Archive for March 21st, 2011

Power of Working Together

One hundred people doing some the same thing at the same time can at times be more powerful than a thousand people doing it separately. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – that math doesn’t sound right.  I agree. It doesn’t sound right to me either. But recently, I’ve come to find that sometimes there’s tremendous power not only in working together, but also in working together at exactly the same time.

For example, take a look at the picture above. Imagine 100 people taking time during the year to turn the levers but everyone coming on different days during the year. It’s possible, even likely, that you’d never have more than a couple of hands turning at the same time which is not nearly enough to make the machine move.  After all, the picture has five hands in it now. On the other hand, imagine you only have ten hands but all of them come together at the exact same time to turn the levers. In that case, coordination gives you enough power to make sure the machine is really moving.

One practical way this lesson has become evident to me is through our GIM trip, where 32 of us have come together to work on helping the Global Health Initiative commercialize an aids device in Kenya.  Not only are 32 of us all working on the Global Health Initiative Project, but we’re also working on the same general issues during the same two weeks.

Despite being placed in different groups with different stakeholders – hospitals, the government, clinics, distribution – everyone has still been working very closely together. Working together means having breakfast together every morning, having mini-team meetings after breakfast, scheduling meetings with the same agencies in Kenya, discussing the same topics with medical and government services employees in Kenya, meeting as a big group during the evening to share our stories and contacts, and getting together after that to wind down in the evening.

There is an old proverb that says, “If everyone in your weekly meeting drops a pencil at precisely the same time, everyone will notice.”  Well, when 32 of us entered the Nairobi airport with our Global Health Initiatives sign last week, I suspect a few people noticed. Likewise, when multiple teams were stopping by the same office in the  Kisumu Provincial Building today and met with some of the same people in some of the same offices, people noticed then too. I know they did because I got a few follow up emails from the agency the next day.

Today, the internet makes it easier than ever before to spread ideas and get people on board.

Well, what if everyone uses the Internet to bring even more people together to solve one of the world’s biggest problems, like poverty, inequality, and the recession.  Will anyone notice that?

Notice or not, I’ve learned that we’re all much better off working together at the same time if we want to maximize our impact.

Monday, March 21st, 2011 Business School 2 Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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