Scaling Up Excellence – Notes from Chapter 2 (Part 1 of 3)

Chapter 2 begins with a story about ‘Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, or as everyone calls it, “the” – founded in 2005 to teach and spread design thinking – a hands-on approach to creativity that focuses on identifying and filling human needs.’ philosophical debate about how to “scale up” began with some questions…”What is our goal? Is it more like Catholicism, where the aim is to replicate preordained design beliefs and practices? Or is it more like Buddhism, where an underlying mindset guides why people do certain things – but the specifics of what they do can vary wildly from person to person and place to place?”
buddha-christ“Managing the tension between replicating tried-and-true practices and modifying them (or inventing new ones) to fit local conditions weighs on decision makers, shapes key events, and leads to success or failure. When should we shun local customization vs. rail against the “replica trap,” the misguided belief that we can accomplish the same result widely by simply doing the same thing all over the place?”

“The best leaders and teams often strike the right balance between replication and customization, between Catholicism and Buddhism, by acting much as if they are working with Lego bricks.”

“Four seasons specifies 270 “service culture standards” (down from 800 in the 1990s) that capture lessons from hotels across the globe, providing guidance for managers and front line employees, and ensure predictability for guests.”

“If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.”

“Laboring to create a local translation of a mindset magnifies the feeling that “I own it and it owns me. Local ownership also creates commitment because the adjustments that locals decide to make will help determine success or failure; such responsibility–and the justified credit and blame that often go with it–fuel the feeling that a scaling effort is “mine” or “ours.”

“…most scaling studies in schools focus on the “expansion of numbers” and the maintaining of “fidelity” (i.e., precise replication of the original model). The role of local “reform ownership” is usually ignored. Yet giving people the power to tailor the template they implement can bolster understanding throughout a team or organization.”

“Tilting towards Buddhism is especially useful when you have the right mindset in your organization or project but don’t yet have a complete template that has worked elsewhere. Even a dash of Buddhism can spur motivation and innovation.”


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