The Individual in the Lean
R&D Community
A research and development (R&D) community performs only
two things on the way to delivering useful knowledge packages: (a)
Individuals within the R&D community create bits of new, potentially
useful knowledge, and (b) the community itself integrates those bits into
coherent, denably useful packages of knowledge. e community and
individual are inextricably linked in this, as the individual gains per-
spective and direction as part of the community. e community denes
context; that is
What is valuable
e boundaries of what is known and unknown in that value space
How members of the community are arrayed
How the community creates and sustains its culture to nourish or
starve innovation
At the same time, the individual makes the community. It is through
the collective, aligned intent of each individual that communities exist
at all. Without envisioning and committing together to fulll a higher
purpose, individuals cannot coalesce into a coherent, operating com-
munity, let alone a well-functioning one. Individuals bring their own
paradigms and norms together, and, somehow, within their shared com-
munity, create common norms and viewpoints, paradigms, and mental
models that dene a culture or an environment in which individuals
exist and interact productively.
28 • Creating a Lean R&D System
Individual and community are inextricably linked—in particular, within
science, where the thoughts and ideas of the future depend entirely on the
thoughts and ideas built, winnowed, changed, and absorbed in the pres-
ent. A researcher cannot valuably function outside of the community, and
the community cannot function without the creative eorts of its indi-
vidual members. ey are one. erefore, if we want to create Lean R&D
communities that exquisitely serve their innovation purposes, we need to
consider the individual and community together.
With that in mind, the combined whole is somewhat intractable.
erefore, I will begin our discussion by splitting individual from com-
munity, separating the individuals commitment, contribution, and skills
from the communitys contextual roles of (a) creating purpose, alignment,
and synthesis of individual contributions into the body of the whole, and
(b) synthesizing environmental and cultural factors into a cohesive, func-
tioning system. Since individual and community are inseparable in reality,
there will be signicant cross-fertilization of ideas throughout this book;
however, in Chapter 7, I will begin to put the two together again in our
discussion of creating and nurturing environments in which researchers
can ourish. at will lead us to the wider discussion of implementing
Lean R&D.
An Example of the Lean R&D Community
Some time ago, Jim Luckman showed me a video of a GM senior man-
agement visit to Delphis Rochester Technical Center where he had been
the senior executive. Leadership was coming to see something that had
grabbed their attention: an R&D organization that had tripled its output
in three years. But they were exposed to something beyond their origi-
nal expectation. e employees lined the oor and mezzanine level of the
atrium as the GM leaders came in, clapping in time and singing a song
they had written and practiced for the event. It seems that every individual
at the Tech Center had done something (including learning the song) to
make that visit a special one.
is video is amazing to anyone who has been around large corporate
entities for a while. It is true, of course, that people spend time and energy

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