Archive for the ‘Innovation’ category

Can a Microsoft Insider Really Be An Innovative CEO?

February 7th, 2014

'Microsoft_logo' photo (c) 2011, jonobacon - license: Microsoft desperately wants to be perceived as innovative again.  Microsoft has declared its innovativeness in newspaper ads.  We have always felt deeds were more important than words.

CEO Search Shows Lack of Innovation

The search for a new CEO at Microsoft has been a bit of a media circus since August of 2013 when Steve Ballmer announced he would step down.  Why?

Mr. Ballmer continued to make major strategic changes to the organization that should have been left to the new CEO.  The purchase of Nokia’s handset business and an entirely new employee evaluation system come to mind as examples.

Many talented Silicon Valley leaders, as well as those in other parts of the world, have passed on the opportunity.  They did not want to change or reverse some of these major strategic decisions when they arrived.  They also feared having the only two CEOs in company history sitting on the Board of Directors passing judgment upon their actions.  Do you think someone like Alan Mulally, the highly successful change agent and CEO at Ford would take on Microsoft? No.  That is why he publicly declined the opportunity

Why Does Microsoft Need to Be More Innovative?

  • Stagnant Share Price:  Split adjusted it is now at its March 2000 level
  • Perception and reality that they are falling behind tech giants like Google and Apple.
  • Insular culture known for big egos and heated arguments.
  • Unhealthy Windows focus that crowds out other ideas.

Good Luck to the New CEO

Satya Nadella was recently announced as the new CEO. He is the ultimate insider, having spent the last 22 years working at Microsoft. We remind him of a comment he made in October 2013, “Relevance comes with innovation and marketplace success.  The marketplace will speak so loudly and so clearly that it will not be ambiguous.”

We also would like to suggest he contact fellow Seattle area CEO Howard Schultz at Starbucks. Schultz reorganized senior management to permit him to step away from some of the day-to-day management.  A Starbucks press release explained the change “Schultz will expand his focus on innovation in coffee, tea and the Starbucks Experience as well as next generation retailing and payments initiatives in the areas of digital, mobile, card, loyalty and e-commerce to position Starbucks for its next wave of global growth.”

The Takeaway

Top management must live and breathe innovation, not just give it lip service.

 Over to you.   What do you think? Please comment below.

  1. Do you feel that an insider can create a new culture and climate of innovation at Microsoft?
  2. What advice would you give the new CEO of Microsoft?
  3. Should Microsoft continue its move into hardware as a way to innovate?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Does Your Business Utilize Hyper-Local Social Media Marketing?

November 19th, 2013

'Local / organic depot produce flow diagram' photo (c) 2008, Nick Saltmarsh - license: Traditional tools like print advertising and direct mail are great tools for a small business owner. However, they can cost significant amounts of money and be hit or miss with your target audience.

Many businesses have a local trading area where most of their customers come from or where you would like most of your customers to come from.

Are you using these techniques?

Twitter Search

You may have dipped your toe into the Twitter river. The flow may be amazing and hard to tackle. Change that paradigm by using Twitter Search. Use the “Advanced” search button. You can drill down to your local area and find Tweeters tweeting about topics relevant to your business. Then, you can engage them in real-time.

Improve Visibility

If you have a physical location, then traffic will pass you each business day. Are you alerting them to specials, new services, etc? You can draw them in with sandwich boards at the street. A banner hung on the building, a mascot or employee waving to passersby, search lights and cold-air balloons on your roof. Promote your social media links. ‘

Email List Only Specials

Invite those on your email list to receive a special discount, extra goods or services or a sample to drive them into your operation. Make sure you shape your social media links to prompt clicks.

Be A Good Corporate Citizen

If you serve food like pizza or ice cream, then you can donate a percentage of sales on specific days and times to go to a local charity or PTO. Those organizations all publicize the event and drive visitors to your location. The same technique works with a toy store where a share of sales is shared with the non-profit.

Create A List Of Influential Bloggers Or Tweeters In Your Area

Twitter search as described above, and a search on a major search engine will find help identity these folks. Ask them for a one-on-one meeting on the phone or in person. They might use your company as an example in a post or feature some of your practices as positive practices in tweets.

Location Based Services

Geo-location services and applications like Foursquare make going local easy. However, the customers of potential clients may need to be educated that these services exist and how to use them. The key is to focus the social media activity to be where the customers are, especially if you have multiple locations.

Filling out complete profiles is paramount. There can be specials only for those who check in using the LBS networks. Extra rewards are offered to those who check in the most, they are known as “Mayors”.

Location Specific Social Media Communities

Location-specific LinkedIn Groups or regional Facebook pages allow you to target customers within your desired geographic area.  Additionally, LinkedIn allows you to place a targeted advertisement


Meetup’s purpose is group together people with shared interests within a geographic area.  You can start your own meet-up on a specific topic for less than $100 per year. Members who have interest in your topic will be notified of events and your group. Hosting meetings will show your company’s expertise. Members will gain insight into how your firm helps clients.

Look for Meetup groups in adjacent geographic and product spaces. Hold events jointly to expose the members to a larger audience.

Alternatively, instead of starting a Meetup, target groups that would be of interest to your prospects. The member profiles will have Facebook, Twitter and blog information. Contact them to engage, not pitch them. Look for spots where you can contribute to the Meetup such as sponsoring activities, providing door prizes, guest speaking or providing a meeting venue.

The Takeaway

Local marketing has endless possibilities. Don’t limit yourself to the old standards. Engage with social media to spread your message.

These are the ideas. Over to you. Please comment below.

  1. What other local social media marketing techniques do you employ?
  2. What has been your most successful social media strategy?
  3. Has Social Media allowed you to expand your area where you draw customers?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Building a Culture and Climate of Innovation

October 29th, 2013

'Haenam: Where nature meets history, culture' photo (c) 2010, USAG- Humphreys - license: Jatin Desai, the author of the book Innovation Engine – Driving Execution for Breakthrough Results shared with me thoughts on Building a Culture and Climate of Innovation.  Read my post about Jatin’s observations on Building Your Own Innovation Engine here.  You can read my review of the book here.

1.     How can a company build culture of innovation? (in other words, how can they foster innovation?)

Great question, but very tough to answer in a few sentences. In order to build appropriate culture, one must understand underlying elements that created the current culture. Typically, these elements are: leadership style, style of decision making, organizational structure (span of control for managers), regulatory environment, current customer base, current use of technology and automation, current depth of knowledge and expertise, and organizational orthodoxies (invisible rules). All of these elements have to be fine-tuned for innovation. In fact, there are 15 such elements and 45 factors all together that have to be adjusted to build a culture of innovation.

2.     What does a company need to do to build strong leaders for innovation?

Strong leaders for innovation requires four important elements:

  • Current leaders at the top must role model what other leaders below should do regarding innovation. Leaders cannot ‘demand innovation’ from others. They must demonstrate how to drive innovation through their own personal stories.
  • Leaders at the top must identify huge challenges that must be solved by their best people. This will create excitement for the best employees to volunteer for such difficult challenges.
  • Provide freedom to experiment and learn. Leaders must create a safe environment for internal entrepreneurs (intrapreneurs) to succeed.
  • Provide appropriate levels of resources for discovering new innovations. In the first few years, don’t ask P&L owners to innovate using their own current budget and then penalize them if they exceed it.

3.     How does a company teach innovation and coach others?

Once an organization has developed an innovation strategy and linked it to business strategy, they must build internal capability for innovation processes, tools, and methods.

One ideal step is to develop dedicated resources for innovation – at the corporate level or at the business unit level. Innovation must be treated as a program at the start. After a few years, once innovation as a competency is programmed into the business systems, it does not need to be managed as a program.

When starting an innovation program, we highly recommend developing innovation green belts and black belts. These ranks can be achieved through an internal certification process, or an innovation college, like the education program my firm, DeSai Group, (link) offers.  Promote green belts to black belts when these certified individuals help deliver new innovations to the market numerous times.

4.     How does a firm promote and build innovation teams, especially across silos?

The best way to accomplish the task is to create a daunting challenge that needs a solution. Bring the (cross-functional) team members together to work on the challenge.  Assign a professional innovation expert to design and facilitate the meetings. A good innovation expert will facilitate a focused outcome but will also teach team members what it takes to achieve extraordinary results. The team will have to achieve ‘break-down’ before they will achieve ‘breakthrough.

5.     How do you make innovation a daily habit for everyone at all levels in a company?

Anything can become a habit if practiced repeatedly. In order to make innovation a daily habit, one must come up with new ideas daily. We have identified 11 practical methods for anyone and everyone to help find new ideas everyday:

a)    Think when you are not thinking. For example, going on a run or a walk, cooking at home, cleaning the house, doing the yard work, etc.  Ask questions to stimulate curiosity and creativity.

Who? (Actor or Agent)

What? (Act)

When? (Time or Timing)

Where? (Scene or Source)

Why? (Purpose)

How? (Agency or Method)

b)    Listen to Classical music. Recent studies revealed a molecular basis for the “Mozart Effect”, but not any other music. Mozart, can relieve stress, improve communication and increase efficiency. Creativity scores soar when listening to Mozart.

c)     Read Periodicals you would not typically read – a scientific magazine, for example, if you are more interested in business; or books outside your typical genre. These activities generate “Diverse Thinking” which has proven to be a critical competency in the creative process.

d)    Attend a conference or a meeting outside your field. The knowledge eventually helps you to connect to other ‘dots’ in your life. Being ‘away’ from your daily routine is a sure bet to help find creative solutions to your existing challenges.

e)    Surround yourself with creative thinkers.  So, find some creative thinkers who are comfortable looking at things through a different lens, or are not afraid to challenge assumptions, or who naturally love to explore ‘newness’ in everything.  Find people who love to doodle, draw often, or who are exceptional storytellers.

f)     Immerse yourself in a ‘real’ problem. Ask the right questions, investigate possible outcomes. Write the current challenge; in an open-ended question format. Restate the question in as many different ways as you can.  At the end of the process you can experience much greater clarity of your ‘problem statement’ than before. Once the problem is clear and concise, then dive in.

g)    Keep an idea journal. An idea journal is accomplished when we take the time to commit our ideas to paper or electronic note pad. Throughout the course of any given day countless ideas come and go our way – even though many of them may appear to be unrealistic to us at the time. For most of us, we simply discard them as a passing thought. The problem with that approach is that what we previously believed to be unachievable can change drastically as our minds are expanded with each new success that comes our way.

h)    Take a course to learn a new language or some other skills outside your expertise.  These build confidence and provide the lead over others in the global multicultural working environment.

i)     Be curious and experiment. Leaders value people who display a never-ending curiosity for the many facets of the business. Similarly, successful employees such as intrapreneurs display a never-ending curiosity that emerges as “passion” in a meeting room filled with people. Be curious about everything with everyone, and in every part of your life.

j)      Articulate your idea, seek feedback from co-creatives or other people you trust. Real innovation ideas are those that solve an unmet need in the market. So, it is not about having a new idea or not, but it is about getting them out there first and fast. If you have an idea, quickly test it within your network, with customers or with people who are not current customers.

k)    Create a Greenhouse for your ideas. The four primary negative forces designed to kill your ideas immediately are: time, money, people around you and yourself. For each force identify how to reduce the negative influence on the fresh ideas that desperately need ‘Greenhousing.’  Greenhousing means keeping the ideas safe, then growing them naturally by being more curious, researching the elements and finding possibilities for impact.

The Takeaway

Your organization can build a culture and climate of innovation through a concerted effort to break down silos, teach innovation skills and coach intrapreneurs.

Over to you.  That is the interview. Please comment below.

  1. How does your organization build a culture and climate of innovation?
  2.  How does your organization identify employees to teach and learn about innovation?
  3. How do you find your break through ideas?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

You Can Build Your Own Innovation Engine

October 22nd, 2013

'Innovation' photo (c) 2010, Seth Waite - license: I read Jatin Desai’s book Innovation Engine – Driving Execution for Breakthrough Results and loved it.  You can read my review of the book here.  I wanted to learn more.  Therefore, I interviewed Jatin about different aspects of Innovation.  Jatin shared a plethora of great information so I am spreading the interview across two posts.  Stay tuned for part two next week.

1.    What is innovation?

Innovation is the conversion of knowledge and ideas into a benefit for some or all stakeholders, which may be for commercial use or for the public good. Incremental innovation is when there is an incremental benefit and incremental behavior change for the consumer of your products and services.

Innovation is considered a breakthrough when your product/service significantly benefits the consumer and there is a significant positive change in the behavior of the customer/consumer you serve (saving of time, ease of use, cost, productivity, etc.)

2.    Can innovation be measured? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely. Some of the DeSai Group’s best customers have implemented an innovation scorecard and innovation index. These are tools that can measure innovativeness at a project level, at a customer level, at a departmental level, at a business unit level and at the corporate level.

In order to measure innovation, you have to measure the input, process, and output parameters of your innovation activities.

  1. Input parameters are all investments you are making for the innovation program. Examples include training, dedicated resources, number of people certified, technology and other resources required to build your internal capability for innovation.
  2. Process parameters are the activities dedicated to bringing ideas to implementation. Examples include 1) investment for prototyping and testing ideas and 2) research costs for ideas, equipment and various technologies.
  3. Output parameters are activities that show implementation and success. Examples are revenue growth, profit growth, customer acquisition rate, customer satisfaction levels, and reduction in cost, etc.

3.    Besides product innovation, where else can a company innovate?

Most companies focus all of their innovation efforts on product or service innovations. Unfortunately, these are the easiest type of innovation that can be duplicated in the market. Therefore, ROI for such innovations tends to be the smallest compared to other types of innovations The surest way to outcompete is by innovating in other areas.

There are 10 types of innovation areas that company can innovate in (based on research from The Doblin Group).

  1. Business Model – how the company makes money
  2. Networks and alliances – strategic partnerships
  3. Core processes- processes that touch the customers
  4. Enabling processes – processes that enable core processes
  5. Product – performance, features, and value of your offerings
  6. Product Systems – how you package some or all of your products to create new offerings
  7. Channel – how you deliver your products and service to end customers
  8. Service – quality and process of service to your customers
  9. Branding – emotional feelings about your offerings by customers
  10. Customer experience – how customers interacts with your offerings

4.    How does a company link innovation to their current business strategy?

Each company must have a business strategy. Often, they are declared, but in smaller firms, it may not be well articulated. Every business, independent of their size, uses one of handful business strategies:

  1. Pioneering – first to market with new product or service
  2. Fast follower – Wait for the offensive leader to introduce a product first, monitor the elements of the business model, identify shortcomings, and then introduce a better product that corrects errors made by the pioneer.
  3. Imitative – firms of this type prefer to produce a clone of the pioneers’ products. They have no intention being the first or to leapfrog the pioneer. These players have unique execution capabilities, such as low‐cost labor, inexpensive raw materials, or low‐cost manufacturing.

Next, the company must evaluate the current business cycle and design the innovation strategy match to it.  A company will be in one of these phases ‘start-up’, or growth, or mature, or decline.

  1. In a start-up phase, you need innovation strategy that allows lot so experimentation and risk taking. You cannot afford to invest in permanent resources (large building, big IT infrastructure, etc.) until your business model is stable. In this phase, focus should be on finding the first few customers, defining a new business model and implementing new product or service innovations. Focus is ‘experimentation’.
  2. In a growth phase, the focus is on execution. Business needs to be scaled. Therefore, innovation strategy should be to invest in process innovations, or delivery innovations, or customer experience innovations, and less on developing new radical product/services. Investments should be to create proper infrastructure to scale and execute fast before the market window closes up. Focus is ‘execution’.
  3. In the mature phase, there is tremendous competitive pressure, customers are not happy, margins are declining, customers are leaving, and vendors are screaming. The best innovation strategy here should be to protect the business and not overspend. Manage competition closely. Assure your best customers are extremely happy. The focus should be on ‘protection’.
  4. When an organization reaches the decline phase, it is very difficult to turn the business around organically, but it can be done. Typically, the valuation of the business is negative, and much harder to find investment funds. It is not recommended to invest in new innovation unless there is a significant untapped internal intellectual property available within the company. Best options are changing the leadership at the top, drastically restructuring business, merging or selling the business, or planning for divestiture.

In summary, depending on the business strategy, and the business cycle, an appropriate innovation strategy must be developed and implemented.

5.    How can a company innovate together with their customers?

In today’s dynamic world, market shifts occur at breakthrough speed. Knowing even the slightest movement of customer preferences is becoming increasingly important as more competition enters your market segment, especially from India and China.

Therefore, engaging your best or all customers all the time has become a critical strategy. Organizations like Xerox and GE have set up ‘Customer Interaction Centers’ and ‘Garages’ to allow customers to directly interact with products, services, and the know-how of these firms. Customers are allowed to bring their problems, in hope, they can find solution. During the engagement process, these companies are helping to solve real customer needs, as well as, learning deep customer preferences about how their products work in the hands of their customers.

Cognizant, India’s second largest IT company, has created a ‘Customer Innovation Index’ that promotes discovery of new innovations for their customers by their on-site and off-shore teams. These innovations can be small or radical. Each idea is cataloged immediately, monitored, developed, implemented and shared in real-time.

Procter and Gamble spends millions of dollars on ‘ethnographic research’.  The special market insight process is utilized to learn how customers interact with P&G’s products. By observing customers in their own environment instead of a shopping mall, P&G is able to find a plethora of new insights for current product enhancements or develop completely new products.

The Takeaway

Company mindsets about “Product Development” need to evolve into an Innovation Engine to keep up with the competition.

Over to you.  Share your innovation insights below.  Please comment.

  1. Is your Innovation Engine driven solely by products and services?
  2. How do you innovate with your customers?
  3. How does your organization define Innovation?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Rev Your Innovation Engine

October 9th, 2013

Jatin Desai  is a master at Innovation.  For over 25 years he has been a practitioner in the Innovation space.  I interviewed him a couple of years ago about Innovation for the Propelling Marketing Ideas blog.  Those Posts were well received.  Innovation: An Introduction, Innovation: The Process, Innovation: Where Can I Find It? and Innovation: A Look at the Global Picture.

I recently caught up to Jatin with the goal to write a new post about what was topical in innovation.  To my delight, he shared his book Innovation Engine  with me.

Innovation Engine Book Review

I highly recommend reading the Innovation Engine because it shows you how to prepare and grow your organization in a hyperdynamic and globally connected environment, through foresight and strategic innovation.

Jatin liberally uses numbered lists, charts, graphs and call out boxes to demonstrate many techniques and lessons.  The advice is doled out in digestible pieces for the reader.  His writing style is informative and like that of a trusted advisor or favorite educator.  The case studies are informative, global and span numerous industries.  Each chapter ends with a Notes Section where the reader can further explore a topic.

The Doblin Group outlined 10 types of innovation areas where a company can innovate.   Innovation Engine takes you beyond the typical product innovation mindset to explore the other nine areas.  Product Development transforms into Innovation Excellence.

10 Informative Chapters Spread Across Three Parts

The 10 engaging chapters are divided into three parts that allows the reader to move down the road of innovation.  Part I covers linking innovation to business strategy.  Part II helps you develop your “Innovation Playbook.”  Meanwhile, Part III teaches how to implement and execute.  The capstone of Part III is the “One Secret.” The whole book builds to the climax of learning the “One Secret.”  Are you ready to learn it?  If so, keep reading to discover what else you will learn once you dive into the Innovation Engine.

Learn How To…

Packed with actionable ideas, references and resources in each chapter so you can easily explore the concepts and ideas immediately, Innovation Engine shows you how to:

  • Link innovation to business strategy
  • Develop clear innovation intent
  • Assess organizational readiness for innovation
  • Create a short-term and long-term road map
  • Build momentum
  • Implement and execute
  • Structure for innovation
  • Implement a formal management process
  • Develop high-performing innovators
  • Source radical ideas
  • Innovate year after year

I believe that Innovation Engine can help rewire your organization’s DNA to include innovation as a distinct core competence.

About Jatin Desai

Jatin Desai, cofounder and chief executive officer, The DeSai Group, is a seasoned business executive, strategic advisor, and coach for senior leadership teams.  He has extensive experience in the areas of strategy alignment, corporate innovation, talent management, large-scale change, culture transformation, and information technology.

The Takeaway

The Mechanical Engine must be coupled with the Innovation Engine to truly move the enterprise forward in growth and profit.

Over to you.  Share your thoughts.  Please comment below.

  1. What books on Innovation do you recommend?
  2. Is your organization ready to jumpstart its innovation process?
  3. If you have read Innovation Engine, please share your thoughts.

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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