Saturday, February 10, 2007

An inquiry into hot spots

Lynda Gratton's application of the concept of a "hot spot" to corporations is an intriguing explanation for how ordinary organizations sometimes produce extraordinary results. A Hot Spot is a confluence of people and conditions that the London Business School professor introduces like this:

You always know when you are in a Hot Spot. You feel energized and vibrantly alive. Your brain is buzzing with ideas, and the people around you share your joy and excitement. These are times when what you and others have always known becomes clearer, when adding value becomes more possible. Times when the ideas and insights from others miraculously combine with your own in a process of synthesis from which spring novelty, new ideas, and innovation...
This sounds lovely, if rather oblique in terms of management. However, Gratton does ground her thinking in research and cases, including BP, Nokia, OgilvyOne, Linux and the open source movement, and DEC. She also shows why it is in a leader's interest to foster the creation of such spots. Hot Spots, it turns out, are "marvelous creators of value."

Unfortunately, you can't simply solve whatever challenge you currently face by ordering up a Hot Spot. Instead, you have to create an environment in which a Hot Spot can emerge. Gratton offers a formula for this:

Hot Spots = (Cooperative Mindset x Boundary Spanning x Igniting Purpose) x Productive Capacity
I'm particularly interested in the book because it may help explain the success of the Apollo space program in the 1960s. Certainly, all of the conditions in Gratton's formula were in place and when you read the memoirs and oral histories of the people involved, they often describe their work in the same terms that she uses to describe being inside a Hot Spot. You can read Chapter One of Hot Spots here.

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