The wisdom of the many

By Boaz Tamir via lean.org/LeanPost/   Article

Managing the Wisdom of the Many

“We tend to think only a select few are geniuses and that innovation and creativity are qualities of extraordinary individuals, not the masses. If technological innovation is the key to competitive advantage and industry leadership in today’s frenetic market, then according to this view, the commercial fate of a company lies in the hands of just a few individuals, a few brilliant entrepreneurs who hold the key to our future.

Given the complex reality of the 21st century, lean organizations that depend on the qualities of rare individuals will face multi-dimensional risks: difficulty integrating the wisdom of the individual into the group’s purpose; limiting and sometimes closing off space for group thinking; suppression of motivation and cooperation among those who are not members of the closed “genius club”; and sacrificing the impetus for change and innovation that can be found, as James Surowiecki tells us, in the “wisdom of the crowds.”

This wisdom crosses the boundaries of culture and technology, breaks through the boundaries of policy, politics and gender, and is greater than the ability and talent of any particular one individual. What does this have to do with lean product and process development? More than ever, product and process development requires a team effort.

In a competitive global market, the role of the trailblazing individual is necessary, but it is not sufficient to complete a full product development cycle (Design, Build, Test, Learn, Adjust). Lean product development requires the integration of individual capabilities with the activities of the multi-disciplinary team.”

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