According to From Allen Fuqua, CEO of Winstead PC (a large business law firm), there are three critical questions you need to ask of your business leader(s) – in an intimate conversation – in order to drive innovative results:
How do you define success?
What is challenging that success?
What are you putting into place to address those challenges?
That conversation will be difficult – and it ought to be. It will require vulnerability – but its the only way.
To see more: http://youtu.be/p_HW-iQHGZg
Future Think & Innovation: Client Service & Differentiation; LMA LosAngeles.
There is a lovely book entitled Connected : The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler , PhD.
They distinguish between “organized” networks that you can find (see illustration on right) in bucket brigade, a telephone tree (could also be a hierarchy) and a set of military squads – and open / social networks (below). The number of connects differs depending on the arrangement. For example, in a set of 10 squads of 10 members each the connections would equal 45 per squad (= 450) plus 45 between the squad leaders for a total of 495. All members of the squads are equally close / distant (leaders-to-leaders and member -to-member).
In a open, social network, the number of connections between members is not set – and who you connect with is not set. If you map that network you get something that looks like this (below):
In a telephone tree network the content of the “tree” is based on the message that is given from the centre. Social networks have some unique properties including the fact that they ”
tend to magnify whatever they are seeded with.” Christakis and Fowler go on to say:
Partly for this reason, social networks are creative. And what these networks create does not belong to any one individual—it is shared by all those in the network. In this way, a social network is like a commonly owned forest: we all stand to beneﬁt from it, but we also must work together to ensure it remains healthy and productive. This means that social networks require tending, by individuals, by groups, and by institutions. While social networks are fundamentally and distinctively human, and ubiquitous, they should not be taken for granted.”
I came across this wonderful quote by Philip Slater in his book The Chrysalis Effect:
“In a healthy system, information flows are unimpeded by clots of power or the sclerosis of hierarchy.”
We talk a lot about the use of social networking technologies to improve information (and idea) flows into and around an organization. But “the sclerosis of hierarchy” can restrict those flows drastically.
To make smarter organizations we are going to need smarter leaders who can step outside of the hierarchy to engage and connect with people on a personal basis. In fact social networking technologies are tremendously power for supporting just such conversations.
To learn more, tune in to “Building Smarter Organizations” with Gordon Vala-Webb – part of the KM Webinars at Kent State Series
This is a “guest” post – a lovely short video story about making a decision by using email versus using social technologies. My thanks to Kevin Jones (for more about him and other videos: http://vinjones.com/ )
I recently read Stewart Thornhill’s article “Ten dirty little secrets of successful entrepreneurs” from the Ivey School of Business. I thought many of them, with some adaptation, could apply to KM and innovation leadership (since we typically have to be entreprenurial in order to be successful).
So here are my ten dirty secrets for KM / innovation leaders:
People are lazy: they are looking for the lowest-effort way to do something. This has implications for when we introduce new capabilities. They inherently feel, at the beginning, as if they are or will be more work than the old way of doing things. This also applies to organizational leaders – they want the easiest, least effort, way for them (so you have to make it easy for them to understand what you are doing).
People are impatient: If you make your people (be they participants or leaders) wait too long for gratification you will use them. So you need to give your participants some immediate payoff for their interaction with your system – and you need to demonstrate real, tangible, positive change to leadership at least every six months.
Everything takes longer than you think: Getting the technology ready, building an audience, assembling your team – everything will take longer. So you need to plan for that – and prepare your leadership for that. Never, ever, announce a specific “launch date” until you are really confident you can achieve it.
One thing leads to another: Every time you do something you will learn about your audience, the technology, your team, your leadership. And that learning will lead to (should lead!) to changes in your offering / service, your approach, your team, etc. So don’t fire and forget – fire and learn and apply that learning.
There is no free lunch: You can’t do everything – so you have to make choices. And to make choices you need to have a strategy. The result of those choices is that you will likely make some people unhappy and you close off some of your options. The strategy helps you make those choices – and then helps you justify them to those who push back. For more on making strategy see my post “Getting strategy straight“
Stuff happens: Sometimes it is good stuff and sometimes it is bad stuff. Making KM / innovation happen is as much about resilience as it is about brilliance. Use a “strategic opportunism” approach where – when something works for you – grab it and build on it.
We’re emotional animals that think – not thinking animals that feel: Our brains are wired so that we have emotional reactions to thing. Fundamentally we frame everything that happens to us as an reward that we are attracted to or threat to be avoided. For example, our brain prefers certainty – so when you change things in someone’s environment you create uncertainty which tends to trigger an emotional threat-avoid response. For more see “SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others“
Sweat the details: You need to understand the details of logical causality chain between what you are trying to achieve and what you are trying to do. For example, we discovered that the level of usage of our internally-facing portal dropped directly proportionate to the distance users were from our data centre. Why? Because the page loading time was increasing the further away the people were from the servers. In implementing the portal we had neglected the details related to how our IT architecture and software were configured and the impact it would have on users.
Learn from everything: Doing KM / innovation requires you to know and understand a vast set of knowledge (its one of the reasons doing the work is so much fun – for more see my post “My advice to a Knowledge Manager: don’t do it“
Don’t be a jerk: Doing the kind of work we do you need all the friends you can find – and as few enemies as possible. The starting point is not be a jerk – but the real end point would be to be open, honest, and interested in helping others achieve what they want to achieve. The resulting network of relationships you build will feed you information, provide you with ideas, support you politically, and help recharge you when you get down.