Tag Archives: innovation

Innovation Undressed

29 Jan

articleKaren-Millen-Baroque-Multi-Jewel-Shoes,-£170Decoding Innovation at Karen Millen

For the last two years we’ve had behind-the-scenes access to one of the world’s most innovative fashion houses: Karen Millen.

Our aim? To decode the innovation formula that has catapulted the brand from being $100 startup to a $400m global business.

This is our story of the culture, tools, hacks and leadership that’s driving disruptive innovation in one of the world’s fastest moving creative industries.

Read the story.


Innovation’s Executive Trust Trap

27 Feb


In the March edition of the Harvard Business Review, David DeSteno gives some useful advice to help increase the level of trust inside organisations (summary at the end of this blog).

I’m currently working with a guerilla negotiator to help a major record label untangle the trust issue.  Why?  Because trust and innovation performance are dynamically related, and the music industry needs innovation.

Managers who don’t trust their teams don’t encourage innovation for risk of ‘screw-ups’.  Employees who don’t trust their managers aren’t motivated to take risks for fear of screw-up repercussions.

Capability and character are two useful lenses to consider why trust is lacking; but often the deeper root issue is a culture of fear within the organisation that few executives are ever happy to acknowledge.  The idea seems ludicrous to them.

Yet a senior manager in one of the world’s biggest cell phone companies recently told me that despite an outward reputation for innovation, employees are petrified to take the smallest of risks. “It’s hard enough to survive here, let alone try something new,” he told me. There’s even widespread anxiety about talking to customers for fear of hearing something that would contradict management’s vision of success.

So why the guerilla negotiator?  It’s part of a wider program to build leadership innovation capability in multiple dimensions, but the negotiator is an expert trust builder amidst conditions of extreme uncertainty and ambiguity.  Something that most executives are becoming increasingly familiar with.

Finally, here are David DeSteno’s proposed tips from the Harvard Business Review article to prompt trustworthiness in new or potential partners’ behavior:

  • Be generous. Feelings of gratitude foster trustworthy behavior. 
Giving new partners a reason to feel grateful to you is a win-win: They benefit in the short term from your generosity, and you reap the rewards of their loyalty.
  • Find commonality. Emphasizing common ground increases the likelihood that your counterpart will see you as someone with whom it’s possible to build a lasting and beneficial relationship.
  • Don’t punish. Threats of punishment can prevent untrustworthy behavior in the moment but can be counterproductive in the long term: new partners may be less likely to take risks to support one another.

4 Factors to Stop Leaders Flirting With Innovation

24 Feb

Flirting image

FutureBook recently asked me to write an article about how to create a culture of disruptive innovation in a fragmenting industry.  In it I outline four crucial factors that leaders must confront if they genuinely want to see innovation breaking out across their organisations.

What other ideas would you add?

Fifty Shades of Innovation


Rita McGrath On The End of Competitive Advantage

8 Nov

Last night, DPA hosted a dinner with the brilliant Professor Rita McGrath. This short video outlines some of her key ideas around the end of competitive advantage.

De-risking Innovation the Smart Way

4 Jan

Taking Smart Risks book coverIf there’s one thing guaranteed to lighten the pallor of an executive’s face, it’s the suggestion of taking more risk.

Need more breakthrough innovation? Sure. What’s the catch? The clue is in the adjective: breakthrough innovation requires a degree of breakage en-route. That means taking risks that don’t always pay off.

It stands to reason: in a turbulent, uncertain and complex economic climate there are few ‘knowns’. New product development in particular has become a voyage into the unknown with companies using intelligent trial and error techniques such as Lean Start Up.

But in most cases, the perceived negative implications of a risk-gone-wrong stifles the very innovation that organisations so desperately need.

That makes Doug Sundheim’s Taking Smart Risks: How Sharp Leaders Win When Stakes Are High a timely and welcome guide for organisations that want to do just what the title says.

Five steps to smarter risk-taking

Doug gave me a sneak preview of the book before Christmas and I found it to be a rare and accessible blend of research, insight, wisdom and practical tools that deserves a place in every executive briefcase.

Taking Smart Risks offers readers five smooth stones to slay the ‘fear-giants’ that crush smart risk-taking in their organisations:

1. Find Something Worth Fighting For

  • Something Worth Fighting For (SWFF) is what all smart risks have in common.
  • It must be simple, stir emotion, lend itself to a story or narrative and inspire action.

2. See the Future Now

  • Ask questions, understand concerns, test the concept behind your ideas, and predict as many fail points in advance as you can.
  • Have an open, honest conversation with trusted people around you to determine what is the worst that could really happen.

    Doug Sundheim

    Doug Sundheim

3. Act Fast, Learn Fast

  • Start before you know where to start, fail early, often, and smart – build learning into everything and stay humble.
  • Accept that you have to live with failure – since it is an inevitable by-product of taking risks, even smart risks. Failing smart is the best way to learn.

4. Communicate Powerfully

  • Expect communication to breakdown and plan accordingly.
  • Share thought processes, meet regularly, and don’t avoid difficult conversations.

5. Create a Smart Risk Culture

  • Define a smart failure – the acceptable boundaries within which it is okay to fail.
  • Reward both the successes and these smart failures.

Every chapter ends with a clutch of useful tools to help readers de-risk risk-taking. If you’re short on time, just read the handy chapter summaries and start playing with the techniques that Sundheim suggests.

If you’re serious about innovation, growth or even plain survival, risk-taking is non-negotiable. Sundheim’s book doesn’t guarantee a failure-free future (what a relief as so much crucial learning happens when we fail!), but it will help leaders and managers in every organisation improve the quality of their risk taking.

The hardcover and Kindle versions of Taking Smart Risks: How Sharp Leaders Win When Stakes Are High are out now.

How to Build Innovation Super Teams

13 Jun

“How can we become more like Apple? Or Google?”

I get asked that question a lot. Five years of economic turmoil have created a huge appetite among CEOs for creativity and innovation.

Yet that appetite often comes with the indigestion of previous, failed attempts to increase innovation. Despite the thousands of how-to books and seminars, and armies of consultants, few organisations make the leap to innovation rock stardom.

So what are the secrets of the world’s greatest innovators? And why do I believe that the learning and development function holds the keys to innovation performance inside most organisations?

Read more in the latest issue of Training Journal…http://bit.ly/KTUGdb

VIDEO: What happened when Sony and Telefonica drank Innovation Juice…

4 May

1 minute overview of a 48-hour innovation leadership programme: http://bit.ly/ILU5FY

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