Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

In the March 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes that “when business, academic, and policy leaders collaborate to bridge the gaps [between their silos], they create a fertile environment for job growth and more-inclusive prosperity.” Professor Kanter enumerates four key goals that should be on the agenda of every leader, and cites several IBM citizenship programs – Smarter Cities Challenge, Supplier Connection, Transition to Teaching, and the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) – as outstanding examples of companies can “[think] outside the building [to find] opportunities to influence the system around them.”

  1. “Link knowledge creation and venture creation to speed the conversion of ideas into market-ready enterprises. [Smarter Cities Challenge/Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Aquaponics Innovation Center]
  2. Link small and large enterprises to promote the growth and success of small and midsize companies and revitalize large corporations through partnerships with innovative SMEs. [Supplier Connection]
  3. Improve the match between education and employment opportunities. Develop a job-ready workforce through apprenticeships and other education-industry links, including new structures for schooling. [New York P-TECH, a grades 9 through 14 institution that directly connects education to employment]
  4. Link leaders across sectors to develop regional strategies and produce scalable models that build on local assets and attract new investment.”

Professor Kanter concludes:

Besides creating regional coalitions, business leaders can be institutional innovators. Creative leaders think not only outside the box but also—in my preferred metaphor—outside the building, finding opportunities to influence the system around them. Consider the efforts of IBM, already described in this article. They are business-strategic, involve a wide range of functions, and directly address ecosystem challenges. IBM leads the semiconductor research consortium in Albany; assists the aquaponics innovation districts in Milwaukee; runs Supplier Connection for SMEs; participates in creating six-year high schools in New York and Chicago; and retools engineers as educators through Transition to Teaching. Institutional innovations create better ways to focus R&D, supply chain, or training investments. When the private sector uses its core business capabilities to invent new prototypes for structural change, the public sector gets models to take to scale.


Read “Enriching the Ecosystem” (free registration required)

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the chair and director of Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. Professor Kanter is the author of SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good (2009).

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