Posted by: Don Linnen | 18 April 2009

Art and Science or Art and Process?

Art and science. Combining the creative right brain and the logical left brain. According to Jim Collins, maybe we need to call it “Art and Process.”

In the April ’09 issue of Inc., the magazine for entrepreneurs, Collins says that creating better processes is more important than building a better “mousetrap.” That’s something I learned the hard way in my first sales job.

Way back in the day, I started peddling computer systems for a little know CAD company out of New York. They had a great, innovative system for designing and laying out printed circuit boards. But our business practices – our processes – made it tough to work with customers. It was another “learning experience” for me.

A year later, I began work for a CAD / CAE company out of California. They had a pretty good mousetrap, but they really understood how to make it easy for the user. Their business practices were very customer friendly. They got their processes right. Lots of happy, productive customers meant that seven years later, I lead the nation in sales for that company.

Are you trying to build a perfect mousetrap at your nonprofit? Or are you more focused on making what you already have work really well?

There’s always room for growth, but sometimes you’ve got to go with what you’ve got and make all those wheels spin together. It really helps if everyone is spinning their wheels in the same direction for the same ultimate goal.

Not entirely unlike cyclists in a paceline. Imagine – working together for the common good. Going further and faster with less effort. What a quaint idea.

If you’re personally spinning those wheels, it’s often hard to see beyond the crowd. If you’re a director or manager of any type, you really need to look at the entire group relationship – and its relationships with other groups.

Creating better processes is not just an exercise in logic. It probably means digesting lots of data and finding a way to visualize it simply. Use your left brain to gather the data and your right brain to display it. Now you’ve got your whole brain working to improve your processes.

Imagine coordinating air traffic around the world. You have to deal with people, weather, machinery, and even the rising and setting sun. Thanks to a God’s eye view from a NOAA satellite, here is global air traffic over a 24 hour period.

Your problems may be a little less complex. But if you can get a good view from 150 feet or 150 miles, you can really develop a sense of what you’re trying to solve. That video from space is a thing of incredible beauty with an amazing display of dynamic information. It puts it all in perspective. The right and left sides of the brain are working as one.

Can you put your nonprofit and your partners in perspective? Do the processes in your organization need a healthy dose of BOTH art and science to make them all work well together?

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