In later years I’d look back and call her Ishamael, since she joined us while I was in pursuit of the great whale. Accipiter sucked me in and caused me to lose focus on anything other than Accipiter at that time, but we survived, mostly because Matt and Meredith were able to keep our other clients engaged and happy.
While I was struggling to define the requirements for Accipiter’s open innovation community, Meredith came aboard. I’d been so focused on the Accipiter account I’d started dreaming about innovation communities. The recurring image was an old fashioned switchboard operator, connecting a caller from a local line to a long distance trunk like, completing one call and moving on to another. Yet in my dream the trunk lines were always dead. There was no one on the other end of the call. Where was Freud when I needed him? No matter, even I, a lowly innovation consultant, could interpret these dreams, and they had nothing to do with oral fixation.
June opened the door that Wednesday morning, peeked around at me as if I was likely to remove parts of her anatomy for merely glancing in my direction and waited to make eye contact. I knew she was there yet I stubbornly kept my eyes focused on the document I was drafting, not wanting to hear about another client or a late invoice. June waited me out, gradually sliding through the narrow door opening – almost using the door as a shield to ward off my evil temper. I could almost imagine the visible waves of frustration I was sending out, like a lump of radioactive material slowing decomposing before her eyes. She seemed to gain some strength, or perhaps was just angry that I ignored her.
“What?” I said, surprised and embarrassed.
“Meredith is coming in today. It’s her first day with Marlowe Innovation.”
Now, I hate that phrase “stopped me in my tracks”. I like to think of myself as someone so worldly, so experienced that little will surprise me, especially after the things I’ve seen done in back alleys and in conference boardrooms. But this did stop me, at least momentarily. I’d been so engaged and absorbed by Accipiter, attempting to nail the jello to the wall that I’d completely forgotten about Meredith. I slid some papers, pencils and flotsam from my desktop to glance at the calendar blotter. Sure enough, there it was, circled in bright red. Meredith starts today. Fortunately Matt and I had brought in a new desk and chair, so it wasn’t as if we weren’t at least a little prepared.
I glanced at June, who took it all in.
“What can I do to help?”
Why she puts up with me I’ll never know. Perhaps it’s the excitement of an innovation project well done, or the interesting and varied set of clients and challenges. It certainly can’t be my good looks or the compliments I pay her. Matt is the suave, debonair one. I’m the nose to the grindstone, work/drink/sleep type. Yet she seems to come through just when I need her most.
“June, I think we have her desk ready. The real question is getting her up to speed quickly on how we work, and what we expect of her. What do you have in mind?”
I knew June would have some opinions, because I only hire people who have opinions. I’d rather work with people who have strong, different opinions than mine than to ever work with some complacent slouch who just goes along with the flow. There is absolutely nothing interesting or compelling about such a person. With a person who has an opinion, you get the chance to have a debate, or perhaps someone you can assign a task to who has a sense of how they want to do it.
“I’d like to walk her through some of the older client files, to give her a sense of how we work and our methodology” she said, as if that approach were handed down on stone tablets from Alex Osborne himself. “Then interview her to understand her skills and capabilities and update our marketing materials to include ethnography and customer research. Then, perhaps you and Matt can take her to lunch. If you think you can be civil today.”
Civil? I was never civil, but I was frequently found eating lunch. It was only 9 o’clock, but lunch suddenly sounded very good.
“Perhaps I’ll take Meredith out for coffee, to welcome her to our office while you prepare to walk her through some of our client work” I said, relishing stepping away from Accipiter and its innovation community if even for just a short period of time. “When is she due in?”
“She’s in the reception area. Grab your coat and I’ll have the files ready when you return.”
“June” I said, but she’d turned and slipped back through the door. I needed to remind myself to give her a raise, or at least bring flowers back from the florist downstairs.
Jeffrey Phillips is VP Marketing and a lead consultant for OVO Innovation. Jeffrey has led innovation projects for Fortune 5000 firms, academic institutions and not-for=profits based on OVO Innovation’s Innovate on Purpose™ methodology. The Innovate on Purpose methodology encourages organizations to consider innovation as a sustainable, repeatable business process, rather than a discrete project.
Jeffrey is the author of “Make Us More Innovative,” a book that encompasses much of the OVO Innovation methodology, and blogs about innovation at Innovate On Purpose. He is a sought after speaker and has presented to corporations, innovation oriented conferences, and at a number of universities. In 2010 he chaired the Innovate North Carolina conference and was a keynote speaker at Queen’s University, University of the Pacific, UNC and several other colleges and conferences. Jeffrey has an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Virginia.