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

Innovation programme across borders: 10 best practices to make it work

It´s a one million (or likely more) dollars question that companies worldwide have been striving to answer: How can we successfully implement and run an idea management programme across borders? In other words, how can organisations with complex combinations of countries, businesses and languages extract value out of corporate wide effort – in particular, when running country specific idea challenges in parallel with corporate challenges?

Organisations have long realised that innovation is the cornerstone of any corporate growth imperative. It’s the ongoing attitude that makes it possible. A source of opportunities, to create differentiated business models, products and cost structure that can ensure resilience and growth, at a global scale.

However, as you know, if you’ve been walking the innovation road for some time, relying on an innovation team or department to do all the work does not function, particularly at such large scale. You need to tap into the ideas and experience of everyone working with you.

Your internal diverse crowds – employees and stakeholders – are your most valuable asset. They:

  • Have been exposed to many experiences, also personally and socially;
  • Come from different backgrounds and education;
  • Are consumers, with good and bad experiences to report, in all walks of life;
  • Have worked in other departments, other companies and even other industries and countries;
  • Are diverse in gender and age and nationality.

Just think about the expertise and knowledge of each and every one of them. Multiply that by a single, shared purpose you identify as a top priority. The possibilities are endless. Many of your employees and stakeholders have, in fact, the potential to be real innovators. But they may lack the tools, methods and incentives to do it.

Where to start such complex enterprise?
How can you make sure your idea management initiatives do reach them, across all frontiers? Running a corporation-wide programme is not an easy task. Social and cultural differences and language may pose real threats.

Geography is the ultimate barrier, yet nowadays easier to overcome with new tools and global online networks. So, before the journey, you have to start by planning a comprehensive idea management programme with ambitious but real targets, deadlines and evolution steps. One that fits your organisation’s goals and features.

Try to anticipate at each turning point in that evolution process when and how to involve your branches and affiliates. Then, learn to adapt as the transformation in your company happens.

Over more than a decade of running innovation efforts across continents, we have learned what works and what doesn’t with leading organisations. We have distilled this accumulated learning into a set of principles.

In the following weeks, I will share 10 top best practices to guide you in designing your cross-countries idea management process definition and governance model. They will help you maximise your results. Let’s get started?

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

Number 1 gets you on the right track
Number 2 avoids premature shut-down
Number 3 helps you to push innovation further
Number 4 sets the beginning and the end
Number 5 gets you to pick the right fights
Number 6 assures community awareness
Number 7 ignites motivation
Number 8 has to be properly geared
Number 9 makes this a shared journey
Number 10 is all about results

Are you set to go?

TIP: Is your innovation effort transparent enough?

Photo: Splitshire

Today the traditional model of ‘top management decides’ and ‘everyone else unquestioningly executes’ is less likely to succeed, namely in your innovation efforts. Leaders need to define strategy based upon established fundamentals and then clearly communicate that strategy throughout their organisation. Transparency is paramount in the twenty-first century enterprise.

When in collaborative environments such as innovation initiatives, if you don’t offer high transparency, participants become weary and start to disengage. This lack of transparency can happen in many ways:

  • Individuals contribute ideas or insights and there’s no feedback… or feedback takes weeks or months to arrive
  • Decision making about which ideas move forward is not clear or it is in the hands of only a very few individuals
  • The outcomes of the innovation efforts are not communicated, nor are the profits from them shared with the contributors

To make your innovation programme as transparent as possible – and thus keep people engaged -, here are a couple tips we’ve found helpful:

1. Implement a transparent screening process
At Exago, we are strong believers in the power of collective intelligence. We believe in the wisdom of crowds, that under certain circumstances a large group of individuals tends to make better decisions than a small group of experts.

Based on this belief, we have designed and implemented innovation management online models where ideas are generated and screened in an efficient and transparent way. Using a gamified platform, with a stock market approach, we ask individuals to ‘invest’ in the ideas they feel offer the most value to the organisation.

These decisions are made based on each individual’s experience, competence, and wisdom. Through this ‘idea stock market’ model we, along with all participants, easily discover which ideas are seen to offer the most potential. The great thing about this is that, besides being efficient and fun, it is fully transparent.

2. Communicate successes, contributions and outcomes
We seem to insist a lot on communication, don’t’ we? Well, here we go again: Make always sure you communicate individual and group successes, contributions and outcomes.

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

FROM THE START: Innovation looks easy – it’s not

Internal crowds have their say with open innovation

This is where our open innovation model draws a line to make a difference – we believe both external and internal communities should be involved in your open innovation efforts. Therefore, our model gives you easy access to new sources of innovation, asking different questions of different communities and unleashing their hidden potential.

Having laid out goals, challenges and workflow designs, engage your external contributors using a software platform to source new ideas and solutions. Also, establish the expected nature and quantity of your outputs. Your plan of incentives, gamification, prediction markets’ mechanisms and 360º monitoring of the platform ensures efficiency and high levels of participation.

Next, we help you integrate the externally generated content with your internal community. Adopting the software platform for their own purposes, your people can screen and evaluate the best contributions. This way you gather their collective intelligence. Together, your selected internal crowd can decide which contributions a final jury should select from to find the competition’s winner.

With a client in the telecom industry, for instance, we developed a 2012–2013 initiative to challenge graduate students from the best Portuguese universities – ‘Talento com Fibra’ (literally, ‘Talent with Fibre’). They had to address specific products and services innovation challenges.

In 2012, 275 participants registered, presenting 80 proposals. A year later, 471 students delivered 151 projects. The company’s internal community could then choose 16 finalists whose ideas entered the last selection stage.

Ideas without boundaries
Ideas may recognise no boundaries, but they surely have constraints: complexity, unrelatedness and lack of value. You need suitable tools and methods to get ideas and choose the best.

So, while embarking upon your open innovation quest, be sure to capture equally high external and internal levels of engagement. The whole initiative and evaluation process, in particular, needs efficiency. The proposals must be relevant, easily finding their place and sponsors in your organisation.

Overall, remember that:

  • It’s important to have many ideas, but it’s equally important to evaluate them appropriately.
  • Mixed sourcing outside and inside your organisation makes the best blend.
  • Weighted relevance evaluation by external stakeholders and value creation evaluation by internal participants ensures your success.

If you do it right, over time you can source contributions from hundreds or even thousands of participants. You gain brand visibility, and open innovation becomes one of your organisation’s most valuable best practices.

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s CEO and co-founder

What could possibly go wrong with open innovation?

Open innovation is no self-fulfilling prophecy

Photo:Daniel Nanescu © Pexels

Let me be clear. Open innovation can indeed bring significant value. I can highlight:

  • Extended reach and capacity for new ideas, technologies and different perspectives on challenges, broadening your view (where you look and your ability to see what’s there)
  • Ability to leverage initiatives on someone else’s budget
  • Opportunity to refocus your internal resources on screening and managing implementation
  • Ability to conduct strategic experiments at lower levels of risk and resources, with the opportunity to extend your core business and create new sources of growth
  • Incorporation of customers early in the development process: you can call on your customers to determine the challenges to address, or, if the concepts have been approved for analysis or implementation, your customers can participate in their evaluation and development
  • Potential for viral marketing: if the angle you set is pertinent to the targeted audience, these types of initiatives are often spontaneously shared via online communication and social networks
  • Over time, opportunity to create a more innovative culture from ‘outside in’, through continued exposure to, and relationships with, external innovators

Still, you should lower your expectations. Depending on the challenges and engagement levels you get, you may be able to land some potentially interesting innovations. Yet, however positive and confident you and your company may be about developing your initiative, these benefits won’t just follow automatically.

A new approach
At Exago, we’ve looked for a more real-world definition of open innovation: the science of engaging your organisation’s ecosystem – both the internal and external stakeholder networks – to address business challenges and identify new growth opportunities.

If you’re developing an open innovation initiative, have its real meaning in mind. Also, don’t overlook the potential to establish new partnerships and identify more business opportunities. Remember to explore the latest technological trends as well.

To make your efforts worthwhile, you and your leadership have to define clear timelines and goals, both tangible (projects, ideas, etc.) and intangible (culture, positioning, collaboration behaviours, etc.). Establish a flexible workflow design to meet these goals. Focus on your organisation’s challenges and find relevance – both for your company and contributors.

When targeting participants, consider suppliers, customers and universities. But do not forget your most valuable asset. Your employees are themselves a community of stakeholders, often from different countries, cultures, backgrounds and businesses.

They are your most important open innovation source. True, your teams may have their own orthodoxies. Yet they understand, more than anyone else, what is relevant and what would and wouldn’t work in your company.

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s CEO and co-founder

Internal crowds have their say

What could possibly go wrong with open innovation?