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Andy Boynton

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Idea Hunter Confidential: Teddy Frank

July 15, 2011

Teddy Frank brings ideas with great success to where it’s one of the biggest challenges: a global corporation! At Philips Healthcare she works in one of the most innovative firms around with great colleagues, but even there, it takes a real change agent like Teddy to make ideas make a difference on a global scene. From her Andover, MA (USA) office, she leads change efforts for Philips Healthcare. Her recent success included introducing ideas that enabled roll-out of an entire new approach to planning. This isn’t easy within a global firm! Reading about her idea behaviors on the front line as someone responsible for corporate change is a treat-I know I learned a great deal, and you will also.

Disclaimer:  Everything posted on this blog is personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of Frank’s employer.

Boynton: In terms of advancing your goals and objectives in life (e.g. your company, research agenda, other projects, etc), where do you search for great ideas (websites, people, conferences, mags, etc.)? And can you describe how frequently you hunt in those places?

Frank: I find it is important to use multiple sources to get great ideas; workplace, websites, webinars, articles and blogs forwarded by colleagues, casual conversations, “think tanks”. I also seek out learning for personal growth – I think this is the most important part of being an “idea hunter” – to be constantly in a learning state of mind. I often peruse print and online catalogs when I’m home, to see what courses I can take that might further my own learning, above and beyond what I do at work. I use this time for personal reflection and growth, and often get together with like-minded friends to engage in learning that might go beyond the parameters of strictly “professional development”. For example, I recently took a course on “transformational speaking” that allowed me to think deeply about how I personally communicate and the type of work I do. Those who were part of the workshop came from many walks of life that further enriched my learning, and allowed me to look at diverse applications for communication that I might not have been exposed to in a more traditional work setting.

Boynton: When you find great ideas, be they from a conversation or something you scan, what do you do with them? Do you store them? How? Do you put them into play and show them to people? How do you handle interesting ideas once you find them?

Frank: One of the first places I look for useful, practical ideas is to my colleagues in my workplace, during meetings or email exchanges. If I hear about something working well in one part of the organization, I immediately ask “Where else might this work?” This is all part of creating viral change in the organization, finding new ideas and spreading them or “cross-pollinating” to other areas to take root. For example, we developed something we call “Change Ambassadors”, individuals who are key influencers and act as informal coaches in helping team members adopt new behaviors involved in process improvements. Two of these “Change Ambassadors” decide to bake cakes over the weekends and bring them into the workplace where they invited their colleagues to show up at their desk, anytime during that following Monday to enjoy cake and discuss ideas and improvement opportunities. Colleagues were treated to choice of chocolate or vanilla cake, a fact about the new process improvements and a lively discussion about what they can personally do to improve things. Another colleague liked this idea so much she started a candy jar where each piece of candy was wrapped in a fact about the process improvements, and invited her colleagues to “drop by”. This is an example of how we hunt, gather and germinate good ideas by utilizing our informal network of key influencers to help change behavior at the “grassroots” level.

Boynton: Can you think of a few big ideas you’ve found hunting and what they led to? How’d you find those big ideas? How’d you take them and turn them into something important to you?

Frank: I often find that great ideas have a way of getting woven into the architecture of how I approach my work. One of my guiding principles is I believe that personal and group change involves creating a true learning organization. This is all about being someone who is willing to listen to new ideas, to value and leverage the ideas of others, rather than feeling the need to be the smartest person in the room. Sometimes this involves remembering or even learning new ways to learn, to become “unfrozen”.  It is also a highly creative process that allows us to connect seemingly disparate thoughts or ideas and combine them in new and different ways that make a third entity, what I call 1 + 1 = 3.

I had the opportunity recently to apply this by combining some of your ideas of rapid prototyping during the “Deep Dive” process or “stealing the best ideas” and combining this with a process called “reverse brainstorming” which shifts the paradigm from problem solving to problem creation.  While conducting a recent leadership development and culture team building session, I had the group work go through a series of “mini brainstorming” or deep dive sessions to generate ideas for how to create a highly “dysfunctional” team culture – and then take the best of these ideas and reverse them to define what specific practices they could put into effect to ensure that their team is the highest performing team ever. It was a fun activity that yielded some startling insights about what behaviors they inadvertently engage in, and what they could immediately change to create a highly functional and effective team. Using those two simple techniques of Deep Dive and reverse brainstorming created a different level of experience that prompted new growth and learning and generated great ideas they could immediately translate into action!

Andy’s Comments…

Teddy’s attitude is essential. As she notes-when she hears of a great idea she immediately asks where to apply it elsewhere! Teddy isn’t worried about originality, she is worried about using ideas to make a difference. Idea repurposing, replication, reuse: the best weapons to make change happen! Teddy’s example of using deepdive™ (see my discussions on deepdive on this website) also illustrate how she can move ideas into play and create real value for her firm.  Teddy’s entire interview combines several mutually exclusive threads by most convention-innovation, change, practicality, and speed. That’s the mark of a real idea hunter making change happen.

  • http://twitter.com/JosieJosieg Josie Gibson

    Andy,
    A terrific case study that underlines how critical leadership is in enabling the ideas-innovation process. I’ve heard too many executives talk about innovation in purely technical/outsourcing terms (“yes, we have a great R&D department”) when Teddy’s experience shows how energising and rewarding idea-hunting can be for the whole organisation. Strong parallels with the way social media works… random, organic, but ultimately rich and thought-provoking.
    Josie

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