Innovation is Broken by Janice Fraser

BY MARTIN ERIKSSON ON AUGUST 25, 2017

What is the point of innovation? Why do we focus so much time and effort on digital transformation, agile transformation, and innovation? Simply put it’s because large organisations need to grow – and can’t. All of their current management practices optimise against anything new ever being successful. In the course of a storied career that started at Netscape, and includes co-founding Adaptive Path and Luxr, consulting for Fortune 500 companies as well as the White House, Janice Fraser has focused on how to handle this “newness”. In this awesome talk at Mind the Product San Francisco, she shares how to tackle change and really drive growth in large organisations.

Janice Fraser at Mind the Product San Francisco

The pace of change today is slower than it will ever be for the rest of your lifeJanice Fraser

The Problem

We all know the world around us is changing at an incredible pace. Companies and established brands that we thought were going to be around for ever are churning out of the S&P 500 every day and being replaced by new hypergrowth companies. For 100 years, management practice has emphasised planning and control as a means of ensuring predictable outcomes, but when change is the greatest threat to your business, plans and predictions are literally unbelievable. And the impact of that is an intractable failure to grow – the largest companies in the world are lucky if they can achieve 0.1% annual growth.

This is why every enterprise organisation is trying to innovate through innovation labs, accelerators, incubators, digital transformation programs, 20% time, and more. These programs are great for changing attitudes but they have all failed to deliver the hypergrowth products that their parent companies crave – because the parent organisations don’t know what to do with the output from them.

To meet the demands of the fast-changing competitive scene, we must simply learn to love change as much as we have hated it in the past.Tom Peters, 1987

The Solution

Large organisations need to learn to value something small – with potential – as much as they value that which is already big and successful. These organisations focus too much on ROI and they can’t see the value of a potential idea.

This is why to succeed we need a different organisational structure. The core business relies on Operators who can optimise their business area and grow something big to something slightly bigger. But on the other end, going from small to big requires a different mentality. These Entrepreneurial Leaders need new skills and a different mindset, because ideas like Good and Progress look very different in a startup than they do in the core business.

Traditional management by planning and prediction is great for tuning a machine – optimising a business – but today’s world demands a new management approach that transforms the risk of change into an asset, by supporting real entrepreneurship and venture-style investing within very large companies.

This requires small, cross-functional, 100% dedicated startup teams who are tasked with hunting high-value customer problems to solve. Unlike startups these inside entrepreneurs aren’t starting from zero – they have a core company they can leverage. These teams are funded by internal venture capital boards, comprised of top company leaders including the CEO, who give them permission and protection. Because these teams need the autonomy to follow the evidence towards a viable, desirable, feasible new business.

Janice Fraser at #mtpcon

Things you can do now

Go zombie hunting. In environments where failure is politically damaging, hiding it is a natural reaction – so there are lots of zombie products and business areas sucking the brains and budgets out of your organisation. As a leader it’s crucial you find these and eliminate them – and repurpose their resources and budgets to new ideas.

End your addiction to being right. You have been rewarded for being right but that won’t work here. Having answers blocks insight and perpetuates biases. Instead you should focus on rewarding learning, not certainty. Practise question-based leadership – you are inevitably going to be wrong so focus on asking the right questions.

Play moneyball. Team effectiveness is more important than individual contribution – so focus on team dynamics and communication. Data is the only path to commercial truth, and even a team of average performers can deliver excellent outcomes if they execute reliably.

Prepare for Change

Whether you’re in an organisation struggling with these challenges or lucky enough already to be in a startup environment like this, watch this talk, learn from Janice’s experience, and think about how you can change your organisation – or share how you’re already doing it. Because this is the future of work and value creation in business.

Martin Eriksson

About MARTIN ERIKSSON

Martin Eriksson has 20+ years experience building world-class online products in both corporate and start-up environments for global brands such as Monster, Financial Times, Huddle, and Covestor. He is the Founder of ProductTank, the Co-Founder and Curator of Mind the Product and currently a Chief Product Officer at large, advising and mentoring startups. He is also the author of best-seller Product Leadership, How Top Product Leaders Launch Great Products and Build Successful Teams (O'Reilly, 2017).

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