Global Innovation
by Bob Holder and Ned Hamson
reviewed by Joe Hempen

Global Innovation is written by an organizational effectiveness and marketing consultant and The Journal for Quality and Participation editor and quality improvement consultant. Both have been researching, writing and consulting on innovation for over fifteen years.

The authors suggest there are countless global innovation opportunities ranging from the development of new product, service and experience offerings, to workplace and process innovations, to the development of new global social, political and economic institutions. What's surprising is that they don't begin with a discussion of technologies or the Net but the UN's Global Compact, a set of principles for enterprises to do business in the global economy. They see smart business people using these principles to create new product, service and experience offerings, innovation producing enterprises and addressing the social, economic and political concerns of developed and developing nation customers. Research suggests increasing numbers of customers are making their purchases and investing in social responsible firms providing price competitive offerings. For those who are not history students and thinking "This isn't innovation," Henry Ford's wage increase was a similar innovation. Ford's wage increase innovation caused other firms to increase theirs. The outcome was an expansion in the Model T's customer base.

They suggest the major global innovation drivers and how they can be used to develop innovative offerings. They also discuss the Net implications. Gone are the days, for example, when a firm can launch an offering in stages. Global innovators recognize that the Net necessitates world wide offering launches. The Net has also compressed the time before copy cat offerings are on the global stage, reduced the likelihood that competitors will not discover your "secret products" in development and the time before your offering is receiving negative or positive word-of-mouth advertising. Finally, it has decreased the time for developing and launching a new offering and expanded the potential for innovations being developed through global alliances of firms.

The cycle of innovation and a series of ideas for developing innovative offerings are presented. The cycle suggests a firm needs to engage in four forms of innovation that include breakthrough and end with continuous improvement to existing offerings. They also suggest specific methodologies for enacting these ideas and applying the cycle. They include scouting, Search conferences, Shared Learning and Participatory Work Design conferences. The book provides case studies illustrating how firms and communities used them to support innovation development and market introduction.

Finally, they suggest people and not technology are the key to global innovation. The authors discuss the conditions for creating an innovative and productive workplace. They indirectly suggest that firms ought to be devoting less money to technologies for assimilating people's knowledge and engaging in "high tech" communications and conferences, and more to creating workplaces where people have the ability and desire to be innovative in their work, and with their associates develop offerings without having to work through anti-creative bureaucracies. The millions spent on KM and the low rates of return of most of these efforts indicate they maybe onto something.

The authors also discuss Participatory Work Design conferences as a way to produce these conditions within a new or existing organization. These conferences are innovative themselves. Rather than having the "best and brightest" design the workplace as in re-engineering, the fad that forgot about people, and the change management paradigm where small teams guide and implement workplace innovations such as self-managing teams, PWD conferences allow the people who do the work to create their work. This reduces the likelihood of resistance and uses the knowledge of those who know the best. It also reduces the likelihood that people with critical knowledge and skills to a firm's competency are not removed.

Why is this book of value to businesspeople? First, businesspeople can use the Global Compact's principles, innovation drivers and ideas and the cycle of innovation to assess their competitors' global innovation competency. They can also be used to assess emerging or what Holder and Hamson call "cloaked warbird" competitors.

Second, businesspeople can gain an improved organizational scouting intelligence. Scouting is the methodology that can be used to apply the first point. It can also be used to discover innovations and learn to customize them to local, regional and/or national customer desires.

Third, businesspeoplecan learn about a strategic planning methodology, Search conferences, that will allow them to create a "whole system," data base that includes competitive intelligence information and knowledge about customers, social, political and economic trends and new developments and knowledge. This whole system data base, in turn, is transformed into a desired future or vision, strategies, action plans and teams to enact them. Search conferences close the knowing gap that can arise when reports are written and not directly linked to an experience for transforming them into action.

Fourth, they will gain an intelligence about a methodology, PWD conference, and conditions for productive and innovation. PWD conference can assist real change leaders in reducing cycle time, improving customer experience and service, engage in process innovations and develop an innovation support environment rather than one that discourages it. Finally, they can be used to transform bureaucracies to high performing enterprises based on self-managing work teams.

Finally, businesspeople can gain a quick read intelligence of global innovation. They can also gain a different perspective than that is found in most globalization books. While the authors talk about the Net and technologies, they also examine social, political and economic ideas that will be increasingly important in a world of terrorists who are equally interested in assaulting businesses. Corporations can spend millions on security and technology which history suggests will likely be ineffective. Or, they can use ideas such as the Global Compact to invest in a strategy of showing those who may be terrorist targets for recruitment because of poverty and poor social conditions, that free enterprise and democracy can improve their and their children's quality of life.

Global Innovation Global Innovation
by Bob Holder and Ned Hamson,
Wiley-Capstone's ExpressExec. 2002.

Additional Free Resources:

Discontinuous Improvement Assessment; Real Change Leader Assessment; Organizational Scouting Assessment - Contact Bob Holder at HBob372917@aol.com .


Joe Hempen has for 27 years used Participative principles in the companies that he has founded. Joe is presently an organizational and management consultant who works with CEOs to create self-managing enterprises. He also works as an investment banker. Joe is in the process of developing programs to assist CEOs of smaller firms and family businesses prepare for succession. Contact Joe Hempen by e-mail: HJHempen@aol.com .

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