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.


Gary said...

I couldn't agree with you more. We published an article in the April 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review ("$152,000 For Your Thoughts?") from our research that suggests significant gaps between innovation-oriented communication emerging from C-level folks and the dearth of idea originating from employees.

Diann Daniel said...

Very interesting post. I am a writer at and it certainly echoes some of the things I've been hearing from those I interview. (Here's two: Seven Highly Effective Ways to Kill Innovation, Complex IT Will Kill Your Business.) What I find interesting though, is how when I speak with a CIO or similar who makes innovation a priority, innovation sounds a lot easier. A mindset that values innovation, a way of fostering ideas and making people feel valued and a system for making sure ideas are evaluated fairly, protected and championed all seem crucial. I don't think any of this points to a dearth of ideas from staff, though, if anything, it points to the system/culture itself being broken.

John Stone said...

Some organizations are aligned for innovation and other are aligned for process. Process tends can be the death of innovation, or at least those that attempt it. When a culture of innovation exists, it is possible for idea to lead markets, rather than react. For example, ICICI Bank in India has turned the internal IT group into a P&L, creating new and innovative services enabled through the IT infrastructure to create new streams of revenue. The old model of cutting costs by cutting employees is becoming outdated. The new world seeks to drive additional revenue and customer connections.

Jamie Corn said...

here is my spin after reading the book...
Organizational design is today's key to unlocking the opportunities of the 21s century…Why? It's all about mind power!

Companies can consciously design and build organizational interventions that can dramatically improve their ability to ‘mobilize mind power’ - to create greater wealth in the organization. The size of the potential opportunity (to build greater wealth and profits) justifies that the CEO and top-tier leadership devote a large % of their total capacity to this intervention. Today’s corporations are now under-performers as they struggle again to adopt to the new global business environment. Why is this? The authors discuss this further...

Most Organizations Still Operate Under Old Organizational Models-

The goal is to free talented people from the unproductive complexity that has been designed into today’s corporate organizational model.This unproductive complexity is a function of the organizational model being used today, but that was designed for the industrial revolution of the early 1920’s, not for today’s digital age or 21st century technology.

So, what causes this unproductive complexity?

Vertical Hierarchies create a traffic jam or organizational gridlock...these result in organizational constraints Silos create impenetrable walls that block collaboration and the flow of individual intellectual property (IIP). Then, the idea of horizontal matrices was developed to circumvent the existing hierarchies, this resulted in more managers, more reporting, more agendas and convoluted relationships. Add to this, intermediate layers within an organization such that the front line and front office are so far apart they never engage, reducing opportunities to collaborate, demobilizing mind power.

Most People In The Workforce Today Want New Organizational Models -

Today, the majority of workers are ‘thinking-intensive’ people vs. labor intensive people. Look at how students come into the working world relying upon social networking sites for their life style. Here they define thinking intensive workers as those that apply the use of subjective judgment and problem solving (intangibles) techniques to produce greater efficiency, scale and wealth. Labor intensive workers rely upon the application of labor, capital, energy, materials (tangibles) to produce greater efficiency, scale. It is easy to understand how our workforce has changed!

Intangibles in the 21st Century are the source of wealth production since the production of tangibles is being constrained by the environment, resource restrictions, global competition, rising wages, lower standards of living, etc.

By enabling 'the liberation of talented people' from dysfunctional organizations, releasing the organizational complexity, it seems possible to harness the collective latent mind power. The authors go on to explore in detail 9 different means of attaining the goal.

David said...

Many organizations are blind to the incredible ideas circulating in the minds of there employees. Who are overlook for reasons ranging from gender, race, position and can also be overlooked because of a superiors pride or ignorance. Your employees at your base the one's " in the trenchs know the nuts and bolts of how your business operates and suceeds. They will have some of the best ideas because the live, eat, breath the failure or sucees of your business on a daily basis. LISTEN TO THEM AND ASK FOR THEIR IMPUT!