Tag Archives: CEO

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?

Leaders: Five Ways To Step It Up in 2015

Leaders: Five Ways To Step It Up in 2015The economic reality of 2014 was far better than many expected.  Unemployment fell to its lowest level in six years, the stock market climbed to historic highs, gasoline prices fell and commercial interest rates remained steady and low. The continued gridlock in Congress and the coming shift in majority control fuels some uncertainty and likely gives even the most optimistic leader among us pause. Normally, with the turn of the New Year just a month away, taking stock and setting a course for 2015 would already be overdue, but in today’s world, savvy leaders know there’s always time for fine-tuning. Here are five ways to step it up in 2015 to navigate the coming trends and challenges in the New Year:

Readiness, Resiliency and Re-adjustment Will Be Your Mantra.
For too many years, leaders acted as though the coming year was simply an incremental adaptation of the prior year. Don’t even think about it.  The nature of leadership today demands that we identify and prepare short, mid and long-term strategies for all of our key activities. In meetings with CEO’s, business owners and senior executives, I increasingly hear about their six-month sales strategy, the twelve-month strategic plan, or the three-month capital equipment budget.  Much of the foundational business planning familiar to many of us is giving way to a near-term focus with a healthy dose of long-range re-adjustment strategy in the wings.

Think Deeply About Your Members.  What business are they in and what’s happening to their employees and customers?  What problems are your customer’s customers facing? Chances are if your members or their suppliers are involved in transportation, graphic communications, logistics, financial services, home building, auto manufacturing and the associated supply pipelines, 2015 will be difficult.  Scott Stratten, in his book, Unmarketing talks about the importance of remarrying your current customers. Your members have high expectations and the current trend line in customer experience is heading in the wrong direction. Does your organization have a member assistance plan in place?  Stepping up the focus on your career center programs, offering free or low cost business counseling, focused research or resume banks will continue to serve a vital purpose.  If your membership is company-based finding new ways of reaching out to the various internal departments (HR, supply logistics, finance) with ideas, tools and resources will be essential to success in 2015.

Step Up Your Personal Member Communications.  When former United States Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson headed up Goldman Sachs, he made 50-60 phone calls just after New Year’s Day to simply say hello and share goodwill for the coming year with the firm’s top clients.  Association leaders should do the same.   While there’s a better than even chance you’ll get an earful about the political gridlock, and uncertain times, there’s an equal chance you’ll strengthen the connection between members and your association.  No doubt some of you reading this will say, “but we’ve got 10,000 members, we can’t call them all.” Well you can call some of them. I called three hundred members and prospects in the space of a month. You can pick thirty members randomly from across the country. Call them. Now.

Prudence, Pragmatism and Frugality Rule.  Being productive, efficient and wise with resources never goes out of style. Uncertainty provides an ideal opportunity to engage your team in finding ways to keep a lid on expenses or exploring new ways of doing day-to-day things more efficiently. To be clear, few of our associations can shrink their way to success. We are already doing far more, with far less than we are used to doing. As a leader however, you can use the moment to inculcate staffers of the importance saving money, seeking new efficiencies and considering new means to productivity are more than leadership clichés.

Master Your Own Voice and Share Your Great Story. It’s a given, nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. And this great story isn’t about you. Don’t let that stop you from developing a vision for where your association is heading in 2015, how you’ll get there, and why everyone around you—staff, membership, Board members, stakeholders and customers—will feel stronger, be better looking, and succeed beyond their wildest dreams, when you do. As humans, we are social beings and connecting through stories is what we do. Leaders understand great stories stir emotion, are memorable, authentic, and conclude with a powerful call to action.  That’s hard to get from reading the Association’s latest strategic plan or its financial statement.  Just like the increasingly popular “dashboard” tools, stories illuminate the unity behind our purpose and mission.

You’re it. Vous êtes le chef.
What’s your story going to be in 2015?

An Exit Strategy at the Start?

leadership_exitIn a recent presentation I created a bit of a stir by suggesting the best time for an association CEO to craft an exit strategy was at the moment they accepted the position.  Some in the audience thought that planning an exit strategy at the outset, meant you were entering into the new responsibility hokey-pokey style—one foot in, one foot-out.  Sort of like planning for a divorce on your wedding day or starting a new dating relationship with a scheduled break-up planned in advance.  The analogies miss the point.  Prenuptial agreements aside for the moment, employment contracts and economic reality all suggest something different is afoot and exit strategies are a vital part of beginning anew.  The absence of employer-employee loyalty, once endemic to corporate America has become a veritable pandemic and the non-profit world is not immune.  Companies laid-off over 832,000 employees in the first quarter of 2009 alone.  And turnover at the C-level is a growing trend in both the for- and non-profit sectors.  According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas which tracks public and private company CEO departures there were 1,484 chief executives who went to the door in 2008. 

My point is that in accepting a new position it is important you have a vivid concept of what the goals and expectations for your leadership tenure will be.  Said differently, why are you taking the position in the first place?  Have you established a set of personal milestones to assess your progress and satisfaction with the work?  Does the work and your results align with your strengths, self-image and the expectations?  And perhaps more importantly what will you do if it doesn’t?  While most of us would agree leaving a post is the choice of last resort, knowing you have a plan, including the resources and support to do so, seems prudent rather than predictive.

Which left me wondering how often CEO’s and other leaders assess their own successes, goal achievements and personal satisfaction in their current positions.  Do you have personal milestones in your current or new position or is it simply all about putting the work first and worrying about yourself later?  How do you measure and manage the melange of goals—yours, theirs and the collective “ours”?   Do you have an exit strategy?  More importantly, should you?