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Any CEO can tell you that finding ideas is not the always the problem. The real issue is selecting and spreading the best ideas, testing quickly, and executing flawlessly. An "innovation engine" is an organization's capability to think and invest in long-term opportunities along with the competence to drive continuous innovations for top-line growth each year.
To build your innovation engine, your firm must excel at operationalizing ideas from your energized people who are willing to do everything they can to fight off internal resistance without creating chaos. This is your bench of corporate innovators: your intrapreneurs.
You already have natural intrapreneurs in your company. Some you know about, but most are hiding. These individuals are not always your top talent or the obvious rebels or mavericks. But they are unique and certainly the opposite of "organization men." When you find them and support them correctly, and magic will occur.
Intrapreneurs can transform an organization more quickly and effectively than others because they are self‐motivated free thinkers, masters at navigating around bureaucratic and political inertia.
In a firm with 5,000 employees, we've found, there are at least 250 natural innovators; of these at least 25 are great intrapreneurs who can build the next business for your firm.
Read the entire article at Harvard Business Review >>>
Many world-class companies have designed their business innovation engine to be small, nimble, and fast just like a start-up.
Following are specific examples of how world-class organizations support their innovation engines in order to enable a higher success hit rate from their innovation teams and "intrapreneurs":
- IBM has become the world's technology leader because of their commitment to innovation through collaboration. Their innovation philosophy is "Fail Many, but Fail Cheap". They use "Single Portal" (one of world's Top 10 intranets), Innovation Incubator (Technology Adoption Process), Lotus Connections (for fast information sharing), Innovation Jams (worldwide online ideation sessions), BluePedia (one of the largest internal Wikipedia sites), and Sametime (for instant online meetings).
- Whirlpool has an innovation college-like program that creates innovation mentors who are trained in structured innovation tools. These mentors are the primary innovation consultants for business teams to achieve their respective execution strategies.
- Intuit conducts multi-day "lean start-ins" for trained intrapreneurs to teach them how to conduct rapid experimentation for their products and services.
- Kimberly-Clark conducts "expert acceleration sessions" where they bring in external thought leaders (domain experts, industry analysts, scientist, leading edge technologists) face to face with business teams to help identify game-changing opportunities.
- 3M mandates internal sharing of all new innovations across product lines, markets, and R&D centers. They also have 30 customer technical centers across the world designed to better understand unique market needs and to accelerate global product introductions.
These big companies are successful because they understand how to grow big, with a Silicon Valley mindset. They have nurtured small start-up environments within their larger organizational structure and in the process have embraced how to continually experiment with what might be 'next'. Most importantly, they have realized they can never survive by primarily relying on knowledge and expertise solely within the four walls of the company.
In other words, they deliberately pursue outside-in (looking for emerging needs of the customers and markets) and inside-in (collaboration across internal business areas) perspectives as a standard practice.
How are you incubating and institutionalizing "entrepreneurial curiosity" within your organization?
Learn more about developing entrepreneurial thinking via our Venture Competitions article. When properly deployed, the business plan competition concept can result in 1) generation of new products and services, 2) development of employee business acumen and entrepreneurial capability, and 3) improved internal networks, enhancing cross-company collaboration and business results.
With the growth of investment options (like crowdfunding), low-cost infrastructure (like the free offers from Amazon and Microsoft), and incredible speed of viral communication, startups are enabled to innovate more than ever before. The flat earth effect of these and other offers results in wider distribution of startup ecosystems, beyond the traditional hotspots of Silicon Valley and Boston.
The DeSai Group has been active in formative Connecticut "Innovation Ecosystem" efforts (with $4.8M soon to be released by the State for incubation hubs and advisory resources). Another emerging innovation center is Cleveland!
LauchHouse is an Ohio-based seed capital investment fund, like Y-Combinator or Tech Stars, offering $25,000.00 investments to 10 technology based entrepreneurial-teams. This isn't targeting the local ecosystem, but rather is available for startups worldwide. LaunchHouse has played to its geographic strengths and embraced its city's identity to foster a creative and successful environment for entrepreneurs in Cleveland.
You can learn more at http://www.launchhouse.com/accelerator/
What do we mean by “The Box”? Is this outside or inside of us? If you think about it The Box is who we are today – made up of deep beliefs and assumptions from our life’s experiences so far. Everyone’s boxes are different and unique. We tend to associate with and hire people who have a box similar to ours: not a good practice if one wants to expand and grow.
To help you discover your own box, here are some questions for you to think about.
- Where is this Box? What material is it made up of? How tall is it? How big is it to others?
- Who can come in your box? Who cannot?
- Does everyone have a box?
- When one is born, did the box exist? How does it get created?
- What is the role of parents in creating the box for their children?
- What is the role of a manager in crafting a box for new hires, especially new graduates?
The Box is one’s “context” or “point of view” about what is right and what is wrong.
Most of us are happiest when we are at the center of the box. We don’t like to be pushed to the corner of the box. We get scared. What does that mean?
The center of the box is where the left brain is most happy. It is where everyone around expects us to be in order to do “the work” assigned to us. Most of us work from the center of the box on a daily basis – routine patterns, nothing new, boring, etc.
The best innovators are keenly self-aware of their own box and its characteristics. They also have trained themselves to go to the edge of the box on daily basis. They also “jump-out of the box” often to find new ideas, see what others don’t see, and are not fearful. They are “lost” (deeply loving what they do) when they are away from the center of the box. They in fact hate being stuck in the center of the box. Most people look at them as “different.” They become innovators because of their out of the box qualities along with an ability to navigate organizational systems and overcome deeply rooted orthodoxies. They can be considered corporate missionaries.
Finally, the very best, the world-class innovation leaders are fully aware of their box and also the boxes of others around them. They also love to get outside the box. So what is the difference between the best and the world-class? The world-class innovators also know how to pull others outside of their respective boxes as well.
Organizations must learn to create a pipeline of such leaders to deal with the complex and fast changing world.
What is your organization doing to institutionalize out of the box environment and reward out of the box thinking?
Left Brain and Right Brain can help create balance between Performance and Innovation.
Just like every individual, every organization, business unit, and team has a left brain and right brain. Unfortunately most organizations have not developed an eco-system to allow both to co-exist visibly as a daily practice. That is akin to hiring an employee but only using 50% of their full capacity.
What causes this to occur?
One answer lies in the natural “S-curve” growth cycle in every business. When organizations grow large they gravitate toward process and execution, and gravitate away from their entrepreneurial roots. Focusing on execution forces them to rely on process, structure, and measurement. This ultimately creates amnesia; where they forget how they got started and how innovative they were at the early stage as a start-up. This amnesia grows into full-fledged sickness. This sickness shows up as risk-averse organizational culture focused only on short-term success and bottom line thinking as the driving force for all activities at every level. I call this culture “left-brain” centric.
So what to do?
Understand both brains and encourage both.
Left brain is about management, science, structure, analytics, predictability, certainty, and guarantee. Left brain protects you from failure and keeps you in the center of “the box”. If we don’t do this work well, the organization can die quickly. We need process and financial predictability.
The problem is we overuse the left brain and don’t develop organizational right brain behavior. Left brain helps protect organizational norms and orthodoxies (beliefs, standards). There are many examples of how corporate beliefs limit innovation. Why didn’t Sony invent the iPhone? Why didn’t Kodak invent digital photography?
Right brain is about leadership, art, creativity, passion, beliefs, fun, and learning through experimentation. Right brain gives you access to what is possible because it loves freedom and exploration.
Right brain does not require planning and operates mostly in the moment. Most people are happiest when their right brain is fully engaged (hobbies, passion, family events, holidays, etc.)
Most cultures value only left brain and most people leave their right brain at home when they enter the workplace. Managers should learn to “tap into” the organizational right brain to help drive innovation and activate employee passion to create. More engaged and energetic employees ultimately lead to improved revenue and profits (as evidenced by employee engagement surveys by Gallop and Hewitt).
What are you doing to activate the right brain of your organization?
Entrepreneurs like to spend their time thinking about new products and their grandiose vision. But though these are key drivers for any startup, there's another task that's of the utmost importance: networking.
1. Be active on social media
2. Get on a niche social network
3. Attend industry events
4. Keep your elevator pitch primed and polished
5. Get referrals, and trade contacts with others
6. Be reachable 24/7
7. Always follow up
8. Cultivate every relationship
Source: Open Forum
Is there a correlation between entrepreneurial success and a founder's educational background? A survey conducted by the Kauffman Foundation attempted to find out. Below is a visual representation of the results.
Source: Open Forum
For a majority of highly skilled immigrants who want to start companies today, the promised land is no longer the United States, according to a recent report from the Kauffman Foundation. Some experts say the flow of immigrants back home to countries like India and China is a "brain drain" that robs the U.S. of new jobs and companies, and requires an immigration policy overhaul. Others see the flow as more of a "brain circulation" that benefits economies on both sides of the sea.
Wadhwa, a senior research associate at Harvard Law School and director of research at Duke's Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization, falls on the "brain drain" end of the spectrum. "It's not a brain drain; it's a brain hemorrhage," he insists. He sees the flow as a policy problem, the result of a visa system that broke down after 9/11 and the dot-com bust, stymying more than half a million skilled immigrants. Would-be entrepreneurs now wait years in "green card limbo," stuck in jobs tied to H-1B visas that allow neither transfer nor promotion, Wadhwa notes. "Not only can you not start a company, but you are stagnant in your career."
It's a world away from three decades ago, when Wadhwa immigrated from India. "It took me 18 months to get a green card," he recalls. He started his first company 15 years later -- and wasn't alone. In fact, one out of every four technology and engineering companies launched between 1995 and 2005 had at least one immigrant founder, Wadhwa discovered in a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 companies in 2007. In Silicon Valley, the number was 52%. More...
It depends on your definition of leadership.
In my experience with building leadership capacity for an organization and coach C-level executives, I would highly suggest you first distinguish between what is Leadership and what is Management for your organization – at the top.
Once you have this definition then look for following traits to build via experiential learning(you can't teach leadership in classroom alone).
One of the best teachers of this subject is my friend Mel Toomey of Generative Leadership Group(www.glg.net). He has taught me very important lessons about the topic of leadership, and I regard him as one of the best in the world. He says that most leadership education in Corporate America is Management Training. Leadership is a form of art. Management is a form of science. You cannot teach leadership in a scientific manner. You can create leadership literacy in class – but that is all.
I asked Mel, what is the one most important thing to teach (or learn) for different levels of leaders in a typical organization. Here is what he said:
1) New leaders: learn to TRUST THEMSELVES - a leader's capacity for trusting others is bounded by their trust for themselves.
2) Experienced leaders: learn to PREPARE TO MAKE MISTAKES... One cannot lead unless they are willing to be wrong... the handmaiden of original thinking are mistakes.
3) For senior leaders: learn that they WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION TO MAKE THE DECISIONS THEIR JOB CALLS FOR... By definition, the decisions leaders make involve creating... bringing new things into existence, dealing with matters that are unique. While history will inform a leader, a leader’s decisions involve maters for which they must write the history.
4) Finally for the top level executives: they need to learn to BE A "LEADER EDUCATOR"... the source of growth and innovation in your organization will come from those you educate, develop and mentor as leaders. Be "the coach" and clear the field of play for your "experienced leaders."
If you look at the list above, the question you asked no longer matters. The answer becomes - all human beings have the capacity to be a leader. The difference is, what in the ‘context of leadership’, the ‘play arena for leadership’ are you talking about and what needs to be developed between where they are now and what level of leadership they need to practice. As a side note, most organizational cultures are not tolerant enough for the craft of leadership to be learned fast and safely – en entirely different issue, but an important one.
It is very unfortunate that, many “Leadership Programs” are just that – one brush fits all. Total waste of time and money – most of this stuff does not work.