A CEO who can Dream Bigger; Larry Page

Probably the best CEO interview we’ve ever read. That was the first idea that hit us  as we read “Google’s Larry Page on Why Moon Shots Matter“, by Steven Levy at Wired.

Page, the co-founder, now CEO, at Google gives a personal, insightful interview on his leadership philosophy and innovation thinking at Google. One of the defining moments, writes Levy, ‘’As an undergrad at the University of Michigan, he found inspiration in a student leadership-training program called LeaderShape, which preached “a healthy disregard for the impossible.” According to Page, this strongly shaped his thinking that led to the Google we know today.

This is exactly the kind of  innovation thinking, the kind of program we have been developing and running over the last two years. Walt Disney said ‘’It’s kind of fun to do the impossible’’, and that’s the essence of our last book ‘’Dream Bigger’’.  It is this philosophy we believe will be required to reinvent dying industries and launch amazing strategic transformations. It’s the leadership mindset for a new breed of leaders. For innovation leaders.

Larry Page calls this “Living by the gospel of 10x. Most companies would be happy to improve a product by 10 percent’’, not Google. Instead, Larry and his team drive for ’’Thousand-percent improvement, this requires rethinking problems entirely, exploring the edges of what’s technically possible, and having a lot more fun in the process’’. This is Google thinking big, Google’s “Moon shot Philosophy”.

In “Dream Bigger” we write:

What if you could change the future of your company?

Where would you begin?

What would be your radically ambitious dreams?

What would be your mind-numbingly awesome first steps?

Through our teaching and consulting we meet thousands of people.

Too few are truly recklessly ambitious.

Too few are truly trying to achieve the impossible.

We want to change that.

Our goal is to help you and your company Dream Bigger

– and execute successfully.

Because we fundamentally believe,

“if you can dream it, you can do it”.

So let us.

But not all executives have the courage to do just this. Too few are recklessly ambitious. Too few have moon shots. Too many are stuck in an operational mindset, trying to defend their core legacy business model, rather than inventing the future.

Says Page “I worry that something has gone seriously wrong with the way we run companies. If you read the media coverage of our company or of the technology industry in general, it’s always about the competition. … That’s why most companies decay slowly over time. They tend to do approximately what they did before, with a few minor changes… But incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology, where you know there’s going to be non-incremental change”

Page’s view is reflected in the theme of the upcoming Strategic Management conference, Inside Outliers: Driving Systemic Change states “Being positively different is the goal of strategic management” That of course requires us to think differently, act differently and the courage to break out of industry norms.

‘’Why don’t we see more people with that kind of ambition?’’ (10x), asks Levy.

Page’s reply is very, very insightful: It’s not easy coming up with moon shots. And we’re not teaching people how to identify those difficult projects. Where would I go to school to learn what kind of technological programs I should work on? You’d probably need a pretty broad technical education and some knowledge about organization and entrepreneurship. There’s no degree for that. Our system trains people in specialized ways, but not to pick the right projects to make a broad technological impact’’.

To develop organizations for the future, we believe Innovation and Innovation thinking needs to become everyone’s job. We need to fundamentally rethink training, development and education. To succeed in this paradigm, leaders need to rethink their roles, master new skills, learn new tools and understand how to drive strategic innovation. They can all begin by reading Larry Page and his leadership philosophy.

Take a look at ”Dream Bigger” here.

A CEO who can Dream Bigger; Larry Page

Why SAS will go bankrupt (most probably)

Leadership. Culture. Lack of change. Lack of innovation.
These are the factors that will drive SAS into bankruptcy. 

I love flying SAS. Always have. I think they have a great product with good service at a fair price. Yet, I still believe they will go bankrupt. Regretfully. And the main reason: leadership. Or more specifically, lack thereof.

This week I’ve had an interesting Twitter exchange with an highly engaged SAS-employee. That exchange prompted this blog.

Taking the cut

SAS’ troubles have been heavily featured in the news recently. The Scandinavian airline has lost most of its nok 11 bn equity provided by the owners over the last three years. Today, the national governments who own 50 % of the company, has said “no more government support’’. Well, they revised that to, ‘’no more government support – until you save nok 3 bn and sell off assets for 3 bn. Then and only then might we step in to save you once again’’.

So, SAS needs to shave nok 6bn of its cost structure, and do it fast. They need a plan; a good one. The company was scheduled to present this plan last week Thursday. They postponed it. Now, the date is set for Nov. 12th, tomorrow. I guess a lot of people are working around the clock this weekend to come up with a solution. But I am afraid they will fail. Not in the planning. That’s easy. But in the implementation. That’s the change part.

An absolute lack of leadership at the top level of SAS.

Hilarious leadership behavior

Over the last few days, sources close to SAS, have leaked cost-cutting ideas like “Employees’ salaries will have to be cut by 15 – 25%, effective immediately”. A good idea, and most probably a required one in the short run. But here’s the fun part.

Asked by the press how much the management team would cut its salaries by, the reply was “we don’t know”. An answer that’s easily interpreted as “nothing at all”. This caused a few prying journalist, most notably DN.no, to look more closely at SAS top management salary structure. And their findings are funny.

SAS CEO takes home a fixed salary of NOK 10 million yearly, and a  pension scheme that pays nok 3 million a year. Should he keep the CEO post until retirement, he will have a total pension package of nok 56 million.

Asked by the press, SAS press officers stated “he has a competitive pay package on market terms”. Hahaha.

First of all. Nobody should take home a fixed salary of 10+ million in a company that’s losing a cool billion a year. Nobody.

Second. If we were to compare SAS vs. Norwegian:

SAS Passenger flown pr. employee (metric for efficiency in business model): 1818

Norwegian Passenger flown pr. employee: 6400

SAS market value: 1,79 bn nok

Norwegian market value: 4,35 bn nok

SAS annual result: -1,7 bn nok

Norwegian annual result:  167 mill nok

Fixed salary SAS CEO: 10 million

Fixed salary Norwegian CEO: 1,3 million

In fact, SAS’ CEO takes home more than the entire seven person management team of Norwegian combined. That’s one CEO losing billions taking home more fixed salary than the entire management team of their main competitor, combined.

The stockmarket has seen this coming for months.

Development in share price SAS (orange) vs. NAS (green)

Change o’hoy

This wouldn’t be an issue if SAS was profitable. But it is not. It’s been losing an average 1,3 bn  a year recently. In fact, the company needs to cut 6 bn. It needs to cut 3 bn in salaries. It has hinted at employees to take a 15 – 25 % pay cut. But the CEO is not taking part in it.

Back to the Twitter conversation with the engaged SAS employee:

I wrote:
‘’#CEO #SAS has zero credibility with 10 million in fixed salary – and demanding cuts by others. He should cut 90% of his fixed salary”

Her reply:
“The CEO taking 90% pay cut would earn the same as a captain. Sure, I agree, but is it likely?”.

Well. Not only should it be likely. It should be a requirement. SAS is facing perhaps the most challenging moment in its history. There is a very real chance of imminent bankruptcy. Turning this situation around requires significant and massive change. Now. Doing so requires leading by example. Managing this change requires true leadership. Handling unions who refuse to discuss any lay-offs or salary cuts makes it an requirement. SAS employees are fuming already.

The airline industry has a long history of poor leadership, strikes and forced bankruptcies. There are two one significant exceptions: Southwest Airlines and JAL. Southwest Airlines has a long history of managing change, managing external disruptions and handling difficult times. Looking into CEO compensation at Soutwest Airlines reveals a series of voluntary pay cuts over the years.

Herb Kelleher, former CEO says about tough times: ‘’you should share it. When we were experiencing hard times two years ago, I went to the board and told them I wanted to cut my salary. I cut all the officers’ bonuses 10%, mine 20%.”

Japanese JAL, successfully managed a dramatic turnaround between 2008 and 2010. As one part of this process, CEO Haruka Nishimatsu cut his own salary below that of the airline pilots. Financially significant; not really. Symbolically important; absolutely.

If SAS is to have any kind of chance to survive in, the CEO and management team will have to lead by example. This means cutting costs. Starting with their own. By 90%. Then, and only then, does the leadership show that they are willing to walk to walk. Not just talk the talk.

Will they?

Cutting is not future

But, regardless how much SAS will be able to cut, I am afraid it’s too little, too late. Steve Jobs once said: ‘’The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament’’. SAS has been cutting costs and searching for a strategic direction for the last 10+ years. This is the reactive side to change.

The essence of change: innovation

The essence of change management is innovation and creation. Creating the future. Creating a better tomorrow then yesterday. Stir up the positive emotional forces of the organization and the greater eco-system and direct them towards a shared aspiration. Reinvent dying industries. Create new markets. Launch new business models. Shape the future, don’t get shaped by it. ‘’Lean into the future’’, to quote Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. This is the proactive side to change. “Change is fun”, says former GE CEO Jack Welch, “because we are the ones doing it”.

Strategic innovation needed

When I look at SAS today, I see a company stuck in the past. I see a reactive company. The mindset, the technologies, the fleet of out-dated aircrafts, the layers of management believing they should earn the same salary as the CEO of Statoil.

What I don’t see is a mindset for innovation. A proactive mindset to create the future. To be bold. To invent new business models. What I don’t see is a flexible organizational structure and organizational culture that is reinventing themselves and the industry. What I don’t see is a company crying out “we want to become the world’s greatest airline; and our strategy as revolution mindset will make that happen”.

“Forget everything you know about long distance flying. Welcome to the long distance revolution”. That’s this week’s ad campaign, signed by Norwegian. It could have been SAS. It’s not.

Why SAS will go bankrupt (most probably)

Kolumbus og sosiale medier, del III

Kolumbus skal ha Norges mest attraktive kollektivtilbud. 

Vår viktigste suksessfaktor er at vi har kunden i fokus i alt vi gjør.

Dette skriver Kolumbus på sine nettsider. Dette er selskapets visjon. Dette er selskapets ledestjerne. Dette er grunnen til at ansatte går på jobb hver eneste dag. For å utvikle Norges mest attraktive kollektivtilbud. Kort sagt. Ingen andre grunner.

Flytoget: Norges mest fornøyde kunder

Flytogets visjon og verdier

Vi skal levere den ultimate delen av reisen.

Effektivitet – innovasjon – entusiasme.

Flytogets forretningsidé

Flytoget skal tilby det beste transporttilbudet til og fra Oslo Lufthavn med vekt på sikkerhet, punktlighet og service. Dette skal vi gjøre ved hjelp av en unik identitet, den mest effektive løsningen og entusiastiske medarbeidere. Samtidig skal selskapet aktivt orientere seg mot nye forretningsområder innen togmarkedet.

Dette sier flytoget. Dette er deres visjon. Dette er deres ledestjerne. Dette er grunnen til at ansatte går på jobb hver eneste dag. For å gi det beste transporttilbudet til og fra Oslo Lufthavn.

Mai 2012.For tredje gang går Flytoget til topps på Norsk Kundebarometer, ifølge BIs årlige kåring av Kundetilfredshet. ‘’Vi ligger ikke på latsiden, men forbereder oss på konkurransen med å bli enda bedre. Hver dag står vi på for å gi den beste servicen, sikre topp punktlighet, og fornye oss til kundenes beste’’, sier Sverre Høven, direktør for kommersiell og drift.

‘’Kundene elsker Flytoget’’
Dette skriver BIs forskningsrapport for 2012. ‘’Stadig fokus på service og kundetilfredshet har bidratt til at norske bedrifter har skjerpet seg i konkurransen om å vinne kundenes gunst’’,  sier Pål Rasmus Silseth, som er prosjektleder for Norsk Kundebarometer ved Handelshøyskolen BI.

Flytoget har oppnådd fantastiske resultater. Flytoget har år etter år vist en unik og sjelden evne til å levere service og kvalitet som ikke bare møter, men som overgår kundens forventninger. Bak dette ligger langsiktig ledelse, servicekultur og trening.

…tilbake til Kolumbus.

17. september gikk startskuddet for årets kjedeligste Kolumbus eventyr. En eldre dame ble (muligens) frakjørt – og selskapet kom på forsiden av Aftenbladet.no. Her hadde man et vindu. Her hadde man en mulighet. Her var en fantastisk arena for å fortelle verden ‘’Hvorfor skal kundene elske Kolumbus’’. Uhell kan skje. Dårlig service kan skje. Kunder vet dette. Det man da vil vite er; hvordan skal dere snu dette til en uovertruffen positiv opplevelse. Hvordan skal jeg kunne snu meg rundt og si: ‘’WOW, jeg elsker Kolumbus’’. Eller, som et minimum; ‘’ Kolumbus er jammen Norges mest attraktive kollektivtilbud – og langt bedre enn Flytoget’’.

Teorien heter Service Recovery Paradox. Senest drøftet i en meta-studie av Matos, Henrique og Vargas Rossi (2007). Kort forklart: når ting går galt, kan de raskt snus til noe fantastisk for kunden – og paradokset er at kunden vil være mer fornøyd etterpå, fordi håndteringen var så imponerende.

Kommunikasjonsjef Karianne Haarr Nedrebø går ut i Aftenbladet.no og sier ‘’ – Vi vil gjerne betale for drosjeutleggene hennes’’.

Dette er i mine øyne sakens kjerne. Det handler ikke om sosiale medier. Det kommer senere.

Det handler om hvordan man utøver kundeservice. Det handler om hvordan hver eneste ansatt går på jobb for å utvikle Norges mest attraktive kollektivtilbud. Hvordan selskapet setter kunden i fokus i alt de gjør. Det handler om hvordan Kolumbus jobber for at kunder skal elske dem.

Jeg skulle ønsket Haarr Nedrebø sa noe som ‘’Vi har 200 mann som er ute og leter etter henne. Vi ønsker å gi henne en bukett blomster, en personlig beklagelse, et livstids kort på bussen og selvfølgelig refundert taxien’’. Det ville vært en organisasjon som brydde seg. En organisasjon som elsket kundene sine. En organisasjon som forstod at dårlige kundeopplevelser er gyldne øyeblikk og de må gripes; særlig når de er på forsiden av Aftenbladet.no og får 5222 likes på Facebook.

Et gyldent øyeblikk som selskapet tapte. Det skyldes ikke sosiale medier. Det skyldes ledelse, kultur og et manglende brennende ønske om å begeistre kunden i alt vi gjør.

Sosiale medier kom etterpå.

Når denne saken ‘’gikk viral’’ var det gyldne øyeblikket tapt. Selskapet kom bakpå. En perfekt storm av kommentarer vokste på Facebook. Mange av oss kikket i historien. På Facebook-veggen. Der var det mange, mange kunder som klaget. Men få ble håndtert. Få ble begeistret. Få ble ‘’satt i fokus’’.

Det skyldes ledelse, kultur og et manglende brennende ønske om å begeistre kunden.

Etter det var løpet kjørt. På lik linje med DELL’s hell og United Airlines. Man kom bakpå. Sosiale, virale diskusjoner fikk vann på møllen. Mange uttrykte negativ omtale om Kolumbus. Det gikk ut over ansatte; dessverre.

Et selskap som genuint ønsker å utvikle Norges mest attraktive kollektivtilbud hadde aldri opptrådd slik. Det er sakens kjerne. Det handler om ledelse. Det handler om servicekultur. Sosiale medier er bare en kanal som kommer ut av kontroll.

Denne saken er fortsatt en gylden mulighet for Kolumbus. Vær så snill, grip den. Dere kan begynne jakten på Norges mest attraktive kollektivtilbud. Flytoget har en Kundetilfredshet på 85,8 av 100 poeng. Buss i Oslo har 59.9 poeng. Kolumbus kan i dag begynne jakten på Norges mest fornøyde kunder. De kan lære av Disney. Få tips fra Dell. La seg inspirere av Starbucks. La seg inspirere av sin egen ambisjon.

Selskapet hevder å transportere 21 millioner passasjerer hvert år. Det bor 448.000 mennesker i Rogaland. Hvis vi antar at halvparten av disse reiser kollektivt i løpet av ett år. Da har selskapet 224.000 unike ‘’moments of thruth’’. Jeg håper selskapet snur seg rundt og spør. Hvordan skal vi få disse 224.00 til å si ‘’jeg elsker Kolumbus?’’.

Det ville vært modig ledelse i Kolumbus.

Å lære å lede i sosiale medier

Riktig bruk av sosiale medier er essensielt. Klok håndtering av sosiale medier en nødvendighet. På BI underviser vi boken ‘’Groundswell’’  (Li og Bernoff, 2009). Forfatterne skriver her mye om ‘’ When consumers you’ve never met are rating your company’s products in public forums with which you have no experience or influence, your company is vulnerable’’. Dette skal være kjent stoff. Dette må bedrifter som bruker sosiale medier forstå.

Velkommen til den perfekte storm

Min gode venn, danske Petter Svarre skrev nylig boken ‘’The Perfect Storm’’. Her beskriver han hva som kan ramme toppsjefer når utfordringer med IT og sosial digitalisering plutselig ramme samtidig. Dette bør være kjent stoff for de som driver bedrifters sosial medie strategi.

Selv sier Svarre: ‘’Social media is much more than Facebook-likes. Social media is all about understanding your business, your market and your customers and transforming this knowledge into strategies for your business, your communication and your organisation’’. Dette bør være forstått av de som driver bedrifters sosiale medier strategi.

Den danske næringslivsavisen Børsen omtaler Svarres bok som ‘’ I det hele taget har Peter Svarre begået et fremragende bogprojekt, … som giver læseren en forståelse for, hvordan man kan udvikle en digital og social mediestrategi, der hjælper virksomheden igennem den perfekte storm’’.

Det er en slik perfekt storm Kolumbus nå befinner seg oppi.

Åpen ledelse: et nytt lederparadigme

Nylig har boken ‘’Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead’’ (2010) blitt pensum ved BI. Forfatteren Charlene Li, også forfatter av Groundswell (2009), trekker linjene fra sin første bok og ser på hva sosiale medier betyr for lederes klassiske rolle. Hennes svar: en enorm utfordring. Sosiale medier, i følge Li, vil tvinge frem et åpent, transparent og autentisk lederskap. Ledelse utøves ikke lenger internt i organisasjonen, men transparent for hele verden å se. Dagens ledere kan sitte på gjerdet i forhold til sosiale medier, men de kan ikke gjemme seg, for teknologien er allerede i enhver PC, tablet og mobiltelefon på innsiden og utsiden av organisasjonen. Allmøter som møteplass er allerede for sent, for diskusjonen har gått via sosiale medier. Dette krever modige ledere. Det krever nye ledere.

Rollemodell i Norge

Det beste eksempelet på en slik lederstil i Norge er toppsjefen toppsjef i Hewlett-Packard Norge, Anita Krohn Traaseth. Hennes blog Tinteguri, med 283.000 treff på to måneder er et imponerende eksempel på åpent lederskap i praksis. 25. september skriver Anita ‘’ Trenger egentlig norske ledere å forholde seg til sosiale medier?’’

Hun svarer sitt eget spørsmål med: ‘’ JA, er mitt klare svar her. Men jeg tar den litt lengre, det er ikke nok å forholde seg til og å implementere sosiale medier som verktøy, det må forankres i strategien og gjennomsyre hele selskapet og alle ansatte – selskapet må bli “sosialt”.

Dette er utfordringen til norske ledere. En utfordring som har truffet Kolumbus som den perfekte storm.

Kolumbus: et strategisk resultat

Situasjonen til Kolumbus i dag skyldes en serie strategiske veivalg gjort de siste årene. Strategiske veivalg gjort av ledelse, styret og eierne.

1)    Man har valgt en driftsmodell (outsourcingsmodell) med Boreal.

2)    Man har valgt å sette (lave) krav til service, servicekultur og servicemålinger

3)    Man har valgt å akseptere en rutetabell de fleste vet er umulig å holde

4)    Man har valgt et visst antall timer til servicetrening for ansatte

5)    Man har valgt å begrenset følge opp (lede, måle, utvikle) serviceopplevelsen om bord

6)    Man har valgt å være tilstede i sosiale medier med åpningstider som passer selskapet, ikke kunden

7)    Man har valgt å ikke ansette et eget team av dedikerte sosiale medier-medarbeidere

8)    Man har valgt å ikke prioritere og håndtere kunder via sosiale medier når trafikken på Facebook øker.

Kort sagt, dagens situasjon består av mer eller mindre bevisste valg som har ført Kolumbus til dagens situasjon.

Strategiske muligheter

Strategifaget forteller oss at enhver bedrift har et tilnærmet ubegrenset mulighetsvindu. Utfordringen er at få ledere tenker kreative, strategiske muligheter. Utfordringen er at ledere sjelden søker radikale innovasjoner. Utfordringen er at mange ledere tar dagens virkelighet for å være absolutt og umulig å påvirke. Man sitter fast i dagens mentale modell og kan ikke forestille seg en radikalt annerledes fremtid for egen organisasjon.

Dette skyldes vanligvis to grunner. Manglende tid. Manglende erfaring med strategisk innovasjon.

Spørsmålet ledere på alle nivå i Kolumbus nå bør stille seg er:
hvordan skal vi bli Norges mest attraktive kollektivtilbud?
Det behøves modige ledere og strategisk innovasjon for å besvare det. Kanskje en studietur til Disney land er en start?


Den siste uken har jeg fått flere henvendelser fra involverte parter. Media beskriver i dag en situasjon som spinner ut av kontroll. Mitt råd til disse: samle alle involverte på tvers av Kolumbus, Boreal og Fylkeskommunen i ett og samme rom. Løs de grunnleggende utfordringene. Etabler felles visjon. Etabler felles serviceløfte. Legg all energi inn i implementeringen av dette. Start i dag.

Rogaland trenger Norges best kollektivtilbud. Det er opp til dere å løse i felleskap.

Kolumbus og sosiale medier, del III

HBR: The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs

In 2011 Walter Isaacson wrote a superbly great book on Steve Jobs. Now, he’s bakc with a Harvard Business Review article with special focus on Steve Jobs’ leadership style. Read it.

We’ll be working to update on of our keynote speeches based on this most recent article.

While much has been said about Jobs’ leadership style, few writers has ever had the insight and access Walter Isaacson has had. This makes his article “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” truly stand out.

Early in the article Isaacson writes, “So I think the real lessons from Steve Jobs have to be drawn from looking at what he actually accomplished. I once asked him what he thought was his most important creation, thinking he would answer the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead he said it was Apple the company. Making an enduring company, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product. How did he do it? Business schools will be studying that question a century from now.”

This, of course, is the BIG question executives and students worldwide should be asking themselves. What can we learn from Apple? If Apple has managed to disrupt several industries, which ones could we disrupt?

Isaacson sums up his key lessons in these 14 points. Enjoy the entire article here.

1) Focus;
2) Simplify;
3) Take Responsibility End to End;
4) When Behind, Leapfrog;
5) Put Products Before Profits;
6) Don’t Be a Slave To Focus Groups;
7) Bend Reality;
8) Impute;
9) Push for Perfection;
10) Tolerate Only “A” Players;
11) Engage Face-to-Face;
12) Know Both the Big Picture and the Details;
13) Combine the Humanities with the Sciences;
14) Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

This week’s Economist has a truly brilliant piece on Apple’s booming share price. It makes a great supplement to the HBR leadership article.

(source: iRational?, the Economist,


What do innovative leaders do?

What do innovative leaders do? What leadership behaviors drive innovation?

In 1989 Steven R. Covey published “the Seven Habits of Highly Efective People”, a book that went on to sell 15 million copies. It was followed up in 2004, with “the Eight Habit“. Combined, Covey’s books have sold some 15 million copies in 38 languages.

Today, Covey runs a worldwide consulting business and his ideas have affected millions of people across the world. These eight habits, according to Covey, form the basis for effective lives, good management and, in turn, drive better results across the workplace.

But what about innovation?
What habits, traits or behaviour help drive effective innovation, strategic innovation and, in turn, create better innovation results?

Across the innovation literature, we find surprisingly little material as clear and succient as covey’s habits to help answer the questions “what habits help drive innovation?” and “what leadership traits and skills foster innovation?”

The 2009 Harvard Business Review article, “The Innovator’s DNA” suggests five traits:
1. Associating
2. Questioning
3. Observing
4. Networking
5. Experimenting

Also, the authors add – and we like this added point – “innovators rely on their courage to innovate, an active bias against the status quo and an unflinching willingness to take risks, to transform ideas into powerful impact” (Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen, 2009).

But, this article stand almost alone in the field.
As leadership trainers and executive coaches we have extensive material on good leadership behaviors, on leadership EQ, on traits for Superleadership, for Transformational leadership and, more recently, extensive material on leading with your strenghts.

But helping an executive team develop innovation skills (not just creativity skills); helping them indivdually develop the behaviors that enable collective innovation; this field is just starting to develop.

Today, we are hard at work to identify such traits and behaviors. Our reserach journey takes us across innovation research, creativity and leadership research. Our goal is to help our students, our clients and organizations everywhere develop the tools, mental capacity, traits and – finally – the behaviour to become more innovate.

That was the blogpost draft we wrote in the middle of 2011. Then we left it there. To develop. While working. And we found what we were looking for.

Think like an innovator (The Innovator’s DNA)

The missing piece that perfectly fit our puzzle was the book “The Innovator’s DNA”. Building on the trio’s December 2009 article, the July 2011 book was a perfect match. Greatly expanding on the first piece, the book also adds another crucial section; The DNA-People, Processes, And Philosophies–Of Innovative Companies.

During the fall of 2011, “The Innovator’s DNA” started sailing up as a book-of-choice across several of our courses and programs for 2012. Students, curious souls and innovators can catch the essence in the 7 minute HBR video. For further reading, we recommned the HBR Blog og All Things D’s Seven Questions for Jeff Dyer.

As far as the book goes, Covey’s even got a review on the book jacket. Fittingly, indeed.

The Innovators DNA sheds new light on the once mysterious art of innovation by showing that successful innovators exhibit common behavioral habits, habits that can boost anyones creative capacity.”
-Stephen R. Covey, author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Leader in Me

Now, action….

That was the background. This week we are turning a corner on “The Innovator’s DNA”. For the first time, we will bring the full, extensive material into our teaching sessions. While we have talked about “The Innovator’s DNA” during our keynote presentations, a leading oil & gas company in Norway is now exploring the tools and tests within the material. This week, we will introduce “Your Innovator’s DNA Profile” into an executive teaching session. We will, for the first time, explore “Innovation – and its implications for leadership development”.

Looking back at these few last months, we feel we have found the missing pieces of the puzzle, and perhaps come several leaps closer to answering “What do innovative leaders do?”, and “What leadership behaviors drive innovation?”. Now, only the work remains. Let’s get to it.


We don’t really have a theory for that

Itera consulting – a Norwegian IT company – is breaking new grounds in Management innovation. “Travel agency”, Their recently introduced change management program, lets 30 of the 120 employees take an active leadership role in the firm.

Using the label “Co-pilot”, the 30 swap on running co-pilot to the existing management structure at the firm. As co-pilots they run management workshops, company wide processes, report on goals, strategy and metrics and generally support and challenge the existing management team.

Read the full story here.

But what is so interesting about Itera’s program is that we really don’t have a theory that cover what they are doing. In 99 % of today’s leadership literature, this scenario does not exist. The idea of leadership being a part of everybody’s job does not really exist.

The well known Situational leadership model or the more recently introduced Transformational leadership theory both imply having a leader, not a group of rotating co-leaders made up of 25 % of the firm. So much for the leader’s job of setting direction and being visionary. Screw it. Let everybody be the visionary!!

Only by looking to some of the recent writings on management innovation, we find some early ideas in the field. The concept of “Distributed Leadership” is the closest we come. See MIT’s Distributed Leadership Forum, Spillane at Northwestern University and McCarthy’s blog for some examples. But most of this writing emerged out of studying schools; looking at the distribution of leadership between academics and administrators.

Most recently we can look to the Management innovation Exchange for some corporate examples of distributed leadership. The Management Innovation Exchange is quickly growing into a hub for aspiring management innovators. And the ideas of distributed leadership is gaining ground here.

Itera Consulting might be among the first companies in Norway to experiement with co-piloting. But we believe many more will follow. Moving forward, we see a changing role for management and leadership in knowledge-driven firms. We – and our clients and research partners – are actively looking for new and bold methods of improving tomorrow’s leadership. The future belongs to those who create it. And right now Itera Consulting is miles ahead of most of their peers.

Thanks to Karina Birkeland Lome for recommending we take a closer look at Itera Consulting.

Elisabeth Øvstebø
Managing Partner
Engage // Innovate

Christian Rangen
Partner, Engage // Innovate
Full-time lecturer, BI Norwegian Business School

We don’t really have a theory for that

Leaders and social media

As Social medias enter the workplace, the role of leadership will change – radically. Few leaders I have met are truly comfortable with leading by letting go. They will have to become.

In a recent video blog, Charlene Li and Gary Hamel discuss Li’s latest book, Open Leadership.

Li, with background as an analyst and author on social medias, and author of Groundswell, ask the question; “What happens to leaders as social medias enter the workplace?”. Her answer:

“The introduction into the workplace of social media tools and other technologies that make communication easier, broader, and faster, tend to underscore a lesson that most managers used to take many years to learn: that we lead not by controlling but by inspiring”. In short; leaders lose control. Leaders need to dare to let go. Leaders need to trust, inspire and lead by example.

Enterprise 2.0 does a great job ot outlining the advances of social medias in workplaces. While few (if any) Norwegian firms have fully embraced the possibilities of social medias in the workplace, they will. Without a doubt, social media tools, the tools described in Enterprise 2.0, will become widespread in modern knowledge-driven firms. It might take five years. It might take ten. But it’s coming.

Today you can get a look at some of the first-movers Socialcast and Chatter.

If you are a leader, you should start reading up today.
A good place to start is the Wikipedia entry on Enterprise Social Media or one of the two books mentioned above.

Engage // Innovate firmly believe enterprise social medias are here to stay. Question is only when, and if leaders will trust their people enough to do it?

Leaders and social media