Monthly Archives: May 2016

Innovate Your Way to Future Success

The need for transforming workplaces into innovation centers is well-documented, yet not yet widely adopted.
To wit…

“The success of corporate R&D is on every C-suite agenda.  Yet wide disparities persist in how well innovation investments actually pay off. As a consequence, R&D is often seen as a black box, where large sums of money go in and innovative products and services only sometimes come out.”

– The Global Innovation 1000

According to Marshall McLuhen, innovation can be applied to achieve advances in any of the following four (4) ways:


  • Enhance Something: A prime example was how Google was a late entrant into search, but lapped the field with its simple approach.
  • Eliminate Something: Charles Schwab eliminated the need for stock brokers entirely, by connecting the back office of the trading house directly to the customer.
  • Return Us to Something in Our Past: Think about how the desire to have home cooked family meals has led to the proliferation of underground dining and slow food restaurants.
  • Over Time, Reverse into Its Opposite: Think about how e-mail was going to set us all free but instead enslaved us with its ubiquitous and overwhelming demands.

Well then, if that’s INNOVATION, what does “Creativity” entail?

Creativity means looking at the same information as everyone else, and seeing something different.
Why is INNOVATION so critical to your organization’s success and future viability?  Innovation is the one essential business survival skill that has no limits and your organization can leverage to overcome challenges everywhere, from global competition, rapid change in pace of technology, changing demographics/population composition, an aging population, etc.
Following is a list of the challenges that can be overcome by applying an innovative workforce:

  • The PERVASIVENESS of software, mobile apps, and cloud computing.
  • A Dun & Bradstreet study revealed that for each successful new product introduced, a company needs 50-60 other new product ideas in the pipeline.
  • The rise of China as an innovation powerhouse.
  • Too big to fail is no longer a valid protection.
  • In 1958, the average life span of an S&P 500 company was 58 years. Today, it is less than 18 years.

How to create a culture of Innovation in your organization.
Following are actionable strategies that you can begin implementing immediately to build a innovation-driven firm by applying creativity at all levels, from front-line staff to management.

  • Have a MISSION that truly matters, inspires others by making emotional connections with them.


  • You need to plan…and PLAN TO FAIL.


  • See innovation as an ongoing pursuit.


  • Get symbolic!  Symbols represent the underlying values of the organization, and they come in many forms: value statements, awards, success stories, posters in hallways, catch phrases, etc.


  • Use symbols as effective cues to represent what your organization stands for and build a story that resonates with the world.


  • Colgate Palmolive’s Global R&D Group initiated a “recognition economy” by giving out symbolic wooden nickels to colleagues that made noteworthy contributions to their projects. Symbols also depicted as organizational stories and folklore that live on.


  • Create an IDEAS program for your organization and include everyone.


  • You MUST have passion!


Follow the lead of today’s most innovative firms.
Fortunately, many organizations have built stellar cultures driven by innovation that you can learn from.  Some of the best examples include:

–Embrace BLUE SKY thinking. Provide opportunities for your people to think freely without constraints of having to “produce” outcomes.
–Employees dedicate 20% of their time to innovation.  Give your people the the INNOVATION TIME OFF they need, in order to cultivate an innovation ‘mindset.’

  • Adobe KICKBOX campaign: Gives its employees a box filled with creativity tools including $1000 prepaid credit card to spend on new innovative pursuits.


  • Amazon key principle is “Invent and simplify.”


  • Intuit: Gives out a Leadership award to its executives that help to create start-ups inside the company.  Affords its best innovators three months of “unstructured” time that they can use in one big chunk or spread out over six months for part-time exploration of new opportunities.


  • Samsung Open Innovation Center:

Samsung Accelerator
Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center
So, how can you begin implementing a world-class innovative culture in your organization?  Here’s how:

  • Know that there truly are no silver bullets/magic lists.  Only environments where innovation is MORE likely to occur.
  • Always talk to and observe your customers, focusing on solving their problems.  (Ex. Dan Buchner, P&G product development had his team spend time in customer’s homes watching them. Led to the launch of theSwiffer product line.)
  • Record all of your ideas and thoughts about problems.
  • Don’t think REPRODUCTIVELY: Most people settle on the most promising approach based on our past experiences.
  • We tend to exclude other options as we work within a clearly defined direction towards the solution.  BREAK THIS PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR!
  • Cultivate your creativity by implementing the following 2 approaches:

– Constantly try to improve your idea, product, service: Early ideas are usually not your best ideas, as they are only partially formed; and
– Challenge your assumptions: To test an assumption, reverse it and try to make the reverse work.

The test of an invention is the power of [the] inventor to push it through in the face of staunch – not opposition, but indifference – in society”.


Edwin Land, Polaroid co-founder

  • Sketch your ideas.
  • Use “lateral thinking skills” (Paul Sloane) entails looking at things in an entirely NEW way.
  • Employ “wrong thinking”:

– Great inventors engage in divergent (“wrong”) thinking, which allows them to explore a full realm of possibilities for a solution – no matter how silly or far-fetched.
– They’re not necessarily concerned with the most logical solution, and certainly not with one that draws on “conventional wisdom.”

We’re taught to do things the right wayBut if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way…  When I was doing my vacuum cleaner, I started out trying a conventionally shaped cyclone, the kind you see in textbooks.  But we couldn’t separate the carpet fluff and dog hairs and strands of cotton in those cyclones. It formed a ball inside the cleaner or shot out the exit and got into the motorI tried all sorts of shapes. Nothing worked. So then I thought I’d try the wrong shape, the opposite of conical.  Andit worked.”

Sir James Dyson

This is just a starting point.  There are many more strategies that you can employ, once you have begun to build a foundation driven by innovation and creativity. Good luck!
Here’s to your continued success in 2016.
– Ethan

Things Clients Never Want to hear From You

I’ve been working a LOT lately with organizations who are unhappy with their client “engagement” efforts.  I specifically train their front line client account acquisition, retention and management Teams to deliver constant moments of “WOW!” that earns trust, loyalty…and…REPEAT business.
Working on projects like this has led me to become more attenuated (locked in) and observant of times when people in SERVICE roles perform really poorly. We live in the SWITCHING ECONOMY where people bounce from vendor to vendor, and exhibit little loyalty to brands and organizations.
You have to constantly strive to  deliver your Unique Value Proposition that is driven always by stellar customer care.  That demands getting back to people when and where they are most receptive to hearing what you have to offer/deliver them.
So then, following are some best practice TRIED and TRUE ways to avoid having your customers and potential customers become so dissatisfied with you that they simply walk away.  As you read through this list, you may likely find yourself saying “But, of course!”  And yet…how many of these common client turn-off’s does your organization commit on a frequent basis.
1. Don’t EVER tell someone you will get back to them…and FORGET.  We all face tremendous challenges in our work lives and our work-life balance. Trust me when I say that NO ONE wants to feel like after thoughts who you get to AFTER you service other (more valuable???) clients.
2. Don’t EVER tell someone you failed to respond because you were busy. If I am your client and you are implying that you are “TOO BUSY” to get back to me in a timely fashion, I’ll find someone else who DOES value my business. When you tell someone you didn’t respond because you were extremely busy you are telling them point blank: “I didn’t value YOU enough to respond before those other commitments I had.” This is business SUICIDE.
3. Fail to deliver what was requested.  We all want WHAT we want WHEN we want it.  We don’t want to settle and don’t think very highly of vendors/service providers/partners who give us what they think is simply “GOOD ENOUGH.” We want to be wowed.
4. Don’t make it up or “wing it” as you go along.  When you are asked something you simply don’t have an answer to/solution for, tell the customer you have a few thoughts or need to investigate, you will get back to them on such a date/time…then HONOR THAT COMMITMENT.  It’s always okay to say you don’t know.  It’s NEVER okay to fail to honor your commitments.
5. Don’t offer the client your “Cookie Cutter” product/service.  They do not want/expect the same solution you provide every one else. They have unique needs, face specific challenges, and thus expect solutions customized to their specific situation.
6. Don’t sound bored/annoyed to hear from them.  Want to get a harsh, cold dose of reality. Have someone “mystery shop” your business.  What do they experience when they come into your store or speak to your Service Representatives.

Are your people motivated, trained, and focused on serving/providing solutions.  Or are they disinterested, and emotionally “checked out.”  This is the fastest way to earn loyalty and repeat business, or lose customers forever.
7. Do you have too many levels of decision-making to respond in a timely fashion.  As we flatten out hierarchical organizations into leaner matrix firms, the levels of decision-making need to be reduced to enable our people to make quicker decisions with more authority always with the customer in mind.  Organizations that excel in serving have delivered complete autonomy to their front line staff, by implementing holacracy.  You want your customers to receive fast responses. some organizations like Zappos and W.L. Gore have taken this to the extreme, going so far as to remove much of their management structure in their workplace.
I hope this helps. Here’s to your continued business success in 2016.

Achieve True Lasting Workplace Diversity

As a follow up to my previous post on Diversity, in these times of global competition it is critical that you build a diverse and inclusive culture, to ensure lasting competitive advantage.
Following is a list of 23 immediately actionable strategies that you can follow, in order to  create a diversity-driven and inclusive organizational culture:

  1. Review your existing talent acquisition plan with a renewed focus on where you have sourced talent from in the past (geographic focus) to find new talent sources/pools.

2. Help minority/underrepresented employees on-board and facilitate their integration into your organization’s pre-existing culture is an  absolute imperative.  You want (NEED) your new hires to feel included, welcome and part of the organization from their very first day of employment.
3. Expand your reach into a more diverse talent pool by leveraging local community organizations, such as the Urban League, National Council La Raza, etc.Utilize diversity driven websites such as
4. Emulate the best practices of organizations that have already achieved success in their diversity efforts such as: Ernst & Young, Deloitte, VISA, MasterCard, Duke Energy, Merck, Avon, Nissan, etc.  For a complete list of top firms for diversity, see the Diversity Inc. Top 50 2015.
5. Develop an employee “Refer-a-Friend” program.  As you find employees that fit your culture and expand your diversity base, take a “MORE OF THE SAME” hiring approach.  After all, what worked before surely will work again.
6. Create a well thought out Equal Opportunity Employment policy by following the guidelines/standards put forth by the federal EEOC (  Your GOAL in a DIVERSITY-driven hiring approach should be:
7. Create a “meritorious hiring practice that is…age, race, gender, and minority NEUTRAL.” To wit…

8. Develop and conduct DIVERSITY training.  Begin by teaching your management team all about diversity.
9. Learn from your past mistakes by conducting EXIT interviews for all of your employees. Perhaps the reason an employee left was that they did not feel included or that your organiztion cared about expanded its employee representation to reflect these changing times.

10. Understand the truism that diversity is driven from the top-down, yet it is felt from the bottom-up.  Plant the seeds for your organization’s future diversity growth by bringing in a diverse group of college/high School interns NOW.  Provide scholarships, fellowships, and co-op work experiences to help minorities in college.
11. Establish a diversity policy that is documented in your organization’s annual strategic plan on a recuring year in-year out basis.
12. Include diversity-based questions in your employee surveys, to learn how your peopel are feeling about your efforts towards building a workforce that mirrors the changing denographics of society at large.
13. Set up business resource ‘affinity’ groups in your organization (ex. African-americans, young professionals, Hispanic/Latinos, Gay/lesbian networks, etc.) and track your people retention across each group and by recruiting source.
14. Take a proactive stance to diversity-related public policy issues (ex. Microsoft supported a Washington state gay-rights bill.)
15. You have to serve as a change agent to change the behaviors of your hiring and promotion managers. Ask people in positions of power within your organization: “What/how do you think about ‘difference?’ “
16. Use assessment tools to gauge your people’s “intracultural sensitivity.”
17. Hold your managers accountable to diversity goals by making diversity part of their annual performance objectives. Organizations that set responsibility for diversity achieve better resukts from diversity training, evaluations, and mentoring.
18. Support flexible work arrangements, on-site child daycare, job sharing, and other options.
19. Set quotas in your hiring. Esp. women in engineering like Nissan in Japan.
20. Provide opportunities for rising stars/top performers to receive education and professional development.
21. Offer a formal coaching/mentoring program.
22. Assign a role for a full-time Diversity officer position and create a cross-functional diversity team tasked with achieving your organization’s diversity/inclusion goals.
And saving the most important requirement for last..
23. Your CEO must LEAD BY EXAMPLE. They need to set the tone and walk the walk.
What do you think? Have I missed anything? What do you do in YOUR organization to create a diversity-driven organizationalculture by leveraging inclusive hiring practices?
Here’s to your continued success in 2016 building a powerfully diverse workforce!
– Ethan

Multi-Cultural Talent Acquisition (a.k.a DIVERSITY) Ensures Organizational Survival

 Does your management team pass the EYEBALL test?
When you look at the Senior Leadership page of your website, does it scream: “Too old, white, and too male?”

Does this look like your Management Team?
In the famous words of Game of Thrones “Words are wind” or…talk is cheap.
Your organization may talk the talk, but do they “walk-the-walk” when it comes to achieve a truly DIVERSE and INCLUSIVE ORGANIZATION built to compete and win on the global playing field?  If they don’t no worries.  After all, you’re not alone.  Of the Fortune 500 top U.S. firms in 2013, only 4% of those companies had female CEOs.  The glass ceiling is still firmly in place.
Why bother striving for a diverse workforce?  Because building a global team to seize opportunities in new markets takes a global (thus multi-cultural) perspective.

When recruiting in the 5 generation society, appealing to the matures, baby boomers, GenXers, Millenials, and Next Gen segments requires an appeal to all.Diversity can help to bridge the generational divide.  Before you begin down this diversity road ask yourself: “Do I truly have the support, buy in and long-term commitment of my management team?” If yes, proceed. If NO, stop!  Build diversity into your culture.  Go ahead…walk around your organization. Does it look like the rest of the country? Be honest.
Understand that diversity is not synonymous with filling quotas. It’s so much more than finding the right balance between age, gender, ethnicity but a Global Village view embracing divergent backgrounds, beliefs, values, lifestyle, military service, etc.
How does your organization embrace differences? Are you prepared to take your organization from a mindset of merely tolerating diversity to advocating for a diverse workplace?  The benefits your organization derives from achieving true diversity and inclusion extend far beyond legal compliance to include:


  • More effectively connecting with your customers;
  • Motivating your employees;
  • Fostering greater innovation and creativity since people from different backgrounds challenge each other and having people from different backgrounds fosters a constantly evolving culture;
  • Becoming a preferred employer, which makes your job easier;
  • Larger recruiting pool; and
  • Ability to conduct business in more markets across cultural boundaries.


In a survey conducted by Melissa Lauber it was reported that the federal Glass Ceiling Commission found that diversity has a positive impact on organization’s bottom lines:
Organizations which excel at leveraging diversity (including the hiring and advancement of women and non-white men into senior management jobs, and providing a climate conducive to contributions from people of diverse backgrounds) will experience better financial performance in the long run than organizations which are not effective in managing diversity.” (
The Covenant Investment Management firm conducted significant research into diversity.  It rated the performance of the Standard & Poor 500 on a series of factors relating to the hiring and advancement of women and nonwhites. The study concluded that the annual return of the 100 companies with the LOWEST in equal employment averaged a 7.9%, compared to 18.3% for the 100 companies that rated HIGHEST in equal employment
According to the Society for Human Resources Management: “Diversity is marketable!”  Diversity can be the catalyst you need, to achieve a better ROI on human capital:

  • Minorities are a majority in 6 of the 8 largest US metropolitan areas;
  • Black, Hispanic and Asians combined for more than $870 billion in purchases in the U.S. annually; and
  • Women are the primary investors in more than half of U.S. households.

Embed/infuse diversity and inclusion in all of your hiring efforts: discuss your diversity strategies in all of your company marketing promotional materials, job postings, and emphasize your organization’s vision, mission, values, and story. MAKE DIVERSITY PART OF YOUR BRAND!
– Ethan