Posts

Advocating and Screening for Ideas

If you have ideas, what should you do with them? How do you know which ideas to pursue (and which to abandon)? As an idea creator, how do you know which ideas will get the attention of managers or how to present ideas for consideration? As a manager, how do you screen the numerous ideas you get from your staff? These are not simple questions to answer. Unfortunately, this stage of the intrapreneurship process represents the Achilles' heel for most organizations. Too many organizations spend a lot of time, effort, and resources to get ideas from their employees but then do not know what to do with them. Equally discomforting are cases where employees spend too much time creating ideas for which there is no organizational interest or need. The end result is a lot of waste – from the individual to the organizational level.

Consider the case of a global technology organization. The organization, founded in the mid 1990s, had seen unprecedented growth during the Internet boom days. As one senior executive remarked, “we were not only running on all cylinders, but were actually borrowing cylinders and fuel rods to keep up with demand.” The organization grew from humble beginnings (3 students!) to just under 200 employees in five years. It now has 10 clients in US states and 3 international clients (based in London, Brussels, and Amsterdam). As soon as the glory days came to a screeching halt with the dot.com bust, the organization, like many of its compatriots in the industry, had to do some hard thinking to redefine business strategies. To this end, the organization solicited ideas from its employees concerning the company's direction for the future– the slogan – 10 for 10: 10 big ideas for the next 10 years! The goal was to get the firm to think big and to identify 10 broad areas that 1) they would want to invest and build capability in, 2) they would want to build collaborative capacities by reaching out to start-ups and established firms, and 3) they would require re-tuning (or complete obliteration) of their current strategic focus. The company did what any other organization would do; It solicited ideas from employees across all ranks. The company commissioned online “idea drop boxes.” Employees could send in their ideas via filling in a brief online questionnaire. Within a week, the company had over 500 ideas (about 2.5 ideas from each employee!); and by the end of the four week idea solicitation period they had captured over 1200 ideas (a little more than 6 ideas per employee!) As one executive remarked, “we underestimated the whole [idea solicitation] thing…employees were scared…their friends were losing jobs, companies like ours were closing, venture capitalist were getting tighter with the purse strings…all of this contributed to fear…employees wanted to help the company, and themselves, by sharing their best ideas that would not only keep us afloat but secure a better future…” This was the easy part-- getting ideas-- the big challenge ahead for the organization was what to do with these and how do to go about screening them. Over the course of the next five months, the firm tried its best to bubble up the best ideas through applying various screening procedures, getting comments and feedback on ideas from internal (i.e. employees), as well as external (i.e. board of directors, collaborators from academia, venture capitalist, etc), sources.

Unfortunately, the organization did not have a robust process for advocating and screening ideas. The end-result is best summarized by a statement made by the CEO – “absolute disaster…we ended up pissing off more staff than those we appeased, lost good employees who felt their ideas were not duly considered, and what hurts me most, is employees lost faith in the organization as a place that valued ideas…front-line programmers and system designers who are our most important assets felt ideas get promoted based on ones political network and clout…we all lost, I will never do this again…we might never recover the trust and camaraderie that we had prior to this undertaking.

The bad news for organizations is that the advocacy and screening stage of the intrapreneurship process is fraught with difficulties.

To learn how to build sustainable processes for idea advocacy and screening, please contact me (or wait for a future posting…or my new book)

Blogging and Writing: Keeping me Honest

It has been a while since I actively blogged. I have engaged in “passive blogging” over the past few months. This has involved posting snippets of upcoming speaking engagements and papers that have been published. This has been helpful in getting the word out and networking. For the next few months (or years, if I stay disciplined!), I am hoping to engage in active blogging. I will share my thoughts on two major topics: 1) innovation – leveraging ideas for innovation, and 2) managing intellectual assets – how organizations are building and deploying intellectual assets. I will also share thoughts on other random issues from entrepreneurship to terrorism and government information policy. I will do this for two reasons: 1) to engage you, my reader and /or website visitor, into a dialogue, and 2) to keep me honest on my writing projects. Over the last few months, I have built a huge backlog of writing projects. Blogging will help me share notes, musings, and ideas, as I draft concepts, papers, or even get close to completing two book projects. Stay tuned for more details...

The Future of Innovation in the Insurance Industry: Talk at PEMCO Insurance

pemcoOn September 10th, I will be giving a talk at PEMCO Insurance on the Future of Innovation in the Insurance Industry. I plan to outline how insurance providers can enhance service offerings and enrich customer experiences through crafting sustainable innovation processes. This talk is part of PEMCO’s @pfslive series, which brings together over 100 business professionals from the following organizations: PEMCO Insurance, School Employees Credit Union of Washington, Evergreen Bank, PEMCO Corporation, and PEMCO Technology Services, Inc.

Speaking at Talent Management – 2009

PLSI will be speaking at the 2009, Talent Management: A Systematic Approach to Acquiring, Developing, and Retaining Talent and Organizational Knowledge Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona (November 4-6, 2009). My talk will discuss key strategies global organizations employ to build effective knowledge transfer and retention strategies.

Knowledge Transfer: A System for Capturing and Transferring Institutional Memory
As an organization prepares for the departure of valuable staff, a key challenge is how to capture, store, and transfer knowledge. Managing knowledge and ensuring its transfer will increase productivity.

This session will provide useful tools and processes for selecting the best strategy to fit your organization’s culture. Participants will explore the use of technology as well as best practice approaches and tools to preserve and transmit institutional memory. Topics include:

  • The role of technology in collecting, storing, and retrieving vital knowledge
  • Methods for knowledge transfer
  • The role of document management processes
  • A process map for knowledge management and transfer
  • Best practices and alternatives

To register for the event, please click here.

Sustaining Innovation: Challenges for Incumbent Firms

rtm

A paper that I co-authored with Ashley Braganza (Brunel University) and Yukika Awazu (Bentley University) appears in the current issue of Research-Technology Management.

In today's competitive environment, the ability of an organization to innovate is paramount. While most organizations have flashes or spurts of innovation, only a handful have been able to innovate on a continuous and sustained basis. This paper surveys the challenges faced by firms when trying to build sustainable innovation programs. These findings have been derived from an examination of innovation programs in over 30 organizations in North America, Europe and Asia.

Braganza, A., Awazu, Y., and Desouza, K.C. “Sustaining Innovation is Challenge for Incumbents,” Research-Technology Management, 52(4), 2009, 46-56.

To access the paper, please click here [LINK]

A New Work Force Wave: Managing Millennials (See beyond the stereotypes of the ‘Me Generation’ to harness creativity)

I was recently interviewed for an article on innovation by Colin Simpson of the Bellingham Business Journal. To retrieve the article, please click here [LINK]. As I continue to study innovation practices in high-technology organizations, I continue to be amazed by the innovative capacities of the ‘Me Generation’….