Friday, January 18, 2008

Building and Maintaining Effective Idea-Flows

In trying to return to blogging after receiving a new knee and then rehabbing my way through the holidays, I went back to the Financial Times of November 7, 2007, which has an interesting opinion piece by Michael Fullilove of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, in Sydney, about the lessons from FDR's presidency, in which the late American president is characterized as:

"practis[ing] a highly personal form of government that "must have maddened sober and responsible officials used to a slower tempo and more normal patterns of administration". FDR ignored established lines of authority; he listened to many advisers but relied on none; he worked through friends, personal contacts and battalions of special envoys. He was determined never to become, as the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr told me, "a prisoner of a single information network".

I was struck by the importance of the final sentence. In an era when knowing things is more important that making things, to assure economic competitiveness learning how to manage knowledge flows is a critical art for knowledge professionals to master. I am reminded, in this regard, of a letter that I wrote in the February 16, 2004 edition of Business Week, which referred to Paul O'Neil's book The Price of Loyalty, which is, in fact, a worthwhile read on building knowledge-intensive organizations, where I suggested that: " In situations where ideas are central to the effectiveness of an organization, the development of processes to ensure that the ideas being worked with are the best possible is absolutely essential. Whatever the political interpretations of Paul O'Neill's memoirs might be, the book certainly emphasizes the importance of the role of processes for superior idea development and execution. Loyalty then becomes best defined by a commitment to the integrity of the idea processes, rather than allegiance to an individual. In fact, the individual is best served as a leader when the idea processes are protected from threats to their integrity."

I would think that no leader would want to be, in FDR's words, "prisoner of a single information network," and, as a result, paying careful attention to the processes by which ideas enter and move through an organization becomes a prerequisite for building both smarter leaders and smarter organizations.

No comments: