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Rise of the Evangelist

Chief Evangelist Braden Kelley

What is an evangelist?

When many people hear this term, their minds used to picture Billy Graham or Pat Robertson, but this is changing. Why?

Our perceptions of evangelists are transforming as the pace of change accelerates to construct a new reality faster than most human brains can process the changes.

This creates a chasm in understanding and change readiness that evangelists can help bridge in a number of different ways.

Let us look at what an evangelist really is…

Oxford Dictionaries say an evangelist is a “zealous advocate of something.”

Nine Innovation Roles EvangelistIn business, the evangelist is a role that any of us can take on (with varying levels of success). Evangelism is very important to innovation success, which is why the evangelist is one of The Nine Innovation Roles™. This is how I define this particular role:

“The Evangelists know how to educate people on what the idea is and help them understand it. Evangelists are great people to help build support for an idea internally, and also to help educate customers on its value.”

Notice at this point we are talking about an evangelist as a role that can be played by one or more people, and not as a job that one or more people hold. Evangelism normally will be a role and not a job, but there are inflection points where this must change.

Outside of an innovation context, evangelism often falls on the shoulders of CEOs, business owners and product managers within organizations. When the need for evangelism is small, this can work. But for most organizations, this is no longer the case.

When should you hire an evangelist?

The time to cross over from evangelism as a role to evangelism as a job is when:

  1. The pace of internal change is accelerating faster than employees can grasp without help
  2. The pace of external change is accelerating faster than customers can understand without help
  3. Your company is facing disruption by new entrants or existing competitors
  4. You’re considering a digital transformation
  5. You’ve already embarked upon a digital transformation
  6. You’re using Agile in product development
  7. Your brand essence is being shifted by you or your customers
  8. You need a more human and personal presence in your marketing efforts to better connect with customers

When one or more of these conditions are true, you’ll find that it isn’t possible for CEOs, business owners and product owners to meet the needs for evangelism in the short spurts of time these people can dedicate to the necessary activities.

As highlighted by Agile Product Development’s presence in the list, organizations leveraging Agile to develop software-based products will find that their product managers are always engaged with the backlog with little time to focus on evangelism. They’re always focused on shipping something.

Some organizations will resist adding evangelists to their team, feeling that such a role is superfluous, but having one or more people focused on evangelism delivers value to the organization by executing a range of incredibly important activities, including:

  • Growing awareness
  • Building a community around the company and/or plugging the company into pre-existing external communities (potentially taking the brand to places it has never been before)
  • Generating interest
  • Working with customers and the marketing team to identify the stories that need to be told and the themes that need to be introduced and/or reinforced
  • Creating desire
  • Building and maintaining conversations with the community that cares about your products/services/brands
  • Engaging in an open and honest dialogue to help gather the voice of the customer
  • Facilitating action
  • Practicing a human-centered design mindset to continuously elicit needs and surface wants and desired outcomes

Depending on the size of the organization you may decide to have a single evangelist, or some larger organizations have more than one type of evangelist, including:

  1. Chief Evangelist
  2. Brand Evangelists
  3. Product Evangelists
  4. Service Evangelists
  5. Innovation Evangelists

This specialization occurs when the evangelism an organization needs become too big for one evangelist to handle. At that point a Chief Evangelist creates the evangelism strategy and manages the execution across the team of brand, product, service and other evangelism focus areas.

So what makes a good evangelist?

Evangelists arrive from a range of different job specialties, but key knowledge, skills and abilities include:

  • Empathetic
  • Passionate About the Company’s Mission, Products/Services, and Customers
  • Comfortable Public Speaker
  • Efficient and Effective Writer
  • Human-Centered Design Mindset
  • Experienced with Social Media, Audio and Video
  • Skilled Content Creator
  • Continuous Learner
  • Self-Directed and Comfortable with Ambiguity

… and ideally your chosen evangelists will already have some presence in the communities important to you, or the knowledge of how to establish a presence in these communities.

Customer buying journeys are notoriously unpredictable, meandering, long and non-linear. Evangelism is a critical part of helping to build relationships with potential buyers and increasing the chances that your brand will be top of mind when a non-buyer finally becomes a potential customer of your products or services.

It’s a long-term non-transactional investment, one that will pay dividends if you see the wisdom in making the expenditure.

Has your organization already invested in evangelists? What learnings would you like to share in the comments?

Are you ready for the evangelists to rise in your organization?

Or do you need help with evangelism? (contact me if you do)

Share the love!

p.s. I wrote a follow-up article for InnovationManagement.se that you might also enjoy — Increase Your Innovation Reputation and Velocity with an Innovation Evangelist


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Birth of the Part-Time Chief Innovation Officer

Birth of the Part-Time Chief Innovation Officer

In my last article, we looked at the keys to Hiring the Right Chief Innovation Officer, including some do’s and don’ts. I encourage you to follow the link and read the details of how to hire the right person to lead innovation in your organization, but to quickly highlight some of them…

First, the Part-Timing Chief Innovation Officer Hiring Don’ts:

  • Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before the Board of Directors and senior leadership understands what innovation is (AND ISN’T)
  • Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before the Board of Directors and senior leaders are all publicly committed to innovation
  • Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before the Board of Directors and senior leadership have created a budget to fund discrete innovation projects
  • Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before you move beyond the innovation as a project mindset to view innovation as a process and a capability that you need to build (like good governance or operational excellence)
  • Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before you understand how new product development (NPD), research and development (R&D), and innovation will differ in your organization

And the Do’s (the Seven C’s of a Successful Innovation Culture):

  1. Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity
  2. Collection of inspiration and insight
  3. Connections
  4. Creation
  5. Collaboration
  6. Commercialization
  7. Communications

These points from my previous article Hiring the Right Chief Innovation Officer built upon some points I raised in another article Death of the Chief Innovation Officer.

In this article we will explore the idea that every organization needs an Innovation Enablement Leader, whether you call that person a Chief Innovation Officer (CINO), VP of Innovation, Innovation Director, or Innovation Program Manager, but for many organizations it may not make sense or be the right time to have a full-time employee leading your innovation efforts.

Let me say that again for emphasis…

For many organizations it may not be the right time to have a full-time employee leading your innovation efforts.

This does not mean there is ever a reason not to have someone leading your innovation efforts, BUT it does mean that there are times where it may make more sense to have someone from inside (or outside) the organization to lead your innovation efforts on LESS THAN a full-time basis.

Here are ten (10) reasons why it may be more appropriate to hire a part-time Innovation Enablement Leader (aka Fractional Chief Innovation Officer (FCINO)), instead of a full-time one:

  1. Many of the DONT’S may still be in place in your organization and you may need help in removing them so you can get started
  2. You may not be able to afford the dedication of a full-time resource to leading innovation (budget or political constraints)
  3. A risk averse organization may prefer to dedicate part of a single employee’s time to lead innovation efforts in the early days of their commitment to innovation
  4. The organization may be in the crawl phase of a crawl, walk, run innovation strategy and so in the short run only a part-time resource may be required
  5. There may be certain elements of the responsibilities of an Innovation Enablement Leader that you want other employees to own, leaving less than a full-time resource need for an Innovation Enablement Leader
  6. The need may be clear but you don’t have anyone in-house with the right knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead innovation enablement
  7. In some cultures (both country and company) someone from outside the organization (and even outside the country) may be given more leeway to recommend and help drive change than a full-time employee
  8. Hiring a part-time Innovation Enablement Leader from outside to accelerate the organization’s innovation efforts, may seem less traumatic than hiring a full-time external resource
  9. You may want to hire an external resource to work part-time with a new internal Innovation Enablement Leader to accelerate their development
  10. You’ve got more than a full-time employee’s worth of work to do, so you add another resource from inside or outside the organization

As I mentioned in Hiring the Right Chief Innovation Officer, the responsibility for innovation should remain with the business, under an innovation vision, strategy and goals set by the CEO and senior leadership. It’s okay to bring someone in from the outside to help get things off to a strong start, to build a strong foundation, and to set your Innovation Enablement Leader up for success.

Many organizations will want to have someone full-time on their payroll facilitating their innovation efforts, but in this article we’ve looked at some reasons why an organization may instead want to invest in a fractional (or part-time) Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) or Innovation Enablement Leader because of their size or their innovation maturity (or readiness). Whether you source your Innovation Enablement Leader from inside or outside the organization, and whether you do so on a full-time or a part-time basis, the key is that you dedicate someone to organizing the innovation efforts of your organization, to building a common language of innovation, and to empowering people to increase their personal innovation capabilities and the innovation capability and capacity of the organization.

Which way is best for your organization?

Image credit: morgankervin.com


P.S. If you’re looking to hire a Chief Innovation Officer (an Innovation Enablement Leader) on a full-time or part-time basis, drop me an email and I can either tackle the role or find someone else who can!


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Hiring the Right Chief Innovation Officer

Hiring the Right Chief Innovation Officer

Every company begins as the nimble startup, organized around the solution to a single customer problem and executing that solution better than anyone else in the market (including the incumbents with deep pockets). But at some point the hunter inevitably becomes the hunted and that nimble startup as it evolves and scales, eventually becomes that more complex (but capable) incumbent. Inevitably it finds itself so focused on capturing all of the business for its existing solutions, that it finds itself at risk of missing the next evolution in customer needs.

The companies that last the longest, manage to fulfill existing customer needs with well delivered solutions, and identify new customer needs they can satisfy as customer needs (or wants) continue to evolve. But many companies fail to do so quickly enough, especially in our new reality where it is easier than ever to start and scale a solution around the globe with limited resources. Innovation is the key to remaining relevant with customers. Innovation is the key to remaining alive.

It’s innovate or die, and this new reality leaves all companies focused on Winning the War for Innovation.

This quest to win the war for innovation has led many organizations to begin hiring Chief Innovation Officers (CINO), Innovation Managers, VP’s of Innovation, or Innovation Directors.

But many organizations have done so in haste…

There is a right way and a wrong way to hire a Chief Innovation Officer (or other innovation leader).

In this article we will look at the Do’s and Don’ts of successfully hiring the right Chief Innovation Officer.

First, the Don’ts:

  1. Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before the Board of Directors and senior leadership understands what innovation is (AND ISN’T)
  2. Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before the Board of Directors and senior leaders are all publicly committed to innovation
  3. Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before the Board of Directors and senior leadership have created a budget to fund discrete innovation projects
  4. Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before you move beyond the innovation as a project mindset to view innovation as a process and a capability that you need to build (like good governance or operational excellence)
  5. Don’t hire a Chief Innovation Officer before you understand how new product development (NPD), research and development (R&D), and innovation will differ in your organization

Being cognizant of the Don’ts will help you avoid hiring a Chief Innovation Officer before you’re able to help set them (and the organization) up for success.

We are now ready to look at the Do’s, the characteristics, skills, and abilities to look for as you search for a great Chief Innovation Officer (and team).

As I’ve written before in Death of the Chief Innovation Officer, when we think about hiring a Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) or an Innovation Director, VP of Innovation, or Innovation Manager, it is important to view your innovation leader, not as the person responsible for innovating, but instead as the person responsible for enabling innovation, encouraging it, inspiring it, facilitating it, and coordinating it. In short, what you are looking for is more of an Innovation Enablement Leader.

The implication? This person’s job should be to lead not to manage, and to enable instead of control. What you’re looking for is someone to facilitate the Seven C’s of a Successful Innovation Culture:

  1. Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity
  2. Collection of inspiration and insight
  3. Connections
  4. Creation
  5. Collaboration
  6. Commercialization
  7. Communications

1. Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity

Curiosity drives innovation, and so the more curious people you have in your organization, the more innovation you are going to be able to generate. A good Chief Innovation Officer (Innovation Enablement Leader) can help cultivate a culture of curiosity. Amplifying curiosity in your organization is one of the most important improvements you can make in your culture.

Many of my views on improving your innovation culture have been detailed in this white paper Five Ways to Make Your Innovation Culture Smell Better I wrote for Planview and in my popular book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire.

2. Collection of Inspiration and Insight

Curiosity is driven by inspiration and insight, and so a good Innovation Enablement Leader excels at collecting and sharing inspiration and insight. This can include:

  • Teaching people inspiration gathering frameworks like the Four Lenses of Innovation from Rowan Gibson and idea generation methods like SCAMPER
  • Installing an insight gathering tool (which may or may not be merged together with an idea management solution)
  • Building a Global Sensing Network (click the link to learn more)

Building a Global Sensing Network

3. Connections

Innovation is about collecting and connecting the dots. A good Innovation Enablement Leader is good at building the connections inside (and outside) the organization that help to accelerate the gathering and dissemination of inspiration, insight, and the other elements crucial to effective (and sustained) innovation. Building on the idea of building a global sensing network (see #2), innovative organizations increasingly turn their attention outwards for innovation, recognizing that there are more smart people outside the organization than inside. This leads a good Innovation Enablement Leader to focus on Harnessing the Global Talent Pool to Accelerate Innovation.

4. Creation

The job of an Innovation Enablement Leader (or Innovation Facilitator) is to serve the rest of the organization and to work across the organization to help remove barriers to innovation and to focus on the Seven C’s of a Successful Innovation Culture. This could also mean providing a set of tools and methodologies for creative problem solving and other aspects of innovation work, organizing events, and other activities that support deepening capabilities across the Seven C’s of Successful Innovation Culture.

And because innovation is all about change, a good Innovation Enablement Leader will have a strong organizational change understanding and capabilities, including an understanding of the Five Keys to Successful Change from the Change Planning Toolkit™ (coming soon) and from my upcoming book Charting Change (Feb 2016):

Five Keys to Successful Change 550

A good Innovation Enablement Leader will know when to create a new innovation in-house, when to partner with an external entity like a University, startup, supplier, or other organization, and when to license a piece of technology or to acquire another company or startup in order to realize the desired innovation result for the company’s customers.

A good Innovation Enablement Leader knows which elements of the successful innovation they can best help to facilitate and where they need to call in help. This leads us nicely into #5.

5. Collaboration

Too often we treat people as commodities that are interchangeable and maintain the same characteristics and aptitudes. Of course, we know that people are not interchangeable, yet we continually pretend that they are anyway — to make life simpler for our reptile brain to comprehend. Deep down we know that people have different passions, skills, and potential, but even when it comes to innovation, we expect everybody to have good ideas.

I’m of the opinion that all people are creative, in their own way. That is not to say that all people are creative in the sense that every single person is good at creating lots of really great ideas, nor do they have to be. I believe instead that everyone has a dominant innovation role at which they excel, and that when properly identified and channeled, the organization stands to maximize its innovation capacity. I believe that all people excel at one of nine innovation roles, and that when organizations put the right people in the right innovation roles, that your innovation speed and capacity will increase.

Nine Innovation Roles

Here are The Nine Innovation Roles:

1. Revolutionary

  • The Revolutionary is the person who is always eager to change things, to shake them up, and to share his or her opinion. These people tend to have a lot of great ideas and are not shy about sharing them. They are likely to contribute 80 to 90 percent of your ideas in open scenarios.

2. Conscript

  • The Conscript has a lot of great ideas but doesn’t willingly share them, either because such people don’t know anyone is looking for ideas, don’t know how to express their ideas, prefer to keep their head down and execute, or all three.

3. Connector

  • The Connector does just that. These people hear a Conscript say something interesting and put him together with a Revolutionary; The Connector listens to the Artist and knows exactly where to find the Troubleshooter that his idea needs.

4. Artist

  • The Artist doesn’t always come up with great ideas, but artists are really good at making them better.

5. Customer Champion

  • The Customer Champion may live on the edge of the organization. Not only does he have constant contact with the customer, but he also understands their needs, is familiar with their actions and behaviors, and is as close as you can get to interviewing a real customer about a nascent idea.

6. Troubleshooter

  • Every great idea has at least one or two major roadblocks to overcome before the idea is ready to be judged or before its magic can be made. This is where the Troubleshooter comes in. Troubleshooters love tough problems and often have the deep knowledge or expertise to help solve them.

7. Judge

  • The Judge is really good at determining what can be made profitably and what will be successful in the marketplace.

8. Magic Maker

  • The Magic Makers take an idea and make it real. These are the people who can picture how something is going to be made and line up the right resources to make it happen.

9. Evangelist

  • The Evangelists know how to educate people on what the idea is and help them understand it. Evangelists are great people to help build support for an idea internally, and also to help educate customers on its value.

As you can see, creating and maintaining a healthy innovation portfolio requires that you develop the organizational capability of identifying what role each individual is best at playing in your organization. It should be obvious that a failure to involve and leverage all nine roles along the idea generation, idea evaluation, and idea commercialization path will lead to suboptimal results. To be truly successful, you must be able to bring in the right roles at the right times to make your promising ideas stronger on your way to making them successful. Most organizations focus too much energy on generating the ideas and not enough on developing their ideas or their people.

A good Innovation Enablement Leader will recognize which of the Nine Innovation Roles they excel at and bring in other people into their organization that can help create a well rounded innovation team, and utilize the Nine Innovation Roles to build well-balanced innovation project teams during the execution phase.

Successful Innovation Enablement Leaders typically will be strong Revolutionaries, skilled Evangelists and passionate Customer Champions, but they also must work hard to be an impartial Judge.

At the same time, skilled Innovation Enablement Leaders will build strong relationships with the heads of strategy, digital, customer insight, research and development (R&D), new product development, and operations to both understand where to focus on creating new and differentiated value for customers, and how to create innovation that the company can successfully make, distribute, and support at scale.

6. Commercialization

You are hiring an Innovation Enablement Leader (whether that is a Chief Innovation Officer, VP of Innovation, Innovation Director, or Innovation Manager) not to shepherd a single potential innovation project from insight to market, but to build a sustainable, continuous source of innovation, and a culture that reinforces your method for creating continuous innovation. One tool I’ve created for all types of Innovation Enablement Leaders is the Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation™, which as you can see, places inspiration at the center of looping, infinite process (see #2).

Eight I's of Infinite Innovation

7. Communications

Most organizations have innovated at least once in their existence, and in many organizations people are still innovating. A true Innovation Enablement Leader is more of a coach, supporting emergent innovation, and helping people test and learn, prototype and find the right channel to scale the most promising insight-driven ideas (or work with the organization to create new channels).

A good Innovation Enablement Leader excels at helping to define AND consistently communicate and reinforce the organization’s common language of innovation. Several companies all around the world have purchased my book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire in large quantities for their senior leadership team (and even substantial parts of their organization) to help build their common language of innovation, or brought me in to help facilitate innovation workshops and knowledge transfer to help jumpstart their innovation program.

Conclusion

Are you seeking to control innovation with a Chief Innovation Officer or to facilitate it with an Innovation Enablement Leader?

Ultimately, the responsibility for innovation should remain with the business, under an innovation vision, strategy and goals set by the CEO and senior leadership. It’s okay to bring someone in from the outside to help get things off to a strong start, to build a strong foundation, and to set your Innovation Enablement Leader up for success.

Many organizations will want to have someone full-time on their payroll facilitating their innovation efforts, but as I’ll describe in my next post, some organizations may feel more comfortable bringing in a fractional (or part-time) Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) or Innovation Enablement Leader because of their size or their innovation maturity (or readiness), and that’s okay too.

So, stay tuned for an article on fractional or part-time Chief Innovation Officers (CINOs), and keep innovating!


P.S. If you’re looking to hire a Chief Innovation Officer (an Innovation Enablement Leader) on a full-time or part-time basis, drop me an email and I can either tackle the role or find someone else who can!


Image credit: blog.internshala.com


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The Digital Innovation Talent Shortage

The Digital Innovation Talent ShortageI was watching our Seattle Seahawks lose to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and was surprised to see a series of television ads air during the game from GE, not touting how great their products are, but why GE is a great place for software developers to come work.

Each 30 second advertisement will have cost GE nearly $700,000, meaning that GE probably spent $2 million last Sunday. First I’ll share the ads and then I’ll share my thoughts on their significance.

All three advertisements are in this single video from ad agency BBDO:

  • Advertisement #1 (Parents’ reaction to Owen taking a developer job at GE)
  • Advertisement #2 (Fellow students’ reaction to Owen taking a job with GE)
  • Advertisement #3 (Friends’ reaction to Owen taking a developer job with GE)

All three ads highlight the gap between most people’s industrial age thinking and our new digital reality, and close with the tagline:

“The digital company. That’s also an industrial company.”

A year ago, together with Linda Bernardi, a Chief Innovation Officer at IBM, the two of us wrote about this very subject in our article for the world’s most popular innovation web site, Innovation Excellence:

You’re Either a Technology Business or You’re Out of Business

The sad truth is that most companies don’t realize this. GE, based on this ad campaign, obviously does. I won’t re-visit all of the points in the article, but instead I encourage you to read it, and for now I’ll focus on additional thoughts emerging since then. One thing I did after publishing this article with Linda, was ask the following question at my previous employer:

“Are we a technology company that happens to serve customers in the health insurance industry, or are we a health insurance company with an IT department?”

Does anyone want to guess what the majority of people answered?

The healthcare industry is undergoing a period of incredible change, but they are not the only ones. Technology is transforming market and customer expectations faster than executives and employees can transform their thinking. Customers expect more, they demand more, in every industry, and this is opening the door both for new entrants and for existing competitors to rearrange the market share picture, IF they take strategic actions focused on transforming into a more digital, more collaborative, more innovative organization. The questions every organization should be asking themselves include:

  1. How can we modify the architecture of our organization to cope with the increasing pace of change?
  2. How can we increase our organizational agility?
  3. How can we retain the talent we need to power a true digital transformation?
  4. How can we attract the talent we need to fill the gaps in our skills base to empower a successful digital transformation and to drive success in the marketplace as a social business?

I see GE’s ad campaign as the canary in the coal mine, an example of a large company awakening to one of the major challenges every organization faces in continuing to stay relevant (and profitable) in a rapidly changing, digital, always connected world.

The fact is that almost every organization needs more digital innovation talent…

And you know what?

There is a shortage…

Keeping up with the pace of technological change is hard enough. Conducting a digital transformation, and becoming a true social business is even harder, but INCREDIBLY important to your current and future success. The companies that realize this and commit to a coordinated digital transformation, embracing the fact that they are a technology company serving a particular industry and a certain set of customers will have a better chance of attracting the scarce talent they need to complete the work to emerge out the other side. And you MUST do this before every other company out there piles on and causes an incredibly bloody fight for the scarce digital innovation talent out there, and the market share that is at risk.

I will be writing more about how to increase your organizational agility and to achieve a successful digital transformation in the coming months in the run up to the publishing of my second book by Palgrave Macmillan on organizational change and the Change Planning Toolkit™.

Are you going to be like GE and admit that you need to change the way you think of yourself as an organization and change the perception potential employees have of you in the marketplace?

Are you ready to become a social business?

Do you have what you need to achieve a successful digital transformation?

Are you ready to admit that you need help getting there?

Image credit: news-leader.com


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Confessions of a Business Artist

Confessions of a Business Artist

I am an artist.

There, I’ve said it. This statement may confuse some people who know me, and come as a shock to others.

Braden, what do you mean you’re an artist? You’ve got an MBA from London Business School, you’ve led change programs for global organizations, helped companies build their innovation capabilities and cultures, are an expert in digital transformation, and you can’t even draw a straight line without a ruler. What makes you think you’re an artist?

Well, okay, that may all be true, but there are lots of different kinds of artists. I may not be a painter, a sculptor, a musician, an illustrator, or even a singer, but I am an artist, a business artist.

What is a business artist you ask?

A business artist sees through complexity to what matters most. A business artist loves working with PowerPoint and telling stories, often through keynote speeches and training facilitation, or through writing. A business artist loves to share, often doing so for the greater good, sometimes to their own financial detriment, in an effort to accelerate the knowledge, learning, and creating new capabilities in others. A business artist is a builder, often creating new businesses, new web sites, and new thinking. A business artist is comfortable stepping into a number of different business contexts and bringing a different energy and a different approach to creating solutions to complex requirements. Part of the reason a business artist can do this is because a business artist values their intuitive skills just as much as they value their intellectual skills, and may also consciously invest in getting in touch with higher levels of intuitive capabilities, enabling them to excel in roles that involve a great deal of what might be termed ‘organizational psychology’.

A business artist often appears to be a jack of all trades, sometimes bordering on what was portrayed in the television show The Pretender, and can be an incredibly powerful addition to any team tackling a big challenge, but a business artist’s incredible ability to contribute to the success of an organization is often discounted by the traditional recruiting processes of most human resource organizations because of its emphasis on skill matching and experience, skewing hiring in favor of someone with a lot of experience at being mediocre at a certain skillset over someone with limited experience but greater capability. A business artist often appears to be ahead of the curve, often to their own detriment, arriving too early to the party by grasping where organizations need to go before the rest of the organization is willing to accept the new reality. This is a real problem for business artists.

Now is the time for a change. Given human’s increasing access to knowledge, and the shorter time now required to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills required to perform a task, people who are comfortable with complexity, ambiguity, and capable of learning quickly are incredibly valuable to organizations as continual change becomes the new normal. Because experience is increasingly detrimental to success instead of a long-lived asset, given the accelerating pace of innovation and change, we need business artists now more than ever.

So how do we create more business artists?

Unfortunately our public schools are far too focused on indoctrination than education, on repetition over discovery. Our educational system specializes in creating trivia masters and kids that hate school, instead of building a new generation of creative problem solvers that love to learn and explore new approaches instead of defending status conferred based on mastery of current truths (which may be tomorrow’s fallacies). We are far too obsessed with STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) when we should be focused on STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Music). Music is creative math after all. My daughter’s school has a limited music program and NO ART. How is this possible?

To create more business artists we need to shift our focus towards art, creative problem solving and demonstrated learning, and away from memorization, metrics, and repetition. Can we do this?

Can we create an environment where the status quo is seen not as a source of power through current mastery and instead towards a system where improvements to the status quo are seen as the new source of power?

Organizations that want to survive will do so. Countries that want to stay at the top of the economic pyramid will do so. So what kind of country do you want to live in? What kind of company do you want to be part of?

Do you have the courage to join me as a business artist or to help create a new generation of them?

Image credit: blogs.nd.edu

This article originally appeared on Linkedin


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Your Chance to Help Overworked Entrepreneurs

Your Chance to Help Overworked Entrepreneurs

Life for a busy entrepreneur regular working 60 hours a week can lead to a struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. You may find that you are eating out for convenience and getting to the gym very infrequently (if at all). This lifestyle may have been fine through your twenties and early thirties, but after 35, it gets difficult to keep active and you might find those few extra pounds you’ve put on every year are really starting to add up.

Have you had similar struggles?

If you have a way to help motivate overworked entrepreneurs to lay off the takeout and introduce more physical activity into their busy lives, we at Premera would love to hear about it.

Simply post your idea to Premera’s Facebook or Twitter page using the hashtag #IGNITEchange, or as a comment to their stories. You are then automatically entered into a drawing to win a $200 Amazon gift card. Best of all, you have the chance to impact a real person’s life. There will be four chances to win, once every week from now until September 8, 2014 (terms and conditions link expired).

Have a true game-changing idea that will spark families to make lasting, realistic improvements to their health?

Premera is rewarding that type of innovation as well through Premera’s Innovate to Motivate challenge (link expired), which offers a grand prize of $5,000!


Build a common language of innovation on your team

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Your Chance to Help Working Professionals

Your Chance to Help Working ProfessionalsToday life in our college years feels somehow more manageable than the hectic pace of the working professional. Somehow it feels like it was easier then to eat reasonably well and to stay in good shape. Recent college graduates feel the pressure to build a strong foundation for a career and a social life, then add in responsibilities like car payments, pets, rent, and student loan debt, and it’s no wonder many working professionals find a focus on a healthy lifestyle often comes last.

With time short, stress high, and energy running low after work, it is often easier to grab a burger or pizza than to make a kale salad, and skip the gym in favor of the siren’s song of Netflix and the couch.

Are you struggling with a similar issue or is this sounding like the problems of a younger you?

Then here is your chance to help working professionals everywhere!
(and possibly win some cash at the same time)

Simply post your idea to Premera’s Facebook or Twitter page using the hashtag #IGNITEchange, or as a comment to their stories. You are then automatically entered into a drawing to win a $200 Amazon gift card. Best of all, you have the chance to impact a real person’s life. There will be four chances to win, once every week from now until September 8, 2014 (terms and conditions link expired).

Have a true game-changing idea that will spark families to make lasting, realistic improvements to their health?

Premera is rewarding that type of innovation as well through Premera’s Innovate to Motivate challenge (link expired), which offers a grand prize of $5,000!


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What Should the Role of Personal Branding be in Recruitment?

What Should the Role of Personal Branding be in Recruitment?I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal branding, in part because several people have told me that I seem to do it pretty well, in spite of the fact that I would never call myself a personal branding expert or endeavor to make my living as a personal branding consultant.

While I think the personal branding topic is an interesting one, it is more because I am curious about:

  1. The role of personal branding in helping organizations achieve innovation success
  2. Whether or not organizations should be factoring in personal branding strength as part of their recruitment considerations

Now that we’ve hopefully made the case for the role of personal branding in helping organizations achieve innovation success in my previous post, let’s investigate whether or not organizations should be factoring in the strength of personal brand as part of their recruitment considerations.

Is the personal brand of an individual important to the brand of a collective and the brand equity that the organization is trying to build?

Well, look no further than organizations like Nike and Adidas that harness the personal brand equity of elite athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Derrick Rose.

Look no further than organizations like Target that harness the personal brand equity of Michael Graves, Isaac Mizrahi, Mossimo Giannulli, Jason Wu, and Phillip Lim. Meanwhile Macy’s has the Martha Stewart Home Collection (but JC Penney, Sears and Kmart also have Martha Stewart collections). So, harnessing the personal brand of designers and celebrities is obviously seen as beneficial to the brand of the collective in the minds of these organizations.

But it doesn’t stop there, the University of Phoenix is attempting to harness the personal brands of Clayton M. Christensen, Jeff Dyer, and Hal Gregersen to try and save their accreditation, London Business School harnesses the personal brand equity of Gary Hamel, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management harnesses the personal brand equity of Philip Kotler, and several consultancies harness the personal brand equity of famous professors to lend credibility to their consulting brands.

So, if at the highest levels, the organization’s brand equity benefits from harnessing the strength of the personal brands of certain individuals, shouldn’t organizations be considering the personal brand strength of applicants in the hiring process?

Not just for the reasons detailed above in relation to the increasingly open and interconnected organization, but also as content marketing becomes an increasingly important way for organizations to tell their brand story, and as innovative organizations seek to do the value translation component of innovation, shouldn’t the strength of personal brand equity be a consideration?

Now I don’t want to make this about me, or to say that my personal brand is nearly as strong as any of the individuals referenced before, and so I’ve made this as generic as possible:

  • Wouldn’t a McKinsey, Booz & Co., Deloitte, PWC, Bain, BCG, Innosight, Strategyn, ?WhatIf!, IDEO, Frog, Idea Couture, Fahrenheit 212, Jump Associates, or other consulting firm be better off (all other things being close to equal) hiring a consultant that could not just do great client work, but also a public evangelist for the firm at conferences and events, and bring visibility to the firm in print in the various media outlets that their personal brand has given them access to?
  • Wouldn’t a university be better off bringing in a candidate into a PhD research effort that would not just create a purely academic piece of research, but benefit more by partnering with a candidate that has a pre-existing publishing track record, pre-existing public visibility to help promote it, and whose personal brand equity could also bring potentially greater visibility to the degree granting institution?
  • Wouldn’t a company (all other things being roughly equal) be better off bringing in someone to lead their innovation efforts who has a strong personal brand in the innovation and/or startup communities, than someone who might have great program management capabilities, but limited personal brand equity and visibility? I mean, if one of the goals of an innovation program is to gather more insight-driven dots than your competitors, shouldn’t you base part of your selection criteria on the insight capacity of the individual and the connections that their personal brand equity brings?

These are just three examples of where organizations (and HR professionals) should be factoring personal branding into their recruitment criteria, but there are many more.

I have to say that too much of the focus on personal branding these days is from a social media perspective and making sure that the individual is not damaging their personal brand with careless social media involvement, or is focused on encouraging people to gather as many ‘friends’ as possible, or on the clothes that someone should wear, as if these things by themselves create a personal brand.

I’ve already given my thoughts about what the organization should do with personal branding.

Now here are my personal branding recommendations for the individual:

  1. Determine what your personal brand is. Start by thinking of the three words that define you. What do you want to be known for?
  2. Once you determine what your personal brand stands for, then make sure that all of your online profiles and other kinds of digital and physical assets (including your appearance) reinforce it.
  3. Create content for your online portfolio on the topics related to the three words that define you.
  4. Join the communities that intersect with your personal brand and your passions.
  5. Get out there and meet people. Look for those intersections of skills, abilities, talents, and passions that you have with others that are also consistent with your personal brand.
  6. Look to pursue activities that will strengthen your personal brand, not weaken it.
  7. Be authentic!
  8. Have fun!

Let’s close with a few questions:

  • What would you add to this list?
  • What is your personal brand, how strong is it, and how are you going to leverage this to power your career success?
  • How is your organization viewing personal brand when it comes to its recruitment efforts?

Keep innovating!


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Personal Innovation – Shine Your Star

Personal Innovation - Shine Your StarI had a nice conversation with a friend from London today that I haven’t spoken with in a while and we got onto the topic of careers. We started talking about my article on Personal Innovation and how in most professional occupations there are the stars and then there is everyone else.

We talked about how stars in certain professions might only be 5% better at something than their peers but get paid 5x to 50x more than the rest. There are certain professions like professional athletics where this is particularly true. But at the same time in many professions including lawyers, consultants, managers, speakers, even cooks and hair stylists, the stars are those who are best at marketing themselves. So if you really want to become a star, you have to hone the skills necessary to market yourself and/or your ideas.

If you read my article about The Commodity Marketplace for Employees you’ll get a lot more background on this topic. Today I want to focus on a good point that my friend brought up. He had consciously tried to build up an ‘aura’ (or a “reputation for greatness”) in his organization and had been somewhat successful in doing so. But after succeeding at building his ‘aura’, some coworkers who had previously been helpful in building it, suddenly stopped supporting him. Why did they do this? Well, they began to feel that his ‘aura’ had become stronger than their own, and a potential threat to their own career ambitions.

So, if you are really good at what you do, is building yourself into a star doomed to failure?

Definitely not!

This is one of the hazards of focusing your personal innovation efforts within your organization. While it is important to have a reputation for greatness within your organization of a certain level, it is more important to focus on expanding your reputation for greatness outside the organization and here is why:

  1. To build a reputation for greatness within your organization you are dependent on your peers and managers saying flattering things about you and throwing their support behind your efforts, but at some point this support will likely decrease or cease
    • The only exception is a company growing so fast that there is endless opportunity for all
    • This is because people eventually become threatened and will not want to be seen as inferior
  2. Building up a reputation for greatness within your organization really only helps you
    • It might help your manager if he/she can show their bosses that they are a great developer of talent and deserve to move up to the next level
    • It does not add value to the organization
  3. Making yourself a star outside your organization increases the awareness of other companies to your promise and potential
    • It also increases the profile of your organization as being a thought leader
    • Upper management will eventually recognize this thought leadership benefit
      1. Improved reputation
      2. Free advertising
      3. Free public relations

Let’s face it, becoming an internal star will probably only get you a 3% annual raise instead of a 2% annual raise, and possibly on the fast track for promotions (but only until you become a little too threatening to the wrong person). If you truly are a star, begin preparing yourself mentally for the possibility that you may have to leave your current employer to be compensated appropriately, continue to execute brilliantly and start polishing your star.

If you do a good job building up your self-marketing skills and show that you do have something unique and valuable to say, then you will become of greater value to another organization than to your current one, and to a sufficient level where the other organization is willing to campaign to acquire you.

So, the following questions remain:

  1. Are you really a star?
  2. Are you committed to the hard work and learning necessary to shine your star?
  3. Are you ready to leave your current employer when the time is right for a new opportunity or to create your own?

Well, are you?

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The Commodity Marketplace for Employees

The Commodity Marketplace for EmployeesThere is a plethora of articles and books out there about how difficult it is to be in a commodity business. Books like “Blue Ocean Strategy” talk about it in terms of swimming away from the red ocean to the blue ocean, or that the blood of fierce competition in a commodity marketplace has turned the ocean red.

Innovation is such a hot topic right now because an increasing number of industries that used to be places where differentiation existed, have suddenly turned into commodity industries. When differences between the offerings of different companies become small, competition increasingly turns to price, and the product is commoditized. The customer becomes ambivalent about which offering they choose – there are a number of choices good enough for their purposes.

Why don’t we see the same plethora of articles and books out there about Personal Innovation?

Ah, but you might say the marketplace is full of self-help and personal growth books. Yes, but Personal Innovation is about more than personal growth. Personal Innovation is about self-transformation and in the employee context, about creating a strategy for swimming away from the red ocean.

Yes, if you choose to be an employee you are choosing to swim in the red ocean. The employee marketplace is an incredibly commoditized industry. A System Administrator job pays x, a Bookkeeper job pays y. Have you ever heard this before – “I’d love to give you a raise, but you’re already at the top of the salary range (aka salary band)”?Or maybe you’ve heard this one – “We think you’re the best person for the job, but the money you’re asking for…nobody in that role makes that much.”

Despite what some people may tell you, the employee marketplace has little room for value-based selling (especially after you are in the door). The Human Resources department in the same way as the Purchasing department, has made sure that every “product” purchased has an approved price. Want to buy a photocopier? It can’t cost more than x. Want to hire a finance manager? You can’t pay them more than y.

Continuing with our photocopier example, employees who don’t know their own value ruin the marketplace for employees who do in the same manner that companies willing to sell their photocopiers for thin or negative margins to build market share ruin the marketplace for other copier companies. So what is an employee to do?

Unionization is one way that employees can improve their lot, but it has its own set of problems in that “stars” or extraordinarily high performers have no way to make above average income on their above exceptional contribution.

Professional athletes are probably the only set of employees that have managed to guarantee themselves a high level of minimum compensation and benefits without eliminating the possibility of stars to earn much more. Professional services (lawyers, consultants, CPA’s, etc.), venture capital, and private equity firms with a partner structure offer the potential for “star” compensation, but “stars” are defined not by ability to do the job but their ability to bring in business.

Professional Services independents have the opportunity to generate “star” earnings as well, but again this has more to do with the professional’s ability to create business, although it is more closely linked to at least their perceived ability.

So where does this leave the average employee?

In today’s reality, if you are a “star” your best investment will be to build yourself into an industry expert within the confines of your existing employment. This is where Personal Innovation comes in. You have to determine how you can achieve differentiation and competitive separation from your peers. First you have to determine why you are a “star” and they are not, and how you can prove to the world that you are a “star” and deserve to be compensated outside the traditional salary range. Creating a “star” quality is all about proving in a tangible way that you deliver extraordinary value beyond that of other employees, and showing that you deserve to be treated differently. It’s not good enough to be a strong performer, or the best performer. You must achieve competitive separation and differentiation from your peers.

This can be achieved through the continuous pursuit of industry education, improvement of your public speaking and writing skills, creation of an industy blog, and volunteering to represent your company as a speaker at industry conferences and trade shows. The industry blog and public speaking engagements will expand the perception as a “star” beyond the bounds of your organization. If you combine these efforts with other publishing efforts like magazine or journal articles and possibly even a book, and you will expand your reach even farther and faster. You do need to have something unique and useful to say however, which is why the continuing education is so important. Doing all of these things will not only potentially improve your ability to do your existing job, but will also increase the possibility that another company will become interested in you.

Let’s face it, the best hope you have of getting better compensation is to move on to a different company (otherwise you are limited by your salary range) or start your own. If you do manage to get another company interested in you enough to try and entice you away, make sure first that it is not just to be their employee, but that they are recognizing that you are a “star” coming in and need to be compensated in an appropriate manner. CXO’s typically manage to negotiate in this way, as do some VP’s (particularly Sales VP’s). For a “star”, being compensated in an appropriate manner means of course a high base salary, but more importantly it means a package that includes things like signing bonuses and a large opportunity to earn via incentive-based compensation and stock options or awards. Negotiating this kind of package is difficult to achieve unless you have risen to the top of the organizational hierarchy and is the reason that most true “stars” end up starting their own company, even if initially it only provides an auxiliary source of income.

So if you believe you have that “star” quality, hopefully your mind is churning out ways that you are going to achieve that competitive separation and differentiation from your peers. If you pursue Personal Innovation with the same or greater gusto than you pursue product or service innovations for your current employer, I’m sure you will find a way to swim away from the bloody waters of the commodity mentality that is the traditional employee marketplace.

It will require unwavering commitment and determination, but those are qualities that all “stars” have. Personally, I am swimming as fast as I can, but I recognize that it is a difficult journey with an uncertain length. I hope you will join me on this journey. Do you have what it takes to be a “star”?

What do you think?

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