4-5 2013 Society National Bank

Once upon a time I worked for Society National Bank. Following a merger in 1993, it became Key Bank. Other than a historical marker, Society is no more and while Key Bank might be a bigger, better bank another take over might not quite as good for both parities.  In this case, longevity did not provide immunization against a wave of bank mergers.  Many things might have provided that immunization:


Whether a company or programmer you can’t assume that longevity is your ticket to a career.  The same attributes that could have lead Society into the 21st century are the same attributes that will lead you to the future.



Stuff happens even in the safest, most controlled environments  When we design processes we can try to define out all potential problems or balance the degree of safety required and our ability to recognize and react when something happens.

Excluding all inputs that might cause a problem would also exclude impressions, interactions and potential serendipity that can foster innovation. This is a path towards mediocrity. Agile frameworks stress the need for transparency (transparency is part of empirical models) because transparency is needed for effective collaboration and feedback.  Transparency will mean external ideas could encroach on your projects. Trying to ban outside ideas will do more harm than good; just make sure you are communicating well enough to raise an alarm when needed.


All ideas start somewhere and usually you won’t find a historical marker commemorating the event.  What you might find are many people that will tell you how a concept was developed, what the intent of the concept was and even perhaps that they were there.

In many cases they may even have convinced themselves that the stories they have created are true. Not to be malicious but rather because we all want to be part of something bigger and more important than ourselves.  Claiming involvement and ownership can also be a mirror image of the “not invented here” syndrome.

All ideas were invented somewhere, probably not here but I think we can be a bit fuzzy on the where question if it helps an organization to consider a new idea.  Even Mary Poppins used a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

I woke up this morning pondering creativity and innovation and whether they could be learned or exercise therefore I wrote the following short blog entry to see whether I could sort it out or create a discussion!

Are creativity and innovation enhanced by volume? Do more chances at the innovation well lead to a greater likelihood that any single idea will hit the jackpot? There seems to be a belief that volume at the very least helps the process and may well increase the chance of finding a diamond. This of course can only true if you assure that all people or groups have at least one good idea in them and I would like to suggest that is probably not true. Another assumption that might make volume valuable is that creativity or the process of being creative and be strengthened by exercise. Bottom-line are creativity and innovation learned skills or just “tuned up”? I would suggest that developing a process helps, exposure to new inputs help and these things can be learned and tuned up but repetition and volume only count is there is a spark that can be fanned.

According to recent Harvard business review Podcast, “90 to 95 percent of all team fail to innovate.”  Regardless of whether the statistic is perfectly correct the idea is important.  Innovation has been an important topic in team formation however when processes and outputs are measured, innovation is rare.  Why is this happening?  I would suggest that we have become a society populated by organizations filled with consensus thinkers.  Consensus has caused a homogenization of the processes; a culture that drives out variance either negative or positive.  I would suggest the basic organizations structure must be challenged.  The focus must change from leveraging consensus as a generator of new ideas to a model that if it does not embrace the radical individual as a thinker to a model that at least tolerates him or her.