Posts

8 Ways to Democratize Experimentation: HBR Blog

My third post on the Harvard Business Review site went live today. The post was written in collaboration with H. James Wilson and is titled, 8 Ways to Democratize Experimentation. Building on our previous post on experimentation, in this post, we offer 8 tips for organizations to consider as they try to infuse experimentation as part of every employee's work.

  1. Increase managerial attention.
  2. Train employees on the basics of conducting experiments.
  3. Accept that experimentation is a messy and untidy process.
  4. Deploy organizational resources and assets to give employees the time and space to experiment with their ideas.
  5. Build a process whereby experiments can be conducted in a systematic manner.
  6. Create a platform or bulletin board.
  7. Give intrinsically motivated experimenters the same care provided to "sanctioned," large-scale experiments.
  8. Start a working papers and presentation series for both researchers and practitioners.

 

We would love to hear your comments on the ideas presented.

Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework

Yuan Lin, my doctoral student, and I have a paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in San Antonio, Texas (August 12-16, 2011).

Individuals’ Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework

The boom of the network concept in organizational research has resulted in a growing interest in the interplay between organizational members’ knowledge transfer and their social network structure. This paper treats such interplay as a co-evolution process and lay out a theoretical framework, CO-evolution of Individuals and Networks (COIN), to facilitate its modeling. Using a simplified example, we identify the components of a co-evolution model that should be constructed based on substantive theories: cross-level causal mechanisms, network structural factors, individual heterogeneity and autonomy, the relationships among model assumption, inputs and outputs. COIN synthesizes theoretical or empirical evidence that can help construct these components from multiple disciplines (e.g., organizational research, statistics, physics, economics, and sociology). It decomposes the co-evolution process into key constructs and mechanisms and organizes existing theories around them. It also exposes gaps in related work which once filled can facilitate studies on network-behavior co-evolutio

Lin, Y.A., and Desouza, K.C. “Individuals’ Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework,” In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, San Antonio, TX (August 12-16, 2011).

Innovation Audit and Visit @ Delta Faucet Company

Next week, I will visit with executives, project managers, platform leaders, and employees at the Delta Faucet Company (Indianapolis, Indiana). I will be conducting an innovation audit, learning about innovation strategies employed by Delta Faucet, and making strategic recommendations on how to bolster the innovation quotient of the organization. Having just completed a book titled Intrapreneurship: Leveraging Ideas within the Organization, I am looking forward to using the models described in the book to study how ideas are generated, mobilized, advocated and screened for, experimented with, commercialized, diffused and implemented by the Delta Faucet Company.

Securing Intellectual Assets: Integrating the Knowledge and Innovation Dimensions

At long last, I have received information that my paper on Securing Intellectual Assets: Integrating the Knowledge and Innovation Dimensions will appear in International Journal of Technology Management (Vol. 54, No. 2/3, 2011).

Abstract: The concept of intellectual asset security has received widespread attention in recent times. Much of this attention can be attributed to the fact that knowledge assets can be used to secure competitive advantages for organisations. Moreover, one might assert that in today’s knowledge-based economies and markets, it is these assets that truly differentiate organisations and are the only true source of sustainable competitive advantages. In order to have a robust program for managing intellectual assets, an organisation must account for its knowledge management and innovation processes. In this paper, drawing on 1) a semiotic-based model for knowledge management (Desouza, 2006), and 2) an organisational process of innovation (Desouza et al., 2006), the author describes an integrated process framework for the management of intellectual assets. The framework is then used to describe salient security management challenges faced when managing intellectual assets. Executives involved in security management programs in 23 organisations were interviewed to elicit key security management challenges faced by organisations when addressing intellectual assets. The concept of intellectual asset security has received widespread attention in recent times. Much of this attention can be attributed to the fact that knowledge assets can be used to secure competitive advantages for organisations. Moreover, one might assert that in today’s knowledge-based economies and markets, it is these assets that truly differentiate organisations and are the only true source of sustainable competitive advantages. In order to have a robust program for managing intellectual assets, an organisation mustaccount for its knowledge management and innovation processes. In this paper,drawing on1 a semiotic-based model for knowledge management (Desouza, 2006)2 an organisational process of innovation (Desouza et al., 2006), the author describes an integrated process framework for the management ofintellectual assets. The framework is then used to describe salient security management challenges faced when managing intellectual assets. Executivesinvolved in security management programs in 23 organisations were interviewed to elicit key security management challenges faced byorganisations when addressing intellectual assets.

Towards Evidence-Driven Policy Design: Complex Adaptive Systems and Computational Modeling

Along with my doctoral student, Yuan Lin, I have co-authored an article that describes how we might move towards evidence-driven policy design. This article draws from the keynote that I have at the 2010 Computational Social Science Society Conference.

Efforts to design public policies for social systems tend to confront highly complex conditions which have a large number of potentially relevant factors to be considered and rapidly changing conditions where continuous adaptation delays or obscures the effect of policies. Given unresolvable uncertainty in policy outcomes, the optimal solution is difficult, if ever possible, to nail down. It is more reasonable to choose a solution that is robust to as many future scenarios that might ensue from the decision. Arriving at such a solution requires policy makers to actively explore and exploit rich information to support their decision making in a cost-efficient, yet rigorous manner. We name this new working style as evidence-driven policy design and outline the characteristics of favorable evidence. We then argue that computational modeling is a potential tool for implementing evidence-driven policy design. It helps the study and design of solutions by simulating various environments, interventions, and the processes in which certain outcomes emerge from the decisions of policy makers. It allows policy makers to observe both the intended and, equally important, unintended consequences of policy alternatives. It also facilitates communication and consensus-building among policy makers and diverse stakeholders.

Deploying IT for Organizational Innovation: Lessons from Case Studies

Along with several colleagues, Jaka Lindic (University of Ljubljana), Peter Baloh (BISOL, d.o.o), and Vincent Ribière (The Institute for Knowledge and Innovation (IKI-SEA), Bangkok University), I co-authored a paper for the International Journal of Information Management.

Organizations must innovate if they are to survive in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace. In this paper, we explore how leading organizations are using emerging technologies to enable novel forms of ideation that can radically increase the sheer volume of ideas they explore. In addition, we outline how organizations use technologies to cost effectively manage this increased volume of ideas by optimizing generation, mobilization, advocacy and screening, experimentation, commercialization, and even the diffusion and implementation of ideas. Critical to this is the management of knowledge during the innovation process.

Lindic, J., Baloh, P., Ribière, V.M., and Desouza, K.C. “Deploying Information Technologies for Organizational Innovation: Lessons from Case Studies,” International Journal of Information Management, Forthcoming.

The Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Saga Continues…

For those interested in keeping up with saga, you can see Sir Alex’s respone to the Rooney speculations this morning. Sir Alex confirmed that Rooney would like to leave, but is keeping the door open for him to stay with the club. What do you think the two of them should do?  Can this relationship be saved? Can we design new metrics, besides the traditional ones (e.g. number of goals scored, number of red cards received, etc.), to evaluate a player’s contribution to a team? What lessons can we learn about the role that incentives play in motivating performance and behavior, especially in the case of superstars?

Optimizing Idea Generation for Innovation

I have spent the last few days meeting a number of executives from technology giants like Microsoft, to smaller, yet highly innovative firms, such as biomedical research institutes. During my meetings, I engaged in very interesting conversations, most of which centered around helping organizations design sustainable innovation programs. A key question that kept coming up is how organizations should get their employees to be more effective, and efficient, in generating ideas that can advance the business cause.

One challenge for organizations is directing their employees’ energy toward spaces that need ideas. Deciding whether the focus is domain-specific (perhaps limited to engineering, sales, or accounting), or cross-domain is a first step. Another option is identifying the future areas that an organization would like to enter. For example, if the organization is thinking of entering a foreign market, it should solicit ideas about entry strategies, clients to work with, and finding the markets that are ripe for investment. The ideal organization will update its focus areas on a regular basis as conditions in its internal and external environments change. Of A.G. Laughley’s leadership at Proctor & Gamble, Tim Brown comments “He seems to see his role as constantly reminding teams of what they should be focusing on, rather than telling them whether they've got the right idea or not.”[1]

In addition, the organization should appoint key personnel to govern the ideas being generated in each area. These individuals can serve the role of contact points for employees who would like to submit ideas. They can also champion the focus areas and develop specific guidelines on how to submit ideas, specify what kinds of ideas are needed, and determine how ideas will be evaluated when submitted. The contact personnel is also important in transferring ideas between domains.  An idea submitted to one focus area may be more suitable for another one. In addition, there might be opportunities that are submitted in one domain which should be pursued as cross-domain collaborations. For example, CEMEX, the highly innovative cement manufacturer, has an Innovation committee composed of three directors, three VP’s, and one outside consultant. The team is responsible for defining the broad themes for innovation and structure for the innovation process.  Often, the committee considers strategic areas that are outside of the core product; recent focus areas included “integrated construction solutions for affordable housing, ways to support regional development, and making it easier for customers to do business with CEMEX.”[2]

Once focus areas are defined, it is equally important to communicate them to employees and inform employees across the hierarchical levels and functional divisions that they may contribute to these focus areas. It should be clear to employees that the work they do on a daily basis is related to at least one of the focus areas. Some organizations erroneously think that their mission statements are the best guide to how employees should focus their idea-creating. But if you asked a sample of employees in your organization to repeat the mission statement, by my estimates, less than15% would be able to give you a half-baked recital. Most employees do not see the relevance of these glorified statements as they have not been translated into terms that matter to their daily work. One useful strategy that I have seen work is to build archetypes that resonate with employees of what an idea contribution might look like in each of the focus areas.

To learn more about how to design innovation programs at your organization, or to optimize your current innovation processes, please send me an email.


[1] Brown, T. (2009, October 24). Corner Office: He Prizes Questions More Than Answers. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from Interview by Adam Bryant of NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/business/25corner.html

[2] Sull, D. N., Ruelas-Gossi, A., & Escobari, M. (2004, January 26). What Developing-World Companies Teach Us About Innovation. Retrieved March 2010, 22, from HBS Working Knowledge: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/3866.html