With India and China, can we manage innovation in a post-geographic way?

Bruce Nussbaum

We are all fascinated with how our worklives are radically changing. We talk about the difficulty of managing innovation across cultures and across distances, but is the real boundary biology? I am indebted to Brad Nemer at Motorola for some terrific insights into the issue. He lives a post-geographic life, as do many of us. Motorola, like Boeing, Nike, Apple, Citigroup, Fedex, you name it, are all basically globally connected now. Nemer knows Motorola so lets talk about that. It operates in 70 plus countries. Teams work on a standardized IT platform across three continents. Everyone has a laptop, email address, mobil phone, IM account, and global intranet access. Working with people in Singapore or Sunnyvale is transparent. There are lots of times when you don't even know where team members are--and don't care. Sound familiar?

What does matter is that, as Nemer puts it, "Beijing is just waking up when Chicago-based team members are going home and we get into the office when London-based people are ending their day." So there many early morning and late-evening conference meetings that eat into the day--and into energy and sleep. At some point, managing innovation in this manner has to cut into productivity and creativity for individuals.

This biology barrier, of course, comes up when we manage innovation horizontally--across latitudes, west to east. What if we distributed work longitudinally, north to south? You give up the time advantage of 24-hour distributed work but you may get a biological gain that adds to creativity and productivity.

Thoughts for a Sunday to chew on. Thanks Brad.

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