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Kevin Desouza named director of Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute – Press Release

Virginia Tech released the following press release on my new role at the University (Click here to access the press release - LINK).

NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, Aug. 18, 2011 – Kevin Desouza has been named director of theMetropolitan Institute, a center in theSchool of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech.

Desouza was most recently an associate professor at the University of Washington’s Information School and has held adjunct appointments in the university’s College of Engineering and at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs.

"Dr. Desouza's experience with major international corporations and government organizations on strategic management issues will be a great asset to the college and the university," said Jack Davis, the Reynolds Metals Professor of Architecture and dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Based in the National Capital Region, the Metropolitan Institute fosters basic and applied research on designing, planning, and governing of livable, sustainable,and economically-viable urban spaces. The institute also publishes several publications including the journal Housing Policy Debate.

Desouza’s work is internationally recognized and he has conducted research and lectured across the world. He holds a visiting professorship at the University of Ljubljana and has held past appointments at the Center for International Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, among others.

In addition to his professorship, Desouza founded two research institutes at the University of Washington, the Institute for National Security and Research, and the Institute for Innovation in Information Management.

Desouza has authored, co-authored, and/or edited nine books and over 90 articles. He has also been invited to advise and consult for several major international corporations and government organizations, focusing on strategic management issues ranging from management of information systems, to crisis management. He has given over 40 invited talks and received over $1.2 million in research funding from both public and private organizations. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK). Desouza received his Ph.D. from the Liatuad Graduate School of Business at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In addition to directing the Metropolitan Institute, he will also hold an associate professor appointment at the Center for Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. He is also serving on the Presidential Task Force working on Virginia Tech's long range plan.

He will be moving to the National Capital Region in August to begin his new position.

Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies is composed of four schools: the School of Architecture + Design, including architecture, industrial design, interior design and landscape architecture; the School of Public and International Affairs, including urban affairs and planning, public administration and policy and government and international affairs; the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, which includes building construction in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and construction engineering management in the College of Engineering; and the School of the Visual Arts, including programs in studio art, visual communication and art history.

 

Featured in the 2011 Spring Issue of BIZ

Speaking at Talent Management Strategies: A Series for Human Resource Executives

I will be leading a workshop on knowledge management, focusing on designing sustainable knowledge management programs for talent management on June 7, 2011. My talk is sponsored by PLS Consulting as part of their Talent Management Strategies Series for HR Executives. The workshop will enable HR practitioners to:

  • Build and lead a knowledge management program given the business strategy, goals and objectives of your organization.
  • Design a knowledge management program that leads to sustainable business value.
  • Identify, manage, and leverage valuable knowledge as intellectual assets.
  • Identify and choose among various technology options for managing knowledge.
  • Manage the grayness of the workforce through retaining valuable knowledge within the organization.
  • Engage employees through the Human Resource function of the organization in knowledge creation, sharing, and re-use.

Building and Sustaining Agile Information Systems – Henry Stewart Talks

My presentation, Building and Sustaining Agile Information Systems, as part of the Strategic Issues in Information Technology: Challenges and Innovations series, is now available online. In this presentation, I discuss practical design guidelines for building and sustaining agile information systems and agile organizations. I focus on four key levers that need to be managed towards this end: information, knowledge, work, and technology.

Desouza, K.C. (2011), "Building and sustaining agile information systems", in Galliers, R.D.(. (ed.), Strategic Issues in Information Technology: Challenges and innovations, The Marketing & Management Collection, Henry Stewart Talks Ltd, London (online at http://hstalks.com/lib.php?t=HST120.2632_1_3&c=250)

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.

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.

Innovation Reflections from Thailand

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Thailand. During my visit, I had an opportunity to give a talk at Bangkok University on Designing the Innovation Process. The talk was sponsored by the Institute for Knowledge and Innovation - South East Asia and Thailand's National Innovation Agency (NIA). During the event, I had a chance to dialogue with over 60 distinguished managers and executives who represented Thailand's leading private and public sector organizations. I had the opportunity to discuss research collaboration with the Thailand Productivity Institute, and Bangkok University, among other organizations. It was a real treat to meet University of Washington alumni in Thailand.

I was impressed by the breadth of knowledge management programs in various Thai organizations. In addition, I learnt how Thai organizations are tailoring standard knowledge management approaches to meet the cultural and economic realities of the country. Thailand is an up and coming Asian economy. While, still highly dependent on tourism, the Thai government, through agencies such as the NIA, are supporting the development of innovative and highly entrepreneurial organizations in areas such as green technologies, and biofuel, among others.

My host, Dr. Vincent M. Ribière, did a marvellous job organizing the event. I look forward to my return trip back to Thailand!

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.

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

A Longitudinal Analysis of Stakeholder Sentiments: Business Modernization Project at the IRS

The Internal Revenue Service Business Modernization Project undertaken by the Tax Agency of the US Government has been singled out as an example of a massive failure. As envisioned, the project was intended as an Enterprise-wide intervention that would provide modern services and effective data access to citizenry and several government agencies. After more than a decade and 3 billion dollars later, the results appear to be less than exemplary. Sandeep Purao and I have a paper accepted for presentation at the Enterprise Architecture Research (TEAR2010) Workshop that identifies different stakeholders who participated in the project, and analyzes the sentiments and confidence each expressed regarding the fate of the project. We conclude with lessons learned from our investigation including recognizing the importance of multiple stakeholders for Enterprise-wide initiatives.

Purao, S., and Desouza, K.C. “An Enterprise-wide Intervention at IRS: A Longitudinal Analysis of Stakeholder Sentiments,” In Proceedings of the 5th Trends in Enterprise Architecture Research (TEAR2010) Workshop,  Delft, Netherlands (November 12, 2010).