Neil Tambe

Let’s go.

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

The PhD Topic List

Being the nerd that I am, I have a list in wherever I keep lists that's particularly nerdy. It's titled "PhD Topics." This is the list of long term research and/or entrepreneurship projects that I have at the ready in case I ever have the opportunity to swing for the fences on a cool topic.

Since I have a lot of time to do some thinking and research this summer, I figured I'd share them publicly. Please do steal them, riff on them, or otherwise lift them. All I'd ask is that if you end up pursuing something (though I'm not arrogant enough to think any of these is particularly great), please let me at least holler at you to talk about it and/or convince you to let me join you!

If you have any comments, I'd love to chat about them with you.

Okay, here's the list. I hope it's's a window into the sorts of things I think about when nobody's watching:

Creating Effective Narratives
Narratives are hugely important in public life and are critical tools leaders use to convey meaning and facilitate collective action across large portions of the population. How are narratives created in public life? What makes a powerful and effective narrative? It would be interesting to study successful narratives created in public life (e.g., Manifest Destiny, The American Dream, The Space Race, Bush Doctrine) to see what could be learned and theorized about how leaders and the public can successfully seed and shape narratives to motivate collective action.

Applying Talent Strategies to Ecosystems
There are a lot of "talent" frameworks used by consultancies and HR business units on how to think about and develop talent. These frameworks, however, apply to a single organization and how that organizations manages and develops its talent. In public life, however, there seems to be an increasing need to think about "ecosystems" of talent are managed and developed to improve performance. These ecosystems could be municipalities, industries, regions, or even nation-states. How can we apply, adapt, or build talent frameworks to successfully develop and manage talent at the level of ecosystems? For example, if the State of Michigan, Automotive Industry, or United States of America wanted to develop a "talent strategy" for it's constituency, what might it look like? How cool would that be to figure out?

Reimagining Institutions (I) - Rethinking Forms of Government
This one is a really cool / simple, yet powerful thought exercise: if we were to start from scratch with creating a system of government, what would we build? Would it be democracy, or would it be something entirely new?

Reimagining Institutions (II) - Defining Government's Purpose and Scope
What sort of impact is government supposed to have in our lives? The Constitution, the governing document where you would expect to find such direction, is largely silent on the issue - the preamble sort of gets at this (e.g., "In order to form a more perfect union...") but the rest of the document is a framework, more than anything. So, what's the purpose of the US Government, why should it exist? Once we define a purpose for Government, how does that translate into a "scope" of programs and initiatives?

Why Organizations Exist
From the beginning of human history, why have we formed organizations? What are the major innovations in organizational formation (e.g., the social contract, limited liability corporation, currency / markets, 501c (3)s). Why have we needed organizations and how have they evolved? Looking into the future, how is what we need from organizations changing and what will we need organizations to do in the future?

Purpose-driven Organization
This merits its own post (this is one of my summer projects), but what does it look like if you put a clearly defined purpose at the center of why an organization exists, rather than putting shareholder value creation at the center of why an organization exists? How do you build, operate, and improve such organizations? There's so much to this's basically articulating an alternative to hierarchical bureaucracy...which has ruled organizational life for several decades.

In purpose-driven organizations (see above), what does "leadership" look like? Is leadership the construct that's even needed to have high-performing organizations of this type? If not, what instead?

Teamership -
How do you have high-performing teams, and how do you measure and predict whether teams will be successful?

Orienting Ecosystems
There's a new leadership discipline emerging as more and more organizations work collaboratively to deliver public value - ecosystem leadership. How does a group of disparate partners work together with constituencies to define a purpose and vision for an ecosystem and then create systems to manage and improve that ecosystem's performance. This is another summer project, stay tuned.

Measuring Impact
There are three types of measurement required for all organizations - internal operations metrics, customer feedback/value metrics, and customer impact metrics. How do you do all three effectively and leverage technology to go through the "metrics lifecycle" (defining impact, setting metrics, collecting data, organizing it, analyzing it, and sharing the results)?

Please do say hello: neil.tambe[at]gmail[dot]com