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Moving Forward in a Changing World

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Today's modern leaders need to be prepared to guide their organization's innovation efforts. In this global economy, how to begin and how to structure are big questions. How exactly does one assess innovation readiness and what qualities, values and competencies will drive future success?

Competing on price alone in the long and even short run, is a losing strategy. Today, there are no safe-haven sectors, every industry is being re-shaped, and new competitive advantages average three months. Macro trends of globalization and automation continually shorten life span for products and services. Nimbleness is lacking, strategic and annual processes are not working, and multigenerational talent gaps are widening. (chapter 2, Assess Innovation Readiness, Innovation Engine)

Moving Forward in a Changing World

The disruptive result is the shift of power from the board room to the marketplace. Many authors and experts have pointed out this trend, yet traditional business models in the main, have not yet adjusted. Spend Shift describes a post-recession values-driven economy, concluding that consumer expectations and behaviors will drive business decisions.

John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio's latest book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, may give us some important insight into the skills, values and competencies of an ideal world leader, as identified through a two year study involving 64,000 people in 13 countries that comprise two-thirds of global GDP. It comes down it seems, to an array of desirable skills related to an emerging form of leadership arising in the business world - skills, traits, values and competencies thought of by the majority surveyed, as feminine traits.

While 81% said both masculine and feminine traits are needed to thrive in this world, the survey strongly revealed that both women and men are frustrated with the traditional masculine conduct and business structures they believe to be responsible for the financial global crisis. Globally, the feeling is one of cynicism overall, distrust particularly in financial institutions, and an overwhelming opinion (86%) that organizations have accumulated too much power.  The world is more social, global, and interdependent. While traditional practices in business, education, and government are increasingly ineffective in today's emerging global community and markets, we are seeing successful, new approaches to business as "millennials" enter the workforce with values that are challenging and changing the status quo.

In the August 7, 2013, article/video entitled Athena in Pinstripes, John Gerzema makes two glaring points:

  • There are still a very small percentage of women in the board room, yet women influence 80% of purchases
  • A public company today focuses on shareholder value. The company of tomorrow will focus on employee value and community value, recognizing who actually creates value within an organization.

As John Gerzema reminds us, Peter Drucker once said, "The Only Purpose of Business is to Have a Customer."

Getting back to assessing and planning, in Innovation Engine: Driving Execution for Breakthrough Results, Jatin Desai, in Chapter 2, "Assess Innovation Readiness," states that, "Innovation, if done right, should be an input  to strategic planning, not an outcome." Building a supportive climate and culture of innovation requires an evaluation of not only a firm's offerings, but also the intent, knowledge, quality and ethics of a company and the skill set and values of its leaders. The overall theme really needs to be one of engagement.

Innovation Engine addresses how to assess innovation readiness, the factors that must be examined, the questions that need to be answered, how to develop the competency for deep insights, the roles of external environment and internal employee engagement, and the overall alignment of success factors.

Unfortunately, "In most companies, future-related decisions are based primarily on use of historical data. Hardly anyone brings explicit data about the emerging needs of current customers or defines new opportunities for evaluation … in most cases, the process lacks the collective wisdom and knowledge of the entire organization at large. … it is assumed that the top team, albeit most distant from the front line, has the required knowledge about the ever-changing products, technologies, and issues. This is an orthodoxy that is rarely, if ever, challenged." ( Innovation Engine, Chapter 2, p. 39).

Past methods do not guarantee future success. The role of transformative leadership is crucial, as it sets the tone, dialogue and pace of an organization's strategy and execution. If dominant logic is stifling, a learning culture does not exist, or a firm's access and commitment to technologies and resources are lacking, ultimately innovation will not likely succeed. Regardless of how brilliant an idea may be, or how aggressive leadership and management, if the organization is out of step with the markets, trends, desires and values of its potential customers, there is no business.

The success of future leaders is not "men versus women" despite Athena's survey results of 66% of those agreeing the world would benefit if men thought more like women. Feminine qualities like collaboration, Intuition, patience, flexibility and loyalty were ranked high as key leadership qualities. So were masculine qualities such as decisiveness and resilience, along with neutral qualities including intelligence, candor and vision. It seems the message to CEO's from Athena and Innovation Engine is, from the beginning of the innovation process:

  1. be a better listener, be inclusive embracing diverse mindsets and points of view
  2. strive to continuously engage your customers, employees and communities

Innovation Engine puts forth a solid methodology for assessing, aligning, mobilizing and leading innovation which is comprehensive and inclusive from the start, emphasizing the importance of developing an innovation framework, organizational structure and momentum that begins, plays and continues with people, including and accommodating all stakeholders. This is the new direction of the world, and thus, everything in it.

The future is upon us. Meet it with an open mind.

" Bon chance mes amis."

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