Sharing My Truth & An Invitation To Participate In Leading-Edge Innovation Research

Have you ever felt like you had to hide part of yourself to survive in the corporate world? For the last 20 years, I’ve built my career on the study and practice of data mining and business intelligence. I shared many practical solutions in my first book, Data Mining Cookbook (Wiley 2001). But my real passion has always been the study and practice of human intelligence. And for a long time, I felt that I had to keep that passion separate from my ‘real’ work. But a few years ago, I began to see a relationship between the level of human development within an organization and the successful use business intelligence. I shared this research in my second book, Business Intelligence Success Factors (Wiley/SAS 2009). Now I’m discovering that for these concepts to be really useful, they need some structure. So I’m developing a model that tracks the evolution of business intelligence along with human intelligence on an organizational level.

So here’s the deal… I’d like you to participate in a research project that is inspired by the following statistic: According to Gartner, 70% to 80% of corporate business intelligence projects fail due to poor communication . Given the high dollar value of these projects, even a partial failure can be catastrophic to the bottom line. And the failure isn’t due to faulty business intelligence. It’s due to faulty human intelligence!
To understand the connection, let’s consider why Business Intelligence is so critical and what is required for success. Hint: It’s all about Innovation!

surveyIn today’s high-tech, global economy, most linear processes can be automated or outsourced. This really levels the playing field for many large organizations. To remain competitive, companies must continually reinvent themselves. Therefore, innovation is becoming the main differentiator and key driver of success.

For a large company to be truly successful, innovation must be embedded in the systems, processes, and organizational culture. This requires a high level of agility and adaptability which is built upon competence in two main areas: business intelligence and human intelligence.

Business Intelligence is generally understood to be a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information (Wikipedia).

Human Intelligence is more subjective and open to interpretation. For this research, I am defining it as the levels of emotional and social competency of the employees of an organization with a special emphasis on the leadership team. It is the human intelligence that translates the data into actionable business knowledge which leads to better decisions and smarter actions. To really be successful, business intelligence and human intelligence must evolve simultaneously.

The goal of the survey is to understand and measure the alignment between the level of business intelligence and the level of human intelligence and to determine to what degree this alignment is correlated with the success of the organization. To test my thesis, I’ve created a survey that explores multiple aspects of the processes, culture, and performance of a typical mid-size to large organization.

If you are an employee of a mid-size to large organization or if you are an independent consultant that works with large organizations, your participation is invaluable and sincerely appreciated. If you are a consultant, please feel free to answer the questions as if you were holding a position with one of your client organizations.

The survey takes 5-10 minutes. All responses remain anonymous. Each participant will receive a summary of the results. Please feel free to forward this to others as you deem appropriate.

Business Success: Collaboration in Action: A Case Study

Competition has been the driving force behind the U.S. freight rail industry and related public policy since the first railroad began operations in 1830. This is a curious phenomenon for a contiguous “network” of railroads within a transportation “system.” With competition in the marketplace and competition for government attention as the prevailing influences, the system continues to underutilize rail technology, even though railroads move freight on one-third the amount of fuel and consequent air pollution as trucks moving on the highway. Next Michael Sussman, founder of OnTrackAmerica, describes how collaboration is helping to rebuild and strengthen the national railway system.railroad_crossing

Power of Collaboration in the Railroad Industry
By Michael Sussman
Railroads are energy, capital, and space efficient. Yet their market share of an otherwise growing transportation demand has continually declined since the early twentieth century. What is it about this competition-based system that suppresses the use of efficient modes of transportation?

Competition, as a commercial and regulatory principle, often rewards better-operated companies. But it is usually ineffective at preventing companies that enjoy more financial and political clout from dominating the marketplace. How often in recent years has that domination had a detrimental impact on our greater communal interests? The country needs a rail system that advances in concert with our national needs; instead, it has developed according to its corporate needs.

In 1995 it became apparent that many smaller freight railroads across America were under-supported by policy makers and lending institutions. This threatened the long-term economic vitality and overall quality of life in America.

The railroad industry was cost-cutting by consolidating srvice to higher-volume components of the rail system. This path, while leading to greater profitability for the industry, contributed to a far less efficient transportation system than was called for by post–World War II demographic and business trends. The years since have been characterized by dramatic population growth, steadily increasing freight traffic, ongoing growth of rural and urban communities, and the proliferation of small businesses, distribution centers, and time-sensitive shipping needs. The trucking industry, in spite of its inherent fuel disadvantage, has filled this service gap ably. But with the increase in fuel prices and its uncertain future availability, the question becomes “Now what?”

To satisfy the imperative for collaboration between government and private sector, a broad network of relationships with government representatives at the federal and state levels was established. The success in bridging the public-private sector communications divide led to the founding of OnTrackAmerica, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating new methods and forums for the multistakeholder development of better policies and more effective private initiatives.

This collaborative approach has proven to be been highly effective in creating financing breakthroughs for smaller freight railroads. Project and industry funding options typically are offered by individual entities competing against other funding sources. This alternative approach leads to benefit for all involved by facilitating cooperation among multiple banks and government agencies. In practice, it has resulted in significantly higher capitalization levels with better terms than if those funding sources were made to compete for the entire project.

Even the clients’ existing bankers, who previously had declined further lending, are included in this collaborative approach. Rather than being pitted against other banks, the current bank is urged to offer what it can and what it prefers, as its part of an overall strategy for helping the client grow.

In the case of the Iowa Northern Railway, a corn-hauling railroad that was suddenly in the heart of the alternative energy belt, additional capital was required that outstripped the lending limits of its local bank. A collaborative approach provided bankers at Iowa’s Lincoln Savings Bank with the understanding and assurance they needed to expand the railroad’s credit from $150,000 to over $1.5 million. This facility became the anchor for $30 million in additional funds secured from a Federal Railroad Administration loan program, a Chicago regional bank, several equipment lenders, and even the railroads’ customers and suppliers.

The basic orientation of competition is toward individual gain. Yet so much of what occurs in business involves multiple parties, with all parties benefiting if success is shared. Shared benefit and the resulting gain are the foundation of collaboration. What if our “for individual gain” concept of competition was reoriented to a competition (or striving) to make the greatest contribution to the community? That model of competition would naturally lead to a refocus of business plans and activities toward “collaboration for the common good.”

While competition is a useful tool in certain elements of regulating private interests in the marketplace, it can be a dangerously wasteful force in public policy discourse and formulation.

Competition, unfortunately, is now the overarching principle of interaction, not just between political parties but also among agencies, legislative offices, committees, think tanks, universities, and other entities that influence and produce public policies. The marketplace of ideas should continue to accommodate competing ideas. But the process for thinking and teasing out competing ideas requires our best collaboration.

Our world and our economies are undergoing changes at a rate that demands we upgrade public-sector management processes. OnTrackAmerica has taken on the challenge of bringing forward a new method for large-scale industrial policy, planning, and implementation. By lowering antagonism and increasing trust among businesspeople, academic and industry experts, the community, and policy developers, the potential emerges for unveiling the best solutions and resulting public policy. Just as cooperative multimodal relations among transportation providers are now clearly needed to advance the efficiency of the overall system, collaboration among public policy creators is the necessary ingredient for improving our national transportation policy.

Design improvements for intelligence and efficiency at the level of governance do not have to wait for the crucible of crisis. No law or regulation mandates that business must depend only on competitive, vested-interest lobbying of government legislators and policy makers. All well-intentioned citizens are entitled to advance leadership and cooperation in government and commerce. Contrary to what is expressed in popular culture, many people in Washington and beyond are anxious to participate in productive collaborative engagement. A new model of leadership that convenes and facilitates that collaboration is the missing ingredient.

Business Success: Principles of Dialogue Part 2

The past few weeks we have focused on communications and dialogue.  If you missed the articles, you can read them here.  Today we will finish up the practice and principles of dialogue. 

Business Leadership

The Practice of Suspending: “The Principle of Awareness”

• Suspend opinion and judgment, and the certainty that lie behind them.
• Acknowledge and observe thoughts and feelings as they arise without being compelled to act on them; avoid “shoulds.”
• Access your ignorance; recognize and embrace things you do not already know.
• Be courageous in the face of fear.
• Understand what is happening as it is happening; you do not hear and know by turning up the volume.
• Put on hold the temptation to fix, correct, or problem solve. Suspension allows us to inquire into what we observe.
• Question; one good question is better than many answers. Tolerate the tension to not knowing. Ask “What are we missing? What haven’t we said?”
• Resist holding onto positions that polarize. Be willing to expand the conversation to hold beliefs other than your own.

The Practice of Voicing: “The Principle of Unfoldment”

• Notice your reactions, suspend judgment, honor your intuition and cherish your choices. Listen to yourself.

• Be willing to be still.

• Be confident that what you are thinking is valid and relevant.

• Choose consciously before you speak. Ensure that what you say is related to you and not a directive to diminish, change, or dismiss the other.

• Be patient with your self and during silences. Trust the emptiness, the sense of not knowing what to say or do. Sometimes just beginning to speak without determining the words brings forth opportunity.

• In speaking you can create. Give yourself permission to voice what is in the moment.

Maintain the Relationship: Look for the Similarities in the Differences

• Clarify intentions.

• Acknowledge each participant’s uniqueness, perceptions, beliefs.

• Create a container, an intentional space for safe communication.

• Hear and understand me. Identify what you want.
• Even if you disagree, please don’t make me wrong. Support dreaming. No one gets to     be wrong.
• Acknowledge the greatness within me.
• Remember to look for my loving intentions. Deepen the listening.
• Tell me the truth with compassion.

• Attend. Pay attention, observe, be aware.

 Ask. Gather information, withhold criticism, be respectful, honor the self.

• Act. Authentically do something that is consciously determined to be the best of all. Offer support; provide feedback. Maintain connection even if you disagree.

If you like what you have read, please share it with your co-workers and network.  Please consider subscribing to the blog to get free articles once a week delivered to your inbox.

A Dynamic Organization Principle #7

Design Decision-Making Systems for Self-Organization

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]

Come back for the next 3 Principles on Leading a Dynamic Organization! 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 top left of the page to subscribe.

Learn more about Business Intelligence and hiring Olivia Parr Rud for your next conference give me a call

A Dynamic Organization Principle #6

Develop Ambitions Greater than Means

The limits you create will be real to you until you learn to step beyond them. Then, you  will look back at the reality you used to inhabit, wondering how you were able to stand  its narrow confines. —Paul Ferrini, Author and spiritual teacher

Companies looking to engage in perpetual transformational opportunities are most successful when they set their ambitions much higher than their means. As people participate in the vision, energy is released that inspires innovative ways for reaching the goal.

People who feel passionate about the vision step up to be leaders. Others wait until the goal seems more tenable before they engage. Abusiness_intelligence_success_ few resist and may add to the instability. However, if handled skillfully, the contrasting tensions can assist the transformation.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that companies that do not stretch their vision will be surpassed by the competition. These actions can assist companies to stretch their vision and prepare people for perpetual transformation:

  • Express a vision or strategic intent to members of the organization that leads to breakthrough thinking and action. By allowing the participants to embrace a grand vision, leaders naturally align themselves and move beyond what was once considered impossible.
  • Disperse control. The complexity of a major shift in vision requires top leadership to disperse control. By sharing the vision and empowering the participants, the idea takes on an energy of its own. The role of leadership is to continually share the vision, provide support, and celebrate accomplishments.
  • Stay focused and harness energy. In large, complex organizations, many transformative processes may be happening at the same time. The key to success is to stay focused and harness the energy created by the overall goal. A simple rallying cry, slogan, or watchword is helpful to thread the varying activities and maintain high spirits.
  • Discuss change and introduce points of inflection. Introducing a new vision when most members of an organization are satisfied with the status quo may prove to be futile. Most organizations are more susceptible to major shifts in focus during times of crisis. Starting a conversation about what might happen if the market shifts drastically can begin to prepare members for change. Introducing an artificial point of inflection is another option for stimulating receptivity.

Come back for the next 4 Principles on Leading a Dynamic Organization! 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 top left of the page to subscribe.
[i] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 79.

A Dynamic Organization Principle #4

Use Strategic Infection Points

A strategic inflection point, a term coined by Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel Corporation, “occurs when a company is confronted by an innovation of revolutionary significance (force 10x) that affects the entire industry in which it operates.”[i] Minor shifts, such as price drops and changes in purchase behavior, challenge companies every day. Strategic inflection points, however, force companies into seismic shifts or extinction. As our economy becomes more unpredictable, strategic inflection points are increasing in frequency. By developing adaptability and resilience, organizations can leverage the opportunities these strategic inflection points present.
Chaos dynamics says that strategic inflection points represent decision points or bifurcations for leadership_techniques_many organizations. At this point, companies must adapt in order to survive. The status quo is no longer viable.
The long-term success of an organization in times of volatility depends on its ability to take advantage of each strategic inflection point better than its competitors. There are several ways to leverage this opportunity.
Organizations are better able to perceive key shifts in advance of competitors by tapping into their front-line employees. The “sales staff, warehouse managers, customer service representatives, product developers, scientists, or purchasing agents are often the first to sense”[ii] these changes.
When top leaders see continuation of the status quo as unviable, they may decide to generate a period of transitional chaos. Clear, frequent, and comprehensive communication is essential during these times. If employees are kept in the dark about what is happening, fear increases and positive energies that support innovation and cooperation shut down. At a time when it is often the most difficult, people need to be heard. Communication about the status and expected outcome must flow freely in all directions.
Disorder is a strange or chaotic attractor that can unleash powerful forces for change within an organization. However, when faced with an unforeseen strategic inflection point, top leaders are challenged with maintaining a delicate balance. By dispersing control and supporting the organization as it self-organizes within the new paradigm, the company survives and grows in resilience.
Look for the next 6 Principles on Leading a Dynamic Organization! 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 top left of the page to subscribe.

[i] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 70.
[ii] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 72.

A Dynamic Organization: Principle #2

Maintain Long-term Identity while Repositioning

Advances in technology and global connectivity have combined to unleash a host of new opportunities for companies of all sizes. As organizations become adept at morphing their strategies to take advantage of these opportunities, they gain strategic benefit by business_change_model_ establishing and maintaining a long-term identity that speaks to their core strength. This ability to change also protects companies from failure if their existing business is marginalized or deemed untenable by government legislation, new technological innovation, or other unforeseen events. By building and communicating an identity vision, organizations are able to leverage their ability to “differentiate themselves from competitors, motivate their employees, and build lasting relationships with customers.”[i]

Several approaches can help leaders reposition their business while maintaining their overall identity. Defining a transcendent vision allows a company to redefine aspects of its business while maintaining its overall identity. SAS, for example, is a global Business Intelligence Solutions company that started out creating software for statistical analysis. A SAS user was someone who knew how to write SAS code. Today, SAS has broadened its scope and evolved into a leader in Business Intelligence solutions with an emphasis on business analytics. With SAS, anyone within the organization can access information to gain knowledge about their business through simple graphical user interfaces (GUIs). But the vision of the company as one that helps businesses turn data into knowledge still rings true for SAS.

To ensure success when adapting strategies, organizations should keep an eye on customer value while taking advantage of all the internal knowledge as well as market indicators to determine which new activity or group of activities will serve future needs of customers.

Another consideration is to reduce reliance on forecasting tools and statistical methodologies. In a volatile economy, these tools are only marginally useful. Companies that are thriving today are leveraging the concepts of chaos theory and complexity science. These concepts include “better monitoring of trends in the external environment, regular reevaluation of the broader industry configuration to see where margins are highest (to see which players are making the most money), scenario planning, pattern recognition, improved ability to pick up weak signals in the environment, and rapid and coordinated decision making.”[ii] By focusing on the future rather than on past patterns and accomplishments, the application succeeds by tapping into the innovative spirit of the organization.

Look for the next 8 Principles on Leading a Dynamic Organization! Feel free to comment with questions, additions and ways in which you have had to morph your strategies in order to take advantage of new opportunities!

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 top left of the page to subscribe.

[i] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 57.
[ii] Ibid., 62.

A Dynamic Organization: Principle #1

Create Adaptive Strategies

A primary role of management is to define the vision or the overall goals for the company. Generally, the next step is to define the strategy. Traditionally, strategy also is set by management and delegated throughout the rest of the organization. However, in a highly volatile global economy, this approach can prove limiting if not devastating when unforeseen circumstances occur.


In a highly adaptive company, management shares the vision and allows the strategy to emerge. A diverse employee base is a real benefit in this case because it allows for a wider range of strategies. The best approach is to have several strategies that can be implemented quickly, given different economic stimuli. “They [management] must do this by visualizing alternative futures on the basis of probability-weighted trends.”[i] Doing so may require abandoning past trends, a difficult task for many established businesses.

Companies can take several approaches to prepare for and leverage unforeseen events that demand a change in strategy. One tactic is to design “what-if” scenarios to serve as alternate long-term strategies that ensure adaptability in the face of unpredictable economic forces.
Another tactic is to define business units around a group of skills that provide the flexibility and resources to pursue new opportunities in a volatile economy. Doing so unleashes a creative energy that leads to adaptability and innovation.

A strong Business Intelligence infrastructure is critical to adaptability. Networks designed to effectively transfer information about inventories, staffing, and trends help to eliminate time lag and reduce errors across supply chains and between partners. Dashboards that track daily trends are able to reveal weak signals. The role of revealing weak signals is defined in chaos theory as one that can magnify and transform entire systems during times of instability. Direct interaction between top managers and the rank-and-file is also important. Companies in which leaders connect with employees on a regular basis are much better at noticing weak signals as signs of shifting markets or other changes.

Organizations that access the innate wisdom of their organization to tap into future trends encourage and reward innovation and simultaneous access and create future market trends.
In traditional organizations, strategic planning usually consists of analyzing and applying past trends to the future.

“The statistical quantification of past trends, the rigor of mathematical models, and the fact of including hard historical evidence in a structured framework remain important to the strategy-formulation process. But they also can stifle creativity and block insights about future trends.”[ii]

While this method works well in a stable economy, it can suppress creativity and inhibit adaptability in economically volatile times. If structures are solidly built on past trends, many organizations are not resilient enough to survive a quick change in market trends.

Stay tuned for the next 9 Principles on Leading a Dynamic Organization! Feel free to comment with questions, additions and situations in which you have implemented these creative adaptive strategies.

To receive alerts when the next blog is published, click on the RSS feed at the top of the page to subscribe.

[i] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 43.
[ii] Ibid., 51.

Principles Of Leading A Dynamic Organization

At the executive level, the rules of the game have changed. Just ten years ago there  was no Sarbanes-Oxley, the Internet was in its infancy and corporations were coming  to grips with globalization. Managing in a global, technologically driven, and fast- changing economic environment requires a more complex set of skills than those needed by managers in the past. My clients are looking for innovative leaders who can  adapt and manage through continuous change. —Jerry Bernhart, Bernhart Associates


In Large-Scale Organizational Change, Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel define the 10 Principles as guidelines to action that “offer an integrated approach to the main managerial processes of a company: strategy formulation, annual budgeting, investment appropriation requests, controlling, and project management.”[i] To support the implementation of the principles in a dynamic organization, they offer some tactics that are designed to work in complex and chaotic environments.

The 10 Principles tackle the central issues of corporate management in the areas of strategy, organization, and execution. However, the focus is on the dynamics involved. Since they are designed to guide dynamic companies that thrive on complexity and instability, they cannot be applied separately. They must be seen as a comprehensive approach. “As a part of a mind-set, the 10 Principles are an effective basis for action that lead

s to corporate renewal and development of the capability to survive frequent and radical discontinuities in the operating environment.”[ii]

Over the coming months I will deliver the 10 principles of Leading A Dynamic Organization to you through my blog. These principles can also be found in my book Business Intelligence Success Factors, Tools for aligning your business in the global economy. Take these tips and tools to add to your arsenal of leadership skills.

[i] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 36.
[ii] Ibid., 38-39.


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