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Reading list

March 2011

Carrol Capital

Reading list

Books and articles that matter

By Dean Andy Boynton

Conventional business wisdom suggests that we resist change because it is difficult and unpredictable. Dan Heath, coauthor with his brother Chip of Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (Crown Business 2010), a book I recommend, got kudos at a recent leadership and innovation conference I helped lead for his standout presentation on energizing and de-energizing elements of change.

Dan’s presentation and the Heaths’ book, a New York Times best-seller, argue that one of the best ways to set organizational change in motion is to identify “bright spots”—innovative approaches and small achievements—and “clone” them.

Switch offers illustrations of successful people who have reproduced bright spots in a variety of situations and settings: a global development manager who found a way to improve child nutrition in an impoverished region of Vietnam; first-year medical residents who introduced a key quality-of-care measure at a dangerously overtaxed teaching hospital; a manager who turned a sluggish support team into customer service zealots.

We’ve identified bright spots here at the Carroll School during the past few years that have helped energize and enhance our research culture. Rather than just identify and promote tough criteria and standards for faculty productivity—the traditional, de-energizing approach—we recognize faculty who are doing top-notch research, and shine a bright spot on their success stories at the Carroll School Research Seminars.

Not only do the seminars showcase some of our best work four times a year, they also energetically engage invited faculty in discussions about research and highlight our expectations of faculty members in an aspirational environment. That exerts positive pressure on other faculty members, and increases our collective focus on research.

As the Heaths advise, we have also cloned our success: we are now launching bright spot teaching seminars at the School.

Focusing on the negative aspects of change makes it harder to find your jewels and shine them. Training your bright spots on the right targets can be illuminating and energizing all around.

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