For the Innovation Leader, It’s Time to Get Social

For the Innovation Leader, It’s Time to Get Social

I have to admit that I was skeptical about social media in the beginning. I could see there was potential connecting directly with customers, partners and other business leaders, but many of my colleagues and customers had not yet made the plunge. So rather than investing heavily into social media, I kept a “watching brief” on its progress. I dabbled and read. And I arranged meetings with experts who were actively experimenting with social media as a business tool to learn first hand what value they were finding. Many years down the track, social media has become a powerful way for businesses and business leaders to communicate, share information, make announcements and build communities. Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group has actively cultivated a powerful online following that includes his LinkedIn blog posts, Facebook page likes and over 6.5 million followers on Twitter. It is a direct line of communication between one of the world’s leading innovators and his most engaged advocates. Do you think this impacts on the Virgin brand? Does it promote trust and connection? In a recent study, Forbes investigated the social media habits of CEOs from the Fortune 500, and found that while social media is a growing trend among CEOs, it is not pervasive. Of the 160 CEOs from the Fortune 500 with social media profiles, 79% only use LinkedIn. And only 8.3% use Twitter. Given that Twitter is fast becoming the “pulse of the planet”, I fully expect to see some shift here. Especially from leaders who are setting an innovation agenda. Leaders like Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors...
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...
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”...
Four Steps to Encourage Young Women into Tech Careers

Four Steps to Encourage Young Women into Tech Careers

Study after study has shown that diversity in the workplace has significant impacts on an organization’s employee morale, productivity and profitability. Yet, at the same time, we continue to see upstream challenges to the participation of women in those industries responsible for driving innovation in the economy. Just look at the percentage of women employees in tech companies –  women make up no more than 20% of the tech workforce at Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter. With this in mind, in early 2014, Google undertook a study of their own. The aim was to identify the factors that influenced young women in their choice of computer science degrees. The results were encouraging – and, I must admit, quite surprising. The study distinguished between uncontrollable and controllable factors. Analysis of the uncontrollable factors – such as ethnicity, early exposure to computers, natural aptitude and so on – revealed that they play a very limited role in influencing young women in their choice of technology study. It is the controllable factors – that largely determine decision-making – and this means that these factors can be acted upon and amplified. There are four factors that can be influenced and there are four steps we can take to encourage young women into technology careers. These are: Social encouragement Self perception Academic exposure Career perception Nina Nets It Out: Controllable factors can be influenced – which represents an opportunity but also a challenge. Without systematic approaches, we will continue to see computer science – and by extension – innovation, suffer. By addressing this problem programmatically we can have a massive impact on...
The Growth Mindset for Leaders

The Growth Mindset for Leaders

I have recently been pondering the very personal way that leaders have to continually re-invest in their own capabilities. On the one hand it is as if we have a deep well of self-belief that we must constantly tend, maintain and nurture; while on the other it is this source that we continually call upon to achieve our goals. Interestingly, it seems that calling on these reserves is, in fact, a way of replenishing them. It’s very similar to physical exercise – like training for a long distance run. We set a goal, train towards that goal, and then test our capabilities and training by competing in that run. But it is only this last stage – where the full breadth of the challenge is clear – that we are truly tested. This was reinforced to me while reading Maria Popova’s great review of Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck’s book explains that our abilities and our talents account for only part of our success (in life, business and so on), and that the personal way that we use those abilities and talents also has a massive impact. She divides this into two separate mindsets – the fixed or the growth mindset. Those who have the self belief that intelligence is static may plateau early in life and not achieve all that could be possible, while those with a growth mindset experience a very different set of circumstances. This is shown in the infographic below. When I look at the growth mindset and consider the approach taken to challenges, obstacles, criticism together with...