Backing innovation: The smart leader’s money should be on female founders

Backing innovation: The smart leader’s money should be on female founders

We have known for a long time that women led businesses perform well. In a study analyzing the relationship between the composition of corporate boards and financial performance, Catalyst, a research organization on women and business, found a greater return on investment, equity and sales in IT companies that have directors who are women. And yet many companies – not only IT companies – struggle to attract and retain high performing, senior women. But it’s not only women at the top that drive business value. While the gender pay gap remains resolutely at an unacceptable level – women continue to earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man – we also know that diversity in the workforce also creates benefit for companies, industries and whole economies. For example, eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost a country’s GDP by up to 34%. This means that there’s a positive multiplier effect that comes from eliminating the gender pay gap – yet the logic of the situation in no way guarantees the change that would improve all our lives. Clearly, we need to focus on a pipeline of female talent and strategies to engage, support, strengthen and retain women as they move through our enterprises. We also need to continue to push for equal pay and opportunity where ever possible. But what about the startup sector – the high growth businesses that are generating unprecedented wealth across the globe? Given the fast moving, high growth focus of most venture capital and investment firms, it would be easy to think that the smart VC money...
Five Essentials for Your Disruptive Innovation Radar

Five Essentials for Your Disruptive Innovation Radar

No matter where we look across our businesses we see technology driven change and transformation opportunities. There are challenges to business models, new operating models on the horizon and disruptive competitors knocking on our customer’s doors. And, of course, where we find challenges, we find options for growth. For leaders, however, the challenge is not necessarily responding to this disruption – it’s predicting it. Now, I know what you’re thinking … disruptive innovation or change is disruptive precisely because it cannot be predicted. And while this is true to a certain extent, it’s equally true that disruption doesn’t come from nowhere. There are trends, pressures, movements and shifts that help us see them in advance. And this is why you need a disruptive innovation radar. Here’s what I mean. For leaders, it’s essential to cultivate the entrepreneurs mindset – and this means finding ways and means of stepping, and staying, outside of our natural comfort zones. Here are five ways to do this: Keep a watching brief on the new: Stay curious by observing, watching and listening to the early adopters within your network. Better yet, take a single step beyond your network – to a colleague of a colleague – and arrange a meeting, coffee or get together. Learn what is happening on the fringe of your business consciousness. Seek the problem worth solving: Not all challenges that you uncover in your business life will be worth pursuing. Find the problems that appear intractable. Look for the challenges where teams continue to fail. When you find a customer opportunity wrapped in a problem worth solving, you’re on the...
To Create Innovation, Avoid the Shiny Object Syndrome

To Create Innovation, Avoid the Shiny Object Syndrome

Technology is seductive. Take a look at the devices that we carry around in our pockets or attach to our bodies – phones, monitors, bands and watches – each collecting, distributing and analyzing data. Think about how many of these you have – and think about their purpose. We use them for efficiency and optimization – to get things done better, faster and more reliably. They provide us with something that is missing – flexibility or the chance to gain some insight about our behaviors and actions. As a New Year’s Resolution, a friend of mine purchased a FitBit and has been using it daily. He says it helps keep track of his activity. “I know how much exercise I get each day and each week. It monitors my heart rate and my sleep and reports back to me in a number of ways – from instant updates and reminders to email summaries and encouraging achievement badges. It gives me a focus on my health”, he explained. I loved the enthusiasm and excitement. When we caught up recently, I was interested to find out how the FitBit experiment was going. Had he reached his goals? Did the data help? Did the device deliver? To my surprise, he wasn’t even wearing the device. “Hey, what happened to your watch?”, I asked innocently. “Did you lose it?” “It’s not the watch, I lost”, he said. “It’s the motivation to track myself”. Sensing that there was something more going on here, I pressed further. When we met in early January he was excited about this idea and had spent a great deal of time setting...
Lessons learned from a year of innovating

Lessons learned from a year of innovating

When I look back over 2016, I can see many examples of widespread change, disruption and innovation. I can see tremendous gains and hard fought incremental improvements. But away from the big ticket items, what has really changed? Let’s take a look. Live your mantra When I worked at Nike, we had the world famous tag line, “just do it”. It’s a great, action oriented phrase that can be applied to our approach as leaders. But more importantly, it can set an agenda and a mindset across all levels of business. And when it comes to innovation – to driving outcomes of invention – this can be vitally important. Rather than seeing “just do it” as a tag line or a motto, I prefer to think of it as a mantra – something that can be thought and acted upon. Some of the leaders and businesses that have stand out mantras and business models this year include: Elon Musk’s SpaceX company is “making life multiplanetary” and blowing our minds along the way Michael Dubin’s Dollar Shave Club helps you “shave time, shave money” and was picked up by Unilever this year for $1 billion Jeff Immelt has relentlessly pursued innovation at GE, and “imagination at work” can be seen in every story told about the company in any and all media. Creating a digital strategy that sets you apart The last five years has seen a significant change in the way that we consume and produce news and media. Gone are the days of the once and done TV ad. Sure it may work for some Superbowl scale brands,...
Innovating Across Three Horizons

Innovating Across Three Horizons

I will be the first to admit that numbers matter. It matters that you set them, pursue them and achieve them. As leaders, we need to be across the numbers – from revenue targets to cost centers, investments to acquisitions, and everything in between. But not all numbers matter in the same way. I was reminded of this recently, reading startup entrepreneur, Steve Blank’s article on the challenges facing chip manufacturer, Intel. Like most large enterprises, Intel is building and optimizing its business based on its past successes. As one of the most successful technology companies of the past century, Intel has been at the forefront of tech-driven innovation. How many of us remember the “Intel inside” stickers emblazoned across our computers, servers and laptops? But there has been a shift recently. Intel’s last two CEOs delivered outstanding numbers – both in terms of profit and R&D investment. They optimized and executed at scale, with assured expertise. Yet, at the same time, Intel also missed two significant technology trends. As Blank points out, the first was the shift away from desktop computing and the second, was the opportunities presented by collaboration and licensing of technologies. While Intel has recently announced layoffs to the tune of about 11% of its workforce, it’s not yet the end of the road. It’s chip architectures still dominate data centers the world over, it has deep expertise, capability, intellectual property and leadership. But can it look to a different type of number to drive its future performance? The Three Horizons model of innovation provides leaders with a framework for managing current and future growth...
Innovation – It’s Like Juggling Chainsaws

Innovation – It’s Like Juggling Chainsaws

Hands up who has an ideas platform. Hands up who has an innovation team or a lab. What about email? How many new business ideas would your receive in your email each week? Or month? What about informal and formal chats, hackathons or pitching competitions? There’s an abundance of ideas, right? Almost every leader I know has an “innovation backlog” – a collection of great ideas, opportunities and plans that never get implemented. Time is too short. Implementation takes too long. Or our focus on quarterly goals narrows our ability to accelerate and incubate new projects. There is always a reason – or excuse – to file an innovative idea away for later. But I firmly believe that leadership is about decision making and action. Applying lean startup principles to the business of being a leader will help us to a certain extent, but how do we go about exercising judgement? When we are inundated with information and ideas, judgement can be clouded. What we need is a way to find clarity. Prioritizing the Aha Moment One way of prioritizing your innovation backlog is to assess each idea  in terms of the “Aha moment”. By quickly scanning each of the ideas, you are looking for a moment of “realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension”. Those that don’t make that first cut can be ignored. Yes, ignored. Or better yet, deleted. As leaders we must actively trust our experience and capability. We can’t second guess our decisions each and every time. We need to back ourselves. In doing so, remember, you are not making this decision in isolation. You are...