Rob has spent almost 2 years working with NPR and I spent almost a year consulting for them alongside Rob. By the time I was done, we felt like things could go either way. We had helped them discover what they had to do, but that is only half the battle.
I can’t take credit for what has gone on, Rob deserves a lot of credit (at least for all the unbilled hours he put in over the years), but I know we both feel extremely proud of what is going on now. At its core, NPR has an incredibly precious mission and now more than ever they absolutely cannot afford to fail at it.
Their team deserves so much applause, and I know they are still innovating today with some huge obstacles and difficulties around them. Even more though, the stations in the NPR system deserve a pat on the back. They opened themselves up at a time when people were running around saying that NPR was going to leave the stations in the dust. Their reward for opening up and trusting NPR is that a stronger network continues to grow, and there seems to be a lot more sharing of success these days.
The other side to this story is how this all came together. At a time when NPR could have hired (and could afford) any of the biggest consulting firms in the country, they called us in cold, remote, Canada, after having read Rob’s blog. When your core consulting team is 3 people, you have to get creative. All we could do was to help NPR find the answers to their problems on their own. They did it brilliantly, and you can see the results today.
NPR used all the concepts we now call ‘Enterprise 2.0’ to reinvent itself. They made some use of technology (like Firestoker), but really it came down to sitting people in a room and giving up control. NPR’s leadership sat down with everyone else and participated, eye to eye and often heart to heart. Nobody knew the answers, but they did the hard work and found them.
I am sure that the public radio system still has more than enough problems. There are more than likely some organizations and people who feel slighted or forgotten, and I am sure there are bits of animosity floating around. The difference that I see now is that there is a framework of participation that can be used to solve new problems.
With all the money that big companies will spend in the next 10 years on trying to embrace Enterprise 2.0, sometimes you really just need to trust a few of the pioneers. Rob, Johnnie, Euan and a few others are the ones you can trust to disrupt your organization in incredibly useful ways. This is such a new world and there are so few who have experience and success right now. Get em’ while they’re cheap!