Most of my readers know I am a rock and roller from way back. Alas I cannot play one note of guitar, organ, keyboards, saxophone or piano. I know as I tried them all. However one thing I could do was bang a drum and keep time. With that limited musical ability I was initiated into the fraternity of the drumheads (and we know who we are). I always focus on the drummer, in any show, from rock and roll, to jazz to the symphony. For some time, I have wanted to do a drumhead focused series of podcasts so this week I kick off Drum Solo Week. Please note this is not great drum songs or even great drummers but Tom’s top five drum solos. If there are any other drumheads out there, I hope you will add your top favorites in the comments.

Probably my favorite drum solo found in a studio recording is in the song written by singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, released on his 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson. However, I discovered the song on the album for the soundtrack of the movie Son of Dracula when I was in college.  Much later the song was very effectively used by Martin Scorsese in a scene from the movie “Goodfellas” where a cocaine-amped Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) is driving around imagining (or perhaps not) that helicopters are following him. Paranoia indeed.

The pounding drum solo begins at 3:56 and goes to 4:40, see YouTube video referenced below. Jim Gordon played the solo in the studio. His only direction from Nilsson was “lots of tom-toms” and boy did he deliver. It is really too bad that quadraphonic sound does not exist much anymore because when you heard this through a quad amp with four speakers it was a revelation. The movie Son of Dracula was made, according to Nilsson’s widow, “without adult supervision” and is sadly not available today. On the movie soundtrack, the track for this song begins with the following lines:

Van Helsig to the Count: “And for now and for the rest of your life, you will be a human.”

The Count: “I thought I’d have the words to thank you for visit but I don’t.”

Van Helsig: “And that, is a very human emotion.” 

It is these lines which inform today’s blog post, which is how do you tap into your largest resource of innovation for your compliance program, which is, of course, your employee base? In a 2017 MIT Sloan Management Review article, entitled “How to Catalyze Innovation In Your Organization”, Michael Arena, Rob Cross, Jonathan Sims and Mary Uhl-Bien posited that companies can “fuel the emergence of new ideas by understanding and tapping the power of employee networks.”

The tenets and concepts the authors articulated provided several useful insights for a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance professional. The first was that “companies need to create context that allows people, ideas and information to flow across different groups.” The second identifies a group of employees who operate as brokers and they create “bridges between groups” within a company. These brokers should work with “central connectors, who are well-connected in one subgroup” to form a powerful network. Finally, “when facing a problem, innovators should engage their network early on.”

Interestingly, as with the ever-dwindling myth of the rogue employee in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement, the authors note, “Tales of a lone inventor with a blinding insight are unhelpful myths when it comes to corporate innovation. Successful service, product, or process innovations within large, complex organizations are very much a social phenomenon.” A successful CCO will know that they need to leverage employee networks for both innovation and communication of compliance initiatives.

The authors’ key insight was their three divisions of social networking within an organization. They believe “A key to catalyzing emergent innovation is identifying and positioning innovators within an organization.” Moreover, it is the use of these networks which can move innovation back up to the top of an organization and communications down through a company as well. The three divisions of social networking described included brokers (those employees who build bridges from one group to another within and outside of an organization), central connectors (who provide group cohesion for implementation of innovation and communications going forward), and energizers (who energize their colleagues and thus empower them to innovate).

Through these three differentiated groups, there are five steps around innovation for the CCO to consider going forward.

Tap into adjacent expertise and a broad network early in problem-solving. Almost universally, more successful innovators did not immediately solve a problem they were given as “they were likely to ask questions and engage their network early to help them think about the problem differently and to find people with tangentially relevant expertise who might give them a different perspective on the solution.”

Make early interactions beneficial to others.Innovators draw ideas to and from others, not fostering off their vision on their co-workers. This is directly attributable to sharing and exchanging as a more collegial approach.

Spread ownership of the idea and seek feedback.This is the point which lays bare the myth of the lone innovator working in a closeted office. Indeed, the authors noted, “among our interviewees, trying to develop an idea in isolation until it was seen as bulletproof was a sure recipe for failure. The more successful innovators made decisions on whom to include and how to run initial meetings in ways that shaped both the innovation and the network.”

Develop a prototype early.While the authors admonish to “Be open in process” they suggest strongly that you “insist on pushing to a prototype as early as possible.” It is because, “Early prototypes provide proof of concept. But even more important is that a working prototype dramatically changes the nature of the conversation and engagement with the network.”

Communicate the early-stage solution and then iterate with the network. The authors noted, “As more stakeholders and end users give input, ensure that your team is prepared to make incremental changes, test, and adapt quickly.”

There are always pockets and groups within an organization which resist change. Often this is one of the CCOs most difficult tasks. Yet the authors have laid out a clear path to overcoming such resistance and it is equally applicable to moving compliance communications through an organization. By using central connectors and energizers, a CCO, the broker, can get the message of compliance moved faster, in a more complete and enthusiastic manner. Finally, this will go quite a long way towards operationalizing your compliance regime.


YouTube: Jump into the Fire from Nilsson Schmilsson