February 8, 2014

Scaling Up Excellence

MA/MBAs and Bob Sutton at Next Thing Now

Next Thing Now is quickly becoming my favorite conference series on the east coast. Not only have I become close friends with the conference organizer, Tom Nagle, but I continue to be amazed by the quality people who come and speak in a relatively intimate setting. This month we had the opportunity to meet Robert Sutton. Bob, as we know him, is a co-founder of the Stanford, an IDEO fellow, and Professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He’s kind of a big deal.


We met up with Bob at the DuPont Environmental Education Center just outside downtown Wilmington. It felt like we were in a treehouse above a marsh overlooking a city skyline.


Bob spoke with us about his new book, Scaling up Excellence. It was a really interesting discussion not only on increasing the number of employees or stores within a business, but on how to spread the positive aspects of an environment to the many areas that just keep messing up. He shared examples where it’s best not to follow the crowd, to be okay being different, and to always keep muddling forward.


Bob Sutton and the MA/MBAs

At the end of the lecture we had the opportunity to hang out with Bob for a bit. He signed our books and stepped in for a group photo (which was really awesome of him!). During the book signing, Bob identified me as an energizer, and told me to look up what that means in the book on the way home. I flipped to page 189 of my crisp new book and read the following:

“Interactions with some people can leave you feeling drained (de-energizers) while others can leave you feeling enthused about possibilities (energizers).

Successful and innovative organizations have networks that are swarming with interconnected energizers. Their studies show that such networks hum along, in part, because colleagues seek more information from and learn more from energizers (compared to de-energizers). Energizers are also given more ideas and more hep from others and are more likely to have their ideas heard and implemented. […] Energizers have a knack for fully engaging the person in front of them right now, valuing others’ ideas, and creating conditions that enable others to make steady progress.

In short, energizers propel the flow of excellence.”

I really like the idea of energizers, and am thrilled that Bob was able to identify me as an energizer after only a brief interaction.


Notes from the event | Thanks to hand model Katie LaBonte

Tweetable Quotes

“Keep Muddling Forward.”

“When things seem to be going well, that’s when we need to change things up.”

“Scaling is about spreading and sustaining a mindset, not just a footprint.”