16 February 2007

“Break the Mould”

Check out this useful article in a Computing Business issue: .
I agree with most of what it says but I would like to highlight the following extracts:

Stop benchmarking the competition,’ says John Riker at the Value Innovation Network. ‘Instead, pursue a quantum leap in value to dominate the market.’ […]

‘To create a quantum leap in value, companies need to direct all their talent to explore the market. The key to this process is to open up the entire organisation to seek growth opportunities. Most firms sit on a gold mine of talented and capable people, yet few tap into them in developing strategy. By bringing together a diverse team of employees from across functions, levels and geographies, an organisation can foster new ways of thinking and a wider business perspective
,’ says Riker.

Now the only efficient way you can direct all an organisation’s talents to any task such as exploring the market for opportunities, is by implementing a corporate culture, internal processes and an infrastructure compatible with knowledge-sharing. Collaborators will actively participate only if:

· They feel safe in spending time on such task (instead of focusing only on their job description). In fact, they should be encouraged by their line manager.

· They are formally recognized and rewarded when producing good ideas.

· They have access to tools facilitating collaboration and sharing of experience/knowledge (this enables cross-functional team efforts and helps to prevent duplication of efforts).

Strategy formulation must consider both a company’s traditional market, and all alternative markets. Until you expand your definition of your market you will not be able to expand the possibilities of your offer.”[…]

‘Through a qualitative process of market exploration, companies can begin to look at their industry and business through a new set of lenses. They learn about their customers’ dreams and hates, their aspirations and irritations. This rich image of the wider market translates into breakthrough ideas for new market space,’ he says.

Re-inventing the wheel.

‘It requires immense leadership and courage to abandon the ritual comfort of traditional strategy development and embark on this process,’ says Riker. ‘But given the unrelenting pressure of competition, the need to introduce unconventional thinking will become imperative for all firms seeking to create successful growth strategies.

In developing an innovative strategy, it is worth looking externally and reviewing competitors’ ideas. Each year, millions of pounds are wasted on research into technologies that has already been disclosed.

There is a multitude of intellectual property being generated internationally, according to
technology broker John Allies, most of which is never used and most of which is relatively easy to gain access to, provided you know where to look and who to talk to. ‘If you are looking for a solution, why pour money into research when someone might already have cracked the problem?’ he asks.

Yes, yes and yes! Even more so when that “someone” is likely to be a colleague of yours somewhere in your organization!

It is really amazing how much all these arguments that sound so common sense are still not considered in most organizations. For the right individual(s) with the right knowledge to be involved at the right time for a particular issue/project/idea, what is first required is an organizational culture encouraging knowledge sharing. It is not a problem of technology since collaboration tools exist in the many now, and some are even virtually free.

In fact, even without specific knowledge-sharing tools, it is still possible (but time-consuming) to find a colleague with appropriate knowledge using “standard” tools such as organizational charts, corporate intranets and address books, and projects documentation. However, too often you don’t even bother searching. Why? Because you work in an organization where it is not natural to ask for such ad-hoc cross-hierarchical/cross-departmental/cross-border assistance. Even if you find someone willing to transfer his/her knowledge, he/she will probably feel the need to request management permission to invest time on your request. This would then immediately formalize and complicate a process that should really remain casual, flexible and simple: sharing knowledge and experience.

Peter-Anthony Glick


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