Tag Archives: HR

Developing 21st-Century Leader and Team Superpowers

Developing 21st-Century Leader and Team Superpowers

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

According to McKinsey & Co, in a recent article The new roles of leaders in 21st-century organizations they say that the focus of leaders, in traditional organisations, is to maximize value for shareholders. To do this effectively, they say that traditional leaders typically play four different roles – the planner (developing strategy and translating it into a plan); the director (assigning responsibility); and the controller (making sure everyone does what they should minimize variance against the plan). Whilst these represent the core and foundational business management and leadership roles essential to successful organisational performance, the world has changed significantly, and traditional organisations are being severely disrupted. Requiring the development of new, adaptive, and supplementary, and new leadership and team roles, which embrace the set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams – strategically supported by digital technologies, and an ecosystem focus to thrive in the face of exponential change and a VUCA world.

Maximizing the dormant space

This creates a space of unparalleled opportunity towards reshaping the world anew by activating what might be considered the dormant space, between traditional leadership roles and the possibility of a set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams.

To be embraced, enacted, and embodied by conscious leaders and collaborative teams in more purposeful, meaningful, and innovative ways that serve people, customers, and the common good.

The new roles of leaders and teams in the 21st century

The leadership paradigm has shifted, in the past 20 years, to focus more on “co-creating meaningful value with and for all stakeholders, expanding beyond shareholders to include customers, employees, partners, and our broader society”.

Taking the stance that in an open system, everyone must win through co-creation, collaboration, experimentation, and innovation that results in delivering great customer experiences.  To retain and sustain current customers, and to attract and attain new ones in an increasingly competitive global marketplace!

Making the key “leadership challenge of our times” as one which cultivates transformative eco-system-led learning and change, nurturing connections, exploration, discovery, creativity, collaboration, experimentation, and innovation at all levels of the system.

Requiring the traditional organisational leadership roles, to shift towards bravely and boldly “stepping into the uncharted territories of future possibility” and weaving these possibilities into the way people work and commune together.

To co-create new “holding spaces” for igniting, harnessing, and activating people’s collective intelligence to embrace and execute change and deliver the desired commercial outcomes their organisation wants.

Openings for unparalleled opportunities

It seems that we not only survived through the emotional and mental anxiety and overwhelm of living in “a world of disruption, drama, and despair” we also saw the range of disruptive events as a “crack” or opening in our operating systems, for unparalleled opportunities.

By intentionally embracing the “key changes that currently reshape all our innovative learning systems” including the action confidence (courage and capacity to step into something new and bring it into being, creating reality as we step into it) to:

  • Deepen the learning cycle (from head-centric to the whole person: heart, head, and gut-centric).
  • Broaden our perspectives and actions (from an individual focus to an eco-system focus).

A moment in time – taking a deep breath

One of the many challenges our collective at ImagineNation™ faced during the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns (we had six long ones here in Melbourne, Australia over 18 months) was the opportunity to slow down, hit our pause buttons, retreat and reflect and take some very deep and slow breaths.

To make time and space to rethink, respond, regroup, experiment, and play with a range of wondrous, imaginative, and playful ideas, to unlearn, learn and relearn new ways of being, thinking, and acting to sense and actualize a future that is wanting to emerge – even though, then and right now, it was and still is unclear how.

Acknowledging that whilst many of us, and the majority of our clients were experiencing the range of significant emotional reactions, mental stalling, and the anxiety and overwhelm of living in “a world of disruption, drama, and despair” as well as sensing and perceiving the world that is emerging as one of unparalleled opportunity”.

Stepping up and into new spaces of possibility and learning

Individually and collectively, we focussed on a range of rethinking, responding, and regrouping strategies including adopting new 21st-century leadership roles.

Initially by taking responsibility for sustaining our own, our partners, and our families, emotional energy, mental toughness, engagement, and overall wellness.

Then consciously enact and embody the new set of emerging 21st-century leadership roles as visionaries, architects, coaches, and catalysts:

  • Being visionaries: by co-creating a collaborative and global collective of aligned ecosystem partners with clear accountabilities within a virtual, profit share business model.
  • Being architects: by iterating, pivoting and sharing our IP and learning programs to close peoples’ “knowing-doing gaps” to help them unlearn, learn, relearn, reshape and develop their 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams.
  • Being coaches: by exploring working with the range of innovative new coaching platforms, including BetterUp and CoachHub to better democratize, scale, and share our strengths, knowledge, and skills to help a significant number of people deal more effectively with the impact of virtual hybrid workplaces.
  • Being catalysts: by focussing on partnering with clients to break down their self-induced protective and defensive “silos” to support them to become aware, acknowledge, accept, and resolve their feelings of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection, and overall anxiety.

21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams

It seems that these are just some of the 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams which act as the foundations necessary to survive and thrive through the emerging decade of both disruption and transformation.

Summing these up into more concrete actions for leaders and teams include cultivating and sustaining these five superpowers:

  1. Transformational Literacy: The ability to increase our capacity to collaborate and co-create across institutional and sector boundaries through “shifting consciousness from ego-system awareness to eco-system awareness.” to pioneer solutions that bridge the ecological, the social, and the spiritual divides existing in the 21st
  2. Nimbleness and Agility: The ability to shift and re-think and re-learn in changing contexts, to quickly experiment, iterate and pivot to adapt and move forwards collaboratively through mindset flips to emerge creative ideas and innovative solutions that are appreciated, valued, and cherished.
  3. Scalability: The ability to rapidly build desired and most relevant internal capabilities, to shift capacity and service levels through increasing creativity, invention, and innovation in ways that meet changing customer expectations, and satisfy their demands and future requirements.
  4. Stability: The ability to maintain “action confidence” and operational excellence under pressure that frees people from the constraints of “getting it right” and allows them to continuously unlearn, learn, relearn and change through “failing fast” or forward, without being blamed or shamed.
  5. Optionality: The ability to “get out of the box” to build and develop value chains, stakeholder engagements, or an ecosystem focus to acquire new capabilities through external collaboration.

Walking the path forward

According to Otto Scharmer, in a recent article “Action Confidence: Laying Down the Path in Walking” the leadership qualities we also need to nurture in order to lean into the current moment and to source the courage to act are: Humility. Vulnerability. Surrender. Trust.

It might be time to hit your own pause button, retreat and reflect, inhale a deep breath in this precious moment in time to develop your path forwards and develop an ecosystem focus and an ecosystem focus and a human-centric, future-fit focus.

To embrace, enact and embody a set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams and reshape your innovative learning systems by developing the action confidence to adopt an ecosystem, whole person, and a whole perspective that contributes to the good of the whole.

Join our next free “Making Innovation a Habit” masterclass to re-engage 2022!

Our 90-minute masterclass and creative conversation will help you develop your post-Covid-19 re-engagement strategy.  It’s on Thursday, 10th February at 6.30 pm Sydney and Melbourne, 8.30 pm Auckland, 3.30 pm Singapore, 11.30 am Abu Dhabi and 8.30 am Berlin. Find out more.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Co-creating Future-fit Organizations

Co-creating Future-fit Organizations

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our second blog in this series of three, we opened the door to a threshold for a new kind of co-creative, collaborative and cohesive team spirit that catalyzes change through “innovation evangelism”. Focusing on building both internal and external talent, through empowering, equipping, and enabling internally cohesive and effective innovation teams.  They apply their collaborative and collective intelligence towards initiating open innovation initiatives co-creating future-fit organizations that are human-centric, adaptive, engaging, inclusive, collaborative, innovative, accountable, and digitally enabled.

Innovation evangelists are change catalysts who courageously experiment with different business models and processes, to crowdsource broad and deep innovation capabilities. Usually in new ways that breakthrough corporate antibodies and barriers and deliver sustainable, meaningful, and purposeful change.  Where, according to the recent Ideascale “Crowd Sourced Innovation Report 2021”crowdsourced innovation capabilities have grown and innovation output indicators like implementation rate and time to implement have improved. In fact, businesses that were able to rapidly adapt and focus on innovation(in 2020) are poised to outperform their peers in the coming years”.

Innovation teams don’t innovate

The purpose of an innovation team is to create a safe environment that unlocks organizational and its key external stakeholder’s collective intelligence and innovation agility (capacity, competence, and confidence) to build the capability to change as fast as change itself.

Where the goal is to create a high performing, connected, and networked workplace culture where people:

  • Understand and practice the common language of innovation, what exactly it means in their organizational context, as well as exactly what value means to current and potential customers as well as to the organization,
  • Develop a shared narrative or story about why innovation is crucial towards initiating and sustaining future success,
  • Have the time and space to deeply connect, collaborate, and co-create value, internally and externally with customers, suppliers, and other primary connection points to build external talent communities and value-adding ecosystems,
  • Maximize differences and diversity of thought within customers as well as within communities and ecosystems,
  • Generate urgency and creative energy to innovate faster than competitors,
  • Feel safe and have permission to freely share ideas, wisdom, knowledge, information, resources, and perspectives, with customers as well as across communities and ecosystems.

How innovation teams learn and develop

Sustaining success in today’s uncertain, unstable, and highly competitive business environment is becoming increasingly dependent on people’s and team’s abilities to deeply learn, adapt and grow. Yet most people and a large number of organizations don’t yet seem to value learning and adaptiveness as performance improvement enablers, especially in enabling people and teams to thrive in a disruptive world.  Nor do they understand how people learn, nor how to strategically develop peoples’ learning agility towards potentially co-creating future-fit organizations that sustain high-impact in VUCA times.

At ImagineNation™ we have integrated the four E’s of learning at work; Education, Experience, Environment, and Exposure with 12 key determining factors for co-creating future-fit organizations that sustain high-impact in VUCA times through our innovation team development, change, learning, and coaching programs.

Case Study Example

  1. Educational customisation and alignment

After conducting desktop research and key stakeholder sensing interviews, we customized our innovation education curriculum specifically to align with the learning needs of the innovation team.

We aligned the program design to the organization’s strategic imperatives, values, and leadership behaviors, we reviewed the results of the previous culture, climate and engagement surveys, as well as the range of business transformation initiatives. We then applied design thinking principles to “bring to life” the trends emerging, diverging, and converging in our client’s and their customer’s industry sectors.

Focusing on:

  • enabling people to perform well in their current roles,
  • building people’s long-term career success,
  • developing their long-term team leadership and membership development capabilities,
  • laying the foundations for impacting collectively towards co-creating future-fit organizations.
  1. Experiential learning a virtual and remote environment

We designed and offered a diverse and engaging set of high-value learning and development experiences that included a range of stretch and breakthrough assignments as part of their personal and team development process.

Focusing on:

  • encouraging people to engage in a set of daily reflective practices,
  • offering a series of customized agile macro learning blended learning options, that could be viewed or consumed over short periods of time,
  • engaging playful activities and skills practice sessions, with structured feedback and debrief discussions,
  • providing an aligned leadership growth individual and team assessment process,
  • introducing key criteria for establishing effective team cohesion and collaboration,
  • linking team action learning activities and evidence-based assignments to their strategic mandate ensuring their collective contribution towards co-creating future-fit organizations.
  1. Environment to support and encourage deep learning

We aimed at creating permission, tolerance, and a safe learning environment for people to pause, retreat, reflect, and respond authentically and effectively, to ultimately engage and upskill people in new ways of being, thinking, and acting towards co-creating future-fit organizations.

Focusing on:

  • developing peoples discomfort resilience and change readiness,
  • encouraging people to be empathic, courageous, and compassionate with one another, to customers as well as to those they were seeking to persuade and influence,
  • allowing and expecting mistakes to be made and valued as learning opportunities and encouraging smart risk-taking,
  • reinforcing individual learning as personal responsibility and team learning as a mutual responsibility and establishing a learning buddy system to support accountability,
  • offering a series of one-on-one individual coaching sessions to set individual goals and support people and the teams’ “on the job” applications.
  1. Exposure to different and diverse learning modalities

We designed a range of immersive microlearning bots by providing regular, consistent, linked, multimedia learning options and a constantly changing range of different and diverse learning modalities.

Focusing on:

  • providing an informative and targeted reading list and set of website links,
  • setting a series of coordinated thought leading webinars, videos, podcasts, and magazine articles aligned to deliver the desired learning outcomes,
  • outlining fortnightly targeted team application and reinforcement tasks,
  • helping the team to collaborate and set and communicate their passionate purpose, story, and key outputs to the organization to build their credibility and self-efficacy,
  • designing bespoke culture change initiatives that the innovation team could catalyse across the organization to shift mindsets and behaviors to make innovation a habit for everyone, every day.

Collectively contributing to the good of the whole

Co-creating future-fit organizations require creativity, compassion, and courage to co-create the space and freedom to discuss mistakes, ask questions, and experiment with new ideas. To catalyse change and help shift the workplace culture as well as crowdsource possibilities through open innovation.

In ways, that are truly collaborative, and energize, catalyze, harness, and mobilize people’s and customers’ collective genius, in ways that are appreciated and cherished by all. To ultimately collectively co-create a future-fit organization that contributes to an improved future, for customers, stakeholders, leaders, teams, organizations as well as for the good of the whole.

This is the final blog in a series of three about catalyzing change through innovation teams, why innovation teams are important in catalyzing culture change, and what an innovation team does, and how they collectively contribute toward co-creating the future-fit organization.

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centred approach and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more

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The Rise of Employee Relationship Management (ERM)

The Rise of Employee Relationship Management (ERM)

What’s in a name?

From the early days when HR was referred to as workforce management or personnel management, to the emergence of scientific management and labor unions, the practice of human resources has been constantly evolving.

The name for the practice and principles of getting the most out of people in business has continued to change too, with the latest term ‘human resources’ coming into being along with an acceptance that human factors were more important than physical factors and monetary rewards for motivation.

The Accelerating Pace of Change

But, in an era when the pace of change and transformation are constantly accelerating and innovation is increasingly important to maintaining relevance, should we still be focused on ‘human resources’? Or does our view and language need to evolve?

Every day customer experience becomes more crucial to market success, and more people are talking about happy employees as being the key to happy customers. But, are employers backing up this talk?

Today most digital transformations have at their heart, several elements of an evolved customer relationship management (CRM) approach and often one or more customer journey maps.

The Shift from HCM to ERM

So, should we be shifting our views from a focus on Human Capital Management (HCM) to a focus on ERM (Employee Relationship Management) and EX (Employee Experience) to mirror how we are thinking about the importance of employees as something not to be managed but instead to be empowered, supported and developed?

And how will Generation Z change expectations of employers?

Making a shift in our mindset and our language when it comes to employees, could also cause us to focus on different metrics – shifting from a focus on controlling the costs of salaries and benefits to optimizing employee lifetime value (ELV).

Unlocking the True Value of Employees

Employees are not just a cost, they are a source of incredible value and to unlock their full potential we must invest in helping them maximize the value they can create, access, and translate for customers. Me must go beyond training and invest in even more powerful initiatives like human libraries and internal internships to help each employee not just do the job they were hired to do, but to do the job they were born to do.

Innovators Framework(one of the many concepts introduced in my first book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire)

Building on the work of London Business School’s Gary Hamel and shifting to an Employee Relationship Management (ERM) mindset we can get beyond the obedience, diligence and intellect that fear, greed, management and leadership can deliver, and instead focus on unlocking the initiative, creativity, passion and innovation that will drive the organization to higher levels of success and continuing relevance with customers.

Employee Relationship Management (ERM) is the Future of HR

We must reimagine our approach to the humans in our organizations and to recognize and leverage their uniqueness instead of treating them as replaceable cogs in a machine.

The time has come for organizations to manage both the experiences and the relationships with each of their employees as individuals to make the collective stronger, healthier, and more resilient.

Now is the time to build a conscious, measured, professional approach to Employee Relationship Management (ERM).

What say you?


Accelerate your change and transformation success

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The Future of Fractional Employees

The Future of Fractional Employees

In my last article 10 Reasons to Hire a Part-Time Chief Innovation Officer, I looked at the reasons why an organization might want to hire someone part-time to lead their innovation efforts (a follow-up to my previous post Hiring the Right Chief Innovation Officer).

Now I’d like to explore the idea of a fractional employee in a much broader context with you. A few years ago in my popular white paper Harnessing the Global Talent Pool to Accelerate Innovation commissioned by Innocentive, I introduced the idea of building a global sensing network along with other ways that companies can reach outside their four walls to speed up their ability to innovate. I have continued since then to hypothesize that successful organizations of the future will possess more porous boundaries, becoming less like castles keeping everything inside their walls and more like atoms, freely combining with other atoms to form the molecules the market requires just-in-time.

Organization of the Future

Purpose and Passion

One of the key tenets of this belief is that purpose and passion are the key to unlocking the full potential of any human, and that inherently companies do a very job of unlocking either in their quest to match resumes with job descriptions.

In an effort to develop and retain employees, and fill discrete project needs, some companies are reaching beyond the job description to try and tap into more of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the people they hire. One way this happens is through HR initiatives like the internal internships at Cisco, where a Finance employee with an interest or passion for marketing, could do an internal internship in Marketing, spending a small number of hours each week working on a discrete project with a resource need.

Outside of the organization, there are an increasing number of avenues for employees to use their un-tapped knowledge, skills, and employees to satisfy their quest for passion and purpose. These include challenge driven marketplaces for both crowdsourcing and open innovation, places like Innocentive, 99 Designs, Idea Connection, Crowdspring, and others.

Traveling the Hyperloop Ten Hours a Week

But now, we are starting to see direct to talent (DTT) models emerge. The latest example of the fractional employee model comes from Dirk Ahlborn of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), rethinking how companies are built in the first place. Instead of hiring full-time, salaried employees, Ahlborn has decided to crowdsource the labor to part-time workers and offer stock options in lieu of salary, successfully attracting about 450 workers, based in more than a dozen countries, moonlighting from organizations like NASA and Boeing.

HTT requires crowdsourced labor to commit to a 10-hour workweek to be eligible for stock. “The guys are working for stock options — they’re doing 10 times better job [than paid employees],” says Dirk Ahlborn.

Companies like Aecom, one of the world’s largest engineering design firms, are joining individuals in participating in the potentially “transformative” project, as a way to get employees executing mundane projects for the company to also get excited about building something new.

“I always tell everyone it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Ahlborn says. With 450 workers accumulated over the past couple of years and growing, Ahlborn adds, “It is becoming a movement.”

The Way Forward

From internal internships, to challenge-driven external innovation, to crowdsourced projects, to fractional employee initiatives, the world of work is changing as companies seek to accelerate to match the pace of continuous change and the continuous innovation expectations that come along with it.

If we go back to the Organization of the Future graphic above, you’ll see that job descriptions often overlap not just with employee knowledge, skills, and abilities but those of customers, partners, suppliers, and other employees as well.

Organizations seeking to increase their organizational agility will not only use tools like the Change Planning Toolkit™ but will also change their thinking about how they get work do

ne and will do a better job of recognizing when and where to tap into the abilities of other employees, partners, suppliers, and even customers to achieve the outcomes that will allow them to continue to surprise and delight their customers, clients, or constituents.

And this means embracing a fractional employee future.

Are you ready?

Get the Harnessing the Global Talent Pool to Accelerate Innovation white paper

Sources: Innovation Excellence, MSN

This article was originally featured on Linkedin


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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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!


Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

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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A Peek Inside the Broken Corporate Hiring Model

A Peek Inside the Broken Corporate Hiring ModelI was reading with interest some of Linkedin’s recent #HowIHire series and in doing so it was interesting to see how many people are still operating under the old, broken hiring paradigm when it comes to the labor market.

The best of the bunch that I read was Beth Comstock’s You’re Hired. Now What which has more to do with what she thinks people should do after she gives them a job rather than how she hires, which I thought was a good angle to take.

My day job was recently eliminated in a budget reallocation, so I’m out there in the market looking for my next new challenge. Throughout this process (and my consulting work over the years), I’ve observed a number of different challenges that companies face with hiring, and identified some opportunities for companies to increase their return on human capital:

Challenge #1:

Scanning resumes and online applications for keywords is a very bad way to find talent. It’s very good however at finding people who at least know how to spell the keywords.

Challenge #2:

The way most organizations handle human resources is very much a product of the industrial age. Hiring new employees is still a very bureaucratic affair, a far cry from reflecting an Internet Age approach, and farther still from what’s needed in the era of Social Business and Digital Transformation. Having an outdated, bureaucratic hiring approach prevents many organizations from growing (or changing) as fast as they may need to maximize revenue and profits.

Challenge #3:

Building on Challenge #2, the hiring process is incredibly slow. It can take weeks or months to finalize and post job descriptions. It can take weeks to source candidates. It can take weeks or months for a hiring manager to get around to interviewing anyone because they are too busy. This can result in the loss of the best candidates, can lead to the loss of current employees picking up the slack (leading to more job openings), and impacts the financial performance of the organization.

Challenge #4:

With the exception of professional sports franchises, companies are so risk averse that they would rather hire someone with a lot of experience doing something in a mediocre way than someone with limited experience but a higher upside (higher capacity and capability). Following this analogy, most companies would never have hired a high school kid like Lebron James.

Challenge #5:

Automated and recruiter-led screening systems are better at identifying people that fit the job description than they are at identifying people that will thrive in the company culture and be a productive team member. You can’t train people to be a good cultural fit, but you can train smart people to do just about anything.

Opportunity #1:

Every company whether it likes it or not, is a technology company. So, if you’re running a technology company, and ideally a social business, shouldn’t you want to hire people who know how to use technology (or at least how to build a Linkedin profile)? And if they have a Linkedin profile, why wouldn’t you use that instead of asking them to create another profile on your careers site?

Opportunity #2:

Things are changing at an increasing rate. Hire people who embrace change and like to learn, because you’re always going to be asking people to learn something new as the world continues to change around you.

Opportunity #3:

Looking around the landscape, it seems like we’ve created more ways to help people find the ideal new romantic partner than the ideal new employee. Are there things that the recruiting industry could learn for the romance industry?

Opportunity #4:

There is more to an employee than their intersection with the job description. In fact employees often have knowledge, skills and abilities that intersect with multiple job descriptions. Below you’ll find a visual depiction of this and of the increasingly less well-defined organizational boundaries:

Organization of the Future

Opportunity #5:

As the boundaries of the organization become less well-defined (see above) and as business makes increasing use of open innovation, partnerships, and co-opetition, hiring managers should consider not just matching the job description but also consider their ability to build and leverage external networks, and investigate the scope and quality of their existing networks.

Conclusion

Of course there are many more challenges and opportunities than I have space to list here, but I find these to be an interesting start to a conversation. What challenges or opportunities would you like to add to the conversation?

Image credit: businessnewsdaily.com


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Speed of Change

Speed of Change

Are You Innovating at the Speed of Change?

The world is changing all around us at an increasing rate, and individuals (and yes organizations too) are struggling to cope with this ever increasing pace of change.

In fact, over the last 50 years the average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has dropped from 61 years to 18 years (and is forecast to shrink further in the future).1

Innosight Average Company Lifespan

Nobody of course wants to be one of those organizations that goes out of business, but the fact is that if your organization can’t innovate and change at the speed of change of its customers’ wants and needs, and the pace of geopolitical, social, and economic change in the world around it, then it will likely have to change its sign from open to CLOSED, permanently.

Your organization may indeed be doomed to fail if it develops on or more of the following change gaps:

  1. Your speed of hiring is slower than the speed of your growth
  2. Your speed of market understanding is slower than the pace of market change
  3. Your speed of insight dissemination and acceptance is slower than the pace of market change
  4. Your speed of idea commercialization is slower than the pace of market change
  5. Your speed of innovation is slower than the competition’s speed of innovation
  6. Your speed of internal change is slower than the rate of external change

The last one is of course the largest and the most important, and the most complex, being composed of your speed of:

  • Market Analysis (gathering of insights and inspiration)
  • Invention (creation of innovation source material)
  • Design (building a potential solution around an invention)
  • Development (taking the design and creating a scalable, launch ready solution)
  • Test (Evaluating with customers whether the solution works as designed and scales as intended)
  • Evolution (Launching the solution into the marketplace with open eyes and ears, pivoting/improving as necessary)

While it is possible to enter a market too early, you can survive this tactical error if you enter in a small way instead of committing to a global launch with grand customer promises. However, much more damage comes to organizations that enter too late. So, as an organization we must be constantly striving to get faster at discovering new market insights and adapting and aligning our organization to fulfill newly discovered market needs more quickly than our competition, otherwise we might find ourselves locked out of our customers’ top consideration set tier.

Consumption Spreads Faster

What other change gaps do you see as you look at your business or that of your competition?

This is the first of many articles that I will be writing in the run up to my second book (to be published by Palgrave Macmillan), in which I will explore the importance and implications of change in the ongoing success of organizations, along with building up a concise set of best practices and next practices for change.

To help kick off this journey I will be conducting a FREE webinar with my friends over at CoDev, focusing on how Innovation is All About Change. This exclusive sneak peek and Live Q&A will take place from 12:00-1:00pm ET on January 15, 2015, and will feature a quick introduction to a new visual, collaborative change planning toolkit that I’ve developed and am ready to share with the world. Click here to register (link expired).

I hope you’ll come join me on this journey to improve the pace of change in our organizations!

UPDATE to banner: You can now access a free recording of this webinar using PASSCODE 1515 here (link expired)

1. Innosight/Richard N. Foster/Standard & Poor’s
2. Image Source: Wikipedia


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We Are Target. Who Are You?

By now you’ve probably seen the video of the Target employee standing on the checkout counter delivering a Mel Gibson, Braveheart inspired speech to fellow employees prior to opening the doors on Black Friday (nearly 4 million views and counting).

The video ends with “Because we are more than just a store. This is a team! This is a family! This is Target!!!”

It left me with one central idea at the end, and that’s the title of this article “We Are Target. Who Are You?” and the reason it left me with this idea is that in our companies we too often take the passion out of business. We inadvertently, through the way we communicate internally, end up sending the message that people should leave their passion at home, or feel passionate about something else other than our company.

What would happen if didn’t kill people’s passion at the same time we time we’re busy killing their creativity?

What kinds of connections with our customers could we form if we were (from the top to the bottom) passionate about serving our customers, about crushing the competition, and trying to be better than them in every way?

Do you want to work for a mediocre company?

Does your company want to be mediocre?

Does your company want to provide crappy customer service?

If not, then first work on making your company excellent in every way possible, and then give people permission to be passionate about serving customers and about demonstrating that excellence.

Then you’ll be ready to shout it from the rooftops!
(or at least from the counter)


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The Wonderful World of Downsizing

Stikkee Situations - Downsizing Cartoon

In Stikkee Situations we’ll try to take a humorous look at a lot of different serious business topics.

In this episode we poke fun at the wonderful world of downsizing.

Employees hate workforce reductions (aka downsizing), but some CEOs (even in profitable companies) seem to love these traumatic events as a tool to save their job and to drive short-term movements in the price of a company’s stock price, often coming on the heels of a company missing their earnings estimates.

But the positive short term stock price effects of an across the board workforce reduction come with heavy consequences, several of which greatly affect the innovation capacity of the organization, including:

  1. Destruction of trust within the organization
  2. Reduction in collaboration in the organization
  3. Loss of forward momentum on project work
  4. Loss of some of your best talent as they proactively find themselves jobs elsewhere
  5. Reduction in passion, creativity, and engagement among those who remain
  6. Elimination or reduction in the organization’s commitment to innovation

Now of course sometimes workforce reductions are necessary to avoid bankruptcy or for strategic realignment (removing human resources from business areas you are exiting), and they can be potentially healthy for the organization.

But, when downsizing is done purely to please wall street and in an untargeted way, in the long run I would assert that the organization suffers more than it benefits because any reduction in forward innovation momentum is an invitation to competitors and startups to speed past you.

So, keep innovating!

Please note the following licensing terms for Stikkee Situations cartoons:

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