking at event production or looking at entrepreneurship in general, the execution of anything in business lies ultimately in the process.
In the world of event management, many of those events you go to that are a few hours long, a day long, or a few days long, required production timelines of sometimes a year or even longer. The production team grows bigger as the event date draws nearer; in the beginning it could be just the producer himself, then venues & primary suppliers get involved for the logistics, sponsors and stakeholders get involved for the marketing and finances, then each of these spin off into their own roles of entertainment and catering and audiovisual and whatever else that specific event may need. By the end of the event cycle, we typically find that the event has involved dozens of teams (most event companies are actually pretty small, so not everything gets done in house) and hundreds of people.
The entire duration of the year’s worth of production is really just a process of innovation. A year is a very long time in the world of events. The offerings of suppliers may change, the landscape of venues may change, technological advances may change attendee expectations, and any number of things can happen in the world at large that can impact an event tremendously. Even if all goes smoothly, an unexpected drizzle on an expectantly sunny day might ruin the whole aesthetic of an event. An event production is an environment of improvisation, quick improvisation, and frantic improvisation, but above it all, there is the ideal of having a production team culture that creates innovation through process rather than reaction.
See you at the next exploration!