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  • BozeBlog 9:36 pm on June 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Innovation on a Shoe String Budget – When Growing Your Innovation Program, Think Daisies, Not Orchids 

    Dasies when growing

    A utility company client was tasked with growing their collaborative innovation program with limited budget.  Another client had considerable budget but was daunted by the management effort which might be required in developing a program of collaborative innovation which scaled.   

    My advice to both was, think daisies, not orchids.  Orchids require excessive amounts of care and maintenance and are more analogous to a corporation’s notion of tight control.  It is one that fails to promote intrapreneurship.  Daisies by contrast require little more than fertile soil.

    Going Rogue
    Therefore, consider creating a fertile environment.  Of course enable the official sponsors of innovation to form communities (perhaps aligned with a line of business or company practice).  But also allow for “rogue communities”;   communities which are formed by budding innovators who have a passion and would like to explore it with others that share that passion.  These rogues are your intrapreneurs and seek official sponsorship.

    Of course, we don’t recommend allowing just anyone to form a rogue community.  The right to form a rogue community is earned by valued participation in an official community.  In short, an official community propagates rogue communities which, if they deliver value or show promise, can earn sponsorship and become an official community.

    Defining “Communities”
    However, as some platforms cannot accommodate true communities, we should describe the attributes of a true community.  A community is formed around a common interest. Prescribed communities might align with the silos of an organization such as a line of business.  For example in insurance that might be property casualty, auto and life.   A community might align with a practice which cuts across the silos.  Again in an insurance company, that might be underwriting. But communities can form around many other common interests; a client, a process, a technology, etc.  Regardless, they gather to promote a common purpose.

    On-line communities should generate activity which promotes their common purpose.  They may schedule regular presentations, post meeting notes, share scholarly articles, have on-line discussions, ask questions of the community and of course, run on-line innovation challenges where they can seriously collaborate in addressing a problem or opportunity aligned with their community.  It is important to note that communities go beyond ideation and can be a valuable source of resources needed to commercialize an idea.

    Each community should have a leader or leaders.  An official community is led by an executive sponsor who has budget and resources.  A rogue community is led by a passionate innovator seeking to create value for the company by focusing on their area of interest.  They are seeking official sponsorship.

    Community leaders need to have control over their space.  They need to be able to share or hide a view of their community with other communities.  They need to be able to engage their members with little more than training and guidance as provided by the managers (the Innovation Management Team) of the overall on-line platform (the Innovation Management System).

    The Role of the Innovation Management Team
    As suggested above, the Innovation Management Team (IMT) can be small because it is not controlling every aspect of what occurs in communities and is instead promoting viral propagation as with daisies and not labor intensive cultivation as with orchids.

    The IMT is therefore enabling the formation of communities, providing training and guidance, setting expectations and measuring value created.  Communities, particularly rogue communities, are expected to generate a certain level of activity and in the longer term, value.  The IMT measures the activity to ensure the community has not died.  Dead communities, like dead underbrush, need to be cleared out so as not to choke the innovation program.  Value created, needs to be measured and reported because it proves the significant Returns on Investment which can be generated by an approach which promotes your rogues, your intraperenuers, your daisies.

  • BozeBlog 3:44 am on April 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , employee engagement, , , , intrapreneur   

    I Want to be Borg / Yearnings for a Collectively Intelligent Enterprise 

    Borg Costume

    Borg Costume

    How great would it be to be part of a collectively intelligent enterprise like The Borg from Star Trek?  My skills would be valued.  I would be engaged in solving problems presented by leadership and management.  I could contribute ideas and help others with theirs.  My unique set of skills would be of benefit and the diversity of the skills of all would bring us to levels of creativity and ability we could not achieve alone.  Leadership would say things to me like “We value you for your distinctiveness and we will add it to our own”.  How would I respond to such a compliment; to such an opportunity?

    I think I would say, “Thank you Borg Queen/CEO.  Thank you for recognizing that I am a distinct individual with a unique set of skills, knowledge, experience, passions and capabilities. Thank you for valuing that distinctiveness and thank you for making good use of it.  I was beginning to think I would never get a chance to use my skills and truly contribute to the hive/company.  In fact, I was thinking of leaving this cube farm but now, I think I shall stay. (See Gallup Study reference below regarding retention1)

    While I am at it, thank you for making available to me all the other distinct individuals with their skills, knowledge and experience.  I have some really big ideas and they aren’t going anywhere without the aid of the right people.  I am sure they feel the same. In fact, I think you will see dramatically improved quality and financial performance by engaging us in this way.  (See Gallup Study reference below regarding financial results 2)

    However, since you value my opinion, I do have some suggestions.  For example, please don’t call me a “drone”. A drone is forced to do the same job day after day without the opportunity for change or recognition.  In retrospect, I’ve spent most of my career as a drone.  Now that you are engaging me for my distinctiveness, I don’t feel like a drone at all.  Please call me an intrapreneur or perhaps, an innovator.

    Next, let us not call my group a “Unimatrix”.  Instead let us call it a Community of Practice or Community of Interest.  Allow these communities to form within traditional silos but also in ways that cut across silos in our organization. That will help us better leverage best practices and develop new ones.  We don’t need to meet in person.  On-line via an Innovation Portal would be more efficient.

    Seven of Nine/Jeri Ryan

    Seven of Nine/Jeri Ryan

    Please do allow me to find and “follow”, via the Innovation Portal, individuals I consider to be thought leaders.  I have lacked a professional development plan that would enable me to be considered in areas of interest to me.  There are some people working in those areas that I would love to support, if only on an unofficial basis at first.   For example, Seven of Nine / Jeri Ryan is awesome even if she has no official rank.  I would love to collaborate with her.  (Note to self. Check with HR whether the alcove next to Jeri is available.)

    Of course, most importantly, challenge me.  Present problems and opportunities to me and my fellow innovators. Present the company goals and strategies and allow we innovators to suggest tactics.   Allow us to collaborate and propose solutions.  Don’t worry about the deluge of feedback.  A good Innovation Portal is designed to organize such feedback.  You, my Borg Queen/CEO, will only hear the best ideas and therefore not be overwhelmed.

    I know what you are concerned about.  With all of this collaboration, I will not have time for my regular duties and you will need to hire additional staff.  Not to worry.  Sadly, 20% of your staff is actively disengaged from their job anyhow. (See reference 3 below.)  So actually, by engaging us, you will finally be getting what you already paid for.

    Finally my Borg Queen/CEO, I am impressed that you are among the many forward thinking leaders that are seeking to create the Collectively Intelligent Enterprise.  However, for those who are not familiar with the concept.  I will invite them to read my next contribution, ‘How to Develop a Collectively Intelligent Enterprise.’ “


    1  2012 Gallup Meta-Analysis shows that companies with high employee engagement experience 25% – 65% lower turnover.

    2 2012 Gallup Meta-Analysis shows that companies with high employee engagement experience

    • 21% higher productivity
    • 22% higher profitability
    • Average margins of 27.4% versus 9.9%
    • 41% fewer defects

    3 2012 Gallup Meta-Analysis and the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study shows low employee engagement levels.  20% are actively disengaged.  Only 28% are engaged with 54% reporting themselves as only somewhat engaged.

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  • BozeBlog 5:02 am on February 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , innovators, swarm intelligence   

    The Birds and the Bees and the Innovators 

    The birds and bees conversationThis story of the birds and the bees is not the one you heard as a child, unless perhaps your father is researcher and author Dr. Thomas Seeley.  Still, this one  is almost as amazing.

    How do large collections of individuals make highly intelligent decisions which are more intelligent than any one individual could make?  It is referred to as swarm or collective intelligence and research shows that the way that swarms of bees make decisions is very similar to the way in which the human mind works.  Per Seely, though they’ve evolved independently, bees and humans have “converged on the same basic design which tells us that this is probably the optimal way to do it.”

    The implication to leaders of innovation is the possibility of unlocking the collective intelligence of a company or enterprise in surfacing and developing highly intelligent solutions.

    How Bees Make a Collective Decision:

    Bees are periodically challenged to decide where to relocate their hive.  The process is straight forward and very similar to how leaders of innovation are currently engaging their employees in ideation and collaboration.

    Step 1 – Present a challenge question:   For the bees, the question is, “To where do we relocate our hive?”

    Step 2 – Present the criteria by which a good choice is identified:   For the bees, a good location is large enough to accommodate the hive but has a small opening so as to discourage predators.

    Blue Hive

    Step 3 – Accept ideas/proposals: Initially, scout bees find prospective locations, return to the swarm and communicate the location of their proposed new hive via “the waggle dance”.  The waggle dance points bees in the direction of the proposed site but it serves another purpose as well.

    Step 4 – Voting:  Scout bees, and bees which investigate the site the scouts propose, vote on how suitable they believe the proposal to be.  Three waggles means it is a great site.  Two waggles, means it is not quite so desirable.

    Step 5 – Commenting:  Though not verbally, bees who believe strongly in one site over another have a way of dissuading bees advocating the other location.  While a bee is voting, an opposing bee will head butt the voting bee trying to get them to stop advocating for their proposal.

    Bee VotingStep 6 – Idea Promotion/Selection:  Once a tipping point is reached, the bees have consensus and, as a group, leave for the proposed site which has the greatest number of supporters.

    Amazingly, the researchers find that the sites which the bees choose are indeed the superior sites.  To see this in action, view the nine minute PBS presentation on the Evolution of Intelligence

    How Leaders of Innovation Can Harness Collective Intelligence

    Seemingly by coincidence, in the advent of social work spaces, companies are starting to leverage collective intelligence in a very similar way via Idea Management Systems.  However, just as with your childhood story of the birds and the bees, groups of people do this just a bit differently.

    Commenting in a human context is of course much richer with comments creating opportunities for collaboration where ideas are improved.

    Selection criteria are more faceted and comments ideally speak to the degree to which selection criteria are satisfied or how an idea can be modified to better satisfy the criteria.

    Voting can take multiple forms such as thumbs up/down, five star, bingo chip and others.

    Most notably, idea promotion has multiple stages.  The crowd of participants culls through the initial surge of ideas promoting the most promising ideas via their means of voting.  The ideas which are promoted are then evaluated by an expert panel which more rigorously applies the selection criteria in an on-line manner.  Once the expert panel has culled the list of ideas further, typically a selection committee makes a final determination regarding which ideas to pursue.

    Results of this approach are impressive taking advantage of the diversity of talent, experience and knowledge of the crowd.  While some individuals have sparks of inspiration, they are often not equipped to flesh out an idea.  Others excel in collaboration and idea development while others with deep experience can provide cautions based upon problematic attempts in the past.  Finally, many are good at identifying promising ideas voting and culling the many ideas down to a promising few thereby not overwhelming an always taxed group of experts.

    To leaders of innovation who continue to “go it alone” based upon their sole intelligence and inspiration; caution.  Many have gone this way in the past but out of necessity.  With the advent of collaborative work spaces, it is no longer necessary.  At a minimum, pass your idea by the collective and see if it will fly.

    For a demonstration of human collective intelligence via an Idea Management System, contact CrowdPowered.

  • BozeBlog 8:44 pm on January 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: collaboration, , crowd sourcing innovation, engagement, , , innovator, out of the box   

    An Innovator’s Necessity: Getting Employees Out of the Box 

    people in org chart boxesYou don’t think of your employees as a crowd because you have organized them into neat little boxes which fit into larger boxes which interact laterally with other boxes through a few leaders who own the box into which the other boxes fit.  And while that gives us a sense of order and control, what have we lost and how do we get it back?

    You and your colleagues are in your box because you have a set of skills and a common focus.  But you have other skills.  You have other interests and passions.  Still, does anyone know about them?  Does anyone in your box or another have a means of engaging you to leverage those skills, interests and passions?

    Disengaged worker


    The Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study would suggest the answer is “no”.  According to the study, only 35% of employees are highly engaged.  Meanwhile, the 2012 Gallup Meta-Analysis found that companies with high employee engagement significantly outperform those with low engagement realizing 21% higher productivity, 22% higher profitability, 41% fewer defects and 25% to 65% lower turnover.

     So why don’t companies engage their employees?  Among the variety of reasons, one would have to be, because it takes time and effort.  If we engage  employees in solving problems or addressing opportunities, leaders have to filter through the good, bad and mediocre ideas alike to get to the brilliant because no one is brilliant all of the time.

    Crowd Sourcing Innovation:
    The good news is, the crowd of employees is very good at knowing brilliance when they see it.  They are very good at collaborating and making the good ideas great.  They are great at voting so that the ideas which become brilliant can come to the attention of leadership.  Fortunately today there are tools that enable us to engage employees at scale without the time and effort that would otherwise overwhelm leadership.

    Idea Management Systems:
    Douglas C. Engelbart’s prophetic 1992 paper “Toward High-Performance Organizations” spoke to the “strategic role for GroupWare”  in “achieving tomorrow’s high-performance organizations.”  Today, notable in this set of GroupWare is the Idea Management System (IMS).  An IMS enables an enterprise to engage employees in an on-line space for collaboration where  employees are challenged to solve the problems and address the opportunities of the enterprise.  The crowd of employees work free of their boxes bringing their unique skills, judgement, expertise and passion to act as a collectively intelligent enterprise.    They create value for the enterprise and customers while creating career opportunities for themselves.

    If you want to learn more, Contact Us and follow me on Twitter at Ed Boze @IdeationNation.

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