April 30th, 2012

All of us are smarter than any one of us.

Remember when holograms were the latest, greatest discovery?

Every so often, science discovers some remarkable and totally unpredicted characteristic of Universe that catches the popular imagination and becomes a metaphor, an entry way into some new insight about the way things are.

So with the hologram.

Imagine a plate of glass that has been “etched” with laser light in such a way that the glass can be broken into pieces, with each piece carrying the image. But here’s the thing: the shards of glass, while they can recreate the original image, only do so with less definition and detail than the original plate would manifest. The original image is there, just not in its full richness.

When Matt and Gail Taylor started working with Ernst & Young in late 1995, I recall a comical “race” to trademark the term “value web.” As I recall, E&Y wanted the term to denote an extended web of customers and suppliers that we, as system integrators, would pull together. MGT was using the term in much the same way (and may well have introduced it to E&Y), but they had a more specific meaning as well – the loose network of knowledge workers who practice Taylor methodologies.

By 1995 there had already been several rounds of schisms, intellectual (and economic) feuds, and groups spinning off in the direction of the True Faith. It is ever thus. Truth (capital T) seems to tempt its discoverers to become its Defenders. My years studying religious history in divinity school introduced me to ample evidence of this.

As the E&Y’s Accelerated Solutions Environment (ASE) grew into one of the firm’s “crown jewels” with dozens of global centers, scores of trained facilitators and hundreds of experienced independent knowledge workers, even then we saw a tendency for national practices to develop their own flavor of the Taylor methods and their own unique spin on it.

At first, national and other differences only made for a richer conversation, especially during the days when we had the funding to bring the global network of Cap employees and independent contractors together for regular exchanges of learning and best practices, often with colleagues from MG Taylor.

But this centrifugal process gained momentum after Capgemini’s purchase of the EY consulting practice in 2000 and subsequent shifts in Cap’s strategic focus. I left Cap in late 2005 to build my own DesignShop practice. Some wonderful facilitators, who left to build their own companies or join other firms, preceded me. Other talented facilitators stayed with Cap and still others joined since then. MG Taylor, in the meantime, transferred these methods to companies that never had anything to do with Capgemini. The Value Web is the name of a specific group of MGT practitioners.

Today, the state of the value web resembles a broken holographic plate. Hundreds of people do work that echoes and suggests the possible richness of the patented Taylor method, but most fall far short of the full deal. Some practitioners acknowledge their roots in the work of Matt and Gail. Many do not.

As I said, it is ever thus.

Over the past two years, it has been a great pleasure for me to reconnect with Matt and work with him to envision what the next generation of the DesignShop process could look like. Times have changed dramatically since I first got involved in 1995. We are able to do things with off-the-shelf technology that we only dreamed of back then. We have learned so much more about group process and the working of the human brain. Clients require more virtuality in delivery and much more post-event support. Matt has been pushing the design envelope to create a more truly mobile version of the environment that truly can create a magical experience of the future for participants. Matt is preparing a new round of patents and will be submit them soon.

And we are not the only ones who have been discovering/creating new ways to solve wicked problems. Now it is time to reunite as many of the shards of the original value web holographic plate as possible to explore ways to play a new, bigger game. Over the years, I have taken the liberty of adding a new axiom to the MGT list – “All of us are smarter than any one of us” – and it is high time to play again by that rule.

Matt, Gail, Tom Lloyd, and I will be hosting a week-long experience at the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health in Nashville starting at noon on Monday, June 11. This will be a chance to share insights and best practices, rediscover some of the deep intellectual roots of the practice, experience a new iteration of the Taylor methodology, and participate in the creation of what’s next. It will be an opportunity to spend time with old friends and – who knows? – maybe even rebuild broken relationships.

All are welcome – veterans and newcomers, apostles and apostates. All it takes is a willingness to park your preconceptions at the door and come prepared for something truly WONDERFUL.

It promises to be the most fun I’ve had (at work) in years!

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