» Archive for April, 1997

Tales of the Great Groups

Thursday, April 24th, 1997 by Jonathan Spira

Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman, published by Addison Wesley

What differentiates a bunch of people working together from a “Great Group”?  Why do some groups of extra-ordinarily talented individuals produce greatness while others wallow in mediocrity?

A “Great Group” results “from a mutually respectful marriage between an able leader and an assemblage of extraordinary people.”  Groups go on to greatness only when each among them is “free to do his or her absolute best.”  In his Introduction, Bennis portends that this book is “about organizing gifted people” in ways that allow them both “to achieve great things and to experience the joy and personal transformation that such accomplishment brings.  Yet, once completing the tome, it would appear that Bennis’ comment is teleological.  Characterizing groups such as Disney’s Animation Studio, the Manhattan Project, the Skunk Works at Lockheed, and the team that created the Apple Macintosh computer, as great is something no one would contest.  However, in order to give further credence to Bennis’ argument, a contrasting study would have to be conducted to look at groups with similar demographics which did not become similarly “great.”

Organizing Genius is more Bennis’ attempt (and a reasonably successful one) to identify a new trend in leadership, that of the greatest and most innovative breakthroughs originating from highly creative and productive teams rather than one great leader.

The story of each Great Group is compelling and fascinating.  The lessons that one can take from even a sampling of these experiences is extremely valuable.  And that is Organizing Genius at its best.  It takes us inside the psyche of the minds of the leaders and chief members of these groups and teaches us the value in creating environments which foster creativity.

Bennis derives 15 “lessons” of the Great Groups, a few of which are especially compelling.  These are

·    Every Great Group has a strong leader
·    Great Groups and great leaders create each other
·    The leaders of Great Groups love talent and know where to find it
·    Great Groups think they are on a mission from God
·    People in Great Groups have no distractions
·    Great Groups are optimistic, not realistic
·    Great Groups always deliver a product
·    Great work is its own reward

In sum, before starting your next project, read the tales of these Great Groups and you’ll find that just reading this work will imbue some of the greatness in your work.

You can order Organizing Genius right now from Amazon.com.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.  This article originally appeared in the Basex Online Journal of Industry and Commerce (BOJIC).

Four Seasons Test: Olympus D-200L Digital Camera

Wednesday, April 23rd, 1997 by Jonathan Spira

When Olympus’ D-200L digital camera arrived at our offices, I was a bit skeptical.  After all, as an avid photographer, I had forsworn ‘digital’ photography in favor of the film-and-paper variety.  But the D-200L looked like a real camera, so I tried it.  What I found changed my mind about the future (and present) of digital photography.

No, the current crop of digital cameras won’t replace photography as we know it.  But it’s a tremendous step forward.  Sometimes, digital cameras are less appropriate than using film.  For example, if you want to make a lot of prints at your local 60-minute photoshop, don’t use your digital camera (yet).  I did learn when the use of such cameras is appropriate, such as when you have to transmit the image telephonically, or are planning on using the images on the Web or in desktop publishing.

The first feature of the Olympus D-200L that captivated me was the color LCD screen, which could display one or nine images at a time.  Instantly.  And you could delete images that didn’t come out ‘right’ just as instantaneously.  The D-200L allowed me to shoot in both high-resolution and standard formats.  The standard mode was quite sufficient for, say, reproduction on the Web, and the camera would store 80 standard resolution photos.

The image quality was impressive; the camera has a sharp, wide angle, macro lens (by Olympus, of course).  It also features red-eye reduction and fill flash.  Once you take the photograph, then the fun begins.  Using the included Adobe PhotoDeluxe software, you can make greeting cards, layouts, and newsletters.  And you can create a vast array of special effects, combining and retouching images at will.

But most importantly, the Olympus D-200L feels like a camera when you hold it in your hand.  And as any photographer will tell you, that’s the true test.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.  This article originally appeared in the Basex Online Journal of Industry and Commerce (BOJIC).