Thursday, May 26, 2005

Building an Innovative Enterprise

Innovation is the lifeblood of an enterprise. It courses through a vital organization spawning new markets, enlarging existing markets, increasing market share or swelling profits.

Innovation is the way of transforming the resources of an enterprise through the creativity of people into new resources and wealth.

And, in today's environment, that requires the creation of an innovation commons.

Innovation can also reduce costs and increase profitability.

However, I have to be honest with you, innovation is risky. Most innovations fail.

On the other hand, to stay competitive you must innovate.

To reduce the risks of innovation, and to reap its great benefits, it must delight your customers. Innovation that delights anticipates customer needs.

It flows from a strategy that balances the opportunities and threats in a market, the desires of stakeholders, and the capability and capacity of the enterprise for innovation.

Values, derived from the market, drive the development of the enterprise's resources, focus the organizational culture, and align the enterprise's five innovation enablers, inspiring people to be effective and efficient.

Innovation is dynamic. The need for innovation is a moving target that must be continuously forecast as far into the future as it will take the enterprise to respond.

Your foresight has to be greater than your ability to innovate.

Building an innovative enterprise can be your most significant accomplishment for it can live beyond your tenure or even your life.

Paul Schumann

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Selling the Wheel

If you are looking for some light, entertaining reading with a great wallop, then Selling the Wheel is for you! Not intended as accurate historical tale, Selling the Wheel is a parable about sales and the sales cycle. The insights and lessons to be learned from this book are many, and they are not limited to those of us who have "sales" in our blood. In fact this approximately 255-page book may be the most valuable to the non-sales types of the business world, especially if you are an entrepreneur or inventor.

The story begins with the fundamental questions – Who are your customers? Then moves on to an equally fundamental next question – who are your competitors? The book covers the entire sales universe and includes all the major issues of sales and marketing. Described in exquisite detail are the four selling types – The Closer, The Wizard, The Builder, and The Captain & Crew. There is a sales type that is best suited for different types of salespersons and selling situations and not surprising, it is also matched to what customers value the most in a particular phase of the market’s development. You will no doubt recognize why a product didn’t make it. And if it was your product, unfortunately, this book may have come too late. But having read the book, you will now be more informed and next time more prepared. The book is full of tips for salespeople, entrepreneurs, marketing managers and others who want to really understand what sales is all about. Regardless of your perceived sophistication about the subject, you are bound to learn something. And you are guaranteed to be entertained.

Jeff Cox is a creative and prolific professional writer. He has also collaborated on several other business books – Zapp, Heroz, and The Goal. He is also the author of The Venture, a Novel for Entrepreneurs.

Howard Stevens is chairman of the HR Chally Group. Chally has collected and analyzed data about salespeople since the mid 1970s.

Selling the Wheel
Jeff Cox and Howard Stevens, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000, 255 pages

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


This is not a hard book to read, but it is difficult to integrate into the way you look at the world. Mark Buchanan is a science writer who has worked on the editorial staff of Nature and as a features editor New Scientist. In this book he is writing about the development of a growing field of physics - complexity. Complexity is chaos in critical states. A critical state exists in a system that is not in equilibrium. You may have heard of the "butterfly effect". That is, there is a possibility that a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can cause a storm in Europe weeks later. However, that same butterfly can flap all in wants inside a closed balloon with no effects, other than maybe slightly increasing the temperature of the air in the balloon. The air inside the balloon is in equilibrium, even though the molecules exhibit chaotic behavior. The atmosphere is in a critical, i.e. non-equilibrium, state. A small perturbation somewhere can lead to very big changes.

If the air inside the balloon is in equilibrium, its past, present and future are all the same. It has no "history". When things are in non-equilibrium, history matters since what happens now can never be washed away but affects the entire course of the future.

The applications of this model extend from the piling of grains of sand in an hourglass to economics.

"Despite what scientists had previously believed, might the critical state in fact be quite common? Could riddling lines of instability of a logically equivalent sort run through the Earth's crust, for example, through forests and ecosystems, and perhaps even through the somewhat more abstract "fabric" of our economics? Think of those first few crumbling rocks near Kobe, or that first insignificant dip in prices that triggered the stock market crash of 1987. Might these have been "sand grains" acting at another level? Could the special organization of the critical state explain why the world at large seems so susceptible to unpredictable upheavals?

A decade of research by hundreds of other physicists has explored this question and taken the initial idea much further. There are many subtleties and twists in the story to which we shall come later in this book, but the basic message, roughly speaking, is simple: The peculiar and exceptionally unstable organization of the critical state does indeed seem to be ubiquitous in our world. Researchers in the past few years have found its mathematical fingerprints in the workings of all the upheavals I've mentioned so far, as well as in the spreading of epidemics, the flaring of traffic jams, the patterns by which instructions trickle down from managers to workers in an office, and in many other things. At the heart of our story, then, lies the discovery that networks of things of all atoms, molecules, species, people, and even ideas have a marked tendency to organize themselves along similar lines. On the basis of this insight, scientists are finally beginning to fathom what lies behind tumultuous events of all sorts, and to see patterns at work here where they have never seen them before."

The mathematical models of this science don't really exist yet, and may never exist. We have empirical observations and we have games. The empirical data suggests that all these phenomena follow a power curve, and all with roughly the same shape. For example, looking at earthquakes, as the strength of the earthquake doubles, the frequency of occurrence drops by one fourth. This simple rule seems to apply to many examples.

So what does this have to do with creativity, strategy, leadership and innovation in organization? Well, I'm not sure yet. My intuition tells me that this is very important to those concepts. It may help us understand the frequency of occurrence of breakthrough ideas and innovation. It may help explain why some innovations cause such change and others do not. It may help produce better strategies to deal with chaotic and unstable markets. And, it may provide lessons for leaders in chaotic times. I'd welcome a discussion.

Ubiquity: Why Catastrophes Happen
Mark Buchanan
Thee Rivers Press, 2000
273 pages

The Tipping Point

This book is an interesting and easy read. Gladwell introduces the idea of a tipping point - a moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. He integrates observations from a variety of applications from Paul Revere's ride to the lowering of crime in New York to the spread of Hushpuppies to epidemics, among others.

He concludes that there are three rules of the tipping point - the law of the few, the stickiness factor and the power of context. In defining the law of the few, he reiterates some of the well-known observations about networking, but adds some additional structure. He identifies three types of people that have to be operating in the network - connectors, mavens and salesmen. Connectors are people who have many connections. But, he goes on to describe the importance of weak links (links with people we don't know well). It's apparently not telling friends about something that helps, its telling acquaintances.

Using job hunting as an example, he reports that successful job applicants found their jobs in a variety of ways in a 1974 study - 20% applied directly, 19% used formal means and 56% used personal connections. Of those who used a contact to find a job, 17% saw that contact often, 56% occasionally and 28% rarely. "People weren't getting their jobs through their friends. They were getting them through their acquaintances." Why, because we share much in common with our friends so nothing new is added. Our acquaintances have their own networks that bring entirely new people into the web.

Mavens are experts who act as sources on information and can qualify the idea or product. And, salesmen are well, sales people.

The stickiness factor becomes harder to quantify. There is not a science of what makes something stick, that is stay in a person's mind. It's an art. If you create something, peoples' response to it can be tested. Stickiness is not in the content but in its package. "There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it."

The power of context refers to the conditions and circumstances of times and places for a tipping point. "But the lesson of the Power of Context is that we are more than just sensitive to changes in context. We're exquisitely sensitive to them." In reviewing studies on crime and behavior he states, "Weird as it sounds, if you add up the meaning of the Stanford prison experiment and the New York subway experiment, they suggest that it is possible to be a better person on a clean street or in a clean subway than in one with trash and graffiti." The other major part of the context he discusses is the influence of groups. "Once we're part of a group, we're all susceptible to peer pressure and social norms and any number of other kinds of influence that can play a critical role in sweeping us up in the beginnings of an epidemic." If you want to introduce new concepts and beliefs and bring about change that will persist, "you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured."

This is a good book for anyone interested in innovation to read. It's the type of book I like, one that synthesizes knowledge from many fields. And, I believe it offers some insights of value to innovation practitioners. Read together with Ubiquity, it can provide insight and meat for a lot of discussion.

Malcolm Gladwell is a former business and science writer at the Washington Post. He is currently a staff writer for The New Yorker.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Malcolm Gladwell
Little, Brown & Company, 2000
301 pages

Monday, May 23, 2005

Benjamin Franklin

This book is a great work of history and a literary success. But, it is also the story of one of America’s great innovators. During his 84-year life he was America’s best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer and business strategist. He was practical in all his innovations. (See accompanying article on his innovations.) He was the only person to participate in all the founding documents of this nation – the Albany Plan of Union, the Declaration of Independence, the treaty of alliance with France, the peace treaty with England and the Constitution. Moreover, he continually reinvented himself.

This is a great read at any level. Franklin comes to life off the pages. But, for anyone interested being an innovator, it is essential reading.

Walter Isaacson, the President of the Aspen Institute, has been the chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Kissinger: A Biography and the co-author of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and daughter.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster, 2003, Hard Cover, 590 pages

© 2004 The Innovation Road Map

Good to Great

Before you read this, know that I’m biased. I’ve lived too long, read too many books and article and experienced too much in business. Any time I read that someone has the answer for all companies, I cringe. If there is anything I’ve learned in business is that every business is different. In business solutions, one size does not fit all. Whenever someone says that they have a simple answer for business, I recoil. Another thing I’ve learned is that business is a complex problem. And, complex problems deserve being respected for their complexity. Solutions to complex problems may be elegant, but they are rarely simple.

In addition to the above, my problem with this book is its premise and research methodology. The basis of all the work that went into this book is the “Ratio of Cumulative Stock Returns to General Market”. While this is certainly an important variable, it is not the complete measure of a company’s greatness. It may or may not even be an indicator.

First, stockholders are only one of the many stakeholders that a company has. As an extreme example, consider a fast growing, highly profitable company that’s raping the environment. A great company must have a positive economic impact on its customers and honor the trust that a customer places in the company by purchasing goods and services. A great company must respect the individuals its employees, its suppliers and its strategic partners. A great company must also balance its financial performance in stock market with the development of its people, technology, industry and country. And, among many other things, a great company must be ethical and honor the trust given to them by the people in allowing them to incorporate.

Lastly, I have a problem with any book about great companies that does not deal with innovation and creativity. Many of the examples described are innovations; it just doesn’t call them that. The book seems to studiously avoid the use of creativity, strategy and innovation as those words were forbidden.

The chapters in the book include:
  • Good is the Enemy of Great

  • Level 5 Leadership

  • First Who…Then What

  • Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith)

  • The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within Three Circles)

  • A Culture of Discipline

  • Technology Accelerators

  • The Flywheel and the Doom Loop

  • From Good to Great to Built to Last

The book is written well and easy to understand. It was designed that way. Millions of copies have been sold, so maybe I’m wrong. I have been a time or two in my life. But, I did have problems with The Search for Excellence. Remember that book…?

Jim Collins is co-author of Built to Last, a national bestseller for over five years with a million copies in print. A student of enduring great companies, he serves as a teacher to leaders throughout the corporate and social sectors. Formally a faculty member at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award, Jim now works from his management research laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

Good to Great
Jim Collins, Harper Business, 2001, Hard Cover, 300 pages

© 2004 The Innovation Road Map

Friday, May 20, 2005

Creativity, Inc.

Because I’ve studied and read so much about creativity I must admit that I approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it. I told myself, just read the intro and the first chapter and then stop if you don’t like it. Well, I didn’t stop. It was an enjoyable read throughout with many insights along the way. What the authors bring forward in this book is a methodological approach to creativity in organizations, more particularly corporations. They describe a system that seems to touch all the right points in order to increase creativity in an organization. In addition, they provide some helpful information for individuals who want to improve their own creativity.

The book is divided into three parts and eight chapters:
Part 1 – Creative Thinking

  • The Dynamics That Underlie Creative Thinking

  • Becoming Creatively Fit as an Individual

  • Breaking and Making Connections for an Enterprise

Part 2 – Climate
  • The Climate for Creativity in an Enterprise

  • Personal Creative Climate: The Bubble

Part 3 – Action
  • Leadership: Fostering Systemic Creativity

  • Purposeful Creativity

  • Sustaining the Change

When an organization has systemic creativity, the authors write “systemic creativity becomes an integral part of everyday operations and spawns new thought, from small changes to breakthroughs, that organizations now need in every activity that makes a competitive difference.

For this to happen, creativity must become the responsibility of everyone – every leader and senior manager as well as every employee. Systemic creativity is only systemic when everyone in an organization learns how to practice it and then promotes it constantly.”

This is not an easy task in today’s short-term, bottom-line, stockholder-value driven organization. The authors point out “The behaviors required for successful creativity are out of tune with the behaviors that make a company operationally efficient, well-organized and clear-sighted on its mission and goals.”

The authors also correctly point out that there is no “right way” to foster creativity in an organization. The approach depends upon a number of factors. “There are, however, basic principles and practical techniques that have stood the test of time.” This book is a great contribution that goal.

The book is informed by six basic understandings:
  1. There is no recipe for systemic creativity.

  2. Creativity and innovation are two distinct concepts.

  3. Creativity happens with individuals, coalitions and teams, and organizations.

  4. There are four critical dynamics.

  5. Creativity depends on climate.

  6. Systemic creativity asks everyone to be a leader.

According to the authors, the four inter-linking dynamics of creativity are motivation, curiosity and fear, making and breaking connections, and evaluation.

In the authors’ model, making and breaking connections within an enterprise is the pivotal dynamic of the creative process. To foster this, they encourage conflict of ideas, encourage risk taking, the promotion of diversity, organizing for intrinsic motivation, the development of information flows that support creativity, and the utilization of more and less information.

The “conflict of ideas” concept is one of the few areas in the book that I find myself disagreeing. I have found that the metaphor of battle in creativity to be de-motivating for many people. There may be certain personality types that enjoy competition over new ideas, but there are even more people who find this stressful and a turnoff. I think what needs to be fostered in organizations to promote creativity is the development and facilitation of conversations about ideas. Non judgmental conversations about ideas usually generates new ideas that quite often are better than the originals. To converse is to turn around together.

The authors make a distinction between climate and culture. The difference according to their definition is understandable. Many models of culture include a hierarchy of philosophies, beliefs, values and behaviors. Values set expectations and therefore the author’s definition of climate encompasses values and behaviors.

The concept of a personal creative climate, a “bubble” is an extremely powerful one. There are many distractions, conflicting priorities, and decentives to creativity in organizations. I have always found for myself, as well as observing the behavior of others, that those who can create this “bubble” are the most productive and the most creative.

The authors end the book with some wise advice to would be promoters of creativity in organizations. They write “As the change to systemic creativity goes forward, everything covered in the introduction and the first seven chapters – from the dynamics of the creative process and their relationship to individuals and companies, through personal; and corporate climate, through leadership and innovation – requires continued attention, reinforcement, exercise, follow-through, and reinvention.” They explain that the forces against creativity are so strong, that without continued reinforcement and reinvention, any approach to systemic creativity will fail. Their advice:
  • Plan ahead

  • Record results

  • Expect resistance

  • Encourage the flow of information

“More than forty years ago, in The Human Side of Enterprise, Douglas MacGregor challenged the command-and-control assumptions about the business establishment: ‘The distinctive potential contribution of the human being…at every level of the organization stems form his capacity to think, to plan, to exercise judgement, to be creative, to direct and control his own behavior.’

MacGregor was arguing on behalf of the creative climate. Today, while there has been much progress, too few leaders ask and expect creativity of their employees; too few leaders provide the climate in which creativity can flourish.”

How true!

Jeff Mauzy is a Consulting Manager and Richard Harriman is Managing Partner at Synectics, a pioneering consulting firm specializing in business creativity and innovation.

Creativity, Inc.: Building an Inventive Organization
Jeff Mauzy & Richard Harriman, Harvard Business School Press, 2003, Hard Cover, 232 pages

© 2004 The Innovation Road Map

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Conscious Manager

For many of us with Western educated and disciplined minds, Zen is alluring but mysterious. To comprehend Zen requires that the Western mind unlearn much and spend years in dedication to its study and practice. This book is the best I’ve read at helping to understand how Western minds might benefit from Zen. It is aimed at managers, and all you need to do to appreciate the need for “conscious managers” is read the news about the state of business management. But, not only do we need conscious managers, we need conscious people. The US has never faced the complexities of the current environment. And, all the signs say that life and business are just going to get more complex in the future. Despite all our efforts to return to simplicity, I’m afraid our burden is complexity.

Phillips begins his book with a quote from an overwrought manager, “Wear a lot of hats?” complained the over-tasked manager. “I have to wear a lot of faces. And I hate it. I wish I could be the same person at work, at home, and with friends. I want my life to all of one piece, not a lot of fragments working against each other. Isn’t that what integrity means? How can I make choices and decisions without feeling torn.”

In eight chapters, the author covers beginnings, practice, opening, support, test, mission, recipe and perspective. Using his expereince in Aikido (5th degree rank and 25 years as an instructor) and his practice of Zen as a layman, Phillips writes an insightful and sometimes moving explanation of what he has gained from his expereince. He also describes accurately some of the problems of being a manager is today’s environment and how Zen can help people and organizations.

“My favorite comment of Zen was given to me by my teacher when I asked him, Sensei…what is Zen? After a long pause, eye contact, and a smile he replied, If I say…it is not Zen.

Yes, any time you freeze reality in black and white words, it’s no longer Zen. Many fine Zen books have been written before this one. Their pages have inspired readers, wrapped sandwiches, and lined kitty litter boxes. May this book serve you well!

Now here is a more serious way to answer your question. The highway sign pointing to Detroit is not itself Detroit. This book is not Zen, but it is a pointer. Like the highway sign, it might help you slow down, and turn in the direction you already want to go.”

So, here’s the difficulty I have as a reviewer. This book is not Zen. It’s pointing to Zen. Using the author's analogy, I’ve got to write a review about the directions to a place. I’ve never taken the journey and I’ve never experienced the place. Hmm…
I can comment on what’s in the book and excerpt some quotes I think might be valuable. The book contains the characteristics of a conscious manager. It also describes the steps along the Zen path of responsible decision making.

The book is loaded with quotes, all insightful and supportive of the ideas in the writing. It is written in a style that makes the concepts accessible to Western managers who think.

The author explains the connection between what is essentially a pacifist approach and it’s many militaristic applications:

“Buddha’s teaching was in no way war like, and in many ways pacifistic. Yet its connection to martial arts, centuries later, was logical, as its connection to business today. Martial analogies serve the conscious manager well when he* focuses on war’s imperative for strategic action, instantaneous response, and dealing with fear and compassion. However, war is destructive and tragic. Business and politics can involve ‘creative destruction’ that sweeps aside the old in favor of the new, but business and politics also construct wonderful new products, organizations and institutions. Analogies that focus only on the destructive aspects of war and management fail. In fact, we know that something is seriously wrong when a company's president (as actually happened in one firm known for indiscriminate downsizing) earns the nickname 'Chainsaw'. "

* The author generally alternates the use of he and she.

At the heart of this approach is the concept of non-attachment. According to the author, we are all already enlightened. But our attachments are what prevent us from recognizing our enlightenment. (He warns about becoming attached to the pursuit of enlightenment.) Before you can get rid of our attachments, we must first become aware of what we are attached to. Then we can begin the work of understanding the attachments and ridding ourselves of them.

“How can a manager become aware of attachments? Through meditation, through mindful practice, through the support of other students of conscious management, through challenges and tests, and through instruction from a qualified, compatible teacher” he writes. This book provides guidance and clues as to how to accomplish this.

What is a conscious manager? Phillips provides these characteristics:
  • Attends to detail but looks at context; tries to see the big picture

  • Doesn’t believe everything he or she is told

  • Rejects any labels

  • Constantly hones personal skills

  • Is committed to lifelong learning – for everyone in the organization

  • Exercises respect and compassion, but not indulgence, in all dealings

  • Is flexible but not wishy-washy

  • Spares no effort to match the right people with the right jobs

  • Lets employees put their best foot forward

  • Controls the organization loosely

  • Gives employees the chance to stretch themselves

  • Tries to see the adversary’s point of view

  • Shows a creative imagination

  • Is focused and steadfast in pursuit of a mission

  • Uses every tool at his or her command

The ingredients necessary for becoming a conscious manager are:
  • Hunger

  • An opening experience

  • A practice

  • Support

  • Tests

  • A mission

But enough from me describing the directions pointing the way to Zen. Buy the book and read the directions yourself. It's a great read!

Fred Phillips is an educator and executive who has taught Zen martial art for more than 25 years. As head of the management department at Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and technology, he has built the Northwest’s most admired management degree program for high technology leaders. He is the author of the textbook Market Oriented Technology Management: Innovating for Profit in Entrepreneurial Times, and Associate Editor of the Journal Technology Forecasting & Social Change. A longtime Texan, Fred now lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with his wife and daughters. He holds fifth-dan rank in akido.

The Conscious Manager: Zen for Decision Makers
Fred Phillips, General Informatics, 2003, Paperback, 145 pages

© 2004 The Innovation Road Map

Smart Mobs

This book review is long. So if you don’t want to read a long review of the book and its implications, let me tell you in the first paragraph, “This is a must read book!” It’s well written, exciting and scary. The technologies that the book is about have many potentially positive and negative outcomes. If you believe that society will still be dominated in the future by “zero sum” philosophies, at the individual, corporate and governmental level, then the outcome looks very scary. If you believe that society is ready to adopt “non-zero sum” games then the outlook is exciting and enormous changes will result that are positive.

Non-zero sum games are behaviors that include “the unique human power and pleasure that comes from doing something that enriches everyone, a game where nobody has to lose for everyone to win.” Zero sum games are best typified by our sports. There is a winner and there is a loser. When the rules are bent or broken, then tragic results can occur, i.e. Enron, which is zero-sum corporate behavior personified. Or, a present nemesis, spam. Spam is where one person wins and everyone else looses.

Robert Write wrote in “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny”, “New technologies arise that permit or encourage new, richer forms of non-zero-sum interaction; then (for intelligible reasons grounded ultimately in human nature*) social structures evolve that realize this rich potential – that convert nonzero-sum situations into positive sums. Thus does social complexity grow in scope and size.”

Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
Howard Rheingold, Basic Books, 2002, Paper Back,
266 pages

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