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World-class innovators have figured out how to harvest the left and right brains of all employees.

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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?

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Global Crises is causing Ethical Banking - A story of Innovation

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This is one of many such stories, where it takes a burning platform to wake up human beings. It seems that the Man takes things seriously only when he is about to perish. We as society, in general, seem to want to always live on the edge, the materialistic edge as opposed to ethical edge. It is sad to see that we only wake up when we are pushed to the corner.

Smart innovative executives have figured out how to take such insights and turn it into a new business model. 

Best innovators have a unique ability to connect dots or see what others cannot easily see. They are extremely inquisitive, especially when systems are breaking down. 

The banking system (along with many other systems such as education, political, etc.) are all breaking down and the Man is being pushed to the corner. 

What can we learn? What can an innovator learn? 

One solid example is the Tridos Bank of Netherlands. It has been around for 30 years with over 300,000 global clients. It is amongst five banks in Spain that is growing at an amazing pace to attract consumers that demands ethical investments and transparent and moral banking services. 

Tridos and four other such banks in Spain, only invests in the real economy, finances projects related to sectors such as renewable energies and ecological agriculture, and holds social justice to be its own particular Bible. 

Read more…


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Over 4,000 books now available as free PDF downloads

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All PDF versions of books published by the National Academies Press are now downloadable to anyone free of charge.

 Makes All PDF Books Free to Download;
More Than 4,000 Titles Now Available Free to All Readers

This includes a current catalog of more than 4,000 books plus future reports produced by the Press. The mission of the National Academies Press (NAP) — publisher for the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council — is to disseminate the institutions’ content as widely as possible while maintaining financial sustainability. To that end, NAP began offering free content online in 1994.

Printed books will continue to be available for purchase through the NAP website and traditional channels. The free PDFs are available exclusively from NAP’s website, and remain subject to copyright laws.

Source: The National Academies Press

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Role of HR in Innovation

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Innovation is the catch word for our generation. Everywhere we look at, we find innovation. There was a time in history when invention was innovation. At the brink of inventing all, innovation is invention. The bottle of beverage is redefining its shape. Every communication device is undergoing metamorphosis. 2G to 3G, rectangular to modular technologies, the world is experiencing change through break neck innovation.

We wonder about the soul of innovation! Is it a collective mind frame which innovates? Do innovation leads to more innovation? Or there is an innovator behind every innovation?

Innovation is definitely a social mind frame. If not initiated participated by all. Whenever something new hits the town and if dubbed happening by a group of people, like a shoal of fish, we run after it to part of the experience. That means innovation is started by an innovator and followed by the masses. Innovation leads to further innovation! That is true but there has to be some innovator to start this chain reaction. Thus innovation is all about the innovator.

Innovator is no one but someone among you and me. It is the human brain which innovates. Finding such brains is the real job of our HR Dept. A successful HR professional is always an innovator who identifies the resource who can do trendsetting innovation.

Unfortunately the industry is swarmed by unsuccessful HR techniques which fail to identify the real innovator. What is the relevance of totemistic queries like, “How experienced you are? And tell us about yourself? How about your achievements and breakthroughs? Who are your clients?” And all statistical queries far removed from finding the real innovator with innovation mind. We are not proposing these queries are irrelevant at the time of selecting candidates however we are questioning its relevance in terms of the context of innovation.

An ideal HR professional shouldn’t be task master or recruitment software. Beyond the plastic smile he/she should have a sensibility to understand the processes one practice to understand and implement business techniques. One should delve in detail to understand the outlook of an interviewee when it comes to innovation.    

However no HR is born with these skills. An integrated HR innovation package can help them tremendously in recruiting innovative personnel in the managerial wire frame of an organization.


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Role of IT in the Company's Innovation Process - Part- I

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Role of IT in the Company’s Innovation Process

Q&A with Jatin DeSai, CEO The DeSai Group (March 21, 2011)

1)       The term "innovation" shows up a lot, and is often used in different ways. So first off, what is your definition of innovation ( What is a specific example you've seen in your work?

  1. Innovation means lot of things to lot of people. It usually gets confused between invention, creativity, and design. Creativity is an act of being creative; to think and act differently. Most organizations are designed exactly opposite – to conform, to follow a predictable process, to assure certainty. This is one reason why creativity does not happen at the scale of the organization. There are no rewards for thinking with your left and right brain; that is the whole brain as Daniel Pink wrote in his famous book of the same name.  Ideas, especially fresh ideas, come from act of being creative. When ideas turn into something unique, it can be called Invention for the person or the team who created it. But, it is not called Innovation until it creates value for the market and the (internal or external or both) customer. Anyone can invent, but when market accepts it, it is called Innovation.
  2. Another way I like to say it is “Creativity is when you spend money to find ideas, and Innovation is when you use ideas to make money.”
  3. Innovation by our highest definition is all about growing the top line - period. Anyone can grow the bottom line, as most senior executives have done to our business climate over the last three decades, by cutting expenses while driving efficiency and optimization techniques. This is not sufficient for long-term success.  In fact, I think it is the main source of our failed economy. There is no way a company can grow, year after year, develop a strong brand, retain customer loyalty, and achieve its annual goals without a climate and culture of innovation.

2)       During these tough economic times, corporations are struggling to make it, struggling just to get by doing their core work. Where does innovation fit into such an environment? In other words, does innovation matter in a recession? And if so, why?

  1. Yes it is true, that many organizations are trying to survive during this tough time in our world. But it is the result of the past choices that got us into this situation in the first place. It is very hard to ask the same CEO/MD, who did not value innovation, to now all of a sudden make investments for innovation efforts or programs especially when they don’t even know what innovation is. In our experience, most executives and even the teams at the top lacks a clear definition of innovation. They first must achieve clarity and find common language for innovation. It is not just R&D, or product development, or throwing fuzzy toys in a meeting, or drawing with crayons.
  2. I think that most organizations are now past the recession climate. They are out of ER and into the recovery room; at least here in US. They are now in a phase of strategic and conservative growth. This means they want to invest, but do not want to radically change anything; I agree, they should not! But they must proceed with a different mindset; they must acknowledge moving forward in a new and unique way and focusing on long-term not just short-term success. This creates a dilemma since most executive compensations are still tied to short-term success.
  3. For a company who does not have an innovation mandate they must understand that innovation is about long-term and sustainable growth. Therefore, it has very little value during the recession if the executive team is focused on short-term achievements. Once they are out of the ER department, it is prudent to commit to a new way for recovery, rehab, and to stay healthy. If they use the old mindset that got them in to the ER in the first place, chances are they will be back in to the hospital soon. The post-recession period is the best time to develop a strong sponsorship and alignment for innovation as a strategic tool for growth. It means committing to doing things differently, it means challenging the status-quo, it means experimenting more, it means new learning, new technologies, and new knowledge; all of which brings new clarity to help make informed choices for investments instead of  external factors dictating and forcing downward demise.
  4. For any company. There are two primary external drivers that create most amount of uncertainty for the future – technological and marketplace regularities. IT departments can play a huge role to help address both factors. Who better to help think though about what will happen to technology change, impact of technology, and adoption of products and services that use technologies then a a good IT department?
  5. So, the best outcome during this period is to at least agree to adopt innovative mindset at the top, commit to innovation as a new behavior and finally have the CEO and CIO own the innovation charter for the organization. There are at least four different ways to implement innovation in an organization, choose one (details can be found in our Innovation Roadmap whitepaper on our site at and drive it.

3)       There are companies for which IT is a prominent public facing capability (say Google, Microsoft, IBM, HP) and those where IT is a business or supporting service in the delivery of public facing products. Considering the latter types of companies, where is IT in a typical company's innovation mix? Where should it be? In other words, from what you've seen how much do companies tap into their IT departments for help in driving innovation? And what should they be doing?

  1. In most companies, IT is a support function and not a strategic function. This has always intrigued me. When most amount of changes in the world are due to automation and globalization, I cannot fully understand why most senior teams do not position technology as a strategic weapon.
  2. One of the reasons why this occurs is because organization and the senior team have not created distinctions between technology and information systems (IT departments). Most successful innovators have! Without such clarity it is hard to introduce innovation in an organization correctly, especially when most think of innovation only in terms of hard products.
  3. To be successful, IT departments must master the delivery and quality demands of information systems first. This means, they must demonstrate that they are making money (coming below the budget and helping the organization achieve a customer centric focus) for the organization and not just a cost center for the organization. Then, they have the right to own the innovation agenda for the organization.
  4. “Sales” is the practice and “Marketing” is the decision science to help business create value. Same is true for Accounting and Finance areas. I believe Technology-driven IT departments can be as valuable as Marketing and Finance departments are to the organization, once they have demonstrated the value and discipline required to be the best practice area first. Any good ‘practice’, such as a consulting company, law firm, or an accounting firm prides its self on, is a set of defined capabilities. It usually has components of professionalism, high-quality, certifications, deep subject matter expertise, continuous learning, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration as some basic methods of their success. IT departments should use innovation internally within their own organization to become the best practice area for the company, and help ‘make money’ for their internal customers first. Only then, they have the ‘right to be at the table’ and help drive the overall innovation and technology agenda for the entire organization. When IT departments can help find new insights about customers, markets, macro trends, competitors, and technology enabled new business models, they can be a strategic practice such as the Marketing and Finance departments.
  5. Most IT departments do not think it is their job to drive sales, just like most manufacturing plants don’t think it is their job to make money. I disagree! Until the mindset shifts to the only goal – to ‘make money’ - the game is difficult to win; especially for large multi-nationals.
  6. Best example of great IT departments we have seen, across sectors and continents we work in, are those clients who have strong commitment to making money for their internal customers and also to help introduce technologies in their customer’s products and services using innovation methodologies and tools. These departments also have a higher ratio of looking ‘outside’ then ‘inside’; that is they are more outside-in then inside-out.

4)       How realistic is it that IT can help drive innovation when those departments are probably understaffed more than most, not to mention all the cost cutting there is. Can you contribute to innovation when you can barely even get your regular work done? And if so, how (i.e., how can you overcome those obstacles?

  1. I don’t think IT organizations should wait for the world to change or improve. Innovation happens because fresh ideas happen. Ideas come from people! If you have people, then you can start to innovate now. Focus on ‘climate of innovation’ (video) not the ‘culture of innovation’. Manger can create ‘climates of innovation’ in his/her department much faster than a big innovation program from the corporate office.
  2. We have found there are more ideas in every organization than what to do with. Problem is they are sitting inside your staff’s head and left at the door. When brought out, they are not visible, organized, and prioritized. In other words, innovative ideas are under the ‘corporate nose’.
  3. Start by creatively asking different question to every problem. First practical step is to demand new questions, than you might get new ideas. Promote ‘The 4 Whys’ for every project discussion. That is, ask why should something be done; why now; why that way; and why not this path Vs this path? This will start to push people to get out of the ‘regular box’ and rethink possible solutions. If someone is satisfied with an answer the first time, it is probably not an innovative answer. Learn and teach to dig deeper, just to see what possible new solution(s) are to an old problem.
  4. Most obstacles for innovation are about un-learning not just new learning for each individual. This un-learning work is the work for each person. Un-learning is about removing internal-gravity and status-quo. It is our internal orthodoxies that must be uprooted. This work can easily happen during everyday activity without cost. It just needs to be promoted by the manger and embraced by each individual for the sake of innovation and growth. I believe that human beings are at their best when they are creating something new in their projects, work, careers, and life. Innovation is all about creating something new and novel.
  5. By allowing such climate at a team level, over time, many micro-climates of innovation will become visible, leading to culture of innovation.

5)       What specific steps should an IT manager or CIO, who wants to help drive innovation, take?

  1. See above about climate.
  2. Develop innovation policy that specifically defines what is innovation (video)? Why is it important? and What is being expected of each individual at all levels as behaviors of innovation?
  3. Integrate those behaviors in to HR performance management process.
  4. One method is for CIO to set up an innovation council just for IT. Set up a budget line with a small fund - say 1.0% for anyone to find ideas that needs experimentation resources. This will send a strong message to everyone about commitment to innovation and also to the future.
  5. Provide basic innovation education to as many people as possible, and provide extended training to help build intrapreneurs (50 people from a size of 5,000).
  6. CIO and the council should role model the innovation behaviors.
  7. Develop 90-day experiment plans for ideas (video) that come from teams across the IT organization. Some of these ideas will surely drive powerful outcomes for your customers.

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How leaders in your organization are helping employee become Innovative?

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To stay ahead of the competition, a company needs to constantly innovate, especially in the times when new highways and skyscrapers can change a city's look overnight and new flavors in your coffee at your favorite cafe change as fast as it takes to brew a cupful. 

But, the question is what does it take to innovate? It takes out-of-the-box thinking in terms of smart strategies, the ability to conceptualize something that is unseen by others and to have the courage to risk everything and bring it out first to lead the industry. 

However, in an organization, employees with creative powers and important project managerial roles often lack the organizational support to go with something innovative and brilliant in the fear of being snubbed by the boss or the leader. More often than not, leaders start assuming totalitarian powers over the company's workforce and direct them to work according to certain set parameters and guidelines, such that each and every project starts becoming clone of the other. In our experience, it is this clone-building practice at the level of leadership that causes grave impediments towards healthy and vibrant organizational environment.

In other words, lack of committed leadership support for innovation is the single largest barrier to employees bringing out their very best and being innovative – everyday. 

To check whether the leaders of your company are amply motivating the younger and ambitious work force or not, start by seeing whether they are too much into appeasing clients. If they are themselves in the constant fear of rejection by clients and have restricted the use of their brainstorming and creative faculties, chances are they will lead in a negative manner and discourage the teams working under them from carrying out any innovative plan, idea or strategy. 

Another great sign to look for is which of the ‘Three-S Mindset’ does your leadership predominantly use to run the business? 

  • ‘Start-Up’ attitude: meaning do they love to experiment a lot, fail, learn, and keep experimenting until something new arises? They are customer driven to find solutions to the unmet needs of the market or enhance current portfolio of products to make them better – constantly.
  • Scale attitude: here, the leaders have the courage to invest and grow the business fast. Leaders have demonstrated the required balance between growth and optimization, but are driven by speed to market.
  • Status-Quo: here the leaders are wired for keeping things as is and not rocking the boat too much. Here leaders have very low risk-tolerance, proactive about cutting costs, optimize everything, and do not show commitment to long-term investments? 

In our experience, leaders cannot afford to only use one mindset; they must use all the three above really well. This means organize the company strategies, structure, teams, and systems to leverage all three without causing disruption or disengagement of the workforce. 

Every leadership development program  must address development of the ‘Three-S’ mindsets. The DeSai Groups’ leadership programs are based on the principles of rationality and address the inner conflicts of leaders that restrict them from ‘thinking out the box’ and the invisible biases that limit their full attention to innovation and dynamism. Our leadership development programs are based on achieving two broad goals -- the motivation to motivate by engaging leaders of your company in self-awareness programs so that they come face to face with their own weaknesses and mental block against innovation and to show them how your company is under-performing due to these personal limitations. 

Thus, The DeSai Group encourage and trains leaders to become sensitive to the talents and skills of the work force while leveraging the experience and expertise of the best talent pools within. Leaders are taught to promote diversity, challenge status-quos, practice three-dimensional thinking, and identify emerging patterns for themselves and their subordinates that will propel innovation in the company. Ultimately, this will allow your company to benefit from their power to innovate. 

To build a climate and culture of innovation is a long-term process, which must happen at all levels: leadership, middle-management, work-teams, and at the individual level. 

Do not waste your company’s hard earned money on any innovation training workshops  until you have hard evidences that your leaders at the top are truly ready to walk-the-talk about innovation process themselves. Only then, you can expect teams and individuals to embrace innovation as way of life in your company.

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Help your organization with Leadership development programs - critical ingredient for innovation and growth.

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Leaders are not created leaders are born; is a partly flawed argument. In our experience working with Fortune clients since 1983, born leaders are mostly charismatic but they have a tendency to topple organizational values, principles and sometime ethics. That is, they are not true leaders, they are greedy managers. In the short run they can be unprecedented but for a sustained long term growth such charismatic leaders can be detrimental.

Various reasons can support the argument.

Any above average charismatic leader in a short span makes an impact and convinces the top line management to believe in his convictions. The team assigned to the leader soon follows the diktats of the concerned leader and get used to her or his way of conduct. Failures, misappropriations and disapprovals in such circumstances affect the nerve of the organization heavily because of over reliance on the leader. Same goes true with success stories. The flip side of such methods of leadership is clear devaluation of potential of the large work force. Such leadership tendencies are hierarchical and in most cases create a rift of ideology between large sets of people.

In case the leader quits the organization, the entire team crumbles and suffers from a confidence crisis. The situation becomes so worse that newer measures are often treated in comparison to the last leader. In extreme cases employees quit the organization and seek to join their old leader.

Thus every leadership development training program should make leaders out of ordinary employees based on their loyalty, potential and dedication. Leadership programs should focus within the parameters laid by the organization so that never the will of the leader challenges the authority of the organization. Such systematic leadership creates a deep respect for the organization and not the leader only. Innovation best happens under such circumstances of equality of law. In fact all successful organizations of today in any format of business create organizational leadership over personal leadership.

Leadership development programs from The DeSai Group, are targeted towards building pipeline of leaders from within by developing existing employees. Every leader should be groomed and customized to outperform. We believe that best leaders are those who are pushed beyond their current capacity, it is only then the person can tap into the undiscovered capability and the reservoir of potential within. These types of leaders should be taught to stretch their thinking beyond their comfort zone and assure never to endanger the will of the organization at large. Rather the leadership development workshops would stabilize the vision of the organization through proto organizations in the form of leaders. That is, true leaders walk the talk everyday.They should be the ideal role models for leadership for everyone.

The DeSai Group engages with clients to build leaders that can drive performance but also innovation. Too many leadership programs only focus on developing expected outcomes. That mindset cannot work any longer. Organizations must demand leaders to go beyond just the left-brain metrics of performance to whole-brain approach for strategic growth and value creation. It is imperative to build leaders that can out-perform but also out-compete in the turbulent markets.

The DeSai Group’s leadership programs are highly constructed with balance of science and art. These programs focuses on leadership performance bereaved of emotional impact. The psychological effect of a leader will be minimized and a leader would lead simply because he is not better than others but by the fact that he has tested leadership skill acknowledged by colleagues and employees.

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Peter F. Drucker... On Innvation

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One of my favorite authors on the subject of innovation...legendary Peter F. Drucker:

"There are innovators who are 'kissed by the Muses,' and whose innovations are the result of a 'flash of genius' rather than of hard, organized, purposeful work. But such innovations cannot be replicated. They cannot be taught and they cannot be learned. ..."

"But also, contrary to popular belief in the romance of invention and innovation, 'flashes of genius' are uncommonly rare. What is worse, I know of not one such 'flash of genius' that turned into an innovation. They all remained brilliant ideas.

"The purposeful work of innovation resulting from analysis, system, and hard work is all that can be discussed and presented as the practice of innovation. ... And the extraordinary performer in innovation, as in every other area, will be effective only if grounded in the discipline and master of it.

"Purposeful, systematic innovation begins with the analysis of ... the seven sources of opportunity: ... [which are] the organization's own unexpected successes and failures ... incongruities ... process needs ... changes in market structures ... changes in demographics ... changes in meaning and perception ... [and] new knowledge. All sources of innovative opportunity should be systematically analyzed and studied. It is not enough to be alerted to them. ...

"An innovation, to be effective, has to be simple and it has to be focused. It should do only one thing; otherwise it confuses. If it is not simple, it won't work. ... All effective innovations are breathtakingly simple. Indeed, the greatest praise an innovation can receive is for people to say, 'This is obvious. Why didn't I think of it?' "

Peter F. Drucker, The Essential Drucker, Harper, 2001, pp. 273-4.

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