Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley

Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley

JUNE 11, 2014 • WEDNESDAY, 5:00-8:30 PM



back by popular demand: Alan Robinson, best selling author and UMass Isenberg School of Management professor

Hear Ira Bryck interview Alan Robinson on Ira's radio show, Taking Care of Business PART ONE

(scroll down for some book reviews by members of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley)

How does YOUR business get its best ideas? If you're relying on the brainstorms of the owners while showering, or lying awake at 3am, you could be in trouble.* And if you're hoping that managers will deliver grand slams, so you can ignore the singles and doubles of your front line employees, watch out.** And the suggestion box? (for so many reasons, not a source of good solutions.) And even pricey consultants? Their best ideas are often, if not off the rack, are no match for the properly gathered feedback from people who actually see where the problems live- in other words, YOUR people! Those of you who've had the pleasure of hearing UMass Professor Alan Robinson discussing his ground breaking work Ideas Are Free will be in even more delirium when you hear it here first- as Alan delivers you gems based on the brand new sequel, The Idea- Driven Organization- Unlocking the Power in Bottom-Up Ideas. In it (and at this event), Alan describes exactly how to build and execute an idea gathering system in your small or medium sized company.*** The system that best fits your company will be different from those built for the large industry leaders depicted in Ideas Are Free; and here is the presentation that will show you how. ****

* 80% of productivity gains in a company come from the ideas and suggestions of front line employees

** not only do "grand slam" ideas often miss the mark, but singles and doubles fix problems that are hindering growth and profits -- and those fixes can't be stolen by competitors

*** This book has many ideas from small businesses, including from Western Mass. Alan has worked with some of the most brilliant large companies on Earth, but also with 2 person partnerships.

**** tune in to Ira Bryck interviewing Alan Robinson on Ira's radio show, Taking Care of Business. The double episode interview will air May 24 and 31, 11am on WHMP, Northampton, Mass; and on podcast, afterwards.

DR ALAN G ROBINSON has advised more than 100 companies in 12 countries on how to improve their creative performance, and is an award-winning author and educator. He has served on the Board of Examiners of the United States' Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. His book Corporate Creativity: How Innovation and Improvement Actually Happen(co-authored with Sam Stern) was a finalist in the Financial Times/Booz Allen & Hamilton Global Best Business Book Awards, was named "Book of the Year" by the Academy of Human Resource Management, and has been translated into thirteen languages. His book Ideas Are Free, co-authored with Dean Schroeder, was published in 2004. Based on their research and consulting in more than 300 organizations in 17 countries, the book describes how the best companies go about getting large numbers of ideas from their front-line employees. The book was named Reader’s Choice by Fast Company magazine in June 2004 and one of the 30 best business books of 2004 by Soundview Executive Books, and was featured on ABC World News, CNN Headline News and several NPR programs. A syndicated small business columnist for Scripps-Howard, Paul Tulenko, wrote about Ideas Are Free, “I rate this book 5 1/2 stars, a first in this category. It's that powerful. (Only the Bible and the Constitution receive 6 stars.)”. Dr. Robinson is currently on the faculty of the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts. He received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the Johns Hopkins University, and a B.A./M.A. in mathematics from the University of Cambridge in Great Britain.

also on June 11th:

THE KEY ELEMENTS OF A THRIVING ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEM , according to SCOTT FOSTER, ESQ., OF BULKLEY RICHARDSON, A STRATEGIC PARTNER OF THE Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley Aside from being a business and entrepreneurial lawyer, Scott is a co-founder and President of Valley Venture Mentors, which provides key support to the entrepreneurial ecosystem by uniting carefully selected startups together with high quality business mentors at structured monthly pitch and planning sessions.



I met Alan Robinson in 1995 when he led my organization through ISO 9000 certification.  He has inspired me to adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement and I’ve followed him through the years as he’s moved to the core of continuous improvement – ideas, and how various organizations work toward finding and capitalizing on their staff’s ideas.  While this concept of ‘idea mining’ seems simple and straightforward, it really isn’t – especially the more you do it.
Organizations can’t just wake up one day and decide ‘we’re going to capitalize on ideas’ and make it work.  The culture of the organization has to viscerally understand and grasp the concept, and ‘make the ideas come to life’ so that the staff understands that not only are the ideas well received – but they are vital to the success of the organization.
This book lays out the process of developing an ‘idea development structure’ with examples and case studies to make it clear and easily understood.  My hat is ‘off’ to Alan and Dean Schroeder for writing this handbook – it has rejuvenated my enthusiasm for idea generation, continuous improvement and taken their concept that “Ideas are Free” to the next level.  This is a must read for any progressive leader who really wants to make continuous improvement work.
- Jeff Glaze, Epi Center, Westfield, Mass

The substance and detail of The Idea-Driven Organization is what sets this book apart for me on my shelf of business books. Instead of chapters rehashing the same basic principles, Robinson deals practically with multiple aspects of organizations that can both help and hinder our ability to capitalize on great ideas. He also provides real-life examples from almost every industry and of every company size, so that there is no one who could walk away from the book and not see how the information applies directly to one's own business. I also appreciate that Robinson provides detail on good and bad ways to incentivize performance and other "nitty gritty" aspects of creating organizational change. It reads more like a how-to manual than the traditional business books that inspire but don't instruct. I've already recommended the book to two clients looking to make organizational change to support their brand strategy. I would easily recommend it to anyone looking to gain efficiency and increase customer loyalty, and who is willing to prioritize those outcomes over keeping the status quo.
- Meghan Lynch, 6 Point Creative Works, Springfield, Mass.

I have long known that front-line employees are full of ideas to improve their company and to make their work more efficient.  Often, their ideas come from a “complain” but an astute manager will dig into the complaint to determine whether there is an improvement opportunity.  Together, the manager and employee can work to improve the company based upon these “ideas.”

Building on their prior book Ideas are Free, the authors have laid out a virtual manifesto on how to drive organizational change by involving front-line employees.  The concept of asking employees for their ideas seems relatively simple, but the book goes into great detail about the process, and how it can be derailed if the appropriate culture is not established in advance.  This is very practical advice, but I’m not sure how I will curb my excitement about idea-gathering long enough to change the culture first!  I have read other books that promulgate the same basic principle of asking employees for ideas, and this book is among the best I’ve read. 

What sets this book apart for me is that it reads like a how-to manual rather than a theoretical discussion.  The authors don’t come off as lofty professors with little real-world experience.  Rather, they cite many examples of companies that they have worked with, and how the idea-generation process has transformed organizations, ranging in size from small to global.  In fact, I even read about the successes of a company I’m affiliated with, which lent quite a bit of legitimacy to their concept.

Frankly, the only thing missing was the authors’ business cards, so I can contact them to help me work through the changes at my company.

- Craig S. Reed, All States Materials Group, Sunderland, Mass.


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