Gearing up for Strategic Management kick-off

Can’t wait for September 4th!

Every fall I have the great pleasure of teaching Strategic Management (STR3600) at BI – Norwegian Business School. The course is a torrent of ideas, perspectives and discussions on strategy. Dicussing emerging trends, new business models and new technology services, I’m learning as much as the students.

This year we will feature Telenor, Facebook and Spotify as key learning cases. Hearing the students’ views on how Spotify will change the world, how Telenor will change banking and how Facebook will become a plattform for nearly everything is, well, priceless.

Can’t wait to get started.

Gearing up for Strategic Management kick-off

Finn.no gets innovation

Statoil ASA and Snøhetta Design are listed as Norway’s two most innovative companies*Now, Finn.no is aiming to top both of them for the title of “one of the world’s most innovative companies”.

Finn.no has a long history of innovation. The company was founded on the very idea of disruptive innovation itself. The idea that the newspaper industry was facing a significant disruption in the market for ads. While the realization hit management back in 1996, it was not until the year 2000 today’s business model was launched.  Resistance to launching what came to be called Finn.no was originally stiff, as it would cannibalize an existing cash cow for many of Norway’s leading newspapers. According to sources close to the process, “Finn.no just barely made it past the decisionmakers ”. Yet, as Clayton Christensen frequently says, “If you don’t have to courage to disrupt yourself, somebody else will”.

In Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Solution, he recommend “that organizations develop internal innovation programs, which operate independently within the organization for the purpose of creating disruptive innovations, even if they will eventually undercut their main business. Better to disrupt yourself than to have someone else do it for you”(Gamme, 2006).

For the founding newspapers, this of course, was just what happened. Today, Finn.no is both a shooting star and cash cow with 44 % profit margin on revenues of NOK 1.1 bn. I don’t think you’ll find a lot of Newspapers with that kind of result margin these days.  Today, Schibsted’s more traditional newspaper business units (Norway and abroad) hover between 2 % and 18 % profit margins.

Finn.no’s amazing numbers are all thanks to innovation.

Since 2006, Finn.no has been working to define and strengthen its innovation process. (recommend reading this excellent blog post by Eyvind Larre, Finn.no head of innovation lab).

Today Finn.no is building its innovation engine further. Jens Hauglum was hired as Innovation Manager in May. on June 14th, the company took out an ad for the position of Innovation Catalyst.

It’s this ad that got our attention. 

We meet a lot of companies that talk about innovation. Some hire for innovation. But this ad is perhaps the most insightful innovation job posting we have ever seen in Norway. Many CEOs could learn from it.

In our upcoming paper “Where’s Your Innovation Academy?” we map out a holistic model for building a truly innovative company. Analyzing Finn.no using this model reveals just this kind of a highly innovative company.

The holistic model for innovation has the following steps:

Why: Strategic Context

Finn.no er et av Norges mest lønnsomme og mest besøkte nettselskaper, og er ledende i verden innen sitt forretningsområde. Finn.no er derfor en av spydspissene i Schibsted-konsernet innen online-virksomhet.

(Finn.no is one of Norway’s most profitable web sites, and a world leader in its field.)

To stay grow further, innovation is an absolute requirement (our comment)

What: Vision
“FINN har ambisjon om å være blant de mest innovative selskapene i verden’’ (Finn’s ambition is to be among the world’s most innovative companies)

How: three enablers (people, culture and processes)

“Dette skal vi få til ved å etablere innovasjonsprosesser og innovasjonskultur i verdensklasse’’(We’ll acheive this by establishing worldclass innovation processes and innovation culture)

Speaking for the people side; the CEO is ‘’ Passionate about innovation and people development”. The company has a number of people working on innovation processes. And Finn.no is ranked as Norway’s #1 Great Place to Work. 

Knowing there’s a strong link between employee engagement (measured in GPTW) and innovation capacity, it’s reasonable to assume a strong people-practice for innovation at Finn.no

Based on our work in Norway, Finn.no should be a candidate for one of the country’s most innovative companies already.

We’ve allowed ourselves to paste the entire ad below. We will be showing this to a lot of Norwegian HR-directors. There’s no need to be based in Silicon Valley to develop the innovation engine for tomorrow. Finn.no is doing it right here, right now. Well done!

Finn.no seeking Innovation Catalyst
(see the full ad here)

FINN.no har på sine 12 år rukket å få praktisk talt hele Norges befolkning som fornøyde brukere. Det er vel ikke utenkelig at akkurat du har svidd av en time eller tre her også? Slikt blir det fornøyde eiere av, og etter hvert 330 engasjerte medarbeidere som sitter samlet i Oslo sentrum. Markedsplassen vår er en braksuksess, men vi har ingen planer om å bli late og fornøyde av den grunn. FINN er en viktig del av mediekonsernet Schibsted og består av markedene FINN eiendom, FINN bil, FINN jobb, FINN torget, FINN reise og FINN oppdrag.

FINNs verdier som preger oss i alt vi gjør:
SULT – PRESISJON – TAKHØYDE – HUMØR

Innovasjonskatalysator

FINN har ambisjon om å være blant de mest innovative selskapene i verden. Dette skal vi få til ved å etablere innovasjonsprosesser og innovasjonskultur i verdensklasse. Innovasjon er en kjernekompetanse i FINN og sammen skal vi skape de beste markedsplassene, både nye og eksisterende. Sentralt i arbeidet med å oppnå dette er teamet som jobber med FINN Way of Innovation. Teamet eier målet om innovasjonsprosesser i verdensklasse og er sentral i arbeidet med å sette retning for, og implementere, måten FINN jobber med innovasjon på.

Vi er nå på jakt etter en ny kollega. Du skal, som stillingstittelen innebærer, være en katalysator for innovasjonsarbeidet i FINN. Du vil også være en viktig kulturbærer for innovasjonsarbeidet. Stillingen rapporterer til leder for innovasjon.

Arbeidsoppgaver:

Gartner: sørge for at det er jordsmonn, næring og hageredskap nok til at ideer sås, spirer og gror. Dette innebærer bla. at man skal eie prosesser og verktøy knyttet til idegenerering og verktøy, både online og ved hjelp av workshops og kreative teknikker. En viktig oppgave blir å hjelpe markedsplassene med å kjøre idekampanjer, verdiøke, prioritere og score ideer

Los: hjelpe nye og eksisterende markedsplasser med å implementere innovasjonsprosesser og verktøy. Dette innebærer bla. å være subject matter expert på innovasjon og ha sterke prosesslederegenskaper. Du må samtidig være dyktig på å bringe lærdom fra markedsplassene tilbake til den felles utviklingen av innovasjonsarbeidet i FINN

Kvalifikasjoner:

  • Erfaring fra innovasjonsarbeid, helst i større virksomhet
  • Erfaring fra å drive Idea Management prosesser, gjerne med erfaring i bruk av verktøy
  • Fasiliteringskompetanse og people skills
  • Prosess- og prosjektledelse
  • Metodekompetanse innen innovasjon
  • Gjerne erfaring fra startups
  • Erfaring fra konsulentvirksomhet vil bli vektlagt

Vi kan tilby

  • Konkurransedyktige betingelser
  • Gode pensjons- og forsikringsordninger
  • Bedriftshytter og leiligheter
  • Fri avis, telefon, nettbrett og internett.
  • Treningsmuligheter med eget treningsrom
  • Kontorer sentralt i Oslo sentrum
  • Et stimulerende, sosialt og utviklende arbeidsmiljø med dedikerte mennesker.

* note
Listed as in being the only two Norwegian companies in the most widely used international rankings. These include BusinessWeek’s , Fast Company’s MIC50, CNN/Fortune Magazine, and more.
Other rankings might provide other results. Valid as of time of writing.

Gallery

Surving Nokia?

“They are trying to survive,” said one analyst “They can’t continue like this.”

“This is harder than we thought and we’re having to make deeper changes,” says CEO Elop.

Question is; what would you do?

Preparing this fall’s Strategy courses at BI – Norwegian Business School. And Nokia will be one of the case studies. But rather than using HBR cases, we use the real world. Few cases are better than Nokia and its on-going struggles. This Bloomberg article lays out a great analysis.

Surving Nokia?

Congratulations, Facebook team

Last Friday marked one of the biggest moments in this generation’s tech investments: Facebook IPO.

People will argue whether it’s a bubble or not; only time will tell. But what is a fact, is that Facebook – so far – is one of the biggest success stories of our times.

– The third biggest IPO ever (after VISA and General Motors)
– The largest tech IPO ever
– The largest IPO ever by an 8 year old company

Add to that, Facebook has a very interesting business model in the making as ”Facebook is now a platform for everything”; and the case can be made for Facebook’s P/E ratio and beyond.

Anyway, Friday’s numbers are so amazing, they are worth really looking at. NY Times’ Dealbook has done a great visualization on them. See the full version here.

A glimpse in history (from Businessweek) should serve as inspiration for future entreprenurs. 

Young Entrepreneurs

Face-Forward Startup

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook
www.facebook.com
Palo Alto, Calif.
Founded: 2004
Age: 21

In the spring of 2004, Zuckerberg didn’t know he was hatching a hot social-networking startup. He just thought Harvard should have an online directory of students. His first attempt landed him in hot water with the administration — he ranked all students’ ID photos based on attractiveness. His second try made him a Silicon Valley wheeler and dealer.

Selling banner ads to make money, the Facebook connects students with one another. Originally, Zuckerberg fretted over the $85 a month it cost to run. Today, Facebook has raised more than $13 million from Silicon Valley names like PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Accel Partners.

Zuckerberg needn’t worry about getting brushed aside in favor of seasoned management — the gutsy Harvard dropout negotiated a contract with investors that left him in control as long as he wants.

Lesson learned:
“Do what you think is right, not what other people tell you is right. People have strong opinions about the way to do stuff. It’s really good to listen and learn from the world, but when you’re making something, it’s coming from you.”

The team. Year one.

Congratulations, Facebook team

Strategy in the creative economy

Facebook is one of the companies we follow closely. As a leader in the social space and one of the success stories of our generation, many executive teams and aspiring leaders can learn from it.

This NY Times article reveals how Facebook is buying talent to drive its strategy. In the creative economy; ideas, talent and innovation drive strategy. Not the other way around. Recommended.

BTW; notice the speed…how long does a M&A process typically take at your firm?

Strategy in the creative economy

Are we really teaching people out of creativity?

(Update: I’ve updated this blogpost with further reflections)

Today my International marketing students had their first of four exams this spring. Today’s case: Moods of Norway.

Today I got to see some great thinking and good presentations from both the consultants and the board around Moods of Norway. But I’m left with one nagging feeling. Are teaching our future leaders out of creativity?

“I believe this passionately: that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.”
– Sir Ken Robinson

This idea has long been the hallmark of Professor Sir Ken Robinson, whose excellent TED talk on the subject has drawn over 10 million views.

What I saw today was highly engaged, highly creative students (outside the classroom), who, during their learning experience, and their exam requirements, gradually conform (too much) to the current academic standard. Students who slowly adapt the academic models and theories; but losing their own creative ideas along the way. What I saw was rational analysis and a struggle to “use the right models right”. But as a consequence, creativity, ideation and dreaming suffers. What was left was boring, staid, lacking ambitions, lacking boldness and simply put, not very good. Yes, they were using the right models right, but doing so at the cost of their ability to dream, marvel and be fantastic. (note: these reflections do not affect the grades, as the students are working within the proper paradigm. Rather, these reflections are part of an constant, evolving development of our teaching).

We know all theories and models are only valid untill a better theory comes along. By putting too much emphasis on ‘the right models’, are we killing the natural creative skills? Should we rather be teaching students to make up their own models? To adapt the models to their needs? To play with, break up and take apart, to mix and match the models as they see fit? To be courageous and adventurous in their play with theories?

Peter Drucker once said “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision”. Today I did not see any courage. Instead I saw mere repetition of the academic requirements.

Walt Disney supposedly said “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”….and he was 24 years old when he and his brother founded Disney.

Emerging research around the Innovator’s DNA tells us the most important traits for future innovators are the courage to innovate; a desire to challenge the status quo and a willigness to take risks. Yet, our students are not rewarded for courage and innovation, they are rewarded for using the existing paradigm of models and theories.

Harvard Professor Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators, says today’s educational paradigm needs fundemental rethinking; “schools educate to fill children with knowledge — instead they should be focusing on developing students’ innovation skills and motivation to succeed”. What is needed, says Wagner in a recent Forbes interview, is “reinventing” our educational system for a global, creative economy.

If we look back at some pretty fantastic companies, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Disney, Moods of Norway (a true pirate), Virgin Galactic, Facebook, you would be hard pressed to build a perfectly rational argument for founding each of these firms. Instead, they all had founders who dared to drem big and live out that dream.

In our most recent book, “Dream Bigger: Your Personal Innovation Sketchbook” we open with the lines:

“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.”

What I have seen today tells me there’s tons of work to be done. Starting today.

So, I’m testing an hypothesis: are today’s students naturally creative and innovative? Will putting them into a naturally creative state of mind yield radically different strategies then a fixed exam situation will?

Tomorrow I’m teaching a full day of Innovation and Entreprenurship. Taking on the consulting roles for Moods of Norway’s future strategy, what will the students come up with? How will they apply their innovation thiking tools, their stratgic innovation tools, to re:think strategy for this pirate company? Because few companies would ever publish such a company description. Yet, these do. And remain highly profitable, highly succesful.
Moods of Norway is one of the firms that break the rules rather than follow them. This is the courage to innovate. This is Pirate thinking. This is what we should be teaching the next generation of leaders.

Update:
Today’s class in Innovation and Entreprenurship was a blast. Fun and powerful learning for everyone involved.
Today I got to test several of my hypothesis. Would the students be more strategically innovative if they didn’t have to follow a given set of theories and models? Would the students be even more innovative and creative if I introduced Lego and other physical ‘toys’ from our extensive teaching toolkit?

Answer: Yes, in a big, big way!

Starting out, I divided the students in four groups. Two groups working on Coolburst, two working on Moods of Norway. Their task; craft and present a new company strategy to the board.

Over the next two hours the groups worked individually and gradually recieved further information and guidance. All groups started working on either the Business Model Canvas or the Innovation Pyramid. Their creative ideas were sprinning up. Said one partipipants, “early on, we actually had too many (crazy) ideas”.

Then I decided to test the second hypothesis; “Would the students be even more innovative and creative if I introduced Lego and other physical ‘toys’?”. Answer: absolutely!

Today we have plenty of research and literature on how play, fun and creativity drives strategic imagination and enhances ideation. “Playing seriously with strategy” (Roos, Victor, Statler, 2004) was one of the key papers, laying out the research on the topic. Their work led to the co-creation, together with Lego, of “Serious Play“. “Serious Play: A powerful tool designed to enhance innovation and business performance” is today owned and run by the Lego Foundation, but increasingly used as a strategy tool around the world.

Rasmussen and Associates has a great little booklet titled “The Science of Serious Play“.

Today the method is described as a “a passionate and practical process for building confidence, commitment and insight” (Wiki).

So, we know from both research and practice, that bringing these tools into the strategy work can have a positive effect on both innovation and strategic imagination (just the items I was so sorely missing from my marketing students). So I asked my students what they experienced:

“Lego helped us generate radical ideas for product development. Up untill ‘legotime’, we were mostly thinking incremental ideas.”

“Creating with lego provokes creativity”

“Innovation is easier in theory than in practice. Out-dated thinking modes creates mental limitations. Colorful surroundings and tools increases our creative thinking”

“With Lego, our limitations disappeared by playing”

‘’With Lego, creativity blossomed and new ideas sprung forward”

“Play makes us more creative!”

“Playing stimulates ideas and creativity”

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Update:

Friday I had the second of four marketing exams. The same thing happened. The students were using the right models correctly. They applied classical tools and classical thinking models to their cases. By and large they solved and debated the cases right. They rightfully got good grades. They solved the cases…. but, again, they were following the models into a logic, linear, careful strategic choice. Not wrong. But not great either. What I’m increasingly seeing is that the models we are using here are too timid and rational vs. the strategic imagination possible using other tools and methods.

I’m looking forward to two more days of marketing exams for this upcoming week.

But I think the big questions remains, to quote Wagner; “how do we develop students’ innovation skills and motivation to succeed”, rather than teaching them the correct academic models….?

Gallery

Researching news clippings for teaching creative strategic thinking

“In strategic thinking, we have learned that there is no such thing as a mature industry: there is only an industry to which imagination has yet to be applied”
– Steven Denning

I’m researching material for my upcoming strategy class. This spring I also run several executive education programs where strategic management is part of the program. The goal: teach students at all levels more creative strategic thinking.I have excellent books and great case studies, but I am looking for recent, up-to-date material they will recognize. Apple, Amazon, Facebook are easy pickings for good case studies. As are Nokia, Kodak and Sony for the worse stories.The search for the best material is still on-going. So far, I’m reading through this selection… (still on-going)

David Brooks: Competitiveness Vs Creativity: GE vs Apple

How To Succeed Like Apple and Amazon

Strategy Is The Antidote To Complexity, Killer Of Today’s Best Companies
¨

Apple’s inevitable path to a post-PC era

Apple=Sony: Brace For The Coming Post-Steve Jobs Decline

Apple = Sony? Don’t You Believe It


Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear in the Next 5 Years

Also worth looking into are these posts on the creative economy and how to teach it.

The Creative Monopoly

Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup—Stanford, Spring 2012 (PayPal founder, early Facebook investor Peter Thiel, now teaching at Stanford)

Five Days to Change the World – The Columbia Lean LaunchPad Class

And a few on Nokia…

Nokia: Demand Still Falling, The Worst Is Still To Come

Nokia loses mobile top spot. What does it have left?

Footnote, also adding this one…
Be Your Own Bank: Bitcoin Wallet for Apple

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