Tag Archives: Trends

New Skills Needed for a New Era of Innovation

New Skills Needed for a New Era of Innovation

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

The late Clayton Christensen had a theory about “jobs to be done.” In his view, customers don’t buy products as much as they “hire” companies to do specific “jobs” for them. To be competitive, firms need to understand what that job is and how to do it well. In other words, no one wants a quarter-inch drill bit, they want a quarter-inch hole.

The same can be said for an entire society. We need certain jobs to be done and will pay handsomely for ones that we hold in high regard, even as we devalue others. Just as being the best blacksmith in town won’t earn you much of a living today, great coding skills wouldn’t do you much good in a medieval village.

This is especially important to keep in mind today as the digital revolution comes to an end and we enter a new era of innovation in which some tasks will be devalued and others will be increasingly in demand. Much like Christensen said about firms, we as a society need to learn to anticipate which skills will lose value in future years and which will be considered critical.

The Evolution of Economies

The first consumer product was most likely the Acheulean hand axe, invented by some enterprising stone age entrepreneur over 100,000 years ago. Evidence suggests that, for the most part, people made stone axes themselves, but as technology evolved, some began to specialize in different crafts, such as smithing, weaving, cobbling and so on.

Inventions like the steam engine, and then later electricity and the internal combustion engine, brought about the industrial revolution, which largely put craftsmen out of work and reshaped society around cities that could support factories. It also required new skills to organize work, leading to the profession of management and the knowledge economy.

The inventions of the microchip and the internet have led to an information economy in which even a teenager with a smartphone has better access to knowledge than a specialist working in a major institution a generation ago. Much like the industrial era automated physical tasks, the digital era has automated many cognitive tasks.

Now as the digital era is ending we are entering a new era of innovation in which we will shift to post-digital computing architectures such as quantum computing and neuromorphic chips and enormous value will be created through bits powering atoms in fields like synthetic biology and materials science.

Innovation, Jobs and Wages

As economies evolved, some tasks became devalued as others increased in importance. When people could go to a smith for metal tools, they had no need to create stone axes. In much the same way, the industrial revolution put craft guilds out of business and technologies like tractors and combine harvesters drastically reduced the number of people working on farms.

Clearly replacing human labor with technology is disruptive, but it has historically led to dramatic increases in productivity. So labor displacement effects have been outweighed by greater wages and new jobs created by new industries. For the most part, innovation has made all of us better off, even, to a great extent, the workers who were displaced.

Consider the case of Henry Ford. Because technology replaced many tasks on the family farm, he didn’t need to work on it and found a job as an engineer for Thomas Edison, where he earned enough money and had enough leisure time to tinker with engines. That led him to create his own company, pioneer an industry and create good jobs for many others.

Unfortunately, there is increasing evidence that more recent innovations may not be producing comparable amounts of productivity and that’s causing problems. For example, when a company replaces a customer service agent with an automated system, it’s highly doubtful that the productivity gains will be enough to finance entire new industries that will train that call center employee to, say, design websites or run marketing campaigns.

Identifying New Jobs To Be Done

To understand the disconnect between technological innovation and productivity it’s helpful to look at some underlying economic data. In US manufacturing, for instance, productivity has skyrocketed, roughly doubling output in the 30 years between 1987 and 2017, even as employment in the sector decreased by roughly a third.

It is the increased productivity growth in manufacturing that has fueled employment growth in the service sector. However, productivity gains in service jobs have been relatively meager and automation through technological innovation has not resulted in higher wages, but greater income inequality as returns to capital dwarf returns to labor.

Further economic analysis shows that the divide isn’t so much between “white collar” and “blue collar” jobs, but between routine and non-routine tasks. So warehouse workers and retail clerks have suffered, but designers and wedding planners have fared much better. In other words, technological automation is creating major shifts in the “jobs to be done.”

A recent analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute bears this out. It identified 56 “foundational skills” that are crucial to the future of work, but aren’t in traditional categories such as “engineering” or “sales,” but rather things like self awareness, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.

Collaboration Is The New Competitive Advantage

The industrial revolution drove a shift from animal power to machine power and from physical skills to cognitive skills. What we’re seeing now is a similar shift from cognitive skills to social skills as automation takes over many routine cognitive tasks, increasingly the “job” that humans are valued for is relating to other humans.

There are some things a machine will never do. An algorithm will never strike out at a Little League game, see its child born or have a bad day at work. We can, of course, train computers to mimic these things by training them on data, but they will never actually have the experience and that limits their ability to fully relate to human emotions.

To see how this is likely to play out, simply go and visit your local Apple Store. It is a highly automated operation, without traditional checkout aisles or cash registers. Still, the first thing that catches your eye is a sea of blue shirts waiting to help you. They are not there to execute transactions, which you can easily do online, but to engage with you, understand what you’re trying to achieve and help you get it done.

We’ve seen similar trends at work even in highly technical fields. A study of 19.9 million scientific papers found that not only has the percentage of papers published by teams steadily increased over the past 50 years, the size of those teams has also grown and their research is more highly cited. The journal Nature got similar results and also found that the work being done is far more interdisciplinary and done at greater distances.

What’s becoming clear is that collaboration is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage. The ultimate skill is no longer knowledge or proficiency in a particular domain, but to build a shared purpose with others, who possess a diverse set of skills and perspectives, in order to solve complex problems. In other words, the most important jobs the ones we do in the service of a common objective.

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

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Are Gas Stations the Future of Starbucks?

Are Gas Stations the Future of Starbucks?

Recently the Seattle Times published an article from the Washington Post highlighting a gas station in Maryland that has made the bold move of turning off its gas pumps and installing electric charging stations in their place. Which got me thinking…

Given that in the early days of automobiles you had to go to the pharmacy and buy gasoline in open containers before an evolution began to curbside gas pumps before finally arriving at the drive thru format we have today, why would it be crazy to think that we are due for the next reinvention of refueling now that electric vehicles are beginning to catch on?

And what might a “gas” station v5.0 look like?
(the first four generations being pharmacy, curbside, drive thru full serve, and self serve)

Curbside Gas Station

Given that it takes 15-30 minutes to quickly recharge an electric car, a “gas” station v5.0 may very well end up looking like a Starbucks.

Are people going to want to hang out in their cars while they recharge?

Wouldn’t they rather chill out in a Starbucks sipping on a latte (or a hot chocolate) while they wait for enough juice to keep rolling down the road?

So shouldn’t Starbucks be considering entering the “gas” station business?

Or is the somewhat random growth of electric charging likely to continue?

The answer for me is of course both…

In urban environments I would imagine the trend of a lot of one-off charging stations to continue.

But if I were Starbucks I would look at the interstate highway system and consciously set up Starbucks locations next to gas stations and install electric vehicle charging stations as part of the design. That way you get business from the large number of internal combustion drivers and the small number of electric vehicle drivers now, while those numbers gradually invert over time.

Starbucks Electric Charting Station

Maybe Starbucks could even do a deal with Tesla Motors like they did with Fred Meyer (a small superstore chain with groceries that is part of the Kroger family). Or maybe Nissan or GM want to get in on the action instead.

What do you think?

Image credits: Starbucks, American Oil & Gas Historical Society, Chargepoint


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Consulting Industry Being Attacked on Three Sides

Consulting Industry Being Attacked on Three Sides

The worlds of employment and business are becoming increasingly turbulent as the stability of the enterprise grows ever shorter, the loyalty of the enterprise to its people faces extinction, and the wealthy countries of the world stand at a precipice of overhanging debt. Increasingly intelligent digital technologies and mercurial customer expectations threaten both people and enterprise at every turn.

One would suppose that this would be an amazing time for consultancies, full of promise and opportunities. One would imagine that clients desperate for solutions that help them cope with these challenging times would be banging down the doors of consulting firms outbidding each other to the firm’s next client.

But that is not the reality…

Because, the same forces that are causing a feeling of disequilibrium for the firms that consultancies serve are also causing the same unease, trepidation and challenge for the consulting firms themselves.

The fact is that the consulting industry is being attacked on three sides:

  1. Increasingly Available Intellectual Property
  2. Internal Consultants
  3. Artificial Intelligence

Let’s look at each threat in turn:

1. Increasingly Available Intellectual Property

In my last article, “Thought Leadership Builds Firm Value”, I wrote about the importance of thought leadership in today’s digital age and its role in helping to drive inbound sales leads.

Hiring a consultancy, even for a small project, is a big expenditure for most companies, something that requires several levels of approval before the project can begin. Given that, company employees take to the Internet to build their consideration set and to do their research into how each company thinks and who seems to be the leader in the space where they need help. For help with building an innovation or digital transformation strategy or process, often they find me.

The way that company employees find the companies they will include in their consideration set, and the individual (or firm) they will ultimately hire, is by finding and evaluating thought leadership created by consultants like myself who are good at creating frameworks and other tools aimed at simplifying complex concepts (referred to as eminence by some firms).

Because the discovery and evaluation of thought leadership by potential customers is a key way that independent consultants and advisory firms attract new business, and because it is easier than ever to create and share thought leadership while simultaneously becoming an increasingly important factor in the buying process, independent consultants and advisory firms are creating more pieces of thought leadership and eminence than ever before.

On the plus side, thought leadership and eminence help independent consultants and advisory firms to win business. The down side however is that in much the same way that kids in Hawaii have learned how to become professional surfers by watching YouTube videos, as advisory firms create more thought leadership and make it publicly available to win new business, they also stand to lose an accelerating amount of new business as well. The reason is that the proliferation of eminence and thought leadership will inevitably lead to:

  1. Increasing numbers of line managers feeling that they know enough to tackle the challenge themselves that they might have otherwise outsourced to a consulting firm
  2. Increasing numbers of senior leaders deciding that someone inside their company could spin up and lead an internal consulting group

2. Internal Consultants

Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, an increasing number of senior leaders are becoming fed up with spending $500/hr on newly minted MBA’s from McKinsey, Bain, BCG, etc. when they could hire them on full-time for $75-100/hr by taking one of their promising senior leaders and having them spin up an internal consulting group.

Many companies have already created internal consulting groups to handle the bulk of their strategic project work in order to either:

  1. Save money
  2. Increase responsiveness
  3. Increase speed to market
  4. Keep the knowledge gained from such projects readily accessible
  5. Create and retain a competitive advantage

For me, reason number five is potentially the most compelling reason because it is impossible to expect any large consulting firm to unlearn the insights they acquire on one consulting project and not leverage them on a subsequent project with a competitor somewhere down the line. Doing projects with your competitors is how a great deal of industry expertise is gained by large consultancies, and this expertise is one of the primary reasons that managers hire a consulting firm.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Roboadvisors, chatbots, and other implementations of artificial intelligence have captured people’s imaginations and led to both an increase in the number of articles written about artificial intelligence, but also in the practical implementations of artificial intelligence. People are becoming increasing comfortable with artificial intelligence thanks to the recommendation engines on Amazon and Netflix and IBM Watson’s appearance on the game show Jeopardy and battles against chess grandmasters.

But what does consulting have to fear from artificial intelligence?

In the short run, maybe not a lot. But, in the grander scheme of things, over time enterprising technology vendors will inevitably build upon publicly available artificial intelligence frameworks made publicly available by companies like Microsoft and Google (who are seeking to increase the sale of cloud services) to automate some of the tasks that recently minted undergraduate analysts or Indians perform now for the large consulting firms.

Conclusion

These are challenging times for independent consultants as they respond to these attacks from three sides. Only time will tell how quickly and how broadly artificial intelligence (AI) threatens the core business of consultancies. The internal consultancy threat is real and growing in scope and threat. What may have started in Project and Portfolio Management (PPM), Six Sigma, Lean and Agile practices in some organizations, is quickly expanding into other Operational Excellence areas and even into Innovation, Digital Transformation, and traditional Strategy. Increasingly available intellectual property poses a Catch-22 for consultancies as a refusal to participate in the creation of eminence and thought leadership will lead to less business in the short-term, but doing so will certainly over time lead to an overall reduction in the size of the market for consulting services. Some consultancies are responding by diversifying their service offerings, attempting to create consulting superstores. What will be your response to this attack from three sides?

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Digital Transformation versus Digital Strategy

In my last article, Digital Transformation Matters, we looked at the accelerating pace of change, the case for digital transformation, and our evolving interactions with technology. We also asked a simple question:

Are you ready to do business in a digital way for the digital age?

In our digital age all companies must change how they think, change how they interact with customers, partners, and suppliers, and change how the business works inside. Customer, partner, and supplier expectations have changed and a gap is opening between what they expect from their interaction with companies, and what those companies are currently able to deliver. Companies must immediately work to close this expectation gap or the entire business is at risk.

There are groups of digital natives out there that are extremely capable, have greater access to capital than ever before, and are very likely to re-imagine your business and your entire industry from the ground up if you don’t start making the necessary changes in your business to eliminate the opportunity.

If they attack, they will do it with a collection of digital strategies that utilize the power of the digital mindset to more efficiently and effectively utilize the available people, tools and technology, and to design better, more seamlessly interconnected and automated processes that can operate with only the occasional human intervention.

To defend your company’s very existence, you must start thinking like a technology company or go out of business. Part of that thinking is to fundamentally re-imagine how you structure and operate your business. You must look at your business and your industry in the same way that a digital native startup will if they seek to attack you and steal your market. To make this easier you can ask yourself five questions:

  1. If I were to build this business today, given everything that I know about the industry and its customers, and given all of the advances in people, process, technology and tools, how would I design it?
  2. From the customers’ perspective, where does the value come from?
  3. What structure and systems would deliver the maximum value with the minimum waste?
  4. What are the barriers to adoption and the obstacles to delight for my product(s) and/or service(s) and how will my design help potential customers overcome them?
  5. Where is the friction in my business that the latest usage methods of people, process, technology, and tools can help eliminate?

There are of course potentially other questions you may want to ask, but these five should get you most of the way to where you need to go in your initial strategic planning sessions. If you have other key questions that you think I’ve missed, please add them in the comments.

Digital Strategy vs. Digital Transformation

But how much appetite for going digital do you have?

This is where the question of digital strategy versus digital transformation comes in.

The two terms are often misused, in part by being used interchangeably when they are in fact two very different things.

A digital strategy is a strategy focused on utilizing digital technologies to better serve one particular group of people (customers, employees, partners, suppliers, etc.) or to serve the needs of one particular business group (HR, Finance, Marketing, Operations, etc.). The scope of a digital strategy can be quite narrow, such as using digital channels to market to consumers in a B2C company, or broader, such as re-imagining how marketing could be made more efficient through the use of digital tools like CRM, marketing automation, social media monitoring, etc. and hopefully become more effective at the same time.

Meanwhile, a digital transformation is an intensive process that begins by effectively building an entirely new organization from scratch utilizing:

  • All of the latest DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES (artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, BPM, crowd computing, etc.)
  • The latest TOOLS (robotics, sensors, etc.)
  • The latest best practices and emerging next practices in PROCESS (continuous improvement, business architecture, lean startup, Business Process Management (BPM), crowd computing, and continuous innovation using a tool like The Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation™)
  • The optimal use of the other three to liberate the PEOPLE that work for you to spend less time on bureaucratic work and more time imagining the changes necessary to overcome barriers to adoption and obstacles to delight through better leadership methods, reward/recognition systems, physical spaces, collaboration and knowledge management systems, etc.

And ends with a plan for making the transformation from the old way of running the business to the new way.

The planning of the digital transformation is of course all done collaboratively on paper, whiteboards, and asynchronous electronic communication (hopefully not email, but more on that later). The goal is to think like a digital native, to think like a startup, to approach the idea of designing a company to utilize all of the advances in people, process, technology and tools to kill off your own company (at least as you know it). Because, if you don’t re-invent your company now and set yourself up with a new set of capabilities that enable you to continuously re-invent yourself as a company, then some venture capitalist is going to see an opportunity, find the right team of digital natives, and give them the necessary funding to enter your market and re-invent your entire industry for you.

It’s All About the Interfaces

People are fascinated with startups like Uber and with good reason because they have changed the lexicon and the way that we think about entire categories of products and services. Whether or not you believe there is causation, the fact remains that Yellow Cab in San Francisco filed for bankruptcy, and that Uber has placed an immense amount of pressure on taxi and airport limousine companies. But you should also be looking at what established technology companies like Amazon are doing because established technology companies are looking for growth and new markets too, and they might decide yours looks attractive, so you have to think like a technology company or go out of business.

One way that technology companies differ from non-technology companies is that they naturally focus on the interfaces, because that is where complex systems often fail. And so, if you are pursuing a digital strategy on your way to a digital transformation, you must first pick an interface, and then optimize the experience at that interface. It could be the interface between the company and customers, it could be the company to employee or employee to employee interface, or even the company to partner or company to supplier interface. Whatever interface you choose, your goal is to ultimately look at that interface with a fresh modern lens, and then utilize all of the latest (and emerging) approaches from a people, process, and technology perspective, to create a more efficient and more effective (aka better) experience.

The better job you do as an organization at removing friction at the interfaces, the more likely you are to become a partner of choice, supplier of choice, employer of choice, and/or a brand of choice. The value of becoming any or all of these could be the difference between the survival and growth of the organization, and a slow, agonizing death at the hands of a new, digital entrant or a digitizing incumbent that completes a digital transformation before your leadership team can agree it’s even necessary.

Architecting Your Organization for Change

One thing that both a digital strategy and a digital transformation have in common is that they will inflict change (in varying amounts) upon the organization, and with a more visual, collaborative approach to planning that change – like that enabled by the Change Planning Toolkit™ that I introduce in my new book Charting Change (available February 24, 2016) – you will increase your odds of beating the 70% change failure rate and of successfully achieving your digital change goals.

As you plan your change efforts it helps if you keep in mind the Five Keys to Successful Change™ and that you consider Architecting Your Organization for Change. Below you will see visualizations of both concepts and both are available as free downloads from the Change Planning Toolkit™, which is a collection of frameworks, worksheets, and other tools (including the Change Planning Canvas™).

Five Keys to Successful Change 550

Architecting the Organization for Change

Click to access these frameworks as scalable 11″x17″ PDF downloads

These two frameworks will help you take a more holistic view of organizational change wider than just change management or change leadership, and helps organizations:

  1. Visualize a new way to increase organizational agility
  2. Integrate changes in the marketplace and customer behavior into the strategy
  3. Create a new organizational architecture that integrates all five elements of organizational change
  4. Make project, behavior and communications planning and management a central component of your change efforts
  5. One thing that should immediately jump out as you look at the Architecting the Organization for Change framework is that The Five Keys to Successful Change™ are embedded it.

Change Maintenance forms the foundation of a change-centric organization, ensuring that the changes necessary to ensure a healthy firm continue to persist (or are “maintained”), while the top of the organizational pyramid is driven by a conscious strategy that evolves over time, informed by changes in customer behavior and changes in the marketplace.

The strategy of the firm then determines the appropriate business architecture, and as the organization’s strategy changes, the business architecture may also need to change. Any necessary changes in the architecture of the business (new or updated capabilities or competencies) then will lead to modifications to the portfolio of change initiatives and projects (and remember every project is a change effort). These projects and initiatives will consist of innovation initiatives and efforts to create positive changes in the operations of the business.

The change efforts and projects identified as necessary and invested in as part of the change portfolio then represent projects that impact the innovation and operations for the firm, and in order to successfully execute them in the short term includes change planning, management, and leadership, and in the longer term the maintenance of the required changes.

And for the change efforts and projects to be successful the organization must also focus on project planning and management, behavior planning and management, and communications planning and management. The related projects, behaviors, and communications must all be effectively planned and managed in a way that keeps all three in sync.

I hope you see that by increasing your focus on the Change Planning discipline and through increased use of tools like the Architecting the Organization for Change framework from the Change Planning Toolkit™, your business will be able to more collaboratively and visually plan change efforts as large as a digital transformation or as small as a digital strategy and to increase your organizational agility.

More on organizational agility soon, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, please get yourself a copy of Charting Change as a hardcover (ebook coming soon) and get your free downloads from the Change Planning Toolkit™ (or go ahead and purchase a license now).

Buy the Change Planning Toolkit™ NowNow you can buy the Change Planning Toolkit™ – Individual Bronze License – Advance Purchase Edition here on this web site before the book launches.

This article originally appeared on Linkedin

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Change Agents and the Future of Change Management

Change Agents and the Future of Change ManagementRecently I was identified in a mini research study as one of the top Key Opinion Leaders in change management on Twitter by Maven7, and they were curious about some of my opinions about organizational change, and asked me these two questions for an article titled ’14 Insightful Quotes from Influencers in Change Management’ on their blog.

1) In your opinion, how will change management evolve in the next 10 years?

2) Why is change agent involvement essential during a change initiative, and what best practices are there to involve them?

The article on their site just highlights a few quotes from the insights I shared with them surrounding these two questions, so if you’re more interested in hearing the full responses, please continue reading.

Question: In your opinion, how will change management evolve in the next 10 years?

I believe that the field of organizational change will evolve first by moving beyond change management. We currently speak about change management and maybe change leadership, but I believe we need to make the conversation about The Five Keys to Successful Change™ more pervasive. These five keys are:

  1. Change Planning
  2. Change Leadership
  3. Change Management
  4. Change Maintenance
  5. Change Portfolio Management

When we start moving the conversation beyond change management, we can start focusing as change professionals on achieving excellence in practice in all five areas, creating more efficient and effective tools and techniques for each. The new Change Planning Toolkit™ introduced in my book Charting Change (Feb 2016) is focused on making the planning of a change effort of any size (up to the level of mergers & acquisition, and down to the level of the project) more visual, more collaborative, and more human.

In today’s environment it is innovate or die, and the reason that most organizations are bad at innovation is that they are bad at change. So, the ability to create a culture of continuous change in an organization, and a commitment to empowering employees with the tools, techniques, and mindsets that lead to the creation of a new organizational capability in change for the organization, will lead to THE most important competitive advantage an organization could possibly possess – greater organizational agility.

This evolution of change management will lead to a group of companies with incredible organizational agility and a collection of companies that will join Blockbuster, Montgomery Ward, Borders, and Tower Records not because of mismanagement, but because of a refusal to move beyond change management to embrace The Five Keys to Successful Change™. Which will you be?

Question: Why is change agent involvement essential during a change initiative, and what best practices are there to involve them?

I don’t like the notion of a change agent. Instead I prefer the notion of a change movement inspired by a motivated change leadership team. The notion of the change agent confers the idea that one person can affect lasting change, and that’s just not reality. We might like to attribute a successful change to a single individual, but the truth is that in those situations a movement was created where people eagerly participated in affecting a certain change, where imagination and creativity were captured and harnessed to create a new reality.

The truth is that successful changes are led by a passionate change leadership team with a clear plan that empowers and engages people with a clear, and often tailored, vision for the new reality they hope to create with the broader team. Successful change leadership teams build a clear plan that can be easily shared in order to start creating movement, in order to overcome the inertia of the organization, and then they focus on building and sustaining the momentum necessary to realize the desired transformation, whether that is a “BIG C” change or a “little c” change.

Successful change leadership teams build a shared vision of the change process, and a common language for the change effort, with the support of something like the Change Planning Toolkit™. Unfortunately, 70% of change efforts fail, and one of the big reasons is the lack of alignment, and frankly, an understanding of why the change is necessary, important, and how it might be achieved. At the same time, organizations fail to provide the support necessary to help the change participants successfully adopt the desired change. If you focus on change agents instead of empowered change leadership teams, people will be less likely to adopt the change, or to sustain it. So, choose wisely.

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Building a Global Sensing Network – Revisited

Building a Global Sensing Network - RevisitedWhen I first wrote about Building a Global Sensing Network I wrote in the specific context of the war for innovation and the need to make sure you’re fighting it outside your organization — not inside.

We looked at how most organizations hire the most clever, educated, experienced and motivated people you could afford and then direct them to come up with the best customer solutions possible, organize and execute their production and marketing predictably and efficiently, and do their best to outmaneuver the competition.

In short, most organizations pursue success by building a fortress from which the organization can defend its intellectual property and its market position utilizing the human resources it can assemble within the castle walls. At the same time most organizations focus on achieving organizational success by achieving the greatest overlap possible between the skills, abilities and talents of each job applicant and the job description for each role.

But most organizations (referred to as Typical Organizations in the graphic below) fail to harness ALL of the skills, abilities and talents of the individuals they have in their organization to achieve greater performance as a collective. In my mind this is painful, wasted human capital – painful for the organization (lost potential revenue and profitability) and painful for the individual (boredom, stress, and disappointment).

Typical Organization

But, a handful of more progressive, innovative organizations are trying to do better to harness the passions AND the skills, abilities, and talents of their individuals to better achieve the collective’s ability to generate revenue and profits (or other appropriate benefits) by engaging their employees in the innovation efforts of the organization, and allowing their employees to take some of their skills, abilities and talents and apply them to help fulfill other job descriptions. This looks something more like this:

Innovative Organization

But in the most progressive organizations, they not only provide a way to better harness a more complete set of their employees’ skills, abilities and talents to more than one job description, but they also find a way to harness more of the skills, abilities, and talents that employees are currently realizing outside the organization in their hobbies, volunteer work, or other places.

And the successful organizations of the future will not stop there. They will also harness the connections their employees have outside the organization to increase the innovation capacity of the organization, and better engage not only partners in helping to fulfill the needs of different job descriptions, but they will also even engage their customers in achieving the work of the organization.

Where customer or partner skills, abilities and talents intersect with the job requirements, work can get done, and where customer or partner skills, abilities or talents intersect with employee skills, abilities or talents intersect, communities and connections have the chance to form and be nurtured. This is what organizations of the future will look like:

Organization of the Future

In this scenario, where innovative organizations begin to move beyond better harnessing the internal innovation capacity of their employees, to also harnessing the external capacity to work (and to innovate) of individuals outside of the organization (and to expand the scope of the collective), and to attract partners and customers to participate, organizations that allow and even encourage employees to develop a personal brand and greater external connections, will claim an outsized share of the potential benefits to both the mission of the organization and to its innovation efforts.

If your employees lack the external exposure, the external connections, and the external personal brand equity and awareness, how much harder will it be for your organization to:

  • Attract the best partners to your innovation efforts
  • Recruit the best customers to co-create with you
  • Build a strong pipeline of potential future internal talent

Through this lens you can see that in the future, successful innovation and change will be determined not just by how strong the brand of your organization is (or the collective), but also will be shaped by the strength of the personal brands of the collective’s component individuals.

As the commercial battlefield continues to change, future business success will be built upon more fluid boundaries and the ability to leverage skills, abilities and talents of people and other organizations outside the company and also the ability to:

  1. Utilize expert communities.
  2. Identify and gather technology trend information, customer insights and local social mutations from around the globe.
  3. Mobilize the organization in organic ways to utilize resources and information often beyond its control.
  4. Still organize and execute production and marketing predictably and efficiently in the middle of all this complexity.

Market leaders in our evolving reality will be increasingly determined not by an organization’s ability to outmaneuver the competition in a known market, but by their ability to identify and solve for the key unknowns in markets that will continue to become more global and less defined. Future market leaders will be those organizations that build superior global sensing networks and do a better job at making sense of the inputs from these networks to select the optimal actionable insights to drive innovation and change.

By this point, hopefully you are asking yourself three questions:

1. How do I create more fluid boundaries in my organization?

2. What does a global sensing network look like?

3. How do I build one?

One View of a Global Sensing Network

Building a Global Sensing NetworkThe purpose of a global sensing network is to allow an organization to collect and connect the partial insights and ideas that will form the basis of the organization’s next generation of customer solutions. This involves collecting and connecting:

Click to access this framework as a scalable 11″x17″ PDF download

1. Customer Insights

  • Ethnography
  • Private Communities
  • Focus Groups
  • Surveys
  • Lead User Observation

2. Core Technology Trends

3. Adjacent Technology Trends

4. Distant technology trends

5. Local social mutations

  • Demographic trends
  • Sociological trends
  • Economic trends
  • Political trends (including regulation)
  • Behavioral trends

6. Expert Communities

  • University Research
  • Government Research
  • Corporate Research
  • Charitable Research
  • Hobbyists

To actually build a global sensing network you need to start from the inside out. You have to take a look around inside your organization and see what employees you have, what natural connections they have, and where they are currently located on the globe. At the same time you need to understand how employees in your organization naturally connect with each other and define what core, adjacent and distant technologies mean in the context of your organization. You must also look and see what tools you have inside the organization for managing insights, expertise and information within the organization, and what expert communities you may already have connections into.

I would recommend beginning to establish your global sensing network inside your organization before venturing to build it out completely with the resources and connections that you will naturally need outside your organization. This will enable you to get some really great feedback from employees on the connections that will be necessary to foster and manage outside of your organization and to prepare your information sharing systems and internal communications to enable increased sharing and improved innovation inputs and outputs.

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It is likely that many organizations will already be gathering some level of customer insight information from ethnography, private communities, focus groups, surveys, lead user observation, etc. but not have a good infrastructure, policies or procedures in place for sharing this information. If you’re truly serious about creating a deep innovation capability and working to achieve innovation excellence in the same way that you pursue operational excellence, you should experiment with your systems by making customer information more available.

Next, you should leverage your employees and existing partnerships to reach outside the organization to organize and establish stronger communication channels with the relevant expert communities, including those focused on university research, government research, charitable research, corporate research (industry associations and competitors), and even to inventors or hobbyists.

And then finally from the connections you’ve built to this point, you should have identified where you have good people internally to provide information on local social mutations (local developments of interest spawned by local demographic, sociological, economic, political and behavioral trends), and where you have gaps. Hopefully by this point you may have also identified people outside your organization in countries around the world that you already have formal or informal connections to that can be leveraged to fill the gaps in your global sensing network footprint.

Conclusion

If you’re already involved in innovation and change, or have read a lot on the topic, it should be obvious to you why your organization needs a global sensing network.

Building a global sensing network helps organizations:

  • Accelerate their innovation efforts
  • Create more fluid organizational boundaries
  • Embrace a more open approach to innovation
  • Monitor emerging and evolving technologies
  • Track changes in customer behavior in the unending search for new insight-driven ideas

But the main that should jump out as you look at the download titled Building a Global Sensing Network is that innovation can come from anywhere, so you need to be listening everywhere.

The purpose for building a global sensing network is much like the purpose for having a SETI program. We know that there must be intelligent life outside the four walls of our organization, but to find it, we must be listening. And we must be listening so that we can amplify, combine and triangulate the weak signals that we might pick up so that we can find the next innovation and change that our organization is capable of delivering – before the competition. After all, there is a war for innovation and change out there. The only true unknown is who’s going to win.

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

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The Digital Innovation Talent Shortage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you know what?

There is a shortage…

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

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

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

Are you ready to become a social business?

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

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

Image credit: news-leader.com


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Do You Agree or Disagree with Samsung’s Vision of the Future?

Samsung recently posted a video highlighting their vision of the future and the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The movie highlights their tagline ‘In Sync with Life’

While certain of the benefits highlighted in Samsung’s IOT video might be interesting, I found myself left with more questions than answers, including:

How necessary is this?

Would this really improve my life?

Is it simplifying anything or in reality, more likely to add complexity and configuration frustration?

Would this create a future that’s more human or less human?

Could I live without this?

What are the health effects of increasing the amount of unnatural frequencies being transmitted through the air?

Does this look like a better or worse future to you?


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Apple Announces Name Change to App-le

Apple Announces Name Change to App-le

First Apple changed its name from Apple Computer to Apple to better reflect a business focus that was extending beyond computers to music players, smartphones, digital music sales, and more.

And last week Apple announced a flurry of new products including:

  • iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s plus
  • All new Apple TV
  • iPad Pro
  • watchOS 2
  • iOS9

What was clear from the announcements is that Apple’s view the future of computing and entertainment is an App-centric one.

First Apple created Apps for the iPod. Anyone remember the iPod? Apple barely does. They still make iPods, but they’ve been dropped from the main menu on Apple’s web site and relegated to the text links at the bottom of the page. Then they create Apps for the iPhone and the iPad and the watch. And this past week Apple announced their App-centric vision for the future of television.

What is this vision?

It’s pretty simple really. Want to watch major league baseball (MLB) on your television, buy the MLB app. Want to watch HBO, buy the app. Cartoon Network? Get the app. You get the idea.

Why does Apple have this vision?

This App-centric vision of entertainment grows their ecosystem and enables Apple to make money not only from hardware sales, but also from commissions in the sale of all of these Apps. And as people buy more apps, they lock themselves further into Apple’s hardware, by design.

Apple’s App-centric vision for the future of television is good for creators of popular, quality content like HBO, the National Football League (NFL), Premier League Football, CNN, BBC, and for movie-centric aggregators (Netflix, Amazon). The evolving App-centric approach to television also has the benefit to the content creators of enabling them to build Apps that yes play full-screen video (what people expect), but also to integrate information, commerce and social elements into their Applications as they see fit. The downside is that content creators will lose the perceived safety that cable network bundling offers.

But the smartest, best run content creators are more likely to gradually embrace this App-centric possible future, and as a result Apple’s App-centric television future is likely to be a disaster for cable companies and other television-centric aggregators (Hulu, Sling). Why would you need an intermediary like a cable company when you can go straight to the source?

Cable companies could however try to beat Apple to the App Store model and potentially also beat them to the Spotify model for television if they move quickly. But are speed and courage what cable companies are known for?

YouTube and Facebook could also be big winners in Apple’s App-centric television future as both sites could become the home for a treasure trove of free sample shows, a place for people to discover new content to subscribe to. Facebook has made a big push into video the past few years, making this potential area of growth possible for them.

Apple missed the App-centric transition in music, and they had to go out and overpay for Beats to try and catch up to Spotify and others. They’ve also missed the early days of the App-centric transition in paid video apps as well, with Netflix enjoying the early success. They don’t want to get completely left behind, so they are making their big push towards an App-centric television future. The only question is how?

Will Apple look to create a subscription service like Netflix or Spotify as their App, or focus on promoting content creator Apps (NFL, CNN, etc.) through an App Store, both, or something completely different?

No matter which direction Apple chooses, it’s clear that with Apple it is all about the apps. So will Apple change its name to App-le? Probably not. But, they’ve made it very

clear that their vision for the future is an App-centric one. Will they be able to realize it?

Image credit: mashable.com

This article originally appeared on Linkedin


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Drowning in a Sea of Content

Drowning in Content

In #MyIndustry, content creation (I’m an author, keynote speaker and publisher), there is already a flood of content and the flood waters will not recede anytime soon. In fact, the rate of content creation is increasing as more companies launch content marketing and inbound marketing campaigns to pull customers to them.

Before the Internet came along, content was naturally limited by the potential throughput possible through a relatively fixed number of available channels:

  • Handful of TV stations
  • Radio stations
  • 1 or 2 local newspapers
  • A few dozen magazines
  • A handful of book publishers

Things remained relatively stable for several decades, then beginning in about 1980 this began to change. Cable and satellite television began to arrive taking television from a handful of stations to hundreds. The number of magazines began to grow, doubling between 1980-2000 according to Pew Research, online services and eventually the Internet emerged to provide a plethora of alternatives to traditional newspapers, and satellite and internet radio arrived. At the same time Amazon, Lulu and others launched the self-publishing revolution.

The amount of content available to people has exploded over the last 35 years. I saw a statistic recently that more than 1 TRILLION photos will be taken in 2015, compared to 2.7 Trillion photos cumulatively stored through the end of 2014.

With the rate of the content deluge increasing and with none of it draining out the bottom of the Internet bathtub, it will become harder and harder for a content creator like myself to capture people’s attention and to afford to continue to deliver quality insights from research, collaboration, and connection.

Being a content creator is a lot like being a space object, there are lots of asteroids in space, and it is easy to float around as an asteroid, but to carefully tend and cultivate an ecosystem that helps you attract enough mass and an atmosphere capable of generating and growing life is much harder.

Creating unique and differentiated insights to power content that educates, informs, or entertains (or potentially all three) is hard enough, but if you want to create something with its own source of gravity, you need to collect and harness many more skills, while also looking for potential collaborators with complimentary skills.

This will always be true for artists, musicians, authors, and any other kind of content creator. There is no going back?

So, what’s your center of gravity?

And how can you make it stronger?

In my own content creation sphere, I continue to work to strengthen the center of gravity in the innovation arena by working on a site redesign with my great Innovation Excellence co-Founders and the digital professionals at Juice Interactive, and growing a new center of gravity in the change arena with some new partners as we seek contributing authors for an upcoming launch of Charting-Change.com.

Helping to make innovation and change insights accessible for the greater good is what drives me, and I’ll keep doing it as long as I possibly can!

Image credit: Bunchcast


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