Management Leadership series: No one can avoid the challenges of an info-based global economy, the need for organic growth or the innovation imperative. Today’s leading CEOs are going down a road everyone in business will have to travel. Read on to find out more about Ambidextrous Leadership.
• The buzzword is innovation. There is a favorite business buzzword that goes along with organic growth, the subject of countless articles, books, conferences and consulting practices: innovation. It’s a word that today’s best business leaders can’t repeat often enough. And if a company is to supercharge its organic growth, major change will be a necessary and critical ingredient.
• Most companies are good inventors in narrow areas. But they may not be better in a lot of areas than others outside. The focus has to shift from innovating inside to collaborating outside and focusing on developing, qualifying and commercializing for industries and channels.
• Take innovation outside. A substantial shift from “not-invented-here” to “reapplied with pride” is becoming a catalyst that’s as important a part of the culture of innovative companies as “invented here”.
• The key is to open the front end. In 2000 a little more than 10 percent of leading companies had innovation partners. Today, more than 40 percent of commercialized ideas involved at least one external partner. Many leaders have set goals of 50 percent in many cases.
• Cultivate change. Leading CEOs have substantially shaken up their boards of directors and top executive teams. They’ve also reformatted their companies’ fundamental approaches to cultivating change and innovation. Their focus has shifted to great strengths of leadership – good risk management, good cost control and good productivity.
• Narrow the focus on fewer initiatives. The starting point is consistently to narrow the focus. It makes a difference. These CEOs focus on eight to ten core strengths where they want to be world-class. Invariably in most companies, over time, the focus gets diffused. More projects get started than anybody can manage. At the corporate innovation-fund level these companies have way too many; leading companies are cutting two-thirds of their existing initiatives.
• Globalizing innovation helps to connect and develop. The global economy requires local strengths. Globalizing the R&D platform ensures breadth and depth of ideas and innovation across markets. Several successful companies have distributed their R&D centers into Asia. The underlying concept of connecting and developing delivers substantial value. The underlying assumption is that great invention is going on anywhere and everywhere in the world. Today P&G employs more people outside the U.S. than in it and has for a long time. At GE it’s about half. The trend is toward localizing businesses where inherent strengths can deliver incremental value.
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