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Words from Charlie - Foreword to the Roundtable on Institutional Innovation 2015 Report

The annual Aspen Institute Roundtable on Institutional Innovation convenes leaders from diverse organizational perspectives to address and reframe approaches to institutional performance through innovation. The summer 2015 topic, “Making the Invisible Visible: Redesigning Business Practices for Exponential Operations,”challenged leaders to examine new ways of thinking about business practice redesign with the aim of becoming more adaptive and increasing organizational performance.

The impetus for rethinking business practices comes from the impact of digital technologies on the way businesses operate. In previous years successful companies secured their growth by achieving economies of scale and maximizing size and efficiencies. Today’s leading organizations utilize digital technologies to leverage assets, respond nimbly to challenges, and most critically, scale learning to accelerate innovation. As a result, these businesses are growing exponentially. Organizations that do not embrace this shift will inevitably fall behind.

So how does a traditional business adjust its strategic thinking and operations in order to innovate and grow? What are the challenges it faces? This report, written by Richard Adler, delves into strategies of modularization, rapid iteration and utilizing transparent metrics, among other strategies. It features strategic anecdotes from major companies like Target and Kaiser Permanente, and gives insights into how corporate leaders are thinking about exponential business operations.

These changes are far reaching, impacting nearly all industries. In the coming months, this Roundtable series will continue to explore exponential business models and investigate how the concepts can apply in governmental settings. We expect to release a supplemental report to this volume in late 2016.

I would like to thank the Deloitte Center for the Edge for being our senior sponsor for the Roundtable and in particular, John Hagel and John Seely Brown for their leadership, suggestions and assistance. In addition, we thank Richard Adler for weaving the Roundtable’s dialogue, background readings and his own independent research into a concise and coherent report.

Finally, I thank Sarah Eppehimer, Project Director, who managed the Roundtable throughout, and Tricia Kelly, Managing Director of the Communications and Society Program, for her review and help in producing this report.

Charles M. Firestone
Executive Director
Communications and Society Program
The Aspen Institute
Washington, D.C.
March 2016

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