“Emotive laziness; repugnances of memory: such things—such revealing imbecilities—exist. I can feel that some worry of long ago, a forgotten indignity, a thorn still rankling in the flesh might well recover its activity. But what, after all, is “the past”? On the other hand, I can foresee and outwit this obsession. Foresee it and avert it. Daytime lights up my ideas and my ideas light up my night-time. The shadow of the idea scares the idea away.”

Paul Valéry


The organization with agility will be the one who optimizes the free exchange of ideas and thinking. This concept almost always brings up ‘thinkers versus doers’ and focus of roles within an organization. Let me be clear. Optimizing each person’s role, and skill, certainly ensures a level of efficiency and the essential replication which underpins consistency. But in order to continuously improve, or even more importantly, exploit opportunities, those people who have been optimized as a “part” need to have a free exchange of ideas with the “whole” if you desire to optimize the system itself. And should a business desire to attain the next level of its potential simply using the employees it has, this free exchange includes a free exchange of mistakes and unrealistic imagination. The latter is important because what may appear to be unrealistic in one individual’s imagination maybe be attainable and realistic when the ‘inspired idea’ is confronted by the whole. This means even the most ‘doer’ organization, one focused on execution, can become a collection of ideas which does incorporate the innovation necessary for continuous improvement but also has the ability to incorporate non-innovation ideas, a different configuration of existing resources and abilities, which is equally effective in terms of profitability and usefulness (using what exists is always more applicable than something new because no one has to learn something new).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out this is also the pathway to maintaining a hierarchy AND increasing organizational effectiveness. Instead of people keeping their potential to themselves, their potential (the unforeseen, by management, contributions any employee can offer when free exchange is encouraged).

Which leads me to links.

In the internet world the link is possibly the greatest invention of all time. With one click someone can zoom across the universe (meta or mesa) and reach some destination. What once could only be traveled on foot (trudge down to the library) was now Star Trek ‘transporter’ capabilities. I bring up links to make a point on exchange of ideas and connectivity even within a traditional hierarchy. Linking people, and their ideas, skills and potential, within an organization permits the organization itself to transport itself to destinations yet unseen. And just like a link on your computer, you don’t have to know how it works, you need not even design the link, just click on it and you zoom away. This is the positive aspect of what The Cluetrain Manifesto called “the hyperlinked organization.” In Cluetrain they pointed out everything was transparent with the advent of the internet. While many business leaders shivered, and still do, over that loss of control it actually also offers an opportunity to control, or corral, the potential within your organization – foster it to the benefit of the business.

Which leads me to evolution.

Evolution is always in search of a weakness and systems are always evolving. This means they are dynamic in and of themselves with components working, and failing, and being replaced, and improved, continuously. The constraints are typically the infrastructure (capital expenditures the institution seeks to optimize its investments) and leadership mindset. So, while people, humans, may manage to probabilities the reality is constricted, or constrained, by the institution itself (which actually increases the likelihood of missed opportunity and/or catastrophes). Evolution, left to its own devices, tends to enhance an organization – efficiently and effectively. Should a business solely focus on execution, evolution is stifled and growth and progress has a ‘cap’.

To be fair (part 1), an execution-focused mindset can grind out an excellent profit day to day <and customer satisfaction> and if they compensate the grinders well that machine can go on successfully for quite some time.

To be fair (part 2), in a rapidly expanding organization, either through continuous acquisitions or significant mergers or even velocity driven organic business growth, an execution-focused mindset may be mandatory simply to insure executional coherence (with an outcome of cultural coherence).

To be clear, both of those ‘to be fair’ comments are linked to some specific environment contextual aspects therefore have limited life within different contexts.


Constraints on free exchange of ideas. One could conclude when they hear ‘free exchange of ideas’ an organization in which roles are blurred, departments thinking about other department’s responsibilities and a bunch of people being asked to take their eye off the executional ball. Its not that way. While an organization should always encourage a free exchange of overall ideas and some transparency to how thinking can enhance doing, the reality is the most effective exchange of ideas are transactional in nature.

What I mean by that is someone, somewhere, within the business has an inspiration. That ‘inspiration’ isn’t really an idea yet but the seed of something. It gets shared <free exchange of an idea>, with collaboration <either organic or curated> that inspiration becomes a concept. From there, especially within an execution-focused business, the inspired concept needs to become an implementable concept <inexecutable concepts are wasted use of resources>. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this type of exchange is not simply in the purview of some select, few but rather open to any and all within an organization.

I maintain agility is how any organization, execution and/or creative driven, will ‘future-fit’ for the future and a free exchange of ideas is most likely the foundation for that agility. “The shadow of the idea scares the idea away.”  Ponder.

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Written by Bruce