The Corporate Culture Top 5: Benefits, CxO Roadblocks, Myths, Trends, Best Practice Companies, Measurement Tools/Vendors, Best Approaches to start Improving

What you will learn in this blog article:

  1. What exactly is corporate culture – simple definition?

  2. The top 5 benefits of having an optimal corporate culture.

  3. The top 5 reasons CxOs put up roadblocks toward improving company culture.

  4. The top 5 myths associated with improving a company’s culture.

  5. The top 5 trends in corporate culture – a true (corporate) cultural revolution.

  6. Five (5) familiar sample companies that have great company cultures & why.

  7. The top 5 vendors & technologies to support corporate cultural measurement & improvement.

  8. Five (5) ways to get started, pilot some smaller and cost effective culture improvement programs.

best-company-cultures.jpg

Top Company Cultures

1. What exactly is corporate culture – simple definition?

Corporate culture simply put is a company’s beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management treat and interact with each other and all of their stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, regulators, influencers, etc.  A corporate culture is implied, not usually expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of, and interactions with, company employees and stakeholders.  A company’s culture is reflected in, but not defined by, its dress code, quality of work-life, quality of office accommodations, employee perks and benefits, turnover rate, hiring, treatment of customers/employees, customers/employee satisfaction and every other aspect of company operations.  It not about any one specific corporate program like longevity awards, benefit packages, etc., but a totality of all programs and actual treatment (not words or slogans).

 

2. The top 5 benefits of having a optimal company culture

A. Provides the ability to attract & retain the top talent in the marketplace. Google is legendary in terms of culture and the number of people that line up who want to work there. For example, Google receives over 3 million high quality applicants each year! Only 7,000 of the 3 million are hired which gives candidates only a 0.2% chance of getting hired. Obtaining a job at Google is reportedly 10x-15x more difficult than being admitted to an institution of higher learning like Harvard, Yale, MIT and Wharton.

B. You create 24/7 advocates worth millions (or billions) in equivalent marketing spend: With a great company culture, everybody transitions from an employee, stakeholder and observer into a 24/7 advocate, igniting a marketing buzz worth 10’s of millions, if not billions of dollars. From the 30’s to the 80’s everyone I knew spoke glowing reviews of IBM, GE, AT&T, etc. and how great it was to work there, their products, their culture, management’s prowess, etc. They have to spend billions in marketing to replicate the free market buzz they received simply as a result of having a great company culture.

C. Sales and Marketing Improves dramatically: Sales prospects, marketing acquisition targets, and existing clients are all easier to sell and acquire since, due to the positive brand buzz, they feel more comfortable buying, buying more, spending more, referring associates, etc. since the company is perceived as a solid company, “doing the right thing”. These sales benefits are also worth their weight in gold vs. the paid branding and PR that would have to be done to try to replicate it (paid PR and marketing are not as trusted nearly as much as word-of-mouth, genuine advocacy by customers, employees, etc.).

D. You are perceived as great company leaders who truly care, inspiring employees to go the extra mile: You create an environment where employees can spend more time with the family, sleep well at night, are not stressed to the max as a result of working in a toxic work environment. They also just feel good about the company and its leaders to reach out to offer help to their co-workers unsolicited (vs. undermining them in toxic cultures), spend time on company improvements that weren’t asked for (vs. counting the hours where it is acceptable to leave for the day in toxic cultures), etc.  I once worked for an amazing boss who maintained a great company culture and everyone in the company would do anything for this boss and his company (stay very late, work most weekends, etc.) without giving it a thought. Contrast this to clock watching until quitting time in toxic work cultures.

E. Improves quality standards, customer service and ethical standards. It teaches the most valuable lesson of doing the right thing, doing right by people, employees and most importantly – customers. With a great company culture, you create an environment whereby employees feel that they are cared for and work for a company with high ethical standards and ideals. This translates into higher quality standards, greater regard for customers, vendors, alliance partners, suppliers and doing the right thing by all of them (employees feel this is fair reciprocation since you are doing the right thing by them as employees).

 

3. The top 5 myths associated with improving a company’s culture:

A. Myth #1 – Improving the company culture is going to cost a great deal. False. Simple and low cost things can be done like initiating participation contests to name campaigns, logos, newsletters, etc. as well as performing team member spotlights that showcase their abilities and interests outside of work.

B. Myth #2 – Improving the company culture is a futile exercise since we can’t really measure it. False. New quantitative tools in the marketplace now make this possible. Refer to section 7 below.

C. Myth #3 – It is the job of HR and organizational development to improve the company culture. False. Without the support and sponsorship of the CEO, leadership team and mid-level managers, any attempts to improve the company are likely to fail.

D. Myth #4 – Improving the company culture is a pure cost exercise and will likely only make our management jobs more difficult. False. Improved company cultures usually pay back the initial investment anywhere between 2x and up to 10x, depending on numerous factors like program cost and implementation effectiveness.

E. Myth #5 – Great company cultures are only for the ‘neuvo’ high tech companies full of Millennials. False. Even some of the traditionally stodgy organizations like accounting and tax firms have made their cultures so unique, fun and rewarding to work for, they are breaking the stereotypes of their industries and are becoming ‘the place to work’ for top talent and the place to bring your business to for customers.

 

4. The top 5 reasons some executives (CxO’s) put up roadblocks and push-back at the idea of improving their company culture:

A. The company’s existing leadership is dominated by left side brain thinkers who are good in math, science, logic, accounting, science, etc. and cringe at the thought of how employees feel, the corporate atmosphere and the “touchy feely side of the business” (actual CEO quote). These leaders would rather leave this to their HR staff if they are also not left brain thinkers, otherwise culture improvement is likely doomed at those ‘group think’ left brain companies.

B. They are extremely bottom line oriented and frugal; hence, any talk of improving the company culture is viewed as a potential expense and an attack on the bottom line (i.e. the owner’s profits). The truth is that culture can be improved with zero expense (if needed) and impact on the bottom line. Culture is just seen “as a way for employees to get more benefits” (yet another CEO quote).

C. The executives feel that the existing culture is immeasurable and “hard to wrap your arms around” (another CEO quote), so they don’t know where to start. This was a valid objection until recently with the advent of new cultural measurement tools (refer to section 7 below).

D. Following on C above, since there are few ways to determine how good or bad the current culture is, there is no burning platform or business case to improve. In this case, if the culture isn’t (confirmed) broken, there is no need to fix culture.

E. The leaders are arrogant, myopic or clueless in that, while there are glaring gaps in customer service & satisfaction, employee satisfaction (i.e. Glassdoor employee reviews), product and/or service quality, etc, they continue to delude themselves into believing their company and its operations are excellent or world-class, customers are elated, etc. without any empirical evidence to support these beliefs and claims.

 

5. The Top 5 Trends in culture, how the corporate culture revolution is upon us

A. The new workforce is much more geared toward and attracted to a positive work experience and the quality of work-life vs. being more compensation driven as were the baby boomers and before.

B. Learning, personal development and working in a healthy environment (mentally and physically) are keys to making the overall employee experience more fulfilling and rewarding. It is as simple as, if employees have a pathway to learn and grow with a company, the more likely they are going to find the overall experience, per #1 above, more engaging, enjoyable, etc.

C. The new workforce of today wants to connect and build relationships with their co-workers. If the proper environment is prevalent, this will happen. Otherwise, a toxic and back-stabbing culture is one where co-workers are forced to distrust, despise and grow a disdain for fellow team mates. People tend to stay longer and remain company loyal within company environments where they have friends as co-workers vs. fakes and backstabbers.

D. Employees of today want to work for an organization that has a deep and significant purpose they can connect with such that their contributions are more meaningful than just collecting a paycheck. Today’s employees want their work to mean something significant to society, their country, the world and their families.

E. Employees more and more require and even demand company and leadership ‘genuineness’. This means that the rhetoric of company slogans need to match up with company and leader actions and follow-through. For example, if a company lauds its treatment of employees and work-life balance, there better be that feeling that this is genuine with a vast majority of employees. If not, it would be like marrying someone (employee-company) that you can’t trust. After a while, the relationship is guaranteed to sour.

 

6. Top 5 US and Global Companies I have either worked for or consulted with that have great corporate cultures:

A. Intuit – Intuit recently ended up on “People’s 50 Companies That Care” list. People highlighted our 32 hours of paid time off to volunteer, as well as pet insurance and paid time off whenever a beloved furry friend passes away. In addition, they embrace diversity more than many companies; help support the community, the environment, veterans, etc. When I consulted with Inuit, many employees shared with me that they really enjoy working for Intuit and you could feel the positive vibe in meetings, speaking to executives, etc. Intuit also recently earned a 4.2 on Glassdoor from their employee reviews at the time of this blog development. Check out their blog on “People and culture”: https://www.intuit.com/blog/category/intuitlife/people-culture/

B. American Express – I have consulted with American Express for many years, helping to provide expertise and insights that would help take their marketing, sales and customer service to the next level. Everyone I interacted with at American Express was truly professional, a cut above talent that I typically encounter at other companies and people seemed to really enjoy their work experience. American Express also earned a 4.0 on Glassdoor from their employee reviews at the time of this blog development. Check out their blog on “Company Culture”: https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/topics/company-culture/

C. Southwest Airlines – The culture at Southwest Airlines is more than legendary. They recently earned a very high 4.3 on Glassdoor for employee reviews about “working at Southwest”. They have been written up for Culture by numerous publications like “Company Culture Soars At Southwest Airlines” by Forbes. In addition, when I was on a consulting project there, you could tell that employees genuinely enjoy working for the company and many told me they had fun.  Ironically enough, their CEO has a Jester Archetype which means he likes to joke, have fun, encourage a light and fun company culture (as you can tell when on many Southwest flights (attendants making jokes, signing songs, tricking out passengers – all in an attempt to get the passengers feel more at ease, laugh, etc.. Read more here: https://careers.southwestair.com/culture

D. Adobe – Adobe recently earned a high 4.1 on Glassdoor for employee reviews about “working at Adobe”. From what I have seen and heard from those working there in the past, the culture is “electrifying”, “motivating”, “exciting”, etc. Don’t take my word for it, read here what actual employees have said in Adobe blog #AdobeLife (http://blogs.adobe.com/adobelife/) – small sample of many:

  • “I have never worked for a company who has such a strong brand for which many customers are so passionate. The brand and our commitment to maintaining that brand contribute greatly to the pride I feel when saying I work at Adobe.”

  • “The culture here is real. This is the most professional and positive company I have ever worked for. Nearly every single person treats, and communicates with each other, with respect. This is unusual because we are a fast growing, high tech company. Even with our exponential growth, respect remains.”

  • “The largest trait that makes Adobe unique is that you get a genuine feel that the company cares about you as an employee. The amount of effort that Adobe takes to make sure employees have a safe and comfortable working environment as well as the large amount of great benefits is astounding.”

E. Wegmans Food Markets – First Danny and now Colleen Wegman have done a wonderful job in shaping a market that not only provides exceptional service to its customers, but also delivers a world-class internal corporate culture. I have shopped and continue to shop at Wegmans and find it an experience to look forward to. As opposed to some of my local grocery markets where I have to deal with grumpy and gruff store associates and even managers, Wegmans employees appear to really enjoy their working experience. Consistently Wegmans has be written up as one of the top workplaces in America. In addition, Wegmans recently earned a very high 4.2 on Glassdoor for working there, a great and a consistent score for companies that have an excellent corporate culture. Read more here on CBS News – https://www.cbsnews.com/news/could-this-be-the-best-company-in-the-world/

 

7. The top 5 technologies & vendors to support corporate cultural measurement & improvement

Refer to “Vendor Ratings Disclaimer” below*. 

CultureIQ, CultureTalk  and Denison (listed alphabetically) are the cultural improvement pure plays leading the charge:

Until recently, CEOs could use the excuse and easily erect the all too common roadblock of “how do we get our arms around culture”, “it is hard to measure”, “that is so ambiguous, how do even know what our culture is, let alone improve it?” per section 3 of this article .  These would all be quasi-valid excuses today if it were not for the advent of a new category of cultural measurement software tools that make this excuse obsolete. While there are not many “cultural accelerator tools” on the market as of yet,  these tools/vendors enable a quantum leap in the measurement and quantification of corporate cultures (if you dare to ask).  As I have explored several of these new cultural measurement and improvement tools, three in particular have really caught my attention as a high potentials to become a market leaders.  These new culture improvement pure play* tools I will specifically focus in on is CultureIQ (https://cultureiq.com/), CultureTalk (https://culturetalk.com/) and Denison (https://www.denisonconsulting.com/)  for the reasons you will learn below.

*Culture improvement pure play tools/vendors are defined as those companies that were founded on and primarily focused on improving company cultures (vs. being part of a larger mix of tools/services).

 

1. CultureIQ:

A. CultureIQ background – CultureIQ started by providing culture improvement consulting services about 40 years ago qualifying the company to be an early pioneer in this space along with Global consultancies like Accenture, Deloitte, KPMG, etc. The technology to support their consulting arm is a relatively recent development since this part of their business was founded in 2013 and launched formally in 2014. The launch of the technology platform is backed by a venture capital firm and has helped fund a jump start of this platform into the marketplace in a major way.

B. CultureIQ Key Differentiator: CultureIQ’s key differentiator is that they provide the consulting expertise from within their own company vs. leveraging 3rd party consultants to drive their technology platform, making a great choice for one-stop shopping of a comprehensive vendor – technology with consulting.

C. CultureIQ Approach:  The most positive impact and yet another key differentiator of this vendor is that they lead with consulting services first to determine the business requirements for culture improvement. Only then do they configure the technology solution that addresses these specific needs. CultureIQ addresses many aspects of cultural improvement, with the only difference being that they do not assess and profile and individual’s culture type and fit like CultureTalk below. If you are not seeking this aspect of insights, CultureIQ is also a good choice.

CultureIQ Approach Overview

CultureIQ Approach Overview

 

D. CultureIQ Platform – CultureIQ’s diagnostic solution set is specifically configured to address individual business needs as determined by the lead-in consulting discovery phase. CultureIQs platform holistically aggregates insights from an array of heterogeneous sources. Per their website -“consolidates all types of feedback from annual, pulse, and employee life-cycle surveys (e.g., on-boarding and exit surveys) — across the enterprise.” In essence, CultureIQ aggregates an an array of culture insights and then drives an actionable improvement plan based on these continuous insights.

E. CultureIQ Consulting Services: CultureIQs consulting services is delivered via their own consultancy which has had over 40 years of experience helping improve company cultures. Their consulting services are very holistic and comprehensive per the CultureIQ website: “Our data scientists, organizational psychologists and business strategists become an integral part of your team.”  This consulting model is an ongoing presence of their consultants to help you improve your company’s culture.  For example, CultureIQ provides the following type of consulting services :

  1. Designing a Global Listening Program

  2. Conducting Executive Briefings (culture readouts)

  3. Providing Total Rewards Optimization

  4. Conducting Culture Focus Groups

  5. Culture Design and Evaluation

  6. Key Sales audience for CultureIQ: The primary audience for CultureIQ’s platform, as evidenced by their website, is HR professionals.

  7. CultureIQ’s Key competitors: Perceptyx, CultureAmp and Glint.

At the time of this writing, CultureIQ was launching “an updated culture model called “CultureAdvantage”. Check it out here: CultureAdvantage Model.  Due to the velocity in updating their solution as well as their longevity in providing consulting services as well as M&A culture analysis, CultureIQ is definitely a vendor/tool to keep watch on and consider.

A special thank you to Sheridan Orr from CultureIQ for assisting me and pointing me to Brady Loeck, a CultureIQ Account Director who I interviewed for this article!

 

2. CultureTalk:

A. CultureTalk Background:

First, some background on how CultureTalk was formulated. CultureTalk, is based on the work of Swiss psychotherapist Carl G. Jung and Dr. Carol Pearson who believe that human behaviors are guided by the same inner road-map and by a set number of (12) common Archetype patterns.  CultureTalk answers the questions Who am I? and Who are we? in terms of which specific Archetype (1 of 12) each of our organization’s team members associate most with as well as which specific Archetype best defines our overall organization.

There aren’t good or bad Archetypes, but each has a strength and shadow side that we need to understand in order to drive maximized organizational effectiveness and this is especially true when merging two different Archetypal cultures.

Here is an overview of each of the 12 types of Archetypes:

The 12 Cultural Archetypes of CultureTalk

The 12 Cultural Archetypes of CultureTalk

*Above Graphic courtesy of CultureTalk

Each of the 12 Archetypes above comes with a set of predominant traits (shown above) and shadows that need to be understood and managed.

B. CultureTalk’s Key Differentiator:

The most important  and differentiating feature of CultureTalk’s is that it addresses both the culture type of the individual as well as the overall organization simultaneously which is critical in a holistic cultural assessment initiative.  Here is the holistic and 360° corporate eco-system CultureTalk covers:

CultureTalk's Culture Focus Areas
CultureTalk’s Culture Focus Areas

C. CultureTalk’s focus areas:

  1. Individual (left above, from top to bottom):

  • Establishes an Individual Archetype Profile – helps employees understand their most optimal roles and assignments

  • Enables Hiring for Cultural Fit – Enables both the company and the candidate to make an optimal choice when selecting an employee to hire and company to work for

  • Articulate personal brand – makes it easier for team members and management to understand and manage to key strengths and motivations

  • Develop coaches, career plans, success and performance – Enables employees and manager to migrate to the right roles based on their specific archetype(s).

  • Enables enhanced collaboration and minimizes conflicts – By enhancing understanding of personal brands, archetypes and key motivators, it allows for team members to better communicate and empathize with fellow team members

2. Organization (right above, from top to bottom):

  • Establishes an Organizational Archetype Profile – helps the organization understand their key strengths, characteristics, blind spots, development needs, etc.

  • Mergers, Acquisitions, Partnerships, Alliances – Enables the company to understand key differences, risks, potential contention points and synergies for each of these potential partners, acquisitions.

  • Evolve based on Market Changes – enables better and more effective organizational changes based on changing market demands by knowing what the organization is (where we are) and where they need to go (quantifiable).

  • Company and Organization Brand – Allows the company to better define and articulate the brand to all external and internal stakeholders so that people ‘get the company’.

  • Team and Sub-Team Collaboration Improvement – This allows the company to understand the inner and sub-dynamics that exist within the realm of the company to enable more effective inter-team cooperation and communications.

D. CultureTalk Platform: The CultureTalk platform consists of two different culture surveys, one for the individual and one for the organization. The insights from these culture platform surveys then drive the holistic cultural improvement plan that is developed by their network of independent 3rd party consultants. While the leader survey is not specifically geared toward individual cultural analysis as is CultureTalk, the results of the leadership development 360 survey is used to drive leadership improvement in helping shape a more improved culture.

E. CultureTalk Consulting Services: Unique to CultureTalk is that the network of independent 3rd part culture improvement consultants from across the globe buy their surveys from CultureTalk and then deliver the culture assessment (via the individual and organizational CultureTalk surveys). They then add their own consultant’s expertise, using the cultural assessment results to start to improve the culture. CultureTalk does occasionally take on a consulting role and assists their consultants delivering consulting services, but the majority of services are delivered via a network of independent consultants that have been certified as CultureTalk capable consultants.

F. Key Sales audience for CultureTalk: CultureTalk is sold to a network of Independent 3rd party consultants who buy survey packages in varying numbers from CultureTalk as the licensing survey vendor (similar to DISC and MBTI).

G. CultureTalk’s Competitors: CultureTalk considers its competitors to be Strength Finder, MBTI, Insights, Kolbe Index, OCAI, Denison, DISC and Culture AMP.

Due to their unique capability to analyze both the individual and organization as well as M&A situations in the cultural analysis phases, CulureTalk is a vendor to consider and watch.

A special thank you to Theresa Agresta, a Founder at CultureTalk, for supplying the above charts and for speaking with me for this article!

 

3. Denison:

A. Background – Denison, led by Daniel Denison, got its start nearly 30 years ago, born out of Corporate Culture research driven by several universities like University of Michigan in determining the effect of corporate culture on corporate performance. Denison determined via this research that a company’s culture quality rating was a leading indicator of future performance in that the culture quality today will determine how well a company will perform in the future; say 1-3 years from now. The survey and technology/system developed in the 1990’s by Denison to support their consulting arm was influenced by early pioneers in survey design and theory including Rensis Likert. Denison has grown steadily to now having nearly 40 cultural improvement professionals on staff in the US and Europe.

B. Denison’s Key Differentiator:

Denison ‘s key differentiators are that it has several Fortune 500 global cultural improvement clients including a large multi-national energy client and a Japanese manufacturing and technology giant.  Dension also has a unique mix whereby half of their clients are in the US and the other half outside the US (Europe, Asia, etc.). Denison also teams holistically with other firms (Tier 1 consulting firms, research firms, etc.) across the globe to deliver the best client experience possible based on client needs. Denison also helps assess two cultures when facing an M&A situation, the only leading tool in addition to CultureTalk, that performs this analysis function.

C. Denison’s focus areas: Denison’s model of organization culture focuses on taking a balanced scorecard approach to measuring culture along four major dimensions: Adaptability, Mission, Consistency and Involvement as shown by this graphic that explains their measurement rubric.

Denison Model Overview

Denison Model Overview

E. Denison platform: The Denison platform consists of two different surveys, one for the organization and one for company’s leaders which is called the leadership development 360 survey. The insights from these culture platform surveys then drive the holistic culture and leadership improvement plans that are developed by Denison consultants, in conjunction with the client.

F. Denison Consulting Services: Denison, while providing the preponderance of consulting services via their own team of cultural improvement consultants, also teams when client appropriate, with other consulting firms like KPMG, Deliotte, RHR company, etc. Denison leads the client engagement to determine client needs and then develops a custom and client tailored approach and set of services (similar to CultureIQ). This initial analysis includes a set of key client questions that help determine the client’s specific needs and requirements.

G. Key Sales audience for Denison: Denison is sold to any array of stakeholders seeking to improve their corporate culture including HR professionals, learning & development professionals, communications professionals, strategy/operations professionals, c-suite executives, etc.

H. Denison’s Competitors (non pure plays): While the focus of this article is on cultural improvement pure play vendors (those firms that were founded upon and primarily focused on, corporate cultural improvement) Denison considers it closest competitors to be McKinsey, Gallup, Glint.

Lastly, Dension has a really interesting book out titled “Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations” written by Daniel Denison, Robert Hooijberg, Nancy Lane and Colleen Lief.

Denison's Cultural Change Book
Denison’s Cultural Change Book

Due to their longevity in the market with both the consulting and technology solutions, combined with their proven ability to service large/multinational corporations, Denison is a vendor to definitely consider and watch.

A special thank you to Dan Denison, Chairman and Founding Partner of Denison and Nabil Sousou, VP of Global Business Development at Denison, for supplying the above chart and for agreeing to be interviewed for this article!

On a side note, some consultants have noted that CultureTalk and Denison can actually be used together and are complimentary to each other, but I have not validated this claim.

Two Other non-pure play Culture Accelerator tools to consider beyond CultureIQ, CultureTalk and Denison are DISC and MBTI (also listed alphabetically):

4. DISC:

DISC started out as a tool to help define communication types within an organization and how to best communicate with different communication styles.  During a recent partner conference, DISC announced they are now applicable for assessing culture and more in-line with the trend of helping organizations figure out and improve their culture. At the time of writing this blog, the DISC website is proportionally under-representing cultural assessment and improvement vs. CultureTalk, CultureIQ, Denison as these are solely focused on corporate culture, what I call “Culture Pure Play Companies”. Just a mismatch of capabilities and website? Not sure, you decide. I would say if you already use DISC as a tool for communication type assessment, I could see using it as an extension for cultural analysis, improvement, etc.

Advantages of DISC: Clear definition of communication styles and how best to foster cultural communication improvement.

Disadvantages of DISC: Lack of overall organizational assessment out of the box that is driven by an organizational assessment, survey, etc. as is the case with CultureTalk, CultureIQ and Denison.

 

5. MBTI – Myers-Briggs®:

Myers-Briggs® is a survey based system that defines individual types of team members and leaders as well as defining what they call function pairs. The cultural discovery comes when Myers-Briggs® function pairs are then mapped to cultural patterns within an organization and common organization cultural practices. Here are the 4 cultural pairs as shown from the Myers-Briggs website (https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/understanding-mbti-type-dynamics/function-pairs.htm?bhcp=1)

  • Sensing plus Thinking (ST) – STs tend to approach life and work in an objective and analytical manner, and like to focus on realities and practical applications in their work. They are often found in careers that require a technical approach to things, ideas, or people, and tend to be less interested in careers that require nurturing of others or attending to their growth and development. STs are often found in business, management, banking, applied sciences, construction, production, police, and the military.

  • Sensing plus Feeling (SF) – SFs tend to approach life and work in a warm people-oriented manner, liking to focus on realities and hands-on careers. They are often found in human services and in careers that require a sympathetic approach to people. They tend to be less interested in careers that require an analytical and impersonal approach to information and ideas. SFs are often found in the clergy, teaching, health care, child care, sales and office work, and personal services.

  • Intuition plus Feeling (NF) – NFs tend to approach life and work in a warm and enthusiastic manner, and like to focus on ideas and possibilities, particularly “possibilities for people.” They are often found in careers that require communication skills, a focus on the abstract, and an understanding of others. They tend to be less interested in careers that require an impersonal or technical approach to things and factual data. NFs are often found in the arts, the clergy, counseling and psychology, writing, education, research, and health care.

  • Intuition plus Thinking (NT) – NTs tend to approach life and work in a logical and objective manner, and like to make use of their ingenuity to focus on possibilities, particularly possibilities that have a technical application. They are often found in careers that require an impersonal and analytical approach to ideas, information and people, and they tend to be less interested in careers that require a warm, sympathetic, and hands-on approach to helping people. NTs are often found in the sciences, law, computers, the arts, engineering, management, and technical work.

Advantages of Myers-Briggs: Detailed profiling of individual traits which can be mapped to organizational cultural patterns.

Disadvantages of Myers-Briggs: Lack of overall organizational assessment out of the box that is driven by an organizational assessment, survey, etc. as is the case with CultureTalk, CultureIQ and Denison .

Below is a grid that summarizes the information I was able to learn about each of the above five (5) vendors:

Culture Top 5 Tool/Vendor Capability Chart

Culture Top 5 Tool/Vendor Capability Chart

8. Five (5) ways to get started, pilot some smaller and cost effective programs

As with any quick-wins program, I always advocate letting the cultural analysis and identification of high priority needs drive which program you decide to use as a cultural improvement jump-start. The five suggestions below should only be selected based on company cultural analysis to determine which of the five are appropriate (or not). These example simply illustrate that getting started can be easy, inexpensive and designed to drive early company/employee excitement. Once this excitement and enthusiasm for cultural improvement is secured, a  larger cultural improvement program becomes easier to implement due to having some excited cultural change advocates on-board.

  • Conduct round-table meetings with employees, customers, suppliers, etc. to determine where quick-hit and east fix cultural improvements can be made. Surveys also work and are cost effective.

  • Complimentary to #1 above, take a pulse on, and measure, the company culture via some of the new tools that are available in the marketplace (per section 7 above) – you can’t fix what you haven’t quantified.

  • Implement some simple recognition programs that reward employees for going the extra mile. At GE under Jack Welch, I was part of a “tiger team” that developed and implemented a program called RAVE which stood for Recognition Award for Valued Employees. We would recognize people and teams for contributions above and beyond their normal duties.

  • Implement on-ramp participation programs that enable employees, customers, stakeholders excited and feeling more like their opinions and thoughts count. One recent example I recall was when we developed a new product and, instead of keeping the decision with the branding team, we turned into a contest for all employees to name the new product. The top 3 would be recognized with an award and a photo in the company news letter.  Another way to do this is developing customer feedback and idea programs to enable your customers to have a voice in the company, brand, marketing, etc. For example, Wells Fargo and many other banks now vets many of its product and marketing concepts through a customer feedback group prior to launch in order to increase market acceptance. These are all great examples of relatively low cost, high impact programs that can be developed to help start improving the company’s culture.

  • There are a number of other programs that can be implemented that are also low cost, but mean a great deal to employees. Here are some simple suggestions:

  • Invite a dry cleaner to come on-site one day a week so that employees can bring their dry cleaning to work to save time

  • Conduct periodic “bring your (child, dog, relative, significant other, etc.) to work” days

  • Hold contests that allow employees to showcase their talents outside of work (art day, sports accomplishment day, writers spotlight, etc.)

  • Hold vendor showcase days, allowing employees to buy from vendors onsite or nearby (craft vendor days, tool days, artisan days, gourmet food vendor days, food truck days, sporting equipment days, etc.)

Summary:

In summary, corporate culture improvement doesn’t have to cost a great deal, can start slowly, can now be measured and the return on investment is generally in multiples (2-10x+) of the cost. Without a great company culture you will be unable to acquire and retain great employees, will have more costly sales and marketing efforts, have distrusting and unenthusiastic employees and you will experience a great deal of dissatisfied customer churn due to constantly eroding customer loyalty. With all this being true, there is no excuse to not actively work on creating the best company culture possible?!

Lastly, if your organization is seeking experienced assistance in measuring and improving your corporate culture, then give me a call or e-mail me at 518-339-5857 or stevenjeffes@gmail.com

Lastly, this is just one article of 40+ total I have written on Customer strategy, CRM, marketing, product management, competitive intelligence, corporate innovation, change management – all of which I have significant experience in delivering for Fortune 500 companies.  In fact, my blog is now followed by nearly 121,000 world-wide and was just named one of the top 100 CRM blogs on the planet by Feedspot, alongside Salesforce.com, Infor, Microsoft, SAS, etc. – Reference this informative site here: https://blog.feedspot.com/crm_blogs/

*Vendor Ratings Disclaimer
Mr. Jeffes does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in this blog article, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Mr. Jeffes’ research based blogs consist of the opinions of Mr. Jeffes’ research to the best of his ability and time constraints and should not be construed as statements of fact. Mr. Jeffes disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. Mr. Jeffes’ research and brand may not be used to endorse a vendor, product or service, or to criticize another company. Forbidden use includes recopying text, graphs or reports in their entirety, or excepted without express written permission. All excerpts must be lifted verbatim, in their entirety, and appear accurately with all relevant context. Paraphrasing is not allowed. This article represents Mr. Jeffes’ viewpoint only and is open to listening to other viewpoints and research based input. Mr. Jeffes is not responsible for oversights, omissions, inadvertent typos and other mistakes that might have occurred in the development of this article.

The Recipe for Hyper-Innovation

A Success Story on how a company innovated to #1 – Market Leadership, Stock Value, Employee Engagement, Revenue Enhancement/Cost Reduction

Recent GE Logo History

INNOVATION DEFINED:

According to Kikipedia, the term innovation derives from the Latin word innovatus, which is the noun form of innovare “to renew or change,” stemming from in-“into” + novus-“new”. Although the term is broadly used, innovation generally refers to the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas.

THE HISTORY & ROOTS OF INNOVATION:

At GE, an innovation program was developed during the late 1980’s called “Work-Out” as part of Jack Welch’s drive for better productivity, efficiency and greater innovation. Initially, GE’s Work-Out program was intended to identify and eliminate unneeded processes and tasks that were left over from previous years that became inefficient, as Jack put it, riding ourselves of meaningless tasks “Just because that’s the way we always did things”. After the restructuring identified via Work-Out, many GE groups accomplished their goals with fewer people and with reduced cycle time which drove ever higher levels of increased revenues, reduced costs and greater customer satisfaction & delivery.

THE INNOVATION PROCESS:

The aptly named GE Work-Out process involved identifying an area in need of improvement and assembling a cross-functional team of people together from all aspects of the business (design, marketing, production, sales, manufacturing, software, etc.) to identify a better process, method, strategy, etc. The task for GE Work-Out teams was to meet outside of its normal work environment (and occasionally outside normal working hours) to discuss business inefficiencies and to develop business improvement recommendations.

THE PATH TO INNOVATION:

As Work-Out unfolded, Jack Welch began to recognize that employees were an important source of new and creative ideas that would drive overall corporate innovation. Jack then drove to create a sustainable innovation environment that pushed towards a relentless, endless and companywide search for a “finding a better way, every day.” The Work-Out program was then evolved into a methodology that was created to reduce bureaucracy and to empower every employee, from managers to janitorial staff, an opportunity to improve and innovate on GE’s operations.

INNOVATION GOALS:

From a corporate perspective, the goal of the Work-Out program was to streamline GE and to make workers more productive and processes simpler and more straightforward. From an employee perspective, Work-Out was an empowering program that enabled everyone to contribute suggestions, innovative ideas and corporate efficiency perspectives to make their jobs easier/better and enabled them to deliver higher value to customers and to the company/stockholders.  Employees, in short, considered the program ‘liberating’ and a way to shape their own work-place destiny.

THE RECIPE AND INGREDIENTS FOR INNOVATION:

Due to my constant contributions that led to millions of dollars of savings at GE, I was actually asked to participate on Jack Welch’s Work-Out council at the GE Aerospace Division Level. From my perspective, GE’s Work-Out program was one of the most progressive innovation programs ever created (My perspective on having consulted with, and have insights on, nearly all of the Fortune 100 companies and over half of the Fortune 500 companies). The following is my perspective on the ingredients and recipe for a highly successful innovation program like GE’s Work-Out.

Ingredients for a Successful and Well Balanced Innovation Program:

From my perspective, creating a highly successful hyper-innovation program, similar to that of GE’s Work-Out program, depends on developing a balanced approach of delivering both value to company and sense of purpose & engagement to the employees.  The following charts highlight the balanced scorecard that should be the cornerstone of measuring the health of an innovation program. I call this the eight (8) over eight (8) Innovation Scorecard and, if the eight (8) over eight (8) measures are in balance, then ‘the company will be Great & the Employees will be driven to Innovate’. (The left of chart (Y-Axis) indicates my take on the relative imporance of each of the eight factors).

Employee Ingredients for a Successful and Well Balanced Innovation Program:

Employee Ingredients for a Successful Innovation Program

Let’s review each of these eight ingredients of employee Engagement to determine why they are so important:

 

  • Employees Feel that the Program is Fair & Consistent – Employees believe that the best innovation ideas are supported vs. those coming from the most popular, powerful or political employees. At GE, we felt very good that the best ideas were more important to management vs. the ideas of the most favored employees/managers.
  • Program participation is fun & exciting – Employees actually feel more content with their jobs and participating in the program is “cool”, “exciting”, “exhilarating”, etc. I never had more fun in a job than when I was participating and contributing to the GE Work-Out program. I actually looked forward to coming to work to find additional savings, ‘better ways’, etc. Additionally, water cooler chat at GE was many times about the excitement and activities of the Work-Out program and ‘what teams were up to’ in developing their ideas.
  • Employee cross-functional innovation teams are encouraged – Employees feel like they can cross organizational boundaries to get ideas developed and evolved without fear of negative inter-organizational political or ‘turf’ ramifications. At GE, when we named the cross-functional team members needed to formulate and evolve an idea, management helped ensure that this cross-functional team was on-board along with each of their managers.
  • Employee Recognition & Rewards are Available for Innovators – Employees are provided incentives & rewards for ‘stepping up’ and developing innovations and, as such, are treated with special/extra compensation for being innovation trailblazers.  At GE, there was an array of special recognitions available to top innovators including dinner with senior management, extra cash awards, mention in the company newsletter, potential level increases, etc. As a top innovator at GE, you could get thousand in additional compensation for innovations and going above and beyond the call of duty associated with your normal job responsibilities.
  • Employees ‘Can Own’ Their Innovations if Selected for Commercialization – Employees can see their ideas and innovations become reality and participate in all aspects of its commercialization process vs. ‘having the company move the idea forward without its originator.  The worst thing a company can do to an employee who ‘birthed the idea’ is to say ‘thank you, we’ll take it from here’ and not allow the employee to participate in helping their innovation evolve and become reality.
  • Program Participation is not Onerous or Cumbersome – Employees should not feel punished or overly burdened for ‘stepping up’ and are not made to feel like they will lose any work-life balance for being an innovator. At GE, extra time was set aside for Work-Out and ‘the innovation process’ vs. making it yet another job everyone had to take on in addition to their existing full-time job.
  • Employees Feel Empowered – Employees should feel like there are no obstacles for them to develop innovations and that they have the latitude equal that of the CEO to make things happen to ensure innovation team success. In this fashion, employees feel like ‘they own’ the program and can direct top management to support their initiatives. At GE, employees were ‘charged up’ and were challenging each other constantly to see which group, team, and/or sets of employees could find more efficiencies, greater cost take-out, or better ways of doing things. Once the employees felt like they ‘could change the world’, no manager would dare to stand in their way in fear of being ridiculed for being archaic, a ‘road block’ or worse – an impediment of the program. The “Coolest” managers were considered those who helped support the teams and were also contributing to finding greater efficiencies themselves.
  • Employees are Provided Encouragement & Support from Management – Employees must feel that innovation is a critical imperative at all levels of management and that top managers are involved, supportive and acting as innovation champions and roadblock removers for all impediments to program & team success. Top management must be totally immersed in, and aware of, the activities, successes, progress and top innovations-innovators associated with the program. At GE, we would receive frequent updates as to what Jack Welch was doing to support and ensure the Work-Out program was a success and clearly articulated that he expected all of his management to do likewise. In one video, he stated ‘I would not want to hear that any of my managers were an impediment to the Work-Out program and the employee innovation teams. We will quickly root out these types of people as they do not represent our future way of doing business.’

 

Company Ingredients for a Successful and Well Balanced Innovation Program:

In addition to the eight employee factors for a successful innovation program, there must also be well thought out components from a company-program perspective. The following chart depicts the company factors and their relative importance that must also be in place to make an innovation program successful.

Company Ingredients for a Successful Innovation Program

Now, let’s review each of the eight company innovation program factors in-depth to determine why they are so important to the overall success of a program:

 

  • Innovations are Managed in a Knowledge Base/System – In order to keep track of innovations, who originated the ideas, as well as the associated business cases for proving the commercial value of the innovation, a robust innovation knowledge base/system is needed. This helps to ensure that there are duplicate or overlapping innovations, allows the search for existing innovations that can be leveraged vs. re-inventing it for each division, region, etc. At GE, the process was manual and was very cumbersome.  Many duplicate innovations were created, and it was very difficult to leverage the innovation corporate-wide due to limited (paper based) visibility into innovations ‘in-progress’ or ‘being developed’.
  • A Social Innovation Platform (SIP) Manages the Innovation Process – As discussed in a previous blog entry of mine, many Social Innovation Platforms have been developed that fairly and consistently manage the innovation process. These systems did not exist at the time of the GE Work-Out program, but would have helped in managing the process and could have improved the perceived fairness of the programs administration.  Interestingly enough, GE now utilizes Social Innovation Platforms to manage its innovation process.
  • Management & staff are provided training on developing & nurturing ideas, concepts and innovation – Developing and managing the innovation process is not something that comes naturally for many companies. Therefore, in order for the program to be successful, the company and staff need to learn ‘how to’ manage the process most efficiently and effectively and how to tailor and evolve the program to specific and/or changing needs. At GE, this training was more ad-hoc and on the job, so there were many instances of re-work, false starts, and duplication of effort.  We eventually became good at the innovation process, but a good training program would have helped us avoid many missteps.
  • The Program has clear and consistent program metrics, processes and standards – In order for the program to be perceived fair and consistent by the employees, the program must be managed strategically and program governance (i.e. metrics/measured/processes/etc.) must be continually assessed and adapted for further improvement. At GE, this step was lacking and was only done on an ad-hoc basis and by each division vs. corporate-wide.
  • Innovations are Shared & Leveraged Company-Wide – In order to leverage the value of innovations that could be leveraged company-wide a corporate committee should review emerging innovations to determine the degree that this could be leveraged in order to determine the sum total of its applied business value (applied in one division only, one region, company-wide, etc.).  At GE, every division was on their own and there was seldom sharing of innovations between division (i.e. GE Aerospace and GE Aircraft Engines).
  • Rewards and Incentive Systems are Aligned to Support Hyper-Innovation – In order for an innovation program to be successful, the company alone cannot be the sole beneficiary. The company must share the wealth with the employees by sharing in a portion (1-20%) of the value of suggestion (cost take-out, revenue enhancement, quality improvement leading to additional contract captures, etc.). At GE, we developed a program called RAVE – Recognition Awards for Valued Employees that distributed large sums of incentive $$ for suggesting business innovations/improvements, etc. (Refer to the last section of this blog for examples of this rewards/incentive program).  Without these incentives, large numbers of employees would not have participated in the program and many would have sat on the sideline or would have become program detractors vs. advocates.
  • Innovations Are Value and Metrics Driven (Cost/Revenue/Quality, Employee Work-Life, etc.) – It is important that innovations be developed and ranked based on measures that will provide the greatest quantifiable impact to the company. A system of measurement must then be developed and applied such that every program participant is able to quantify the impact of each innovation and compare it to other innovations already in progress toward commercialization. At GE, this was rudimentary at best and caused a great deal of program inconsistencies where some questionable innovations headed toward implementation while other great ones were nixed early in the process. A consistent/metrics driven program would have avoided many of these pitfalls which led to employees questioning the fairness of the program.
  • Continuous Improvement & Change Management Support Evolving to a Culture of Innovation – In order for the program to thrive longer-term, a program (program oversight for the innovation program) of continuous improvement and change support must be developed and employed. The program must be continually measured, improved, and evolved to address employee and/or company concerns, address program inefficiencies, and to take advantage of new processes, technology or changes in regulation or market directions.  At GE, this was handled by a divisional level Work-Out Council which I was part of at the VP level. As a result of writing a letter to both Jack Welch (CEO) and John D. Rittenhouse (the Aerospace SVP) about continuous improvement, I was appointed to the Work-Out council at the VP Level under Al Horvath (Aerospace VP in Syracuse).  On this Work-Out council we handled the administration of the program along with reviewing all of the developing and/or developed innovations. We were also responsible for reporting up to Senior Management on our progress, issues, roadblocks, top program successes, metrics, etc.

 

An Innovation Program’s Impact on Shareholder Value:

In my opinion and in speaking to many at GE, the company has slipped since the GE Work-Out days in making the innovation program engaging and ‘fun’ for employees.  Insiders tell me the innovation program is more “black and white” now and driven most by metrics and six-sigma measures and the program “seems flat” and “uninspiring” vs. that of the Work-Out program under Jack Welch.

The following chart depicts how GE’s stock performed before, during and after the height of the Work-Out Program. It is interesting to see that when the GE Work-Out program started to change from its original format and lose some of its employee focus (vs. Six-Sigma statistical focus), the company’s stock value began to erode at about the same time. It seems from this chart and from insider accounts, that GE has lost its recipe for successful hyper-innovation.

Potential Influence of Innovation Programs on Stock Value

Case Studies of Success

The following are all real-life examples of Work-Out, Innovation and Incentive/Reward Program Successes.  These samples illustrate precisely how innovations occur within a company and what makes them successful.

A Successful GE Work-Out Example:

Below is one success case study from GE’s Work-Out that involved many of the above principles:

GE Work Out Success Story & Case Study

One of the many Work-Out Successes I identified while at GE is noted in the above graphic. For years, GE discarded their slight used, but still in good working condition, office furniture by paying to ship it to dumps & landfills.  One day, I passed a dumpster filled with office furniture in really good condition that I could use in my home office. I called the local facilities manager and asked if I could take any of it home and was told “No – we can’t have employees digging around in the dumpsters due to a liability issue. Someone could get hurt and we could get sued”.

Frustrated by this roadblock and always viewing every roadblock as a challenge and opportunity, I went back to my cubicle and said to myself “there has to be a better way – win/win for the company and employees”.  I called around to several salvage yards, 2nd hand stores, and several similar 3rd party companies, etc. and to my amazement; said they would love to take the shipment from GE and would pay cash to GE for the furniture and even allow the employees to buy the furniture at favorable rates vs. the general public.  Once I heard that a solution was possible, I called our facilities manager, Bill Biloski, and told him what I had discovered. He got excited about what I had found out and went off to contact the local firms I had contacted. Bill was able to work out a deal with one local Syracuse, NY firm named “The Riverside Shop” whereby GE would sell the used furniture to them, Riverside would then allow GE employees to buy the furniture at deep discounts – a win/win solution for all. Here is a synopsis of the benefits of the Worked-Out solution I developed:

Work Out Solution Benefits Summary

The following is my perspective on how the eight employee factors were prevalent in this work-out solution:

Employees Ingredients for a Work-Out Innovation Success

Other Innovation Program Examples:

Example – Innovations Submitted via Employee Suggestion Program

Above is my suggestion submitted for the “Better Together” program which Martin Marietta used following its acquisition of GE Aerospace. This program was far less dynamic and successful than the GE Work-Out program due to, in my opinion, a lessening of many of the “eight over eight” factors.

Example – Rewards & Incentives for Innovation, Special Achievement, Extra Efforts, Etc.

Above is my award for developing and delivering on a schedule acceleration plan for a major delivery to the US Navy. The Critical Design Review (“CDR”) was acclaimed as a “huge success” and was instrumental in GE retaining (vs. losing) the multi-million dollar Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) contract GE had with the US Navy.

Example – Innovation Program Complimented by Reward Program (RAVE)

Above illustrates my participation on the development of an employee rewards & incentive system to compliment GE’s Work-Out program.  I led this team to the development of what was called the “Recognition Awards for Valued Employees” or RAVE program.  Awards were distributed via this program to the most valuable contributors to the GE Work-Out program. 

Example – Award for Innovation & Excellence on GE Contract Delivery

Above is my award for making the Aegis Ship Software Qualification Tests (SQTs) a success for both GE and the US Navy.   The Tactical Load File (“TLF”) search tool mentioned above resolved some critical software anomalies that would have degraded ship safety and prevented the ship to safely fire its missiles.

Example – Reward for ‘Extra Effort’ and Going Above & Beyond

Above is my award for developing and delivering on a Prime Item Development Specification (“PIDS”) for a Nuclear submarine program to the US Navy. The PIDS was deemed “out of compliance” by the US Navy and I led a team to turn-around the quality of that deliverable into what was deemed as “exceptional” by the US Navy Top Brass. This was instrumental in GE retaining (vs. losing) the multi-million dollar submarine contract with the US Navy.

Recent GE Logo History

GE’s recent logo changes: Subtle changes vs. dramatic re-design & re-invention.  It is interesting to note that when GE was changing its logo from its 1986 to the 2003 design, John D. Rittenhouse, the then SVP of the Aerospace business, told Jack Welch: ‘Even you are having problems with this change thing – after all of the effort to re-design our logo, all you did was round off the corners a bit’.

Conclusion – The bottom line here is that getting innovation right is a tricky recipe to duplicate and all of the right ingredients must be present for the program to be considered 5-star.  If a company does not find the right mix to the recipe, a great deal of time and resources can be expended for a very questionable gain. It is clear that GE during Jack Welch’s tenure, GE perfected the ingredients and the results of the Master Chefs (employees and management) was a gourmet dish of higher profits, higher revenue and higher stock value. GE Work Out Clearly Worked!

Developing Breakaway Competitive Advantage via Social Innovation Platforms (SIPs)

Part Three (of 3) – Leveraging Social Innovation Platforms (SIPs – a.k.a. innovation management, social suggestion boxes or crowd sourcing applications) to transform your company into an innovation leader

In my previous two blogs I covered the first two of three mega-trends that are hitting the social media marketplace for large Fortune level organizations.  In the first blog, I addressed how the use of enterprise social monitoring and intelligence platforms are helping companies leverage key insights from an array of market activity and major trends including competitor activity & weaknesses, key opinion leader sentiment/needs, regulator trends and concerns, political leader and influencer sentiment, public opinion and key public concerns.  In my last blog (2 of 3 in the series), I covered how Enterprise Collaboration Platforms are changing how teams communicate and interact in order to boost corporate productivity.

This third blog in the series is dedicated to a social media trend hitting corporate America that focuses on Social Innovation Platforms (SIPs). This trend has the ability to transform companies into a leader in innovation, enabling them to leapfrog their competition in much the same way Google and Apple have out-innovated many of their competitors. A full 83% percent of respondents in this year’s Bloomberg/Business Week/Boston Consulting Group (BCG) annual survey of top executives said innovation will be a key part of their strategy to benefit from the economic recovery¹. While companies might hire innovators, in order for them to be successful there needs to be a very robust methodology, culture, and process that support these executive innovators.   This blog is focused on a new category of tools that are designed to achieve this culture of innovation.  In the same format as my previous two blogs, I will cover this subject as follows:

A) What is a SIP or Social Innovation Platform (a.k.a. social suggestion box)
B) What are the benefits from using an SIP
C) What are the hottest tools/applications in the marketplace
D) How do you implement this SIP capability

A) What is a Social Innovation Platform (SIP) or Social Suggestion Box?

An SIP is a social media application that allows the sourcing of innovative ideas, content, suggestions and inventions from an array of sources including internal company departments and employees (internal innovation/idea sourcing) and from external stakeholders, customers and experts (external innovation, content, or idea sourcing).  Think of a company suggestion box on steroids and on the global web – that is what a SIP is. Has your company had your SIP of hyper-innovation, thus allowing you to utterly leapfrog your competition? If not, the rest of this blog is a MUST READ for you!

These platforms are designed to increase intra-corporate idea & innovation collaboration, decrease time to market, and to enhance overall corporate productivity. There are two types of Social Innovation Platforms – internal and external. The platforms that source ideas and insights from the general public  are typically called crowd sourcing solutions, but can also be called idea sourcing, idea & insights cultivation, etc.  A SIP can radically change your corporate culture to be more innovative, change oriented, enable out-of-the box thinking and greatly enhance your ability to create great content/ideas/insights/innovative products/services, patents, etc.
The following illustrates the key features and capabilities of a best-of-breed SIP platform:

Social Innovation Platform (SIP) Key Features:

1) Internal & External Idea Sourcing Web Portal
2) Idea & Innovation Content Management with full innovation library taxonomy
3) Online Innovation Community Creation – both internal and external
4) Collaboration on ideas in order to rank, improve, and evolve sourced content and ideas
5) Idea rating, scorecarding, ranking – makes creating and managing ideas easy by enabling the simple management of ‘evaluation teams’ by offering functionality like simple to use workflows, multiple round scorecarding, and idea insight sharing
6) Manages and merges ideas into business proposals & business cases
7) Social project management  to manage and track idea borne projects while monitoring and reporting on the financial value/impact of the overall innovation pipeline

B) What are the benefits – Why are companies, organizations and government agencies adopting social innovation platforms capabilities?

The following list represents just a few of the benefits of implementing an SIP or social suggestion box:

1) Accelerates the participation of Stakeholder and Customers in your Innovation Process – Allows you to Inform your customers about your challenges, encourages them submit, discuss and evaluate great ideas, with ratings and incentives for the top contributions

2) Enables the sourcing of high-impact and game changing business concepts, ideas, suggestions, and product enhancements – from both internal and external sources

3) Boosts the number and quality of incremental ideas – enabling for the development of a culture of innovation within your company or organization

4) Facilitates the process of researching or getting a patent on your sourced ideas by systemically managing and elevating only those ideas that are commercially viable

5) Optimizes the process to systematically manage the flow of business proposals – this can be from ideas sourced internally or from start-up companies and partners

6) Improves ROI on R&D spend by enabling business process environment to create, manage and vet ideas and innovations

7) Motivates key contributors – Motivates your employees by providing a transparent and easy way to handle idea management. Employees feel empowered to submit ideas and innovations in this highly transparent environment.

‘8) Empowers Teams and Departments – Encourages team empowerment and contributions and inter-departmental cooperation on ideas, innovations, patents, etc.

9) Delivers increased Control over Intellectual Property and Digital Assets – Single/integrated environment for innovation, idea and idea proposal/business case management

10) Increases the appetite for increased intra-organizational change and the appetite for innovation and entrepreneurialism. Complimentary to this is the need to support the implementation of an SIP with a heavy dose of change management as this implementation represents a paradigm shift in the organization’s appetite and acceptance of change (pace of, rewards for, change agent & innovator recognition, etc. )

11) The overall goal of the increased innovation derived from these SIP is to decrease the time to market with products and services that have increased market relevance and can leapfrog the competition in terms of market demand. 

C) What are the hottest tools/applications on the SIP or Intra-Social Application market?

Almost all SIPs are relatively new to the marketplace and few have been deployed to several Fortune-500 level companies.

Leading SIP Software Vendor & Tools – Includes Idea Management and Crowd Sourcing Applications

1) Brightidea Innovation Suite.  http://www.brightidea.com/ Included in this solution are the Brightidea’s WebStorm, Switchboard and Pipeline modules. The Suite combines enhanced idea collection functionality in WebStorm and proposal management and development in Switchboard and social idea/innovation management in Pipeline. Leading multi-national companies including Cisco, Wyeth, American Express, Kraft, Sony, Bayer, British Telecom, etc,  use Brightidea software to execute targeted internal campaigns to solicit ideas and feedback from employees on everything from new product development to cost saving and process improvement ideas. Cross-functional and inter-departmental brainstorming is possible through a software platform that is similar in nature to Facebook and enables companies to monitor the process of innovation and socialization from concept to monetization. Brightidea software not only concentrates on the front end of idea collection/prioritization that creates an idea repository & management environment for ideas across organization and departments, but also offers a systematic, streamlined way to turn ideas into actionable & ROI driven business proposals. These proposals can then be prioritized within the organization that facilitates ‘best idea maturation’ and delivers on what matters most, measurable business ROI and results. Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Well established company with over 10 years of experience
b. Constantly innovating and improving their platform and solutions
c. Many top tier clients have implemented their solution

2) Chaordixhttp://www.chaordix.com/ Chaordix is a crowdsourcing solution that began in 2006 and began as a crowdsourcing community to discover new business and technology ideas. It attracted 55,000+ members and several thousands of ideas from the crowd.  The Chaordix crowdsourcing platform is a proven, flexible engine to tap communities for vital business insights to innovate, improve operations, and reduce the risks of competing in the marketplace. Chaordix software makes it simple to seek, manage and analyze input from a crowd. What sets the Chaordix technology apart is its proven scalability to handle large crowds, ability to mitigate bias in voting and crowd behavior, and social networking sophistication that helps to engage both similar and disparate crowds. Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Well established company with over 10 years of experience
b. Very scalable and flexible platform – able to scale to large & complex crowdsourcing requirements
c. Leadership team provide deep thought leadership in innovation management

3) Cognistreamer. http://www.cognistreamer.com/en/index.html CogniStreamer® is an idea management software solution.  CogniStreamer® Innovation Portal is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external stakeholders align to create, enrich and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected ‘category’ topics. Their downstream analysis, ability to direct conversations within the platform and integration with e-mail and other outside systems is reportedly best-in-class. The CogniStreamer® portal module is an ideal collaborative and management platform that invites users to actively build a strong idea & innovation pipeline. In addition, it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge collaboration and sharing. The CogniStreamer® framework module is used by companies that include Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp.  Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Very capable senior leadership team w/10+ years of experience
b. Smooth graphical look and feel
c. Leading methods and approaches on cultivating innovation

4) Hype Software – HypeIMT. http://www.hypeinnovation.com/  HypeIMT is a leading software solution for idea and innovation management supporting the entire new product development process from idea development to the commercialization of a new product. This product also offers a systematic process for capturing, rating, comparing, and selecting ideas to ensure only the most viable ideas receive project funding. Flexible and customizable, HypeIMT allows companies to custom design the innovation management process, in order that it will support an array of very specific product development strategies. Several of the Global Fortune 500 companies, including General Electric and Procter & Gamble, are already utilizing HypeIMT to manage their Innovation process.  Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Well established company with over 10 years of experience
b. Well established customer base
c. Privately held German company, but profitable since inception

5) IdeaScalehttp://ideascale.com/  IdeaScale is another leading crowdsourcing solution and enables ways for companies to solicit ideas and allow customers to rate, discuss, and brainstorm ideas for the company.  The process commences with ideas being posted within the IdeaScale community. Every idea submitted can be expanded via comments and additional insights from each of the participants of the community. Through a voting system, the ultimate value of an idea is determined by participating voters, while also allowing people to share their opinions and insights as to why the idea, in their opinion, will or won’t be successful. Via this voting system, any idea can be voted to the top of list or de-valued down to the bottom of the list of ideas. Companies using IdeaScale include Subaru, Choice Hotels, Wired Magazine, Boy Scouts, Reuters and Fiserv Risk and Compliance Solutions.  Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Relatively inexpensive solution – can be used by smaller businesses
b. Mobile application allows submitting of ideas ‘on-the-go’
c. IdeaScale made Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing private companies.

6) Imaginatik – http://www.imaginatik.com/  A core component of Imaginatik’s solution is an module called Idea Central. Idea Central is a web-based application designed to help organizations maximize the benefits from the creativity, expertise, insights and ideas of employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders and even third parties. Imaginatik’s solution also includes a idea portfolio monitoring function for Idea Central, a module that can be customized to provide project leaders, managers and ‘idea participants’ the ability to track ideas as they mature from raw idea to potential commercialization candidate. Portfolio Monitor offers community users visibility into current and past ‘idea projects’, allowing stakeholders to track the progress of their ideas. Portfolio Monitor also allows the conversion of ideas from Idea Central into other project management tools in order to facilitate the seamless flow for transitioning ideas that escalate into full commercialization projects. Imaginatik has provided Innovation and idea management solutions to companies such as The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, Boeing, Pfizer, Xerox, World Bank, Goodyear and Cargill. Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Well established company with over 10 years of experience
b. Strong consulting background with an proven ability to help clients become more innovative (i.e. help clients capture ROI from the solution)
c. Many best practices has been derived from experience on large international clients

7) Spigit – http://www.spigit.com   Spigit is a leading provider of collective idea management software, connecting employees, customers, business partners and other 3rd parties for collaborative innovation development. Spigit is used by several of the Fortune 500 companies as a means of combining crowdsourcing and social networking to source ideas, rate and mature ideas with the highest potential, and then promote only the best ideas to implement and commercialize. A very innovative aspect of the solution, Spigit also includes a literal idea marketplace whereby company employees can buy and sell shares of ideas. Spigit customers include AT&T, Lloyds Bank, Allstate, New York City and over 100 other companies. External recommendations for Spigit include CIO Magazine’s list of 20 companies to watch in 2011 and JMP Securities hot 100 private companies for 2011. Strengths of this solution/company include:
a. Recent to the market but with slightly more innovative approach to idea management
b. Very strong list of top-tier clients
c. They have strong financial support ensuring they will likely to continue to be a main contender over the next several years

Niche & Specialty SIP Software Vendor & Tools (Sample)

The companies below are considered niche players in the SIP market in that they source very specific innovations and content from vendors, customers and stakeholders.

1) Brand Tagshttp://www.brandtags.net/ Brand Tags is an interesting concept in that it solicits people via the internet to tag associated words that come to their mind when they think of a particular brand/product/service. Responses are then compiled into ‘tag clouds’ displays that reports back which words are thought of most often. To date, Brand Tags thousands of companies have participated in this ‘brand tagging’ and there are now ~2 million tags on their website.

2) CrowdSpringhttp://www.crowdspring.com/ CrowdSpring assembles and leverages a large community of creative designers to provide an effective, easy and relatively inexpensive logo and custom graphics design service for smaller businesses and organizations. Persons can post design projects or copywriting projects, specify the price range they are willing to pay and then choose from a wide range of concepts/ideas/designs submitted from the CrowdSpring design community around the world. On average, there are more than one hundred submissions per project. The price paid for crowd designed logos or taglines start from around $200 USD.

3) CustomAdarthttp://www.customadart.com/ CustomAdart asks a crowd of creative professionals to develop your perfect image at the price range you set. This concept is allowing companies to migrate away from the traditional stock photography model by allowing advertisers to post specifications for very custom and specific shots and then getting community members to submit their best images/graphics/photos to satisfy the desired specifications.

4) Fellowforcehttp://www.fellowforce.com   Fellowforce.com was founded to connect organizations to an array of high quality ideas, innovation and solutions. Fellowforce.com aims to open up organizations to outside participation from experts, consumers, and other interested parties to generate powerful new innovations and solutions via networked innovation via collaboration. Fellowforce.com enables open innovation, idea generation and problem solving to a multitude of organizations worldwide. This is the first open platform that covers a very diverse set of business areas such as business & strategy, human resources, marketing, sales, customer service, innovation process management, design, engineering, IT, and supply chain.

5) InnoCentivehttps://www.innocentive.com  InnoCentive is based on a straightforward concept in that, if a company is unable to solve a problem on its own, why not use the power of the Internet to see if other Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can solve the problem? This concept has resulted in the establishment of the world’s first open innovation marketplace with a global network of ~200,000 ‘problem solvers’. In this network, you can find engineers, scientists, inventors, and business people with expertise in life sciences, physics, engineering, biology, chemistry, math, marketing, human resources and computer science. Companies can post their challenges and problems on the InnoCentive website, and offer registered problem ‘solvers’ substantial financial awards for the best submitted solutions.  Problem solvers compete to win monetary prizes offered by various companies. Over 1,000 challenges have been posted thus far by nearly 200 firms, including large/global companies such as Procter & Gamble.

6) Philoptima, llc. http://www.philoptima.org/ Philoptima, llc.™ enables foundations, donors, and grant makers to describe a challenge to the idea community and to post cash prizes to incentivize ‘idea solvers’ to solve the issue put forth. This collaborative system facilitates participants coming together to collaborate and solve a wide variety of community and public interest related problems by connecting consultants, researchers, and subject matter experts that offer best-in-class solutions via a web-based open innovation community.

7) Poptenthttp://www.poptent.net/  Simply stated, Poptent enables crowdsourcing for advertisements.  Poptent is a relatively new start-up that solicits crowdsourced advertising ideas and content from an array of global creative talent. The company brings together a vibrant community of filmmakers, actors, comedians, graphic artists, animators and then connects them with companies who need their advertisement creative services. Companies and/or brands can post their requests for an advertisement or specific ad content, which is then developed and submitted by Poptent’s pool of global creative advertising talent – all via a robust web collaborative crowdsource application.

‘8) ThinkTank4http://www.groupsystems.com/  ThinkTank4 is a social collaboration & idea management platform that is used primarily by larger consulting companies. ThinkTank4 is a structured collaboration platform for professional services which enables content sharing, project collaboration and best practice/intellectual property management. ThinkTank aims to increase profitability by enabling consultants to deliver more client value via reduced cycle time and reduced manual effort.

D) How do you implement this capability – what are the steps and considerations on implementing this capability within your organization and company?

Social Media innovation platform (SIP) implementation success requires comprehensive visioning; with stepwise implementation, guided both by an innovation paradigm shift & culture change, roadmap and integrated project plan.
I have developed this capability for several Fortune 500 companies and the capability can be enabled via four (4) Major steps as follows (Summarized):

1) Step #1: Develop an innovation culture prior to implementing the SIP in order that the automated process will not be met with resistance. This includes the following:
a) Re-engineer performance metrics and employee KPIs to recognize and reward the most innovative within the company
b) Develop pre-automation innovation contests
c) Develop an innovation newsletter and intra-net site
d) Put forth innovation or idea generation challenges with substantial rewards and visibility from upper management to the top participants and winners
The bottom line here is that, if you don’t have an innovative company culture, implementation of a SIP will likely lead to shelf-ware and a system very few utilize to its full potential.

2) Step #2: Develop a SIP Implementation Strategy & Roadmap including the following:
a) SIP  Strategy/Vision, Objectives, Business Drivers, Critical Success Factors, Community/ Forum Listening Strategy, Key Metrics & Performance Plan, Organizational Plan, Change Management Plan, Communications & Risk Management Plan, monitoring policies, governance plan
b) Put together an implementation roadmap and a centralized PMO to manage the implementation of the roadmap/SIP vision
c) Form your SIP strategy & vision with key stakeholders

3) Step #3: Social Media Technology Platform Evaluation & Selection
a) Identify potential SIP platform & community management vendors
b) Develop Needed SIP Requirements and Capabilities
c) Perform Technology Platform Vendor Selection
d) Onboard Vendor
e) Build a techno-functional architecture to support the roadmap

4) Step #4: Develop SIP Program Pilots & Deployment Plan
a) Develop Pilot Project & Deployment Plan
b) Develop SIP management processes that provide organizational confidence and exercise process excellence transparency to solidify user/stakeholder buy-in and acceptance.
c) Develop Technology Pilots
d) Develop  Program Pilots
e) Invest in Organizational change management to instill solid user/stakeholder adoption
f) Develop Organization & Process Pilots
g) Deploy Pilots and Programs including
1.  Center of Excellence Deployment
2.  Multi-Channel Integration
3.  Policies/Processes
4.  Roles, Rules, Responsibilities
5.  Change Management, Change Management, Change Management

That last bullet point is not a typo as I would honestly say that the #1 key to success in implementing this type of software is an extremely capable change management program. This type of software requires a behavior change on the part of your employees and management and it won’t come easily.   I can say this with confidence – If you are not considering a heavy dose of change management as part of this implementation, your implementation is most likely going to fail!

In summary, SIPs are gaining a great deal of Momentum.  Many Fortune 500 companies are either planning to implement this enterprise capability or already have.  Is your organization planning on implementing this potentially game-changing capability? If so, give me a call at 518-339-5857, as  I call help you achieve world-class programs that enable you to surpass your competition and bring your organization or agency to the next level of innovation.

¹http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_17/b4175043789498.htm

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