Posts Tagged ‘Management’

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.

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.

Is Your Business Shooting Itself in the Foot?

September 10th, 2013

'Seattle: animated TILT sign' photo (c) 2007, Eli Duke - license: How often do business owners and managers think about the impression they make on customers and potential customers?

Business Owner Examples

I regularly travel and frequent small restaurants and stores.  Here are a few of the interesting (scary) signs I have seen along the way.

1.    We specialize in all kinds of alterations, mens/women’s/childrens, suits, pants, suits, coats, dresses, jeans, leather, suede.”

Specialization, to me, means something specific.  Here they specialize in “all kinds” of alterations.  A bit unclear, to say the least.

2.    “Hiring one salesperson speak Spanish and little English.”

If the owner is looking for a Spanish speaker, then why not write the sign in Spanish?  “A “little English” speaker may never understand the sign.

3.    “We keep our bathroom clean because we respect our customers.  Thx’s so much.”

I appreciate a clean bathroom since I see so many dirty ones in my travels.  However, I also EXPECT a clean bathroom.  What does it say about other restaurants in the area if this business posts this sign to point out the clean bathroom?

NYC Subway Examples

The unique talent for poor impressions is not limited to businesses.  I rode the subway in New York City with my daughter.  A woman across from us did the following before exiting the train car.

  1. Opened compact and fixed her hair (good).
  2. Applied lip gloss (good).
  3. Checked her teeth for food articles and then chewed what she found (not so good).
  4. Checked her nose hair, put her finger up her nose and pulled hairs (really not good).

The Takeaway

Just like the old saying, “measure twice and cut once”, think about what your actions and signs say to your customers or potential customers.

Those are my observations.  Over to you. Please comment below.

  1. What other signs like these have you seen?
  2. Can you think of someone who has a sign you will now tell them about?
  3. How important do you think image is for business owners and managers?

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.

The Value of Internships

September 3rd, 2013

'internship' photo (c) 2011, Sean MacEntee - license: Interns offer a method of meeting workload needs without permanently hiring staff.

The value to both parties is illustrated through a Marketing Department’s internship experience over a two and one half year period.  In some cases, the value inures more to one side than the other while it is sometimes evenly divided.

Method to Add Staff

I was asked to build a Marketing Department for our $200 million Division.  Current staff was two Marketing Professionals including me.  We faced the typical paradox of no additional staff until we produced yet, we needed staff to meet our objectives.

A partial solution came in the form of an intern.  We hired a rising Junior Marketing Major for the summer.


Our mutual intent was to make the position year-round.  Our intern was able to move up the learning curve quickly with the professional staff teaching and supplying direction.  It was a good fit and we moved to a year-round position.  Therefore, longer-term projects could be assigned and learning carried forward. For example, the intern remained editor for our internal and external newsletters during her entire two years with us.

Recruitment Pool

The intern was a resource to us when we sought a second intern to work with our initial intern.  She provided training and advised me on candidates from local schools.   Our second intern was also a success.

We were fortunate to add two additional professional staff over the two-year period.  We had in-house a trained, experienced candidate – our intern.  When it came time to increase our staff, of course, we hired her.  In 10 years she became a Vice President.

Once again, we were fortunate to increase staff.  A tight labor market is a difficult time to hire.  However, the two interns made a recommendation for the new position.  In the end, we hired that candidate.

We then started the cycle again by hiring a rising junior as our year-round intern.

The Takeaway

Interns, when properly managed, add tremendous value at little or no cost.  Use interns to fill staffing needs while providing a launching pad for students into their careers.

Those are my thoughts.  Over to you.  Please comment below.

  1. How have you deployed interns in your organization?
  2. Did you ever have an internship in your career?
  3. How have your interns succeeded in their careers?

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.

What Internships Should Be

August 27th, 2013

A mini-industry has grown up around internships.  Guidebooks and Internet sites tell you about the good, the bad, the paid and the unpaid.  Career Planning and Placement Offices, Career Advisors, and College/University faculty, encourage students to seek out internships.

Are you considering what an internship should be and the value for the students or the company that provides the internship?

My own two internships were for academic credit only.  No pay.  In fact, I paid tuition for the credits I received.  In other words, I paid to work.  Nowadays, it seems we invariably pay the students to work.

Today, many managers have started their careers with one or more internships.

Here are a variety of thoughts on internships.

Real Work: Paid or working for academic credit, the expectation is real work, not doing errands, making coffee or busy work.

Human Resource:  The internship should be a real life learning experience not a resume filler or an item checked off in the goal of obtaining a job after graduation.  The intern can prove to be a valuable human resource and should be treated accordingly.

Objectives Should Be Established:  The student should be measured against these and given feedback.  Allow them to do the job by providing “a place to hang their hat.”  Give them a desk, phone and computer access, reasonable supplies etc.  Demand value for the dollar, however allow the intern to take “ownership” in the work product.

Fresh Blood Equals New Ideas:  Book learning and theory are a foundation.  However, they do not always apply to the “real world.”  Supplementing the knowledge with experience facilitates additional learning as the student brings a broader perspective to the academic world.

Try Out a Career First:  The student obtains the opportunity to “try out” a career and perhaps refine the area of study for the major or minor.  A consequence of this experience is an enhanced resume.  The result should be a consequence, not the only goal.

Build a Portfolio of Skills:  Certain abilities come easier to some people than others.  An internship is a good place to confirm strengths and weaknesses.  If the internship is to help grow the student as well as the business, then both strengths and weaknesses should be worked on.  The portfolio of skills needs to be expanded.  Projects can be designed around both the company’s needs and the intern’s needs.

The Takeaway

Internships should be a two-way street.  In my experience it has been.  It is incumbent on both companies and interns to clearly articulate their expectations up front to maximize the return to both parties.

Those are my ideas.  Over to you.  Please comment below.

  1. Have you successfully utilized interns at your organization?
  2. What factors led to the success?
  3. How would you change or enhance an internship program?

 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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