Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ethics is Key To Innovation

In 2009 the Ethisphere Insitute published a lists of the world's most ethical companies. I was disappointed to read the list and did not see one Canadian firm listed. Why is this?

Seems odd when you review the 2010 Edelman Survey on Trust for Brand in terms of companies that will do the right things for their customers, and that Canadian's have the highest level of trust now at 57% in the last four years... and trust is correlated to Ethics.

So what does this tell us - are we just quiet gentle leaders?

I do believe that this is the case as Canadians do not toot their horns too much. We are like the quiet leaders - men and women who make the tough calls in a ethical manner that respect diverse cultures and stakeholder neesd.

One of Canada's strongest cultural attributes is humility. I know and understand that the more I know means I know very little. Doing a doctorate for me was a learning journey helping me to further realize the roots of innovation are linked to trust, and collaboration capacity, and tremendous rigor and discipline and patience is needed.

Increasingly with the challenges we have in business we are learning daily that Trust is fostered only if ethics and transparency are integrated leadership practices.

We are not totally there yet - will we ever be - I do like to imagine a total world harmonized with a generation of values-led leaders, where multi-faceted challenges - globalization, sustainability, depleting resources, economic instability, co-opetition.... also embrace the realities of collaboration, ethics and trust sense making as only then will innovation truly flourish!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Growth Trends in Asia - Factoids

Internet Use in Asia is growing fast

Internet users in Asia represent 42 percent of all internet users in the world. Still, Internet penetration in Asia is less than 19 percent of the population.

As of the second quarter of 2010, China has the most users in the region - 338 million a quarter of the population, and Japan, the next highest in the region has 94 million. By comparison, India has 81 million users (7 percent penetration).

Australia and Japan have the highest internet penetration rates - 79.6 percent and 74 percent respectively.

Patent Performance

In 1978, only five Asia Pacific countries were represented among applicants for U.S. patents - Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and New Zealand - for a total of 310 patent filings.

Patent filings from Asia have accelerated in the past 10 years. In 1998 - more than 2,400 applications were filed by applicants from Asia Pacific countries - by 2008 more than 6,800 were.

The number of filings from Chinese applications alone grew from 16 in 1998 to 647 in 2008.

Meanwhile Japanese applications represent 16 percent of all filings to the European Patent Office and South Korean applicants, 3 percent.

Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, European Patent Office

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Innovation Growth - Lift Off is in China

A recent Scotia Bank report Liftoff Achieved, but the Flight Path will be Turbulent spells it out clearly that developed nations are locked on a low -growth trajectory. In 2009, China's growth output increased by over 9%. Trade flows among Asian countries are double NAFTA levels.

With the shifting realities of global business, and in no small part the increasing importance of Asia Pacific escalating in growth and in operations, business footprints must expand to these growth markets.

Having skills and experience in Asia is now a critical innovation competency for global leaders of the future. Without this knowledge and companies rotating their talent to Asia, multi-national leaders will not achieve the insights they need to make more informed global business decisions.

What does it take to be a global leader? With over half of the world's global population and now being the fastest growing economy, developing knowledge of Asian cultures is critical for success.

The first important fact to undertand is that Asia is not a single market. Japan for example has a population that is aging rapidly whilethe vast amount of populations in Vietnam are very young. For example, the median age in Japan is now 44, while in Vietnam, it is 27, China it is 34, while India is only 25. Local tastes are different as well as spending power. To be effective, leaders need to understand the unique attributes of local markets, adjust their approaches and then learn to unlearn as they continue to adapt.

Business is moving rapidly due to the high levels of growth driving the realities of hyper-competitive environments and acclerated decision making needs.

Important to leadership in the Asia Pacific is appreciating win win as relationships are a life -time and not viewed as transactions. Understanding other's views and being empathetic to opposite views - demonstrating openness and preserving reputation of all is critical for leadership success. Win Win orientations are not always a strength of USA executives, perhaps more so in Canada given their rich cultural appreciation.

What ever partnering relationships are established, they need to be viewed as a long term commitment and not the flavor of the month. Signals are seen and observed in the trust making aspects of Asian cultures, and memories are long.

Companies like Coke are ensuring their future leaders move among global geographies and develop the know-how to lead with increased global insights.

Does your organization have an innovation growth strategy to support your organizations' growth into Asia Pacific markets? If not, it should.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Talent War - Is It Over?

A few years ago Alan Davis wrote an article entitled “The Talent War – Is it Over?”. In this article, he used examples from military history to illustrate similarities with the Talent War.

Since Alan wrote this article, we have been through a deep recession marked by company closures, layoffs and hiring freezes. Although there is no shortage of unclaimed talent on the market, the competition for talent still exists. In fact, it may have intensified as the Public Sector becomes more attractive due to employment stability and better benefits.

The points Alan makes in his article are still pertinent today:

1. Generals vs. Business Leaders: HR Leadership succeeds by providing strategic vision and implementing long-term recruiting solutions.
2. Troops vs. Workers: Talent Acquisition is a business issue that requires Subject Matter Experts in recruiting.
3. Weapons vs. Technology: Technology is used by Strategic Recruiters to identify and develop relationships with a target pool of candidates.
4. Military vs. Business Intelligence: Business Intelligence is used strategically to locate and contact future talent.
5. Wars without End vs. Talent Wars: Talent Wars are won by companies who build relationships with high-potential future employees.

How does your organization rate in the competition to acquire top talent in this post-recession economy? Now might be a good time to review your war-winning strategies. If you would like to read the complete article, it can be accessed at:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Value of Social Computing

The ROI of social computing and its value resides strongly in Marketing 2.0 approaches where web 2.0 can be used to enhance customer intimacy using crowdsourcing, interactive discussion forums,wikis, community engagement experiences... all focused on creating a two way dialogue with customers and increase experience touch points.

These new tools create new ways to have new conversations -- learning about customers, their products and services, developing a new channel for ideation that may result in innovation breakthroughs etc.

A recent study was conducted by Mzinga with Babson Executive Education that reported that marketing at 57 percent is the area most likely to employ social media for professional purposes.

The Mzinga study also found that over 84% of the respondents were not tracking the ROI of social computing. Finding cases that have concrete ROI outcomes are not always easy to find in Web 2.0 but they are starting to trickle out as the industry matures.

For example in the Jan Economist, Intel reported that they saved millions of dollars in recruiting costs by using business facing social media sites rather than using expensive recruiting firms. Scottrade ( is using a business facing social media social platform to reduce the costs of technology as it moves to more interactive platforms. United Airlines is filling seats by offering last minutes twares to loyal customers over Twitter.

Other companies actively experimenting with Web 2.0 approaches in the Canadian market include: ING Direct (where Peter Aceto has an active twitter following integrating business and personal), Rogers that has numerous customer interaction communities to Molsons which has over 30 active communities celebrating different beer brands with customers.

Inspiration Source Acknowledgement: Dan Rasmus, Friend of Helix Commerce International Inc. (content highlights from KM WOrld APril 2010).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Digital Social Media Adds Business Value to Innovation and Communication Connectedness

Is the use of social media in your workplace supported or blocked?

If you answered yes, then your organization is one of the majority of firms with over 100 employees that have yet to embrace the use of social media in the workplace for the average worker.

In a study conducted by Robert Half Technology entitled "Whistle But Don't Tweet At Work," many organizations are struggling with how to integrate social media into the workplace.

However, there are a growing number of firms such as IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Toshiba that are becoming highlyconnected workplaces.

Using digital social media tools such as blogs, microblogs, corporate social networks, wikis are providing new and effective ways to connect employees rapidly globally enabling mass collaboration opportunities.

Although some still question is their a positive ROI on the realities of uber connectedness, our research and work with clients throughout NA and SA are proving out that these companies are seeing improvements in communication, cross-functional collaboration and are finding employees are developing more creative approaches to problem solving.

More companies are discovering that a virtualized and connected workplace is not just about implementing a new set of collaboration SW toolkits - rather it is more about embracing a cultural shift to create a more open and transparent environment where employees are encouraged to collaborate virtually.

Recent research provides evidence that there are business benefits to becoming an more connected organization:

Access to social media improves productivity.

According to Dr Brent Coker from the Department of Management and Marketing at University of Melbourne in Australia, workers who engage in "Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing" are more productive than those who don't.

"People who surf the Internet for fun at work — within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office — are more productive by about 9% than those who don't," he says. "Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity, however that's not always the case."

Millennials will seek jobs that encourage the use of social media. Those born between 1977 and 1997 — the ones you need to hire to replace the retiring boomers — are networked 24/7 and expect the company to accommodate pervasive connectivity.

An Accenture survey of Millennial preferences for various technologies at work found that they prefer to communicate via instant messaging, text messaging, Facebook and RSS feeds. What's more, they are prepared to bypass corporate IT departments if these tools are blocked. One Millennial MBA, typical of those we meet, says, "I need to access my Facebook in order to do my job." Has blocking Facebook today become the equivalent of denying an employee access to a phone at work 40 years ago or email 20 years ago?

Companies that provide access to social media create a more engaged workforce. Take the case of Cerner Corporation, the health IT firm. In 2009, Cerner implemented uCern, a corporate social network. In 2010, it will extend this social network to its customers and suppliers. Why? Because uCern has demonstrated significant business benefits to Cerner such as allowing employees to have increased access to experts across the globe, reducing the cycle time from discovery of new products to launch of new products, and increasing employee engagement and satisfaction in the workplace.

As we scan the workplace of the future, we see that everything we know about work — where we work, how we work, what skills we need to stay employable, what technologies we use to connect with colleagues — is changing. And these changes will only continue to accelerate as we move toward 2020, as the Millennial Generation will comprise nearly half of the workforce by 2014.

Companies who want to attract and recruit the best talent will realize becoming virtually connected will be a business imperative.

The journey starts with asking key questions like:

What business benefits are you trying to solve?

Will an increased ability to collaborate across the organization yield faster time to market, increased innovation, improved productivity, and increased collective intelligence as people are able to find knowledge and experts quickly?

Will engaged employees reduce your turnover rate and subsequent expenses related to hiring new talent?

Who needs to be involved in the coalition to become connected?

This is not an HR, IT or Learning initiative. Rather becoming continually virtually connected is simply the reality of the new way of working.

To bridge access to these capabilities for ensure the realities of this new way of working moves ahead successfully, organizations need to create a coalition of executives from Human Resources, Corporate Learning, IT, Legal Privacy, Security, and Corporate Communications. These are the ones who will plan, monitor and agree to a set of social media guidelines to ensure responsible use. Typically the process ownership for policy on employee usage is linked to employee code of conduct policies with strong leadership from HR and Legal, with the other working leaders in large global companies coming together to ensure all the respective interests of the different impact areas are considered.

Having recently designed and completed 5 programs in this area, we have learned that the policy and guideline sense making is not as complicated as ensuring the monitoring practices are put in place to comply with compliance requirements for using these toolkits for customer and business needs. Fortunately we have worked with the worlds toughest financial services organizations and so we understand the security and information management monitoring requirements - and if these tools can move into companies like JP Morgan or the Bank of America (doing major testing) currently, then there really is no excuse for other companies not to get going with the realities that this is the new way of working.

I liken this to when the wild wild west was moving from pony to buggy and to train express and these machines caused havoc in unsettling how we worked. As liberating as these are, each generation is faced with learning new ways of working and the Baby Boomers that have not been weaned with these ways of working and yet are in leadership positions throughout the world... need to recognize that more open, transparent and fluid communication problem solving approaches using collaboration solutions is the new world reality.

Our firm works to help C level executives understand the value of these approaches, and develop the right organizational structures that are needed to support these types of change.

We have learned that change management and cultural change and leadership development support sytems are key to operational success of deploying digital social media environments.

What type of change management plan needs to be put into place?

Recognize that the biggest hurdle is your culture and internal processes — not the technology behind the adoption of social media. Focus on finding ambassadors and influencers, then make it easy for them to share and participate in a social media pilot. Recognize that in the web community, status is built upon making meaningful contributions; so be sure to include recognition and incentives for participation early on.

Can your organization really hold on to policies that do not support the 24/7 hyper- connected lives employees are living outside of the workplace? Increasingly they are bringing digital expectations with them to the workplace.

We do not think companies that compete for global talent want to continue with outdated policies. Do you?

Stay tuned for our upcoming digital social media webinar on Web 2.0 Policies leading practices scheduled for June 11th. To register in advance contact

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Trust a Core Leadership Competency

The Challenge

Innovation is a top CEO level priority in every organization that wants to remain competitive globally in ever changing market dynamics. Increasingly innovation know-how - the sparks of ideas for new products, services or ways of working are sourced from collaborative knowledge exhanges in internal or external conversations.

These innovation sparks increase in value based on the quality and trust of the conversation to the receiver. Sounds simple. However - with the realities that our world is increasingly driven via internet conversations, and collaborative online exchanges - organizations need to increase their leadership and learning development programs to ensure core competencies for trust making are healthy and strong.

The first important point is that to drive innovation growth in an organization you need to genuinely listen to, and respond to your talent, the voice of your customers, and your partners.
This also sounds simple. But it's not.

Rapid Market Speed but declining Levels of Trust

In today's attention deficit business economy driven by a warp speed appetite for 24x7 responsiveness, stress levels are at all time highs in global businesses. What most executives fail to focus on is ensuring that they are sustaining innovation capacity in their organizations, to see what others cannot see. This requires developing a strong corporate culture where trust making is a leadership core competency. Organizations that do it right have accountabilities for leadership development where trust development is measured and accountability systems for trust sense making is pervasive in diverse human performance systems ranging from recruiting, employee development, succession planning and ongoing leadership development programs.

One company I continue to admire and respect is Cisco with John Chambers leadership style so consistently communicating the value of collaboration and trust. He has developed a strong company with root systems connecting business accumen, mind, spirit and values where collaboration is cherished culturally for growth and leaders there understand that to develop trust will accelerate innovation capacity development.

However this is not a pervasive strength in NA and the impacts are starting to show as we are in a Trust Crisis.

"A recent BBB-Gallop poll indicates a 24% decrease in trust of business during the past year. This was before last year's financial crisis. Steven Cole, President and CEO, National Council of Better Business Bureaus, asserted that, "The continuing decline of consumer trust is just not sustainable for businesses, but, interestingly, the issue highlights a clear opportunity for competitive advantage among businesses that embrace consumer demand for trust in the marketplace."

The fastest way to get the NA economy back on track: rebuild and restore trust, in every industry, every organization, every government, and every relationship. Seventy-two percent (72%) of those surveyed in the BBB-Gallop poll say it's as simple as businesses "doing a better job delivering on their promises."

Why Stephen Covey has it Right

The numerous endorsements by CEOs in The Speed of Trust written by Stephen Covery reinforces that there are 13 learning behaviors for developing trust as a mission critical competitive advantage in the new global economy.

My research at Helix in leading Fortune 500 companies is that Trust is the core root for developing collaboration capacity and over time with increases knowledge sharing, iinnovation capacity and organizational resilence matures. However to drive growth trust is not enough - the flow of knowledge sharing of ideas, business know -how has to engender a reciprocal dynamic of trusting knowledge exchange. The health of these social network flows is what is critical to take stock of and often those in power are blockers of knowledge flows and creating a trusting work place environment. So if Boards of Directors or CEO's really care abotu innovation capacity and organiational agility they need to measure trust and ensure the right leaders are in place.

What Stephen Covey is Missing - read our next blog entry next week.

If this blog has peaked your curiousity, send me a note back as my next article will focus on the specific leadership behaviors that Stephen Covey has identified for trust sense making and those that we believe he is explicitely missing in his research based on our research on collaboration and innovation in relationship to using next generation digital social media solutions like Igloo or Jive business collaboration Web 2.0 platforms. We believe that other solutions like IBM Lotus and Microsoft Sharepoint have their place and can nicely co-exist with these next generational solutions. What is critical is to ensure the personal brand of each employee in an organization recognizes trust is rooted in their personal brand and brand and reputation in an online world is a key factor for stimulating growth centric conversations.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Canadians Lagging in Innovation Investments in IT

Last year the Canadian council of Canadian Academics Expert Panel on Business Innovation noted that the average investment in Information and Communications Technology per worker in Canada was only 60% that of the American Worker.

Shortly, Industry Minister Tony Clement will launch a major Canadian wide consultation to addrss the relatively slow take up of technology among Canadian businesses to understand the reasons for this 40% gap.

A new discussion paper will be tabled called the Digital Economy, not a new name, but he is asking anybody who has a point of view on this subject to get involved.

Although Canadians love their blackberries and RIM devices, it is clear that Canadian businesses are not embracing the digital world as rapidly as other competitive nations like the USA are.

Over time, this will have tremendous long -term implications for Canadian businesses.
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