Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I like to Mix It, Mix like to?

The scientific method is marked by rigorous analysis, and conventional strategic planning has plenty of that. But the scientific method also has the creation of "novel" hypotheses and the careful generation of custom-tailored tests of those hypotheses — two elements that conventional strategic planning lacks.

So what is so scientific about the modern day strategic planning anyway? "Novel" hypothesis and testing these hypothesis. Whom do you look for these novel ideas/possibilities? Hmmmm....Top executives? Middle Managers? New Joinees? We studied earlier that Annual Strategic Planning should involve only the top executives and heads of business units i.e. to involve enough people to get good perspective and not too many to create chaos. But will the top level managers offer new ideas to convert issues to possibilities to choices. Do they believe in "out-of-box" thinking? What if the organization invests heavily in a plan and it fails miserably? Who is to blame then, the one who suggested the idea or the one who implemented it? Why do we even have these managers if they cannot contribute to new ideas? These are experienced people who may or may not be able to look beyond their goggles but are good at evaluating new proposals/ideas. They understand how productive will these ideas be, what will be the investment and what will be a good strategy to implement it by applying their experience and thinking from all aspects. In fact, thinking is the first and one of the easiest steps in the process of implementing a new idea.

So it is clear that we definitely need a good mix - people who can give ideas and the ones who can evaluate them. But what if the idea is given by a new comer with very little experience? How far would you involve him/her in the implementation process as strategic planning generally involves top level employees? Do we make a team whose job is only to think of new and innovative ideas (sounds naive to me)? What would be the right mix?

To answer all these questions organizations these days are exploring new avenues to look for innovative ideas. Many organizations have annual innovation awards and recognition for teams and individuals. They encourage their employees to contribute in the efforts to follow company's vision and achieve its goals. Few organizations have taken this initiative one-step ahead by looking outside the organization. For example, Google, which is famous for in-house innovations, encouraged application developers to come up and implement new ideas for Android with a 10 million challenge; Netflix also did a similar thing to improve its recommendations engine with a 1 million open challenge. Pepsi Co, Frito Lays, etc. are some other examples. With this essentially brain-outsourcing approach, companies not only discover great ideas without involving its top level executives but are also perceived as innovators in their domain.

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