My passion, apart from the growth and innovation business, is of course firstly my family. I also find great interest in contemporary art, architecture and our nature. I love spending time in the forest, jungle, hillsides or even 80 feet below the surface free-diving. To me, compassion and inspiration have become lead words. I strongly believe in leadership beyond personal winnings.
Is gamification a way to innovate work processes? I have been very curious about the way game producers manage to capture hours of attention from consumers of all ages. Actually attracting and gravitating knowledge, engagement and talent. How can we utilize this when engaging our co-workers, clients and the total eco-system in the work processes?
What do we really want to accomplish? Is more and more the same as doing the right things? A while back I met with a CEO of a major bank. We discussed the reason to innovate, beyond just answering what the market expects.
His response was that they did not necessary look at the market, as something they had to win, gain or conquer to grow. They looked at innovation as something that could help them better understand how to solve more of their customers needs. Duh! I hear this a lot, however; Give it a thought. A bank that actually sets out to solve problems, helping their customers being even better and this way earning the best business, not necessarily the biggest business. What would the world look like, if banks really had had this strategy in the last 20 years?
How do we inspire our stressed bankers to really understand their clients? I can’t help looking at gamification and comparing this to the Innovation Portfolio Challenges I often attend. It’s fun, energetic and engaging. That is how we get everyone to really engage in evaluating risk, participating in strategy formation and putting their full talent behind the solution.
Solutions might be easy to come up with, but solutions that really make a difference need more work. I strongly believe that thinking in other boxes will drive an innovative solution to the table. This is why the engagement of real game producers, kids and their game play is taking more attention and time for me as we speak. I am putting my brain were it hasn’t been before.
I hope that this will drive even more ideas and solutions on how to innovate work processes.
For inspirational purposes, take 15 minutes and listen to Gabe Zichermanns talk on Gamification, found inserted here. He has some really valid points.
OK, so we are innovating our work processes through gamification. But what if we would strive at re-thinking our solutions in the same way? How much more fun could you make the use of your product or solution? How much more effect could your service have, if you gamify it. At Googol we did, and it has been very appreciated amongst our clients.
It is a bold, but from me not uncommon statement. Ideas are worthless! I would even argue that ideas have a negative value, maybe as much as €50,000 each, or if you are a larger firm even 10 times that amount.
So, the more ideas you have, the worse your situation is? Not really, if you have no ideas, you are in a different position. Even worse. You are doomed.
It is how you select and drive ideas in your ideation process that will determine if you can turn the “idea liability” into value. Skunkwork is a phenomenon that I find relevant in bridging the black abyss of non-project oriented innovation.
The co-workers dilemma
There you are with a big bunch of co-workers that all see opportunities and growth potential in different solutions. They have been to the seminars, they have registered in the state-of-the-art cloud based ideation system on your intranet. They have tried all the colored hats, the Lego building, the business model development courses. They are networking and working in diverse teams. They are doing it. But are you?
They might even, worst case, receive a €200 reward for generating ideas that have great value. Is that the response they want? No! We know it. You know it. Dan Pink shows it in his research. They feel it.
We want to be recognized and we want to participate in the process of realization. If not, we loose interest, drive, lust and passion. Our organizations end up loosing value, value that has financial impact.
An organization, which lacks the ability to foster ideas that are generated, end up loosing more than money and time on the wrong ideas; they end up creating a dysfunctional culture for Innovation. It just ain’t no fun no more. If we at least receive feedback and understand the rational behind what we invest in and not, we can continue to search for the recognition and fulfillment we are after.
Apart from the resources needed to explore an idea, there is another side to it. If unexplored and reasons are not clear, eventually the organization loose interest in the development of new ways to form its future. And worse is, cases will linger around and steal bandwidth from those that might be better suited.
The death by drain dilemma
OK, so do we stop the idea generating process in the organization in order not to build this liability of ideas? Well, do we want to stop amazing our customers and clients? Do we want competitors to out-beat us? Will we destroy value for our owners? Do we want to be part of destruction? No. Simply, No!
An organization that lack the ability to continuously develop, re-model, disrupt, amaze and launch new solutions will also loose its fans and lovers; the customers. Drain an organization of ideas, and you have drained the future of value creation.
So which are the reasons for draining the ideation process of ideas? Are you not seeing good enough ideas? Is cost and time to market to high? Do you lack resources?
My experience is that organizations benefit from sticking their head in new boxes, rather than thinking outside the box. We need to look at what has worked for whom and why, in other areas of business than our own that is. I have no intention to promote path followers or benchmarking. We need to meet people from other industries and with other experience. Through this diversity of influenes, we become creative.
When it comes to open innovation as a means to achieve different, better and faster- that is all good. But open innovation also means you actively have to search for ways to transfer your ideas to others, given you have no intentions to commercialize them in-house.
The portfolio dilemma
So here we are, the organization is ready and willing. The needs are there. We might have enjoyed double-digit growth with high margins, but what does the future look like? Even the best artists can fall in their rankings. Their clients just might not want more shipments from them. The ‘mojo’ is lost. The product has gone over the top due to product development galoring the product into what we would compare to a Hollywood spouse; Yes, it has been vibrant and beautiful, but all the technology put into it, all the upgrades all the touch-ups have just killed the ‘mojo’. Customers will look for something that has disrupted or even represents a radical change.
In their recent blog, Swedish super design firm PeoplePeople, approach this from a slightly different but just as important angle; They say “Our recommendation is a process that acknowledges creative tools for generating ideas and tools for rationality for deciding on ideas.” I have participated in finding one very simple solution to this. The solution is simple, but the value is a bit more complex to explain. Googols Decision Tool, not only assist organizations to find that rational reasoning, it also helps form a culture that leans towards the direction of business objectives, and it helps us bridge cultural hurdles in teams that inhibit everything from ‘management by decision’ to ‘not invented here’.
Guru Clayton Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School, touches at this in an article published in Business Journals. He claims even our most loved and promising brands are heading the wrong way. In my opinion he states the similar finding I make, they are at risk of loosing it due to partial inability to focus and understand what is important, things have or will change and we need to DO things. We need to build and manage the portfolio of Innovations and through this make our whole organization understand why we decide to focus on certain projects and not on others.
Thinking different is not enough. You have to DO different to make a difference.
The Non-Projecting dilemma
A common situation is that organizations have a funnel which they treat as a tunnel.. or rather a bucket. They throw everything in there and resist decisions on what to focus on and not. Here is a thought on this;
Random innovation is even more dangerous than indecisive processes. Have ideas that get no feedback and you end up with a discouraged organization. So, let your organization know what you are after.
Form a vision to lead your Innovation Strategy.
Ensure that the Innovation Strategy includes your business goals. Nota bene; Includes, not limits to.
Communicate the strategy and let people know what you need help to fix and what you can’t focus on.
Then, set a portfolio strategy so you balance short-, medium- and long term with continuous improvements and disruptive Innovation. Better yet, open up for the Radical also. Whether this involves a 70/20/10 strategy or a more bold 40/20/40 one; it’s a whole lot better than the commonly seen 95/5/0.
Allocate recourses. The best resources.
Organizations cost of failure tend to be higher when they fail to Innovate, as compared to when projects fail to deliver. So dare to start the projects, pilot, test, iterate and if necessary; Kill’em. And actually here we have a major dilemma; The inability to go into project mode, and the inability to sacrifice other cases and invest resources into the unknown. We call this the Black Abyss. After all the inspiring and welcoming idea generation, there is just an abyss were everything tends to fall into a bucket of waiting.
We have to understand how we go from ideas, into projects. Find what is relevant and get started.
As Googolians ask; Are you Innovating or are you innowaiting?
Funny enough, when dealing with corporate ventures, I have found that the stories of Skunkwork inspire and amuse us all. But let us stop for a second and reflect about this. What is it that make Skunk work?
We could say that it is a self-fulfilling prophesy; if it works it will be called a Skunkwork. If it doesn’t it will be called a failed project.
Skunkworks are projects that work under the radar. They are not burdened with the administrative, managerial and rule bound ways of a large corporation. It is important to understand that Skunkworks may be sanctioned by management, or even should be. Let us say ought to be. It is not by definition that they have to be secret, illegitimate or refused.
To skunk a work, is to form an autonomous unit, with small resources, a dedicated team and letting them work entrepreneurially. They will (have to) seek new and different ways to accomplish results, with very limited resources, and be incentivized to do so. You will have to put best of breed in terms of staffing into this.
Skunkworking is actually a way for an organization to structure their ambidextrousness. I could very well say that Mr. Richard Bransons continious breaking large growing businesses into smaller ones, is a way of using the method to retain drive, innovativeness, entrepreneurship and business focus.
So we know that Skunk works. But not everywhere; recently I sat with people from a leading Swedish firm. They had skunked a new business and at start done everything right. They recruited one of their top dogs to run it, they moved them to a different environment, even geographically, so they would be nearer the industrial center of this new technology. Not long after business started to build, managers of “Mothercorp” demanded reports and budgets and the rest is history. -You better move back to our premises so we can support (read: control) you. -The CEO is so good, can she also do this and that for Mothercorp? -Your business isn’t large enough so we need to… and today a beautiful opportunity is dormant, in yet another big corporation.
If you have your portfolio strategy set. If you have the ideas, based on problems and needs. If the ideas can be selected based on rational as well as gut feeling (i.e. passion), if you have limited resources; well, the skunk working is not a bad way to work.
My personal experience is that failure is less common and less costly inthese cases. Skunkworks need long term view. Skunkworks enthusiasm the staff. Skunkworks build value.
When a company is about to make an investment, small or large, the return on investment, time to break even, profitability, margin and time at market are measured. The calculations are often based on direct financial returns, although indirect financial returns are often included in more complex metrics. There are compensation models that favor short-term results, which in turn benefits owners with short-term horizon of their holdings, as opposed to those who invest in building long-term value.
In a world where life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter, or better expressed, faster and faster, and also requires parallel cycles of new products and services alongside the main cycle, the requirements for innovative capacity increases. It is not only the compressed life cycles that affect us. Also the absolute need for sustainable consumption and sustainable industrialism implies new requirements and opens up for new opportunities. How do we navigate amongst these foaming waves?
Need to navigate
The modern western society has in the past 50 years rapidly been weighted towards a knowledge economy. How, then, should our workers treat and address their creativity and loyalty? Well, probably against the workplaces which offer best opportunities for personal development, which requires us to steer the creativity to areas where we can create an outlet for the results. The outlet is naturally where we create the greatest value in relation to the risk involved, in minimum time and at minimum cost in relation to the expected return. Again Return on Investment. But, is this the right way to operate corporate activity? No, the companies who work in a serious way with their innovation have obviously a functioning portfolio-thinking in which strategic and tactical, direct and indirect initiatives share the resources. To balance this portfolio, it must be aligned with the operational strategy.
Well, financial, strategic, tactical, direct and indirect results in a confusing mix. In addition, a concept which is available on a valuation level, but rarely is communicated consistently throughout the organization is Innovation. Have the managers today the opportunity to pursue innovation with the same excellence as other investments? Only if we agree on the definition of each organization, create targets and measure the processes, can we head for the results.
An introduction to Innovation metrics
Innovation Pioneers International is an organization founded by networking innovation experts in the leading Swedish companies. The purpose of the network is to aggregate, produce and distribute practical innovation knowledge and to run a continuous Innovation Agenda. One of the first projects to be pursued by Innovation Pioneers is the project Metrics. Apart from this Book of Metrics, a tool for selecting metrics has been worked out. It is our hope that the reader of this publication finds guidance on how to measure and manage the innovation process.
The entrepreneurial scene in Stockholm is boosting business inspiration. I feel very inspired after an evening with disruptive new initiatives driven by true entrepreneurial spirit. As I this past evening have taken on the role as an advisor/angel/dragon, I conclude the work day with some questions; How can I help boost women’s entrepreneurial engagements and how do I drive even more intrapreneurship to the table? How can I spread the entrepreneurial spirit to form intrapreneurial spirit, thus creating growth and prosperity?
Boosting entrepreneurship with business
It used to be a words I threw at business leaders; “..let us boost business with entrepreneurship”. Aimed at the large organizations subject to getting stale, the phrase actually had impact. Everywhere growth is needed and disruptive solutions are considered part of the solution, entrepreneurship is one of the cultural tools.
Entrepreneurship is not the Holy Grail of corporate business, but it adds vitality, drive, new paths.. and inspiration. The financial values created set aside, these are very important factors to creating the right culture for Innovation. But entrepreneurial spirit also adds to the “personal reward” factor. Our studies on intrapreneurial activities have concluded that two major forces drive peoples willingness to create; recognition and participation. The spirit of creation and active participation, engagement and responsibility is not necessarily driven by financial terms, they are driven by the opportunity to have recourses and to be valued for being part of a creation and realization process. To learn and be part of a team are also important factors. I have made this into one of my key subjects when I lecture and I can go on and on about it.
Hence, I would like to confess to something. I think it is even as important to boost entrepreneurship with corporate business. I believe that one of the true values of our large organizations is the infra-structure they offer for entrepreneurship. We can find many examples of new business initiatives that, when managed correctly, drive significant value from large corporations and in return offer even larger values to them.
The intrapreneurs dilemma
Intrapreneurs should not be afraid of anything, but they are. They are afraid to loose the only thing they have that the entrepreneur doesn’t. They are afraid to loose their job. And yet, they all say you shouldn’t be. Easy to say; Harder to meet.
You are fired!
Gifford Pinchot , whom formed the phrase Intrapreneur in the 70’s has as his first commandment “Come to work each day, willing to be fired.” Boy, have I followed his path here. When I contacted Gifford about 10 years ago, one of his comments was regarding the fact that I had been fired after 1,5 days from my first job, with the words “We have been doing this for 70 years. We don’t need another crazy guy with new ideas”. Gifford said this was probably the best thing that has happened me and I actually started to see his reasoning. I turned that failure into part of my personal path. Since then, I can’t say I don’t care whether or not a team wants me involved (I do very much), but I am not afraid of loosing my job, especially not since I made my career into forming my own job.
I have noted that Mr. Pinchot has added 6 commandments, the 16th being “Don’t ask to be fired..” which very well aligns with my opinion. You can continue to be a creator, even within. Understand the rules and play by them, just as you would have to with investors if you left your organization.
You are hired!
When a few years after I got fired, a great Swedish entrepreneur decided to hire me, it was actually with similar words; -We have been at this for 60 years, we are about to do everything differently. Join me.
Join me. Not join us. Me. Those were the words of a leader. And I did join him. And I would again. Tributes to you Mr Jan H Stenbeck, for what you did to boost entrepreneurship in Sweden and for having me around for nearly 7 years. I believe that Mr Stenbeck had more to teach us than we understand. He actually made a thing clear to me; Capable, innovative and entrepreneurial people do fit into larger organizations. And they should be ready to share value and security in exchange for this talent that they bring. Mr. Stenbeck had an unseen ability of attracting those with an entrepreneurial spirit to his organization. Many left him to form their own ventures, so again a tributes to someone who helped shape industries beyond his own business. Those that didn’t leave him and his Group didn’t necessarliy lack entrepreneurship, they continued the creation, from within.
Few people step into their job willing to bet their stability. Unless a bit wacky of course. Wacky or single. Or wealthy maybe.
So, do we really need to have people leave their jobs to create new disruptive initiatives? No, by all means, it is 2013, not 1972. We can find new ways of collaboration, employment, value sharing and security. Be innovative, be bold, be daring. You are about to create history and with this value to the company, ask for something in return. The models have changed, its time we do. Stability is actually only offered from your inner strength. Security might have to be accomplished with external support. The organizations need that entrepreneurial drive within. Find a way, and play by those rules. There are other rules to bend, than those that work.
I ask myself
Is there something in my work with corporate venturing and creating intrapreneurial activities that also could affect the gender ratio of entrepreneurial initiatives? Well guess what. I think so. I think I might have one of many needed solutions. I believe that corporate venturing could drive significantly more competence cross gender and cross abilities to the table.
I am an advocate of failures, my mantra being: Failure is not a result; it is part of a process. However there are forms of failure that have fatal impact and these can be avoided through leadership, focus, guts and a bit of good luck.
Failure can have many faces
One typical form of failure is that we do not find a working or acceptable solution to a given challenge or need. When a technology proves to be not working or a solution not to be accepted by the market, often enough we see this as failing projects. We can learn and iterate and solve this, or just move on.
If we move on, usually it is for the benefit of another more promising project, which is part of a contracting process forcing us to select were we spend our resources. If we redevelop and try again, we have pushed ourselves to hopefully finding a better solution, i.e. failure was a success.
Killing a project can be hard, but important. Making the right choice for the right reasons early on, tends to touch the efficiency curve of Innovation Portfolio management.
As we are still looking for a cost to market and revenue at market ratio and since this is to be discounted based on a limited time frame, our ability to be efficient affects the overall performance even more.
The lethal failure
Another category of failures, being that we do not have resources, strategy, stamina or guts to Innovate is the dangerous part. This trap has to be avoided at any cost; else it will cost all your revenues, customer relations and talents working for you.
Failing to innovate will over time be lethal to your organization.
When organizations like Kodak, Swedish Postal Services, printed newspapers or any other stale giant lack leaders that interpret mega trends and weak signals and guide their teams to finding solutions and offerings that fill needs and drive change, then we know we are in for a kill. And it is bloody. People lose their jobs, values are destroyed, investors lose capital, and brands are ruined and on and on… however new thinking entrepreneurs gain ground for competition- and I have to admit that I like this.
The cost of closing down, rather than Innovating, collaborating, thinking in new boxes, redesigning, shaping new business models etc., is however incomparable.
There are so many ways of innovating and it is so energizing, as opposed to the contrary. Through corporate venturing methods involving periscope investments and other innovation strategies, I have seen organizations rejuvenate their business and delivering value to all stakeholders.
Leadership for Innovation
There is no alternative in today’s business environment, than to seek and elaborate, discover new ways and continue to disrupt the common grounds.
This is a matter of leadership. Lead for success, embrace failures, and celebrate passion, engagement and efforts. Dare to build your whole organization to lead, don’t focus only on single leaders. Form your culture and operations to actually support innovation and steer its focus towards the exploration and exploitation of new findings.
All industries are facing radical changes called for by new business models, technology shifts, market requirements and not least the strong super trends and entrepreneurial ways that challenge value chains. We therefore have to manage continued business and continuous changes in parallel with disruptive and entrepreneurial initiatives explored. This is partially what is called ambidextrous organization.
Lead, challenge and disrupt
An organization operating in an industry, which stands in the midst of upheaval, requires insight and drive, vision and implementation, and possibly many others contra-dictating characteristics for survival. It is no longer enough to be adaptive and agile. To deliver lasting customer value, an organization need to be challenging in parallel with the continued safely shipping of their offerings. One must be able to do something with the right hand and another with the left. At the same time. While whistling your favorite song.
Intrapreneurship and Corporate Venturing
I normally suggest to deal with these issues from a leadership and cultural perspective firstly and secondly organizing a structural solution to support each organizations specific situation. We incorporate intrapreneurship and corporate venturing as means to meet some of these situations.
Innovation is a key factor to achieve long term and in some terms sustainable success. Innovation therefore has to be part of an over-all strategy and Innovation need to be defined as an action that imbues all strategic aspects. However, many organizations lack the right leadership and therefore suffer from a toothless strategy. We need to focus on three pillar stones of Innovation. This is a brief introduction to these.
It is not a question of forming a strategic incentive to be adaptive and agile. It is about courage to form a strategy of becoming a leader. With this comes tactical issues for agility and adaptability, but let the strategy define how to lead change in your area of activity. Dare to disrupt. Dare to take space.
Three pillar stones of Innovation
There are many ways to define Innovation, and I believe that basically every situation and organization have to interpret Innovation as such, in their own manner. Every management team I work with goes through the process of defining what and why, however, the definition is not as valuable as the process to formulate it.
I like to base my discussions around Innovation on three pillar stones: The known, The Unknown and Resources. These three, encompass so many dimensions which are vital to drive innovation; strategy, culture, leadership, structure, processes, finance, eco system etc. These are all embraced by Googols Innovation Capability Configuration model.
Now, back to the definition, Innovation is all about the process of developing solutions to needs and problems and repetitively supplying these, with a define value proposition. So, Innovation cannot be defines as merely ideas, or technologies, nor just products or services. We have to embrace a thinking of business models, processes and leadership also. To me, Innovation is also much about thinking in other boxes, not only outside the box, that is.
Thinking in other boxes, embrace the job of studying and finding models of working that have been approached by other organizations and adjusting these for our own situation. Doing this, again we return to the pillar stones of Innovation:
Pillar stone 1. The known
The known, represents the expertise and traditions of the company. Here we find the current assets built over time, the brand, the built-in knowledge and experiences. The more of this we identify and bring to the table, the better our ability to innovate. And yes, I mean it. Since Innovation is defined as a process of creating value based on ideas on how to solve problems and needs, in a for each case novel way; “the known”, is an asset to minimize risk, shorten time to market and minimizing the need of external resources. However, leadership is vital, so that the right problems are approached, and disruptive solutions are sought after. With this pillar stone, comes courage. Else, there has been a misunderstanding.
Pillar stone 2. The unknown
Curiosity drives Innovation. It didn’t kill the cat. We need to incorporate a constant questioning of how things are done and why. In which ways could the job be done in another way? What jobs to be done by our clients, can we help solve in a better way? How are things done better in other industries? Which needs can I offer solutions to? What is really going on in my, and other market spaces? We must navigate out into places where we don’t yet know how to identify the solutions. Venture into areas where we don’t know what the effects will be from our journey. We do this through insight work and business intelligence and through our networks giving us tips on what is cooking. This, “the unknown”, is the pure spring bed of new ideas to be brought forward. Again, leadership has to be visionary and guiding. Leadership has to be daring, long-term and able to connect dots that might not even be visible. This is when mega trends meet evidence and creative questioning in one arena. This space is filled with question marks and a few exclamations.
Pillar stone 3. Resources
Through management of resources we drive behavior. Unlimited resources are likely contra productive to continuous Innovation. It is the scarcity of resources that force us to be smarter. But let us not kid ourselves; we need have access to the right recourses at the right time.
Return on Nothing
What resources are we talking about? I once coined the expression, Return on Nothing, putting the finger on the fact that Innovation can be achieved with already existing structures and opportunities. The needs for heavy investments are not necessarily what we first have to focus on. Business Model Innovation can for instance be far easier to try than developing new disruptive products.
Two of the most important resources lies within access to management and top performing team members. With access to management comes trust and drive. A third resource is access to the eco-system of the organization. With this comes cost efficient and customer based development. It goes without saying that funding is of importance. However, fund wisely, so that entrepreneurship is fostered. This will have future value when it comes to continued commercialization.
Again, here management needs to put focus on often relatively small initiatives, with high growth, different culture and its own branding ambitions. This can be contradictory to managing an ingoing, cash-flow generating, however slowly deteriorating business. Thus, foster leadership, engage intrapreneurs, be curious and courageous. Dare to be disruptive!