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When I e-mailed my great idea to the CEO, I was pleasantly surprised by the fast response. He loved it and wanted me to discuss it further with one of his deputies.

While he might have preferred that I submit the idea using our corporate crowdsourcing platform, he was pleased with my initiative and my interest in improving our firm. I was tickled pink. Never had I felt so connected to my employer.

This was textbook employee engagement — a buzzword that has recently moved up the chain of priorities with executive management in large corporations. Why? Because large firms are seeing not only the dire need for innovation in order to stay relevant in a startup-fueled economy, but also because new social media channels have made it incredibly easy to collaborate both inside and outside corporate walls. In a day and age where anyone can reach out to the world to share ideas, corporate officers are greedily trying to tap this font of inspiration and funnel the goodwill and ideas into the company coffers. (read more…)

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Workplace Morale 1 badgeThis post is part of the series “Workplace Morale,” a weeklong effort co-hosted by SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership and the folks at Switch & ShiftKeep track of the series here and check out our daily e-mail newsletter, SmartBrief on Leadership. Don’t subscribe? Sign up.

McDonald’s was not a can’t-miss proposition.

The company started as a drive-in burger joint with a loosely affiliated network of franchisees before Ray Kroc obtained national franchising rights in the 1950s. The company faced entrenched and upstart competitors, families who were not used to regularly eating meals outside the home, and was going against the grain in how it granted franchise rights and managed them.

Kroc’s McDonald’s succeeded because of shrewd decision-making and hard work, but also because of luck, favorable timing and the short-sightedness of incumbents and would-be competitors. All of that success stemmed from the culture Kroc put into place: a decentralized, risk-taking, personality-driven hub of constant innovation and improvement on top of a foundation of clear, inviolable values. (read more…)

In addition to my role as CEO of Impact Strategies International LLC, I do some work with Babson College and serve part-time in its global development programs. Every year, Babson honors well-known entrepreneurs in what we call Founders Day to celebrate the founding of our college by Roger Babson, an innovator and entrepreneur in his own right.

We invite two or three well-known entrepreneurs to come to the college, speak with our students, and share their insights on starting a business. Since entrepreneurship always involves innovation, they are by definition innovators as well as entrepreneurs.

In my experience, a number of the folks who have come, such as Richard Branson from Virgin, Barry Gordy from Motown, Sherry Lansing from Paramount and Magic Johnson, have what I call a “strong ego sense.” This means that they have a pretty high opinion of their opinions and are not afraid to let other people know them. (read more…)

Kotter16954_300dpiThis post is an excerpt from “John Kotter’s ACCELERATE: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2014), by John Kotter.

It seems like new management tools are proposed every week for finding a competitive advantage or dealing with twenty-first-century demands. How is a dual operating system any different?

The answer is twofold. First, a dual system is more about leading strategic initiatives to capitalize on big opportunities or dodge big threats than it is about management. Second, although the dual system is a new idea, it is a manner of operating that has been hiding in plain sight for years.

A duel system’s structure

The basic structure is self-explanatory: hierarchy on one side and network on the other. The network side mimics successful enterprises in their entrepreneurial phase, before there were organization charts showing reporting relationships, before there were formal job descriptions and status levels. That structure looks roughly like a constantly evolving solar system, with a guiding mechanism as the sun, strategic initiatives as planets, and sub-initiatives as moons or satellites. (read more…)

How I envy the newborn entrepreneur. In the face of incredible odds and with little chance of survival they blindly press on with a singular focus that sees nothing but opportunity. How refreshingly naïve and idealistic these individuals are, yet profoundly visionary.

Because in a business culture where the ways of the corporate behemoth are viewed as the standard I see a new paradigm being established where the newborn teaches the aged. The lesson to be learned is today’s business leaders need a new mindset, an entrepreneurial mindset where they have the courage to step outside their comfort zones and transform themselves back into what they used to be, a newborn entrepreneur.

For the last six weeks, I have been sitting with newborn entrepreneurs listening to how they are going to conquer the world with some of the shakiest ideas and business concepts ever. The optimism pours from their mouths with such conviction that even I, Doubting Thomas, believe they actually will succeed. (read more…)