Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Adaptive Leadership: Who should be responsible?

This week's articles highlight the need for corporations and decision-making entities to adapt to what amount to macro-level and micro-level trend changes in the global economy. However, it is not clear from the texts who should be leading the strategy shifts necessary. While "Global Trends to Corporate Strategy" seems to insinuate that the strategy will be conducted at the executive level (it's in the first line, "An executive's ability to read trends..." and "10 Tech-Enabled Business Trends" suggest that "...CEOs and their immediate senior teams will need to deal with these issues," it is unclear from whom the ability to change will come from.

The specific need for adaptation stems from the notion that there are trends "and a multitude of subtrends" that form submerged, yet critical links between seemingly unrelated industries (McKinsey's particular example is between Iceland's financial collapse and the Las Vegas housing market collapsing). We might make the normative assumption that executives with the specialized skillset and analysis training should be put in charge of their respective subject areas. CFOs with financial issues. CIOs with technology issues. Et cetera.

This is about the time that I discovered something good and something bad: Chief Innovation Officers (I will abbreviate them CINNOs). CINNOs arose due to the need to deal with two-way marketing, meaning web-based, crowdsourced opinions about products. They "encourage consumers to accept marketing messages and become part of the marketing process." Or at least that's what their mission purpose was in 2006. However, the existence of CINNOs has not seemed to drive innovation strategy in the face of emergent and uncertain markets. A recent CapGemini study on innovation seems to suggest that the existence of CINNOs does not significantly affect the way a company approaches adaptation. That's the bad news (I suppose).

I think the important takeaway from learning that there is not a "one size fits all" solution to learning how to harness emerging trends and changes in the business environment is that innovation can come from everywhere. "10 Tech-Enabled Business Trends" makes note of the ability to crowdsource and utilize broader (and incrementally more intelligent) networks (trends 1, 2, 3). CapGemini seems to suggest that a "culture of innovation" that revolves around open culture (an endless argument against traditional corporate structure) is necessary for innovative input. The reality is that harnessing these increased methods of input require companies to not hold their strategy close to the breast. While strategic planning may still have a role ("Global Trends to Corporate Strategy") it's time to stop planning behind closed doors.

CapGemini recommends that executives "reduce the level of disconnect between themselves and their employees." How do you think that companies can harness the adaptive genius of all of their employees? Is it through Information Technology or some other form of communication?

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