Making Creativity Your New Competitive Advantage

In today’s digital economy, if it’s linear, it’s usually automated or outsourced! Think about it: What were you doing 10 years ago that’s now accomplishable at the push of a button? Campaign management? Performance analytics? Data management and storage? Do you see a trend? So where are we headed?

creativity

Technology forecasters predict hundreds, if not thousands, of new products will enter the market over the next decade to handle routine activities. In data mining alone, we have seen incredible changes. Years ago, we spent weeks building predictive models by hand. Today, predictive modeling software delivers more powerful models through streamlined, menu-driven processes that take minutes!
So what does that mean to us? If our competitive edge is based on linear processes, our competition may be able to buy software that accomplishes the same thing within a few years. What can we do to stay competitive? Quit using half our brains!
In today’s highly complex, competitive economy, our challenge is to create an environment that encourages “whole brain” thinking. To emphasize the importance, let’s look at a simplified model of how the brain works. To understand its function, the brain is divided into quadrants: The left cerebral mode handles the logical, analytic, and quantitative functions; the left limbic mode handles sequences (remember linear?), planned and detailed functions; the right cerebral mode handles the intuitive, integrative, synthesizing functions; and the right limbic mode handles the emotional, kinesthetic, feeling-based functions.

brain-sectionsMost problem-solving occurs in the brain’s left hemispheres. We begin in the left cerebral mode, where we memorize the correct answer. Then we move to the left limbic mode, where we make plans based on memorized rules and norms. This works well for many routine data-mining tasks, such as finding the average income of your customer base or calculating the response rate of a campaign. But if you are facing a new challenge like unexpected account attrition or a spike in insurance claims — events for which you have no rules — the left side of the brain can’t provide a solution. We completely miss the right-brain functions of intuition, integration, and synthesis, and so are unable to incorporate our emotions or feelings into solving a problem. By skipping the right side of the brain, we diminish our ability to think creatively.

In whole-brain problem solving, we begin in the left cerebral mode with the memorized answer. But we then move to the right cerebral mode and create a mental picture or image. This gives us a nonlinear view of the problem. When we move the problem into the right limbic mode, we may think of some atypical solutions or even have an “aha” experience. From there, we move back into the left limbic mode to formulate a solution.
So why is it so difficult to use creativity? First, creativity produces variance and decreases predictability. So if management has a high need for control, encouraging creative thinking is difficult. Another reason is that tapping into our creativity takes concentration. If our work environment is noisy and distracting, accessing the right side of the brain is difficult. And, finally, creative thinking requires some “downtime” to get the juices flowing. Did you ever notice how you get great ideas in the shower or while exercising? You might argue that you do not have the time or it is not cost-effective. But creative ideas that lead to small improvements to a marketing campaign can save or make millions.
How can we encourage whole-brain thinking? This can be difficult if it requires a drastic change in the company culture. But we can take several steps to facilitate it for ourselves and our staff:
Encourage group discussions where ideas are embraced. Brainstorming is an excellent way to get the creative juices flowing.
Change old habits: Use your non-dominant hand for routine tasks; take a different route to work.
Create a workspace that helps you stay balanced: Play music; fill your office with objects d’art; spend a few minutes in silent contemplation each day. It’s not a waste of time. It’s incubation time for the next million-dollar idea!
Webster’s defines genius as “Great mental capacity and inventive ability; esp., great and original creative ability in some art, science, etc.” So the next time you effectively use your whole brain, they might call you a genius!
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Seven Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival: Part II

In Information Revolution, Jim Davis, Gloria J. Miller, and Allan Russell discuss the

message-in-a-bottle “Seven Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival.” Each reality illuminates the need for new business models as well as styles of leadership. Here is Part II.

Business Reality 4: The Only Constant Is Permanent Volatility

This is a common theme but bears repeating: The company that is most agile and adaptable will gain and maintain a competitive advantage. Instead of just relying on past results to predict the future, companies need to tap into current trends through social networking, Web analysis, and employee feedback.

Business Reality 5: Globalization Helps and Hurts

Globalization presents many advantages, especially to small companies seeking a worldwide presence. Any company that is connected to the Web can strategically partner, outsource, or insource with relative ease. The downside is increased complexity when dealing with international languages, standards, and cultures. Strong communication skills are essential for navigating this terrain.

Business Reality 6: The Penalties of Not Knowing Are Harsher than Ever

In the new era of billion-dollar corporate scandals, personal accountability at the highest levels is not only prudent, it is now legally mandated. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was designed to systematize ethical behavior. In addition to the need for strong, honest leadership, information systems to handle this complex business data are essential.

Business Reality 7: Information Is Not a By-Product of Business; It Is the Lifeblood of Business

The seventh business reality is a direct result of the first six. Due to shrinking business cycles, level playing fields, changing rules, volatility, globalization, and the cost of ignorance, information has become the lifeblood of many businesses. Today, accurate, accessible, actionable information is necessary to compete in the global economy. There are strong pressures to achieve more results while spending less time and money. Companies need up-to-the-minute information about their customers, suppliers, competitors, and markets.

These realities also point to the need for new business models as well as for visionary leadership. With the complexity of business today, decisioning throughout the entire organization has to operate like a well-oiled machine. The sections to come expand on optimal organizational structures as well as the core competencies, or success factors, necessary to operate at this level.

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Seven Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival: Part I

In Information Revolution, Jim Davis, Gloria J. Miller, and Allan Russell discuss the “Seven Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival.”[i] Each reality illuminates the need for new business models as well as styles of leadership. business_survival_life_ring

Business Reality 1: Business Cycles Are Shrinking

In today’s Web-enabled economy, speed within all parts of the business model is the great differentiator. To accommodate changing markets and consumer preferences, product development and testing that used to take years has been shrunk to months or even weeks. Today, the first to market often enjoys the competitive edge.

This shortened cycle challenges managers to make decisions with less time for consideration or analysis. As a result, they must depend on a combination of accurate, actionable information and intuition. And their decision must be in alignment with the overall strategy of the company.

Business Reality 2: You Can Only Squeeze So Much Juice Out of an Orange

The goal of improving operational efficiency drove a majority of the investment in the last decade. Initially the returns were high and provided a competitive advantage. However, now that enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is available, the field has been leveled. The next step is greater innovation and agility.

Business Reality 3: The Rules Have Changed; There Is No More “Business as Usual”

The days of following a typical path to business success are over. The same factors apply: profitability, customer satisfaction, stakeholder value, and competition. However, the path to success is very different and is fraught with new challenges:

  • Mergers and acquisitions have hindered agility and cohesiveness.
  • Productivity advancements have increased expectations from both customers and management.
  • Advancements in IT have overwhelmed the abilities of some companies to manage and leverage the knowledge.
  • The technologies that were introduced as the key to success often failed because the human issues were overlooked.

Stay Tuned for Part II and come back for more business intelligence and change management focused blogs by The OLIVIAGroup! Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. To receive alerts when the next blog is published, click on the RSS feed at the right of the page to subscribe.

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[i]             Jim Davis, Gloria J. Miller, Allan Russell, Information Revolution (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006), xv.

Modeling Innovation With Business Intelligence

In today’s global, digital economy, companies that excel at innovation and speed to market unquestionably have competitive edges. Small companies have an inherent advantage. The challenge is for larger companies, especially those that have been around for a while. Think Google or Apple vs. IBM or HP. It’s not that IBM and HP aren’t innovative at times, but Google and Apple are known for their innovation. So what makes them different?

For companies to be innovative, they must be highly adaptable. This may sound simple, but several characteristics of an adaptable company can be modeled. One characteristic is a well designed enterprise business intelligence solution.data_mining

I really like the model put forth by Jim Davis, Gloria Miller, and Allan Russell in Information Revolution: Using the Information Revolution Model to Grow Your Business. In this book, they propose four dimensions to consider when evaluating your organization’s ability to leverage information:

  1. Infrastructure. This dimension addresses all the software, hardware, and networking tools and technologies that support every phase of the information process. The assessment, purchase, implementation, and use of these components must be part of the overall business intelligence strategy. This requires an effective communications process to ensure that everyone’s needs are considered, and that all decisions are optimized at the organizational level.
  2. Knowledge process. This focuses on the strategic as well as specific uses of the information infrastructure. This includes the policies, best-practices, standards, and governance of all aspects of the information cycle, as well as the performance metrics, reward systems, and commitment to strategic use of information at the highest levels of the organization. For this dimension to operate smoothly, a cohesive, collaborative leadership team is essential.
  3. Human capital. This focuses on the importance of assessing and developing all team members to their highest potential. An inherent organizational wisdom is unveiled and leveraged for maximum innovation and adaptability through the skill development and nurturing of employees.
  4. Culture. This focuses on how your organization positions information as a long-term strategic asset. Specifically, it addresses the interaction between organizational and human influences as it relates to information flow. This includes the moral, social, and behavioral norms of corporate culture as evidenced by the attitudes, belief, and priorities of its members. This requires effective communication skills and an ethos of trust.

Evaluating an organization on these four dimensions highlights a shift in our view of business intelligence. Until very recently, organizations thought of BI strictly as a technology issue. This is the underlying reason for most BI failures. The power of the model proposed by Davis, Miller, and Russell is its holistic focus on the impact and relevance of these important dimensions on all aspects of an organization.

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Where Business Intelligence Fits Into the Information Evolution Model

In Information Revolution: Using the Information Revolution Model to Grow Your Business, authors Jim Davis, Gloria Miller, and Allan Russell introduce the idea of the Information Evolution Model. As I discussed in my last blog, Modeling Innovation With BI, they propose four dimensions — infrastructure, process, people, and culture — as guides for evaluating your organization’s ability to leverage information in an effort to achieve your business goals. Here, I’ll take a deeper look at these four dimensions, framing them in context of the five-level Information Evolution Model.

The model’s five levels — operational, consolidation, integration, optimization, and innovation — are hierarchical and reflect aspects of maturity across the four dimensions. Generally, companies fluctuate within different levels across the four dimensions during this evolution.

Level 1: The operational enterprise

The most common type of organization at this level is the startup. However, many small businesses and large siloed businesses operate at this level as well. The following describes key Level 1 characteristics:

  • Level 1 knowledge process focuses on day-to-day tactics. This results in high variability in the access, analysis, and use of information.
  • Level 1 people tend to thrive in unstructured environments. The information technicians are often self-motivated and risk-takers. They tend to strive for differentiation and recognition, which might serve a company still operating at an entrepreneurial level. However, they resist change and loss of control, which may inhibit maturing to the next level.
  • Level 1 culture is well-suited for charismatic leaders and self-starters. Information management positions are structured to compete, allowing for the emergence of “information mavericks.” Job security is gained through individual control.

The manner in which Level 1 organizations share and use information is highly inconsistent. With the right talent, a business can thrive at this level up to a certain point or in a limited market. As it tries to grow, the individual focus can lead to inefficiencies, redundancies, and errors. Since little intention gets paid to coordinate silos, alignment does not play an important role. Skills in social interaction and teamwork are of little value.

Level 2: The consolidated enterprise

Organizations at this level have integrated information management within a silo or department. Typically, they’ve optimized knowledge processes to support operations within the functional areas.

  • Level 2 infrastructure features all data management hardware and software designed to optimize information and decision processes at a departmental level. Departmental discrepancies and duplication of effort are common pitfalls.
  • Level 2 knowledge process supports decision-making at the department level. This may result in inconsistencies and suboptimal results on an enterprise level.
  • Level 2 human capital and culture dimensions aren’t managed with an intention toward integration. Teamwork may be encouraged in small, homogenous areas, but strategic and interdepartmental collaborative efforts are challenged by the organization’s competitive structure. Communication also may be challenging without the benefit of a shared vision or enterprise-level goals.

Level 3: The integrated enterprise

An enterprise-wide approach to data management and decision-making characterizes organizations at this level. Integrated knowledge systems generate value by standardizing processes that promote coordinated marketing efforts. Resources are mobilized around market and customer relationships that optimize long-term value.

  • Level 3 infrastructure features a seamless, enterprisewide system of hardware, software, and networking that supports data reporting, analysis, and auditing while delivering a single version of the truth.
  • Level 3 knowledge process enables the company to optimize reporting and analysis to meet enterprise-wide goals and objectives. The focus shifts from a product to a customer or market focus with emphasis on relationships and long-term value. All information access and quality is aligned and standardized. Performance management is automated. This level of interdepartmental cooperation requires highly developed communication and collaboration skills.
  • Level 3 people balance departmental goals with those of the enterprise. Their holistic view and emotional intelligence allows them to contribute to and champion enterprise efforts.
  • Level 3 culture views business intelligence as a corporate asset and essential strategy. Training and organizational development focus on the importance of enterprise-wide access and intelligent use of information.

As the organization realizes gains of rapid decision-making, enhanced customer relationships, and shorter time-to-market, alignment becomes crucial for departments striving to coordinate actions and achieve enterprise goals. As the enterprise promotes cross-functional collaboration, competencies in the areas of communication and collaboration are increasingly important.

Level 4: The optimized enterprise

Adaptability is the distinguishing competency of organizations at this level. The ability for constant realignment with changing markets allows Level 4 organizations to maintain a competitive edge.

  • Level 4 infrastructure enhances Level 3 by linking internal business systems across the supply chain, from back-office functions through customer touch points. This enhances communications, data exchange, and connection to partners and customers across functional areas.
  • Level 4 knowledge process focuses on bringing the information systems to a higher level of quality, access, and relevance. All workflow patterns are modeled across the entire information value chain to optimize continuous measurement, decision-making, and real-time analytics leading to consistent and immediate customer response. Closed-loop feedback processes ensure continuous evaluation and improvement.
  • Level 4 people have many similarities to those in Level 1. They are independent, adaptable, innovative, and driven, and take calculated risks. However, their approach to the organization is more holistic. They, along with their peers, are focused on enterprise-level goals. So along with being innovative and adaptable, they must be highly skilled in the areas of communication and collaboration.
  • Level 4 culture empowers individuals across the organization to take on leadership roles. Along with access to rich quantitative information, they are given the autonomy to fine-tune the business model as needed by making incremental improvements. Doing this requires clear communication of the goals and vision from top management as well as the willingness and skills to collaborate and share ideas across departments. Change-readiness is an inherent part of the culture.

Level 5: The adaptive, innovating enterprise

Innovation is the distinguishing competency of organizations at this level. These organizations continuously seek ways to reinvent and transform their value propositions. This proactive model, based on BI and creative energy, lets organizations stay competitive continuously.

  • Level 5 infrastructure features an “intelligence architecture” capable of integrating and expanding quickly and seamlessly based on organizational needs. An advanced combination of analytic tools allows organizations to test and perfect new ideas in virtual environments, thus reducing time to market. Innovation is systematically fostered and supported through information access and sharing.
  • Level 5 knowledge process encourages innovation at the highest levels. Extensive analytics provide the ability to model the future while minimizing risk. As a way of stimulating new ideas, organizations encourage and facilitate collaboration on an enterprise-wide basis. The entire innovation process is documented, analyzed, and communicated throughout the organization.
  • Level 5 people are holistic thinkers. With a keen eye for the bottom line, they are also proactive, creative thinkers. They thrive on juggling many roles and activities. They actually enjoy change and get bored if the business becomes stagnant. They know their competitors are able to reach Level 4 with cutting-edge technology. But at Level 5, they can always outpace their competitors by continuing to innovate.
  • Level 5 culture embraces holistic thinking. All ideas, even the most absurd, are examined. Processes aim to facilitate creativity and support an intuitive flow of ideas. Constant change is the norm. To support innovation, inquiry, feedback, and collaboration are embedded in all aspects of the Information Evolution Model.

According to Davis, Miller, and Russell, no organization has truly reached Level 5. Some have pockets of Level 5 competencies, but most organizations find it difficult to thrive during constant change.

Conclusions

The skills needed for success in our high-tech, global, interconnected economy are moving from the technical to the human realm. Organizations are automating or outsourcing all linear processes. Enterprise BI based on accurate, accessible, useful data is a driving force behind this shift. Innovation as a core competency lies in an organization’s ability to align its infrastructure, processes, people, and culture to progress through the Information Evolution Model.

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Enterprise Business Intelligence: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The all-too-familiar promise of enterprise business intelligence is the ability to optimize decision-making at every level of the organization through a blend of systems and technologies that leverage highly useful, accessible, accurate data. In many industries, BI use is so pervasive that it is essential just to remain competitive! But many organizations never realize the full value simply because they are not agile enough to adapt to the new speed and complexity. leadership_techniques

The good: Great opportunities

Enterprise BI solutions offer a powerful competitive edge in today’s fast-paced, high-tech, global economy.

For years, organizations have been automating their reporting and online analytical processing capabilities. Recent trends are moving toward advanced analytics as the central focus of BI. This includes data mining, predictive analysis, complex SQL, natural language processing, statistics, and artificial intelligence. Advanced analytics provides a competitive advantage as it allows organizations to detect and model patterns and trends in all areas of their business, such as market shifts, supply chain economics, cost fluctuations, and more.

The bad: Typical challenges

Given the myriad of enterprise-BI solution options, just getting started can be challenging. In addition to the standard solutions that have been in use for many years, new Web 2.0 services, virtualization, social networking, and software-as-a-service options are available now, too. With so many choices and possible implications for the business, the decision-makers need to be thinking about how to optimize the balance between customer and shareholder value while considering all the financial and political implications.

The ugly: The real competitive advantage

Following an enterprise BI implementation, the expectation is that our day-to-day tasks will get simpler and more satisfying. After all, we have streamlined and automated many of the left-brain linear processes, freeing us to focus on expansion and innovation. But the reality is often very different. What many leaders don’t fully comprehend is the destabilizing effect that enterprise BI can have on an organization. Successful BI implementation requires a level of agility that is not inherent in most organizations.

Optimizing the benefits of BI in our continuously changing business climate requires the adaptability to manage the enormous complexity of redesigning processes, management structures, and measurement systems. In other words, to really understand and leverage the benefits of enterprise BI, we must understand the effect on all aspects of the organization — especially our culture and human capital. So what can we do?

An evaluation of interpersonal skills is a good first step. Why? Because in our new interconnected, interdependent organizations, team members must be able to connect and collaborate. This requires effective communication skills and a culture of trust. Skill-building in effective communication is a great place to start. Team-building and leadership development also deliver great value. Team-building develops a culture of trust. And with the current pace of change and need to adapt constantly, everyone is called on to be a leader at times.

Building adaptability through collaboration taps into the innate wisdom of the organization. The total benefit to the organization is often greater than the sum of the parts. This unleashes enormous energy for channeling into designing strategies for innovation, greater efficiency, and increased profits.

The finale

Whether you are just embarking on a BI solution, already have one in place, or are somewhere in between, it is worthwhile to assess and develop the interpersonal skills of everyone in your organization. The effectiveness of your BI solution will depend on the cohesiveness and agility of the CIO and his or her team. The failure of BI is typically blamed on the technology. But in truth, it is often a people issue.

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A Dynamic Organization Principle #9

Use Organizational Instability to Catalyze Learningleadership_training_models_

Organizations that succeed in leveraging instability unleash enormous amounts of energy for fueling innovation and adaptability. As situations present themselves—such as a new competitive threat or loss of investment money—management must maintain a delicate balance between reacting too quickly and resorting to old patterns.

Working in a culture of constant instability can be stressful, especially when it is new to the organization. Because of years of experience with the stable, predictable model, many managers resist moving to a model of permanent instability. What is required is a delicate balance between maintaining enough discomfort for learning and productivity to be optimized while avoiding the risk of demotivation, paralysis, and complacency.

Some tactics are well suited for fueling innovation and adaptability. One is to make sure that every member of the organization knows the truth about the difficulties facing the company. Holding people accountable is important. Doing so might include publicizing risk taking to highlight successes and explain shortcomings while avoiding blame. During times of stress, typically 20 percent of employees step up to be change agents. Another 20 percent resist or retreat. By raising the visibility of the change agents, the other 60 percent typically follow their lead.

Encouraging diverse points of view enhances adaptability. Discussions that support opposing points of view often trigger ideas that can be advance warnings of needed transformation.
To maintain the energy and loyalty essential to adaptability, organizations should design and share relevant metrics. A strong vision accompanied by clearly communicated roles and responsibilities will lead to accountability. With distributed decision making in a rapidly changing environment, success metrics must be clear and equitable.
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Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000)

Use Organizational Instability to Catalyze Learning

Organizations that succeed in leveraging instability unleash enormous amounts of energy for fueling innovation and adaptability. As situations present themselves—such as a new competitive threat or loss of investment money—management must maintain a delicate balance between reacting too quickly and resorting to old patterns.

Working in a culture of constant instability can be stressful, especially when it is new to the organization. Because of years of experience with the stable, predictable model, many managers resist moving to a model of permanent instability. What is required is a delicate balance between maintaining enough discomfort for learning and productivity to be optimized while avoiding the risk of demotivation, paralysis, and complacency.

Some tactics are well suited for fueling innovation and adaptability. One is to make sure that every member of the organization knows the truth about the difficulties facing the company. Holding people accountable is important. Doing so might include publicizing risk taking to highlight successes and explain shortcomings while avoiding blame. During times of stress, typically 20 percent of employees step up to be change agents. Another 20 percent resist or retreat. By raising the visibility of the change agents, the other 60 percent typically follow their lead.

Encouraging diverse points of view enhances adaptability. Discussions that support opposing points of view often trigger ideas that can be advance warnings of needed transformation.
To maintain the energy and loyalty essential to adaptability, organizations should design and share relevant metrics. A strong vision accompanied by clearly communicated roles and responsibilities will lead to accountability. With distributed decision making in a rapidly changing environment, success metrics must be clear and equitable.

Come back for the last Principle on Leading a Dynamic Organization! Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. 

Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000).

 

A Dynamic Organization Principle #8

Fluidify the Organizational Structure

The flow and accessibility of information is critical in complex organizations, especially those with global reach. The best structures are those that avoid rigidity. Community-based organizations are structured to optimize collaboration between horizontal units while requiring minimal input vertically. Their network structure facilitates the flow of information and task allocations diagonally, leading to maximum adaptability.management_of_change

The level of localization or decentralization depends on the conditions necessary for self-learning. The goal is to allow a structure to emerge that optimizes the ability to make rapid and relevant decisions. These structures will evolve over time as the organization grows and diversifies. Decision making is delegating to the front line with a mechanism for self-learning. Management does not set the goals and means. Rather, it sets the overall aim and allows each organizational unit to determine its own path through communication and collaborative decision making.

These tactics facilitate the development of a fluid structure with in a learning organization:

  • The creation of multilevel project teams supports a community-based structure. Senior management should delegate resources and objectives to the lowest possible level. Performance should be measured on both a team and an individual level.
  • Continually changing demands can lead to unclear reporting relationships. To facilitate learning, the organization should clearly define accountabilities while tolerating some lack of clarity. This becomes more natural as companies experience the value of community-based structures. Specific objectives and defined responsibilities lead the process while maximizing flexibility and learning.
  • Horizontal information flow and communication is very important. Within community-based organizations, information flows freely. Interconnectedness is facilitated by a plethora of communication devices. Therefore, the challenge is moving from information availability to discretion and relevance.

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Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000).

A Dynamic Organization Principle #7

Design Decision-Making Systems for Self-Organization

model_change_management_
An efficient and effective decision-making system is critical to survival in a complex, volatile economy. Organizations must develop processes that encourage self-organization. Doing so requires an open sharing of the vision, the free flow of information, and strong communication between all levels of management on down.

Decision making is one area where rigor and precision are beneficial in an otherwise fluid atmosphere. Respect for people’s time must be balanced with ensuring that everyone has a voice. Creative incentive packages, such as the ones discussed in Business Intelligence Success Factors regarding collaboration, enhance emergence of self-organization.

Complex organizations require a variety of decision-making styles. Some are designed for day-to-day operations while others focus on long-term issues. For example, formal decision making regarding important issues of management and predefined time periods, such as strategic planning, annual budgeting, and executive committee meetings, is typically well designed and structured. Formal, nonperiodic decision making designed to handle unexpected situations may also follow a set format. Formal decision making is used when a decision is needed with regard to a major restructuring, new directions, or investments and crisis management. Since formal decision making covers a variety of areas and are not planned very far in advance, the attendees may not be known ahead of time. These types of meetings are more common in complex organizations that aim to adapt quickly to market changes. Informal decision making can happen anywhere. It is important for leaders to be aware of the effect of limited input on their decisions. Managers who want to promote self-organizing, team-based, distributed decision making must recognize their power to influence through their conversational style and remind others that their opinion is just one of many that deserves consideration.

To foster self-organization, a company must guide its decision making to resemble that of an entrepreneurial enterprise. For example, reducing the presence of top management in the day-to-day operations is a good first step. Combined with an effective information exchange through every level of the company hierarchy, this shift ensures that the flow of information goes beyond the typical sharing of knowledge to include daily insights, ideas, and issues as they arise.

Self-organizing companies need teams that have a broad range of skills that represent a microcosm of the company. Such companies can adapt more quickly due to competent leadership and decision making at many levels.

Learning by doing serves large companies by reviving the entrepreneurial spirit. New challenges inspire people to connect with others to find solutions and increase learning. This leads to faster adaption of new ideas that energizes the workforce and unleashes innovation.
Complex organizations that share decision making and accountability must also share compensation. Many financial instruments to associate compensation with performance exist, such as employee stock purchase plans, cash bonuses, and stock options. One creative practice by Thermo Electron is the practice of spinouts. The company “hands over day-to-day control of newly formed subsidiaries and fistfuls of share options to the staff. The stock has returned 20% per year since the practice began.”[i]

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