Earlier this week I attended Fortune magazine's Brainstorm Tech conference which "aims to sharpen the thinking of (the very well heeled) attendees about the escalating impact of tech-driven change for all business and global society".
There was a terrific menu of topics on offer: I live 'micro blogged' on Twitter (in this case using the hashtag #brainstormtech). These are my notes from the conference: I've trained myself to condense my notes into 140 character chunks which I share with my followers. I had some great feedback and questions from my following friends which enriched the experience. Sadly again we were again at a tech conference with lousy wifi, so interaction on Twitter was sporadic and dependent on location/signal strength.
While there was a constellation of big names in business and tech schmoozing, debating and presenting, I was particularly motivated by the prospect of meeting Vineet Nayar, the CEO of HCL.
I met briefly with Vineet after Monday's panel discussion on 'Thinking Globally', with Sybase CEO John Chen, Intel EVP Sean Maloney, chaired by Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network.
Mr Nayar has a fascinating management philosophy, encouraging a remarkably transparent collaboration culture amongst HCL's 55,000 employees. The prospect of a lunchtime session with Vineet and Deloitte Touche's John Hagel on 'Talent' was something to look forward to.
Vineet Nayar is in the trenches running a huge company, while John Hagel is a hugely experienced world class business strategist. (His thought leader status was at the center of a McKinsey project I worked on several years ago, very impressive).
John Hagel opened with a great comment about the huge disconnect between management words and statements and reality in most of our work environments, dryly noting that Dilbert and The Office are extremely popular...
The executives John works with often tend to be focused on attracting and retaining talent, but he believes the real priority is in developing talent more rapidly.
While current executive thinking tends to focus on developing talent through formal training programs, John believes this is marginal and development in the workplace is far more powerful and important, positing that what is needed is a rethink of all aspects of the institution through the lense of talent development.
These thoughts are very much in alignment with modern collaboration techniques, which tend to be adopted on an ad hoc basis by teams rather than as corporate strategy and tactics as John suggests is necessary.
Vineet Nayar has blazed a trail with HCL, leading the way in turning his company's organizational 'pyramid' upside down from a management perspective. By empowering the 55,000 employees across 15 countries with the ability to open trouble tickets on anything or anyone - resolution is expected within a short time frame. This has resulted in much higher accountability.
HCL has introducing an internal currency for innovation. Everyone gets a theoretical $1000 to buy and sell ideas on an internal stock exchange of ideas, and this has greatly enhanced collaboration. (There are real money penalties for not participating and more positively rewards for successfully launching ideas).
Remarkably the role of CEO and senior management has been reduced to accountable team members - Nayar believes the people at the widest point of the company 'pyramid are the most important. HCL therefore has a scenario where an employee can open a trouble ticket on the CEO and expect to see it promptly resolved.
I hope to get a more in depth interview with Vineet Nayar soon, as I believe this approach could produce huge productivity gains as a result of increased collaboration in other companies who choose to emulate the HCL model.
The group had a very stimulating and wide ranging conversation around these topics, with a number of other thought leaders in the room including Mark Turrell of Imaginatik plc, Diego Rodriguez of Ideo and John B Reuter, CEO of Expansion Grupo Editorial contributing some very perceptive remarks.