Sitting on untapped potential – Exago’s director in ‘Switched on Leadership’

‘If you want to improve a process, enhance customer experience or create and perfect a product or service, the solution likely lies within your organisation.’ So, ‘Instead of using substitute brains, why not harness this collective intelligence to solve business problems?’ asks Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director, in the latest edition of Switched on Leadership.

Check out the full article, ‘Sitting on Untapped Potential: The Power of Your Organisation’s Collective Intelligence’, and get a free three-month subscription to the magazine here.

Founded by Christele Canard, Switched on Leadership embraces the mission of helping ‘leaders and teams step up to a new level of thinking, knowing and performing’. The magazine recently made it to the finals of the first edition of the Australian Trust Awards 2015 – a celebration of the most trusted and respected businesses in the country.

The future of work: leveraging the power of your collective intelligence

Companies with the most engaged employees tend to have a larger profit margin. Gallup, a global management performance consulting company, also noted that the higher the engagement of all workforce, the greater the earning per share in companies in the stock market.

Engagement is the fuel to sustain value creation. Exago’s management innovation solutions are based precisely on expert services and on a software platform that engages collective intelligence to solve key business challenges. From costs reduction through to the promotion of a culture of transformation and the incorporation of skills, we help companies achieve real results.

Large companies from 19 countries and a wide range of industries have been successfully using our solutions. Let’s consider just two examples:

a) A market where everyone generates ideas
A reference in innovation in Brazil from its beginning, Fleury Group is the largest group of clinical analysis in Latin America, with more than 10,000 employees currently. Looking to the future, the group embraced the challenge of developing a culture of innovation among all employees, promoting organisational creativity and harnessing the collective intelligence of the company.

In 2011, to further improve its innovation programme, the group introduced the ‘Central de Ideias’ (‘Idea Market’), an Exago solution capable of unlocking the innovation potential of Fleury’s staff. This platform works like a social corporative network, where all employees can participate, not only gathering their ideas, but also evaluating and improving them.

Similar to a stock market, participants in this platform can use a virtual currency – the ‘inove’ – to invest in ideas that, as they rise in value, pass on to the next evaluation phase. Consequently, everyone and anyone can contribute with ideas, debate other participants’ suggestions, and invest in the ideas they believe are the best.

Due to gamification mechanisms and to a plan of incentives and prizes, employees are motivated to participate over time. Their own value and the company’s increases. Predictive market models ensure transparency in decisions and make sure the best decisions are taken, increasing the system’s credibility.

Within a year, the results overtook even the most ambitious targets:

  • Ideas submitted: escalating from 1,809, in 2011, to 7,269, in 2012, when the new model was implemented (an increase of more than 400%)
  • Ideas approved: more than doubling, from 443 to 946
  • Ideas implemented: increasing from 225 to 300. In just over two years, more than 900 were implemented
  • Participation: growing from 712 to 3,309 people (15 months after implementing and disseminating Exago’s model, more than 70% of Fleury’s staff had actively joined in)

In the beginning of 2014, more than 6,800 participants were active and interconnected. Within little more than two years, more than 900 ideas were implemented, generating millions in value. More efficient, sustainable, environmentfriendly processes also resulted from the ideas suggested in the platform, reducing operation costs.

Above all, the model allows not only the creation of value, but also the growth of motivation among employees. They feel acknowledged, having a say on the decisionmaking process and on the company’s future.

This model is also a tool for the detection and retention of talent: some of Fleury’s employees were invited to join management teams facing new challenges as a result of their active participation and value amplification in the innovation process.

b) Cross-countries successful innovation initiatives
Endesa, the largest electric company in Spain, is determined to invest in the search for new ways of acting and responding to questions regarding the environment and its developed market. To achieve that, the group is seeking to get its nearly 22,000 employees all over Spain, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Colombia involved in a set of challenges that will determine the industry’s leaders.

From April 2012 onwards, by using an Exago solution, mass participation of employees in the identification of innovative solutions became possible. Within a year and a half, 47 innovation challenges had been proposed to the company’s employees; by December 2012, nearly 2,000 ideas were submitted in the platform, 247 of which were approved and their implementation considered.

The results of the use of Exago’s model were so encouraging that, in the beginning of 2014, it was extended to the whole Enel universe (owner of Endesa). The group has 71,000 employees in over 30 countries.

To take your initiative to the next level, over time you may also feel the need to gather a constituency ready to support you. Ongoing training programmes that ‘produce’ innovation practitioners is one way to go, as we’ll next see.

How to build and train your internal army of innovators

The future of work and the transformation from within

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

Francisco de Rhodes Sérgio, VP Inbound and Sales for LATAM

Unleashing your company’s hidden potential: some good examples

The importance of attracting new talents has been driving companies away from conventional recruitment methods. The brewing company Heineken and the food, chocolate and petcare producer Mars, for instance, got together to launch an integrated trainee programme. During the first three years of their career paths, participants can get to know the reality of two different companies, speeding up their skills development.

However, companies have also been striving to maximise internal talent, the collective intelligence of their people. We at Exago strongly believe you can tackle most of your business challenges by unleashing the hidden potential of your people.

Those familiar with the topic of innovation in work management, of collective intelligence’s power engagement, probably heard of the examples of Whole Foods, W. L. Gore and Google. Gary Hamel and Bill Breen point out these successful cases in their famous book ‘The Future of Management’:

a) Creating a community of purpose
The retailer Whole Foods Market employees are organised in teams and assigned responsibilities usually confined in a hierarchy of managers – such as managing administrative budgets, positions, processes and recruitments. The company engages all employees within a community united by the desire to contribute to a healthier and more sustainable world.

b) The innovation democracy
W. L. Gore is a revolutionary company in the textile industry, working as a ‘bureaucracy-free zone’. There are no hierarchies or titles, no layers of management and no organograms. Information flows in all directions and peers chose leaders. A natural leadership emerges. Different members are free to experiment and devote a half day a week to any initiative they choose.

c) A totally disruptive model
Probably the biggest touchstone in workplace innovation comes from Silicon Valley. Google has successively been ranked among the top firms to work for, giving its employees ‘the opportunity to change the world’.

Google has a flat hierarchy, organised in small, self-run teams, focused on the development of a product and a complex net of lateral communications. Besides having an extraordinary compensation policy, it has espoused the formula ‘70-20-10’– people can allocate 70% of their resources to their main activity, 20% to activities that significantly contribute to the main one and the remaining 10% to marginal ideas.

Two examples from Brazil
Companies around the world are showing that anyone can make a positive difference in work organisation. In Brazil, for example, groundbreaking businesses seek to implement effective mechanisms and platforms that allow employees’ ideas to be taken into account, engaging them in the processes of innovation and path definition. Here are two suggestive examples:

a) Co-creating the future
Natura is often regarded as one of the most innovative and dynamic companies in Brazil. The 2013 annual list by Forbes magazine has once again ranked it among the 10 most innovative companies in the world, even though the top positions are usually taken over by US firms. For consecutive years, it has also earned its place on the top of
the list of the 100 best companies to work for.

A market-leader in Brazil, present in seven countries in Latin America and in France, the cosmetics company sees itself as a community of people who engage in the construction of a better world – by means of a better relationship with themselves, the other and nature.

The firm builds consistent networks, both internally and externally. It also invests in collective and collaborative creation as a tool to live up to today’s challenges and to offer competitive services and products.

b) Zero hierarchy
Vagas, one of the biggest career websites in Brazil, has been fostering recognition with its horizontal structure. There is no hierarchy, no command structure.

In 2014, ‘The Management Innovation eXchange’ (MIX), which looks for the most innovative projects in management of people and companies worldwide, has awarded the company with M-Prize. MIX is an initiative of the management guru Gary Hamel, with the support of Harvard Business Review and the consulting firm McKinsey&Company.

Within its unique collaborative environment, Vagas deals with 2,500 different clients. No fixed positions are held. Functions are discharged. Decisions are made by a consensus among team members: hiring, strategic planning, salary establishment. Since its foundation in 1999, the company has never grown less than 25% a year.

The key take-ways
There is no single magic recipe. However, take note of a set of good practices that are standing out for the value they are creating.

  • Decentralisation and elimination of hierarchy
  • Bigger autonomy and flexibility (in working schedules, spaces, etc.)
  • Multidisciplinarity (bringing in people with different skills, experience and knowledge) and increased collaboration in the projects
  • Greater transparency
  • Goal-oriented work and employees’ empowerment, with an innovation-led approach.

But how are companies building their own vision of the future? How are they taking over the reins of innovation?

The future of work: taking over the reins of innovation

The future of work and the transformation from within

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

Francisco de Rhodes Sérgio, VP Inbound and Sales for LATAM

And at work, what is changing?

We’ve seen that managers cannot overlook evidence that existing models won’t be enough to cope with the uncertainties of the future in the business world. Specifically in the working environment, new movements are pushing companies to break away with obsolete models and to employ innovative working methods.

a) We are ‘burning out’
Increasing feelings of a state of emergency, of competition at work, of compulsive devotion to one’s professional life – with all the stress and pressure brought along with this – more and more cause nervous breakdowns (known as ‘burnout’ or exhaustion syndrome). This lifestyle and employees’ deteriorating health obviously end up affecting organisations.

b) Always connected
We have access to computers and smartphones and, through them, to the global network and work email everywhere, at any time – promoting this sense of a state of emergency. Being ‘always connected’ means, for many people, having to answer to requests immediately. Regardless of where they are or what time it is.

Several companies have been seeking to promote good practices in human resources management. The case of Volkswagen, in Germany, who refused to email employees who had company mobile phones outside working hours, illustrates such practices. The giant of the motor industry decided to turn off their Blackberry servers half an hour after the end of the workday, and to turn them back on in the following day, half an hour before the beginning of activity.

Trade unions and social movements are also trying to assure that minimal rest periods of employees foreseen by the law are respected. In France, in April 2014, contact by the boss after office hours was forbidden, following an agreement between unions and employers in the digital, consultancy and engineering sectors.

This became known as the ‘right to disconnection’ from distance communication tools. Employees in these sectors may turn off their work phones between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. of the following morning, without retaliation.

c) Personal time?
Juggling the professional with the personal spheres of life is not an easy task. It’s something many companies have been reflecting on, to achieve two major goals: to guarantee greater organisational efficiency, and more productivity; and to harness more qualified human resources in the search for better conditions and a better quality of life at and outside of work.

To benefit their working parents some companies are already increasing flexibility of working schedules and creating services of family-life support.

d) Conquering the best
Generation ‘Y’ (people born during the 1980s or 1990s) has integrated into the labour market, with their different tech habits and life aspirations, reinforcing the need for changes in work structures and supply development – to attract top talent.

Soon Generation ‘Z’ (born between the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium) will follow. The challenge repeats itself. The motivation triad – autonomy, mastery and purpose – as suggested by Daniel Pink’s formula, will resurface as new generations conquer the labour market.

e) Flexible work
The development and generalisation of technologies is also making work relationships and models evolve. The report ‘The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills’ in 2030 by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (2014), discusses this tendency: ‘Faced with growing complexity and performance pressures in the work environment, individuals are increasingly seeking a more suitable balance and better boundaries between the requirements of work and private life. A majority (57%) of employees say that the availability of flexible working in their workplace is important to them; this proportion is growing over time and is significantly higher for particular groups including parents, workers with caring responsibilities and the highly qualified.’

The report further states that ‘Generation Y (people born between 1980 and 2000 and have grown up almost entirely in the digital age) will further drive this trend, with 92% identifying flexibility as a top priority when selecting a workplace.’

The contribution of each, the intelligence of all
In the face of this reality, both intrinsic and extrinsic tendencies are emerging:

// On the one hand, the power of networks is generating new knowledge and synergies. Socialisation and human relationships acquire renewed influence.

// On the other hand, individuals assert themselves. Clients and consumers, as well as employees, now have new tools to make their voices heard. And they are using them to express concerns and to show their skills and capacities.

These dynamics bring opportunities. They fuel a corporate and collaborative spirit. Every employee and stakeholder can get involved, contribute and become part of something bigger.

But how can we gather the collective intelligence of our companies and truly create internal innovation armies? That is what the cases and models we present in detail next week will demonstrate.

Unleashing your company’s hidden potential: some good examples

The future of work and the transformation from within

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

Francisco de Rhodes Sérgio, VP Inbound and Sales for LATAM

The future of work and the transformation from within

Which companies are ensuring their place in the future? Definitely not those sticking to conventional models in work organisation or in structuring and running their businesses. As evolution teaches, the ability to adapt to environmental changes, such as the ones we experience in the corporate world, determines who has a better chance of thriving.

A significant number of CEOs all over the world feel this urgency as work innovation has become an essential lever for success. Everyone agrees with this.

Yet there is a gap between intentions, on the one hand, and reality, on the other. In practice, managers and executives allocate less time to innovation than they aspire to.

Think about it: How much time do you devote to finding out about not only new methods and products but also ways to shape your structures and organisational processes to instil innovation as a work methodology? The effort of guiding this change must come, above all, from executive leadership. But employees have to be engaged for this purpose too: all need to be committed.

In search of new paths
Too many organisations and executives still operate within an obsolete management paradigm – based on nineteenth century methods and assumptions, improved in the mid-twentieth century and executed with early twenty-first century technology.

The formula may have worked in the past, but prospering in markets and sectors that change at lightning speed calls for new tools, new attitudes towards work management. In the following weeks we will first analyse challenges that cross the path of all companies, on a global scale.

We next consider stirring success stories, to consolidate organisation’s experience in an active search for models, structures and processes that guarantee sustainable growth.These companies are not only specifically engaging each one of their employees but also harnessing their collective intelligence in a very promising way:

  • Combining discipline with creativity and new approaches
  • Going beyond old trade-offs (risk, power hierarchies and decision making) to set human passion free
  • Engaging all workers and inspiring them to give their best
  • Gathering the collective wisdom of their companies’ teams and calling them to action

The focus of innovation initiatives worldwide has been essentially incremental or product-oriented. Innovation in work management is also required, though too often put aside.

Based on our experience in Exago, on four continents and in a wide range of industries, we are certain of this: organisations that succeed in updating and implementing their renewed work and management charts are undoubtedly more equipped to seize future opportunities. We’ll see what models and practices can facilitate this evolution.

Missing the opportunities that spring from this reality is to run the serious risk of falling behind.

The corporate (r)evolution: why businesses emerge, grow and die faster than ever
And at work, what is changing?
Unleashing your company’s hidden potential: some good examples
Taking over the reins of innovation
A vision for the future of work
The future of work: leveraging the power of your collective intelligence
How to build and train your internal army of innovators
The new threshold of corporate revolution

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

Francisco de Rhodes Sérgio, VP Inbound and Sales for LATAM