Bridging Silos

October 20, 2014 by

Bridging Silos

As we emerge from the Industrial age to the Age of Information, no longer will it be efficient to have core groups working independently toward a shared corporate goal. No longer will it make sense for any one person or team to have specialized skills and experience with only in one product, technology, geographic area. Indeed, globalization and the age of information has amplified and accelerated the range of our choices and opportunities, and only the nimblest will survive and succeed, leveraging technology to deliver customized solutions.

In this new age, teams must be global, even if they specialize in one geographic region, engineers must not only leverage their technical aptitude and skills, but also be business-minded and customer-focused, people must see things well beyond their current reality of training, background, experience and backgrounds, and leaders must facilitate the breaking down of silos.

This is no small challenge for any corporate leader, especially when processes, thinking and reward structures are still based on the old way of doing business. It is a challenge of seeing-beyond the data, and transcending what’s in front of you into an integrated opportunity bringing together people, groups, organizations and industries each of whom has a piece of the puzzle. But bridging silos will foster innovation in many ways:

It expands the vision for the product/service/team/organization.

  1. Everyone is immersed in her/his own reality. Be receptive to meeting people beyond yourself, your team, your role, your organization so that you can see beyond your reality, and a larger world of possibilities. For example, Blockbuster was so immersed in its volumes of sales, mass production and delivery process, efficient brick and mortar stores and warehouses, that they were to slow to adopt first mail order solutions and next the digital download evolution benefiting companies like Netflix and Amazon.
  2. Each person, team, organization has areas of specialty, and entertaining connections with others who don’t think and act like he/she does, who may have complementary areas of specialty may potentially expand the vision and possibilities for all. Indeed, the strategic executive conversations about where we are and where we want to go often include how to integrate different people, technologies, markets and even companies into the current direction to obtain a larger impact and reach.

Technology companies have an opportunity to leverage proven technologies in ways that better serve people and the earth. This is not just a great business opportunity, but also a great feel-good option.

  1. The processes and technologies successfully implemented in other industries can be applied directly in the education sector, supporting our students and teachers, facilitating engagement between students, faculty, administration and the community, while also reducing the complexity involved in delivering customized solutions.
  2. Technology companies are investing in saving resources, distributing and generating power, and serving the needs of a power-hungry world.
  3. Technology companies are leveraging software and technology to support our evolving and expanding healthcare IT needs, serving hospitals and healthcare organizations as well as patients and providers across the value chain.

It will better speak to the needs of the customer, and an expanding breadth of customers.

  1. Bridging silos of people and groups from a diverse range of geographic locations will help everyone understand the differing needs and interests of markets around the world, and addressing and anticipating them as they evolve.
  2. Bridging silos between genders and generations will also help all stakeholders better understand, anticipate and serve the evolving needs of the customers.
  3. Bridging silos between roles, particularly connecting entrepreneurs and marketing/sales departments will help both sides understand the needs of the customer, and create a tech-based solution that addresses these needs.

It facilitates a culture of diversity and tolerance which is healthy for your team, and attractive to new prospective members of your team.

  1. Every year, companies vie for the privilege of being the best place to work as it leads to the hiring and retention of the best and the brightest. Invariably the companies on that list also have exceptional programs that encourage diversity, the bridging of silos, the collaboration between business units, teams and people.
  2. This brand of being the best-place-to-work is a proactive cycle for improved hiring and retention: The more good and happy people you have, the easier it is to serve them, and improve your service to them, the better your ratings are, the more attractive you are to other people and the people already on staff.

Below are some suggestions for bridging silos in your organization:

  1. Embrace people, ideas and things that stretch your comfort zone, and explore why he/she/they make you feel uncomfortable.
  2. Reward collaborations and communications between silos.
  3. Put the right people in the right role to facilitate the bridging of silos. Leaders and managers who had previously succeeded may not be best positioned to now lead.
  4. Train high-potentials to go deep within at least one area, but float between different areas as well.
  5. Speak and encourage others to speak in the context of customer needs, no matter which silo(s) you belong to.
  6. Partner with academia to fund research, support instruction, share knowledge, address IT challenges, and support student innovators.
  7. Partner with entrepreneurs to foster innovative new uses of proven technologies and processes and to address anticipated needs in existing and new niche markets.
  8. Partner with policy-makers to support IT and process improvement needs and provide leadership on what you need to innovate.
  9. Collaborate with complementary competitors you trust when there is a win-for-all.
  10. See the problems around these silos and the opportunities if the silos were bridged.

The conclusion is that we have moved from the industrial revolution with its division of labor, manufacturing and supply chain management and specializing to an age of information, where technology drives sustainable and efficient processes to an ever-larger customer base. But the leaders in today’s new economy will move beyond that, and find opportunities to leverage what we’ve learned in the past to a new age of personalization, where companies will sustainably serve the customized needs of a demanding and expanding global customers. Breaking down silos is a fundamental requirement for remaining competitive in this new age.

Connective Behaviors That Spur InnovationThis post was originally published as a Chapter entitled ‘Bridging Silos’ from EMC’s eBook on ‘Connective Behaviors That Spur Innovation’, first published March 2013.

Walking Points

October 17, 2014 by

Walking PointThe September 2014 article The Four Reasons Working Relationships Fail highlights Dr. John Gottman’s University of Washington study identifying four behavioral indicators which led with 93% accuracy to the dissolution of a marriage: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.

It is our contention that there are ten unsurmountable behaviors, leaving leaders little option but to disengage when possible, or just hope for the best when not. We hope that defining these ‘walking points’, will help people think about what they can change and whether they should move on.

Expect Respect

  1. Respect for others is a requirement for leaders from any chair. Holding others in contempt for not thinking, behaving, acting, doing something like you should be done makes you difficult to be with, even if you are right. For it’s not about being right, it’s valuing the right for others to do things differently, and being open to thinking that things could or should be done differently.
  2. Feedback is a terrific learning tool, and delivered in a positive, constructive way is a great way to learn. But constant and continual criticism, especially when attacking character and things-that-can’t-be-changed is very hard to live by. The bottom line is that you yourself should decide what you should change and whether and why that should be changed, and if the other person thinks it’s her/his right to make that decision for you, there will be no winners.

Communicate Directly

  1. Direct communication is a critical component of healthy relationships, so refusing to engage and work through feelings and issues is counter-productive. Being defensive and acting the victim may continue to bring up old problems and issues, but will not help you and the other party figure out how to fix the problem going forward.
  2. Similarly, avoiding and withdrawing confrontations and denying that problems exist will not help both parties understand and resolve the issues at hand.

Timing’s Everything

  1. In a work relationship where roles are defined, one person may not be ready to assume the role she/he has been given. There may be a lack of maturity, understanding, knowledge, experience or ability to assume the role given, and both parties suffer. Unless both are able to change the way they need to interact with others, the relationship is doomed to fail.
  2. Similarly, it’s hard to separate work and life – life happens and someone perfectly reasonable and capable may not be emotionally, spiritually, physically able to get the job done. Unless she or he is able to recognize that and make changes, others who work with this person are required to carry the load, bail out the project, take the blame, etc.

No-Jerks Allowed

  1. People who are self-centered and selfish may be OK to work with in the short term, but in the end, their focus on themselves and their own self-interest, even putting it in front of the team, the company and others, will lead to their downfall. I hope that you’re not part of that journey.
  2. People who are not jerks by nature, but who are entrenched in how things should work and inflexible about adopting anything or anyone new wind up also dooming the company. It’s not your job to help them become more flexible – if you find someone inflexible, find another relationship or role.
  3. People who are not jerks by nature, but who lack the competence and experience to lead might find themselves indecisive and fickle when making decisions, and find themselves easily blaming others when things don’t go as expected.

Everybody’s Different

10. It’s all about chemistry. You could work with a stellar boss or co-worker and all pistons would fire no matter what you do together. And that same person can’t work successfully with anyone else. And vice versa! So if it’s just not working for you, no matter how hard you work to make it a productive, collaborative relationship, it might be time for one or both of you to move on.

These are our thoughts on behaviors that lead to failed relationships. What are yours?

Next month, we’ll talk about politics in the workplace – the games that people play and what to do about it.

The Next Generation Leader

October 13, 2014 by


We talked about how a collaborative, consultative leadership style will be favored in the Next Generation Workforce, as we emerge into the Age of Personalization, but what does that mean? What should you select for in the hiring process and whom should you groom? How do you know that you have the right person in the right role and entice the right people to join up? Below are our thoughts.

  1. Collaborative – The world will be filled with a wide range of stakeholders working within a dynamic ecosystem. It’s hard to know all the players and their motivations. Collaborating with a range of stakeholders and aligning on objectives and goals is an essential ingredient for successful leadership and management.
  2. Consultative – Consulting with the range of stakeholders to understand their motivations and perspectives will help you better collaborate with all, and get the engagement of all.
  3. Ethical – Leaders will be ever more in a fish bowl, under a microscope. Doing the right thing, having values that matter, advocating for customers and others, etc., have to be part of who you leader is, day-in and day-out. It’s not a mask you can put on, a costume you can don. It’s who they are inside, shining out. Select someone who is truly ethical, not just someone with a great veneer.
  4. Tech-Savvy – The world and the people in it will be driven by tech, as it’s the only way to deliver what the customers demand. Being tech-savvy enough to get-the-tech and how tech will drive the business are an essential ingredient for success.
  5. Customer-Focused – It’s about the customer – knowing them well and serving them well. There is no room for debate.
  6. Other-Focused – Ever putting others first is a path to growth and learning, no matter which chair you’re sitting on.
  7. Experienced – Look for a leader who has depth in at least one specific area, and exposure to a range of areas – technologies, products, markets, businesses, etc., Depth and breadth of experience will help leaders integrate the input and message from all the data sources and make measured, data-based decisions.
  8. Flexible – Pivoting will be part of all business models in an Age of Personalization, so leaders who are flexible enough to pivot, and intelligent enough to know why it needs to be done and how it should be done will prevail.
  9. Self-Aware – Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as well as the needs of the company, and constantly overlaying one with the other by being self-aware will help ensure that you’re right for the company and vice versa.
  10. Outspoken – Speaking your mind in a way that respects the input and rights of others will help set a direction that all can buy into – an essential leadership quality in the new age.

These are our thoughts on the qualities of a next-generation leader? Share your thoughts by e-mailing us at

Innovation Hurdles

October 13, 2014 by

Innovation Hurdles

In an age teeming with opportunities to serve tech-savvy, global, demanding customers, corporations are actually finding it much more difficult to innovate.

Pressure to Perform

  1. The pressure to make money for all stakeholders in the short term makes it much more difficult to fund people and programs even once removed from the immediate revenue path, which includes research and development.

Silos Abound

  1. Innovating for customers involves understanding the needs of the customer and collaborating with various internal departments, including sales, marketing, engineering, operations, support and finance and various geographical units of the organization in order to deliver what the customer wants.
  2. Unfortunately, collaboration between groups, divisions, roles, and geographies has not historically been rewarded, to the extent that for many people and companies, it’s difficult to meet and know others not within your team, location, level or role.

The Acquisition Path

  1. Partly because of the decimation of R&D budgets and the lack of communication and connections between internal groups, many corporations have elected to go the acquisition path in order to innovate and expand.
  2. Unfortunately, this M&A path is a mixed bag at best – the challenge becomes to integrate a new product/service/offering/operations/team with existing sets of same. This is generally never an easy task and few have done it well, particularly when companies get large.
  3. In fact, the divestments, spin-outs and going-private choices we’ve recently witnessed are testament to the fact that not all purchases and integrations work well. The market might not be there. The tech integration might be too big an obstacle. The strategy might not have worked as intended, or the execution may falter.

The Opportunity

  1. As we’ve stated in previous posts, the Age of Personalization will introduce fervent, demanding customers with high expectations for integrated, customized solutions that deliver exactly what they want and need, immediately, in every facet of their lives.
  2. Corporations need to bridge their silos and create an innovation path to serve these customers or become irrelevant and lose their market edge.
  3. Elements of successful offerings for the next age include:
    1. Big-data driven, for that’s the only way to individualize offerings efficiently
    2. Global, reaching customers where they are
    3. Modular, so that it can be integrated with other solutions
    4. Operationally efficient, for that’s the only way to deliver to the door cost-effectively
    5. Mobile and web-enabled, so you reach the platforms used by the customer
    6. Cloud-based, so that solutions can be efficiently managed, secured, and scaled
    7. Social, so that customers can easily spread the word and become ambassadors
    8. Collaborative, so that you can better coordinate within an organization and across stakeholder groups
    9. Dynamic, so that solutions can be easily updated based on feedback from any source
    10. Scalable, so that the solution can grow and satisfy customers, expand to new markets and even expand to new solutions

See a future post with more descriptions under each element above.

10.  Winning corporations need to be tech-driven, customer-focused and able to bridge silos and work collaboratively with partners across the ecosystem. Read our Connections at the Leadership Crossroads post for tips on identifying these types of leaders.

These are our thoughts on hurdles to innovation – what are yours? Your thoughts are welcome at

Women Leading Innovation

October 10, 2014 by


FountainBlue’s October 10 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Leading Innovation. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a range of panelists from different companies, roles, educational and functional backgrounds, and perspectives on the table, all with such deep and successful experience around innovation. They shared their perspectives on what innovation is:

  • Innovation is sometimes in-elegant, taking a more circuitous path, rather than taking the planned course.
  • Hence failing quickly and failing forward is an essential component of innovating.
  • Innovation comes from the top down – leadership needs to believe in it and empower it from the bottom up.
  • Innovation comes from the bottom up, from any chair – leadership needs to encourage original, out-of-the-box thinking, no matter who has what role or title.
  • Exposing yourself to new ideas and people may lead to thinking, speaking or acting differently may lead to a innovative business solutions or ideas.
  • Collaboration is a key ingredient of innovation, whether it’s internal with your team and organization or with the ecosystem of partners, providers and customers.
  • Innovation is a moving target – what’s innovative today will soon get outdated. Continue to focus on technology advancements and the needs of the customer to help ensure that innovations remain relevant.

They generously shared their wisdom and advice about innovation.

  • Communicate the larger purpose and story, in order to receive the resources, people and funding for innovative projects.
  • Innovative leaders welcome a range of perspectives on to their teams and extended teams, so have an open mind-set and culture, team and organization attracts and retains the best innovators. With that said, it’s difficult to facilitate this out-of-the-box, rule-breaking mind set within a corporation, so walk that fine line so that you stay within the culture while lightly pushing the boundaries.
  • Take a customer-driven perspective and understand the needs, pains and problems of the customer, so that you can improve their user experience and support their objectives. (Women may have an edge here, as they are naturally more empathic and other-focused.)
  • Adopt an inclusive mind set, facilitate a culture of innovation for your team and organization, and help create tangible opportunities to share ideas and fund innovation facilitates innovation within corporations.
  • Be warm and accepting of yourself and surrounding yourself with others who support you for who you are will help create a more open, safer culture of innovation.
  • Focus on program innovation rather than project innovation so that you can coordinate across departments and deliver across the life cycle of the product, and continue to serve the needs of the customer. If you focus just on a one-time project development, you may not get the long-term support you need for the product to succeed, and you may not get integrated support from all departments throughout the product life cycle.
  • Manage how much energy is invested in any innovation idea. Make sure that it’s needed and practical now, or plan for adopting a concept in the future.
  • Define and communicate boundaries of time and energy to protect your personal life, while supporting the innovation goals for yourself and for your team.
  • Get the support you need to remain positive, flexible and innovative, whether it’s within your corporate women’s group, within an external growth, amongst your community and friends, etc.,
  • Be willing to be uncomfortable! Innovators buck the status-quo – that may make YOU uncomfortable, but it will certainly make many others uncomfortable, and successful innovators know how to manage that for themselves, their teams, their customers and sponsors.

In the end, successful innovators want to stretch themselves, stretch what technology can offer, stretch their view of the world – and others benefit from their successes.


Please join us in thanking our hosts at eBay and our speakers below:

Facilitator Christine Kohl-Zaugg, Founder & CIO, BluBubble

Panelist Serpil Bayraktar, Principal Engineer, Chief Architect’s Office – Development, Cisco

Panelist Tasneem Brutch, Ph.D., Software Architect and Director of R&D, Samsung Research America

Panelist Gayathri Radhakrishnan, Director Strategy & Corporate Development, Dell Software

Panelist Kirsten Wolberg, VP of Technology, PayPal

Leading Beyond Complacency

September 24, 2014 by


What’s the opposite of innovation? I say it’s complacency, the thought that the status quo is good enough, and will always be good enough. Standing still in an age where technology and business just keeps moving faster is a recipe for extinction, a disaster for all stakeholders.

As a leader for companies large and small, consider that Data, Sensor, Software, Network and Operational Advancements will continue to automate, connect and serve people at lower costs. Understanding how and when that will happen for your company and industry is the key.

Kudos to industry giants who are taking their expertise, customers and knowledge from their established, and sometimes old-school industries to the new-new. Examples include what Ingersoll Rand, long known for its industrial products, is now impressively offering Nexia Home Intelligence featuring electronic locks and thermostats from standard manufacturers including Schlage and TRANE and managed over mobile and web interfaces. Consider also what Philips, the giant Dutch electronics company with a large footprint in healthcare, is providing for 7 million people and at-risk individuals with alert systems for falls, a medication dispensing service, and remote monitoring, and what corporate giants GE and IBM and Siemens are doing to move into the clean energy, big data and healthcare space, and what Samsung and Apple are doing to expand from mobile phones and software to healthcare monitoring and apps.

Below are ten factors to consider as you lead from the old way of doing things, to the new opportunities ahead.

Industry Considerations

  1. What are the opportunities ahead for your company and your industry as a whole? How close are you to a commoditization, where price is the main factor to consider? What will you do about it?
  2. What are the market and customer trends leading to this state, and what can you do to continue serving current customers in a new way? What are your customers’ suggestions and feedback?
  3. What’s right about what you’ve done in the past and how can it be adapted to what you need in the future?

Technology Considerations

  1. What are the hardware, software, operational, and other innovations that are transforming your industry or adjacent industries?
  2. How does your company’s offerings fit with these technological innovations?
  3. What are your strategies for innovating technologies internally or in collaboration with others?
  4. What are your customers asking for that you can’t provide, and what opportunity are they pointing to?

Leadership Considerations

  1. Are you the right person to get your company from here to there? Are they the right people above, around and under you to deliver?
  2. What does complacency look like, sound like, feel like? How do you pose opportunities to shake up those that are too comfortable? How do you make it an idea they want and would lobby for?
  3. What if you, your company, your technology/product, your industry can’t go from here to there? What’s an elegant plan B? What would it take to get from here to there, and is it worth it?

We hope that the questions above help you expand your perspective beyond your usual thinking, speaking and doing, and shake up the complacency inside, around and over you.

Follow our blogs and curated content at or find out more about FountainBlue’s Pivot-or-Perish Approach to advising tech leaders.

The Next Generation Workforce

September 16, 2014 by

Ring of many hands team

The age of personalization will provide filtered, data-driven, relevant and actionable reports so that people, teams and businesses can better serve their customers and partners and other stakeholders. As businesses and business models morph in this direction, we will see a corollary shift in the workforce, reflecting these changes. Below are some anticipated trends.

There will be fewer full-time employees and Contractors Will Rule.

  1. As there are fewer full-time positions available, hiring managers want to make sure that the person who is hired is actually the right person for that job. Hence, there will be a marked increase in the temp-to-hire trend.
  2. Some workers like the opportunity to work flexible hours of the day, of the week, of the month, and some companies and hiring managers like only offering seasonal jobs, or only hiring to supplement current workforce for clearly identified pockets of time.
  3. There will also be an increase in per-project consulting, as there are fewer full-time employees and there may be less of a need for specific types of projects.
  4. Additionally, there will be an ongoing need for services not part of the core business function, be it operations or HR management or IT support.

The Roles We Assume at work will shift.

  1. There will be a greater need for generalists, people who have moved across functional areas and have the intelligence, efficiency and competence to work and communicate with a range of other people and groups.
  2. With that said, there will also be a need for people who have deep expertise in specific areas, particularly when it comes to mission-critical areas such as security and software development and technical oversight and leadership.

An Collaborative, Consultative Leadership Style will be favored.

  1. Leaders who are collaborative and consultative by nature will better communicate and engage with a diverse and broad range of stakeholders.
  2. Leaders who are visionary and inspirational in their thoughts, words and actions will command respect and attract the best people.

There is an increased need for workers who are Strategic Thinkers with Global Experience.

  1. Workers will be rewarded for shifting across industries, across geographies, across roles. Their range of experience will help them better understand the business, the needs of the customer, and better perform under a range of circumstances.
  2. Workers who have a broad and deep network are more connected with others and more influential.

For more information about the data behind the predictions above, or for a consultation on what-these-trends-mean-for-YOU, please contact us at

Women Making Their Own Rules

September 15, 2014 by


FountainBlue’s September 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Women Making Their Own Rules, featuring:

Facilitator Brenda Rogers, HR Strategies

Panelist Erna Arnesen, VP Global Channel & Alliance Marketing, Plantronics

Panelist Petra Hofer, Chief of Staff to Mark Carges, eBay

Panelist Xiaolin Lu, Fellow and Director of IoT Lab, Texas Instruments

Panelist Shveta Miglani, Talent Development Manager, Sandisk

Panelist Monica Shen Knotts, Senior Manager, Senior Manager, Enterprise Technology Strategy, Cisco

Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at Texas Instruments. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a range of women leaders on the panel. There was much diversity as they represented different companies, different educational backgrounds, different cultural experiences, and divergent paths to success within the corporate sector, but they also had much in common:

  • They consciously made their own rules for success, in environments which did not necessarily embrace women in leadership in general;
  • They rose to positions of impact, where they influence the executive direction, strategy and tactics for tech organizations across the valley;
  • They have touched the lives of many, and supported the growth of those around them;
  • They are clear, inspiring and direct communicators who speak from their heart and their experience, for the good of all.
  • They have changed roles, perspectives, product lines, and even industries, and continue in their forward growth personally and professionally.

They were generous enough to share their advice and wisdom.

  • Women who make their own rules don’t always get what they expect from doing so, but those who do it well, always benefit from doing so, and positively impact those they touched because they did so.
  • Being open to what others think, say and do helps you understand where others are coming from and why specific rules are in place. Understanding the purpose of these rules helps anyone break them in a way which makes better sense for all, should that be the choice.
  • Focus on whether a rule should be broken, and what the long term and short term consequences are for breaking these rules.
  • Build relationships with others so that you can socialize a concept before you take actions to shift, change, transform a rule.
  • Understand the spoken and unspoken rules, and always question whether these rules are the right rules and why.
  • Do what it takes to keep yourself and those around you engaged and impassioned, even if it means stirring the pot and breaking a few rules.
  • Know yourself and the values you stand for, and keep connected with that core self, as it will help you see rules which are overtly or subtly imposed on you, rules you may not necessarily choose to shape you or the direction you choose.
  • Be courageous enough to transcend social and other rules, letting your results and impact speak louder than social norms.
  • Consider the motivations of others who support or obstruct you from the breaking of rules.
  • Communication is key. Know your message, your purpose and your audience before you break any rules.
  • Celebrate creativity and innovation: Embrace the opportunities to think, speak and act differently. Do the uncomfortable by surrounding yourself with people who don’t think like you.

Memorable quotes from our dynamic panel:

  • Be the bamboo that bends but does not break.
  • Prove yourself in the boardroom, and go in wearing your Birkenstocks.
  • Ignore the voice on your shoulder that keeps telling you that you’re in over your head.
  • Assume positive intent from others who question your words, thoughts and actions (even if you know they don’t have your best interest in mind). It will help you be courageous enough to break a rule that must be broken.
  • Strategy, empathy, and passion are magical elements of the emotional intelligence you need to break those rules.
  • Effective rule-breaking must be a conscious, strategic choice.
  • Eggs will break when you make an omelet. Be prepared for the backlash, but also embrace the possibilities and up-sides.
  • An acronym for FEAR – false evidence appearing real.
  • Be respectful and appreciative of those who come before you, breaking the ground. Namaste, I honor you by bowing down


Ten Shades of Innovation

August 12, 2014 by


Innovation drives progress, stretches possibilities, expands thinking and revenues – it is the antithesis of complacency. The quest for innovation keeps people and companies current and vibrant. Pushing the innovation envelop keeps staff and customers alike engaged.

But how do you continue the quest for innovation when it’s so much easier to remain complacent and do what’s-worked-in-the-past? What kinds of innovation are there and how do you lobby for innovations that matter? Below are some things to consider in leading innovative thinking and acting.

Incremental Innovations

1. Faster – It’s a given that when an innovation takes off, like a personal computer or a cell phone, there will be innovations which would make the solution faster (with memory and broadband for example), more versatile and robust (with applications and storage for example), leading to increased adoption and markets for complementary products (like accessories) and services (security and access).

  • The iconic example of this type of innovation is around Moore’s Law: over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.
  • Chance favors the prepared mind. Louis Pasteur

Which pervasive innovations continue to rise in adoption and what solutions could be sold to those markets?

2. More Cost Effective – The technological and design innovations around materials, design, integration and development will make it increasingly more cost effective to adopt these tech innovations by a larger target customer base.

  • An increased knowledge of semiconductor materials and manufacturing processes has led to efficiencies for design and production and distribution, making technological solutions more widely available for lower costs.
  • Don’t confuse the art of the possible with the art of the profitable. David Tansley

If products in your market have become a commodity (like solar panels), what tech or process innovations would set your product line apart?

3. More Complex – Along those same lines, with the advancements of technologies and processes, more complex, integrated solutions become available and desirable.

  • We went from room-fuls of servers for (comparatively) miniscule amounts of data to gigabytes on a stick. Our cell phones can do more in complexity and processing than the Hubble telescope was designed to do.!
  • Some men look at things the way they are and ask why? Some men dream of things that are not and ask why not? Robert Kennedy

Think not about complexity for complexity’s sake, but about how being able to do complex things can help solve problems, even ones we didn’t know we had.

Process Innovations

4. More Streamlined Processes – Manufacturing and operational innovations supporting the design, production and distribution to those innovations are additional ways to innovate to gain market share.

  • While not the sexy original innovations that entice entrepreneurs and execs, focusing on this will drive revenues and market share.
  • Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure. Albert Einstein

What’s blocking your company from more efficiently executing and what can you and your team do about it? How would you better and more quickly serve the customer if you did so?

5. More collaboration – Collaborating with partners of all ilks, from distribution to development to advertising, will help innovators better understand and serve the ecosystem of partners, and get products and services into the hands of customers.

  • The Japanese define a keiretsu as a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings, an informal business group and loose collaborative alliance.
  • To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform. Theodore H. White

If we were to map our ecosystem of stakeholders, how could we each better and more collaboratively work with each other to better serve each other?

6. More Comprehensive – Moreover, deeper partnerships with a larger range of partners can facilitate the delivery of more comprehensive solutions to a broader range of stakeholders.

  • Service management has expanded and evolved from isolated fixes to comprehensive solutions which address deeper problems and systemic and infrastructure issues. The evolution of end-to-end IT services is an example of this and is impacting the traditional boundaries of IT, applications, groups and even organizational issues including governance, management, cross-group collaborations, etc.,
  • Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress. Ted Levitt

If we embrace a systemic, collaborative approach, how could companies better focus on delivering their core competencies while ensuring that the customer’s needs are addressed end-to-end?

Orthogonal Innovations

7. New markets – Another way to facilitate innovation is to open up new market opportunities for proven innovations widely embraced in specific geographies, within specific audiences to solve specific problems.

  • The more adoption there is, the easier it is to expand market share to current and new geographical and profile markets. However, the more difficult it might be to see those other new markets and opportunities, as the current ones are still doing so well.
  • Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. Albert von Szent-Gyorgy

There may be policy and technical hurdles, and of course the inevitable communication hurdles obstructing this adoption into new markets, but the opportunities will be there for those who are persistent, should there also be a need and a pain in that new market.

8. New Purpose – Proven innovations in one market may serve a new and original, or the same purpose in another market.

  • Consider how process innovations in the semiconductor market may impact development innovations in the clean tech or healthcare sector for example, or how IT can revolutionize healthcare.
  • Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport. Robert Wieder

What old solutions can be applied in a whole new way and change the way we all look at things and do things?

Original Innovations 

9. New Technology and Application – The telephone, the personal computer, the horseless carriage are all touted for being original innovations, far different than what-existed-before.

  • If your quest is for that original innovation, consider the detailed profile of your target customer and the painful need which your solution would serve. Get that funding behind the customer validation and design to the requirements of your target audience.
  • All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them. Galileo Galilei

Keep a log of what-you-wish-you-had. Read and experience much. And consider how your thoughts and ideas might come together so that you see the same thing in new ways.

10. Accidental Innovations – Most people dismiss the accidental innovations as they are difficult to plan, but note that innovations such as the chopsticks were designed based on necessary (it was too hot to eat something from the file so a man used two sticks), Botox was intended as a heart medication, Kevlar was originally meant for tires, Nylon quickly went from toothbrushes to stockings, and the list goes on.

  • Embrace the purposeful innovations while encouraging the accidental ones.
  • We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot

What do you use every day and what other purposes could it serve?

Many leaders think that innovation is only about one shade of innovation, only the new-new. So we hope that this article helps you consider other options and methods for thinking about what innovation is and how it can impact your company. We close this month’s blog a final thought: Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future. James Bertrand Happy Innovating!

The Search for Purpose

August 12, 2014 by


Happiness is tied closely to a sense of purpose. Whether your goals are for your professional, personal, or spiritual fulfillment, this search for purpose may present itself as a buzz-in-the-background, a undefined longing, or as an in-your-face insatiable achiness, an emptiness beyond fulfillment.

Some never figure out whether to search or what to search for. Others never knew that they had to search. The lucky ones found that purpose without a search.

But for those of us who want to visualize and realize their purpose, here are some guidelines and thoughts to structure and fuel your journey.

1. Passion – You can’t find your purpose unless you know where your passion lies. Find or rediscover that which you love, unfiltered by the parameters you and others are setting for you. You can decide later whether what-you-have is practical or profitable or sustainable or even silly. Start with identifying what you love and go from there to guide it in a sensible direction.

2. Curiosity – Be open-minded about who-you-are, what-makes-you-tick, and what-makes-the-world-go-around. Exploring areas of discomfort and newness can open up whole new facets of possibilities, as will opening up networks of people and resources.

3. Self-awareness – Know what you’re good at and what you’re not, what makes you happy and fulfilled, where you can learn and grow, and how others can support you as  you grow. Having self-awareness is essential to growing and learning with purpose.

4. Discipline – Nothing worth having is easy. Having the discipline to work hard and apply yourself to a specific purpose and cause is another essential element for happiness and success. There is no substitute.

5. Perseverance – Without passion, and the discipline to achieve something, there’s no momentum. And even with both, it takes perseverance and persistence to keep trying despite disappointments, disapprovals, barriers, rejections and other obstacles.

6. Practicality – Most people start with what’s practical, rather than exploring what they are passionate about. But if you should start that way, make sure that what you’re passionate about is also practical, especially if it’s related to your professional goals. If there’s no market need for that-which-you’re-passionate-about, explore the intersect between what you like and what people would pay for.

7. Experience – Having experience personal, professionally and spiritually helps you clarify your purpose. Without experience, it’s much more difficult to find your fit. So rather than focusing on what-you-did-wrong-when, focus instead on what’s ahead now that you know yourself and your world better.

8. Support – It’s hard to find your purpose, or even to know to search unless you have the foundational emotional, physiological, and financial support you need. Make choices to meet your needs and surround yourself with supportive people.

9. Connected – Surrounding yourself with a supportive network will give you the strength and resources and perspective to continue the search.

10. Led – Beyond the general network, having experienced and open-minded, someone you respect, someone you trust implicitly, support you in your search will help you think through your options and you company in your journey.

Best of luck with your journey, and kudos to those who have the courage and grit to continue the search.


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