At times, corporate communication can seem like learning how to shoot a bow and arrow.

That’s not because you’re trying to take your competitors out “Hunger Games” style (though you may be). Think of the last time you learned about a new hobby, like archery. Not only did you have to learn how to hold the bow, position the arrow, and release, but you also had to learn the terminology. To be able to engage effectively, you had to learn a new language. The language of archery isn’t the same as the language of woodworking; if you attempt to speak like a woodworker, you’ll fall wide of the mark.

While this is just a game, it’s a good example of what happens when everyone fails to be on the same page in an enterprise. For effective communication — and, therefore, innovation — everyone must be aligned. As a business owner, it’s up to you to set a common language for innovation among employees. (read more…)

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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…)