Part 1: Starting Corporate Innovation Program

I am writing this in TWO main parts:

  1. PART 1: RECHARGE with 2 phases:
    1. First Wave: Rebuild Engagements
    2. Second Wave: Rethink Business Strategies
  2. PART 2: REWARD with 2 phases:
    1. First Wave: Reimagine Products & Services
    2. Second Wave: Relaunch Success

PART 1: RECHARGE

Purpose of Recharge is to enable the organization to be aware and find some clarity there’s something new coming for them. They need to contribute, be part of and develop this new initiatives together. In other words, their participation is crucial. Often in some discussion from my experiences, I found some of this innovation is only circumvented from a particular department or division. What makes matter worse if innovation is deemed “IT – information technology” department.

The top management should get consented from the Board for strategic innovation initiatives such as Corporate Innovation. The Board should support this and getting them early is going to make your job easier later on. Hiding behind buying tech gadgets and solutions will only make things difficult not too far ahead. Best to come clean with strong and strategic proposals.

First Wave: Rebuild Engagements

  1. Find a department / division that’s willing to engage the people across the organization – collaboration is paramount. Naturally, the HR is positioned to do so, however I have seen in many organizations, the HR tend to be operational-ONLY. They are not interested with people development beyond the usual training, training and training. If this is the case of your HR Head, you will have a lot problems in doing something disruptive and different. Visionary HR head knows they will reap the rewards very soon when they support and open up the floodgate of ideas from the workforce.
  2. Some HODs/HODivs from IT or Corporate Strategy or CEOs office, could be useful in driving Corporate Innovation. Keyword to look for is someone that is “willing to engage across the organization”. I have seen IT heads doing this. Word of caution, some IT heads are too technical and prefer to do remotely – avoid this too. We could help you find out as well using our assessment method – in case you are asking.
  3. Run a 1-2 months “Ideation / Ideathon / Ideanation / Hackathon / Idea Tournament” program – where you collect ideas across the company. You can either open in up to “any ideas” or you can zoom in to few areas such as “People, Process, Product, Services, Technology etc..”. Avoid too much complicated jargon, key is to get as much participation as possible and the soonest possible.
  4. You can ask the workforce to send ideas via email, google form, whatsapp, ideabox or idea management platform (we got this covered).
  5. Ideas start pouring in and you will need to sort them. Here is where you need cross departments committee to help sorting. Again, find people that are willing during this first round. With idea management platform, you will find this sorted in matter of hours instead of days!
  6. Once ideas are sorted, you can rank those ideas and select top 30 ideas (for example) to go to deep dive innovation skills program or innovation lab and tap into all the interesting ideas.
  7. Make sure you give recognition to everyone (yes everyone) that contributed to the ideas pool. Not that difficult to do, automate a simple certification or organize a get together ideators with the top bosses.
  8. Your innovation lab could be a 3-5 days immersive design thinking workshop with emphasis on building empathy, business models and users jobs to be done.
  9. Forget about the technology or ROI or bottomlines or profit rates or cost of developing for now. Let the ideas bloom and let them pitch it as it is.
  10. Evaluate all ideas in a simple pitching competition, let the ideators find their own team members internally to grow those ideas. The management team could become the ideas judge or evaluator to get a sneak peek of what’s available from their workforce. Go there with an open mind.

Ok, now you completed the Part 1: Recharge: First Phase (Rebuild Engagements). Reach out to me for clarification. Meanwhile, I’ll be writing the Part 1 Second Wave: Rethink Business Strategies.

Brickbats please email to donkhairul@gmail.com

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How Marketing Department Lost It’s Gusto?

There’s little we hear today about Marketing Department (or Division) these days? Don’t we? What we hear about Marketing today is about launching events after events. The department role has become launching organizers. They are very good at dealing with event coordinators, medias and gifts companies. Is that what Marketing department supposed to do?

Well, at least that’s one of it, we called it marketing communication. Ideally, what is marketing? What is the main function of marketing department? How should we measure marketing success? Why marketing matters? Let me.

“What Is Marketing? “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (Approved July 2013 by American Marketing Association – AMA)”

Source: https://www.ama.org/the-definition-of-marketing/

According to Peter Drucker, “The two basic functions of a business enterprise are Marketing & Innovation. All the rest are costs. Marketing & Innovation produce results. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Source: Peter Drucker, What Is A Business?

If the purpose of business is to create customer through innovation (Drucker), the purpose of marketing is to help the organization sees the satisfaction desired by the customers in terms of values and needs. This is where, in my opinion, the beginning of marketing department downfall, lately.

The marketing department as we know it, no longer help the organization sees the customers values and needs, neither, make effort to understand the customers values and needs. Yes, the customers are changing, fickleminded and indecisive. We know these customers behaviours for very long already, nothing new.

Marketing Activities

There are at least four main marketing activities. The 4Ps (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) . The marketing department through its marketing activities, need to drive the decisions in these areas.

In Product – marketing department through its customers research, it will generate new products (or services) ideas and solutions. They will also look at the existing products, are they making profit? Or they are just product line up that is making losses year after year? The marketing team should have enough data on this. Do they have this data? The marketing department can only see what is in the pipeline but can they create new? Does the marketing team knows USP – unique selling proposition of the products (and services)?

In Price – marketing department will help set the pricing policies looking at the varying customer segments in their midst. They will know how much margin or mark up or profit or volume they need to generate for the business to grow. Are they making the decisions today? Or is it done by the finance group? How does marketing team influence this decision?

In Place – marketing department look at the distribution channel of the products. In today’s business, there are online and offline distribution channels. Does the marketing department has the people to do online marketing? Do they know the customers experiences in these two areas are different? How does the marketing team use the data collected? How does the marketing team work with the offline retailers, distributors and wholesellers? Do they have these strategies? Or is currently these being done by customer experience department? Or big data unit that is reporting to IT department?

In Promotion – marketing department set the promotional strategies including sales team deployment. Setting sales strategies, incentives and ammunitions. Is the marketing department still doing this? Or has this been delegated to sales department? Ohh yeah, this is also where marketing runs events to promote and advertise the “solutions” valued and needed by the customers. They do it through communication with the medias and PR companies. In promotion, marketing department also continually asssessing the brand value as seen by the customers.

After looking at all above, it turns out the marketing function as it was, has been broken down to myriad other units that are more specifics, more objective and relatable to the customers worldview as needed by the organization. Because of that, the marketing department is it was, without breaking it into many other units, will become too big, too slow and bureaucratic. That’s how marketing lost it’s gusto.

Wither Marketing Budget?

As a result, marketing department budget now filled with events budget and it become less strategic. In my humble opinon, marketing department too, has to be blamed. The people inside marketing team already out of touch with the customers realities. They department relies too too too heavily from the agencies, vendors and suppliers to give them reams of reports about the customers.

Marketing department rarely goes down to the “market” to talk to the customers. They refused to listen to the customers feedbacks and listen to their stories. Marketing department people prefer to man events at big and posh hotels while drinking coffee and smoke cigars – to them, the hotel is the prestige defined as “great branding” and “credibility” by the customers.

Marketing department create products in their office. They look at the quantitative data without an iota believe that they need qualitative data too – customers insights and pain points stories. Marketing department people do not go down to meet the engineers at the manufacturing plant to see the product development themselves. All they ask for are photos to make brochures and marketing kits. That too, the marketing department ask the agencies to go and get them.

Direction-less Heads

The marketing department also busy attending high flying and international conferences in the name of “benchmarking”, “new strategies” and “power networking”. Funnily, the one that usually get to go to these kind of pampered and full board events are the bosses of marketing department and above.

They go and come back – then nothing happened. The bosses snap loads of pictures of the slides and whatsapp them to the team. Instructing the team to do this and that – ASAP. The next year, the same bosses go again and again and again. It became the viscisous cycle that everybody knew – except the bosses. That’s how marketing department lost it’s gusto. With all the happenings in the marketing deparment, the top management should follow the advise of David Packard (Hewlett Packard), “Marketing is too important to be left to the Marketing Department.”

The marketing department also detest any other department that take away their budget in the next financial year. Now the next upcoming department that, if not careful, will fall just like the marketing department, it is the IT department.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Corporate Innovation Pain Points

*First appeard on LinkedIn in April 2019

Corporate Innovation Program is the buzz word these days for very good reason. The awareness and action of many companies responding to change is getting better because “innovation” a must have agenda for top management and high level discussion including nations alike. The focus of innovation is “awakened” in the last few years so much so the word leadership has become low-key. I for one advocate leaders with big title if they couldn’t innovate their days are numbered or they should be shown the door. Run!

Innovation for it’s best intention solving pain points of the organizations, also carry it’s own inherited pain points. Well, pain points may sound negative. However negative it may sound, it is almost impossible to resolve it indefinitely before any launch of corporate innovation projects. The pain points highlighted are meant to be aware of, taken into consideration and minimized its negativity impact when possible. Let the goals of the corporate innovation be our guiding light, not the pain points. After all, no pain no gain.

Here are the Five Pain Points:

1.Departmental / Divisional Fiefdom

Fiefdom is there not for a good reason, definitely to be tear down in corporate innovation. The fiefdom stems from who owns the corporate innovation project. It could be the IT, Sales, Human Resource or CEO’s office. This way the budget can be better spent and realized, it is just the project impact is risked. Fiefdom mindset drags collaboration on its feet so much so other department rather sees the project fail than doing well. Fiefdom limits the upside potentials of any corporate innovation project.

Steve Ballmer, formerly CEO of Microsoft once said, “After all the things we want to do is aligned, the final piece of the puzzle is how we work together.” The differences of views and opinions are critical to growth, yet, there are also the stumbling block of productivity when not handled well or fully understood.

2. “Seen All Done All Nothing New” Top Management

It is common these days to include diverse at the top management line up. Diversity is key and we all know that diversity has to be worked on and build. It wouldn’t come by itself. There’s a lot of trust building, empathic engagement and sheer intolerance of incompetent senior management. Their backgrounds while may be helpful on their CV, when put to work they find themselves unable to take differentiated point of views and lack of willingness to change. They like the glory days of their past from other workplaces and using force (and bootlicks) to have it their way. New ideas shunned, opposing views silenced and change is too big to address because they have “seen all done all nothing new” mindset. They block any attempt to change by hoarding resources, veto decisions and play the upper hand with the Board or shareholders.

Top management that deter collaboration shouldn’t be in the line up at the first place. As we grow into leadership role at higher level, it is very much less about us, it is about them; our customers and our team members.

3. Only Pedigree Can Give Ideas

In this kind of organization, ideas are treated sacred. Only certain people deemed can give “great” ideas and only selected alumnus from certain universities can voice their opinions. The pedigree culture blocks other people from participating in what matters to the organizations. To make matters worst, pedigrees get rewarded handsomely that further reinforced unhealthy behaviours among peers and employees alike.

Developmental talent programs such as top talent sometimes create this unwanted differences in the day to day operations. The waiting culture seep in where without the pedigree there’ll be no decision of moving forward. No one is willing to make mistake because of huge career setbacks might affected their standing in the company and future development. The behaviours also could be manifested in negative ways such as bullying, narcissism and abuse of authortity.

4. Customer Voices Not Heard

With all the good business strategies and goals for the customers, there’s huge hesitation to talk to the customers to get feedbacks, opinions and suggestions. By the way who supposed to do it? Some say marketing, some say IT or procurement, maybe human resource? Everyone should do it. Sometimes the organization pressuring those “little” staffs at the counters with huge responsibilities to get feedbacks from the customers. Challenge is those little staffs are receptionists or call centre agents that have little means to understand the complexities of interactions happening with the products and services from across the organizations.

Besides, they also have limited authority to do customers recovery or beyond to directly attend to customers needs and wants. The survey provided with checklist won’t be able to extract feelings and emotions of difficulties of getting the services done.

Additionally, there is tendency to lead the customers to tick surveys quickly with long winded survey because customers are always in a hurry. Not knowing their pain points, struggles or hear their stories could lead to organization that is myopic of the challenges faced by their customers. This also applies to internal customers that are using our processes to get things done.

In some organizations, the quality policy used is different to meet certain standards, such as an independent Procurement department, whereby only the Procurement is certified with ISO 14001 and the rest do not. It is a mess!

5. Tools Before Strategy

It used to be Porter’s Five Diamonds, then Organizational Development, then Agile, then Lean, the Six Sigma, then Blue Ocean Strategies, then Design Thinking, then Heart Thinking and so on. These are tools. Someone said, “A tool and a fool seldom differ.”

Organization should put their business strategies above anything else. What do we want to achieve? How do we get there? What is our value? Who should be our target customers? What capabilities that differentiate us to deliver our value proposition? These are strategic questions called Strategic Five by strategy+business knowledge portal – let’s get down to basics.

Our answers (or no answer!) to these questions will help determine the “mix” of tools you might need. No one tool fits all strategic needs of any organization in today’s environment. One thing for sure, our people and workforce needs to learn more than one tool to make them nimble, agile and empowered in decision making when interfacing with the customers. Always remember, “structure follows strategy”.

Brickbats? Please email to donkhairul@gmail.com Thanks!