Noah denkt™ - The Power of Balanced Reasoning
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Fostering Nonconformist Thinking in Companies?
Dialogue with the Alter Ego on Squaring of a Triangle, first drafted on April 19, published on April 21, 2014
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    Is your organization a safe place to be non-consensus? Do those who work for you feel safe when they innovate,
    even if they are alone? You should frankly ask yourself these questions. Great leaders make it safe for others to
    innovate. And history then is written about those who were correct about new opportunities, even though there was
    no consensus.
    Stanford Prof. Barnett on Corporate Strategy


Question by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): Recently, we have come across a host of academic work that
explores the ability of companies to foster innovative, nonconformist thinking within their own ranks.  
(See for
instance: James G. March,
Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning, in: In Organization Science, Volume 2, Issue
1, May 1991, pp 71-87)
. We would be interested to know what Noah denkt™ thinks of this type of academic
research?  Obviously, we are well aware that this project has always taken a decidedly non-corporate
approach opting for a maverick undertaking based on
the philosophy of capitalistic existentialism. But is there
a way to marry a daredevil attitude with an existence inside established corporate structures?

Answer by Noah denkt™ (Nd): It is true that we have consistently felt that nonconformist endeavors can
flourish best in a nonconformist setting. In particular, it is the amount of risk taking that inevitably comes with a
pioneering enterprise which has us thinking that such projects can best be implemented outside the
institutional concern for self-preservation. Don’t forget that all institutions have a natural priority for
safeguarding their own survival. Hence, it is not only difficult for them to accept the uncertainties that come with
serious creative destruction but they also have a hard time to honestly contemplate their own demise.

AE: It is also true though that not all innovation is necessarily of the disruptive kind. There is, after all, the vast
field of “continuous innovation” which never stops to improve the quality and features of existing products.
Doesn‘t it make sense for companies to encourage an "out-of-the-box" thinking if only to maintain a cutting-
edge position in that area of continuous innovation?

Nd: Perhaps. Nevertheless, we have a hard time to associate „The Nonconsensus Strategy“ (Bill Barnett) with
the minor risk-taking of a continuous innovation. In fact, it seems to us that Mr. Barnett’s own example of
Qualcomm's embrace of the wireless CDMA technology is pretty disruptive in itself. So, if you want to get
serious about making a ground-breaking innovation happen you probably have to do that on your own account.

AE: Why then do intelligent people like Mr. Barnett continue to look for ways to integrate nonconformist
thinking into standard corporate organizations?

Nd: The most immediate answer to that question is that those nonconformist thinkers are just as afraid as
established institutions are to be entirely nonconformist themselves. In other words, they themselves shy away
from assuming the near suicidal risk that comes with being a maverick entrepreneur. Hence, they look for ways
to turn what by nature is an excruciatingly difficult undertaking into a more convenient, socially compatible
enterprise.  

AE: It does payoff though to do that, doesn't it? Both James March and Bill Bartlett are highly reputed Stanford
professors. They receive a decent salary, they get quoted in The Economist and they don’t have to suffer the
intellectual exclusion that the likes of us who are working on their own “Noah denkt™-Project” have to endure.

Nd: Of course. But don’t forget that, contrary to Profs March and Barnett, people like us don’t have to
continuously engage in trying to square a triangle in order to feel useful. That is a comfort in itself, isn't it? At
least, it gives us peace of mind.

AE: Well, we are not so sure about that: Just look at our never ending dialogues! They do not really sound like
peace of mind to us! And nor do they portray a mindset that is void of the need to square triangles!

Nd: But come on, we quite enjoy these exchanges, don’t we? At least, we don’t mind going on record in saying
so….
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Keywords:

Maverick entrepreneurs, nonconformist thinking in organizations, innovative thinking in
organizations, non-consensual strategy in corporations, employees and pioneers,
pioneering spirit in
employees
, entrepreneurial initiative in employees
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