Friday, April 14, 2006

transcendant organizations...a simplistic look

alright, we've agreed that innovation is necessary. how then does an organization focus on actually implementing the idea of ideas? motivating employees to be creative, inspiring free thought is only the first step. what processes should a ceo implement to allow this corporate culture to form and take hold so that it actually produces revenues and makes a difference in the world?

it starts with the leader of the organization; that's a given. beyond that let's remember what type of environment we're working with here. one most likely filled with an under current of fear, politics, greed, gossip, bullying and lacking trust. i've worked in these types of environments and it taught me to make a decision, either keep my head down or if i intended on moving up the ladder then play "the game" better than the next person. (now, not all organizations are like this of course.)

i wasn't interested in doing either of those, in fact, i was more likely to tell the no-mind, applehead always in survival mode supervisor to get lost; so my large corporate career was short-lived. that was an easy choice as i had my self-reliant personality to fall back on. i have always been predisposed to indulging my entrepreneurial spirit rather than the corporate lifer direction. (not that there's anything wrong with the corporate lifer.)

"ok team, now we're innovators." if only it were that simple. typically, the ceo designates a person or team to handle the idea of ideas. the idea team is given expectations, a timeline and some resources. now what? how does that organization actually extract the intelligent essence of the next big thing so that it will flow flawlessly into the product pipeline? which thought provoking gems are to be implemented and which are too risky? there's a myriad of questions and issues that arise, this is where the real work begins and where most fall short.

to aid in this, i like to suggest removing all the corporate baggage possible and start a spin-off organization. operating almost autonomously from the corporate mainstream in daily routine but still reporting regularly for accountability sake.

here are some examples of parameters for such a team and their ideas.

- it's about the talent.
-the people and the idea must be able to change the world.
-the more people positively impacted by the project the better.
-high intangible benefit factors past revenue.
-must have strong attributes for a completely new direction.
-must be extremely difficult and incredibly challenging.

now this criteria can certainly be modified, no matter what though, keep it simple, keep it large scale and find people with big hearts, big brains and big passion to execute. you may want to perform personality tests on these mavericks to analyze the balance of character traits, types, creativity, detail orientations, levels of aggression and so on. the mix you're looking for is certainly heavy on the whacky talent side. support these guys with incredible design capabilities as well as exposure to cultural diversity.

ensure that this idea tactical team is able to extract observations and opinions from some of the smartest minds on the planet, capture everything. absorb information from scientists, futurists, psychologists, students, mathmeticians, artists, musicians. focus on the person rather than the area of expertise, some of the greatest ideas may be in the home with parents or groups of mothers solving a specific problem as they see it in the everyday world. dynamic interaction with this diverse group provides the tactical team with perspective not normally oozing from cubicles. attempt to build a living and breathing lab.

regardless of what happens you must expect criticism, that's just human nature. i admit that i'm very critical of well...corporate dinosaurs (don't get me started). you know, the status quo morons who love to play it safe with proposals and plan after plan. there's actually a saying in the provincial government where i live, "no one's ever been fired for hiring ibm." now isn't that brilliant? i'm aware of several ibm debacles.....well that's another rant.

even companies like apple who are known for set the world on fire innovation are criticized for other reasons like processes or lack of redundancy past steve jobs, i refer an article by Alan Deutschman, a Fast Company senior writer. he has decided that his true idea of a transcendant innovator is w.l. gore & associates. a good choice.

ultimately, you must trust and know that you are brave, remain committed to your true passion and purpose, regardless of what negative thoughts come your way. those leaders and organizations that adopt a true sense of bravery towards innovation and re-inventing their companies will find a way to get the job of changing the world done.

some well-known if not expected examples of these types of organizations. do you think these companies in some way transcend the rest? ideo, thenorthface, 3m, microsoft, virgin

you'll notice they're all large and recognizable organizations with substantial r&d budgets. i'm however most excited about the opportunities for the small and medium sized innovator to transcend their competition still sleeping at the wheel; that's where most of the fun is happening in my opinion.

interesting companies to watch:
webaroo, inphase technologies, brainsonfire eurekster

and so what if after all this you believe you simply can't afford to start an idea tactical and implementation team?

well, then you knock on our door.... we'd be happy to blow the doors off of your particular market space with you.

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