Entries in innovation (9)


The Way We're Working Isn't Working: A Review

Think Rule #5.

Alan Webber, co-founder of Business Week, wrote that change is a math formula. Change happens when the cost of status quo is greater than the risk of change.  C(SQ) > R(C).

Tony Schwartz has written a provocative book that takes a serious look at the one area in business that seems immune to change -- the human costs of doing business in the digital age, Schwartz, the co-author of The Power of Full Engagement provides a proven prescription for making positive changes in the way we work.

The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working makes a compelling case that we’re neglecting four core needs that energize performance. The book is an extension of the ideas Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy introduced in the Harvard Business Review in 2007. (Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.)

Their premise is deceptively simple: “The furious activity to accomplish more with less exacts a series of silent costs:  less capacity for focused attention, less time for any given task, and less opportunity to think reflectively and long term.”

In other words, less energy. And perhaps more importantly, less sustainable energy.

The insights that Schwartz and his colleagues at The Energy Project bring to The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working are based on their experiences working with such organizations as Wachovia, The Cleveland Clinic, the LA Police Department, Sony and Ernst & Young and IBM.

Like Dan Pink’s book, Drive, this book challenges the notion of what truly works in today’s business environment.  While Pink focuses on motivation, Schwartz challenges the idea of how to enhance the performance of employees -- and much of it is counter-intuitive to how we do business.

“A growing body of research suggests that we’re most productive when we move between periods of high focus and intermittent rest.  Instead, we live in a gray zone, constantly juggling activities but rarely fully engaging in any of them -- or fully disengaging from any of them.”

Within the first 10 pages, Schwartz makes a persuasive case.  “Most organizations enable our dysfunctional behaviors and even encourage them through policies, practices, reward systems and cultural messages that serve to drain our energy and run down our value over time.

An increasing number of organizations pay lip service to the notion that ‘are our greatest asset.’ But even among companies that make that claim, the cast majority off-load the care and feeding of employees to divisions known as “human resources,” which are rarely accorded an equal place at the executive table.  As a consequence, the needs of employees are marginalized and treated perquisites provided through programs that focus on topics like ‘leadership development,’ ‘wellness,’ and ‘flexibility’ -- all largely code words for nonessential functions.”

Again, think rule #5.

How willing are executives today willing to change the status quo?  Products are being made.  Services are being rendered.  But at what cost?

The four core areas that energize great performance are sustainability (physical needs) security (emotional) self-expression (mental) and significance (spiritual).  Schwartz makes the case that we’re at our best, not when act like computers running at high speed for long hours, but when we pulse rhythmically between expending and regularly renewing energy across each of our four needs.

The value of the book is enhanced by downloadable tools to help you evaluate your current situation and how to begin addressing the four core areas to enhance the ability of your company to harness the energy of all your employees.

If you want to make positive change in your organization and want to move beyond the status quo,  The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working -- is a working blueprint for any company’s future. I highly recommend it.

You can find it at Amazon in hardcover and on Kindle.


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The Unusual Suspects: The Art of Collaborative Innovation with Saul Kaplan

A Conversation with Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory

Mention the word Prozac and you’re bound to get a smile from Saul Kaplan.

It has nothing to do with the medicinal effects of the popular drug, but rather Saul’s eight-year tenure with Eli Lily and Company – the makers of Prozac. As a Marketing Plans Manager, Kaplan helped guide the launch strategy and successful introduction of Prozac into the U.S. market in 1987.

These days, Kaplan is marketing a much different product– collaborative innovation. As Founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory in Providence, Rhode Island, his new mission is to create a non-profit, real-world laboratory for innovators to explore and test new business models and system level solutions in such critical areas health care, education, energy independence and quality of life.

I met Saul last year at BIF, the Business Innovation Factory’s annual Collaborative Innovation Summit. The summit has become the innovation party of the year with a growing national reputation for being more conversation than conference.

In his book “Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration,” Warren Bennis writes a prescient thought “Despite the rhetoric of collaboration, we continue to advocate it in a culture in which people strive to distinguish themselves as individuals.”

One of Kaplan’s favorite terms is “The Unusual Suspects,” an homage to the movie Casablanca. It’s bringing diverse people together to co-mingle ideas and collaborate on ideas. Last week, we talked with Saul about the art of collaboration, innovation, the group versus individuals, and tinkering with business models.

“An active BIF member once suggested that BIF’s t-shirts should proclaim “BIF: The Anti-Silo,” says Kaplan. “I think one of most enduring lessons I learned at Lily in the late 80’s was their “anti-silo” mind set. They encouraged collaboration and executives would change responsibilities to get a more 3600 view of the organization.”

“My new passion is about R&D for new business models,” adds Kaplan. “Just exploring your own industry for best practices is limiting.New sources of competitive advantage are far more likely to come from observing and adopting best practices in completely unrelated industries.I believe that leaders should spend more discretionary time outside of their industry, discipline, and sector.”

“Most CEOs today have only had to lead their organizations based on a single business model throughout their careers. The half-life of a company’s business model is getting shorter. Look at business model of Blockbuster, Netflix and newer industry players like Hulu.”

“Many of the companies we have worked with have recognized the value of looking outside of their industry for practices that might provide a source of competitive advantage. Going beyond the limits of your current business model requires a network-enabled capability to do R&D for new business models.

Kaplan adds, “As Clay Christensen famously said, ‘companies don’t disrupt themselves’,” and I think that’s the toughest challenge facing executives. “It is easy to sketch out business model innovation scenarios on the white board. It is far more difficult to take the idea off the white board for a spin in the real world.We need safe and manageable platforms for real world experimentation of new business models and systems. That’s really the heart and focus of our organization.

“Through BIF, organizations have access to a ‘safe haven’ for experimenting with new business models – particularly networked models that cut across organizations, industries, and public and private sector.”

The kudos for BIF keep on coming. Recently, Mashable (one of top ten blogs in the world) named  the BIF conference among the nation's best places to connect with great minds

Over the past few years, Kaplan and BIF have walked the talk, collaborating across silos and the public and private sectors to explore new solutions for health care. Partnering with Tockwotton Home, Quality Partners of Rhode Island and MIT AgeLab, the Nursing Home of the Future Project is a real-world laboratory for developing and testing new solutions, products and models for improving elderly care.


And now this year, BIF and a wide range of collaborators are taking on the two other big elephants  in the room– energy and education.

“You really have to have very thick skin to span silos and foster collaboration.” Kaplan continues “Everyone loves the idea of innovation until it impacts them. I used to think that we could create more innovators by teaching but that doesn’t get past the buzzwords and what passes for innovation in many companies.”

“I now believe in exploring the world to identify the innovators across every imaginable discipline, then finding ways to connect them in purposeful ways.”

I asked Saul about “innovation fatigue – the proliferation of innovation articles over the past few years. “I’ve spent a lot of my career proselytizing about innovation and value of collaboration, but I think that many companies internalize it to mean that everyone has to be innovative, says Kaplan.

“Like virtually everything in business, some people are better at it than others. I believe there are some individuals that are simply hot-wired for innovation. The models that appear to work best are a mix of a core team focused on innovation with open collaboration with both internal and external resources.”

I asked Saul a parting question. What about the transformation of his own business model? “We all know the story about the cobbler's shoes. If BIF is about business model and system innovation we must commit ourselves to ongoing experimentation and change. Our model is changing in two visible ways right now:

 1) The "DO" part of our operating model is taking shape. BIF's experience labs are where the action is. Our Elder and Student Experience labs are up and running and bringing our innovation network together in purposeful ways.

2) The "Connect" part of BIF's operating model is also coming together. We are taking an open innovation approach to both capability building and experiments in BIF's Experience Labs.

If none of us is as smart as all of us, Saul Kaplan has rounded up the unusual suspects to evolve  a new model for collaboration.  





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