Andrea Kates (akates@BusinessGenome.com) is the founder of the Business Genome® project and author of the visionary bestselling business innovation book, Find Your Next (McGraw-Hill, November 2011). As a business strategist, facilitator, and speaker, Andrea has led more than 250 business innovation initiatives for global corporations, entrepreneurs, and organizations including Royal Dutch Shell (Asia-Pacific), Audi, Allstate, Continental Airlines, GM/OnStar, Hewlett-Packard, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, the Houston Texans (NFL), and P.F. Chang’s. Find Your Next was based on her original research with top leaders of rapidly growing companies including GE ecomagination, IndieGoGo, LunaTik, Autodesk, Cisco, Sharp Healthcare, and Autodesk. Find Your Next reveals the keys to a revolutionary model of business innovation that has the capacity to change business as we know it.
Known to many as the next generation’s “brand whisperer,” Andrea created the Business Genome project to help companies adapt to a rapidly-changing global business environment and to gain a competitive advantage by discovering cross-industry opportunities for innovation. Her hallmark CoLabs immerses organizations in the hands-on application of cross-industry insights.
Andrea is a member of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) community and featured 2012 TED speaker (short talk).
Here is an excerpt from the first of a two-part interview of her. To read the complete interview, please click here.
To read Part One of my interview of her, please click here.
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Morris: When and why did you decide to write Find Your Next?
Kates: I decided to write it because it needed to be written. Because it didn’t exist. Because I couldn’t find a book to recommend to clients and colleagues that explained how companies were actually finding their way out of feeling stuck—that could actually delineate a process for moving forward and deliver on what everyone was looking for—a path to sustainable revenue growth.
On the one hand, we have classic literature like Michael Porter’s work, but it didn’t focus on discovery and wasn’t written for a world as unpredictable and fast as ours, today
On the other hand, we have books on innovation—by people like Clayton Christensen and Tom Kelley. When you read those books, it’s as if a pure innovation approach is for a particular type of person. An innovator. Born, not made. We can’t all be Steve Jobs (and we shouldn’t try to be).
We needed a book that everyone could relate to, that would help us realize our own innate ability to observe changes in our markets and do something about them. That would help us translate insights into growth.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Kates: I love that phrase, “head-snapping revelations.” Yes. I discovered three about today’s companies that make traditional MBA thinking obsolete: 1.The speed of the market 2. The transparency of today’s business dynamic—we’re connected and social media introduces many new voices into the purchase decision and 3. The globalization of commerce.
With all three revelations in mind, I literally hit myself on the side of my head and realized why we were all so stuck. No process existed for dealing with them. And the book changed as I was writing it.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from the one you originally envisioned?
Kates: I was recently on a panel with Sean Moffitt, author of Wikibrands, and he asked me a similar question. He asked me why I hadn’t written the book earlier. I told him I thought I had to crack the code on all of business genomics before I could even get started.
Well, that was never going to happen—I was paralyzed and overwhelmed thinking that I couldn’t write the book until I had all of the answers. I’m sure all authors feel that way when they start out. And we all have to learn when to sit down and just write.
I took a dose of my own medicine. I always tell clients that asking better questions can be the key to unlocking new answers, new opportunities. So, I decided that instead of waiting for the perfect answers to be ready, I would ask the questions with my readers. The power of the book would be the interviews themselves. My asking questions and my readers, or people that represented my readers, answering them. It was the honest telling of the messy stories that didn’t fit neatly into a 7 habits type of list. Conversations with business executives from P.F. Chang’s, GE ecomagination, Placecast, IndieGoGo, EMC Corporation, J&J Global, Korn/Ferry International, GM/OnStar told the real story of how people found their “nexts”—whether it was a multi-billion dollar “next,” like GE, or an entrepreneurial “next,” like Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant.
Find Your Next went from being yet another academic model or collection of case studies to a very down-to-earth, approachable collection of stories—and the four steps that everyone’s process has in common—whether large or small, business or nonprofit, local or global.
Morris: For those who have not as yet read Find Your Next, to what does the title refer?
Kates: It’s all about taking our organizations from point A to point B. Finding your “next” means just that—how we move toward tomorrow. How we figure out what to do next. When can we see right now? What does it mean about what might happen tomorrow? It’s not as farfetched as it sounds. It isn’t predicting the future, but really looking at the present…and looking at it differently.
How did Nikon see photos changing once mobile phones added cameras, and Flickr and Picasa added photo sharing? Easy.
Morris: What are the core components and major benefits of the business genome?
Kates: You get ahead of the shifts in customer preferences. You evaluate your current performance with creativity, like “trendability”—how well you’re adapting to changes that will affect your company. And your industry.
Morris: Briefly, how can the Business Genome approach help to achieve various organizational transformations? First, of innovation?
Kates: Don’t get seduced into the “let’s create purple tacos” side of innovation. There’s a balance to be achieved between stagnation and pure creativity. The insight here is that innovation can mean recombining things that are in plain sight and accessible, even in another industry—like Zappos customer service.
Morris: Of marketing into a world where customers can be inside?
Kates: Think of your company as an open book or a “glass house” where authenticity rules. We have to observe and listen to our customers—they’re part of our brands now.
Morris: Of talent, culture, and leadership?
Kates: Engagement comes from real buy-in-to ideas. You don’t get buy-in from employee manuals and policies. You get buy-in from real communication with the people you work with.
Morris: Of process by collaboration?
Kates: You need to get all of the players in the room at the same time when you’re designing any new process. The analogy I like is airport design—you can design an airport to streamline baggage handling or make the distance from security to gate the shortest for flyers, but one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
Morris: Next, the transformation – and proliferation and distribution – of what you call “the secret sauce”?
Kates: Brand is a contact sport these days—everyone (management, front line, customers, competition) has a hand in the molding of your product’s market perception.
Morris: Of the emergence of trendability?
Kates: Business moves at warp speed today. We don’t have to be intimidated by forecast models or wait for the perfect strategy to hit us between the eyes. We can all put “trendability”—the ability to see signs of change before it happens—on our radar screens and build our cultures to respond fast.
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To read all of Part Two, please click here.
To read Part One of my interview of Andrea, please click here.
She cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites: