Tag Archives: money

The Real Reasons Employees Stay Or Leave

Hint: It’s about more than money

The Real Reasons Employees Stay Or Leave

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

What if every great employee you (or your company) hired never left? Of course, that’s unrealistic … or is it? Joey Coleman is one of the brightest authors and speakers on the planet. His first book, Never Lose a Customer Again, is one of the very best books I’ve read on how to keep your customers coming back. He’s now taken some of the same ideas that worked for customer retention and written a second book, just as brilliant, Never Lose an Employee Again.

Coleman studied and researched organizations worldwide, and he found that 50% of hourly employees quit before their 100-day anniversary. For non-hourly or salaried employees, it’s 20%. I interviewed Coleman on Amazing Business Radio to learn how we can keep good employees.

“How we onboard employees and make them feel part of our community can differentiate whether they will be long-time employees or leave almost as fast as they came,” Coleman said. “The first 100 days are the most important time in the entire relationship with an employee because this is where the foundation is laid.”

So, why do employees leave? Contrary to popular belief, the No. 1 reason an employee leaves to work elsewhere is not money. In the traditional exit interview, where an employee talks to their employer face-to-face, money is the easiest and safest excuse for an exit. The true reasons for leaving are more telling—and can help prevent an employee from going, even if offered more money somewhere else. Coleman cites the Work Institute employee retention study, sharing the top five reasons employees leave:

  1. No clear career path — This is the top reason employees leave. Nearly one-quarter (24%) don’t see future opportunities in the organization. Most employees want to advance their careers and learn new skills. Laying out a potential path for an employee from the very beginning of their employment with you can have long-term benefits.
  2. Stress or lack of resources — Not providing employees with the tools they need or giving them too heavy of a workload can impact their emotional health, which could lead them to find work at another company.
  3. Health and family matters — As much as an employee may love working with your organization, personal health, a sick child or an aging parent can interfere with their ability to work. Regarding the latter, Coleman says, “Just as some employers provide daycare for young children, some employers in the future will also provide an eldercare program.”
  4. Work/life balance — The job has to fit the employee’s lifestyle. Something as seemingly insignificant as a long commute can negatively impact the employee’s personal life so much that they leave.
  5. Money — Almost one in 10 (9%) leave because of money. That means nine out of 10 leave for other reasons, often within our control.

After reading the reasons listed above, here is Coleman’s top advice:

  • Affirm the employee made the right decision to come to work at your organization — The concept of affirm is one of the eight phases of the first 100 days Coleman covers in his book. There is a scientifically proven emotional reaction in which a new employee begins to doubt their decision to accept your job offer. It is called “new hire’s remorse,” which happens between when they accept the job offer and their first day. Reaffirm your new employee’s decision to accept your job offer. Establish a personal and emotional connection even before their first day.
  • On-boarding must be practiced at a higher level — Don’t just onboard the first day or two (or even a week or two). Coleman says, “If you’re not painting a clear path for your people but expecting them to manage and figure out their careers on their own, then you deserve to lose them.” The amount of time you spend with employees over the first 100 days directly correlates to how long they will stay.
  • The employee’s personal life is important — Notice that three of the five reasons people leave the organization are personal. Coleman says, “You need to know what’s going on between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. as much as you are interested in what’s happening between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. What are your people doing and dealing with when they are not at work?”

I’ve often said that you won’t have a business without customers. Coleman makes the case that the same applies to employees. Much of what gets customers to come back is a great customer experience. You can’t deliver a great CX without a great employee experience on the inside of your organization. Coleman says, “People think that customer experience and employee experience are two different silos. The better way to look at this is that they are two sides of the same coin. We must work on both!”

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

Image Credits: Shep Hyken

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of May 2023

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of May 2023Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month, we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are May’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. A 90% Project Failure Rate Means You’re Doing it Wrong — by Mike Shipulski
  2. ‘Innovation’ is Killing Innovation. How Do We Save It? — by Robyn Bolton
  3. Sustaining Imagination is Hard — by Braden Kelley
  4. Unintended Consequences. The Hidden Risk of Fast-Paced Innovation — by Pete Foley
  5. 8 Strategies to Future-Proofing Your Business & Gaining Competitive Advantage — by Teresa Spangler
  6. How to Determine if Your Problem is Worth Solving — by Mike Shipulski
  7. Sprint Toward the Innovation Action — by Mike Shipulski
  8. Moneyball and the Beginning, Middle, and End of Innovation — by Robyn Bolton
  9. A Shortcut to Making Strategic Trade-Offs — by Geoffrey A. Moore
  10. 3 Innovation Types Not What You Think They Are — by Robyn Bolton

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in April that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last three years:

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Transformation Insights

Future Always Wins

“The most damaging phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way!”
Grace Murray Hopper

GUEST POST from Bruce Fairley

Nearly a century ago in 1923, General Motors made an evolutionary leap in car design with the chemical expertise of Dupont. Debuting the new Duco paint technology, they introduced consumers to a range of car colors, thus giving the Second Industrial Revolution more variety. This was antithetical to rival Henry Ford’s ‘keep it plain to make it rain’ approach. One car – one color was his contribution to humanity. But the robotic consistency that made Ford a legend also became his Achilles heel as glamor and luxury disrupted the auto business and he was dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

When people say ‘it’s lonely at the top’ – it’s not. It’s crowded with competition. In today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0 – leaders that have the courage to change are able to do what some titans haven’t been able to do.

Pivot. Quickly.

Technological leaps have now advanced to an accelerated rate unprecedented in human history. Change is no longer a left curve surprise, but rather a constant evolution that offers both potentially great reward – and great risk. If growth doesn’t drive change – danger will. Visionary leaders navigate today’s ‘wild west’ landscape with an intelligent team approach. One that re-aligns technology to serve business goals rather than other way around.

But this is not a solo mission. Evolution thrives in collaboration, whether it’s upending an industry or upleveling a medium sized firm into a scalable trajectory. Optimizing the tech-business relationship takes multiple points of expertise and objective study. Where technology currently serves – and where it’s poised to strike is a critical question at the heart of any digital transformation worth undertaking. This may not be obvious at first glance. A previously valuable ‘built to last’ feature may now be hindering ‘built to evolve’ capabilities.

That is one reason why C-Suite leaders often turn to digital transformation firms such as The Narrative Group to fix the gap between their current technological resources and their ambitions. Just as GM partnered with Dupont to dazzle consumers nearly a hundred years ago, corporations that wish to present their best offer to the world need a similar confluence of five positive elements:

  • Collaboration Between Complementary Influencers
  • Creative and Analytical Engagement
  • Smart Use of Technology
  • Human Powered Learnability

And most importantly … The Willingness to Change Because the future always wins.

When I founded The Narrative Group, it was partly in response to this need for collaboration that I saw as critical to a corporation’s evolution. Going a step beyond ‘consulting’ to helping construct a corporation’s best future allows me to contribute to the safeguarding of that future for the many people that rely on a corporation’s healthy bottom line to build their own lives. Human potential is measured not only in outcome but also the way in which that outcome is achieved. Effective collaboration requires three key pillars that support an evolutionary leap:

  • Trust between the internal leadership team and the digital transformation firm hired to consult.
  • Transparency in the process from first contact through recommendations.
  • Trajectory in implementing recommendations in a way that maximizes the potential benefits.

This is part of a larger conversation that I enjoy having with clients and within my own team. I will elaborate on some of these points in future posts, but for now I hope I’ve sparked some reflection about the strength of character great leaders exhibit when they choose to master change rather than be blindsided by it.

If you’re a C-Suite leader that would like to discuss your corporation’s Industry 4.0 evolution and how to advance towards a best future outcome that aligns with your vision, reach out at:


Looking forward to continuing the conversation…

Image Credit: The Narrative Group

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Design Thinking in Financial Services

Enhancing Customer Experience in Banking

Design Thinking in Financial Services - Enhancing Customer Experience in Banking

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

In today’s highly competitive financial services industry, banks are constantly seeking innovative ways to differentiate themselves and provide exceptional customer experiences. One approach gaining popularity is design thinking. By applying this human-centered design approach, banks can better understand customer needs and create solutions that truly enhance their experience. This article explores the concept of design thinking in financial services, highlighting its benefits and presenting two case studies that showcase how this approach can revolutionize the customer experience in banking.

Case Study 1: DBS Bank – Reinventing the Branch Experience

DBS Bank, one of Asia’s leading financial institutions, undertook a comprehensive redesign of its branches to align with design thinking principles. The bank conducted extensive research to understand customer pain points and preferences. By mapping the customer journey, DBS Bank gained insights into areas where it could improve the customer experience.

Using design thinking, DBS Bank transformed its branches into vibrant and welcoming spaces, departing from the traditional cold and impersonal atmosphere. The bank incorporated technology seamlessly into the branch experience, providing customers with self-service kiosks, touch-screen displays for product information, and interactive tools for personalized financial planning. These changes not only enhanced efficiency but also encouraged customers to engage more actively with their banking needs.

As a result, DBS Bank saw a significant increase in customer satisfaction and engagement. The branch transformation project showcased how design thinking can positively impact the customer experience, making traditional banking more accessible and enjoyable.

Case Study 2: Simple – A Digital-First Banking Solution

Simple, an online banking platform in the United States, embraced design thinking to create a truly customer-centric banking experience. Simple aimed to simplify banking, addressing the frustrations customers encountered with traditional banks’ complex products and processes.

Through extensive user research and empathy mapping, Simple identified key pain points experienced by their target customers. Armed with these insights, the company created a streamlined online platform with an intuitive user interface. It focused on providing real-time financial insights, goal-oriented savings features, and transparent fee structures—all while eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy.

By leveraging design thinking in their digital-first approach, Simple ensured that its platform catered to users’ needs, resulting in high customer satisfaction and loyalty. Simple’s success demonstrated how design thinking can be applied not only to physical spaces but also to digital solutions, revolutionizing the customer experience in banking.


Design thinking is transforming the financial services industry by enabling banks to put customers at the center of the design process. By gaining deep customer insights, banks can create innovative solutions that enhance the customer experience, driving customer satisfaction and loyalty. The case studies of DBS Bank and Simple highlight how design thinking can be applied in both physical and digital environments, leading to remarkable improvements in customer engagement and overall brand reputation. As financial institutions continue to prioritize customer experience, embracing design thinking becomes pivotal for their success in an increasingly competitive landscape.

SPECIAL BONUS: Braden Kelley’s Problem Finding Canvas can be a super useful starting point for doing design thinking or human-centered design.

“The Problem Finding Canvas should help you investigate a handful of areas to explore, choose the one most important to you, extract all of the potential challenges and opportunities and choose one to prioritize.”

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Are You Lying to Your Customers?

Are You Lying to Your Customers?

It seems like every company these days is trying to claim that they are innovative, trying to claim that they are customer-centric, trying to claim that their employees are important to them. But are they?

Can all this be true?

Or, are all of these companies lying to their customers, lying to their employees, and lying to their shareholders?

Many companies say that they are committed to innovation, but employees know the truth. If employees’ experience around the innovation efforts of the company (and its outcomes) isn’t consistent with the innovation messages being communicated, then not only will innovation participation and outcomes be low, but ongoing trust and loyalty will be further eroded in the organization.

Employees can see the Lucky Charms on your face when you say you’re committed to innovation publicly, but behind the scenes your actions demonstrate that you really are not.

And don’t be fooled, customers will start to see the Lucky Charms show up on your face, no matter how hard you try and convince them that the marshmallow goodness is not there.

If you aren’t going to define what innovation means to your company, if you aren’t going to create a common language of innovation, if you aren’t going to teach people new innovation skills and support innovation at all levels by making limited amounts of time and capital available to push their ideas forward, then don’t say you’re committed to innovation. You’ll tear the organization down instead of building it up.

Lying to CustomersIf customers don’t see you increasing your level of value creation, improving your level of value access, and doing a better job at value translation (see Innovation is All About Value), especially when compared to the competition, then they too will become disillusioned, frustrated, and start to look for other alternative solutions that deliver more value then all of your offerings.

Meanwhile, shareholders behave like customers on steroids. If you are being rewarded with an innovation premium by the market, you can’t be “all hat and no cattle” for very long, meaning you have to deliver compelling inventions on a repeated basis with a strong potential to become the innovations that drive the future growth of the company. This is hard to do once, let alone on a repeated basis. We will likely see Apple be the latest victim in the next twelve months.

Why? Because AAPL is at an all-time high based on the likely high percentage of people that are likely to upgrade from an iPhone 4 or 5s to an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. What about after that? Well, the smartphone industry is about to enter the same place that the PC industry hit a few years ago, when replacement cycles began to lengthen, reducing revenues, and forcing prices (and margins) lower. Simultaneously carriers will seek to extract more of the margin from the overall equation, and if Google/Motorola/Lenovo, Nokia and others start to bring $99 smartphones developed for India and other places to the richer economies that will in their next generation likely be “good enough” compared to the high end $699 handsets, more people will choose to wait longer between upgrades, or trade down with their next purchase, much as they did when $400 laptops started to become the rage.

So, what are we to learn from Apple’s pending share price collapse about the middle of next year?

Well, the first thing we will learn is that continuous innovation is hard. Now I’m not saying that Apple is going to go away, HP and Dell haven’t gone away, but Apple’s share price in Q2/Q3 2015 will struggle, they will face employee defections, and it will become more like Dell, HP and Microsoft than Facebook or Google. Not because those companies are any more or less innovative than any of the others, but because the growth paradigms are different and those companies are still in a different place on their growth curves.

We can also learn that continuous innovation requires consistency, commitment, the ability to recognize and prepare for the inevitable peaking of any growth curve, the organizational agility necessary to change as fast as the wants and needs of your customers and your environment, and the ability to understand what your customers will give you permission to do (so you know where to go next when your most profitable growth curve begins to peak).

You should see by now that continuous innovation is about far more than technological innovation, but instead requires not only continuous commitment, but also a continuous willingness and ability to change, and a continuous scanning of your environment using a Global Sensing Network.

Do you have one?

What is yours telling you about your company’s future?

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Are You Investing in an Innovation Culture?

Are You Investing in an Innovation Culture?

Innovation is everywhere.

You can’t go an entire commercial break during the Super Bowl or a State of the Union address (okay, sorry, both American examples) without hearing the word innovation pop up at least once or twice. Companies have added innovation to their company values and mission statements in accelerating numbers. Some organizations have implemented idea management systems. And others are willing to spend large sums of money on design firms and innovation boutique consultancies to get help designing some new widget or service to flog to new or existing customers. Based on all of that you would think that most companies are committed to innovation, right?

If you asked most CEOs “Is your organization committed to innovation?”, do you think you could find a single CEO that would say no?

So, why do think I’m about to make the following statement?

90+% of organizations have no sustained commitment to innovation.

When it comes to fostering continuous innovation, most organizational cultures stink at it.

Let’s look at some data, because anyone who is committed to innovation (and not just creativity) should love data (especially unstructured data from customers):

  • 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 grow even shorter in the future)1
  • In a worldwide survey of 175 companies by Hill & Knowlton (a communications consultancy), executives cited “promoting continuous innovation” as the most difficult goal for their company to get right. “Structurally, many companies just aren’t set up to deliver continuous innovation.”2
  • 84% of more than 2,200 executives agree that their organization’s culture is critical to business success3
  • “96% of respondents say some change is needed to their culture, and 51% think their culture requires a major overhaul.”3

So what does this data tell us?

For one thing, it helps to reinforce the notion that the pace of innovation is increasing.

For another thing, it doesn’t exactly scream that organizations are as committed to building an innovation culture internally as their words externally say about being committed to innovation.

Why is this?

Well, as fellow Innovation Excellence contributor Jeffrey Phillips once said:

“When it comes to innovation, ideas are the easy part. The cultural resistance learned over 30 years of efficiency is the hard part.”

And when you get right down to it, most employees in most organizations are slaves to execution, efficiency, and improvement. And while those things are all important (you can’t have innovation without execution), organizations that fail to strike a balance between improvement/efficiency and innovation/entrepreneurship, are well, doomed to fail.

This increasing pace of innovation along with the lower cost of starting/scaling a business and the always difficult challenge of building a productive culture of continuous innovation, is the reason that the lifespan of organizations is shrinking.

So if it isn’t enough to talk about innovation, or to invest in trying to come up with new products and services, shouldn’t more organizations be also investing to making sure their innovation culture doesn’t, well, stink?

The obvious answer is… (insert yours here)

So, if your innovation culture stinks, I encourage you to come join me at Pipeline 2014 and attend my keynote session on exploring five ways to make it smell better:

“Our Innovation Culture Stinks – Five Ways to Make it Smell Better”

It’s a free virtual event on June 6, 2014.

I look forward to seeing you there!

1. Innosight/Richard N. Foster/Standard & Poor’s
2. Hill & Knowlton Executive Survey
3. Booz & Company Global Culture and Change Management Survey 2013

Build a common language of innovation on your team

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Innovation QuickStart Guide

Innovation QuickStart GuideYou know how sometimes when you order a product you get this inch-thick instruction manual that you never read, but also how there is sometimes a QuickStart Guide of 5-10 simple steps to get you up and running quickly?

Well, Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire is the instruction manual that an increasing number of organizations are ordering for teams to help them with their innovation efforts. But, I’m sure companies could also use an Innovation QuickStart. So, here is one you could use (excerpted in part from my book):

10 Steps to Get Your Innovation Efforts Off to a Good Start

1. Conduct an Innovation Audit

How can you know where you are going to go with innovation if you don’t first know where you already are? For this reason I created a 50 question innovation audit and linked it to an Innovation Maturity Model from Karl T. Ulrich and Christian Terwiesch of Wharton Business School.

Innovation Maturity Model

2. Define What Innovation Means for Your Organization

Here is a simple exercise you can do next time you get together in your organization to talk about innovation. Have everyone in the group write down what their definition of innovation is, and then compare that to the official definition of innovation for the organization (if you have one) and the innovation definitions of others in the group. Defining innovation as an organization is important because it helps you determine what kinds of innovation you are focusing on as an organization, and what kinds of innovation you ARE NOT focusing on.

3. Create a Common Language of Innovation

Creating a definition of innovation is the first step in creating a common language of innovation. The importance of creating a common language of innovation is that language is one of the most important components of culture. If people in your organization don’t talk about innovation in a consistent way and see communications reinforcing the common language, how can you possibly hope to embed innovation in the culture of the organization? Ensuring consistent language in presentations, emails, etc. and having people read the same book on innovation or taking the same training courses are just some ways to help create and reinforce a common language of innovation.

4. Define Your Innovation Vision

A startup begins life as a single-minded entity focused on innovating for one set of customers with a single product or service. Often as a company grows to create a range of products and/or services, the organization can start to lose track of what it is trying to achieve, which customers it is trying to serve, and the kind of solutions that are most relevant and desired by them.

Jack Welch, CEO of GE once said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Vision is about focus and vision is about the ‘where’ and the ‘why’ not the ‘what’ or the ‘how’. A vision gives the business a sense of purpose and acts as a rudder when the way forward appears uncertain. An innovation vision is no less important, and it serves the same basic functions. An innovation vision can help to answer some of the following questions for employees:

  • Is innovation important or not?
  • Are we focusing on innovation or not?
  • What kind of innovation are we pursuing as an organization?
  • Is innovation a function of some part of the business?
  • Or, is innovation something that we are trying to place at the center of the business?
  • Are we pursuing open or closed innovation, or both?
  • Why should employees, suppliers, partners, and customers be excited to participate?

When people have questions, they tend not to move forward. For that reason it is crucial that an organization’s leadership both has a clear innovation vision, and clearly and regularly communicates it to key stakeholders. If employees, suppliers, partners, and customers aren’t sure what the innovation vision of the organization is, how can they imagine a better way forward?

Pre-Order Nine Innovation Roles Card Decks

5. Define Your Innovation Strategy

Many organizations take the time to create an organizational strategy and a mission statement, only to then neglect the creation of an innovation vision and an innovation strategy. An innovation strategy is not merely a technology roadmap from R&D or an agenda for new product development. Instead, an innovation strategy identifies who will drive a company’s profitable revenue growth and what will represent a strong competitive advantage for the firm going forward. Under this umbrella the innovation goals for the organization can be created.

An innovation strategy sets the innovation direction for an organization towards the achievement of its innovation vision. It gives members of the organization an idea of what new achievements and directions will best benefit the organization when it comes to innovation. As with organizational strategy, innovation strategy must determine WHAT the organization should focus on (and WHAT NOT to) so that tactics can be developed for HOW to get there.

Innovation Vision Strategy Goals

6. Define Your Innovation Goals

Just as managers and employees need goals to know what to focus on and to help them be successful, organizations need innovation goals too. Clear innovation goals, when combined with a clear innovation strategy and a single-minded innovation vision for the organization, will maximize the instinctual innovation that emerges from employees and the intellectual innovation that occurs on directed innovation projects.

While an innovation vision determines the kinds of innovation that an organization, and an innovation strategy determines what the organization will focus on when it comes to innovation, it is the innovation goals that break things down into tangible objectives that employees can work against. Let’s look at P&G as an example to see how these three things come together at the highest level:

Innovation Vision

  • Reach outside the company’s own R&D department for innovation

Innovation Strategy

  • Create a formal program (Connect + Develop) to focus on this vision

Innovation Goal

  • Source 50% of the company’s innovation from outside

The 50% goal gives employees and management something to measure against, and it sets a very visible benchmark that the whole organization can understand and visualize how big the commitment and participation must be in order to reach it. It is at this point of communicating the innovation goals that senior management also has to communicate how they intend to support their efforts and how they will help employees reach the innovation goals.

7. Create a Pool of Money to Fund Innovation Projects

Product managers leading product groups and general managers leading business units typically have revenue numbers they are trying to hit, and they will spend their budgets trying to hit those numbers. As a result, there are often precious little financial resources (and human resources) available for innovation projects that don’t generate immediate progress toward this quarter’s business goals. As a result, many organizations find themselves setting money aside outside of the product or business unit silos that can be allocated on the future needs of the business instead of the current needs of the product managers and general managers. This also allows the organization to build an innovation portfolio of projects with different risk profiles and time horizons. But, however you choose to fund innovation projects, the fact remains that you need to have a plan for doing so, or the promising projects that form your future innovation pipeline – will never get funded.

8. Create Human Resource Flexibility to Staff Innovation Projects

Some organizations allow employees to spend a certain percentage of their time on whatever they want, but most don’t. Some organizations allow employees to pitch to spend a certain percentage of their time on developing a promising idea, but most organizations are running so lean that they feel there is no time or money for innovation. Often this is true and so employees sometimes work on promising ideas on their own time, but they shouldn’t have to. And if you make them do so, it will be much more likely that they will develop the promising idea with others outside the company and the organization will gain nothing from these efforts.

Don’t turn your motivated intrapreneurs into entrepreneurs.

You must find a way to create resource flexibility. Organizations that want to continue to grow and thrive must staff the organization in a way that allows managers to invest a portion of their employees’ time into promising innovation projects. One model to consider is that of Intuit, which allows employees to form project teams and to accumulate percent time and then schedule time off to work on an innovation project with co-workers in the same way that they schedule a vacation. This allows the manager to plan for the employees’ absence from the day-to-day and allows the employee to focus on the innovation project during that scheduled leave from their workgroup. But that’s just one possible way to create human resource flexibility.

Pre-Order Nine Innovation Roles Card Decks

9. Focus on Value – Innovation is All About Value

Value creation is important, but you can’t succeed without equal attention being paid to both value access and value translation because innovation is all about value…

Innovation = Value Creation (x) Value Access (x) Value Translation = Success!

Now you will notice that the components are multiplicative not additive. Do one or two well and one poorly and it doesn’t necessarily add up to a positive result. Doing one poorly and two well can still doom your innovation investment to failure. Let’s look at the three equation components in brief:

Value Creation is pretty self-explanatory. Your innovation investment must create incremental or completely new value large enough to overcome the switching costs of moving to your new solution from the old solution (including the ‘Do Nothing Solution’). New value can be created by making something more efficient, more effective, possible that wasn’t possible before, or create new psychological or emotional benefits.

Value Access could also be thought of as friction reduction. How easy do you make it for customers and consumers to access the value you’ve created. How well has the product or service been designed to allow people to access the value easily? How easy is it for the solution to be created? How easy is it for people to do business with you?

Value Translation is all about helping people understand the value you’ve created and how it fits into their lives. Value translation is also about understanding where on a continuum between the need for explanation and education that your solution falls. Incremental innovations can usually just be explained to people because they anchor to something they already understand, but radical or disruptive innovations inevitably require some level of education (often far in advance of the launch). Done really well, value translation also helps to communicate how easy it will be for customers and consumers to exchange their old solution for the new solution.

The key thing to know here is that even if you do a great job at value creation, if you do a poor job at either value access or value translation, you can still fail miserably.

10. Focus on Creating a Culture of Learning Fast

There is a lot of chatter out there about the concept of ‘failing fast’ as a way of fostering innovation and reducing risk. Sometimes the concept of ‘failing fast’ is merged with ‘failing cheap’ to form the following refrain – ‘fail fast, fail cheap, fail often’.

Now don’t get me wrong, one of the most important things an organization can do is learn to accept failure as a real possibility in their innovation efforts, and even to plan for it by taking a portfolio approach that balances different risk profiles, time horizons, etc.

But when it comes to innovation, it is not as important whether you fail fast or fail slow or whether you fail at all, but how fast you learn. And make no mistake, you don’t have to fail to innovate (although there are always some obstacles along the way). With the right approach to innovation you can learn quickly from failures AND successes.

The key is to pursue your innovation efforts as a discrete set of experiments designed to learn certain things, and instrumenting each project phase in such a way that the desired learning is achieved.

The central question should always be:

“What do we hope to learn from this effort?”

When you start from this question, every project becomes a series of questions you hope to answer, and each answer moves you closer to identifying the key market insight and achieving your expected innovation. The questions you hope to answer can include technical questions, manufacturing questions, process questions, customer preference questions, questions about how to communicate the value to customers, and more. AND, the answers that push you forward can come from positive discrete outcomes OR negative discrete outcomes of the different project phases.

The ultimate goal of a ‘learning fast’ approach to innovation is to embed in your culture the ability to extract the key insights from your pursuits and the ability to quickly recognize how to modify your project plan to take advantage of unexpected learnings, and the flexibility and empowerment to make the necessary course corrections.

The faster you get at learning from unforeseen circumstances and outcomes, the faster you can turn an invention into an innovation by landing smack on what the customer finds truly valuable (and communicating the value in a compelling way). Fail to identify the key value AND a compelling way to communicate it, and you will fail to drive mass adoption.

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When you start with an innovation audit and creating a common language of innovation (including a definition of innovation), it sets you up well to create a coherent innovation vision, strategy, and goals. And then if you build in the financial and human resource flexibility necessary to create a focus on value creation, access and translation – and support it with a culture that is focused on learning fast – YOU WILL have built a solid foundation for your innovation efforts to grow and mature on top of. Are there more things that go into embedding innovation into your culture and creating sustainable innovation success? Absolutely. But, if you work diligently on these ten items you will get your innovation efforts off to a strong start.

What are you waiting for?

Image Credits: Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire

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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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Innovate Yourself – Becoming Overpaid

Innovate Yourself - Becoming OverpaidA fun one from the archive (2007)

I came across this article from MarketWatch on the Ten most overpaid jobs in the U.S. and thought it was worthy of discussing. I don’t want to focus on whether these occupations are overpaid or not (I’m sure the people working in these roles would disagree with the author), but instead on what we can all learn from this article. First here is a list of the ten occupations:

  1. Wedding photographers
  2. Major airline pilots
  3. West Coast longshoremen
  4. Skycaps at major airports
  5. Real estate agents selling high end homes
  6. Motivational speakers and ex-politicians on the lecture circuit
  7. Orthodontists
  8. CEOs of poorly performing companies
  9. Washed-up pro athletes in long-term contracts
  10. Mutual-fund managers

Next, here is my list of some of the common threads amongst the ten occupations chosen by Chris Pummer of CBS MarketWatch with the input from anonymous compensation experts, and an academic examination of how someone might approach the “problem” of increasing their income by looking at these common threads:

  1. Power
    • Create a situation where meeting your demands becomes an extremely attractive alternative to not meeting them. Some people would refer to this as identifying points of leverage.
    • Banding together with other highly skilled co-workers into a union is one approach that people take.
    • Another is to take create sufficient revenue for an organization so that the company doesn’t want to risk interruption of that cashflow.
  2. Fear
    • People are afraid of someone messing up their wedding photos, their investments, or their safe journey.
    • Put yourself in a position to directly protect a customer’s memories, finances, or their life itself.
  3. Establish a “tradition”
    • Pro-actively create the perception that it is the usual way of doing things for a customer to tip you or pay you a percentage of their bill (regardless how big).
    • The people at the airport taking your bags at the check-in counter do the same job as curbside check-in (they give you a ticket and check your bag), but we all believe it is accepted practice to tip the curbside check-in person and not the person at the check-in counter inside. We tip a “waiter” for taking our order and giving us food and drink, but we don’t do the same for the “cashier” at McDonald’s do we?
  4. Create a shortage
    • Organize the people in your “profession” and work to create barriers to entry that can be used to control supply.
    • Trade unions do this to some extent with apprenticeship programs and the like.
    • In addition to Orthodonists, Pharmacists and Veterinarians have been accused of this.
  5. Turning garbage into gold
    • Identifying a job that most people wouldn’t want to take, but where a highly qualified person is desired, can result in a job that might pay quite well.
    • If you are a supervisor, try to position yourself to supervise the group of people in your organization that makes more money than the group you supervise now (usually a supervisor will make more than the people he/she supervises).
    • Most talented managers won’t take on a position at a struggling company, and as a result the company will either have to over-pay to get good talent to join or be satisfied with hiring people who want to stay in the local area or couldn’t get hired by a better performing company in the industry. If you have a tolerance for risk, seek out opportunities at underperforming companies in your industry and play up the career risk about moving from your successful company to their unsuccessful one in the compensation discussions.

Would it be wrong for an individual or a group of employees to look to game these common threads consciously?

Organizations are constantly looking for ways to put downward pressure on wages, so would it be wrong for individuals to look after their own self-interests and attempt to maximize their ability to take care of their family?

I would argue that it is the responsibility of the individual to protect their own self-interests and look to maximize their wages in the same way it is the responsibility of the organization to look to minimize wages for the self-interest of the shareholders.

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