Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Some thoughts on Innovation

December 12, 2011

Innovation momentum is growing.As the global economic climate stabilizes, more and more companies are starting to look beyond the survival mode mentality that took hold in the fall of ’08.  These companies see that they now need to refuel their revenue generation engines with new and differentiated offerings to the market.  New products for existing and new audiences are viewed as key to building market share and driving top line growth.  Companies need innovation now, and they understand with the ever increasing pace of market change, they need continuous innovation.  There is broad consensus that innovation capability is one of the key competencies that will distinguish winners from losers in the years ahead.

Many companies are still just arriving to the innovation party. The number of companies that have taken a serious look at innovation and taken concrete steps to build innovation as a value driving core competence is still small.  Most companies are just beginning to question whether there is a better way than relying on serendipity for their innovation.  This means that there is a big opportunity for companies to take the high ground and drive their organization forward through innovation while the competition is still trying to figure out which end is up.

Companies are acting on, not just thinking about, innovation deployment. Those companies that have internalized the importance and high-value of repeatable innovation best practices are not sitting on their hands.  They are seriously pushing awareness, innovation skills development, and IT infrastructure to support their innovation mandates.  These companies also realize that while grassroots acceptance is important, a corporate innovation initiative will never deliver to its potential if it isn’t backed by a top-down mandate tied back to corporate objectives.  Innovation is about change.  Developing a sustainable innovation culture requires a change in the corporate psyche and hence requires serious attention and management focus.

Innovation delivers value to companies that take it seriously. Innovation takes many forms, but it always creates value.  Everywhere I went, I heard stories of how using repeatable innovation methods had overcome challenges, expedited time to market, and raised the value of key projects within organizations.  At Samsung for example, I was shown a new model of refrigerator.  The manager showing me this refrigerator pointed out a key feature in the product that was blocked by a competitor’s patent.  Using the innovation skills they have mastered over the years, Samsung was able to create an alternative non-infringing design that allowed them to find freedom to operate and with it a fast path to market.

So, what does all this mean to you?  The bottom line is that now is the time to get moving when it comes to getting your innovation engine firing on all cylinders.  The companies that invest in innovation today will emerge as the leaders with new revenue driving products in the future and create new market differentiation.  While those companies that choose to wait on innovation will be left behind as the laggards in the new economy, never regaining the luster they lost in this most recent recession. – from innovating to win

Innovation in Brewing

November 7, 2011


Innovation Beer Summit

Recently, I had the opportunity to learn to make beer.  I joined a group of friends and together we brewed six varieties of beer.  There are innovation lessons to be learned from most things.  Here are some innovation lessons I took away from my beer making debut.

Science There is science behind making beer.  Understanding what is happening in the process helps you achieve the desired results.  This is true for every domain in which I see people working in the trenches of innovation.  No matter what you are doing, there is a body of knowledge that precedes your efforts.  If you don’t have good access to this knowledge, you are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past and waste a lot of effort reinventing the wheel.  High performance innovation organizations understand the need to knowledge enable their innovation workers by providing them with the best, purposeful knowledge research and delivery systems.

Team During our little beer making party, we brewed 6 varieties of beer in one evening (90 minute IPA, Summer Ale, Belgian Blonde, Vanilla Honey Porter, Oatmeal Stout, and Scottish Ale).  Getting it all done required teamwork and collaboration.  In business innovation practice this pressure to achieve high-value innovation outcomes with limited resources and time is de rigueur.   To achieve results requires the same type of committed and connected teamwork for innovation workers.  Companies seeking to maximize the effectiveness of their innovation workforce must employ innovation frameworks that connect people to one another when they need based on what they know.

Tools Making our beer, we have at our disposal the right equipment to make the job easy and efficient: steam controlled boiling vats, wort cooling filters, automatic bottle sanitizers, etc.  Listening to others in our group recount the horror stories of making beer in their kitchens without these tools reminded me of what I see all too often walking into companies that have not begun to deploy state of the art innovation platform technology.  Innovation workers struggle to make sense of problems and find the fit between problem states and solution spaces.  Companies need to invest in providing their workers with the right tools and skills for innovation success.  Sure, you can start a fire rubbing sticks together; but why not give your teams modern torches and set them loose to burn up the competition.

Experience Having the brew master watching over us made a huge difference.  He was able to tell us in advance what to pay attention to and how to ensure the quality of the final product we were producing.  Preserving, tapping into, and leveraging grey beard knowledge is a huge problem for many companies.  Make sure you have systems in place to harvest and disseminate this knowledge to empower your entire innovation workforce and enable the generational transference of your corporate tribal wisdom.

Immersion My beer making experience was great.  One of the best aspects of the experience was its immersive nature.  While we were engaged in brewing or bottling, that was the focus of our activity.  There were no interruptions, no need to divert our attention and focus, no co-opting of resources by some other urgency.  Of course, we all have to deal with the realities of the real world when we are working in the trenches of innovation.  But, managers need to find the way to carve out protected time for innovation workers to focus on what’s important, not merely what seems urgent.  You have to willing to invest in your people, giving them the time to master and apply innovation best practices to their innovation tasks.  You will find this is an investment that will pay big dividends by both delivering the benefits of accelerated innovation and product delivery, but also greater per worker productivity.

$35 Million Missing Clause

December 14, 2010

This is all happening because I didn’t write, “I’ll charge you 1.5 percent” – John O’Quinn

What’s the value of a clause? About $35 million if your name is John O’Quinn. His firm failed to include a clause authorizing the deduction of “general expenses” from settlement payouts in a breast implant class action.  And this month, an aribtration panel ordered the firm to pay $35.7M in damages to the clients who were overcharged. Expensive mistake.

Surprising mistake, too. If there’s one thing you’d think law firms are good at it would be drafting a tight costs agreement with their clients. But unlike most other agreements a firm drafts, costs agreements are unbillable. The time you spend drafting one is time down the drain. So the incentive is to get it done fast, and get onto to real work that makes the firm money.

Which is what makes costs agreements and engagement letters such perfect candidates for automation. You build in all the right clauses for the matter at hand. You make it easy to draft an agreement that’s relevant and tight. And your lawyers can get the job done quickly and without mistakes.

Of course, there is one thing worse than a bad costs agreement: no agreement at all. That’s a mistake Glenn Judge won’t make again. The Pennsylvania lawyer claimed a deal for $175,000 worth of fees for referring a client to another firm. But it wasn’t in writing, and it wasn’t disclosed to the client, and the U.S. District Court decided he wasn’t entitled to a penny. – from the exari blog

Sales is Hard Enough

November 13, 2010
Over the past 20 years or so CRM has exploded on the scene, from GoldMine to ACT! to Siebel and now and its SaaS brethren.
CRM has done wonders for automating the sales process and helping sales people execute on a cadence of sales activities, follow a standard process and keep up with customers. Unfortunately, this is only half the battle in creating a truly efficient prospect-to-pay process.
Most sales cycles require a number of sometimes complex and burdensome documents to proceed to closure. And, if our experience is any guide, it is the creation of these documents that causes immense pain for most salespeople and can delay and even lose sales in some cases.
NDAs, Proposals, Services Statements of Work, Business Cases, Sales Contracts, even customized collateral can be automated to accelerate the sales cycle, reduce the need for lawyers to create and review large volumes of contracts, and increase compliance with internal process and procedures.
Document Assembly can solve this problem by creating standardized templates, clauses and business rules that are owned and controlled by legal and/or sales operations so that every document that is created is done so in a compliant fashion. No more rogue Limitation of Liability clauses or unprofitable pricing.  No more out-of-date templates or old bottom drawer contracts re-used inappropriately.
While ensuring compliance, document assembly also empowers salespeople to create the necessary documents themselves in real time (with non-standard deals automatically escalated to legal on an exception basis). No more backlogs means more satisfied customers.
So, if the documents and contracts in your sales cycle are somewhat negotiable and fairly repetitive and predictable, and if the creation of these documents is slow and painful, you might want to consider automating them. – from the exari blog

Collaboration For Innovation: Why Can’t We All Work Together?

October 28, 2010

A recent article on noted that 80% of CIOs are increasing their investments in collaboration tools.  At the same time, many organizations are struggling with restrictions on which tools may be used.

For corporation innovation initiatives, this is an important issue.  Building a strong culture of collaboration is vital to fostering productive innovation.  To help build a healthy, sustainable innovation ecosystem in the enterprise employees must be provided with an environment that equips them with the proper skills, tools, and knowledge resources to improve their effectiveness.  Included in this support must be a practical framework for collaboration around innovation.

Too often, companies tend to build organizational silos that cut workers off from key information and from each other.  This is anathema to innovation.

Innovation thrives when knowledge flows through the enterprise to the workers that need it.  This knowledge is often not documented, residing in the minds of the workers.  This is why it is essential to enable the connection of people to people based on what they know.  The right collaboration framework can help make this happen.

Conversely, the wrong framework can create frustration as workers feel it is difficult to connect and share knowledge and leverage that knowledge in their work.  Many employees find that tools are not compatible and that it is difficult to capture their collaborative exchanges in a meaningful way that can leveraged.

A good collaboration framework is one that enables employees to connect without the need to leave the context of their innovation work.  The framework should make it easy to integrate the discussion into the innovation process and capture the tacit knowledge of the enterprise for reuse.  It must be simple for workers to engage with one another if you are truly going to unlock the value of the organization’s tribal wisdom. from innovate to win

Unhappy Customers

June 13, 2009

Though some still doubt, I have a fairly perceptive mind when it comes to the area of business. One of the best lessons I have ever learned is the fact that the greatest source of learning you will ever come across, greater than all the higher institutions of learning, is the people who you make unhappy in business. Your worst customers give you your best lessons in great customer service.

Abilities and Choices

May 31, 2009

We often think that our own inate abilities are the core of what ultimatley drives us to become whoever it is that we ultimately become. However, it is really all about the distinct choices we make. Our choices are the determining factor in how significant or insignificant our lives turn out to be.