Saturday, January 26, 2008

Looking for Intelligence

I am fascinated by the emerging thinking about how to individually and corporately thrive in complex environments. A common thread in these discussions is the growing dissatisfaction around our experience of optimizing known processes and activities. It seems that the more we use technology to eliminate one type of human effort, the more we need new human capabilities to bridge the glaring gaps. This awareness manifests itself in a variety of contexts:
  • Highly controlled sequential development vs. Agile methodologies
  • Capability maturity vs. Value innovation
  • Rigorously implemented workflow vs. Adaptable decision support
  • Six sigma continuous improvement vs. Creative process innovation
  • Business intelligence data vs. Business process management
  • Enterprise Project management vs. Dynamic social collaboration
  • Directed leadership vs. The wisdom of crowds
  • Tightly integrated implementations vs. Autonomous loosely coupled services
It's Not a War

Although the proponents of any emphasis tend to aggressively critique their novel counterparts, I believe their fear is largely misplaced. We need to keep both the baby and the bathwater. When dealing with complexity, it is imperative to simultaneously:
  1. Maximize the efficiency of what is known, and
  2. Maximize the probability of successfully leveraging the unknown
The Human Body Metaphor

Andy Moore, uses a very helpful metaphor in his January 2008 KM World article on business process management. Here he compares human physiology with these business realities:
[mature data and workflow implementations..] represent only brain-stem functions—the autonomic respiration and blood flow that continue to pound away in the daily existence of the organism... But—excuse me while I completely beat this metaphor to death—what do you do about the immediate, real-time response to environmental stimuli? The observation, reflexes and response to the changing influences that come at you from all directions? For that you need higher brain functions—you need sight, hearing and touch to protect the body corpus from the elements.
Learning from Design

I think we have much to learn from the design of humans and our capabilities (physical and otherwise). To navigate today's complex challenges, businesses need to improve their "senses", tuning their corporate ability to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel, heightening the awareness of what's happening around us. We need to be incredibly introspective to be self-aware and adaptable. And, as an organization, we need enhanced cognitive and intuitive abilities to discover patterns and and identify emerging threads of opportunity that emerge. Thankfully, decision support technologies like Business Process Management and Semantic Web capabilities are accelerating these corporate "higher brain functions".

Perhaps it shouldn't surprise us that the universe itself seems to be a combination of precisely engineered dynamics and seemingly disconnected activities. There is much to observe and much benefit to be derived by applying what we learn.

As the folks at Cognitive Edge remind us:
"Serendipity is a human quality"
And, as we continue this journey of discovery, you might just discover that there is, in fact, Intelligence out there.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Silicon Valley Innovation at Your Company

How do you get companies to start investing in future innovations, when their tendency is to finance past success? I read this article about Gary Hamel's observations on Silicon Valley dynamics and how these principles can foster innovation in a corporate setting:
  1. Requires a diversity of funding options.
  2. Creates an environment of emergent business planning
  3. Naturally aligns with "angel investors" (sponsors with direct interest and coaching capability)
Hamel suggests replicating this effect internally by creating a corporate wide network of "angel investors", allocating a portion of corporate budgets to these individuals, and encouraging innovators to "pitch" their ideas, competing for the attention and funding needed.

Read the full article, or Gary Hamel's book, The Future of Management, for more thought provoking ideas...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Innovative Process Management as Business Design

© BPTrends - - Click Image for Larger View

Although we have been emphasizing the importance of fostering a culture of social innovation, there is no excuse for neglecting the existing value creation capabilities of the organization. The BPTrends Pyramid is a very helpful model for keeping things in perspective, demonstrating the strategic placement of business processes.

Why is attention to business processes key to business success? Basically, they form the "design" layer of an organization. We are all familiar with the power of innovative product design. As I pointed out in a previous post, value-driven design creates a powerful overlap between opportunity and capability, envisioning a creative outcome that can be realized as a new or improved product.

In the same way, processes are the design bridge in an organization. This is where we creatively leverage corporate resources (capability) to achieve business vision and strategies (opportunity). The BPTrends pyramid visually portrays this principle.

Here is a quick table comparing the design realities of business and software production:

ContextSoftware ProductionBusiness Production
Value TargetsProduct UsersMarket/Customers
Value DriverPersona GoalsBusiness Value
OpportunityProblem DomainBusiness/Marketing Strategy
CapabilityTechnology/ExpertiseCorporate Workforce/Infrastructure
Value CreationProduct InnovationBusiness Innovation/Efficiency

Bottom Line: Companies that focus on value-driven process design and process management are poised for ongoing competitive growth and innovation.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Looking Forward - Emerging Social Technology Trends

In the McKinsey Quarterly article, Eight business technology trends to watch, it is interesting to note that 4 of the 8 trends identified are related to social computing. This juncture of technology and relationships is seen as a growing opportunity for business value.

The authors affirm:
Technology alone is rarely the key to unlocking economic value: companies create real wealth when they combine technology with new ways of doing business.

Social Computing Trends

1. Distributing co-creation

There will be an increase in the use of technology to enable the entire value chain in the innovation and product development process. This trend is supported by emerging standards and the open sharing of technologies and integration platforms. Companies are beginning to deliberately shift from protective internal R&D strategies, to the opportunities of open collaboration. They are trading IP (intellectual property) control for increased innovation and competitiveness.

2. Using consumers as innovators

By using technology to engage customers, companies are creating a rich opportunity to involve consumers directly in the design and creation process. Customers are now contributors as well as consumers, injecting a powerful source of relevant input and even content into the value creation process.

3. Tapping into a world of talent

In the growing world of on-line social awareness, it's becoming easier to find the right person for the job. Using these same technologies, it's possible to effectively work with this person, regardless of where in the world they happen to live. This opens up dramatic new workforce opportunities as companies reconfigure to leverage outsourced roles, and recombine new specialty roles increase their competitiveness.

4. Extracting more value from interactions

Productivity is becoming far less about traditional project and task management, and much more about sharing knowledge and managing interactions.

"Technology tools that promote tacit interactions, such as wikis, virtual team environments, and videoconferencing, may become no less ubiquitous than computers are now. As companies learn to use these tools, they will develop managerial innovations--smarter and faster ways for individuals and teams to create value through interactions--that will be difficult for their rivals to replicate."

Read More

For more details on the report, read the full article on CNet News