During the past few years, whether discussing mentoring programmes or cultural transformation with large corporations, I am faced with a disproportionate belief in “tools”. I think I need to clarify that it is not because as consultants we use tools that we sell tools. A keynote from Frédérique PAIN I organized recently for one of our key customer, confirmed what I’ve been seeing for years: too many French and European companies have a disproportionate belief and trust in « tools » and methodologies. Our common Western culture and history of engineering development and thinking put a strong bias toward reproductible, documented approaches to problems.
When I wrote the “Mentoring by FabMob” white paper, I was already hinting at an example of use of mentoring to facilitate the cultural integration in the case of acquisition of a new entity. I do not wish to go into the well documented difficulties that large companies face when they are merging or acquiring, how people issues come into play, and how the integration of different ways of working, thinking, communicating can put a real spanner in the works. Even though we all know it is a challenge, still very little M&A really work on the cultural aspect, and very little use mentoring as a tool for creating real human connections for a faster blend of cultures.
To somehow follow-up on yesterday’s post, another question that I find extremely revealing about the strategy of any company is: what’s your key innovation metric?
Here again, no room for big formulas or complex constructions. If you have to gauge if your company is doing well on innovation, what would you look at and measure? The intent is not to ask a trick a question. That being said, the question packs a deep context:
What does innovation mean to you?
How do you define « doing well »?
Do you have a global or a symptomatic metric?
Over what cycle or at what frequency are you measuring?
Are you giving a lagging, on-going or leading metric?
A powerful statement from Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie FILS-AIME about what business they are in, and who they are competing against:
He counted the exact number of minutes per day and said that outside of the time a consumer spends eating, sleeping, working, and going to school, “all of the rest of that time is entertainment time. That’s what I compete for, minute by minute. That time you spend surfing the Web, watching a movie, watching a telecast of a conference: that’s all entertainment time we’re competing for. My competitive set is much bigger than my direct competitors in Sony and Microsoft. I compete for time. When I do that, I have to be creative and innovative in order to win that battle.”
Granted this is not just PR material, it’s a very educated positioning and explanation on the fact they don’t sell products, games or electronics. The end value of Nintendo is entertainment. Which means they compete as directly with Netflix, as they do with Microsoft or Sony. And as such matching feature for feature with other gaming consoles is not the end game, but rather a short-sighted trap.
As many professionals in my field, I get this question a lot: « What is the most common misconception about innovation? » The short answer is that most of the time, innovation is discussed and operated as a single thing. It’s not. It’s a complex blend of diverse forms of « innovations » that obey different rules, different mindsets and requires different tools.
In this fourth interview of transformation leader, I was delighted to meet Sophie Delmas, head of partnerships at l’Atelier BNP Paribas. L’Atelier is dedicated to prospective and market intelligence, working mainly as internal consultant for the bank. They sell their advice internally, and Sophie’s role is to define the needs and help promote the Atelier’s know-hows. Sophie also co-founded with Orange the “Observatoire des réseaux sociaux d’entreprises”, dedicated to sharing about Digital Transformation and Innovation between CAC 40 companies. It appeared very clearly from my exchanges with her that she strongly believed in the power of networks and collaboration.
“Why business partnership, because we are in increasingly open and porous environments and we cannot work alone, so it is key to value a whole network of internal and external connections in order to transform ideas into businesses by accompanying projects.
Sophie has had a very atypical career: starting as an engineer in construction then movedto code, sales and progressively evolved towards marketing in consulting industry. She entered BNP Paribas in 2001, and got various positions in the company since: from internet subjects, online banking, and implementing the first collaborative platform for the group. She also worked with HR on corporate social network, digital acculturation, and change programme in the digital transformation of the group.
François is an avid learner who wanted to become an aircraft pilot. As he couldn’t, he found his way closest possible to the cockpit via engineering studies specializing in avionics and developed his career in SEXTANT Avionique and then THALES AVS.
“I love to learn and when I think I’ve sufficiently explored a subject either there is a new opportunity or I go look for new opportunity and in a large corporation it is easy to find.
For François, transformation, is of course about digital but more about being in-transformation, it is about growth (business and people) and it is about innovation as a culture, about learning and sharing knowledge.What struck me during our discussions was: his clear vision of what transformation is, how it is helping his organisation become more intelligent and his portfolio approach to innovation.
Lee VINSEL is an associate professor at Virgina Tech. He gently explains that innovation is like oxycontin in the academic field. And that when he’s pitching innovation to university administrators he does what consultants do when they try to part a customer from its money:
Terrifying them is even more important, though. When I am pitching administrators, I show them threatening charts of how fast cell phones diffused around the planet, which really has nothing to do with anything, and LOADS of curves representing exponential change — like Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World, schwing! — and then I start throwing in phrases like “digital transformation” and “the permanent disruption of college education,” (…)
His view on innovation programs and five-steps methodologies are quite articulate too:
you can pay Stanford $15,000 for a four-day Design Thinking bootcamp. Design Thinkers have never demonstrated persuasively that their quasi-mystical process leads to any especially significant outcomes, and many professional designers will tell you privately that they believe Design Thinking is a scam verging on fraud. After your Stanford bootcamp, you will leave the Bay Area half-a-new-car poorer, but — quite sadly, tragically even — you will still be you.
You know what? You should probably just read his full article here. And his other article on the design thinking fad is also not to be missed.
He’s also tweeting at @sts_news maybe you should also follow him. I know I am.
Among other things, China innovation now leads the on-demand mobility revolution with more and more electric vehicles and… bikes.
While I was already forewarning my customers in luxury, automotive, energy and retail for years, this is now hopefully obvious for everyone.
The country size, the problems it faces with pollution and demography, the rapid growth of its economy, have all shaped it to be the most transformative force on the planet. Industries and startups that are still dreaming of California as THE innovation template are still looking in the rear mirror. 20 of the biggest internet companies by market capitalization are now in China, whilst only 11 are in the US (five years ago it was 2 versus 9).
These next years will be both thrilling and quite challenging for westerners innovators.
Your innovation culture is as good as you are at holding two opinions at the same time on weak signals, until they are sorted out by the market. This implies that you monitor weak signals. This also implies you know how to form opinions about them and are not afraid of dissensus. It’s always a tall order.
I am very much surprised to see many analysts thinking seriously that Facebook facing a colossal data-gate, could turn around and suddenly become customer-driven. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Facebook will be Facebook. But to understand that you have to go past obvious solutionism (they should do this or that) and understand that any successful business was born with a powerful DNA.And you can’t change your DNA. Continue reading “You Can’t Just Decide To Be Customer Driven”