Tag Archives: leadership

Technology will not save the world. People with vision will.

Implicit in any proclamation that technology will solve big problems (in the world or in our businesses) is that first a human being, or group of us, will conceive, organize, develop and then use technology to solve that big problem.   When technologists and alpha-geeks leave this piece out we are leaving out what is so hard about solving problems.   Human factors of visionary leadership and innovation are ground zero for solving big problems.  So is a richer, more complex way of seeing the world.  Missing this piece accounts for why Web 2.0 often fails inside the enterprise and why the highways aren’t filled with electric cars.

As Web meets World connecting the promise of technology to the innovative capacity of human beings is the transformative act of our times.  Unlocking that creativity from current constraint-based, status quo thinking in business and politics is the challenge of the 21st century.

Leave a comment

Filed under Change, Insight

Evangelist’s Toolkit: Facilitating the Conversation

Here is one of the  tools that I use to help mobilize energy and stay on a productive path during an engagement:

Divergent thinking describes a mindset where anything is possible, new ideas are welcome from all quarters, where issues and opportunities are freely discussed.   It is the realm of strategy and planning.

Convergent thinking is strictly goal oriented, a mindset of managing scope, schedule and budget where strategy is realized.  It is the realm of execution, of project management and risk evaluation.

I have watched many conversations in the executive office swing wildly from divergent possibility to convergent peril;  from “imagine if we did X’ to “imagine if we lost Y.”

Here is the thing: these two mindsets are necessary for a healthy, functioning business but they do not coexist well in the same conversation. When creating new possibilities for your organization you need divergent thinking.     When executing on a project you need convergent thinking.      During any discussion, people in the room will gravitate to the dominant mindset of their formal role;  the IT manager who decries the security risk of social networks (convergent)  the rogue change agent (did I say Creative Director?)  who wants to turn everything upside down (divergent), the CMO who is terrified of losing control of the message (convergent).

If you can consciously move everyone to the mindset appropriate to the moment you will be amazed at how much easier the conversations run.   I am explicit.   I start out a meeting with the goal and the stated mindset and ground rules.   If we are divergent – I explain what I mean by divergent thinking and ask people to hold any discussion of risk, scope, schedule and budget until a set of possibilities has been gathered.    Conversely at a certain point it is absolutely necessary to begin the hard discipline of closely subjecting exciting possibilities to critical questions.

And here is the interesting part;  when you free people from their formal role in the organization you will be surprised how much enthusiasm they can bring, divergent or convergent, to the task at hand.

1 Comment

Filed under Method, Presentations, strategy

The Harder Stuff – Leadership, Culture and Change

I often refer to the “harder stuff” as shorthand for leadership, change, culture and implementation so I thought I would reproduce a post I made in Radar last week titled, “ Getting Web 2.0 right: The hard stuff vs. the harder stuff…” – along with one of the comments that I took issue with:

I had a powerful conversation recently in Europe with one of the top executives of a major industrial company. They have 100K+ employees in over 50 countries. When he joined five years ago their business was struggling and in need of major transformation; their stock was at two dollars a share, they had ethics issues and product quality problems – you name the malady, they were suffering from it…

Fast forward to 2008 and now they are one of the most extraordinary success stories in Europe – stock is over $28 a share, great profits, growing operations, well regarded in the business community etc. When you fly through a European airport they are everywhere.

I asked him how they were able to turn such a large, multinational ship around.

He told me most executives talk about “the hard stuff” vs. “the soft stuff”. Their focus for success in the organization is on the hard stuff – finance, technology, manufacturing, R&D, Sales – where the money is to be found, where costs savings are to be made. The soft stuff – leadership, culture, change and implementation – is there in rhetoric but not in reality (e.g., “people are our most important resource”). But the truth is that it is not the “hard stuff” vs. the “soft stuff”, but the hard stuff vs. the harder stuff. And it is this “harder stuff” that drives both revenues and profits by making or breaking a decision, leading a project to a successful conclusion – or not, and allowing for effective collaboration within a business unit or an organization – or not. He told me it was a consistent focus on the harder stuff that allowed them to turn their company around.

This is an apt description of the problems we face in bringing Web 2.0 into the enterprise. Web 2.0 is a game changer – it holds the potential to turbo-charge back office functions, foster collaboration and transform every business unit in the enterprise. Yet the resistance occurs when it comes down to implementing Web 2.0 because it represents a series of shifts that challenge traditional business culture and models of leadership. How often have I heard the knee-jerk reaction, “we can’t let our customers talk to each other” or “we don’t share our data” or “we are going to upgrade to a new platform – we are on a three year plan to get it done” (I keep a list of these reactions so please help me add to it). If developing a web 2.0 strategy is the hard stuff – moving that strategy forward is the harder stuff – and the bigger the company I work with – the harder the harder stuff is.

Rick added this to the comments:

Implementing 2.0 stuff doesn’t necessarily to be very difficult to implement. If I relate to my experience there are at least two ways do it wrong:
1) Top down push (employees, middle management just gets another tools, and do not experience any advantages)
2) Technology push (advantages are unclear, most often a geeky solution with less usability).

What I think you should do is to identify what would drive this people. What would make them to use / adopt a new tool. Is it time saving, is it the ability to work at home, it’s money saving, opening a new market for their product, inexpensive innovations (Lego Case *)). Technology push will not help to implement a 2.0 tool, having a useful tool that match their business and change drivers will help you to make adoption and implemention easier.

*) Concerning Lego: Lego used to have 100 designers creating 300 designs a year and the average age of a designer was appr 29 years. By introducing Lego Factory they now have 1 million designers creating 3 million designs a year and the average ago of designer is appr 9 years (and these 1 million people do not have to be payed by Lego!)

Rick made some good points and it allowed me to clarify:

@ Rick
I agree that tools are a distraction and I think this is a very useful way to think about the issue in terms of traditional business objectives and adoption. However this frames Web 2.0 as an incremental improvement to business as usual (better customer intimacy, better operational efficiency, better innovation) rather than a game-changer (customer/employee led innovation, rethinking IP, rethinking the whole concept of marketing etc.). IMO It is the more radical potential that isn’t being tapped into.

In the case of Lego my understanding is that it required senior leadership to make some big changes in the way that they conceived of and executed on innovation and that they also had to rethink their notion of IP. Lego’s story is one of transformation.

Don’t you think that both leadership (and I mean leadership in a “2.0” way; leadership that allows leaders to surface at all levels of the organization) and your model of change need to be aligned for real business transformation?

3 Comments

Filed under Change, strategy, Web 2.0