Part 2- Shared Vision & Team Learning

Shared Vision
Apple’s vision is centered on its strengths in design and in creating simple user interfaces.  By using this common vision and focusing on it strengths, Apple has moved from being a computer company to one where it produces a variety of products and services from software and a music stores to telephones and iPads. Rather than remain a computer company only, Apple has learned to expand its vision and think bigger.

Thousands of organizations have developed mission or vision statements over the past decade, but these statements, unfortunately, are rarely part of the fabric of the organization nor are they echoed by every employee.  They serve primarily as aspirations that few expect will be met. They also often limit possibilities by being too constrained and too small in scope.

Truly exciting and effective organizations strongly embrace the idea of everyone working toward a common and widely shared vision that is often broad and general enough to survive changes in tactical direction and product focus.  These visions are focused around the true strengths of the firm and leverage those strengths to produce exceptional products and services.  Toyota’s vision is about producing defect-free automobiles and they have come further toward this than any other company in history. Their quality system is embraced by thousands and has become the standard.

Google’s now well-known motto of “do no evil” plays out in several ways including giving employees paid time off to contribute to charities as well as leaving China when its search results were censored. This commitment to a vision is powerful in pulling people together to achieve common goals.

Team Learning
Apple, as well as Cisco Systems and Ideo, a Palo Alto-based design firm, have deeply embraced Senge’s discipline of team learning. They have integrated functions as disparate as human resources, engineering, design, sales, and software development into a single team where leadership is shared and communication is open. By doing this they have created products that not only beat the competition, but that are clearly superior in design, construction and function.

They have learned that teams, especially those made up of diverse people, are far more effective in coming up with solutions to difficult problems and in bringing forth innovative ideas than are individuals. The term crowd-sourcing is coming into vogue as an innovative twist on team learning.  Crowd-sourcing makes the proposition that by soliciting ideas from a wide variety of diverse people new and better solutions and ideas emerge.

In 1998 Alpheus Bingham and Aaron Schacht who worked at Eli Lilly had the idea of reaching out to the world to get ideas and thoughts on solving intractable science problems and offering cash rewards to those who came up with solutions.  They left Ely Lilly to start a website and company called Innocentive with major funding from Lilly.  Its motto is “. . . harness collective brainpower around the world to solve problems that really matter.” It quickly proved itself, by solving several challenges that they posed on the site. By using the concept of crowd-sourcing or soliciting ideas and solutions to problems from anyone at all, they have continued to see good results and the website has grown beyond soliciting solutions for a few companies only. There are now over 60 “seekers” who propose challenges and it is a widely used resource for solving a variety of problems in many disciplines.

Over the decades, we have learned that teams almost always outperform individuals and our  cult like worship of the rugged individual gives false ideas about where progress and creativity come from.