How do ideas spread rapidly? When people pick them up and run with them.
What is the vehicle? Conversation. But, these days we have to
s-t-r-e-t-c-h our idea of what a conversation is… Conversations are the informal exchange of
ideas using words. So, today they include facebook, linked in,
blogs, tweets, and so on.
That said, the more important the conversation, the more critical it is
to convene face-to-face. When the stakes are really high, there should
be a kernel group that meets to share air periodically. This is so they
can be most effective cultivating the core of your most important
you see Le� Szil�rd explaining his theories to a group assembled to
understand what he had to say. The stakes were high for this crowd.
In 1933 this Hungarian physicist moved to London to avoid Nazi
persecution. There he learned about the awesome nature of atomic power.
Consequently he had a history-altering insight, theorizing that an
reaction was possible if he could find an element that would release
two neutrons when bombarded by one. He foresaw that this would release
amazing amounts of energy. He was so sure of his insight that in
1934 he filed a patent for the neutron-induced nuclear chain reaction.
theory was correct. He found the element, uranium, while doing research
at Columbia University with Enrico Fermi. Szil�rd worked closely with
Albert Einstein to encourage the US government to develop an atomic
bomb based on his theory. Later he led a good portion of the Manhattan
Project where his work made it possible for U.S. scientists to create
the nuclear chain reaction that lead to the atomic bomb. High stakes,
amounts of energy. When you create an interaction that then generates
interactions, you produce profound impact. As one person talks to two
and two talk to four, the number of conversations grows exponentially,
creating powerful increases in the speed and spread of change. That’s
what happened for a small group I was part of at the World Bank in the
We kindled and fascilitated this global conversation, but we didn’t
control it. We didn’t even pick it. We went looking for it. We
discovered it. It was the most
important conversation our stakeholders could have at that time.
That’s what made it ripe for the plucking.
You see, the World Bank attracts world-class players in the field of
poverty alleviation, the best the planet has to offer. They are the
most qualified in three areas: expertise, experience, and concern. They
have amazing credentials, extraordinary practical exposure in the
field, and they have dedicated their lives to the cause of poverty
Yet, when they arrive at the World Bank, the apparent pinnacle for
people in this area of work, what they find is an overwhelming amount
of bureaucracy and politics that drains their attention and time away
from what they came to do, what they care about most. It is
unbelievably frustrating. People spend their time battling and
navigating the system, rather than helping poor people have better
It was this frustration that lead us to the conversation the World Bank
was ripe to have: What would it mean
if our knowledge, tacit and explicit, could be available to our
beneficiaries when and where they needed it?
conversation spread like wildfire. It was like ilghting sparks in a dry
field. The organization and its stakeholders were ready, ripe. First we
fanned the flames. Then we put infrastructure in place to support and
cultivate a healthy blaze: communities, special events, knowledge
sharing, best practices, and more. But, our infrastructure meant
nothing without the energy and enthusiasm of the people who did the
work mining the field of ideas that sprang from this conversation and
applying their finds to get results, create impact, and drive solutions
What idea is your organization ready to have? What do your people
desire, yearn to talk about? When you find that, you will unleash power
that can change the world. Be ready to get underneath that conversation
and give it the resources it deserves.
We started over 100 communities at the World Bank in the mid-90s.
Today, 15 years later, an audit was done and over 80 of them are still
in existence despite budget swings and two new presidents. That’s
because the work we did was real. It was based on the earnest desire of
people who cared and it served up measurable impact.
The World Bank was
more than one of the world’s Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises all
those years… it was a center of a global revolution, a new way of
working and doing poverty alleviation.
revolution will you and your people deliver to the world?