Introducing Lab Rooms Wheel of Growth
Aleksander V. Tchernov
For decades, traditional organisations have built infrastructures based on markets that were predictable and environments that were relatively stable. In the last decade the tables have turned and markets today are now accelerating at a pace where businesses are trying to keep up. In order to grow and sustain, organisations need to rapidly innovate, develop intrapreneurial talent and engage their employees in adapting to a rapidly changing (agile) working environment.
Back in the days
Look at the amount of time it took for a new product or technology to reach an important milestone in usability. It took the landline telephone 75 years to hit 50 million users, airplanes 68 years, the automobile 62 years, and television 22 years. Currently, disruption is the new normal. Consider the impact of technology since the year 2000. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter were able to capture 50 million users in four, three and two years, respectively. These are nothing when compared to Pokemon Go, which took a mere 19 days to reach 50 million users.
Creative destruction is moving at an accelerating pace. By leveraging the same systems, the same processes, the same best practices from ancient business cases to predict market behavior, organisations will continue to chase the market and miss enormous opportunities.
As a business owner or (general) manager; have you ever asked yourself one of the following questions:
- How do we leverage big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain and other technologies to create a competitive advantage?
- What emerging client challenges and needs exist that could transform our business by 10x, or even 100x?
- How do we scale our business while ensuring applicability to the widest possible audience globally?
- How should our business-model, technological tools, product offering and resources look like while building a sustainable business-model?
- What networks can we build or join that exponentially elevate the value we create and deliver?
Nowadays, in order to grow, sustain, and improve, organisations need to continuously innovate, or improve their business-model, product offering or service offering. In fact, recent research conducted by EY shows that successfully growing companies are spending a substantial amount of their time and effort on internal innovation. In an ideal situation, organisations can invest freely in projects related to innovation, corporate entrepreneurship, automation, digitalization, talent development, etc. But, the situation is never ideal. And perhaps more importantly, where to start?
Innovation has long been recognized as a viable means for promoting and sustaining competitiveness. The perception of Innovation is commonly considered to refer to the growth of new ideas and opportunities, that lead to the advancement of organizational profitability and an enhancement of competitive position of an existing business. Innovation often involves opportunity-seeking and advantage-seeking activities, which lead to supra-normal profits in the long run.
For the most part, the call for greater innovation on the part of established businesses has been accepted as an inherently desirable objective. The implicit logic behind the pervasive belief in this value seems to be that the key elements of innovative organisations will help in identifying and pursuing lucrative product/market opportunities and in providing new bases for achieving superior competitive positions.
No matter what challenge presents itself, case after case proofs the fact that the people in the organisation are at the heart of any innovation, and that they need to to be empowered to be innovative.
There are (roughly speaking) 4 ways an organisation can be innovative within an existing company:
- Become like Google, and provide dedicated funding and senior attention to prospective projects dispersed throughout the whole company;
- Focus on evangelizing for intrapreneurship/innovation, and disperse the funding in an ad-hoc manner over the business units;
- Establish a full-service business unit with a mandate for intrapreneurship and innovation;
- Or, choose to not have an approach for intrapreneurship or innovation. And rely on the internal and external networks to drive concept selection and resource allocation.
No matter what type of model the organisation chooses, there are roughly speaking four stages that will lead to successful innovation, i.e. Ideation, Concept, Startup, Scale-up.
As time is of the essence it makes sense to go through all the stages as quickly as possible. Especially the first two stages don’t have to take weeks or months if supported by the best experts, structured and facilitated.
The Paradox of Internal Innovation
Either way you choose to be entrepreneurial or innovative within your business, there are a couple of things you need to consider carefully. For instance, you might need to give talented and creative people in your organisation more space, less boundaries, less direction and maybe even less support. But doing this too radically, can eventually resolve in chaos. On the other hand, not giving enough space, setting too many boundaries, giving too much direction and support can resolve in unwanted and costly internal hassle, loss of time and loss of motivation. There’s a thin line between playing it too save and too risky.
Ideally you would have to create a save yet adventurous setting, thus securing the balance between chaos and constraint.
Innovation is a valuable tool in fostering an organisational culture that results in committed employees and long-term success. While it is generally agreed that entrepreneurial skills that are necessary for innovation can be taught, we have demonstrated that a majority of an organisation’s employees can be trained to recognize and seize innovation opportunities. Rather than launching a training program expecting specific results, it is therefore better for organizations to provide continuous, structured and ongoing support for aspiring intrapreneurs and innovators.
Entrepreneurially prone employees can be beneficial contributors to an organisation’s success if their skills are cultivated. Converting employees with entrepreneurial aptitude into intrapreneurs can bring extraordinary value to all stakeholders. Once people get on board of an innovation project they start utilizing and developing their talents for the benefit of the company. That is where the magic happens and the collective genius of the organisation is unleashed. People start utilizing their basic entrepreneurial traits, such as, flexibility, creativeness, moderate risk taking, autonomy, problem solving, leadership, persuasiveness and many more. When approached, facilitated and followed-up correctly, this new way of talent development and talent utilization can have an extremely beneficial effect on the sustainability of the business. Companies like 3M, Pfizer, and France Telecom have thrived due to approaches that embrace intrapreneurship principles (Johnson, 2001).
Ideally, experts and facilitators can create momentum, alignment and gather the best ideas or solutions by bringing the intrapreneurial team together and have them work on a topic separately, with intervals of facilitated sharing. That way, everybody on the team gets to develop their unique talent whilst complementing each other for the benefit of the organisation.
Over decades it has been argued that engaged employees are the ones who make an organization tick. Luckily, there are a few ways to improve employee engagement in any organization. Internal Innovation Programmes and Talent Development are a few of them. Especially Generation Y and Z would feel more attracted and more likely to retain in an organisation that promotes innovation and talent development. Furthermore, innovation can contribute in creating an attractive workplace, also for non-innovators.
In the end, engaging people is about the connection, communication and empowerment. Innovation methodologies such as lean-startup or design thinking are great ways to do this effectively.
The tandem of engaged people in combination with innovative projects has a major positive effect on performance indicators such as productivity, profitability, absenteeism, customer satisfaction, voluntary turnover etc. Internal innovation alone already shows a substantial positive correlation with performance. Meaning that more, better and faster innovation will lead to more productivity, more efficiency, higher utilization, higher profitability and lower voluntary turnover. Next to that, more Innovation leads to more talent development and higher employee engagement. With Employee Engagement showing a second positive correlation with Performance, the Lab Rooms Wheel of Growth illustrates how Innovation can have a double positive impact on key performance indicators as described earlier.
Performance leads to cash flow. Cash flow is a financial performance measure that measures the difference between cash inflow (i.e. sales remittance or actual sales), and cash outflow (i.e. purchases) net of the accounting measures (i.e. cost vs expenses) and uncertainty and risk.
Improved business performance usually results in better financial performance. Ultimately, organisations want to optimize their cash flow and secure the company’s future. A healthy balance between cash inflow and cash outflow opens a wide range of long term investment possibilities aimed at (organic) growth, which can be reached best through (internal) innovation.
Closing the circle
By continuously focusing on innovation, acceleration and improvement, an organisation is able to improve its sustainability and growth. Whether the organisation starts with Innovation, Talent Development or Employee Engagement, the result is, better performance, more cash and ultimately greater growth and sustainability.
The Lab Rooms Wheel of Growth illustrates how 5 business objectives correlate with each other and how they contribute to the ultimate goal of any organisation. It helps to understand how to reach the desirable situation where you can stay ahead of competition and continuously grow!
At Lab Rooms
As the wheel of growth illustrates, people are at the heart of any innovation. They need to be empowered to use their talent, collaborate with each other and unleash their collective genius. At Lab Rooms we aim to unleash the potential of people to help organisation grow and sustain successfully. Our way of working is unique in the sense that we are able to facilitate rapid Innovation and Talent Development with 97% of our participants being extremely engage during their workday in a Lab Room!