Saturday, October 9, 2010

Collaborative Risktaking and Innovation: Value Creation and Measurements

I received quite a few requests from participants who attended my Collaborative Risktaking workshop on how to create and measure their value both internally (organizational) and externally (customer collaborations, partner projects, conference participation, etc.), so instead of responding individually I've decided to write a (longish) blog post. I do refererence a number of different terms that can be found in the wiki notes, my presentation and supplemental infographics.

Just as there is no one size fits all for personal risktaking, there is no single way for you to create and measure value. It depends on a number of variables:
  • Your organization's culture
  • Your natural strengths, experience and expertise
  • Your circumstances (transitioning into, within or out of a role/position)
  • Your comfort zone in dealing with the unknowns of a situation (risktaking)

Value Creation - It's All Around You

Your ability to create and sustain value is a key differentiator in a reinvented world, where the new innovation currency requires you to design, manage, and extend the reach of your "career capital".
Value creation includes both the introduction of innovative products and services that create or extend value for the company within a targeted timeframe and innovative process and product improvements that sustain value over time. Companies and institutions need both in order to thrive in the new world of business.
Beginning with your natural strengths and what "hums your heart" are you a builder or do you like to redesign and reinvent? If you're the former, you begin by looking around your department or business unit for what isn't being done, but should be if the company or institution hopes to remain competitive and avoid a missed opportunity.

You're going to view these challenges through your personal experience, professional skill sets, and natural strengths. This means that you could have five builder types in a room and each one would see a different opportunity.

It requires you to use both your Intuition and Peripheral Vision in order to Connect the Dots of what's inside you, what's around you, and what is missing a.k.a. opportunities. By paying attention in new ways and seeing possibilities through new eyes, you'll begin to notice emerging trends and the early curve of inflection points for your greater organization or institution.

If you're someone who prefers to redesign and reinvent, you can do what I did to create value and acquire a personal brand of someone who could "fix it, get rid of it, or reinvent it". I would target projects with promise that ended too quickly, lost funding, or became political hot potatoes that no one wanted to touch.

These Ugly Dog Projects (UDPs) would sometimes have "orphaned teams" still intact--people who were passionate about the project. We used our influencing skills to persuade budget owners to take a chance on us--become heroes for very little funding, no time commitment, and low risk on their part. Because these UDPs were so low on the organization's radar (or completely off the screen!) we were able to take greater risks that resulted in more successful outcomes to the surprise (and shock) of many.

Selling Your Idea

Develop a one-page proposal or succinct business plan that states your case, how you plan to approach this challenge, the expected costs, desired resources and required skills, what the risks and pay offs would be for the organization, e.g., new revenue stream, streamlined process, improved service levels, etc.

Your proposal might be for a new product or process or, perhaps, building upon an existing product or service that rejuvenates and extends the reach to a different market segment or audience.

This is when you want to leverage your Global Decision Network (GDN), your innovation safety network, that hears your pitch first and helps you to "work out the bugs" before you take your idea on the road. Don't overlook the fact that your GDN members might also be potential funding sources or who may know a budget manager with decision-making authority. You may discover that your idea complements something that is already "in the hopper". This is the time for you to vet your idea within a safe environment.

You're now ready to socialize your idea beyond your GDN a.k.a Innovation Tribe once you incorporate their feedback. At this point you're going to ask for funding or resources (sometimes both). Your goal is to make it easy for people to say YES.

Measuring Value - Direct and Indirect

Begin by asking yourself, "How does my organization or institution define value?" You want to start here because this identifies your playing field and how the company defines success. If you're going to break some rules along the way, you first need to know what the formal and informal rules are for your organization.

Then you want to learn how your company / institution measures value. What business models do they use to track and capture this value. Is Return on Investment (ROI) the primary means of quantifying value? Perhaps, your organization uses other means as well, such as Cost Benefit Analysis or Return on Innovation Investment.

This is where the value of having a GDN member on your team who is finance savvy comes in. She can help you to quantify the total value of your project or process improvement. This includes both direct and indirect costs:
Direct costs are those for activities or services that benefit specific projects, e.g., salaries for project staff and materials required for a particular project.

Indirect costs
are those for activities or services that benefit more than one project. Their precise benefits to a specific project are difficult to trace. For example, it may be difficult to determine precisely how your contributions and activities benefit a specific project.

It gets tougher to capture the value of your personal contributions when you are not a member of a team responsible for tracking the progress and measuring the direct and indirect cost savings and/or revenue generation of a project.
So how do you quantify your influence for different projects if your involvement is as a subject matter expert (SME)?
Begin by reviewing your top 3-5 areas where you spend most of your time (internal and external). These will likely be a combination of both direct involvement, e.g. you either lead a team or are a team member, and indirect involvement, i.e., advisor/ SME where you spend more than 20 percent of your time. These are the areas where you want to capture and quantify your value.

Your goal is to target the low hanging fruit, i.e., those areas where you are already spending your time and adding value. Quantify your expertise and influence by identifying your direct contributions to a project. In other words, how has your expertise helped the team move the project forward faster, i.e., improved productivity (indirect cost savings) or, perhaps, you've identified a "bloated process step" that through its elimination has resulted in direct cost savings to the organization's bottom line. Your unique insights and contributions might identify an entirely new revenue stream.

You're still able to collaborate as a member of a team and contribute on an individual basis. Far too often, I see professionals extend the reach of their influence across the organization but ultimately dilute their influence, credibility and personal power by failing to capture, quantify and share their total value.

In the reinvented world of business you'll need to know how to perform these consistently in order to extend the reach of your career capital.

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