Category Archives: Innovation

If Innovation Stops Will You Be Out of Business?

Innovation Wired 4 Leadership

Does innovation really matter for organizations? Is the pursuit of newer, faster, better, disruptive, radical innovation a meaningful goal for leading our organizations? How real is FOBO?

“Your company is out of business. You just don’t know it yet.”

If there’s one thing that should keep you and every other leader up at night,  FOBO is at the top of the list. That’s right–the Fear Of Becoming Obsolete. If that’s you, a recent GE study will give you some important insights about the state of innovation. The impact of innovation on both business and society is extraordinary. The ways you can leverage it to your benefit are even more so. Based on a survey of 2,748 business executives and 1,346 informed citizens the survey explores perceptions and ideas about the 4th Industrial Revolution.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

The good news is that executives share a strong sense of curiosity and optimism about the future of the 4th Industrial Revolution. What exactly is the 4th Industrial Revolution? According to the World Economic Forum, the first industrial revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The second used electric power to create mass production. The third used electronics and information technology to automate production. The fourth is building on the third, the digital revolution that has occurred since the middle of the last century. Characterized by a fusion of technologies it is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. Optimism about the digital revolution extends to leaders in more than 20 countries especially those in emerging economies who are feeling considerably more empowered than those in developed markets.

“Which leaves one to ponder the obvious question. Does having a clear innovation strategy matter?”

86% of executives surveyed believe advanced manufacturing  will radically transform the industrial sector. A majority of both executives and citizens believe these transformations will create a positive impact on employment. Interestingly every market shows a distinctive preference for incremental innovation, improving existing products and solutions versus breakthrough innovation (i.e.; launching products that are completely new and have the ability to disrupt their market.)

While 68% of executives report having a clear innovation strategy, 62% of them struggle to come up with radical and disruptive ideas. Oddly, those without a clear innovation strategy (32%) also struggle to come up with radical and disruptive ideas. Which leaves one to ponder the obvious question. Does having a clear innovation strategy matter?

Proctor & Gamble CEO David Taylor speaking at Chief Executive Magazine’s Talent Summit noted that “there are processes that a company gets enamored with.” Most all of us have had the experience of following a process that no longer delivers the results essential to customer needs and satisfaction. If you have processes that encumber people for an extended period they have a proclivity to take regardless of their efficacy.

“Only 24% of executives feel their company is performing very well at quickly adapting and implementing emerging technologies.”

There is general agreement (90%), among executives and citizens alike, that the most innovative companies not only launch new products and services but also create a new market that didn’t previously exist. Yet, there is a real risk of innovation being hampered as technology evolves faster than businesses can adapt. Bringing radical and disruptive ideas to life in 2015 turns out to be a  challenge among 76% of U.S. executives surveyed. That’s a 32% jump from in 2014.

Adding to this challenge only 24% of executives feel their company is performing very well at quickly adapting and implementing emerging technologies. Executives (61%) are learning the value of big data and beginning to understand that integrating analytics delivers better results and outcomes for their businesses.

“76% of executives believe talent acquisition remains the first innovation success factor. HR talent acquisition systems that are “turning off” applicants are creating a significant problem.”

Is the work and the worker of the future really changing? There is a growing notion among employers that the digital transformation is giving rise to the “nomad employee” — people that do not necessarily seek full-time employment, but favor freelancing or contracting modes. Jacob Morgan, a Forbes Magazine contributor writes about the seven principles of the future employee, noting they will have new requirements:

  1. Demand for a flexible work environment
  2. The ability to customize work
  3. Share information freely
  4. Use new ways to communicate and collaborate
  5. Options to be leader or follower as needed
  6. Free to  shift from knowledge worker to learning worker
  7. Learns and teaches at will

No matter whether it’s a nomad on a “gig” or a full-time employee, just less than half of employers and citizens believe the current education system is adapted to fulfill the private sector’s demand for new talent and skills. Given that 76% of executives believe talent acquisition remains the first innovation success factor, the disconnect between available talent and talent with the right education and skills remain significant problems. It’s difficult to grow a leadership commitment and conducive culture for innovation success when finding the “right” talent grows increasingly more difficult. Many question how much HR talent acquisition systems are “turning off” applicants and actually complicating and not easing identifying qualified talent thus fueling shortages.

“This is how work will get done over the next few years and it has already started in many organizations around the world.”

According to executives surveyed the six main attributes they are seeking in candidates include:

  • Problem solving abilities (56%)
  • Creativity (54%)
  • Analytical skills (44%)
  • Interpersonal skills (43%)
  • Long-term commitment (41%)
  • The ability to suggest improvements to the existing ways of working (40%).

Interestingly, only 27% of executives believe the candidate’s ability to navigate uncertainty with ease is a significant attribute. Ease or not, navigating uncertainty will surely be a part of everyone’s toolkit for years to come.

Does measuring outcomes instead of innovation make more sense? What are the greatest measurements of impact and success?

5 Strategies to Strengthen Member Value

5_Strategies_to_Strengthen_Member_ValueHow do you reverse a declining membership trend in a profession suffering through serious contraction? What if its members’ are passionate about their work and in it for love, not money–but annual income is low and the perception is dues are high?

When it comes to strategies to strengthen member value the short answer to this challenge is you can’t—at least not without making significant changes in how you go about assessing and communicating with sparkling clarity real member value. Defining ways to turn member’s passion into personal and professional aspirations is at the root of the member value conundrum. In this sense, form truly follows function. And that’s what’s missing from the conversation these days.

Continue reading 5 Strategies to Strengthen Member Value

The Five Dysfunctions of Reckless Leaders

Reckless LeadersEvery so often, someone acts out in a way that is so totally destructive and outrageous that you know it’s nothing short of reckless.  Like a child flailing themselves against the tile of a supermarket floor in tantrum, reckless leaders push well beyond the bounds of common sense, decency and civility.  They seem totally clueless about the impact of their behaviors.

A reckless leader’s outbursts are certain to have consequences — both intended and otherwise.  When leaders throw civility and decency to the wind, the results are always corrosive and damaging to the organization.  In a world where the integrity and perception of your brand is paramount, reckless leadership creates huge financial risk for your brand and your organization.

If you’re wondering how reckless leadership could hurt your pocketbook and your brand read on.  Douglas A. McIntyre writing for 24/7 Wall Street identified nine well known and generally well regarded firms with the most damaged brands.  Companies such as J.C. Penney, Apple, Groupon, Boeing and others made the list in one of two ways: by aggressively promoting a product or a business strategy and failing badly, or being involved in a corporate or personal scandal.

And it’s not just major corporations or brands.  Small organizations are at risk as well.  In late October the Washington Post ran an investigative report describing how a large number of not-for-profit organizations have quietly lost millions of dollars through significant diversion of their assets — fraudulent financial transactions, embezzlement or other criminal means.

According to the Washington Post, the “diversions drained hundreds of millions of dollars from institutions that are underwritten by public donations and government funds.”  Ranking Congressional leaders have announced they will launch investigations into the matter. Demoralizing doesn’t begin to capture the impact.  So, how else does dysfunction and reckless leadership surface in organizations?

Dysfunction 1Believing your solution is the only solution.  Talented leaders are adept at listening to input and ideas from direct reports and colleagues well before settling on a path forward.  The Reckless Leader is more prone to decide they know exactly what to do from the start and are likely to demean the ideas of others along the way.

Dysfunction 2Publicly demeaning people or berating their ideas.  I’m not talking about engaging in honest and open exploration of ideas here.  I’m talking about the business equivalent of bullying.  Recent published profiles of Jeff Bezos, Chief Executive Officer at Amazon paint a disturbing portrait of a highly adversarial culture where positive feedback from superiors is rare and promotions even rarer. While some suggest intensity is a trait commonly found in technology leaders, (think Steve Jobs at Apple) some of Amazon’s practices seem ready-made for the a path to reckless leadership.  Being the Queen of Mean creates real hazards.  Act accordingly.

Dysfunction 3Using e-mail to deliver your communications. (see Dysfunction 2).  No, e-mails don’t count as communication — especially when they become personally demeaning tirades — aimed at the recipient.  Leaders need good intelligence — ground truth — to make decisions and respond to developing problems.  Reckless leaders have great difficulty understanding why no one wants to work for them.  Having strong and healthy relationships with your teams is essential to really understanding the current workings of your organization. Anything less is truly less.

Dysfunction 4Failure to share the blame and give credit where its due.  Reckless leaders are distinctive for their singular practice of blaming others for the failures and shortcoming within the organization.  Oftentimes these blame assessments are one-dimensional views of events in which the reckless leader often is complicit.  People afraid to admit they share part of the responsibility for organizational failure create a culture where blaming others becomes the default whenever something goes wrong.  Beyond destroying accountability, how likely are you to take a risk essential to success or a breakthrough development?   What’s that sound?   Oh, it’s innovation dying.

Dysfunction 5When process becomes more important than people.  Having a plan is not the same as having a working plan.  Demanding adherence to stale procedures, outdated protocols and unworkable plans isn’t leadership, it’s organizational suicide.  For reckless leaders, the unwillingness to recognize rapidly shifting conditions or changing circumstances arising in the marketplace oftentimes results in overlooking the urgency and value of re-direction or redeployment of resources.  When that happens reckless leaders will revert to some variety of dysfunctional tactics all over again.

The circle of dysfunction and reckless leadership remains unbroken. That’s a sad reality for many organizations.  How will you make sure it’s not yours?