Making Innovation a Core Competence
Innovation is the only insurance against irrelevance, the only antidote to margin-crushing competition and the only guarantee of enduring customer loyalty. Despite this, there’s not one company in a hundred that has made innovation the work of everyone, every day. Innovation is still “bolted on” rather than “baked in.” As a result, vast quantities of human imagination are squandered every day. It doesn’t have to be this way. In my research and consulting, I’ve demonstrated that it’s possible to make innovation both instinctive and intrinsic. Doing so requires a systematic effort to embed pro-innovation values in every management process and practice. Over the past decade, organizations around the world re-engineered their operating models for the sake of efficiency. Problem is, efficiency is now a commodity. Looking forward, the winners will be the companies that retooled their management model for the sake of innovation.
“It really is possible to make innovation both instinctive and intrinsic.”
Building an “Evolutionary Advantage”
In our highly dynamic world, it’s not enough for an organization to possess a competitive advantage at a point in time; it needs an evolutionary advantage over time—a capacity to change as fast as change itself; to change before a crisis breaks. All too often, deep change is belated and convulsive, rather than proactive and energizing. That’s why most change programs are more about catching-up than leading. A truly adaptable company never takes refuge in denial, always plays offense and captures more than its share of tomorrow’s opportunities. It is relentlessly optimistic, entrepreneurial, and future-focused. It encourages contrarian thinking and rapid experimentation. It has fluid boundaries and small, nimble teams. It celebrates initiative, speed and daring. If this doesn’t describe your organization, there’s work to be done. Yes, it takes ingenuity and perseverance to future-proof an organization, but it can be done.
“It takes ingenuity and perseverance to future-proof an organization, but it can be done.”
Creating Organizations that are Fit for the Future and Fit for Human Beings
A recent Gallup survey found that only 13% of employees around the world are emotionally engaged in their work. This suggests that most organizations squander more human capability than they actually use. In the creative economy this is competitively untenable. The solution: a complete rethink of our legacy management practices. Instead of asking, “How do we get employees to better serve the organization’s goals?,” leaders need to ask, “How do we create a work environment that inspires everyone to give the very best of themselves?” The human capabilities that matter most—initiative, imagination and passion—are gifts; they cannot be commanded. That’s why the control-oriented, hierarchical management practices that predominate in most organizations must give way to a new management model that emphasizes freedom, community and purpose. For human beings to thrive at work, bureaucracy must die. Though many may doubt it, I’ve demonstrated in my research and consulting that it’s possible to create a bureaucracy-free organization without sacrificing discipline, focus and accountability.
“The human capabilities that matter most in the creative economy are gifts; they cannot be commanded.”
Inventing “Management 2.0”
Management—the tools and methods we use to mobilize and organize resources to productive ends—is one of humankind’s most important social technologies. It is nothing less than “the technology of human accomplishment.” Problem is, there’s been very little fundamental management innovation in more than a hundred years. Most organizations hew closely to a management model that would have been familiar to Henry Ford—one in which strategy gets set at the top, big leaders appoint little leaders, power is a function of position, tasks are assigned, and human beings are viewed as “resources.” This model, which served us well for more than a century, is now a competitive liability. Management 1.0 was built around the principles of standardization, specialization, conformance, predictability, and the use of intrinsic rewards. Tomorrow’s most successful organizations will be built atop web-centric principles such as transparency, disaggregation, meritocracy, activism and experimentation. To make the jump to “Management 2.0,” organizations will need to “hack” their tradition-encrusted management practices. This requires an open, collaborative process where everyone has the chance to help shape the processes that drive organizational success. In the years to come, the most successful organizations will be those that move faster than their competitors to embrace the new principles and practices of Management 2.0.
“Management 1.0 is now a competitive liability.”
Becoming a Champion of Change
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “there are always two parties—the party of the fast and the party of the future.” Through my teaching and coaching, I help leaders at all levels become champions of change. I show them how to systematically challenge their deeply-embedded beliefs, how to encourage dissent, learn from the vanguard, and upscale their own aspirations. I believe the capacity for leadership exists within every human being, and that traditional, top-down leadership models are unsustainable in a world of relentless change and eroding trust. Leadership isn’t about “where you sit,” but “who you are.” influence doesn’t come from a title, but from competence, empathy and authenticity. Over the past few decades, human beings have become ever more authority-phobic, and ever less inclined to view positional power as legitimate. At the same time, the problems facing our planet have multiplied in scope and complexity. The result is a leadership gap in institutions both public and private. To close this gap, we will need to dramatically rethink the goals and mechanics of leadership development. We must accept that in our hyper-social world, authority trickles up, not down, and permission to lead comes from below, not above. Just as we need post-bureaucratic organizations, we need post-bureaucratic leaders. We need to be passionate about helping individuals to grow their “leadership capital” wherever they may sit in the organization.
“Just as we need post-bureaucratic organizations, we need post-bureaucratic leaders.”