Comcast puts a big emphasis on providing training and expanded learning opportunities for employees, both through Comcast University – our internal training and educational group – and a number of external relationships. I had the opportunity to participate in one of these programs recently and came away with a renewed appreciation for the value these opportunities create, not just for employees, but for the company itself.

On my team, the biggest obstacle to training is convincing highly engaged technologists to pause their work on time-sensitive projects in order to do something that doesn’t provide an obvious immediate benefit. I certainly have been guilty of this type of thinking myself, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised by my experience of stepping outside that box.

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to attend The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, as a participant in the Tuck Advanced Management Program (AMP). The program is a two-week deep learning experience focused on providing valuable tools for driving strategy, innovation, and leadership.

The program provided me tools to become a better colleague, innovator and leader, and more importantly demonstrated that sometimes slowing down in the short term can be one of the best ways to build a faster, more intelligent organization for the long term.

The Value of Reflection

An overarching theme from the Tuck program was the value in taking time each and every day for reflection. For me, adding time for reflection has allowed me to think more strategically about the future of our business, and the Internet of Things, and to bring those thoughts together in a strategic vision for our team.

Dr. Vijay Govindarajan provided us with a valuable framework for thinking about this, which he calls The Three Box Solution. He asked a profound question: “How many projects are we executing that will make us leaders in our industry tomorrow?” That question is the setup for the 3 Box framework:

  • Box 1: Manage the present (competition for today)
  • Box 2: Selectively forget the past (to compete in the future)
  • Box 3: Create the future – these are the projects we must be taking bets on now to make us leaders ten years from now.

How do we get started? According to Govindarajan the keys are to:

  1. Think big (JFK’s moon speech).
  2. Start small (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time).
  3. Scale up fast!

Along with a new framework for critical strategic thinking, we spent time in the program discussing tools for driving innovation. Dr. Ron Adner’s Wide Lens toolset provides a framework for asking the right questions, and toolset for building a minimal viable ecosystem – the smallest confirmation that creates new commercial value. In Adner’s teachings on The Wide Lens, he reminds us that innovation is not about technology. It’s about asking “what else?”. The execution focus comes from looking at the wide lens of customers, capabilities, and competition. Dr. Adner’s HBR article “Right Tech, Wrong Time” is an excellent quick read on the forces of innovation and disruption.

As I’ve begun to integrate these learnings into my day-to-day work, I’ve also made a point to evangelize to my colleagues the value of taking advantage of the training opportunities available to them, even if that first step of signing up for a course, or off-site event can be counter-intuitive. The ability to step away and come back to the team with renewed energy and fresh ideas, can be the spark that ignites the next burst of evolutionary development.