Marty Edelston’s Idea Factory
Edelston’s doubts were not only directed at American business, but inwardly to his own business, as well. Once, after a grueling day of working with consultant Peter Drucker, the great business guru asked, “How are the meetings in your company?”
“Pretty bad,” Edelston responded. “But aren’t they bad at all companies?”
Drucker’s reply: “Have everyone who comes to a meeting be prepared to give two ideas for making his or her own department’s work more productive. ... Ideas that will enhance the company as a whole.”
Drucker’s suggestion, which was tossed off almost casually, changed Edelston’s life—and his business. Edelston began calling meetings; instead of asking for two ideas, he asked for three.
I wasn’t prepared for such a flow of ideas. I took detailed notes, lost some right away, and couldn’t remember others. As a result, I wound up awed by the power of ideas but felt guilty, chagrined and embarrassed that I couldn’t make them happen. Ultimately, almost all these initial ideas were lost because we didn’t have a structure and process in place to make sure these things got done.
Drucker’s scheme fell by the wayside. Boardroom was doing extremely well without the ideas.
Then disaster struck. A computer model showed the company was bloated. Without a massive cutback in personnel, the future would be in jeopardy. “After we downsized, I wanted to bind up the wounds,” a chastened Marty Edelston said. “When somebody makes a suggestion, you write down the ideas, and you implement them.”
Over the next two years, Boardroom became an idea factory. The system was institutionalized. The original name, the Continuous Improvement Program—or CIP—was a mouthful. What Edelston had stumbled on was a power program that included:
Ideas – Ingenuity – Invention – Innovation – Intelligence - Imagination - Improvement.
It became I-Power, based on the Japanese system of “Kaizen,” or continuous improvement.