3 Qualities of Innovation Leaders

Elephant With Butterfly Wings

When You Need Radical Innovation

Innovation.

It’s at the top of nearly every organization’s strategic priority list. Whether due to tepid growth, robust competition, globalization, budget constraints, or a myriad of other reasons, almost every organization is seeking innovation. Looking for the next big thing to transform the business and to improve a customer’s experience is always top of mind for a leadership team.

 

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” –Drew Houston

 

Steven Hoffman is Captain and CEO of Founders Space, a Top 10 Incubator in Inc. and the #1 Accelerator for startups coming to Silicon Valley from overseas in Forbes. He is constantly innovating, and he is a serial entrepreneur and investor. From his vantage point, he’s seen what works and what doesn’t. His book, Make Elephants Fly: The Process of Radical Innovation, is a practical guide to help startups achieve breakthrough growth and help more established organizations find a path to successful innovation.

It is a compelling read, filled with great examples to help you achieve faster growth. I recently spoke with Steve about his book.

 

“Copying is a brilliant business strategy.” –Steven Hoffman

 

Copying is Brilliant

One of your chapters is focused on copying vs. creating. You say, “Copying is a brilliant business strategy.” What role should copying play in radical innovation?

All great innovations are built on top of previous discoveries. Copying is an essential starting point. Steve Jobs copied Palm Pilot when developing the iPhone. Mark Zuckerberg copied Friendster and Myspace when developing Facebook. Brian Chesky copied Craigslist when developing Airbnb. But all these brilliant entrepreneurs innovated radically, and that’s why they were able to breakthrough and become so much bigger than their predecessors.

To innovate, you must start with something, and it helps to pick a business model that works. That’s where copying comes in. Once you’ve identified the customer need, then you must figure out how to radically improve it. There are only two ways to break through:

1) You create a product that is exponentially better. This is what Google did with its search engine. It was ten times better than the preceding search engines.

2) You create something new, something that offers a different value than the competition. This is what Twitter did with its micro-blogging platform. It wasn’t like a typical blog because it limited posts to 140 characters, which created an entirely new experience for readers and bloggers.

5 Books Recommended By Leaders Like Warren Buffett

This is a guest post by Lior Grossman. Lior is the founder of BookAuthority, designed to help you find the best business books by top industry leaders. Personal note: I was one of the first CEO’s to make a few recommendations on the site.

 

The Power of Books

I firmly believe that reading the right book can open your mind to a whole new world of ideas and opportunities. The right book can inspire and empower you to overcome your challenges and take action. As a leader, I understand I need to expose myself to ideas that are capable of transforming me and the people that I lead.

The world of leadership is evolving, and present-day leaders should seek insights and context to understand this changing world better. Leadership development is a must because what was applicable in the past no longer applies today.

Reading is the one habit that almost all successful people have in common. Bill Gates reads about 50 books every year; Mark Zuckerberg resolved to read 24 books a year; Mark Cuban reads three hours every day, and Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading!

Yes, I know. Unlike Mr. Buffett, you cannot afford to spend the majority of your time reading books, and you really don’t have enough time to dedicate to your personal development. However, sharpening your skills can be as easy as updating your reading list, so that when you do find that one precious hour to read, you’ll spend it on a book that will be worth it.

The idea of helping people identify the few books that are worth reading is what led to the creation of BookAuthority – a new website that helps you identify the world’s finest business books, by collecting and aggregating book recommendations from 150 of the most successful people in the world.

To help you find your next read, here is a list of great leadership books recommended by well-known leaders like Warren Buffett and Eric Schmidt:

 

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

Author: William N. Thorndike, Jr., Founder of Housatonic Partners

Recommended by Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Understand the New Rules to Stay Competitive

growth

The Rules Have Changed

In a world of constant change and disruption, it’s important to stay agile and courageous. Whether you’re leading a small team or a large company, you will need to be bold and to act without fear.

That’s easier said than done.

Amanda Setili is president of strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates, a firm boasting clients ranging from Coca-Cola to Walmart. Her new book, Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate Your Marketsis packed with examples and tools to stay ahead of the crowd.

I recently spoke with Amanda about her work and her new book.

 

What is driving the need for fearless growth?

We all know growth is essential to a business’s health, but no matter what industry you’re in, you probably feel stress brought on by new technologies, changing customer behaviors and preferences, and new competitors that threaten your business’s ability to grow. Here are a few examples:

  • The food industry is investing to keep up with sometimes capricious trends in public perception regarding low-fat, low-carbohydrate, non-GMO, gluten-free, organic, alternative sweeteners and grains, and other choices.
  • The consumer products industry must continuously seek to find new and better ways to interact with their customers digitally. They must respond to changing consumer buying behaviors and even to consumers’ concerns about political, social, and environmental issues.
  • The entertainment industry is being upended, with companies that formerly were just conduits for content—like Netflix, Amazon, Google (via its YouTube subsidiary), and AT&T (via the Time Warner merger)—now creating their own original series.
  • The auto industry is changing gears to adapt to the way ride-sharing services, such as Lyft and Uber, are reducing people’s desire to own a car.
  • The banking industry is scrambling to adjust to new modes of consumer-to-consumer payment (such as Venmo) and new forms of lending and credit assessment.
  • The transportation and logistics industry is responding to trends in globalization, automation, and the rise of e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba.
  • Industrial products companies are struggling with decisions about how best to deploy sensors and artificial intelligence to improve their products’ performance and reduce cost.
  • The energy industry is coping with low oil prices, new government regulations, and emotional consumer sentiment on both sides of the fracking, renewable energy, and coal debates.

If your business hasn’t felt the effect of massive market changes yet, it’s likely that you will soon. And if you wait until disruption occurs, it will be too late to respond effectively.

You must grow your business, but most growth initiatives entail risk of one kind or another. I often hear company leaders saying things like, “Our core business is at risk of disruption. We need to branch out into new businesses to grow, but we don’t have all the capabilities we need—they’re not in our DNA,” or, “We’re in unfamiliar terrain and aren’t sure that customer demand will materialize. There are lots of unknowns.”

To pursue growth, leaders and employees must learn to do things they have never done before, and they must grapple with new threats. All of this adds up to the fact that trying to grow a business in today’s turbulent markets is pretty scary—it’s perfectly reasonable and rational for company leaders to be worried. I developed the new rules of fearless growth to help leaders create organizations that have the courage, speed, and agility to succeed, no matter what the future brings.

 

“To pursue growth, leaders must grapple with new threats.” -Amanda Setili

 

Establish Forward Momentum

What can companies do to grow fearlessly, even when their business environment is changing fast?

When leaders encounter risks in their business environment, the natural human response is to hunker down, tighten the controls, and defend the existing business. What is needed, however, is not tightening controls, but the opposite. You need a fearless approach to learning and adapting to market change, and that means giving up a degree of control—to employees, business partners, and customers—in order to gain control. It’s like learning to ride a bike. At first, the bike seems tipsy and unstable, but once you start going, the movement itself creates stability.

Capitalize on the Gig Economy

Gig Economy

Introducing the New World of Work

 

Work is changing.

Technology continues to change everything, and work is no exception. In just a few years, we have seen companies emerge from Uber to Instacart. New digital platforms are emerging that explore different business models.

Marion McGovern founded M Squared Consulting and Collabrus. Her new book Thriving in the Gig Economy: How to Capitalize and Compete in the New World of Work, is a thoughtful exploration of the new world of work. Whether you’re looking to make some extra money or you’re in management, you will want to familiarize yourself with these trends.

 

“The best gig is the one you’ve got.” –Live Shreiber

 

Gig and the New Economy

What is the Gig Economy?

Before I answer that question, let’s clarify the meaning of the word “gig.”  The term was first used with jazz musicians in the 1920s, where they would book one club for a week and another for a few days in a different club across town. A gig referred to work that could vary in duration and was for a variety of employers.  So gigs have been around for a long time. I started my company, M Squared Consulting, in 1988 to match independent consultants with projects. It was a gig economy company long before the term had even been coined. The “Gig Economy” refers to the people who work independently for a variety of entities as well as the companies that enable that work, both the new digital talent platforms, as well as traditional intermediaries and staffing companies.  Additionally, you could include the vast eco system that has sprung up to support this work, including co-working space, productivity apps, collaboration tools, and financial service products targeted at the independent workforce.

 

Successful gig workers have grit, resilience and learn from mistakes.

 

A few years ago, you received two calls that got your attention in a new way. How did that alter your thinking?

Actually there were three random and unrelated calls from venture capitalists and private equity guys who wanted to talk to me about digital talent platforms. One idea was for a platform for professional moms who wanted to work flexibly after the kids were older. Another was to build a pool of on-demand oil field services workers in Western Africa, and the third was to create a product to hire recent college graduates into entry level management positions in a way that would require no human intervention.  All of the players were technologists who had never run a service business, let alone a people-intensive one.  Much of the magic was to be in the algorithms which would match talent and opportunity seamlessly and quickly.  Many of the fairly basic questions I asked—like who would hire the moms? Would they be employees or contractors? And how would the platform make money?—had not yet been answered.  I was struck by the disconnect of talent being the most important thing to the success of an organization, but nonetheless the goal was to eliminate humans in the process of securing that talent. It inspired me to take a much deeper dive into the burgeoning world of digital talent platforms.

 

How is the Gig Economy growing?

Find a Common Mission to Engage Employees

thread

Find a Common Mission, Vision and Purpose

Despite billions of dollars of investments, organizations around the globe see employee engagement stagnant at only 13%.

David Harder, author of The Workplace Engagement Solution: Find a Common Mission, Vision, and Purpose With All of Today’s Employees, believes that CEO’s can successfully awaken the culture, and that you can create an enthusiastic culture and loyal customers. David is the founder of Inspired Work. Over 42,000 participants have engaged in his program to change careers, become better leaders, and launch businesses.

I asked him about his engagement ideas.

 

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” -Socrates

 

What are some of the characteristics of a culture that it truly “engaged”?

An engaged culture promotes continuous learning so that employees are not only growing, they are staying ahead of change. Even better, they are bringing positive change into the organization.

An engaged CEO or business owner leads an engaged culture. If she or he is disengaged from the culture, the employee population will also be disengaged.

An engaged culture recognizes that everyone walks in the door with various sets of life skills. Therefore, the organization makes sure everyone has the necessary life skills to change and engage. These include sales, presentations skills, the ability to influence, and clarity in how to build a vitally effective support system.

Self-reflection is encouraged in a strongly engaged culture. At Cornerstone on Demand, executives routinely ask questions such as, “What’s your next move?” “Where are you going next?”  After seven years employees are given a sabbatical for self-reflection. The point is, we cannot have engagement without a connection to one’s own truth. We have proven this thousands of times in our programs, which are question driven.

 

“More than 80% of America’s workers don’t like what they do for a living.” –David Harder

 

I’ve featured many people on this site talking about the problem of engagement. The stats are remarkable. We didn’t have sophisticated surveys years ago. Do you think this is a new phenomenon?

In the scheme of things, surveys are a bit old-school. The problem with surveys is they don’t produce change. Unless there is a solid commitment to produce an engaged culture, they often create more harm than good.

My point in The Workplace Engagement Solution: Find a Common Mission, Vision, and Purpose With All of Today’s Employees is that the majority of workers are checked-out, to various degrees. Getting them back requires a visionary commitment from the leadership but it also requires that we teach people how to change and engage. Notice that I rarely use one work without the other. Right now, according to a recent New York Times study, 48% of Americans view themselves as “underemployed.”  This is also a staggering number and yet it is reflective of workers at odds with keeping up with change.

 

Gallup: Only 13% of the world’s workers are engaged.

 

The Importance of Mission