Tag Archives: transformation

How to Fix Corporate Transformation Failure

How to Fix Corporate Transformation Failure

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

We live in an age in which change has become the only constant. So it’s not surprising that change management models have become popular. Executives are urged to develop a plan to communicate the need for change, create a sense of urgency and then drive the process through to completion.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of these efforts fail and it’s not hard to see why. Anybody who’s ever been married or had kids knows first-hand how difficult it can be to convince even a single person of something. Any effort to persuade hundreds, if not thousands, of people through some kind of mass effort is setting the bar pretty high.

However, as I explain in Cascades, what you can do is help them convince each other by changing the dynamic so that people enthusiastic about change can influence other (slightly less) enthusiastic people. The truth is that small groups, loosely connected, but united by a shared purpose drive transformational change. So that’s where you need to start.

The Power Of Local Majorities

In the 1950’s, the prominent psychologist Solomon Asch undertook a pathbreaking series of conformity studies. The design of the study was simple, but ingenuous. He merely showed people pairs of cards, asking them to match the length of a single line on one card with one of three on an adjacent card. The answer was meant to be obvious.

However, as the experimenter went around the room, one person after another gave the same wrong answer. When it reached the final person in the group (in truth, the only real subject, the rest were confederates), the vast majority of the time that person conformed to the majority opinion, even if it was obviously wrong!

Majorities don’t just rule, they also influence, especially local majorities. The effect is even more powerful when the issue at hand is more ambiguous than the length of a line on a card. More recent research suggests that the effect applies not only to people we know well, but that we are also influenced even by second and third-degree relationships.

So perhaps the best way to convince somebody of something is to surround them with people who hold a different opinion. To extend the marriage analogy a bit, I might have a hard time convincing my wife or daughter, say, that my jokes are funny and not at all corny, but if they are surrounded by people who think I’m hilarious, they’ll be more likely to think so too.

Changing Dynamics

The problem with creating change throughout an organization is that any sufficiently large group of people will hold a variety of opinions about virtually any matter and these opinions tend to be widely dispersed. So the first step in creating large-scale change is to start thinking about where to target your efforts and there are two tools that can help you do that.

The first, called the Spectrum of Allies, helps you identify which people are active or passive supporters of the change you want to bring about, which are neutral and which actively or passively oppose it. Once you are able to identify these groups, you can start mobilizing the most enthusiastic supporters to start influencing the other groups to shift their opinions. You probably won’t ever convince the active opposition, but you can isolate and neutralize them.

The second tool, called the Pillars of Support, identifies stakeholder groups that can help bring change about. In a typical corporation, these might be business unit leaders, customer groups, industry associations, regulators and so on. These stakeholders are crucial for supporting the status quo, so if you want to drive change effectively, you will need to pull them in.

What is crucial is that every tactic mobilizes a specific constituency in the Spectrum of Allies to influence a specific stakeholder group in the Pillars of Support. For example, in 1984, Anti-Apartheid activists spray-painted “WHITES ONLY” and “BLACKS” above pairs of Barclays ATMs in British university town to draw attention to the bank’s investments in South Africa.

This of course, had little to no effect on public opinion in South Africa, but it meant a lot to the English university students that the bank wanted to attract. Its share of student accounts quickly plummeted from 27% to 15% and two years later Barclays pulled out all of its investments from the country, which greatly damaged the Apartheid regime.

Identifying A Keystone Change

Every change effort begins with a grievance: sales are down, customers are unhappy or perhaps a new technology threatens to disrupt a business model. Change starts when leaders are able to articulate a clear and affirmative “vision for tomorrow” that is empowering and points toward a better future.

However, the vision can rarely be achieved all at once. That’s why successful change efforts define a keystone change, which identifies a tangible goal, involves multiple stakeholders and paves the way for future change. A successful keystone change can supercharge your efforts to shift the Spectrum of Allies and pull in Pillars of Support.

For example, when Experian’s CIO, Barry Libenson, set out to shift his company to the cloud, he knew it would be an enormous undertaking. As one of the largest credit bureaus in the world, there were serious concerns that shifting its computing infrastructure would create vulnerabilities in its cybersecurity and its business model.

So rather than embarking on a multi-year death march to implement cloud technology throughout the company, he started with building internal APIs to build momentum. The move involved many of the same stakeholders he would need for the larger project, but involved far less risk and was able to show clear benefits that paved the way for future change.

In Cascades, I detail a number of cases, from major turnarounds at companies like IBM and Alcoa, to movements to gain independence in India and to secure LGBT rights in America. In each case, a keystone change played a major role in bringing change about.

Surviving Victory

As Saul Alinsky pointed out decades ago, every revolution inspires a counterrevolution. So many change efforts that show initial success ultimately fail because of backlash from key stakeholders. That’s why it is crucial to plan how you will survive victory by rooting your change effort in values, skills and capabilities, rather than in specific objectives or tactics.

For example, Blockbuster Video’s initial response to Netflix in 2004 was extremely successful and, by 2007, it was winning new subscribers faster than the upstart. Yet because it rooted its plan solely in terms of strategy and tactics, the changes were only skin deep. After the CEO left because of a compensation dispute, the strategy was quickly reversed. Blockbuster went bankrupt a few years later.

Compare that to the success at Experian. In both cases, large, successful enterprises needed to move against a disruptive threat. In both cases, legacy infrastructure and business models needed to be replaced. At Experian, however, the move was not rooted in a strategy imposed from above, but through empowering the organization with new skills and capabilities.

That made all the difference, because rather than having to convince the rank and file of the wisdom of moving to the cloud, Libenson was able to empower those already enthusiastic about the initiative. They then became advocates, brought others along and, before long, the enthusiasts soon outnumbered the skeptics.

The truth is you can’t overpower, bribe or coerce people to embrace change. By focusing on changing the dynamics upon which a transformation can take place, you can empower those within your organization to drive change themselves. The role of a leaders is no longer to plan and direct action, but to inspire and empower belief.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Unsplash

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How to Make Your Customers Hate You

One Zone at a Time

How to Make Your Customers Hate You

GUEST POST from Geoffrey A. Moore

My most recent book, Zone to Win, lays out a game plan for digital transformation based on organizing your enterprise around four zones. They are the:

  1. Performance Zone, where you make, sell, and deliver the products and services that constitute your core business.
  2. Productivity Zone, where you host all the cost centers that support the Performance Zone, functions like finance, HR, IT, marketing, legal, customer support, and the like.
  3. Incubation Zone, where you experiment with next-generation technologies to see if and how they might play a role in your future.
  4. Transformation Zone, which you bring into existence on a temporary basis for the sole purpose of driving a digital transformation to completion.

The book uses these four zones to help you understand your own company’s dynamics. In this blog, however, we are going to use them to help you understand your customer’s company dynamics.

Here is the key insight. Customers buy your product to create value in one, and normally only one, zone. Depending on which zone they are seeking to improve, their expectations of you will vary dramatically. So, if you really want to get your customers to hate you, you have to know what zone they are targeting with your product or service.

To start with, if your customer is buying your product for their Productivity Zone, they want it to make them more efficient. Typically, that means taking cost out of their existing operations by automating one or more manual tasks, thereby reducing labor, improving quality, and speeding up cycle time. So, if you want to make this customer hate you, load up your overall offer with lots of extras that require additional training, have features that can confuse or distract end users, and generally just gum up the works. Your product will still do what you said it would do, but with any luck, they won’t save a nickel.

Now, if instead they are buying your product to experiment with in their Incubation Zone, they are looking to do some kind of proof of concept project. Of course, real salespeople never sell proofs of concepts, so continue to insist that they go all in for the full Monty. That way, when they find out they can’t actually do what they were hoping to, you will have still scored a good commission, and they will really hate you.

Moving up in the world, perhaps your customer has bought from you to upgrade their Performance Zone by making their operations more customer-focused. This is serious stuff because you are messing with their core business. What an opportunity! All you have to do is over-promise just a little bit, then put in a few bits that are not quite fully baked, turn the whole implementation over to a partner, and then, if the stars align, you can bring down their whole operation and blame it entirely on someone else. That really does get their dander up.

But if you really want to extract the maximum amount of customer vitriol, the best place to engage is in their Transformation Zone. Here the CEO has gone on record that the company will transform its core business to better compete in the digital era. This is the mother lode. Budget is no object, so soak it to the max. Every bell, whistle, doo-dad, service, product—you name it, load it into the cart. Guarantee a transformational trip to the moon and back. Just make sure that the timeline for the project is two years. That way you will be able to collect and cash your commission check before you have to find other employment.

Of course, if for some reason you actually wanted your customer to like you, I suppose you could reverse these recommendations. But where’s the fun in that?

That’s what I think. What do you think?

Image Credit: Pexels

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3 Innovation Types Not What You Think They Are

But They Do Determine Your Success

3 Innovation Types Not What You Think They Are

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

The Official Story

When discussing innovation, you must be specific so people know what you expect. This is why so many thought leaders, consultants, and practitioners preach the importance of defining different types of innovation.

  • Clayton Christensen encourages focusing on WHY innovation is happening – improve performance, improve efficiency, or create markets – in his 2014 HBR article.
  • The classic Core/Adjacent/Transformational model focuses on WHAT is changing – target customer, offering, financial model, and resources and processes.
  • McKinsey’s 3 Horizons focus on WHEN the results are achieved – this year, 2-3 years, 3-6 years.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the options and worry about which approach is “best.”  But, like all frameworks, they’re all a little bit right and a little bit wrong, and the best one is the one that will be used and get results in your organization.

The REAL story

Everything in the official story is true, but not the whole truth.

“Innovation” is not peanut butter. 

You can’t smear it all over everything and expect deliciousness.

When doing innovation, you must remember your customer – the executives who make decisions, allocate resources, and can accelerate or decimate your efforts.

More importantly, you need to remember their Jobs to be Done (JTBD) – keep my job, feel safe and respected, and be perceived as competent/a rising star – because these jobs define the innovations that will get to market.

Three (3) REAL types of innovation

SAFE – The delightful solution to decision-makers’ JTBD

Most closely aligned with Core innovation, improving performance or efficiency, and Horizon 1 because the focus is on improving what exists in a way that will generate revenue this year or next. Decision-makers feel confident because they’ve “been there and done that” (heck, doing “that” is probably what got them promoted in the first place). In fact, they’re more likely to get in trouble for NOT investing in these types of innovations than they are for investing in them.

STRETCH – The Good Enough solution

Most like Adjacent innovation because they allow decision-makers to keep one foot in the known while “stretching” their other foot into a new (to them) area. This type of innovation makes decision-makers nervous because they don’t have all the answers, but they feel like they at least know what questions to ask. Progress will require more data, and decisions will take longer than most intrapreneurs want. But eventually, enough time and resources (and ego/reputation) will be invested that, unless the team recommends killing it, the project will launch.

SPLATTER – The Terrible solution

No matter what you call them – transformational, radical, breakthrough, disruptive, or moonshots – these innovations make everyone’s eyes light up before reality kicks in and crushes our dreams. These innovations “define the next chapter of our business” and “disrupt ourselves before we’re disrupted.”  These innovations also require decision-makers to let go of everything they know and wander entirely into the unknown. To invest resources in the hope of seeing the return (and reward) come back to their successor (or successor’s successor). To defend their decisions, their team, and themselves when things don’t go exactly as planned.

How to find the REAL type that will get real results.

  1. “You said you want X. Would you describe that for me?” (you may need to give examples). When I worked at Clayton Christensen’s firm, executives would always call and ask for our help to create a disruptive innovation. When I would explain what they were actually asking for (something with “good enough” performance and a low selling price that appeals to non-consumers), they would back away from the table, wave their hands, and say, “Oh, not that. We don’t want that.
  2. “How much are you willing to risk?”  If they’re willing to go to their boss to ask for resources, they’re willing to Stretch. If they’re willing to get fired, they’re willing to Splatter. If everything needs to stay within their signing authority, it’s all about staying Safe.
  3. “What would you need to see to risk more?”  As an innovator, you’ll always want more freedom to push boundaries and feel confident that you can convince others to see things your way. But before you pitch Stretch to a boss that wants Safe, or Splatter to a boss barely willing to Stretch, learn what they need to change their minds. Maybe it will be worth your effort, maybe it won’t. Better to know sooner rather than later.

Image credits: Pixabay

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How Networks Power Transformation

How Networks Power Transformation

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In February 2004, Viacom announced that it would spin off Blockbuster Video into its own independent company, which gave its CEO, John Antioco, the opportunity to begin addressing the disruptive threat emanating from Netflix head on. He developed a viable strategy, executed it well, but in the end his efforts were for naught.

Around the same time General Stanley McChrystal was tapped to take command of Special Forces in Iraq. Much like Antioco and Blockbuster, he faced a disruptive threat in the form of Al Qaeda that, using unconventional tactics, threatened to thwart his efforts. Unlike Antioco, however, McChrystal succeeded brilliantly.

We tend to think about transformation in terms of strategy and tactics, but if that was all there was to it, Blockbuster would still be thriving today. As I explain in Cascades, the difference between Antioco and McChrystal wasn’t that one had a good plan and the other didn’t, but that McChrystal saw that he had to rewire the networks in his organization.

Why Blockbuster Really Failed

Today, Blockbuster is a cautionary tale, but for all the wrong reasons. When the spinoff was announced, Antioco moved quickly to build an online rental business and remove the late fees that so many found annoying. Later, in 2006, he created the Total Access program that allowed customers rent DVDs online and return them in stores.

The convenience of the Total Access program was something that Netflix couldn’t match and almost immediately Blockbuster began to surpass Netflix in adding new subscribers. Yet within a few months, a compensation dispute arose between Antioco and the corporate raider Carl Icahn, who had gotten control of the company. Antioco left, the new CEO reversed the strategy and Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2010.

The tensions had actually been building for some time. Antioco’s shift to the online business made franchisees, many of whom had their life’s savings tied up in Blockbuster stores, uneasy. The changes were also costly, which depressed earnings and made investors and analysts skeptical. The stock price cratered.

It was the low stock price that led Icahn to buy up stock in Blockbuster, a proxy fight that allowed him to take control of the company’s board, the compensation dispute, Antioco’s departure and the reversal of the strategy. What really killed Blockbuster wasn’t external competition, but internal opposition.

Addressing The Internal Struggle

While Antioco framed the challenge Blockbuster faced largely in terms of strategy and tactics, McChrystal saw his task as an internal struggle. His forces were among the best in the world and were winning every battle. Yet somehow, they were losing the war and losing it badly.

As McChrystal would later write, “the world had outpaced us. In the time it took us to move a plan from creation to approval, the battlefield for which the plan had been devised would have changed. By the time it had been implemented, the plan—however ingenious in its initial design—was often irrelevant.”

So instead of trying to come up with better plans, McChrystal sought to change how his organization functioned. The problem, as he saw it, was one of interoperability. His forces needed not only to work with each other, but also partner agencies and other stakeholders, in order to succeed.

“I needed to shift my focus from moving pieces on the board to shaping the ecosystem,” McChrystal would remember. The moves paid off. The tide of the war soon shifted and the forces under his command would achieve their major objectives.

Rewiring Networks

The main difference between Antioco and McChrystal had less to do with their actions than it did with their mindsets. Where Antioco saw his task in terms of planning and execution, McChrystal saw his in terms of connection. “We began to make progress when we started looking at these relationships as just that: relationships— parts of a network, not cogs in a machine or outputs and inputs,” he would later write.

Antioco would take a very different approach. He set up the Blockbuster Online team in a warehouse down the street its Dallas headquarters. That allowed him to pursue the online strategy with little disruption to operations in the core business, but it also allowed suspicion and fear to fester and grow.

McChrystal, on the other hand, moved to forge links anywhere he could. He started embedding intelligence analysts into commando teams and vice versa. Liaison officer positions, traditionally given to marginal performers or those nearing retirement, were now earmarked for the very best operators.

Moves like these slowed down the individual teams — commandos in business suits placed at embassies don’t kill many terrorists — but that wasn’t the point, building networks of trust and interoperability was. Over the next few years, the effectiveness of his organization improved markedly and overall operating efficiency improved by a factor of seventeen.

Rethinking Leadership For A Networked Age

To a large degree, the most important difference between Antioco and McChrystal was how they saw their role as leaders. Antioco was truly a brilliant strategist and had built an enormously successful career devising effective plans and driving efficient execution. He had encountered opposition before, but had always been able to prevail by showing results.

McChrystal came to see things differently. “I began to reconsider the nature of my role as a leader,” he would later write. “The wait for my approval was not resulting in any better decisions, and our priority should be reaching the best possible decision that could be made in a time frame that allowed it to be relevant.

In other words, where Antioco saw a vertical hierarchy for carrying out tasks efficiently, McChrystal saw a horizontal network of connections which needed to be cultivated. Where Antioco built a strong senior management team to drive his strategy, McChrystal forged shared values throughout his organization so that units could act independently.

The truth is that we need to reimagine leadership for a networked age to focus less on driving strategy and tactics and more on widening and deepening connections in networks. Or, as McChrystal put it, “The role of the senior leader was no longer that of a controlling puppet master, but that of an empathetic crafter of culture.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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Moneyball and the Beginning, Middle, and End of Innovation

Moneyball and the Beginning, Middle, and End of Innovation

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Recently, pitchers and catchers reported to MLB Spring Training facilities in Florida and Arizona.  For baseball fans, this is the first sign of Spring, an occasion that heralds months of warmth and sunshine, ballparks filled (hopefully) with cheering fans, dinners of beers and brats, and the undying belief that this year will be the year.

Of course, there was still a lot of dark, dreary cold between then and Opening Day.  Perfect weather for watching baseball movies – Bull DurhamMajor LeagueThe NaturalField of Dreams, and, of course, Moneyball.

Moneyball is based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis and chronicles the 2002 Oakland Athletics season.  The ’02 Oakland A’s, led by General Manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), forever changed baseball by adopting an approach that valued rigorous statistical analysis over the collective wisdom of baseball insiders (coaches, scouts, front office personnel) when building a team.  This approach, termed “Moneyball,” enabled the A’s to reach the postseason with a team that cost only $44M in salary, compared to the NY Yankees that spent $125M to achieve the same outcome.

While the whole movie (and book) is a testament to the courage and perseverance required to challenge and change the status quo, time and again I come back to three lines that perfectly sum up the journey of every successful intrapreneur I’ve ever met.

The Beginning

I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall…he always gets bloody…always always gets bloody.  This is threatening not just a way of doing business… but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. Really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, their jobs. It’s threatening the way they do things… and every time that happens, whether it’s the government, a way of doing business, whatever, the people who are holding the reins – they have their hands on the switch – they go batshit crazy.”

John Henry, Owner of the Boston Red Sox

Context

The 2002 season is over, and the A’s were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.  John Henry, an owner of the Boston Red Sox, has invited Bill Beane to Boston to offer him the Red Sox GM job.

Lesson

This is what you sign up for when you decide to be an Intrapreneur.  The more you challenge the status quo, the more you question how business is done, the more you ask Why and demand an answer, the closer you get to “tak(ing) it in the teeth.”

This is why courage, perseverance, and an unshakeable belief that things can and should be better are absolutely essential for intrapreneurs.  Your job is to run at the wall over and over until you get through it.

People will follow.  The Red Sox did.  They won the World Series in 2004, breaking an 84-year-old curse.

The Middle

“It’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process”

Bill Beane

Context

Billy has to convince the ballplayers to forget all the habits that made them great and embrace the philosophy of Moneyball.  To stop stealing bases, turning double plays on bunts, and swinging for the fences and to start taking walks, throwing to first for the easy out, and prioritize getting on base over hitting a home run.

The players are confused and frustrated.  Suddenly, everything that they once did right is wrong and what was not valued is deeply prized.

Lesson

Innovation is something new that creates value.  Something new doesn’t just require change, it requires people to stop doing things that work and start doing things that seem strange or even wrong.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s not a switch to be flipped.  It’s a process to be learned.  It takes time, practice, reminders, and patience.

The End

“When you get an answer you’re looking for, hang up.”

Billy Beane

Context

In this scene, Billy has offered one of his players to multiple teams, searching for the best deal.  When the phone rings with a deal he likes, he and the other General Manager (GM) agree to it, Billy hangs up.  Even though the other GM was in the middle of a sentence.  When Peter Brand, the Assistant GM played by Jonah Hill, points out that Billy had just hung up on the other GM, Billy responds with this nugget of wisdom.

Lesson

It’s advice intrapreneurs should take very much to heart.  I often see Innovation teams walk into management presentations with long presentations, full of data and projections, anxious to share their progress, and hoping for continued funding and support.  When the meeting starts, a senior exec will say something like, “We’re excited by the progress we’re hearing about and what it will take to continue.”

That’s the cue to “hang up.”

Instead of starting the presentation from the beginning, start with “what it will take to continue.”  You got the answer you’re looking for – they’re excited about the progress you’ve made – don’t spend time giving them the info they already have or, worse, could raise questions and dim their enthusiasm.  Hang up on the conversation you want to have and have the conversation they want to have.

In closing

Moneyball was an innovation that fundamentally changed one of the most tradition-bound businesses in sports.  To be successful, it required someone willing to take it in the teeth, to coach people through a process, and to hang up when they got the answer they wanted.  It wasn’t easy but real change rarely is.

The same is true in corporations.  They need their own Bill Beanes.

Are you willing to step up to the plate?

Image credits: Pixabay

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‘Innovation’ is Killing Innovation. How Do We Save It?

'Innovation' is Killing Innovation. How Do We Save It?

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

How do people react when you say “innovation?”

  1. Lean forward, eyes glittering, eager to hear more
  2. Stare blankly and nod slowly
  3. Roll their eyes and sigh
  4. Wave their hands dismissively and tell you to focus on other, more urgent priorities.

If you answered C, you’re in good company.

Innovation is a buzzword. Quick searches of Amazon and Google Scholar result in 100,000+ books and 200,000+ articles on the topic, while a scan of the SEC’s database yields 8,000 K-1 filings with the word “innovation” in 2020 alone.

“Innovation” is meaningless, like all buzzwords. There’s a reason that practitioners and consultants insist on establishing a common definition before starting innovation work. I’ve been in meetings with ten people, asked each person to define “innovation,” and heard 12 different answers.

But all this pales in comparison to the emotional response it elicits. Some people get incredibly excited, bouncing out of their seats, ready to bring their latest idea to life (whether it should be brought to life is a different story.). Some nod solemnly as if confronted by a necessary evil, accepting a fate beyond their control. Most roll their eyes because they’ve been through this before and, like all management “flavors of the month,” this too shall pass.

“Innovation” is killing Innovation

The emotions and opinions we tie to “innovation” overwhelm the dictionary definition, making it difficult to believe that the process and, more importantly, the result will be different this time.

We need a different word.

One that has the same meaning and none of the baggage.

This may feel impossible, but if “literally” can mean “figuratively” (do NOT get me started on this 2013 decision) and the Oxford English Dictionary can add 700 new words in 2022, surely we can figure this out.

10 alternatives to ‘Innovation’

The following options are sourced primarily from conversations with other experts and practitioners.

  1. Invention
  2. Ideation
  3. Incubation
  4. Improvement
  5. Creation
  6. Design
  7. Growth
  8. Transformation
  9. Business R&D*

Yes, #10 is intentionally missing because…

What do you think?

Finding a new word (or maybe changing how “innovation” is perceived, understood, and pursued) is a group effort. One person alone can’t do it, and a few people on a call complaining about the state of things certainly won’t (we’ve tried).

What do you think?

Do we need a different word for “innovation,” or should we keep it and deal with the baggage?

If we need a different word, what could it be? What do YOU use?

If we keep it, how do you combat the misunderstanding, eye rolls, and emotional baggage?

Let us know in the comments.


* This option came directly from a conversation with a client last week, and I kinda love it. 

We discussed the challenge of getting engineers to stay in a discovery mindset rather than jumping immediately to solutions. Even though they work in R&D (the function), he observed that 99.9% of their work (and, honestly, their careers) is spent on the D in R&D (development).

That’s when it clicked.

Research begins with investigation and inquiry to understand a broad problem and then uses the resulting insights to solve a specific problem. It is a learning process, just like the early stages of Innovation. And, just like in the early days of Innovation, you can’t predict the result or routinize the work.

Development focuses on bringing the “new or modified product or process to production,” Just like the later phases of Innovation when prototyping and experimentation are required, and risk is driven out of the proposition.

Traditional R&D focuses on technical and scientific exploration and solutioning,

Innovation focuses on market, consumer/customer, and business model exploration and solutioning.

It is R&D for the business. 

Business R&D.

Image credits: Pixabay

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Innovation Is Driving Away Your Top Talent

Innovation Is Driving Away Your Top Talent

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You want and need the best, most brilliant, most awesome-est people at your company. But with unemployment at a record low, the battle for top talent is fierce.

So, you vow not to enter the battle and invest in keeping your best people and building a reputation that attracts other extraordinary talents.

You offer high salaries, great benefits, flexible work arrangements, the prestige of working for your company, and the promise of rapid career progression. All things easily matched or beaten by other companies, so you get creative.

INNOVATION!

Your best people are full of ideas and have the confidence and energy to make things happen. So, you unleash them. You host hackathons and shark tanks. You install idea collection software and run contests. You offer training on how to be more innovative. You encourage employees to spend 20% of their time on passion projects.

And they quit.

They quit participating in all the opportunities you offer.

They quit sharing ideas.

They quit your company,

Not because they are ungrateful.

Or because they don’t want to innovate.

Or because they don’t have ideas.

They quit because they realize one of the following “truths”

They’re not “Innovators”

High performers believe they need to work on an innovation project to progress (because management explicitly or implicitly communicates this). But when they finally get their chance, they struggle. The project falls behind schedule, struggles to meet objectives, and is quietly canceled. They see this as a failure. They believe they failed.

But they didn’t fail. They learned something very uncomfortable – they’re not good at everything.

Innovation is different than Operation. When you’re operating, you’re working in a world full of knowledge, where cause and effect are predictable and “better” is easily defined. When you’re innovating, you’re working in a world full of assumptions, where things are unpredictable, patterns emerge slowly, and few things are defined. Most people are great at operating. Some people are great at innovating. Extraordinarily few are great at both.

Innovation is a hobby, not an imperative

The problem with innovation efforts like hackathons, shark tanks, and “20% Time” is that people pour their hearts and souls into them and get nothing in return. Sure, an award, a photo with the CEO, and bragging rights motivate them for a few weeks. But when their hard work isn’t nurtured, developed, and brought to a conclusion (either launched or shelved), they realize it was all a ruse.

They are disappointed but hope the next time will be different. It isn’t.

They stop participating to spend time on “more important” things (their “real” work). But they still care, so they keep tabs on other people’s efforts, quietly hoping this time will be different. It isn’t.

They grow cynical.

They choose to stay and accept that innovation isn’t valued or resign and go somewhere it is.

Their potential is bigger than your box

“I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Before the training, the world was black and white. After, it was full color. I don’t want to go back to black and white.”

For this person, the training had gone wonderfully awry.

The training built their innovation skills but motivated them to find another job because it opened their eyes. They realized that while they loved the uncertainty and creativity of innovation, their place in the organization wouldn’t allow them to innovate. They were in a box on an org chart. They no longer wanted to be in that box, but the company expected them to stay.

But are these “truths” true?

As Mom always said, actions speak louder than words.

  • Who does your company value more – innovators or operators? The answer lies in who you promote.
  • Is innovation a strategic priority? The answer lies in where and how you allocate resources (people, money, and time).
  • Do you want to retain the person or the resource? The answer lies in your willingness to support the person’s growth.

Speak the truth early and often

If a top performer struggles in an innovation role, don’t wait until the project “fails” to reassure them that operators are as (or more) important and loved as innovators. Connect them with senior execs who faced the same challenges. Make sure their next role is as desirable as their current one.

(Or, if innovators are truly valued more than operators, tell them that, too.)

If innovation is an imperative, commit as much time and effort to planning what happens after the event as you do planning the event itself. Have answers to how people will be freed up to continue to work on their projects, money will be allocated, and decisions will be made.

(Or, if innovation really is a corporate hobby, follow the model of top universities and let people participate f they want and give everyone else time off to pursue their hobbies).

If you want to retain the person more than the resource, work with them to plot a path to the next role. Be honest about the time and challenge of moving between boxes and the effects on their career. And if they still want to break out of the box, help them.

(Or, if you want them to stay in the box, tell them that, too.)

Don’t let Innovation! drive away your top talent. Use honesty to keep them.

Image credits: Pixabay

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3 Examples of Why Innovation is a Leadership Problem

Through the Looking Glass

3 Examples of Why Innovation is a Leadership Problem

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Do you sometimes feel like you’re living in an alternate reality?

If so, you’re not alone.  Most innovators feel that way at some point.

After all, you see things that others don’t.

Question things that seem inevitable and true.

Make connections where others only see differences.

Do things that seem impossible.

It’s easy to believe that you’re the crazy one, the Mad Hatter and permanent resident of Wonderland.

But what if you’re not the crazy one?

What if you’re Alice?

And you’re stepping through the looking glass every time you go to work?

In Lewis Carroll’s book, the other side of the looking glass is a chessboard, and all its inhabitants are chess pieces that move in defined and prescribed ways, follow specific rules, and achieve defined goals.  Sound familiar?

Here are a few other things that may sound familiar, too

“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.” – The White Queen

In this scene, the White Queen offers to hire Alice as her lady’s maid and pay her “twopence a week and jam every other day.”  When Alice explains that she doesn’t want the job, doesn’t like jam, and certainly doesn’t want jam today, the queen scoffs and explains the rule.

The problem, Alice points out, is that it’s always today, and that means there’s never jam.

Replace “jam” with “innovation,” and this hits a little too close to home for most innovators.

How often do you hear about the “good old days” when the company was more entrepreneurial, willing to experiment and take risks, and encouraged everyone to innovate?

Innovation yesterday.

How often do you hear that the company will invest in innovation, restart its radical innovation efforts, and disrupt itself as soon as the economy rebounds, business improves, and things settle down a bit?  Innovation tomorrow.

But never innovation today.  After all, “it’s [innovation] every other day: today isn’t any other day, you know.”

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more, not less.” – Humpty Dumpty

In this scene, poor Alice tries to converse with Humpty Dumpty, but he keeps using the “wrong” words.  Except they’re not the wrong words because they mean exactly what he chooses them to mean.

Even worse, when Alice asks Humpty to define confusing terms, he gets angry, speaks in a “scornful tone,” and smiles “contemptuously” before “wagging his head gravely from side to side.

We all know what the words we use mean, but we too often think others share our definitions.  We use “innovation” and “growth,” assuming people know what we mean.  But they don’t.  They know what the words mean to them.  And that may or may not be what we mean.

When managers encourage people to share ideas, challenge the status quo, and take risks, things get even trickier.  People listen, share ideas, challenge the status quo, and take risks.  Then they are confused when management doesn’t acknowledge their efforts.  No one realizes that those requests meant one thing to the managers who gave them and a different thing to the people who did them.

“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.  If you want to go somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” – The Red Queen

In this scene, the Red Queen introduces life on the other side of the looking glass and explains Alice’s new role as a pawn.  Of course, the explanation comes after a long sprint that seems to get them nowhere and only confuses Alice more.

When “tomorrow” finally comes, and it’s time for innovation, it often comes with a mandate to “act with urgency” to avoid falling behind.  I’ve seen managers set goals of creating and launching a business with $250M revenue in 3 years and leadership teams scrambling to develop a portfolio of businesses that would generate $16B in 10 years.

Yes, the world is moving faster, so companies need to increase the pace at which they operate and innovate.  But if you’re doing all you can, you can’t do twice as much.  You need help – more people and more funding, not more meetings or oversight.

“Life, what is it but a dream?”

Managers and executives, like the kings and queens, have roles to play.  They live in a defined space, an org chart rather than a chessboard, and they do their best to navigate it following rules set by tradition, culture, and HR.

But you are like Alice.  You see things differently.  You question what’s taken as given.  And, every now and then, you probably want to shake someone until they grow “shorter – and fatter – and softer – and rounder – and…[into] a kitten, after all.”

So how do you get back to reality and bring everyone with you?  You talk to people.  You ask questions and listen to the answers.  You seek to understand their point of view and then share yours.

Some will choose to stay where they are.

Some will choose to follow you back through the looking glass.

They will be the ones who transform a leadership problem into a leadership triumph.

Image credits: Pixabay

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A Different Approach to Well-being, Resilience and Creativity

A Different Approach to Well-being, Resilience and Creativity

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our previous blogs, we outlined the need, in our chaotic world of unknowns, to reclaim our focus and attention and take charge of our own minds. By reclaiming these, and enhancing self-awareness we have a deeper understanding of the sources of our anxiety and distractions.  How to self-manage and self-regulate them through developing deliberate calm. To effectively create consciousness, and a safe space that potentially transforms the power of our minds and hearts to connect with others, cultivate well-being, harness people’s collective genius, and generate our resilience, through thinking about creativity differently.

Transforming fear and alarm

This mobilizes the energy our fears, anxiety, and alarm provide to transform the power of our minds and develop physical and psychological well-being. We can then apply proven neuroscience principles and coaching practices to cultivate resilience and think about creativity differently.

Transforming our fears and alarm in this way increases our resilience in responding to events in real-time, anticipating future events, and processing learning’s post events. It also enhances our well-being and creativity to enable us to be courageous and compassionate when inventing and innovating in an uncertain and constantly changing environment.

The potential outcomes include people experiencing more positive emotions, increased engagement at work, increased development of positive relationships, and more meaningful and purposeful work. These help us be adaptive, and transform the power of our hearts and minds to be creative, accomplish, learn, adapt, grow, and innovate through disruption.

Well-being is in crisis

In the latest report, by Udemy on “Workplace Learning Trends” they compare data collected from Australian workers (human capital) in early September 2022 with previous surveys in November 2019, August 2020, and May 2021.

They discovered three surprising truths about well-being, including:

  • Workers’ resilience levels are waning. More than two-thirds of workers (68.5%) felt like they were burning out at work. This is impacting workers’ levels of performance, job satisfaction, and commitment.
  • There is a crisis for meaningful work Only 39.1% of workers said their work was valuable and worthwhile, versus 47% in 2021, and 52.9% in 2020.
  • Many workplaces are wasting their well-being Workplaces have too much invested in EAP services (which are proving only slightly more effective than doing nothing) and not enough in more effective tools that workers are more comfortable accessing like Wellbeing Artificial Intelligence Bots, Wellbeing Apps, Wellbeing Workshops and Wellbeing Coaching.

This reinforces the need to think and act differently when we approach cultivating well-being, resilience, and creativity to better realize our human potential and human skills in times when they are our most valuable assets and needed the most and are crucial to future success!

Developing deliberate calm

“Deliberate calm” involves developing a practice of adaptive, intentional choices that anyone can develop by embracing what was once regarded as “soft” stuff: self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness to learn proactively and lead dynamically amid the most uncertain circumstances, where according to Aaron De Smet, the co-author of “Deliberate Calm: How to Learn and Lead in a Volatile World”:

“Why do we say “deliberate”? Because if you’re not deliberate about it you will probably freak out. I need to be very deliberate in knowing that I’m in a chaotic situation, knowing the stakes are high, knowing there’s a lot of uncertainty, and then deliberately calming myself down and taking stock”.

Deliberate calm looks at the inner world, the outer world, the context, and the dynamic between those and starts by slowing down to create a safe space for people to enjoy the benefits of deliberate calm.  This helps activate, focus, and unleash our creative brains and facilitates thinking about creativity differently.

Hitting our pause buttons

Creating deliberate calm is one of the most critically urgent human skill sets to develop.

It involves creating for ourselves and co-creating, with others, more normalized states of equilibrium and calmness. This enables us to cultivate our physical and psychological well-being, develop resilience and unleash creativity differently by accessing our collective intelligence, skills, and experience through applying proven neuroscience principles and coaching practices.

It starts with initiating a habit of pausing long enough to take deep breaths, retreat, reflect, and access these inner parts of ourselves; including noticing our emotions, identifying our triggers, observing our physical reactions to normalize our equilibrium, coherence, and calmness, and focusing on thinking about creativity differently.

Re-appraising our situation

We can then reappraise what is really going on, by identifying what our emotions are telling us, sustaining the most resourceful emotions and letting negative ones go, and finally, by identifying the key options for taking positive actions. Ultimately take smarter risks, make smarter decisions, and take more intelligent actions that cultivate our well-being, develop our resilience, unleash creativity differently, and satisfy our desire for meaning, purpose, and accomplishment.

As evidenced by our global coaching practice, this personally empowering and energizing activity focuses our attention, minds, and hearts on what really matters, and on what we can truly influence and control in a world of unknowns, and engages people deeply in doing the value-adding, productive and meaningful work that delivers it.

Three new deliberate calming practices to access and unleash our creative brains

  • Being grounded: involves being fully embodied, whole, centered, and balanced in ourselves and our relationships, we are in complete control of our mental, physical, and emotional selves, and are not easily influenced or shaken by other ideas or individuals.
  • Our unconscious mind, through our brains’ default mode network (DMN), is freed to wander, and be spontaneous in emerging and generating novel and surprising ideas and patterns.

This is usually achieved by regularly practicing a range of very simple activities that help us get centered, including removing any distractions (mobile phones), deep breathing (box breathing), and slow grounding repetitive exercises such as Feldenkrais.

  • Being mindful: involves focusing our conscious attention on the present moment, our physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions in an accepting, nonjudgmental, and discerning way. It involves training our unconscious minds to notice, focus and pay deep attention to what is really going on, for ourselves, for others, and in the system, we are operating within.
  • Our conscious minds are now provided with the focus necessary for guided problem-solving and for identifying the actions required to deliver the desired outcomes.

This is usually achieved by simple activities, by directing your focus when walking during the day (in nature without headsets), yoga, swimming, golf, tennis, listening to music, cooking, or by simple mindful meditation practices.

  • Being conscious: involves being in the present moment, or fully in the “here and now,” and means that we are grounded, fully aware, and mindful of what is happening at every moment because we are now consciously aware and able to shift our minds and generate creative thinking strategies.
  • Our conscious minds are able to exploit possibilities and make sense of the ideas that surface in the mind-wandering phase, by accessing the salience network, which then recruits the executive control networks, in our brains to refine and develop an idea. We can then exploit the range of creative ideas to make unexpected connections and to emerge, diverge and converge novel ideas for thinking about creativity differently, as well as for smart risk-taking, decision-making, and innovative problem-solving.

Empowering people to envision and transform

Creating a safe space, to transform the power of our minds and hearts to connect with others cultivates our well-being, harnesses peoples’ collective genius, generates resilience, and unleashes creativity by thinking about creativity differently.

This manifests as an opportunity to empower people to plan and make the nudges necessary to kickstart change, envision and plan for the future of unknowns.

Rather than unintentionally colluding with their unconscious panicking and retreating from the fears, anxiety, and risks currently emerging in an uncertain world full of disruption and crises.

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Friday, May 12, 2023.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique innovation context.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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How Has Innovation Changed Since the Pandemic?

The Answer in Three Charts

How Has Innovation Changed Since the Pandemic?

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“Everything changed since the pandemic.”

At this point, my husband, a Navy veteran, is very likely to moo (yes, like a cow). It’s a habit he picked up as a submarine officer, something the crew would do whenever someone said something blindingly obvious because “moo” is not just a noise. It’s an acronym – Master Of the Obvious.

But HOW did things change?

From what, to what?

So what?

It can be hard to see the changes when you’re living and working in the midst of them. This is why I found “Benchmarking Innovation Impact, from InnoLead,” a new report from InnoLead and KPMG US, so interesting, insightful, and helpful.

There’s lots of great stuff in the report (and no, this is not a sponsored post though I am a member), so I limited myself to the three charts that answer executives’ most frequently asked innovation questions.

Innovation Leader Research 2023 Chart 1

Question #1: What type of innovation should I pursue?

2023 Answer: Companies are investing more than half of their resources in incremental innovation

So What?:  I may very well be alone in this opinion, but I think this is great news for several reasons:

  1. Some innovation is better than none – Companies shifting their innovation spending to safer, shorter-term bets is infinitely better than shutting down all innovation, which is what usually happens during economic uncertainty
  2. Play to your strengths – Established companies are, on average, better at incremental and adjacent innovation because they have the experience, expertise, resources, and culture required to do those well and other ways (e.g., corporate venture capital, joint ventures) to pursue Transformational innovation.
  3. Adjacent Innovation is increasing –This is the sweet spot for corporate innovation (I may also be biased because Swiffer is an adjacent innovation) because it stretches the business into new customers, offerings, and/or business models without breaking the company or executives’ identities.

Innovation Leader Research 2023 Chart 2

Question #2: Is innovation really a leadership problem (or do you just have issues with authority)?

2023 Answer: Yes (and it depends on the situation). “Lack of Executive Support” is the #6 biggest challenge to innovation, up from #8 in 2020.

So What?: This is a good news/bad news chart.

The good news is that fewer companies are experiencing the top 5 challenges to innovation. Of course, leadership is central to fostering/eliminating turf wars, setting culture, acting on signals, allocating budgets, and setting strategy. Hence, leadership has a role in resolving these issues, too.

The bad news is that MORE innovators are experiencing a lack of executive support (24.3% vs. 19.7% in 2020) and “Other” challenges (17.3% vs. 16.4%), including:

  • Different agendas held by certain leadership as to how to measure innovation and therefore how we go after innovation. Also, the time it takes to ‘sell’ an innovative idea or opportunity into the business; corporate bureaucracy.”
  • Lack of actual strategy. Often, goals or visions are treated as strategy, which results in frustration with the organization’s ability to advance viable work and creates an unnecessary churn, resulting in confused decision-making.”
  • “Innovations are stalling after piloting due to lack of funding and executive support in order to shift to scaling. Many are just happy with PR innovation.”

Innovation Leader Research 2023 Chart 3

Question #3: How much should I invest in innovation?

2023 Answer: Most companies are maintaining past years’ budgets and team sizes.

So What?:  This is another good news/bad news set of charts.

The good news is that investment is staying steady. Companies that cut back or kill innovation investments due to economic uncertainty often find that they are behind competitors when the economy improves. Even worse, it takes longer than expected to catch up because they are starting from scratch regarding talent, strategy, and a pipeline.

The bad news is that investment is staying steady. If you want different results, you need to take different actions. And I don’t know any company that is thrilled with the results of its innovation efforts. Indeed, companies can do different things with existing budgets and teams, but there needs to be flexibility and a willingness to grow the budget and the team as projects progress closer to launch and scale-up.

Not MOO

Yes, everything has changed since the pandemic, but not as much as we think.

Companies are still investing in incremental, adjacent, and transformational innovation. They’re just investing more in incremental innovation.

Innovation is still a leadership problem, but leadership is less of a problem (congrats!)

Investment is still happening, but it’s holding steady rather than increasing.

And that is nothing to “moo” at.

Image credits: Pixabay, InnoLead

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