Posts

Speaking in France: Paris and Lille, October 2011

I will be giving two talks in France in early October. Both talks are hosted by the faculty at IÉSEG School of Management. On October 10, I will speak at IÉSEG’s Paris Campus on Designing the Innovation Process: Building, Managing, Communicating and Measuring (October 10). This talk is based on my forthcoming book, Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas within Your Organization (University of Toronto Press, 2011).

On October 11, I will head to IESEG’s Lille Campus where I will speak on the topic of Challenges in Inter-Disciplinary Research: Strategies from Crafting Research Ideas to Publishing. In this presentation, I will share my experiences in executing inter-disciplinary research projects. Studying complex phenomenon requires us to undertake research that (1) draws on multiple disciplines, (2) engages a diverse group of stakeholders, (3) appreciates a plurality of research approaches, and (4) communicates to a diverse set of audiences. Executing inter-disciplinary research is no easy feat to accomplish. Researchers face daunting challenges from the onset, beginning with the inception of ideas, then continuing to the crafting of problem statements, executing the research process, and communicating the results via publications in academic and practitioner outlets. However, these challenges should not be viewed as an excuse to abandon inter-disciplinary research in favor of narrow-minded and singular research exercises, which reduce complex phenomenon in deterministic fashions so as to arrive at simplistic problems that lack relevance. I will present a method (process) for executing inter-disciplinary research that has served me well. Illustrative examples of research projects will be used to exemplify this process and outline strategies for researchers to consider when conducting inter-disciplinary research projects.

In addition to the speaking engagements, I will be working on building collaborative research ties between IÉSEG and the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

 

Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas within Your Organization – New Book

My latest book will be released in the Fall by the University of Toronto Press.

Description:

As an employee, you suspect that your best ideas are valuable and could greatly benefit your organization. Management also recognizes that a company's ability to compete is contingent on how well it leverages its employees' ideas. So, why are individuals at all levels of organizations typically poor advocates for ideas? Intrapreneurship provides an engaging guide for both managers and employees on how to direct the flow of ideas and foster a culture of entrepreneurship within their company's existing structure. Based on my research and experience consulting with thirty global organizations, Intrapreneurship outlines ways to mobilize all types of ideas - including blockbusters with the potential to create radically new external products and services, and more incremental innovations for improving internal processes. With practical frameworks and real life examples for both employees and managers, Intrapreneurship will help you to identify the value in your own ideas and those of others to ultimately benefit your organization.

Reviews:

You cannot stay competitive and lead your industry unless you mine the potential within your own organization. Desouza makes the case for identifying and empowering talent to steward innovation from within. Intrapreneurship will help you tap your company's greatest potential.
---Scott Belsky, CEO of Behance, National Bestselling Author of Making Ideas Happen

We are an organization that has built a reputation for innovative products that are game changers. Innovation calls for tenacity and rigor. Intrapreneurship is filled with ideas and solutions that will enable you to build a robust innovation program that is embraced by every employee in your organization. It is a must read for executives who want to distinguish their organizations by their capacity to harness ideas in each and every employee. Read it, now!
---Keith Allman, President, Delta Faucet Company

Intrapreneurship offers a fresh and timely perspective on how to harness – and not kill – the power of innovation that exists inside every organization – including nonprofits.  In his book, Desouza masterfully weaves academic research together with real life stories across industries to show us how to foster innovation and turn the best ideas into reality.  His fusion of innovation and implementation into a single, pragmatic intrapreneurship framework is where the magic happens. This book is a must read for employees and leadership alike whether you are trying to increase profits, save the world, or both.
---Neal Myrick, Executive Director, Groundwire

In corporate America, brilliant ideas that make it to market often seem like serendipitous events, and often they were. An idea found its way through the territorial land mines of the organization that more often sabotage innovation. In the world of annual capital budgets, large scale initiatives and dash boards that drive our incentive compensation, how do we as leaders foster a reliable and safe culture where innovation gets plenty of oxygen? Desouza in Intrapreneurship provides an excellent framework to foster such a culture. More importantly, this framework calls us to be servant leaders, to be leaders that help our organizations harness the intellectual power of our employees and to say “we appreciate your ideas, we welcome your ideas, we make it possible for you to work on your ideas”. Innovation need not be a serendipitous happening. It can be baked into our organizations as a competency. Desouza provides us an excellent guide to help us build and nourish an Intrapreneurship competency in our organizations.
---Weldon "Butch" Leonardson, SVP & CIO, Boeing Employees Credit Union (BECU)

Intrapreneurship is a driven from the bottom-up based upon employee initiatives. Desouza argues that ideas are at the heart of intrapreneurship. He richly illustrates his ideas from today’s businesses and incorporates theory to develop a roadmap from conception to products and services. The continuing process is: generation and mobilization, advocacy and screening, experimentation, commercialization, diffusion and implementation.  There is no silver bullet, but a rationale organizational process. Desouza challenges the thinking executive to go beyond the usual organizational notions to a new way of thinking about how to realize intrapreneurship in your firm.
---Dr. Richard M. Burton, The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

Innovation is a key strategic priority for most large companies, and most executives today have realized they cannot just give responsibility for innovation to their R&D group or their business development team - they need to make innovation everyone’s job. But how do you do that?  The evidence suggests most companies actually do a terrific job of killing off the entrepreneurial endeavors of their would-be innovators, through their standardized procedures and risk-averse mentalities.  Kevin Desouza’s book, Intrapreneurship: Managing Ideas within Your Organization, provides the solution.  He gives guidance to the people with bright ideas, to help them build support and get their ideas taken seriously, and he offers advice on how to manage and organize a company to give these would-be intrapreneurs as much support as possible. Drawing from his own practical experience as well as decades of academic research, Desouza’s book is a must-read in companies that care about making innovation everyone’s job.
---Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategic and International Management, London Business School, co-founder of the Management Innovation Lab (MLab), Fellow of the Advanced Institute of Management Research (UK), and author of Reinventing Management (2010)

As competition intensifies globally, no corporation can afford to ignore the potential of corporate entrepreneurs, or ‘intrapreneurs’, to drive growth and continual renewal. Desouza provides a new look and important contribution to the field of innovation, and he does so in a way that should be of keen interest to executives, intrapreneurs and aspiring intrapreneurs across industries. Not only does Desouza explore new territory, he does so in a highly readable, applied manner drawing from both research and practice. Intrapreneurship will enable employees and managers to overcome typical, and costly, roadblocks faced when transforming ideas into commercially viable products and services.
---Robert Wolcott, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Kellogg Innovation Network, Northwestern University

By proactively engaging managers and employees in the innovation process Desouza shows organizations how to successfully move ideas from concept through to implementation.  Enabling them to harness the power of their own ideas to reduce costs, improve efficiency and generate new business growth. Desouza uses real world examples, personal insight and research to illustrate how it is done. Desouza’s book provides a pragmatic and realistic roadmap for transforming the way organizations generate and implement new ideas, internally and externally. The book provides a simple and reliable process for building Intrapreneurship as a core competency.  Executives, managers and intrapreneurs will benefit from applying the principles and practices outlined in the book to achieve an innovation edge.
---Susan Foley, author of Entrepreneurs Inside, Managing Partner, Corporate Entrepreneurs, LLC.

Are you frustrated with the fact that companies often talk about the need to generate and collect their employee’s ideas, but in reality they lack tangible tools and processes to efficiently leverage these ideas into real projects and products? Despair no more! In his new book Desouza shows us how innovative companies do not only promote generation of ideas, but encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of their employees by supporting their efforts to develop and commercialize their ideas, both internally and also externally.  This book is a must for all managers who are struggling to design effective innovation processes and for employees who want to learn the science, and art, of pursuing ideas to their full potential inside their organization.
---Miloš Ebner, Direktor strateškega inoviranja/ Chief Innovation Officer

Featured in the 2011 Spring Issue of BIZ

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.

Finally, A Majority of Executives Embrace Experimentation: HBR Blog

My second post on the Harvard Business Review site went live today! The post was written in collaboration with H. James Wilson and is titled, Finally, A Majority of Executives Embrace Experimentation. The post outlines the value proposition of building an experimentation culture within organizations and how executives can support employee experimentation.

The post has been picked up by Bloomberg Businessweek as well.

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

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.

Reflections from Slovenia: Designing Public-Private Innovation Partnerships

I returned from Slovenia about a week back. During my visit, I had the opportunity to give a keynote talk at the Center of Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control as part of the Slovenska visokotehnološka MSP na prepihu inovativne in razvojno tehnološke prebojnosti: Slovenija x.0 ? conference. I met with several executives during the conference and enjoyed exchanging ideas on how to design collaborative innovation platforms that promote private-private and private-public innovation partnerships. A key issue that surfaced is how to design an appropriate governance structure so as to promote knowledge transfer and collaboration among industry players that have a lot to gain (and lose) from collaboration. Alignment of incentives, sharing of risks, and even design of prototype collaborative endeavors are all essential components to build collaborative innovation partnerships.

Keynote Presentation – Center of Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control, Slovenia – Ten Rules of Leveraging Ideas for Innovation

On November 10th, I will give a keynote presentation for the annual conference hosted by the Center of Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control (COBIK) at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. The conference is titled: Slovenska visokotehnološka MSP na prepihu inovativne in razvojno tehnološke prebojnosti: Slovenija x.0 ?

The Slovenian government has supported the development of Centers of Excellence. Each Center of Excellence focuses on creating efficient relationships between public and private research institutions, technology driven firms and their global market positioning. The Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, is one of the partners in the Center of Excellence (COBIK) and is responsible for enabling the research and technology driven firms to gain business knowledge and helping them in the process to market their innovative products and solutions.

The program is available here [LINK]

Ten Rules of Leveraging Ideas for Innovation [LINK]

In this keynote address, I will discuss how leading organizations are building robust processes for leveraging ideas within their organization and across their networks. Ideas are critical ingredients for innovation. Designing robust innovation processes calls for great care in the handling of ideas. To this end, leading organizations are designing, and deploying, a portfolio of mechanisms to help their employees seek out, share, experiment with, commercialize, diffuse, and implement, ideas. I will highlight emerging technology solutions. In addition, I will outline how smart organizations are capturing knowledge about their innovation process and employing it for continuous refinement and renewal.

Communicating the Business Value of Innovation

Innovation depends upon consistent communication. Yet different stages of the innovation process require different kinds of communication. Companies who have recognized the different elements of the innovation process are able to target their communication mechanisms to encourage the strongest possible results from organizational innovation. Ideas can be brand new and relatively unconsidered or rather mature and half-implemented, and understanding clearly the distinctions between those types of ideas and communication mechanisms around them can inform organizations about how to best discuss and encourage innovation.

Consider the stage of idea generation and mobilization: One example of a company that has successfully created numerous channels for communication of ideas is Whirlpool. One strategy used by Whirlpool explicitly for idea generation was having an Innovation Team (people conversant with desired business goals and objectives as well as current operational capacities) go to each department and solicit ideas from employees. The Innovation Team included a cross-section of the company, including members from many functional areas and levels of hierarchy. During the idea collection process, all ideas were recorded and listened to without evaluation. By having a team composed of people from across the company and having that team travel to each department, normal rules of hierarchy and ordinary routines were disrupted sufficiently that employees could communicate without needing to find a way to communicate across the hierarchy.  Ethicon Endo-Surgery conducts team events encouraging cross-team functionality. For instance, the "battle of the masterminds" allowed employees to collaborate in teams to solve a particular problem. This may not necessarily be  a medical problem, but it instigates analytical thinking and cross-team collaboration.

Mars, the candy company, hosted a conference for its employees, and gave each one a nametag with RFID components that lit up when the employee was near someone they didn't know. Social networks were mapped out on a huge overhead projection that changed in real-time as employees met new people. This project was backed by social network analysis done with academic researchers, who interviewed employees to find out their current connections and devised this plan to increase the networking for the entire organization. The technique of social network analysis can provide a way for organizations to see whether or not collaboration across hierarchies and divisions is happening, and if so where--thus allowing them to analyze why. Social network analysis can illustrate pockets of communication that could be particularly ripe for idea generation. Peer-to-peer networks which have been derived from this concept  are deemed the best forms of communication are now getting popular day by day.

The next stage is the advocacy and screening of ideas. The joint processes of advocacy and screening involve the bubbling up of ideas and the filtering out of ideas into separate categories. Advocacy leads to increased communication about potential innovations, as well as encouraging the refinement of scope and intent of ideas. Screening is the process of identifying which ideas are suitable for development at a particular time, with particular capacities in mind. These two processes must occur together, as a communicative endeavor. At the end of this stage of the innovative process, high priority and high probability ideas have been identified. More extensive screening processes will also include categorization of ideas for the future, high-risk but high-gain ideas and ideas for mobilization.

Creating groups of advocates can be a challenging process. At Boeing, when executives decided to support radical process innovation they chose to create a specific team designed for the sole purpose of finding and advocating for big, radical innovations -- the group was called Phantom Works. The goal of Phantom Works was not to be the sole source of innovations, but to inspire change throughout the organization by asking questions, supporting ideas and demanding radical changes. In effect, Phantom Works is an advocacy group, supporting the idea generation and advocacy stages of the innovation process. Phantom Works also helped with communication between departments and sought ideas and technologies that could be applied in new areas of the organization. The creation of a business unit for purposes of radical innovation demonstrates organizational commitment as well as creating an advocacy body that can help incumbent organizations develop and sustain advocacy and idea generation.

These are just a few examples of how to communicate the business value of innovation. To learn more about how to communicate the business value of innovation within your organization, please contact me…

Understanding the barriers to communication in these discrete phases of the innovation process allows executives and organizations to make rational choices about what types of communication to pursue. These stages of innovation each have particular challenges, but anticipating those challenges and taking steps to minimize them can significantly increase the success of long-term innovation in an organization. When discussing the business value of innovation, organizations must be sensitive to the current stage of the innovation process. A newly hatched idea simply cannot be talked about in the same way as an idea that has passed through advocacy, screening and experimentation and is currently being mobilized for use in a new area of the organization. Innovations have differing levels of maturity, and communication must reflect those levels. Furthermore, creating an open and collaborative culture can assist communication at all levels of the innovation process.

Rewards for Idea Generation and Mobilization: Good/Bad Idea?

A question that I often get from managers and senior executives is should the organization provide rewards to encourage idea generation and mobilization?

I have seen a wide array of tactics deployed to encourage idea generation and mobilization. In my forthcoming book, Intrapreneurship, I explore how leading organizations foster entrepreneurship by employees by enabling them to leverage their ideas. In this blog post, I draw on material that I put together for my book to answer the question of whether rewards should be given for idea generation and mobilization.

I believe that no rewards should be given for the generation of new ideas. By rewards, I am referring to extrinsic rewards such as bonuses, American Express gift cards, or even recognition as “Idea Generator of the Month.” In my experience, extrinsic rewards do not work because they set the wrong precedence and can be easily gamed. Employees should not be rewarded for a required activity (you do not reward employees for coming to work on time!). Contributing ideas needs to become second nature and part of the work fabric, and employees should not be rewarded for the same reason that they are not rewarded for carrying out their regular job responsibilities. I might even suggest that for those employees who do not contribute ideas, disincentives and negative reinforcement be used. Similarly, managers who do not foster employee creativity and build a constructive environment should be coached or moved out of their management position.

The other reason that I think rewards do not work for idea generation is simply that they can be gamed. For example, when a reward is given for the most ideas submitted, employees might submit a large number of low quality ideas in order to get a reward. Here, you may get employees contributing worthless ideas in order to get gift cards or to get a leg up on their peers. This may have the opposite of the desired impact, as Alcatrel-Lucent discovered. They offered new car for best idea for part of a “Stretch Your Mind" event. As Guido Petit, senior director at Alcatrel-Lucent commented, “It was a big event, but a bad practice…It created more negative energy than positive energy because there was one happy person and 149 unhappy people…And although the contest tripled the ideas generated, none of them became products.”[1]

I do believe that rewards play a vital role in fostering the mobility of ideas. Employees who take time out of their schedules to communicate ideas to their peers need to be rewarded. Simply put, this behavior is not natural and cannot be expected. Moreover, employees’ actions to look beyond their own interests and collaborate with their peers needs to be recognized and rewarded. In some organizations, employees are polled regularly for the names of the people from whom they received the most ideas and the most valuable ideas, and asked to describe how they furthered the idea. The employees then write a personal letter of thanks and appreciatio,n which goes a long way in showing their gratitude. In some cases rewards will be given across departments, where one department will use part of its budget to reward an employee in another unit who has helped the department with its ideas. Such peer-to-peer recognition of the value of idea mobilization is energetic and vital.

A case in point: Whirlpool convened a research team in the Alps for the sole purpose of creating exciting new products, but the team returned with only non-starters. David R. Whitwam, Whirlpool’s recently retired CEO, didn't give up. Instead, he decided innovation could occur along with normal work, with every employee’s contribution. The first successful step towards an innovative scale-up was convening an Innovation Team to examine every department and ask employees for ideas—and no idea was outrightly rejected.[2] The team included employees from almost all departments and almost all functional areas.[3] They created a screening process to review every idea, focusing on customer needs, not existing technology or skills.[4] Every idea was graded and recorded. The review board persists as a crucial component of the innovative effort, and is still in place to this day. The grading scheme focused on customer needs and Whirlpool core competencies to maximize the possibility of finding the very best ideas.[5] Quickly, Whirlpool created internal courses on innovation which focused on two components of creating good ideas: product development skills (such as emphasizing customer needs) and venture capital skills (such as marketing and implementation concerns).[6] Whitwam demanded that employees come to him with ideas—any ideas—if their managers won’t listen.

Those who complete the company’s internal course on innovation skills (a five and a half day process) and then oversee the generation and advocacy of a few products can become I-mentors, or Innovation Mentors.[7] These mentors are key figures in the Whirlpool innovation process because they serve as innovation managers: their role is not to control or oversee, but to support and advocate for those with ideas, and to connect ideas with departments or people who might benefit from them.[8],[9] Mentors nurture the beginning stages of innovation. The role of mentors is not limited to seeking ideas, but also includes actively generating them. I-mentors lead team meetings in which employees reflect on customer knowledge, business trends and their own experiences, and “insights” are developed and recorded.

Whirlpool supports employees who act like entrepreneurs, and funds their ideas, not just by providing time, but also investing in employee business notions and allowing them to open businesses within the organization.[10] For instance, one employee, Josh Gitlin,  dreamt up in-home cooking classes across the country, using Whirlpool’s KitchenAid® line as well as other Whirlpool products. The generous budget for innovations also has a carrot for managers: managers’ pay is linked to revenue derived from new products and services.


[1] Dutton, G. "Innovation Acceleration." Training, January 15, 2010.

[2] Warner, F. “Recipe for Growth.” Fast Company, Oct. 2001, 40-1.

[3] Arndt, M. “Creativity Overflowing.” Business Week, May 8, 2006.

[4] Warner, F. “Recipe for Growth.” Fast Company, Oct. 2001, 40-1.

[5] Arndt, M. “Creativity Overflowing.” Business Week, May 8, 2006.

[6] Dolezalek, H. “Imagination Station.” Training 40, no. 6 (2003): 14.

[7] Cutler, G. “Innovation Mentoring at Whirlpool.” Research Technology Management 46, no. 6 (2003): 57.

[8] Melymuka, K. “Innovation Democracy.” Computerworld 38, no. 7 (2004): 31-2.

[9] Cutler, G. “Innovation Mentoring at Whirlpool.” Research Technology Management 46, no. 6 (2003): 57.

[10] Arndt, M. (2002) “Whirlpool taps its inner entrepreneur.” Business Week Online, Feb. 7, 2002.