Business Success: Internet Radio!

Please join me…

I’m Making the Leap to Internet Radio!

Do you find the current economic climate exciting? Stressful? Both? Well, here’s the good news… or bad news, depending on your comfort level with uncertainty – it’s going to intensify and, dare I say, get more exciting… and perhaps more stressful. Yes, our fast-paced, high-tech, global economy is going to go faster, get more technological, and connect to more parts of our amazing planet.

So what can we do about it? Personally, I become more comfortable with change and uncertainty if I can identify an underlying pattern or model. And I’ve been building predictive models for marketing, risk, and CRM for over 20 years. So I love when I can figure this stuff out… And I’m going to share what I’ve learned on my new radio show, Quantum Business Insights – Emerging Perspectives on People, Process, and Profits. Here’s an overview:

In today’s fast-paced, high-tech, global economy, the business landscape is constantly changing. The confluence of big data, emerging technologies, and global connectivity places unprecedented pressure on companies to become more innovative and agile. To maintain a competitive edge, companies must constantly adapt while continuing to identify and exploit new opportunities.

Interestingly, new models are emerging from science and nature that offer a unique perspective – one that sees our global economy as a highly interconnected, continually evolving complex adaptive system. These models unveil powerful insights for optimizing our business strategies and operations.

Each week on Quantum Business Insights, we’ll explore these concepts with thought leaders from around the globe. We’ll look for ways to leverage their insights to ignite innovation, inspire our workforce, and create positive outcomes for our companies and the planet.


Beginning at noon ET on Friday, September 13th (who needs luck?), I’m launching my new radio show “Quantum Business Insights – Emerging Perspectives on People, Process, and Profits” on Voice America.

Now you’re probably wondering how models from science and nature connect with business. Have you ever heard of quantum physics? Or evolutionary biology? Turns out these areas of knowledge go a long way in explaining what is going on in our volatile, global economy. If at this point you’re tempted to stop reading, consider this: at least 35% of our economy is based on quantum physics. Fiber optics, lasers, and microchips are all based on quantum theory. And with the recent emergence of quantum computing, this percentage may grow significantly.

Here’s the good news! You don’t have to go back to school and study quantum physics or evolutionary biology. A simple understanding, gleaned from Wikipedia or a plethora other sources, will give you the basics. There are a few simple principles that apply to everyday business, in my humble opinion. And they all point to letting go of control.

Are you still with me? I realize this can be a huge challenge for many of you. But believe me, it’s worth trying. Here’s why – to really thrive in our volatile, global economy, we must let go of any domination models and nurture our most important asset – our human capital.
Over my many years of research, I’ve met some amazing people. So I have an exciting line-up of guests, including:

Riane Eisler, JD – President of the Center for Partnership Studies and internationally known for her ground-breaking contributions as a systems scientist, attorney working for the human rights of women and children, and author of The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (Harper & Row, 1988), now in 25 foreign editions, and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics (Berrett-Koehler, 2008), hailed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “a template for the better world we have been so urgently seeking” by Gloria Steinem as “revolutionary,” and by Jane Goodall as “a call for action.”

Dr. Eisler lectures worldwide, with venues including the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. Department of State, Congressional briefings, and events hosted by heads of State. She is a member of the Club of Rome, a Councilor of the World Future Council and the International Museum of Women, a member of the General Evolution Research Group, a fellow of the Academy of Art and Science and the World Business Academy, a Commissioner of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality. For more information, visit

Mitch Ditkoff – co-founder and President of Idea Champions, a highly acclaimed management consulting and training company. Mitch specializes in helping forward thinking organizations go beyond business as usual, originate breakthrough products and services, and establish dynamic, sustainable cultures of innovation.

At the heart of his work lies the fundamental belief that a company’s most important capital asset is the collective brain power, creativity and commitment of its work force and that this asset can be significantly leveraged when people are provided with the appropriate setting, systems, tools and techniques to think (and act) out of the box.

In 2010 and 2011, he was voted as the #1 innovation blogger in the world and is now a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. His widely read blog, The Heart of Innovation, is a daily destination for a global audience of movers and shakers. Additionally, Mitch is the author of the award-winning book, Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Idea Rolling (in an uphill world) and the innovation-sparking card deck and online app, Free the Genie.

Mitch has worked with a wide variety of Fortune 500 and mid-sized companies who have realized the need to do something different in order to succeed in today’s rapidly changing marketplace. These clients include: GE, Merck, AT&T, Allianz, Lucent Technologies, NBC Universal, Goodyear, A&E Television Networks, General Mills, MTV Networks, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and a host of others. For more information, visit

Rodney Napier, PhD – President of The Napier Group and a professor of Organizational Dynamics at Temple University. For over 40 years, Rod has facilitated and taught small group, team, and system behavior. His early work as a professor at Temple University placed him in the formative years of the group dynamics movement where he was both a learner and a contributor to this rapidly-expanding area of human behavior.

Dr. Napier is co-founder of the Athyn Group, which focuses on leadership development and introduced the first prototype for 360- degree feedback, now central to most programs of leadership development. Attempting to translate theory into practice in relation to leader/facilitator effectiveness has been a primary concern. To that end he has authored or co-authored a dozen books including the seminal text in the field of group dynamics, Groups: Theory and Experience – now in its seventh edition. His most recent book, The Courage to Act provides insight into the creation of high performing teams where the development of candor, trust, and risk-taking are central to spawning both individual and team courage.

His consulting and education work have involved organization development and change programs for dozens of nationally recognized corporations including Bechtel, CBS, Merck, and Exxon; and international organizations such as the Office of the President of Nicaragua, and the United Nations. For more information, visit

Brian Robertson – Partner at HolacracyOne, is a seasoned entrepreneur and organization builder, and a recovering CEO – a job from which he now helps free others with Holacracy. Generally regarded as the primary developer of the system, Brian’s work allows leaders to release the reins of personal power and persuasion into a trustworthy and explicit governance process. Brian also serves as the drafter and steward of the Holacracy Constitution, which captures the system’s unique “rules of the game” in concrete form. Beyond joyfully crafting legal documents, Brian’s creative expression takes many forms – he co-founded HolacracyOne to support Holacracy’s growth, and he fills and loves a broad variety of the company’s roles.

He’s particularly grateful to hold no fancy titles and wield no special powers, so he can show up as just another partner doing his part to support something he cares about. HolacracyOne, founded in early 2007, matured the Holacracy prototype into a comprehensive operating system and novel authority structure, and packaged it for implementation by other organizations. Holacracy is now an international movement with a broad community of practitioners and consultants catalyzing its adoption across the globe. For more information,

More Details
The show will air at 12:00 noon Eastern Time every Friday beginning 9/13/13. It will repeat 12 hours later and be available for download on my host page (link available next week). So please watch for upcoming show topic and guest announcements.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor or feel like you would be a good fit for an interview, please contact me –

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?


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!
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.
Visit to learn more about Business Intelligence and hiring Olivia Parr Rud for your next conference!

Business Success: Tips from the Field

All my successes have been built on my failures.—Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman and literary figure

Cherry Woodburn, a business innovation consultant, attributes her passion for innovation to her first manager who encouraged her to try new ideas without fear of recrimination. “If an idea didn’t work,” Woodburn states. “We would analyze the process and learn from the experience.” Here she shares advice on creating a culture of innovation.

Most companies fail to encourage innovation. Large companies in particular tend to be risk adverse and have a mind-set geared toward exploiting ways to control their processes through standardization. Process improvement is beneficial. But a company’s emphasis on reducing variation in its present systems can result in a lack of innovation over the long term. It is a paradox. While companies are increasing the quality of their product, they may be decreasing their ability to innovate.

Businesses need to cultivate innovation in order to compete in today’s fast-paced, innovation-driven economy. Since innovation is now recognized as necessary to keep a business viable and competitive, why doesn’t a culture of innovation spring up organically? Why does it need to be fostered? What keeps employees from naturally bubbling with creativity?

Obviously there are many variables, one of which is a cultural belief that there is one right answer. The natural outcome of this simplistic thinking is a reduction in the dialogue, thereby blocking the exploration of various alternate viewpoints and ideas. Meetings are held to find “the one right answer.” No one really listens to anyone else. Everyone is too busy preparing an opposing response. Underlying assumptions go unquestioned and unexamined. And too often, the person who speaks up or disagrees with the majority opinion is labeled as “not a team player.” Add in today’s hectic pace and a general disdain for meetings, and it is understandable that people look for closure rather than exposure to new ideas.light

However, innovation and expansive thinking emerge from nurturing different points of view. Doing so requires the pioneering spirit of exploring new territory. Innovation by its very nature requires experimentation and failure. Thomas Edison is the classic example. After more than 1,000 attempts to invent the first long-lasting electric light bulb, he was successful inventing bulbs that stayed lit for only a few minutes. One of his colleagues asked, “Mr. Edison, don’t you feel you are a failure?” Without reservation, he answered, “Not at all. Now I definitely know more than a thousand ways not to make a light bulb.”

Sadly, the culture in many organizations dictates that mistakes are bad and should be avoided at all costs. Employees are criticized or even ridiculed for mistakes. This stems from early learning in institutions where mistakes meant a lower grade and even possible consequences at home. Often this attitude continues into the workplace, where the aversion to mistakes is continued. Consider how these stultifying lessons continue to pile on: Sue gets reprimanded in front of peers for making errors and feels humiliated. Consequence: In the future, she will be prone to hide her mistakes and not deviate from business as usual. In the same company, Tom is written up for insubordination because he experimented with a new way of doing things, thereby not adhering to long-held company practices. As a result of these and similar incidents, people play it safe. Yet the greatest innovations can come from workers’ own initiatives, not just from an initiative pushed down from the top.

The need for innovation is nothing new, but the recognition that it needs to be a core competency—permeating all departments and all levels of the organization—is relatively recent. Much as leaders once believed that quality was primarily the responsibility of the quality department, so has innovation been primarily confined within the borders of research and development. Frans Johansson, author of the successful book The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts & Cultures , advocates that companies also be willing to take their efforts at innovation beyond the borders of their business to include other industries and disciplines. He called this cross-fertilization of ideas the Medici effect, after the fifteenth-century banking family that broke down traditional barriers separating disciplines and cultures to ignite the Renaissance.

A culture of innovation needs to be nurtured until it is deeply rooted into the psyche of every employee. However, this cannot be done successfully with announcements, slogans, or playing on people’s fear of competition. Ironically, innovative thinking also is needed to maintain traditional practices that still add value and to cultivate a daily crop of new ideas. The culture is about recognizing individual mind-sets and accepting perceived borders and limitations in order to question them. These mind-sets typically come from each employee’s individual experiences and culture. They are empowered by past experiences that have become hardwired into the brain. Couple that with the fact that brains are structured to simplify and categorize massive amounts of daily stimuli, and it is no wonder people get caught in a duality of right and wrong. The pattern becomes “Success is good; failure is bad.” When new information is compatible with what is known, it is accepted as the truth; when it does not mesh with preconceived ideas or past experiences, it receives little consideration. As a result, opportunities to innovate and change the status quo are missed. Research shows that the act of recognizing and surfacing unconscious beliefs offers the highest leverage for change.

Understanding and acknowledging the current situation in comparison to the desired state is the first step in any change initiative. It is impossible to change something that is not acknowledged or understood, which makes it difficult to grow into a future culture steeped in innovative thinking.

Begin with asking tough questions of everyone in the organization. Dig up deeply embedded beliefs and assumptions that are, more than likely, not in sync with the stated company vision and values. Here are some questions for starters.

• What are your own and your organization’s assumptions and beliefs related to innovation, particularly innovation that deals with new practices and methods? New product ideas tend to fare better, but, again are they encouraged and tested? Begin a dialogue with employees at all levels and in all departments to learn how steeped the company is in “Business as usual” and “That won’t work here.”

• Has an emphasis on process improvement, standardization, and reducing variation created a myopic focus on improving what you are already doing to the virtual exclusion of creativity and innovation? Think of the demise of the fully integrated steel mills versus today’s mini-mills; think of Kodak improving in film and print while virtually ignoring digital photography for years.

• What are your own and your organization’s assumptions and beliefs about risk taking, mistakes, and lack of immediate positive outcomes? Ask yourself if you stick with a new idea long enough to see results. Tally the number of initiatives that started over the past 5 to 10 years. Then honestly evaluate the number remaining—in other words, those that maintained their initial momentum. Study the gap between the organization’s actual behavior and the values it espouses about vision, growth, and innovation.

• Do you encourage experimentation, testing hypotheses, or do new ideas get quashed in meetings or die a slow death as they are analyzed, dissected, and debated?
Think of the ensuing dialogue as preparatory work for growing the innovative capabilities that have been lying fallow due to traditional business practices. When transforming a garden, it is not enough to plant verbal seeds. If the ground has been depleted of creative nutrients due to years of leaching the soil with criticism, tight control, and fear, announcing a new gardening program will not be successful.

By taking time to listen carefully and allow fears to emerge, the organization can begin to prepare the soil. Fertilizing with acceptance and courage allows an innovative culture to emerge. As leaders cultivate the vision, innovation will flourish and generate new ideas for years to come.

Business Success: Innovation in the Marketplace

Engineers say that, a new idea is “invented” when it is proven to work in the laboratory. The idea becomes an “innovation” only when it can be replicated reliably on a meaningful scale at practical costs.

— Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline

Economics of Innovation

To remain competitive, companies must innovate. Without innovation, products and services become more and more alike. In other words, they eventually become commodities. Then businesses have to compete on price, which eventually destroys profit margins. When the market stabilizes at the lower price, investors move to other markets. By contrast, innovation allows companies to differentiate. This enables premium pricing, which eventually leads to higher value. When the market stabilizes well above cost, it becomes easier to attract investors.
“The fundamental principle that drives this argument is that when innovation creates differentiation, it creates attractive economic returns.” [ However, there are other possible outcomes for all types of innovation efforts. The ultimate goal is to calculate “return on innovation.”

There are four other types of innovation

• Differentiation. Innovation designed to capture market share, attract investors, and gain economic advantage

• Neutralization. Innovation to keep up with higher-performing competitors

• Productivity. Innovation to lower costs, thus freeing resources for other forms of innovation

• Waste. Innovation that falls short of achieving any goals

Differentiation is the type of innovation that holds the most potential for economic gains. However, it is often stifled by adversity to risk. A company that is focused on risk reduction stays close to norms and tends to leverage the experience of the market leaders. This is dangerous for companies that hope to take a “value proposition to such an extreme that competitors either cannot or will not follow.”

Companies who seek to be innovative must encourage collaboration. “Breakaway differentiation requires a highly coordinated effort across the entire enterprise.” The idea may come from a small group. But “at the end of the day, every function in the corporation has to realign its priorities in order to amplify the innovation to breakaway status. Anything less is simply too easy for competitors to neutralize.”innovation

Successful innovation requires strong leadership. In most companies, innovation is highly decentralized with multiple projects going on at the same time. This is the best strategy for the incubation stage. But when it comes to selecting the best prospect for further investment, strong leadership is required. “If management does not take a position on innovation strategy, the company’s innovation will continue to bubble up, but they will not be aligned. If all are brought to market- and that is the default option in this scenario—none will achieve breakaway status.”

Taking Ideas to Market

When an organization decides to pursue innovation as a strategy, there are several aspects to consider. First, how viable is the product or service? Second, is the product or service feasible? And third, once it is developed, what is the best way to take the new product or service to market.

Rob Goldberg, an innovation consultant, specializes in helping companies take their ideas to market. He offers the following assessments when considering an innovation project.
Evaluation of Viability

Goldberg uses eight dimensions to determine the viability of products and services.
1. Size of opportunity. What is the size of the market?
2. Growth of market. Is the market growing or shrinking?
3. Strength of customer relationship. Can existing customer relationships be leveraged?
4. Value creating. How do we create a competitive advantage?
5. Degree of government involvement. To what extent is the market regulated?
6. Degree of competitive density. What is the structure of the market, and who are the leaders?
7. Value delivery. What barriers to entry exist?
8. Window of opportunity duration. How much time do we have to launch successfully?

Evaluation of Feasibility

When considering entering the market, there are several questions to assist in assessing feasibility.
• Perception.How much pain is associated with what the company does today? Is there a need for the product or service?

• Competitive density. Are there any 800-pound gorillas lurking?

• Brand image. Can your company deliver a credible solution in this space?

• Innovation. Does the technology exist to develop the solution?

• Experimentation. Does the solution rely on proven technology?

• Business model. Is the company willing to pay for it?

• Return on investment. Does the product or service support corporate hurdles to bring the innovation to market?

• Cost of entry. How do we enter the market?

Taking the Innovation to Market

Once the innovation is ready, Goldberg uses a four-stage process to take an idea to market.

1. Requirements analysis defines the WHAT. The goal is to document all function/feature, performance, and user-interfacing requirements of the solution that meets the customer’s needs.
2. Design analysis describes the HOW. Design essentially transforms the requirement into a blueprint that outlines data structures, architecture, procedural detail, and interface characterization that can be created to deliver the desired customer experience.
3. Feasibility analysis determines the HOW MUCH. The aim of a feasibility study is to see whether it is possible to develop the solution at a reasonable cost.
4. Optimization analysis determines WHAT IT IS WORTH. The goal of optimization is to establish the optimum feature set based on economic value and customer preferences.
Depending on the industry and type of product or service, there may be other considerations. But these basic concepts offer some guidelines for accelerating the innovation process within an organization.

Business Success: Activities by Brain Function

Considering the complexity of today’s volatile global economy, the role of the right brain is increasingly vital. With computers becoming more and more adept at handling the linear processes, the competitive advantage for humans is in the ability to access the power of the right hemisphere. And the skills needed to participate in an adaptive organization are also dominantly right-brained. In fact, research suggests that our right hemisphere is the only area that deals effectively with change.


In general, the two halves of the brain work together to orchestrate every human activity. However, neuroscientists suggest that the two hemispheres approach every situation slightly differently. Understanding and enhancing the use of one side or the other can enhance creative endeavors.

The differences in the hemispheres can be characterized in four major ways:

1. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body; the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. This fact is well known. But it is interesting to note that the written word goes from left to right, a movement controlled by the left hemisphere. Therefore, reading and writing are controlled by the linear, logical, sequential part of the brain. Until recently, this was the source of almost all knowledge. Only since the twentieth century has information been conveyed in pictures, encouraging right hemisphere or even whole-brain synthesis.

2. The left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous. As described, reading is sequential. The left hemisphere also manages other sequential processes, such as talking and interpreting speech. By contrast, the right hemisphere has the ability to interpret information simultaneously. This enables people to make sense of very complex situations. To illustrate, consider a comparison to computer software. SAS software can perform statistical calculations faster than humans can. But the most powerful software cannot recognize a human face as fast as the average person. “Think of the sequential/simultaneous difference like this: the right hemisphere is the picture; the left hemisphere is the thousand words.” As the flow of complex information accelerates, frequent and proficient use of the right hemisphere becomes increasingly important.

3. The left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context. In most people, both left- and right-handed, the left hemisphere is the source of language. However, the ability to comprehend language is a bit more nuanced and requires both hemispheres. Chapter 3 described the mechanics of both verbal and nonverbal communication. Within the brain, the left hemisphere interprets the words. The right hemisphere processes all of the nonverbal parts of the communication, such as tone, pace, facial expressions, and body language. In addition, the right hemisphere’s ability to consider context gives it responsibility for filling in blanks, translating nuance, and interpreting metaphor.

4. The left hemisphere analyzes the details; the right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture. Basically, the left brain analyzes information in a linear fashion. The right brain synthesizes information to create a whole. The left brain can find problems, identify parts, and grasp details. The right brain focuses on interactions and relationships. And “only the right brain can see the big picture.”

Ned Herrmann, a well-known brain researcher, created a list of common business functions and mapped them to the quadrant of the brain that primarily handles each one.

Left Cerebral Cortex
• Gather facts.
• Analyze issues.
• Solve problems logically.
• Argue rationally.
• Measure precisely.
• Understand technical elements.
• Consider financial aspects.

Right Cerebral Cortex
• Read signs of coming change.
• See the “big picture.”
• Recognize new possibilities.
• Tolerate ambiguity.
• Integrate ideas and concepts.
• Bend or challenge established policies.
• Synthesize unlike elements into a new whole.
• Problem solve in intuitive ways.

Left Limbic System
• Find overlooked flaws.
• Approach problems practically.
• Stand firm on issues.
• Maintain a standard of consistency.
• Provide stable leadership and supervision.
• Read fine print in documents and/or contracts.
• Organize and keep track of essential data.
• Develop detailed plans and procedures.
• Implement projects in a timely manner.
• Articulate plans in an orderly way.
• Keep financial records straight.

Right Limbic System
• Recognize interpersonal difficulties.
• Anticipate how others will feel.
• Intuitively understand how others feel.
• Pick up nonverbal cues of interpersonal stress.
• Relate to others in empathetic ways.
• Engender enthusiasm.
• Persuade.
• Teach.
• Conciliate.
• Understand emotional elements.
• Consider values.

Come back next week for an article about fostering creativing.  We welcome your comments and feedback and love it when you share our blog with your co-workers and friends.

Business Success: Steps to Collaborative Technology Adoption

The telephone might be considered the first collaborative technology, followed by fax and e-mail. However, in the last few years, the advances in newer forms of collaborative technology are transforming business efficiency and accessibility worldwide. The use of collaborative software enhances the ability of an organization to adapt quickly in a volatile economy.

Step 1: Assess the environment. This step involves analyzing the infrastructure and collaborative technologies as well as the existing collaborative behaviors. Additional analysis on the potential affect of the application of technologies is recommended. Managers and key stakeholders need to understand the value proposition that improved collaboration will bring as well as how to phase in the technology. A global assessment in conjunction with IT is important to understand the complete ramifications and develop “a corporate-wide strategy for the successful deployment of collaboration technologies going forward.” technology-mobile phone

Step 2: Identify collaborative business processes. Some business processes are more conducive to collaboration. The next step is to identify business processes that will benefit from “collaborative leverage.” These processes typically include sales and marketing, customer service and support, research and development, training, decision support, and crisis management.

Step 3: Build a collaborative vision. Creating a shared vision and extolling the benefits of collaboration is the next step. It can be done through workshops and trainings. Using case studies and examples built around critical business processes is most effective.

Step 4: Build a business case for collaboration. This step involves estimating the costs, benefits, and risks involved in implementing the vision. It must specify the business problems being addressed, the value of the collaboration platform, and who will fund the initiative. Total cost of ownership should be used to determine the net benefit of the project, including direct and indirect costs. The benefits that factor in include but are not limited to shorter cycle times, increased productivity, revenues, profitability and market share, fewer errors, better-quality products and services.

Step 5: Identify a sponsor. Identification of an executive sponsor who believes in the project and will allocate funds to see it through to its final stages is an essential step in the success of any project. The sponsor should be someone who is likely to benefit from collaboration and will be a champion for the project within the organization.

Step 6: Develop a collaboration strategy. A strategy for implementation should be developed that supports the overall goals of the project. This strategy involves determining which technologies already exist and if they should be replaced or integrated into the larger network. Process maps are useful in determining which business processes can be improved. A gap analysis is recommended to find areas where:
• The infrastructure may need to be upgraded.
• Security policies may need to be revised.
• Training and education will improve adoption rates.
• Processes may need to be streamlined.
The strategy should include initial projects where collaboration delivers quick wins. Strong project management and communication around progress are essential to successful implementation.

Step 7: Select collaboration technology. The next step is a careful vendor analysis that addresses the appropriateness of the offerings as well as the vendor’s financial viability, track record, training, and support. A return on investment analysis that details the actual costs and benefits is strongly recommended.

Step 8: Pilot project. A pilot project is a good next step to get the project off and running. The application that is selected should be one that will have a substantial impact and positive results. This success can be used to sell the concept throughout the organization.

Step 9: Enterprise rollout. This step leverages the success and learning from the pilot project. The steps for enterprise rollout are to:
• Prioritize the business units.
• Identify necessary resources.
• Define the education and training process.
• Define the support process.
• Define the metrics.
It is easy to underestimate the complexity of this process. It is important to facilitate communication so that issues and delays will surface quickly.

Step 10: Measure and report. To achieve the greatest value from the entire process, it is critical to continually monitor, measure, and report of the adoption and usage of collaborative technologies for each business case. Publicity about successes as well as compensation for adoption and usage should be considered as ways to ensure success.

As collaboration technology improves, the pressure to adopt will only increase. Organizations that embrace collaboration are going to raise the competitive bar. The use of technology is essential to survival in a dynamic organization.

I would love to hear your comments on collaboration technology.  Please share this with your friends and co-workers.

Business Success: Instilling a Culture of Collaboration

Many organizations spend large amounts of money on state-of-the-art collaboration software. However, success is elusive if the culture does not support collaboration. Here are some approaches for instilling a culture of collaboration.

• Establish a mentoring system. A natural complement to collaboration, mentoring helps support team effort by providing assistance to members in learning and development. A formal structure with top-level commitment and participation goes a long way to support system-wide collaboration.

• Invite constructive confrontation. Disagreement and conflict in a safe and trusting environment infuse the system with energy, leading to innovation within and evolution of the system.

• Integrate collaborative tools into work styles. Technology that facilitates collaboration is transforming the workplace. System-wide support and advocacy that consider individual styles as well as organizational goals ensure high adoption rates and collaboration

• Facilitate cross-functional brainstorming. Bringing diverse individuals together in a safe, informal environment to share ideas and concerns taps into the wisdom of the organization, leading to expansive thinking and breakthrough solutions.

• Reward people for collaborative behavior. Effective collaboration leads to efficiencies across the organization. Discouraging internal competition by rewarding individuals who collaborate helps to ingrain the behavior. The goal is create a new norm where collaboration is the natural tendency.

• Reward people for gaining broad input. Evaluate and reward individuals for seeking input and advice from others.

• Reward people for sharing information. Evaluate and reward individuals who share their knowledge and resources freely.

• Reward people who use collaboration to innovate. Evaluate and reward those who initiate and inspire cross-functional teams that innovate.

• Promote collaborators. Promote individuals who demonstrate their understanding of that concept that considering multiple perspectives leads to better decisions.

• Practice collaborative leadership. Modeling behaviors such as engaging people, asking questions, listening, and building consensus sends a powerful message that encourages similar behavior at all levels. Using positive nonverbal communication such as an accepting tone and curious tone elicits trust, sharing, and consensus.

I would love to hear your comments about ways you are implementing and encouraging collaboration in your organization.  If you like what you are reading, please share it with your network!

Leadership Skills: Dialogue, it is more than just talking

May 15, 2012 @ 02:00 PM

Communication works for those who work at it.
—John Powell, Creator of the Five Levels of Communication

Dialogue goes beyond communication to describe a style of conversation that taps into the energy of an organization through shared intention. Jalma Marcus, executive coach and energy healer, shares her perspective on dialogue.

What Is Dialogue?

Dialogue is “a conversation with a center, not sides.” It is a way of taking the energy of differences and channeling it toward the creation of something new. It lifts us out of polarization and into a greater understanding. In essence, it is a means for accessing the innate intelligence and previously untapped power of the organization.

Dialogue is “a flow of meaning.”


Dialogue is “a conversation in which people think together in relationship.” Rather than holding on to their own position, the participants relax their grip on certainty and listen to the possibilities.

Dialogue is “about exploring the nature of choice.”

The intention of dialogue is to reach new understanding and, in so doing, form a totally new basis from which to think and act. In dialogue, problems are not just solved, they are dissolved. The goal is not merely try to reach agreement but to create a context from which many new agreements emerge. By unveiling a base of shared meaning, the group’s actions and values come into alignment.

Dialogue seeks to address the problem of fragmentation not by rearranging the physical components of a conversation but by uncovering and shifting the organic underlying structures that produce it.

Dialogue requires thinking, not just reacting. It requires a deep awareness of personal feelings as well as other’s reactions.  Dialogue can be learned. It requires a set of practices based on theory and principles. A “‘practice’ is an activity you do repeatedly to help bring about an experience.”

I would love to hear your comments about this way of exporing dialogue and in the next few weeks we will cover several principles of practice to improve dialogue.

Business Success: Economic Impact on Communication

The highly technical and global nature of business today presents specific communication challenges. Many companies are hiring top technical and business talent from around the globe and equipping them to work virtually to save on travel. This section discusses some of the challenges confronted by the style of communication and the changing nature of the workforce.

business_success_Computer-Enabled Communication

In today’s global economy, many companies are using technology to hold virtual meetings and trainings. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is the term for using computers to interact through the Internet. CMC comes in many forms, including electronic mail (e-mail), chat rooms, instant messaging, electronic bulletin boards, list-servs, as well as audio and videoconferencing.

A net conference is a conference that is “electronically mediated by networked computers.” Teleconferences are very common applications in companies using Business Intelligence. Video capabilities to share documents are common.

There are some challenges to virtual meetings for obvious reasons. It is not possible for participants to read others’ facial expressions and body language. This fact may limit communication or make some participants less comfortable.  Ease with virtual meetings develops over time. A well-trained moderator can greatly enhance the experience.

Communication Challenges for the Technical Professional

In an organization that is Business Intelligence intensive, the largest or fastest-growing sector of the workforce tends to be technical professionals. For a majority of technical professionals, communication in general and with nontechnical people in particular can be difficult, given their specialized education and linear style of thinking. In addition, the influx of persons from other cultures has added to the challenges of effective communication.
The technical skills of a professional are very important to the organization. But the skills to communicate results, explain concepts and concerns, and engage in dialogue with nontechnical workers are equally important. Therefore, it is useful to have a balance of both the technical skills and interpersonal skills.

Technical professionals tend to be task oriented than people oriented. If their focus is on precision and solution, with little concern for dealing with various perceptions or emotional reactions, the true value of their research or analysis may never generate value. At some point, the information must be sold to the business decision makers.

Another challenge is the potential complexity of findings, which may be hard to translate into everyday business language. The ramifications of this complexity of findings on the functioning of a team, department, or organization may be significant, resulting in the loss of the value of the work and the worker.

There may be a desire to overanalyze, seeking higher complexity or perfection. The best analysis may be the one that is simpler and easier to communicate and therefore implement.
Liz Haggerty, program manager for business and manufacturing-process improvements for the Carrier Corporation in Hartford, Connecticut, commented on the importance of communication for scientific and technical professionals:

Scientific and technical professionals need to understand business. We all need to be cognizant of the fact that there are many aspects of business, finance, and marketing that have an impact on what we are doing in our chosen field. We must understand that many people think differently than we do, and we must expose ourselves to different types of training that will help us to communicate more effectively, do a better job of accepting and receiving criticism, and giving feedback to others. We must help scientific and technical professionals see how they fit into the big picture. Training on understanding other and increasing communication effectiveness can be very helpful in broadening the skills of those of us in these professional areas. This is especially critical for those who have ambitions to move up in the organization.

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. 

Business Success Skills: High Quality Relationships

High-quality relationships are the lifeblood of an organization that seeks to leverage complexity and emergent knowledge. Once a set of solid communication practices are in place, relationships begin to form. To use these relationships effectively, however, the dissemination of crucial information, such as the goals of the business and the knowledge needed to attain those goals, is essential. As relationships form through effective communication practices, a culture of mutual respect will emerge.business_relationship

Shared Goals

Traditionally, goals are shared within functional teams. The overall goals of the organization, however, are less well known. In an organization with a highly interdependent framework, each member of the organization must focus on the overall goal. Since the framework is designed to allow structure and process to emerge, the shared goal of the organization is the unifying force that empowers that emergence.

Shared Knowledge

Sharing knowledge goes hand in hand with shared goals for any organization using a highly interdependent framework. Knowledge shared between teams from different functional backgrounds creates connections that foster cross-functional support while reducing competition and conflict.

Mutual Respect

Highly interdependent organizations thrive on mutual respect. Effective communication practices as well as shared knowledge and goals go a long way to create a culture of mutual respect. Within a respectful dialogue, differences in opinions unleash energy and creativity. Problems are minimized when the involved parties feel respected. This behavior is best learned by watching those in positions of power.

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 to subscribe.
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