Innovation: You Need to Eat Your Children

Another great guest post by John Maloney … thank you!

My old boss at HP, Lew Platt, like to say, concerning innovation, you need to eat-your-children. HP is famous for consistently having 80% of profits originate from products two years old or less. That requires the courage to kill (eat) products (your children) to allow innovation to flourish. As in nature, this optimizes the ecosystems. It drives profitability, growth and well-being.

Incredibly, in almost 2009, enterprise KM people are still talking about the obsolete notions of sharing, best practices and continuous improvement. (?) Ridiculous. Shameful.

Continuous improvement was important in the 80s as a temporal artifact of the quality revolution. It originated the notion of ‘best practices.’ Both are now 100% obsolete.

BTW, know who is a recognized master of both best practices and continuous improvement? Yep, General Motors, GM.  Today, right now, turn on the news and watch the GM CEO grovel and plead for tax money to fix the mess of US auto manufacturing caused specifically by excellence in sharing, best practice and continuous improvement. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. If you hear these terms in your organization, run, don’t walk, for the exits to escape (and to save your life/career).

Today organizations must achieve perpetual innovation (PI). The new Big Three, Toyota, Nissan and Honda get it (and 54% of the US auto market to boot).

Perpetual innovation inhabits value networks. To achieve mastery, do not focus on information distribution (?) and incremental improvements like KM & quality circa 1990. That is a waste of time and resources. You MUST focus knowledge efforts on value network structures and patterns: roles, links, exchanges and OUTCOMES. Information, practices and improvements take care of themselves in well-configured value networks. See:

http://valuenetworks.com/public/item/219361

Also, please forget about sharing. It too is 100% obsolete. There is NO time to share anymore. Rather, focus on collective intelligence. Accept and lead knowledge-based organizations as markets; as the complex adaptive systems all organizations are. Embrace collective intelligence networks and markets to achieve perpetual innovation. See:

http://www.pmcluster.com/SFO09.htm

Sadly, KM people and orgs are nostalgic. They struggle badly to let go and to focus on the future. They are on the same slippery slope as corporate IT – preserve the past at all cost. (Fully 80% of today’s IT budget goes to supporting legacy apps. Disgraceful.)

KM, IT and organizations fight hard to keep the past and sabotage innovation. Newsflash: They are very good at it! However, sooner-or-later they always lose, to be subsumed by the natural order of value networks and collective intelligence. (It is happening in Detroit as you read this post…)

To move forward, KM and their kissing-cousin, corporate IT, need to heed Lew’s advice, and kill their sacred children of sharing, best practices and continuous improvement.

Post Script from Michael:

In an era where inputs (including financial capital), technology, IP and brand become commodities in very short cycles, I think the problem must be addressed in very practical terms and it is concerning far beyond GM.

In this context, human resources become the source of competitive advantage more than ever.  So is it a race to the bottom or the top?  Ultimately comparative advantage from cheaper labour is a no win, so we can probably agree that innovation is the key.  John is bang on.

Is there anyone reading this that does not recognize that the new consideration is that broadband connectivity is scaling up and making visible the value networks in corporations that Verna Allee & Valdis Krebs have been drawing attention to for years?

Here are a couple of blog posts with additional thoughts:
http://socialcapitalvalueadd.com/2008/11/20/iam-or-social-media-man
http://memeticbrand.com/2008/12/01/memetic-brand-social-capital-value-add-start-socializing

SCVA, unlike brand valuation, is not linked to particular lines of revenue.  This is a model that attributes value to the sources of innovation and growth in a corporation rather than, for example, a commodity like tobacco or cars.

I think a model like this give the corporation the incentive to “eat its children” or switch revenue lines.

It is a happy economic coincidence that optimizing social networks requires hope & empowerment over fear & ignorance because in a hopeful environment informed individuals take risks. Publishing distinguishes emitters.  When they discover better ways, their peers emulate across the network. If fear & ignorance reins, productivity suffers.

The GM Solution

This is a guest post authored by John Maloney, you should check out all of his work …

Last month I agonized though a lofty lecture on “Change Management.” It was from a slick consultant who assured us with his shiny loafers and PhD. Problem was, it was positively identical to one I heard at Ford Motor in 1988 while participating in a senior management offsite. It was extremely painful, wrenching, and, well, foolish. Ironically, even after a generation, change management hasn’t changed!

Change management is the biggest management and development farce ever known to business. If you have ANY change management or often worse ‘cultural change’ programs in your organizations immediately kill them or resign your post. They won’t work and you will be badly victimized.

Here, for example, is GMs response to change. It is from the BW Article below, ‘The GM Solution: Life Boats, Not Life Support.’ http://tinyurl.com/5qpk7o

And in 2007, with over a million unsold cars in inventory, Mark LaNeve. GM’s head of North American sales and marketing, protested the need for change. “It’s not like we have some crisis,” he told the Wall Street Journal in its Feb. 9, 2007 edition.

If you ever hear the specious change management change mantra, ‘senior management sponsorship,’ run, don’t walk for the exits. If you hear the dopey, ‘change is the only constant’ calmly pick-up your notepad, pen and find a new role.

Change does not originate from the top or the middle. Please. These structures were specifically invented to eliminate change.

(Years ago I rallied against command and control. I was ostracized. GM is now headed to the ash heap of history on their confident rails of command and control.)

Begin to recognize loopy change management experts lament the failure of change management that THEY perpetuate! Woo-hoo! What a $$$ racket…

Here is how friend Shoshana Zuboff in says it in Business Week this week, exactly concerning GM.

“None of this is exactly “rational” behavior, but it tracks with what institutional economists have observed: The more a practice is institutionalized (history, legitimacy, interdependence, codification), the more it is taken for granted, the greater the energy that goes into maintaining it, and the more relentless the resistance to change. In 2006, GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner responded to the call for “new blood” in GM’s leadership with this screed in Newsweek: “These are sophisticated problems with historical tails that run back 80, 90 years. The chance of someone coming in and understanding our business…is absolutely microscopic.”

Today, business and economics is in a headlong flight to value networks and network intangibles.

Toyota, Nissan and Honda get it and helped invent it vis-à-vis TPS & Lean. See: http://valuenetworks.com/public/item/209498

The focus on value and network intangibles allows the new “Big 3” to account for 52% of the US car market. Flatly rejecting the vulgar UAW makes them produce products that are  enormously popular and profitable. Toyota’s annual profit is more that GMs market capitalization!

Here is a reinforcement of network intangibles from Shoshana.

The car is becoming an expression of identity, values, and personal control in ways that move far beyond traditional segmentation and branding. For example, fuel efficiency will be only one consideration for a socially responsible vehicle (SRV). What percent of the parts are recyclable? What is the vehicle’s total carbon footprint? Are there child labor inputs? Toxic paints, glues, or plastics? How transparent is the supply chain? Is the seller accountable for recycling? What methods are used? Are fair labor practices employed?

The new demands for an individualized driving experience at an affordable price require a fundamentally new business model—a discontinuous shift from economies of scale and push marketing to distributed networks of enterprises that cluster around individuals. The single most important factor for competitive advantage will be a brand’s ability to forge durable intimate relationships with customers based on trust, dialogue, and transparency. Similar skills will be needed at the enterprise level, as carmakers collaborate with other entities to support diverse customer needs.

Value networks and VNA are highly instrumental in defining this new business logic and putting in-place “…distributed networks of enterprises that cluster around individuals..”

Sure, it is possible to kick-back and not activate in value evolution of business and the economics of intangibles. That will only prolong and perpetuate our dire situation and put all solidly on the path to oblivion like GM.

Here is the article link. Please read and comment, here and at Business Week.

http://tinyurl.com/5qpk7o

Can’t really say ‘happy reading’ at the moment. Rather, it is time to act decisively.

(Note:  John, thank you for this guest post.  You are a real leader in this movement.  All – please go to the BusinessWeek article and add your comments. sincerely, Michael)