Getting rid of those Pesky Innovators

Our special guest columnist today is C. Mudgeon III, CEO of Dumbleton & Dorfly. C. Mudgeon is an Alumnus of the Machiavelli School of Business at Screw U.

I think that we can all agree that Innovation is a tremendous waste of time. The money that we all waste on these initiatives could be much better spent on cappuccino service for the executive boardroom or cashmere toilet paper for the restrooms on the top floor. These upstart “Innovators” challenge our assumptions, threaten the status quo and upset the delicate political stagnation that we’ve worked so hard to cultivate over the decades.

So how do we shut these programs down without being tagged as an “Enemy of Innovation” (like that’s a bad thing?)

It’s actually not that difficult. I have a few sure-fire suggestions for undermining your innovation programs, destroying that pesky enthusiasm and still making it look like you’re supporting the program. Read the rest of this entry »

Institutionalized Insanity

Consider the following scenarios:

1. A teenager comes to parents and asks for a new car. The justification is that the current car is old, doesn’t go fast enough and costs too much in maintenance. The proposed solution is to buy a brand new Ferrari. It’s expensive, but will go more than fast enough for any foreseeable situation and the dealer will include the first 3 years of maintenance with the purchase.

2. A woman goes to her pharmacist to pick up a prescription. The pharmacist provides the medication and informs her that the drug company skipped most of the testing in order to meet their market release date. However, if she encounters any severe side effects, the drug company will make sure that she’s first in line for any corrective medications or required surgeries. He also provides her with a 1 month supply of disposable undergarments as a “workaround” for the known gastrointestinal issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Failure to Communicate

What is the biggest problem with leadership? What is the solution?

I’ve been working through some new ideas on leadership. Everywhere you turn you hear the experts talking about how, “We lack the leadership needed to carry us into the future.”

That’s a problem.

After considering it for the last six months or so, I think I have some of the answers… things that I don’t see anyone else talking about.

Before sharing my ideas, I’ll put it out there and let our readers share their opinion. What do you think…

What is the biggest problem with leadership? What is the solution?

I’ll share my ideas next week!

Doyle Slayton

Sales & Leadership Strategist – Professional Speaker | Author | Social Media | Web 2.0 |

A failure to communicate.

In small organizations, you can’t help but develop shared context, goals and objectives. As an organization grows, it becomes a bigger and bigger game of “telephone” where the message gets distorted and people are forced to develop their own (often conflicting) agendas. Leaders need to dig down into all levels of the organization and learn to listen, understand how their message is being perceived and adjust accordingly. If the message is clear and you have good people, the next step is to get out of their way, clear any obstacles for them and trust them to execute.

Age Discrimination

So I am 50 plus how do I get employers to take me seriously?

Jacqueline Ann Mc Kenzie

Independent Human Resources Professional

“One thing that I would suggest is taking a step back and making sure that it’s a real issue and not your own insecurity. If it’s a real issue, again, check to see if there’s anything that you’re doing to make the situation worse. I started contract programming when I was 13. I was in a management position before I was 20 and I’ve always been very conscious of the exact opposite problem that you have. Now that I’m pushing <mumble mumble> I should be feeling the young bucks nipping at my heels, but instead, I still feel like the 17 year-old having to prove myself. The odd part of this is that this is somehow coming through in some subconcious behavior and I generally find myself connecting more with the younger employees than with the people my own age. On the flip side, I had a person younger than I was that was continually complaining that he was being discriminated against because of his “advanced” age. We sat down together and started documenting the issues and then had some open conversations with the team. It turns out that the “young people” felt that he was discriminating against them because of their lack of experience and they responded by treating him as the “old dude”. Once we all got on the same page, it was easy to see where the disconnects were coming from and how some subtle little turns of phrase, ways of responding and just ways of working were contributing to building walls between them. Both sides had a part to play in the problem and it became a really nasty feedback loop. In this case, simply breaking the cycle pretty much corrected the problem. I’m not suggesting that you run out and hop on the latest trends or try to act younger than you are. Just be yourself and look past age. If you expect to not be taken seriously, there’s a very real risk that you’ll create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Take the time to document what you’re seeing and how you’re responding. Then try to review it objectively when you aren’t “in the moment”. If, after taking that into account, there is still a problem, involve HR and see if you can get some dialog opened to address the issues. Good luck!”

Comparing Large and Small organizations

How have you managed the transition from a large international organisation and employer, to a smaller organisation?

What challenges have you had to overcome and how has your approach to doing business changed?

Jonathan Brooker

Experienced programmes and commercial director – telecoms / I.T. / media / manufacturing / business intelligence

I have a slightly different view.

I spent approximately 15+ years working in International and dealing with the cultures, politics, regulations and regional ethics of integrating systems and business process across 30+ countries. I was able to work with and touch almost every facet of the business and I had the luxury of a free hand to effect changes that had tangible impact.

My wife and I had our first child and I shifted gears to a domestic-only job with “no travel”, “low stress”, and “<80 hour work-weeks”. My personal life is much better, but it’s frustrating to lose the scope, influence and ability to see changes that you make impact hundreds or thousands of people across a global organization. It’s also difficult to see people repeat your mistakes and no longer be in a position to do anything about it.

I think that the transition pains have much more to do with your relative level and scope of influence within each organization rather than the actual large global/small domestic issue.

However, there are some generalizations:

Larger organizations usually have better process frameworks and more complex bureaucracy. Smaller organizations have better agility, but more chaos and things “slipping through the cracks”.

Larger organizations have much worse end-to-end integration (usually due to a lack of direct communication). Smaller organizations tend to have better internal alignment around goals.

Larger organizations have a “been there, done that” attitude to a lot of things. Smaller organizations are usually learning as they go.

Larger organizations present more opportunities with more competition. Smaller organizations have fewer opportunities, but the ones that are available tend to be much more significant.

Larger organizations have a much greater pool of talent that you can draw from. In a smaller organization, you have to play the hand that you’re dealt.

In some cases, moving to a smaller organization provides a greater ability to effect changes. However, if that organization already has strong leaders and you aren’t hired as one of them, it can be more difficult to have a voice.

My approach used to be “Bash your head against the wall until you see daylight”. Now it’s basically the beginning of the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The “Chief Innovation Officer”

If you just met someone who introduced themself as ‘Chief Innovation Officer’, what would you assume they actually did in that role?

Simon Stapleton

Commercial Director at Webventur

I’d assume that the board spent too much time reading “Wired” magazine and thinking about titles to make the company look progressive. 🙂

Innovation has to be pervasive in the culture, not driven by an individual. While I applaud companies for realizing that innovation is important, assigning an “individual” to that role would make me assume that they “don’t get it”. This would be especially true if the title was in a non-engineering company.

Innovation initiatives need to be separated out from the mainstream projects, administrativia and organizational politics. But the drive and sponsorship needs to come from the entire leadership team and not an isolated individual. In short, the Chief Innovation Officer needs to be every “C” level executive, every manager and every individual in the company.

If it was a development or engineering company, I would assume that the CInnovationO it’s just the head of R&D with a shiny new “cool” title.

I’ve met quite a few very impressive individuals with titles like these. But it doesn’t stop me from cringing when I see them printed on business cards. They’re so nebulous, that they could mean anything from “head of coffee flavour selection” to “Right hand to the CEO”. If the title comes with the underlying organizational commitment and culture, that’s a whole different ballgame. However, all too often it’s just a bandaid for a company that simply doesn’t get it.

Should your business allow staff access to Social Networks in the office.,,. while using them to build business traffic?.

Facebook on or off? I recently suggested to a client that to add value to his new website – he needs a Facebook and Myspace presence for his company … a recruitment and temporary staffing business. His reply was that he was turning off access to them because his staff waste to much time there.
How do I convince him to balance the benefits with the distractions?

Rick Carter

Helping People/Organisations to Build Dynamic, Vital Brands using Social Media Marketing

Social networks are a double-edged sword.

There’s a lot of value to social networks for business contacts, customer interaction, feedback, and just providing a “human face” to the company. But when you blur the lines between the business and personal interactions, you run the risk of someones “off hours” activities reflecting poorly on the company. The flip side of that is that you may find yourself in a position of trying to exert control over what amounts to someone’s personal life.

My recommendation is that the access be allowed, but that personal profiles and “company presence” profiles be kept seperate. Make it clear that the “company presence” profile is subject to review and audit and has to conform to some sort of “appropriateness” guidelines. (also, that it shouldn’t be linked to personal profiles…if it is, they become subject to the same guidelines).

Encourage peer review of the profiles or assign someone to periodically review how these profiles/presences are maintained and managed. It’s not that much different than an employee writing letters to the editor or giving public presentations or interviews. If they’re doing it on behalf of the company, let them do it on company time, with company resources and while adhering to company standards. If it’s personal, then do it on your own time and keep the company out of it completely.

Where it gets a little more hazy is with sites like LinkedIn. It’s clearly a business tool and people can easily maintain professional profiles, relationships and exchanges that are business appropriate but not neccessarily related to the company. I tend to view these as “professional development”. If my staff wants to engage in these discussions, it helps to develop business skills, grow their professional network and helps to increase their overall value to the company. Each exchange is like a little “mini conference” or Users Group meeting without the cost of travel and living.

With that said, if they spent 6 hours a day on social networking sites, they’d better spend the rest of the day working on resumes 🙂

What is “Innovation” for IT?

Picture the Monday morning meeting that you have to attend after coming back from Symposium. It’s you and your CIO and SVPs. The Topic: What is one innovative/mind blowing idea should we (WE MUST!) start doing/implementing now.

For years we’ve heard about such topics as Real-Time Infrastructure, Server Virtualization, VOIP, Service-Oriented IT, ITIL and others.

I would submit that these topics are NOT innovative. To borrow a term, these topics are “birthright services” for I&O.

For some companies there are significant benefits to be gained by improving their implementation of some of these topics but you are not success in today’s game if you’re not doing this stuff! Every CIO has heard (heard the words but maybe not gotten the message) about these topics. Rehashing these same themes is not going to make an impact.

What’s innovative these days?

(Question from “capstick” on the Gartner Symposium Forums)

Honestly, I don’t believe that there’s anything really new. But there are a lot of “old” opportunities that a lot of IT groups aren’t exploiting.

The biggest one that I can think of is true collaboration with the business and a sense of partnership at all levels of the business and IT. At the top, that includes making sure that IT has a seat at the table. There needs to be a continuous dialog concerning what opportunities the business has and how IT can help to exploit them. Tools that provide the visibility (both ways) and facilitates that communication are part of that. But the behavior is the most important thing. Everything else is just an optimization exercise to squeeze out more work at less cost.

There are a few “game changing” technologies, but the real Innovation comes from process and culture changes, not from the tools themselves. IT should be a facilitator of Innovation and should be engaging the business to find the application and business value in the tools. To do that, we need to get out of the commoditization mindset and back into one of business partnership.