Friday, July 13, 2007

Mobilizing Minds

The latest in innovating management from McKinsey & Co. is the book Mobilizing Minds, which tries to prepare people and companies for a 21st century model of success.

Forget 'work smarter, not harder' -- this book suggests that profit-per-employee yardsticks to measure effective use of knowledge is a far better barometer than ROI or capital spending.

In his book review that explains the book's thesis, FT columnist Stefan Stern appears to sing a chorus from the Imaginatik songbook: "the great majority of businesses are underperforming precisely because their most important intangible assets -- the ideas and creativity of their knowledge workers -- are unwittingly suppressed by the way in which these businesses are set up to operate."

At issue is a complexity that mirrors the traffic and congestion on overfilled highways. You can do business using a 20th century model (just as you CAN travel from LA to Long Beach on a roadway at rush hour) but never before has it taken more time, wasted more resources and involved more people in the futile attempt.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

From Business to Baseball -- With Apologies to Cubs Fans

Xerox offers a keen example of how corporate innovation and problem-solving can run in cycles, counter to the business cycles that usually define success. When creative thinking is needed most, many companies move toward safe, less-challenging strategies. This story from the July 9 Fortune referenced in a blog across town recaps how Sophie Vanderbroek has revived a culture of innovation, at the place that brought us the computer mouse, Ethernet and countless other technologies. Those inventions became crucial to every business. Now, Xerox is on to "reusable paper" that goes blank at a particular time for another document -- after noticing that 40 percent of paper used in offices ends up in the trash

The quest for uniformity (whether it's predictable earnings, people who think similarly, herd mentality in the industry) is a clear sign it's time to change the status quo. One reason companies don't shake things up is they may be succeeding financially but on the 'slippery slope' to a shortfall of new products/services. Think of pro baseball -- it's July and the All-Star Break -- that too much spent on star players can starve budgets for farm teams and developing internal talent for much less money.

Look to Imaginatik for collaborative solutions, and other ways to tap the collective genius in your organization -- before it becomes a crisis (or your team fails to make the playoffs). For those readers overseas, please substitute "football" for "baseball" and the name of your worst local club for "Cubs."