Accelerating the Speed of Innovation

Accelerating the Speed of Innovation

Over the last 100 years or so, we have become experts at wrangling efficiencies and optimizing processes for large enterprises. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that emerged in the 1980s and accelerated through the early 2000s created the digital architecture that has allowed large organizations to consistently scale, optimize and improve the way they manage their businesses, people and customers. It’s the vital backbone for national and global businesses – and when I worked with SAP, we would proudly explain that 74% of the world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP system. But there are three things we can be certain of in life – death, taxes and change – and change has swept through the business world with an unrelenting fury. The sturdy, dependable, scalable systems that ERP implanted into our organizational DNA have given us a platform to connect – but rarely does that platform allow us to innovate. And with leaders facing an increasing need to innovate, we are finding that what worked in the 1990s and 2000s no longer works for the world we now find ourselves in. In the recent Cap Gemini / Altimeter report on Innovation Centers, it was revealed that 90% of companies believe that they are too slow to market with new products and often over budget. The structures, silos, teams and even remuneration packages for most organizations are geared towards optimizing what is, not innovating around what will be. The result is that large enterprises struggle to respond to changes in the market and global conditions – allowing startups and smaller, more nimble businesses to out-compete at speed. In the...
Leveraging Female Talent to Drive Innovation

Leveraging Female Talent to Drive Innovation

One of the most significant factors limiting the growth potential of countries around the world is the fundamental participation and engagement of women in their workforce. The second annual research study by Mercer on gender diversity in the workplace suggests that eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost countries’ GDP by up to 34%.  How do we get there? We need to leverage the talent of women to drive innovation in our businesses – and this goes beyond lip service. It needs to become a strategic imperative. How Investing in Female Talent Produces Dividends To capitalize on innovative thought, businesses need to invest in a diverse workforce which includes funding, supporting, and mentoring female talent. These investments pay rich dividends for companies as a recent Babson College report shows that “businesses with a woman on the executive team are more likely to have higher valuations at both first and last funding (64 percent higher and 49 percent higher, respectively).” The Harvard Business Review report agrees that women are essential to growth and innovation: … employees who work for companies [that acquire and support female employees] are 45% more to likely report that their company improved market share in the last 12 months. And they’re 70% more likely to report that their company captured a new market in that time frame. Hiring a diverse workplace is the first step to harnessing female innovation, but businesses also need to foster women’s ideas. The Harvard Business Review further reveals that the “full innovative potential of women” remains largely untapped within corporations largely because the leadership doesn’t know how...
Women in Leadership: Raji Kumar and the Dallas Medical Center Turnaround

Women in Leadership: Raji Kumar and the Dallas Medical Center Turnaround

When it comes to women in leadership, there are many cases where women show unique and valuable leadership styles based in both their gender and cultural identities. Raji Kumar, CEO of Dallas Medical Center, is a great example of bringing a fresh style of leadership to her executive job and in so doing, turning a failing hospital into one of the area’s most disruptive, innovative and successful hospitals. Previous Leadership Kumar inherited Dallas Medical Center in a very bad position. The previous leadership had focused on getting the latest technology and newest cutting edge medical systems, but were easily overwhelmed by the gigantic purchasing power of nearby competition. Relationships with nearby physicians were frayed, reducing the probability of any physician referrals to Dallas Medical Center. The year Kumar took her position as CEO of Dallas Medical Center, the hospital was going $2 Million deeper in the hole every single month, and an entire floor had to be shut down because of rooftop leaks. Innovation and Renovation Kumar used the style of leadership coined by Sally Helgesen as The Female Advantage to find needs in her community, build relationships with physicians and staff and turn around the hospital so that in 5 years the hospital went from losing $2 Million dollars a month to being over-budget the same amount. In Helgesen’s bestselling 1990 book, she described how men and women approach work in fundamentally different ways, many of which can benefit women. Specifically, she wrote about how women are often better suited to running organizations that “foster creativity, cooperation and intuitive decision-making power,” obvious necessities for companies of today. And...
The Four Styles of Mentoring

The Four Styles of Mentoring

People often picture a mentor as someone older or at least someone who has been in a particular business for a long time, but mentoring is not always about age or the number of years of experience a particular person has in a certain field. Instead, mentoring is about inspiring or helping another person, no matter the age or experience level of the people involved in the mentoring relationship. Kim Getty, president of Deutsch LA, an advertising agency which markets for companies such as M&M’s and 7up, talked in a recent article about how people of all ages can be mentors to others. She talked specifically about how younger people make great mentors. Getty, who also teaches journalism classes, said her students act as mentors, as they keep her up-to-date on trends in the media. She focused upon the four types of mentors which are essential for any professional. First, you need a Peer-to-peer mentor. This is someone who works in your field and who is on the same professional level as you. This person is someone you can turn to for advice when you are just frustrated or otherwise worked up about something at work. Second, people need a Reverse mentor. For Getty, this is her students. Overall, it is someone younger and newer in the industry, someone who can give the seasoned professional a fresher outlook, and at times this the person who can explain new terms or gadgets which might be essential to the success of the company or the individual. At the beginning of someone’s career, he or she will be this type of mentor,...
Five Steps to Building a Responsive Organization

Five Steps to Building a Responsive Organization

Transforming a business is hard work. It requires a vision and a program. It means shifting and reallocating resources. It’s about asking hard questions and listening to the equally hard answers. Transformation is both strategic and tactical – and for many organizations, it is exhausting. The challenge of transformation, however, is not about arriving at your “transformation destination” – it’s about building resilience in your business so that change becomes part of your business DNA. Because the kicker here, is that change never ends. But hasn’t this always been the way? Hasn’t change always been part of our business and professional lives? When venture capitalist, Marc Andreesen suggested that “software is eating the world”, he brought a sharp focus to a movement that had been brewing for decades. Building on the learnings arising from the dotcom bubble, a new generation of internet companies are building “real, high-growth, high-margin, highly defensible businesses” – and the reason is that the technology finally works. And accordingly, software is revolutionizing not just the way that a company does business – software increasingly IS the business. The fact is that almost every organization was designed to deal with a world that no longer exists. … most organizations still rely on a way of working designed over 100 years ago for the challenges and opportunities of the industrial age. Team structures support routine and static jobs. Siloed, command and control systems enable senior leadership to drive efficiency and predictability at the expense of free information flow, rapid learning, and adaptability. Software companies by their very nature, however, live in this new world. As Tom Goodwin...
Great Tech Doesn’t Guarantee Innovation

Great Tech Doesn’t Guarantee Innovation

Throughout my career I have seen some amazing technology come to life. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the great business leaders of the 20th and 21st Centuries, witnessed their creativity and ingenuity first hand, and watched as those innovations have transformed industries across the globe. But for every success, I have seen dozens of failures. For every brilliant idea, I have seen many fall at the first hurdle – or progress, limping towards an uncertain future. I have seen many leaders also rise and fall on the back of their idea – some have been able to taste success. Others continue to search for it. And as one idea, leader, team or organization fails and falls, another rises to take its place. The momentum and energy that sustains innovation seems to readily transfer from one project to another and one person to another. It is as if the role of innovator comes with a certain yet necessary degree of amnesia. We forget the pain and heartbreak of failure on the journey towards our own success. More often than not, our successes are built on a string of smaller failures which we learn from and improve – so this idea of failing before succeeding tends to make sense to those with an innovator’s mindset. In Silicon Valley, this approach to failure has been popularized and optimized under the term “fail fast”. But in the risk averse environment that many of us operate, even failing fast can carry a negative connotation that lasts long after the project fades. Writer, Rob Asghar suggests that “failing fast”...