How Do You Innovate “Innovation”?

Mukesh Gupta

A couple of days ago, I submitted my entry for the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize Challenge run by Management Exchange.

This challenge is about “Innovating Innovation” and will be judged by some of the greatest thinkers in innovation.

You can find below my submission for the challenge. If you like my thoughts, I request you to vote for my submission here.


Its not the lack of ideas that stops organizations from being innovative, but the way resources are allocated & employees rewarded that is the key.

We need to change the way we set and manage KPI’s, the way we allocate funds (quarterly budgeting with reduced budget year-on-year for standard activities) and the way we recognize and reward teams (based on IQ – Innovation quotient).


Currently, organizations are managed as follows:

KPI’s and organizational strategy:

  • The top management decides the strategy and the key initiatives for the organization.
  • These are then cascaded down to the different lines of businesses.
  • Each LoB head then defines the goals for his team based on the organizational goals

Challenges in this process:

  • This process resembles the election of a Pope. That is, the average employee has little to no understanding of, and input to, the process, and is instead reduced to waiting for the output of the process (“the white smoke up the chimney”).
  • This tends to dis-empower the employee base, but perhaps most importantly, robs decision-makers of the useful “push back” that the broader organization (particularly those working at the “front line”) can provide.


  • Each LoB head takes his last year cost, adds a percentage (maybe 5 or 10%) to the cost and submits the same for approval.
  • This is an annual process and gets repeated only next year

Challenges in this process:

  • This is where power turfs are created which lead to a lot of power tussles in the organization which help no one.
  • This process also adds a lot of fat in the organization. If you are continuing to do the same tasks year-on-year, you should be getting better at the task & can find better ways to complete the same, thereby freeing up resources for the more important activities of the organization
  • Increases the cost of doing business as-usual
  • Due to the annual cycle, so many resources are wasted by continuing to pursue ideas or projects that should have been killed. This also means that other ideas/projects have not been allocated those very same resources.
  • There is a separate LoB responsible for product development or R&D or innovation.


  • This team also goes through the same process as all other LoB for KPI definition and budgeting.
  • Makes it difficult to get the right amount of funding for the innovation efforts.

Challenges in this approach:

  • This puts the imperative of innovation on a small team instead of the fact that everyone one in the organization should have innovation on their agenda.
  • This also reduces the total resources available for funding new innovations as this team also has to compete with other LoB’s for resources.

Rewards & recognition:

  • Individual employees are then rewarded and recognized based on their performance as measured against the cascaded KPI’s
  • A lot of times these KPI’s do not have any component about innovation as it is considered to be the responsibility of the Innovation department
  • This creates a culture of competition among employees as the rewards and recognitions are limited and all employees (alright, most of them) want a piece of that cake.
  • Most organizations have a bell curve for evaluating and rewarding employees, which means that in every team, they expect a few employees to be below average, a few to be above average and all others average performers. This hurts most when you have a great team with super employees. By definition, you prohibit such teams to form and thrive.

Challenges in this approach:

  • Innovation is a team activity. Running an organization is also a team activity. So, why rewarding individual performance results in a few lone wolves who might not be great team players getting a lot of .
  • By following the bell curve, you are naturally encouring average performance from the team and discouraging high performing teams with high performing employees.
  • Individual top performers who care only about their performances get rewarded, recognized and promoted. These are the kind of people who are most likely to get involved in turf wars and create what we call the mid-management wall or bulge.


In my opinion the following approach would work much better:

KPI’s and organizational strategy:

  • The top management involves the frontline employees (sales, delivery, support, etc) who talk to customers/partners every day in the process of defining organizational strategy and key decision.
  • This process of discussion to also involve in defining the key challenges (with respect to product/service and competition). These challenges then become the areas to innovate.
  • The top management can now come out with the “Commanders Intent” of what they want to achieve and leave the details to the frontline staff to manage themselves, to achieve the intent.


  • Each LoB gets a cut in budget every year (maybe 5 or 10%) to manage their business as usual activities. The rationale behind this is the fact that if you are doing something regularly, you can always find ways to improve the same on a continuous basis and hence should be able to manage at a lower cost. This is an annual process.
  • There is a second budgeting cycle that is executed quarterly. This is to decide on the funding for various innovation projects in the areas identified as the focus areas during the process of forming the strategy or any other activity that can give competitive advantage to the organization. In any case, these projects could focus on one of the following:
    • New product or service creation
    • New business model creation
    • New market development
    • Process improvements that lead to improved topline or increased bottom-line
  • New projects are pitched and existing projects provide an update on their progress. As this is a quarterly process, the organizations can decide if any of the existing projects require to be killed and if new projects show promise and need to be funded. A panel consisting of senior executives, front-line managers and the relevant functional experts takes decisions on the funding for the various projects.
  • Projects where the team is convinced about the viability but the management is not sure, should have an option to get into the start-up mode with the organization providing the seed funding, provided the team is able to get funding from other VC funds. This with the option that the organization gets the first right of refusal for further funding and buy-out. At a later stage if the employees want to kill the project, they could also be considered for re-hire based on the then open situations.


  • A small team of innovation coaches created who can be used by the different teams on their innovation projects. They work as consultants, coaches and bring in the outside-in perspective to the problems and also facilitate the process of innovation.

Rewards & recognition:

  • Teams are rewarded and recognized rather than individuals.
  • Better performing teams are rewarded more than average performing teams or low performing teams.
  • Individual performances are still evaluated, recognized and rewarded, but within the framework of the performance of the team. So, if the team did well, your rewards will be better than if the team did not do well. So, in order for you to succeed, your team should also succeed. The individual performance evaluation is done by both managers and the peers.


The impact of my ideas would be as below:

KPI’s and organizational strategy – advantages:

  • This process ensures that the perception of the senior management is put to test and corrected if required, thereby eliminating the risk of creating strategy based on wrong perception.
  • This process also gets the front-line employees to participate in the creation of strategy that they are expected to execute. This increases the chances that the execution of strategy will be much better than otherwise. As many CEO’s will vouch that the difference between great organizations and not so great ones is this ability to execute their strategy well.
  • With the commander’s intent for the organization in place, employees can respond better to any situation they encounter and hence the ability of the organization to respond to change quickly and correctly is greatly enhanced. In times of great uncertainty, this ability to respond fast can be the difference between survival and growth.

Advantages of the 2 stage Budgeting process: 

  • This process ensures that there is continuous improvements in the process and does not create a situation where there is more staff than there is work or worse, managers invent additional work for their staff, thereby creating a culture of improvement & innovation.
  • This process frees up a lot of resources that can be used to fund a lot more projects that can address the key challenges identified in the strategy building stage.
  • This also takes care of situations where the project team believes in a project and is willing to take the risk of starting up in order to continue their work. If they succeed, they win big and if they fail, they still have a chance to re-join the organization.
  • Innovation becomes the responsibility of the entire organization and not of one small team in the organization.

Advantages of the “Everyone Innovates” process: 

  • Clear identification of the key challenges helps in focusing the efforts of the organization in solving these problems which will have the biggest impact on the organizations success/failure.
  • Creates the opportunity for innovations in areas where they are needed the most as the employees who face challenging situations are also more likely to come up with solutions.

Advantages of the new team based Rewards & recognition:

  • This approach ensures that all employees are working together as a team as their individual success rewards and recognition depends on the success of the team.
  • This drastically reduces the chances of someone succeeding (at their KPI’s) at the cost of their colleagues or customers.
  • This also eliminates any bias (perceived or real) that might creep in the performance evaluation by the manager
  • This will create an environment of trust and togetherness, which by itself, leads to a better environment which fosters creativity and high productivity.


Challenges that one will face during implementation of the above approach:

  • This involves complete overhaul of the management processes used in the organizations currently, which means that change management is a big challenge in implementing this idea of management.
  • There will be resistance from the mid-managers as they will perceive to be stripped of a lot of power that comes with being in the mid-manager layers that they have enjoyed so far. Unless, this is handled well and there is buy-in from them, the entire process can potentially fall apart, which will then make it even more challenging environment for the CEO to start fresh.
  • This said, the upside of being able to implement this approach to management is very high and is still worth the risk.


The process can be implemented in phases or pilots:

  • The senior management can initiate the workshop with front-line staff for strategy definition, along with the mid-managers, to identify the key areas where they need innovations or solutions to current challenges that have been identified. This can be done by any management at the start of their strategy cycle.
  • Create and communicate the “Commanders Intent” to the entire organization. Challenge the entire organization to move towards achieving the “Commanders intent”.
  • Create a team of experts who will work as coaches to teams that want help in addressing the challenge that they want to solve.
  • Identify 2 or 3 managers (of high performing teams) who are open to try the new team based performance appraisal system. Help them to get the buy-in from the team members.
  • Publicly announce the pilot of the appraisal system with the team and congratulate the teams that have taken the first step to adopt the new practices.
  • Budgeting process will need to be the last process change to be adopted. If the previous steps have yielded good results, the adoption of the budgeting process becomes so much more easier (as the senior management would have already won the trust of the organization).

Do you agree with the approaches that I have suggested above. Do let me know by commenting below or tweet your thoughts to me at @rmukeshgupta.

P.S.: Some interesting videos on Innovation:





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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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The Future Of Supplier Collaboration: 9 Things CPOs Want Their Managers To Know Now

Sundar Kamak

As a sourcing or procurement manager, you may think there’s nothing new about supplier collaboration. Your chief procurement officer (CPO) most likely disagrees.
Forward-thinking CPOs acknowledge the benefit of supplier partnerships. They not only value collaboration, but require a revolution in how their buying organization conducts its business and operations. “Procurement must start looking to suppliers for inspiration and new capability, stop prescribing specifications and start tapping into the expertise of suppliers,” writes David Rae in Procurement Leaders. The CEO expects it of your CPO, and your CPO expects it of you. For sourcing managers, this can be a lot of pressure.

Here are nine things your CPO wants you to know about how supplier collaboration is changing – and why it matters to your company’s future and your own future.

1. The need for supplier collaboration in procurement is greater than ever

Over half (65%) of procurement practitioners say procurement at their company is becoming more collaborative with suppliers, according to The Future of Procurement, Making Collaboration Pay Off, by Oxford Economics. Why? Because the pace of business has increased exponentially, and businesses must be able to respond to new market demands with agility and innovation. In this climate, buyers are relying on suppliers more than ever before. And buyers aren’t collaborating with suppliers merely as providers of materials and goods, but as strategic partners that can help create products that are competitive differentiators.

Supplier collaboration itself isn’t new. What’s new is that it’s taken on a much greater urgency and importance.

2. You’re probably not realizing the full collective power of your supplier relationships

Supplier collaboration has always been a function of maintaining a delicate balance between demand and supply. For the most part, the primary focus of the supplier relationship is ensuring the right materials are available at the right time and location. However, sourcing managers with a narrow focus on delivery are missing out on one of the greatest advantages of forging collaborative supplier partnerships: an opportunity to drive synergies that are otherwise perceived as impossible within the confines of the business. The game-changer is when you drive those synergies with thousands, not hundreds of suppliers. Look at the Apple Store as a prime example of collaboration en masse. Without the apps, the iPhone is just another ordinary phone!

3. Collaboration comes in more than one flavor

Suppliers don’t just collaborate with you to provide a critical component or service. They also work with your engineers to help ensure costs are optimized from the buyer’s perspective as well as the supplier’s side. They may even take over the provisioning of an entire end-to-end solution. Or co-design with your R&D team through joint research and development. These forms of collaboration aren’t new, but they are becoming more common and more critical. And they are becoming more impactful, because once you start extending any of these collaboration models to more and more suppliers, your capabilities as a business increase by orders of magnitude. If one good supplier can enable your company to build its brand, expand its reach, and establish its position as a market leader – imagine what’s possible when you work collaboratively with hundreds or thousands of suppliers.

4. Keeping product sustainability top of mind pays off

Facing increasing demand for sustainable products and production, companies are relying on suppliers to answer this new market requirement.

As a sourcing manager, you may need to go outside your comfort zone to think about new, innovative ways to collaborate for achieving sustainability. Recently, I heard from an acquaintance who is a CPO of a leading services company. His organization is currently collaborating with one of the largest suppliers in the world to adhere to regulatory mandates and consumer demand for “lean and green” lightbulbs. Although this approach was interesting to me, what really struck me was his observation on how this co-innovation with the supplier is spawning cost and resource optimization and the delivery of competitive products. As reported by Andrew Winston in The Harvard Business Review, Target and Walmart partnered to launch the Personal Care Sustainability Summit last year. So even competitors are collaborating with each other and with their suppliers in the name of sustainability.

5. Co-marketing is a win-win

Look at your list of suppliers. Does anyone have a brand that is bigger than your company’s? Believe it or not, almost all of us do. So why not seize the opportunity to raise your and your supplier’s brand profile in the marketplace?

Take Intel, for example. The laptop you’re working on right now may very well have an “Intel inside” sticker on it. That’s co-marketing at work. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s top 100 most valuable brands by Millward Brown Optimor, this largest supplier of microprocessors is world-renowned for its technology and innovation. For many companies that buy supplies from Intel, the decision to co-market is a strategic approach to convey that the product is reliable and provides real value for their computing needs.

6. Suppliers get to choose their customers, too

Increased competition for high-performing suppliers is changing the way procurement operates, say 58% of procurement executives in the Oxford Economics study. Buyers have a responsibility to the supplier – and to their CEO – to be a customer of choice. When the economy is going well, you might be able to dictate the supplier’s goods and services – and sometimes even the service delivery model. When times get tough (and they can very quickly), suppliers will typically reevaluate your organization’s needs to see whether they can continue service in a fiscally responsible manner. To secure suppliers’ attention in favorable and challenging economic conditions, your organization should establish collaborative and mutually productive partnerships with them.

7. Suppliers can help simplify operations

Cost optimization will always be one of your performance metrics; however, that is only one small part of the entire puzzle. What will help your organization get noticed is leveraging the supplier relationship to innovate new and better ways of managing the product line and operating the business while balancing risk and cost optimization. Ask yourself: Which functions are no longer needed? Can they be outsourced to a supplier that can perform them better? What can be automated?

8. Suppliers have a better grasp of your sourcing categories than you do

Understand your category like never before so that your organization can realize the full potential of its supplier investments while delivering products that are consistent and of high quality. How? By leveraging the wisdom of your suppliers. To be blunt: they know more than you do. Tap into that knowledge to gain a solid understanding of the product, market category, suppliers’ capabilities, and shifting dynamics in the industry, If a buyer does not understand these areas deeply, no amount of collaboration will empower a supplier to help your company innovate as well as optimize costs and resources.

9. Remember that there’s something in it for you as well

All of us want to do strategic, impactful work. Sourcing managers with aspirations of becoming CPOs should move beyond writing contracts and pushing PO requests by building strategic procurement skill sets. For example, a working knowledge in analytics allows you to choose suppliers that can shape the market and help a product succeed – and can catch the eye of the senior leadership team.

Sundar Kamak is global vice president of solutions marketing at Ariba, an SAP company.

For more on supplier collaboration, read Making Collaboration Pay Off, part of a series on the Future of Procurement, by Oxford Economics.


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Three Reasons Why The Internet Of Things Is Showing Hockey Stick Growth

Paul Clark

The already massive amount of data being produced daily is going to proliferate with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). An innovative infrastructure must be able to accommodate the billions of connected devices being introduced worldwide that will generate unfathomable amounts of data.

“Within the next three years, the data created by IoT devices will reach 403 trillion gigabytes annually.”
– 99 Mind-Blowing Ways the Digital Economy is Changing the Future of Business, Source: Cisco, Global Cloud Index

Less than five years ago, Big Data was thought of as a data management challenge. Today, supercomputing power is everywhere, microprocessors are in every device, computers can be scaled as needed, and in-memory, real-time computing solutions are revolutionizing business software. As a result, data volumes are expected to grow to 6 billion petabytes, including unstructured data such as social networking and low-level IoT data.

The concept of IoT is not new, but what is new are the factors contributing to the popularity of IoT. The SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World, says the extensive growth in the IoT market is due to three main factors:

  1. Inexpensive sensors. The cost of product sensors has dropped dramatically, allowing even startups to easily create innovative IoT product applications.
  1. Stronger computing power. Analytics and in-memory computing solutions enable the computing power necessary to gain insightful meaning from big data and data lakes in real time.
  1. Internet protocol IPv6. The new IPv6 enables immense IoT expansion by increasing IP addresses from 32 bits to 128 bits, which could support up to 78 octillion Internet addresses, allowing an almost unlimited number of people, processes, data, and things to be connected to the Internet.

How to manage it all

As everything becomes more connected, how will we use and manage this unprecedented amount of data? Data management and in-memory computing solutions are increasingly essential tools. They enable companies to unlock immense value from the volumes of data being collected from an escalating number of sources such as product sensors, mobile devices, machines, asset monitors, computers, and social media platforms.

New advances in in-memory computing technology delivering enriched interactive analytics will make it easier for businesses to combine structured transactional data from existing applications with new contextual data from multiple other sources, including IoT applications.

As the number of IoT sensors increases, the amount of information created from this exponential growth in IoT is sure to bring new meaning to the term “Big Data.”

Learn more about IoT, data analytics, and other facets of digital transformation in the SAP eBook Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.


About Paul Clark

Paul Clark is responsible for developing and executing partner marketing strategies, activities, and programs in joint go-to-market plans with global technology partners. The goal is to increase opportunities, pipeline, and revenue through demand generation via SAP's global and local partner ecosystems.

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