Case Study: Co-creation in Developing Innovation Culture

“Tough”. That was my reply to a client.

It is common in many organizations to have multi-generational challenge. Today’s speed of change force everyone to move out from their comfort zones. Here I wish to share a short case study from an organization uses co-creation as a facilitative tool in building Innovation Culture.


The senior managers felt the younger executives didn’t put enough effort to get things done more effectively. There was a perception that the younger executives lack innovation and creativity skills during execution with the clients. Because of that there has been delays in clients delivery and the Board has recommended action to be taken to remedy this situation. The clients impacted is seeking explanation and it may cause financial compensation if it is not resolved.

The Human Resource Division (HRD) has been tasked to come up with action plan and fix this amicably and in lightning speed.


The HRD hatched a plan that the younger executives need training on innovation and creative problem solving. After all it has been years they did not have any development on these skills.

After our discussion, we think training programs will not be effective, yet. We helped devise three key strategies to approach the Problem. There are:

  1. Both parties need to have a mutual session to air grievances.
  2. Generate ideas to make it work, no escape.
  3. Use the company shared values as our guiding principles. Nothing else.

We convinced our client to run ideation labs to together with the senior managers and young executives to build scaffolding to achieve those objectives. To our surprise, the labs generated hundreds of ideas and close to 50% ideas generated are something they could do together. They are still bonded when we brought in the shared values discussion. Great!


  1. The champions of culture are anyone from the organization. From non-executive to senior leaders. It used to be the champions were only Heads and senior leaders.
  2. The champions role are rotated and on 6 months role appointment. As the attendance requirement as champion is at least 80%, the role shouldn’t be a burden to anyone. Rotation allows others to participate and be inspired.
  3. Recognition of ANY contribution is direct from CEO. Recognition is in certificate of contribution signed by the CEO and little get together quarterly.
  4. Internal managers conference where best practices in the company are shared. What works in other company might not work in your company. Sharing them build trust and stronger cadreship.
  5. Open innovation program for everyone to contribute ideas from all levels. Trending internal ideas will be discussed together with strategic business focus.

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How to Take Advantage of Mentoring in Organizational Development (OD) and Leaders Development

In the last few years OD has become very popular framework to redesign holistic people & leaders development for large organizations. In this “renewed” war on talent, where it is no longer about quantity of talent that matters rather it is more about quality or right talent that is in dire need for most organizations. Although we hear several companies in manufacturing, banking and IT are making layoffs, the way I see it these companies are retaining and keeping their best talents braving the perfect storm coming their way.

One common theme in OD is mentoring and coaching. I have worked with several clients to design part of OD components (few get implemented), but often OD becomes a long list of training programs after training programs with various consultants and trainers (internal and external). There is little thought in optimizing the OD outcomes to the organization. I think we shortchanged ourselves by not taking advantage of mentoring. The mentoring portion often not implemented because “too much resources needed” to roll out.

Here I wish to share how organizations can take advantage of mentoring in OD. This is simple, practical and implementable at small scale, which later can be scaled up further.

A. Decide 1-2 mentoring goals. Yes, just one or two goals first. I learn from behavioural change model, once we are able to change one or two behaviours, our confident level improves and we start to tackle other challenges next. Example mentoring goals are:

  1. Developing leaders for non-core businesses
  2. Retaining Gen-Y workforce in key positions
  3. Promoting high performance Gen-X for global expansion
  4. Improve customers base for new products and services
  5. Supporting emerging leaders for career direction
  6. Encouraging leaders to learn and develop each other

B. Find and recruit the people and leaders that most attracted to mentoring and people development. Often not all top executives love mentoring idea because they need to make time for it. However, OD chief needs to be able to present a compelling business case for it. Prep sometime with the CEO prior this engagement. Bring along several key talents in the initial meeting to convince the CEO.

C. Present a business case that outlines the following:

  1. Mentoring goals.
  2. Business SWOT – Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat
  3. Skills available and acquired in the company – identify the leaders (potential mentors)
  4. Skills required and needed in the company – identify the content (potential faculties)
  5. Rolling out plan and scheduling (start small – have 2-3 mentors assigned to less than 10-12 talents)
  6. Guidelines, processes and coordination (keep it minimal and spartan)
  7. Measurement of outcomes and duration (6-12 months is enough)
  8. Monitoring plan and expectations
  9. Proposed investment (only include this once the rest has been thoroughly discussed with CEO and CFO)

D. Say if you still find it difficult, here you can do it the stealth way:

    1. Find organizational leaders that love people.
    2. Find talents that show exceptional performance and demonstrate leadership qualities.
    3. Conduct 30-45 minutes behavioural interviews with your colleague or partners.
    4. Find good matching between the leaders (mentors) and talents (protégés)
    5. Speak to friendly direct supervisors of this plan (recruit the direct supervisor to oversee the development)
    6. Prepare some basic guidelines for mentors and protégés.
    7. Roll out under stealth mode.

I personally feel that mentoring has strong and deep developmental advantages other than training programs. Mentoring has talent retaining effect too!

Having a basic level mentoring program would enhance training programs done in the company because the participants will contextualized what they learn and relate it back to the organization when meeting with their mentors.

Besides, the developmental programs can be more targeted and expanded based on feedbacks from the mentors.

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Building New Capabilities

It’s a rather late to wish Happy New Year, but i am just going to wish anyway; Happy New Year 2013. What are you up to in the middle of the year?

It took me awhile to digest what’s in store for this year. Fortunately i figured out that to stay ahead of the game i need to build new capabilities; individually and in business. Often people will ask why, how and what are new capabilities? I don’t know much but i can provide some thoughts into the Why and How but not What.

Why- i remember Drucker mentioned a very important observation in his book Innovation & Entrepreneurship. He said when there’s a significant shift in demographic but more importantly meaning to something, there’ll be a big move. I guess because meaning is emotive so it makes people to feel more. Therefore when this happen, we can and need to surf together with that change.

For example, we all know the most talked about multigenerational workforce issue especially with Gen-Y, it’s a significant demographic change in terms of social structure. But more importantly is how Gen-Y has a different meaning about work. This has caused chaos at the beginning and problematic for some people and organization. However after some years, change started to seep in and Gen-Y assimilated or rather accepted in the workforce, the entire organizational perspective changed.


In fact now there are many efforts done to make Gen-Y adaptable and many new jobs created. These are new capabilities. Business will thrive when they found new capabilities.

The new business capabilities reside in leveraging the new generation or some called it Gen-Millenium (mixed of X, Y n so forth). But how to do it?

How- this is similar to a time when you already have a driving license and a car but you dont know where to hang out and who to hang out with. With new capabilities you actually can do much more and risk much less.

This is where organization development role come into the picture. The new workforce has huge untapped energies in them that if put to good use can do wonders. While development programs are targeted to new generation, often the seniors and leaders are left out or out of touch with today’s reality of the workforce.

Very few willing to change, and a lot more actually dont know how and what to change. Two worlds developed differently choreographed by the HR. Unless the HR is well informed and be a true business partner to the CEO, this can lead to organization disconnect; talent gaps, expansion limitation, execution challenges and redundancies.

A closer to reality and medium term human capital & OD projection planning can help these new capabilities are fully leveraged. There’ll be no evident of loss, but certainly huge economic losses can be expected when done wrongly.

In conclusion, organization leaders have to embrace and brave enough to open up and at the same time drive change from the top. Energies can only be managed and channelled, but it will never be depleted. It just takes different forms.

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