Leadership, Team Building

Creating a Culture of Innovation Starts With the Leader

The leader plays a critical role in creating the right environment for innovation to flourish.

Influencing innovation and ideas at the organizational level.
There are many strategic ways leaders can influence the flow of innovation and ideas at the level of organizational design that goes beyond the lame suggestion box. Here are three proven approaches.

1. Acknowledge and reward innovation.
Promoting innovation and ideas should be on every leader´s scorecard. Employees should be encouraged to look at their daily tasks through an innovative lens, and they should be acknowledged and rewarded for innovative ideas. Compensation and gift giving is standard practice in progressive organizations such as Zappos.

2. Inject creativity with acquisitions.
Vijay Govindarajan has written about how organizations can inject creativity and innovation into their organizations through joint ventures and acquisitions. Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, for example, revitalized Disney´s creative juices.

3. Dedicate time to innovation.
In 1948, 3M launched its 15 percent program, where 15 percent of employees’ time was dedicated to innovation. The Post-It note was invented during 15 percent time. Organizations such as Hewlett-Packard and Google have both replicated this approach. Gmail and Google Earth were conceived during Google’s 20 percent time.

Influencing innovation and ideas at the personal level.
Oftentimes leaders focus on strategically influencing innovation at the organizational level and can overlook the key role it can play in influencing a culture of openness and ideas through interpersonal effectiveness. Here are some ways leaders can encourage and role model openness and increase the flow of ideas through the way they interact with employees.

Business innovation concept

1. Increase dialogue.
Very often leaders talk about engaging with others through debate and discussion. These three verbs have very unfavorable etymologies. To engage, from the old French engagier, means to bind by promise or oath; to debate, from the old French debatre, means to beat; and to discuss has its origins in the Latin discutere, meaning to smash or break up.

Dialogue, on the other hand, comes from Greek dialogos, denoting flow of meaning. This is not just semantic pedantry, it gets to the heart of what effective modern leaders do – they broaden perspective, and they facilitate a flow of ideas through shared inquiry.

According to William Issacs, dialogue is a way of thinking and reflecting together. It is not something you do to another person. It is something you do with people.

Leaders can sometimes get carried away by their own status and positional power and feel duty-bound to challenge ideas, and keep everything on track. This closes down innovation. Ideas cannot flow when everyone is arm wrestling; ideas flow when people are curious, inquiring and openly expressing their ideas.

Leaders should recognize that dialogue is key to innovation, and they should be encouraging, cultivating and role modelling shared thinking.

2. Suspend assumptions and judgements.
To assume and infer is to process data through our own interpretative lens.

Leaders need to consciously suspend their natural inclination to add layers of meaning and inference to ideas. Critical observation in early ideation closes down innovative thinking.

Two powerful tools that help leaders suspend judgement and remain receptive to new ideas include Chris Argyris’ Ladder of Inference and Edward do Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

3. Actively listen.
Mark Twain famously remarked, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.”

A key way leaders can inspire people to produce ideas is to take time to actively listen to them. It sounds obvious, but giving someone space to develop their ideas creates a respectful environment, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

When leaders are constantly interrupting, talking over ideas, finishing sentences and projecting negative body language, it breaks the creative flow and deters innovation. Rather than giving a person a good talking to, give them a good listening to.

Innovation is key to competitive advantage and growth. The 2016 Global Innovation Index, which is an annual ranking of the innovation capabilities and performance of economies around the world, focuses on national policies, but it’s individual leaders who can make a difference by driving innovation within organizations and creating a conducive environment for innovation to thrive.

science and future, strategy, technology

Eliminating Walls in B2B Platforms (keep an eye on Amazon)

No walled gardens in B2B platforms

Paul Hobcraft and I have noted throughout our writings on platforms and ecosystems the key differences between companies that interact primarily with consumers (B2C) and companies that interact primarily with other corporations (B2B). This difference is especially important when we begin to think about platform dominance.

You see, Facebook interacts primarily, almost exclusively, with customers (B2C) as such it’s platform serves to provide almost the entire interaction between Facebook and its customers. We could almost return to the days of old, when AOL was your conduit to the internet, when we talked about “walled gardens”, because that’s what many of the pure play B2C platforms are – walled gardens, meant to provide as much of the platform as possible. Their goal is “stickiness”, attracting you and keeping you plugged into their platform, consuming their content.maxresdefault

On the other hand, industrial companies are definitely as engaged in platform development, but their solutions require more than one platform.For example, most large corporations have an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, SAP or some other selection, that operates a lot of the financials and back office. While customers and consumers don’t frequently interact with this platform, the company could not exist without it. Further, there are other platforms that industrial companies must use or integrate with to offer a complete solution.

There are customer-facing applications that become platforms, and shared solutions that many in an industry agree to use to facilitate exchange between companies. The banking systems and financial transactions create another platform, because it is far too cumbersome to submit paper orders and invoices and to settle up on a case by case basis.

Finally there are robust, technical platforms (GE’s Predix is an example) that manage the mundane but important integration and automation of machines and sensors. Industrial, B2B companies and industries may wish for the control of a “walled garden”, but none of them on their own can create the breadth and depth of platforms necessary to accomplish all of the important tasks and do so seamlessly.

The company that could…

The company to watch in this scenario is Amazon. While Google, Facebook, Apple and others are building platforms and ecosystems, these are primarily B2C focused and these companies hope to manage the lion’s share of the platform and dictate the ecosystems. This gives them a lot of power and means that they don’t have to integrate to other platforms – often the only other platform or capability is a financial transaction platform. However the vast majority of their customers are consumers in the B2C space.

Facebook, Apple and Google aren’t building robust integrations to other businesses, which simplifies their lives. Amazon is building skills to straddle the B2B and B2C gulf.

Amazon clearly has a powerful B2C platform, where many of us acquire goods online every day. However, Amazon through its AWS cloud capability offers platform capability to larger corporations, and as it becomes better at data analytics, it could become a player in the B2B platform world. Even so it will still need to be able to share and exchange data with other key industrial B2B platforms.build-your-own-amazon

What does this mean for B2B platforms?

The stark truth of platforms and ecosystems for B2B companies is that there will never be one dominant platform that everyone accepts and leverages. In fact there will almost always be several segmented platforms in any company or industry. This means there is real value in being a platform bridge or connector.

When you see the advance of Mulesoft – a virtual API bank in the cloud, and think about how Cisco is trying to position itself you can see where real value lies – in connecting these segmented platforms and helping a company or industry bridge the 3 or 4 platforms they must use to create a total solution. Bridging between platforms means moving information between a financial platform and an ERP solution, or moving sensor data to a data analytics engine. These platforms weren’t built for the same purposes and don’t share the same data formats.

For a seamless experience for customers and business partners, data and information must flow effectively from one platform to another.

Three conclusions about B2B platforms

Thus one of the real opportunities in this world of platforms and ecosystems is the ability to connect these disparate and segmented platforms quickly and efficiently. Mulesoft has come from nowhere very quickly with an interesting solution to solve this problem. In the past firms like SAP preferred a “walled garden” making it difficult to integrate with the data that SAP managed, but increasingly SAP and other ERP vendors are recognizing that several platforms must be integrated to provide a total holistic capability for corporations to succeed.

This also means that competitors within an industry are relying on “off the shelf” software like ERP, standard banking and financial transactions, their own internal systems and platforms and other platforms to ensure efficient operations and provide seamless experiences for customers.Increasingly these platforms will no longer be locally optimized but must optimize for the entirety of the value chain or customer experience.

In other words, platforms must be governed holistically rather than by functions or siloes within the company. Increasingly this will mean business process level or even cross-industry standards for data exchange and data analytics.

The final analysis (for now)

In the final analysis it becomes clear that even firms and industries that haven’t exchanged information will be forced to work together in a highly efficient network. A good example is the autonomous car.

The autonomous car relies on a number of different platforms and engages an entire ecosystem, but many of these companies (all B2B) and governments rarely interacted with each other. Sensor companies, software companies, the automobile manufacturers, mapping companies, big data companies and local and federal agencies must all work together, combining their platforms and relying on a host of ecosystem partners in order to make the autonomous car work seamlessly.

There’s no possibility of a “walled garden” approach when people’s lives are at stake. Increasingly we’ll see a lot more interaction between industries and platforms that may not have recognized or even acknowledged each other previously.

From: Eliminating Walls in B2B Platforms (keep an eye on Amazon)

science and future, technology

No walled gardens in B2B platforms

Ecosystems4innovators

Walled Garden Illustration by David Simonds

Paul and I have noted throughout our writings on platforms and ecosystems the key differences between companies that interact primarily with consumers (B2C) and companies that interact primarily with other corporations (B2B).  This difference is especially important when we begin to think about platform dominance.

You see, Facebook interacts primarily, almost exclusively, with customers (B2C) as such it’s platform serves to provide almost the entire interaction between Facebook and its customers.  We could almost return to the days of old, when AOL was your conduit to the internet, when we talked about “walled gardens”, because that’s what many of the pure play B2C platforms are – walled gardens, meant to provide as much of the platform as possible.  Their goal is “stickiness”, attracting you and keeping you plugged into their platform, consuming their content.

On the other hand, industrial companies are definitely as engaged…

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Business Model, Methods

COMPETE IN ANY MODERN MARKET

Innovation and creativity are essential to compete in modern markets. Companies like Apple, IKEA, and Google work hard to develop the culture, processes, and habits that drive their success.

But how can you be innovative? Is there a way to assess innovation?
Ideo, an international design agency, has tried to do this. After studying several projects carried out in the past, focused on innovative thinking, the company realized that define what was innovation, especially considering very diverse contexts, it was almost impossible.

There are 6 qualities that  help drive any organization to become more creatively competitive.

PURPOSE:
The degree to which there is alignment about a meaningful change that leadership and employees want to make in the world. Scoring high on purpose requires that the purpose is clear, inspires passion in employees, and helps to inform most major decisions.
LOOKING OUT: The degree to which employees get insights and inspiration from beyond the company’s walls. Companies who do well on this score have a strong sense of who their customer is, what’s happening in their market, and what major trends (technical or social) might be leveraged towards the organization’s goals.
EXPERIMENTATION: The degree to which a company is able to explore new ideas quickly and inexpensively. Good experimenters have low bureaucracy in the way of testing new ideas with customers or users. They do a good job of sharing discoveries across the organization, and have a healthy attitude towards controlled failure, knowing that some will be necessary to help discover new opportunities.

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COLLABORATION: The degree to which employees of different roles and within different departments work together to bring new ideas forward. Organizations with a high collaboration score tend to create multi-disciplined teams where members with different skills respect and value each other’s craft.
EMPOWERMENT: The degree to which the organization provides a clear path for employees to create change. These organizations create meaningful jobs where employees are confident that they can improve things for the better if they do their job well. Employees have a reasonable amount of autonomy, and performance metrics and responsibilities are well calibrated to provide guidance, without perverting incentives to cause unproductive behavior.
REFINEMENT: The degree to which the strategy, product, and design functions within a company, play nicely with the execution roles as new ideas move towards implementation. These companies do a good job of problem solving as concepts move from broad outlines to detailed specifics. These companies avoid feature creep, and find elegant solutions to the technical challenges that emerge during development. The results are beautiful, well crafted products or systems, that achieve the original purpose of the design.