The Number One Killer Of Corporate Innovation


Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard .FAST COMPANY. July 23, 2012

Selling an idea to top leadership before it has generated tangible results can be difficult; very few innovative ideas can stand up to the scrutiny of a core business model. But understanding the four most common ways people interpret change will help you get there.

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Innovation is essential to keeping an organization alive–everyone knows that. Then why do so few companies innovate?

Part of the answer is that it’s very hard for people who are invested in the current business to truly embrace disruptive new ideas. Tom Peters talks about this when he says that innovation never happens vertically in a company. One of the fastest ways to kill a good idea is to take an exciting innovation discovered at the front line and move it up the chain by asking your boss, having them ask their boss, and so on. When you run an idea up the chain of command, you almost never get the permission or the resources to innovate well.

People at the top of the organizational pyramid are usually running the business using lagging indicators. In general, their focus is on defending present revenue streams. More often than not they are nervous about anything that might cannibalize, compete with, or distract from the company’s core business.

It’s understandable. In many ways, this is exactly what top executives should be concerned about. But that’s also why true innovation usually happens in the corners of the business and works its way up. Building horizontally gives the idea a chance to develop and gain momentum. It also gives the innovation a chance to generate tangible results that can be used later in making the business case to senior leaders.

In our experience, you are usually better off moving forward after receiving just enough permission to experiment with and develop the innovation. Trying to sell an idea to top leadership before it has generated tangible results can be a very difficult hill to climb. Very few innovative ideas can stand up to the scrutiny of a core business model. Things that are new and disruptive are rarely as good as the present product or service, even though they have the potential to be game changers.

Don’t overlook assumptions and mindsets

People have different levels of readiness and capacity to understand change. Robert Marshak, senior scholar in residence at American University and author of Covert Processes at Work: Managing the Five Hidden Dimensions of Organizational Change, wrote a wonderful article that we’ve referred to several times when we’ve come up against change in our company. It’s called “Managing the Metaphors of Change.”

In the article, Marshak points out that when most people think about change, they assume that others will respond to it the same way they do. Marshak describes four different mindsets, represented by different metaphors, which affect how people view innovation.

1. Fix and maintain. The theme here is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a minimalist approach to innovation that only kicks in when something is broken. One of our consultants ran into this attitude with a prospective banking client. In speaking to a group of senior leaders, our consultant was having trouble getting the group to grasp the concept of a future vision. Slightly exasperated, our consultant asked, “What do you want this bank to look like in five years?” The general consensus was that since the bank had recently been redecorated and since they expected to get seven or eight years out of a typical facelift, they expected the bank to look pretty much the same as it did today. Needless to say, radical innovation was going to be a challenge for this group.

2. Build and develop. People with this attitude are more open to innovation than Fix and Maintainers. These people are about incrementally improving and building something better than they have today. This can be seen in the way they focus on improving processes—for example, taking a paper process and turning it into a more paperless process.

3. Transitional. Those with a Transitional mindset are willing to examine current market forces and are looking to stay current. In our company, for example, a Transitional mindset allowed us to continually evolve as training moved from classroom-based delivery to a virtual approach.

4. Transformative. Those with a Transformative mindset are open to ideas that look completely different from what currently exists. Today’s smart phones are a good example of the product of a Transformative mindset. A complete departure from original cell phones, smart phones allow us to make and receive calls from anywhere, surf the web, read e-mail, access a wide variety of apps and product reviews, map locations, watch videos, and stay in constant touch with friends and family. Central to everything we do, the smartphone has transformed our lives.

Understand yourself and others

The different mindsets aren’t necessarily good or bad. What’s important is to understand both your own mindset and the mindset of your audience.

What is your relationship to innovation? What are the key assumptions and beliefs currently limiting your possibilities for change? What about your peers and colleagues? How can you address different mindsets to encourage them to see new possibilities? Finally, as an organization, how do you develop leaders with the ability to challenge their own assumptions and beliefs?

Your organization is only as innovative as the people who work within it. As a leader, it’s important that you look in the corners of your organization and your industry for the next innovative idea. Especially seek out and encourage the people developing ideas on the fringes. Consider what you can do to make it easier for yourself and others to see, understand, and leverage new ideas. These are the beginning steps to building a company whose innovations will keep it relevant and competitive now and in the future.

Power Boosters: How to Land That Job When You Think You Can’t


  David Dubois  |  INSEAD |    April 8, 2013

To land that dream job, adopt a mindset that signals power, even if you don’t feel so powerful.

Candidates invest considerable resources in the form of time or money to prepare for that interview that will grant them entrance to their dream school or land them their dream job. In these situations, candidates are often tempted to work on planning how the interview will go and what they will say: why is my background relevant for that job? How can I bring value to the company? Why do I want to work in this industry?

While thinking of answers to these questions is important, recent research suggests that what interviewers are looking for is a specific mindset.  In particular, what will persuade them to hire you is whether you communicate a powerful mindset – one that signals the candidate will be a great recruit. In the midst of a crisis, will you know how to take the right action? When it comes to selling a product, will you communicate enough enthusiasm to the client?

What is this “powerful” mindset anyway and how we can acquire it? Here are two tips for candidates that will make a difference in interview settings.

1. “Think powerful”

Job candidates are rarely in a position of power as interviewers decide the fate of their future career prospects. Yet, the winning strategy in these situations is thinking that one has power, in spite of the situation. As a candidate, how can you engineer a powerful mindset? Well, a simple trick is to remind yourself about a time you had power over a situation right before an interview, and invoke the precise feelings associated with that memory – feelings of confidence and competence, as well as decisiveness during decision making.

One of my recent research projects, Power gets the job: Priming power improves interview outcomes co-authored with Joris Lammers (University of Cologne), Derek D. Rucker (Northwestern University) and Adam Galinsky (Columbia University) tested just that idea: as part of a session of individual mock interviews, we assigned business school applicants to one of three conditions. In the first condition, applicants wrote a short essay about a time they had power just before entering an interview. In the second condition, applicants also wrote an essay, but this time about a time they lacked power. Finally, the last group did not write anything.

Then, we asked interviewers the likelihood that they would accept the candidate into a business school. When candidates went straight to the interview, interviewers accepted 47.1 percent of the candidates. However, the admission rate went up to 68 percent for those people in the group who wrote an essay about a time they had power, and fell to a low 26 percent for those who wrote an essay about a time they lacked power. Importantly, interviewers were unaware of the power manipulation we had given candidates. Thus, merely recalling an experience of high power increased candidates’ likelihood to be admitted by 81 percent compared to baseline and by 162 percent compared to those who recalled an experience of powerlessness.

Of course, there are other ways to engineer personal feelings of power. For instance, candidates can wear objects that make them feel powerful, such as a watch or a particular bag – anything that links you with feelings of power.

2. “Behave powerful”

Power is not only a mindset; it is also a behaviour. Small, almost unconscious moves signal power to an audience and can significantly change the outcome of an interview. In her recent TED talk, Amy Cuddy (Harvard University) provides an excellent summary of how non-verbal language can have a profound effect on how people are judged in contexts as varied as hiring or promotion interviews, a sales context or even a date. As such, physical poses such as wrapping legs, hunching or relying on one’s arms are many subtle signals of powerlessness that cast doubt on what candidates say, regardless of the content of the conversation.

The Virtuous Circle of Power

Interestingly, adopting “power poses” does not only affect how interviewers judge candidates, but also ironically reinforces candidates’ feelings of power. In recent research, Li Huang from INSEAD and colleagues had participants take powerful (for example, expansive postures) or powerless (constricted postures) poses and found the former behaved more powerfully than the latter, by taking action more often and thinking more abstractly, two well-known consequences of power. So, behaving in a powerful way is not only important for how interviewers perceive candidates, it is also a key driver of how candidates will behave!

History is full of examples showing that what really counts for the recipient of a message is the communicator’s mindset, not their actual resources or power. During the early days of the Second World War, Charles de Gaulle, today recognised as one of the great wartime leaders, was an isolated general with a following of a few hundred soldiers who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Vichy government and fled to London after the German invasion to set up a government-in-exile. During a famous negotiation with Churchill, the British prime minister abruptly reminded de Gaulle of his powerless position, noting that his organisation was only surviving thanks to the goodwill and financial help of the allied forces: “Anyway, who are you to represent France? You don’t even have an army!” But de Gaulle, standing tall, straight, and direct, calmly retorted, “If I am not France, then why are you talking to me?” Churchill was forced to sit down and continue the negotiation. Interviewees, adopt the “de Gaulle” mindset!

Innovative Methods to Develop Leaders


Patrick Sweeney – Talent Management. May 8,2013

Consider these five tips when putting together a leadership development program.

Successful leaders, by their very nature, are consumed with what they are doing — connecting with clients, motivating talent and inspiring those around them. In particular, enlightened leaders are in a position to create a new future for their organization by identifying the potential and developing the talent of those who could replace them.

Here are some things learning leaders should consider when putting together leadership development programs:

Stop looking for silver bullets. Developing leaders is not about looking for the next big innovation. It is about focusing on the people. Get to know workers’ potential and personal aspirations and whether they have the drive and motivation to get to where the organization needs to go.

Recognize that no leader is going to be around forever. The focus is not about you. It is about what the organization can become. The most important job of a leader is to develop individualized plans for top performers and a succession plan for the organization. Learning leaders must begin with that mindset.

Recognize potential. When hiring, don’t just consider whether someone can succeed. Equally important, consider whether the new hire can grow with time. Consider an example. Tom Gartland, a regional president at Avis Budget Group, said: “Right now, I have five assistant vice presidents who run Canada and the United States. So, if anything were to happen to any of them, I need to know what we would do. Our company’s success is based on my having a clear vision and understanding of who the next leadership team is.”

In all, to have an eye toward the future, leaders must be sure that the right people are in the right roles and that others are prepared to take over in an emergency.

Always be developing future leaders. Fulfilling the leadership pipeline is never complete. For instance, Gartland provided this example: “We had personality profiles conducted for everyone in our sales organization. That gave us a baseline view of each individual’s potential, strengths and limitations. When we match to their current performance, we are able to view them from where they are now, how we can help them meet their goals and where we see them moving next.”

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