Here is a brief excerpt from an article co-authored by Jay Rao and Joseph Weintraub for The MIT Sloan Management Review. To read the complete article, check out others, obtain subscription information, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.
Image courtesy of Flickr user reway2007.
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Today’s executives want their companies to be more innovative. They consume stacks of books and articles and attend conventions and courses on innovation, hoping to discover the elixir of success. They are impressed by the ability of comparatively young companies such as Google and Facebook to create and market breakthrough products and services. And they marvel at how some older companies — Apple, IBM, Procter & Gamble, 3M and General Electric, to name a few — reinvent themselves again and again. And they wonder, “How do these great companies do it?”
After studying innovation among 759 companies based in 17 major markets, researchers Gerard J. Tellis, Jaideep C. Prabhu and Rajesh K. Chandy found that corporate culture was a much more important driver of radical innovation than labor, capital, government or national culture. [Note: 1. G.J. Tellis, J.C. Prabhu and R.K. Chandy, “Radical Innovation Across Nations: The Preeminence of Corporate Culture,” Journal of Marketing 73, no. 1 (January 2009): 3-23.] But for executives, that conclusion raises two more questions: First, what is an innovative corporate culture? And second, if you don’t have an innovative culture, is there any way you can build one? This article addresses both questions by offering a simple model of the key elements of an innovative culture, as well as a practical 360-degree assessment tool that managers can use to assess how conducive their organization’s culture is to innovation — and to see specific areas where their culture might be more encouraging to it.
Six Building Blocks of an Innovative Culture
An innovative culture rests on a foundation of six building blocks: resources, processes, values, behavior, climate and success. These building blocks are dynamically linked. For example, the values of the enterprise have an impact on people’s behaviors, on the climate of the workplace and on how success is defined and measured. Our culture of innovation model builds upon dozens of studies by numerous authors.
When it comes to fostering innovation, enterprises have generally given substantial attention to resources, processes and the measurement of success — the more easily measured, tools-oriented innovation building blocks. But companies have often given much less attention to the harder-to-measure, people-oriented determinants of innovative culture — values, behaviors and climate. Not surprisingly, most companies have also done a better job of managing resources, processes and measurement of innovation success than they have the more people-oriented innovation building blocks. As many managers have discovered, anything that involves peoples’ values and behaviors and the climate of the workplace is more intangible and difficult to handle. As one CEO put it, “The soft stuff is the hard stuff.” Yet these difficult “people issues” have the greatest power to shape the culture of innovation and create a sustained competitive advantage.
[Here's the first of the six that Rao and Weintraub discuss.]
Values drive priorities and decisions, which are reflected in how a company spends its time and money. Truly innovative enterprises spend generously on being entrepreneurial, promoting creativity and encouraging continuous learning. The values of a company are less what the leaders say or what they write in the annual reports than what they do and invest in. Values manifest themselves in how people behave and spend, more than in how they speak.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Jay Rao is Professor, Strategy & Innovation, at Babson College. He earned a B.Engg. degree at Indian Institute of Technology( Chennai, India), an M.S. at the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. at University of California, Los Angeles. Joseph Weintraub is the Founder and Faculty Director of the Babson Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program. He earned a B.S. at the University of Pittsburgh and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Bowling Green State University
The most powerful working mother in Silicon Valley, Sheryl Sandberg may wish her life weren’t viewed as a social statement. But since it is, the C.O.O. of Facebook is tackling the issue head-on. In the April 2013 issue of Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis checks out Sandberg’s manifesto.
Portrait by Annie Leibovitz
To check out The Rise of Women in Silicon Valley, a collection of Jonas Fredwall Karlsson photographs some of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley, please click here.
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Sheryl Sandberg is one of those people who attract more attention than they want. If she were a man, no one would think twice about her career: McKinsey consultant, chief of staff to U.S. Treasury secretary Larry Summers, head of one of Google’s biggest businesses, and now chief operating officer of Facebook. Those are the sorts of jobs that people who finish at the top of their Harvard Business School class wind up in. Alas, Sheryl Sandberg is not a man, and so her career is not just a bunch of jobs she happens to have held but a social statement.
Sandberg claims she never really wanted to write a book, that her subject was thrust upon her by the way her own career has been viewed. I believe her. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is a heavily researched manifesto aimed at a single question: Why are so few positions of economic and political power held by women? “The blunt truth is that men still run the world,” Sandberg writes. Just 19 out of all the C.E.O.’s in the Fortune 500 are women. The United States has a female majority, yet its Congress remains 82 percent male. In the most intense arenas of American ambition the situation for women is even worse. There are plenty of women on Wall Street, for instance, but the big firms and the financial risktaking are still dominated by men. (And look how that’s worked out!) In Silicon Valley the woman who gets to power is regarded as a cyborg. If she gets pregnant, it’s genuinely newsworthy.
Obviously, there are all sorts of reasons for the inequity at the top of American life, and Sandberg addresses most of them. But she takes a particular interest in the ways women undermine their own cause. Women tend more than men to view their success as fraudulent, for instance. They give in too quickly to the idea that you can’t have both a career and a family; they fail to take risks they need to take; they are afraid to demand that their husbands do their fair share of the housework; they misunderstand how to cultivate useful relationships with their superiors. After a female subordinate describes to Sandberg what she imagines a corporate mentor to be, Sandberg tells her, “That’s not a mentor. That’s a therapist.”
Some women will be annoyed by Sandberg’s challenge, but I’ll bet most will be thrilled by it. And I suspect at least a few men will read this book and think, Oh no, they’re starting to catch on.
Over the years, I have participated (as student or teacher) in 15 commencement exercises and attended at least another dozen as a parent or grandparent. At the moment, I cannot remember a single speaker, much less any of the remarks. That is probably why I have a keen interested in other commencement addresses that are widely praised and frequently seen, usually on Facebook and YouTube. Here is an article written by the editors at TIME magazine in which they focus on what they consider to be the ten best commencement speeches. Here is what they have to say about David Foster Wallace and his commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005. To read the complete article, please click here.
To read the complete address, please click here.
Photo Credit: Janette Beckman/RedFerns/Getty
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Forget the kerfuffles over President Obama’s talks at Arizona State and Notre Dame. Commencement speeches are one of the great collegiate traditions — and the last lesson students get before entering the real world. Here are TIME‘s favorites
“‘Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”
This address at Kenyon was vintage Wallace: a smart, occasionally meandering discussion of the issues that consumed him, from the banality of life to the meaning of consciousness. “I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy and grandly inspirational,” he concluded. “What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth…The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head.” All the reasons Wallace didn’t make it to 50 are apparent here; in hindsight, the speech reads like the first draft of a suicide note for an author who took his own life last year at age 46. While it’s a macabre read, there’s tons that’s worthwhile here: the speech crackles with wit and intelligence — and offers tricks for escaping the depression to which Wallace ultimately succumbed.
To read more, please click here.
Here is an article written by Michael Hess for CBS MoneyWatch, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the website’s newsletters, please click here.
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(MoneyWatch) Just like basketball, football, tennis, or track and field, business is a competition. And competition can either be mean and dirty, or classy and dignified. It’s probably no surprise that I’m a fan of the latter. Call me old-fashioned, but I think there is a lot to be said — and gained — from good sportsmanship in our professional lives.
To be sure, the sports world has had its share of scandal and shame lately — from doping to game fixing — but there have also been some inspirational moments. Most recently I saw an incredibly moving story about a basketball player who purposely passed the ball to a developmentally disabled player on the opposing team to give him a shot that was more important than the outcome of the game. And another about a runner who helped a deserving competitor beat him to the finish line rather than exploit a mistake.
I’ve also been delighted to see the good sportsmanship displayed by kids as my own children get more involved in athletics. Whether it’s seeing players helping each other up on the football field or wrestling mat, or swimmers waiting and cheering for a struggling competitor to finish, seeing young people behave this way is heartening and inspirational.
“Business is brutal.” “Kill or be killed.” “Take no prisoners”… yeah, yeah, I get all that high-testosterone stuff. I’m not naive or polyannish about having to play to win in business.
But there are plenty of examples of successful companies that still manage to practice good, admirable sportsmanship. Zappos, my go-to favorite for so many business examples, will actively help a customer find a product at a competitor if they don’t have it (disclosure: I do business with Zappos, but I loved them long before that). At the risk of horn-tooting, at my company we do the same thing; and more often than not, the customers we send into the arms of another either come back to us for something later, or tell everyone they know about our service.
In 2011, the leading independent photo/electronics retailer (yes, there is such a thing) in our town rescued a smaller competitor that was about to close its doors. Of course it wasn’t entirely altruistic — there was some business benefit to acquiring them. But the bigger company, which has prospered for over 100 years, certainly would have done just fine without it; as the only other game in town, the customers would have migrated to them anyway. But the owner was genuinely interested in saving a long-time friendly rival and a bunch of jobs. And that attitude alone was very good for business.
There are many ways you can show good sportsmanship in business, none of which will hurt your competitiveness (in fact most will help). Here are just a few [two of five]:
Sell positively: There are few things I dislike more than the negative sales pitch. If your best sales tactic is to slam your competitor rather than tout your own merits, there is a problem. In fact, praising (or at least respecting) your competition while proudly showing off your own stuff can be much more effective — and certainly a hell of a lot classier.
Don’t win just to beat the other guy: If properly channeled, your competitive energy should only be used to benefit your company, not hurt another. How many times have companies lost money purely to undercut a rival and win what may be a one-time sale? Even though there will be a winner and loser in any competition, truly winning in business — especially over the long haul — is not necessarily the same as just making someone else lose.
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Michael Hess is founder and CEO of Skooba Design. He is also a public speaker and advisor, obsessed with customer service, communication, and culture. Read the philosophies that make Michael tick here, and visit his website and new Facebook page for information on speaking engagements and more. To check out all of his articles for CBS MoneyWatch , please click here.
Here is an excerpt from article co-authored by Geoff Colvin that appeared in Fortune magazine. To read the complete article, check out other resources, obtain subscription, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.
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We’re not living in ordinary economic times. Every company needs to determine if its strategy requires an overhaul or just thoughtful tweaks. Here’s how to start.
FORTUNE — Remember when Motorola (MMI) ruled the mobile phone business worldwide? And then Nokia (NOK) did? And then BlackBerry (RIMM) did? And now none of them do? As Fortune headlined a recent BlackBerry article, “What the Hell Happened?”
We all ask the same question about Kodak, monarch of the global photo industry for a century, now bankrupt, while Instagram, a photo-sharing service with a dozen employees, is sold to Facebook (FB) for $1 billion. And while we’re at it, what happened to Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)? To Yahoo (YHOO)?
We’re not living in ordinary economic times. The convulsions of the past five years have left many business people asking the most fundamental questions about their companies: Will our strategy work in this environment? What must we change, and what must we not change? Do we need a new business model?
Reconsidering strategy can turn into a miasma that consumes endless time and yields nothing. Yet the process is manageable. One way to think through your strategy in today’s uncertain environment is to answer three basic questions.
[Here is the first.]
1. What is our core?
A finding that’s consistent across cycles is that the best performing companies keep investing in their core no matter how bad things get. Look at what Dupont (DD) did during the Great Depression. Even as profits plunged, the company resolved to keep funding chemical research — its core — no matter what. Among the results: nylon, neoprene, and other products that brought Dupont billions of dollars over the following decades.
In good times, companies often wander into businesses for which they command no special capability. Then, when a downturn hits, those non-core businesses blow up and have to be axed. Pioneer bailed out of the grindingly competitive flat-screen TV business in the recent recession. Home Depot (HD) shut down its Expo chain of home design centers. Google (GOOG) closed non-core businesses that sold advertising on radio stations and in newspapers.
Excellent companies are certain of their core. Early on in the recession, Brad Smith, CEO of software firm Intuit (INTU), said, “We’re not going to cut innovation. This company for 25 years has been fueled by new product innovation. We’re protecting the innovation pipeline so we come out of this strong.” He would cut elsewhere if necessary, but in the realm of personal and small business finance software, he’s up against mammoth competitors, including Microsoft (MSFT). He cannot afford to fall even a fraction of a generation behind.
Are you sure of your company’s core? If not, you’ve got to do some corporate soul-searching.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Geoff Colvin is senior editor at large at Fortune magazine. A longtime Fortune editor and columnist, he is one of America’s sharpest and most respected commentators on leadership, globalization, wealth creation, and management. As former anchor of Wall Street Week with Fortune on PBS, he spoke each week to the largest audience of any business television program in America. His national bestseller, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else, won the Harold Longman Award as the best business book of 2009. His email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitney L. Johnson dared to dream when she began her Wall Street career as a secretary. With courage and persistence, by her forties she had risen to become an Institutional Investor-ranked sell-side analyst. Whitney is the president and co-founder of Clayton Christensen’s investment firm, Rose Park Advisors, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and the Harvard Business Review blogs, and the author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream, published by Bibliomotion (May 2012). Whitney was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of “12 People to Follow on Twitter in 2012″ and one of Business Insider’s “54 Smart Thinkers Everyone Should Follow on Twitter.” For more, follow her blog, find her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Having invested in her own dreams, Whitney is passionate about encouraging others to take stock in theirs. She and her husband reside with their two children in Boston, Massachusetts.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of her. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing Dare, Dream, Do, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Johnson: I started to write — my husband. Crossed that out, thinking my parents. Scratch that, because it’s my children. Or maybe… it’s. Scores of people have influenced my personal growth, but alas, I must list my parents as I think most of us must.
They provided me with many opportunities apart from school, including sewing, piano, and ice skating lessons. But as the oldest child of parents who married because my mother was pregnant with me, and then later divorced, I always wondered if there might have been a different outcome had I been brilliant or attractive enough.
Though these memories pain me, I recognize these formative experiences have shaped who I am and what I value. My desire to have a happy marriage and a happy family life is resolute. Period. When someone I know is affected by divorce, I understand. I know the situation is complicated, regardless of why the marriage is dissolving. My drive, my intense focus on improvement is likely a means of trying to measure up, and I’m quite certain my laser-like focus on encouraging and mentoring is my attempt to be the encouraging voice I wanted to hear. Without a doubt, my parents have had the greatest influence on my personal growth. But my husband is a close, and crucial, close second. It is he who has helped me grow into a person that believes she measures up – at least most days.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Johnson: Michael Brown, one of my bosses at BA-Merrill Lynch. I was already an award-winning equity analyst, but I still didn’t quite see my potential. He challenged me to step up my game – not in a you-can-do-better military style. Instead, he was the first boss to ask for my ideas, and gave me the latitude to go do them. During his tenure, I significantly outperformed myself in every measurable category. The slope of the trajectory of my career steepened significantly because of Michael Brown.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Johnson: My husband and I arrived in New York twenty years ago, so he could pursue his PhD at Columbia. I would never have gone to New York on my own, and I was terrified. But someone had to earn the bread, so I began to look for a job. We were in New York; I wanted to work on Wall Street.
But there were a few problems. My degree was in music – meaning I’d never stepped foot in an accounting, finance or economics class, I had zero connections in New York, and women who came to Wall Street in the late 80s — became secretaries. Which is what I did.
Across from my desk at 1345 Ave of the Americas, there was a bullpen of up-and-coming brokers, essentially a locker-room for twenty-something guys aspiring to become masters of the universe. In order to open accounts, they’d dial the phone, people would hang up, dial, hang up. When they finally got someone on the phone, the pressure was so intense in this testosterone-filled room they inevitably went for the hard sell. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this is a good investment.” I’d always know the prospects were waffling, when I’d hear “throw down your pom-poms and get in the game.”
Initially I was offended, because I was a cheerleader in high school. But one day after hearing “throw down your pom-poms” yet again, I thought – when am I going to throw down MY pom-poms – and get in MY game. After all, my husband’s degree will take 5-7 years. Why would I earn x if 10x is possible?
That was my turning point. I began to take accounting and finance courses at night – and three years later – I had a boss who was willing to sponsor me in making the jump from secretary to investment banking analyst.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Johnson: Early on in my career, my musical training (practicing piano three hours a day, understanding music theory and music history, learning to sight read, to accompanying vocalist and instrumentalists, playing in a jazz band, playing a senior recital with 45 minutes of music fully memorized) was of little use.
But once I had the investment banking technical training (building a financial model, etc), my formal musical training allowed me to really kick up my career. As Howard Gardner’s posits in his theory of multiple intelligences, musical intelligence isn’t “just about composing music, playing an instrument, singing well, or even learning a new language, the principles of organization involved in almost any kind of public presentation, whether organizing a conference, producing a play, or giving a speech have their origin in musical structure.” Now, whether writing a research report, coaching entrepreneurs on how to pitch their ideas, or giving a speech, I have an innate sense of an idea’s arc and the requisite musicality in order to communicate my ideas. Meta – but invaluable.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Whitney invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
To visit her homepage, please click here.
To visit her Amazon page, please click here.
To visit her HBR blog page, please click here.
To visit the Rose Park Advisors page, please click here.