Architecture Goes Open Source to Promote Social Good

31 05 2007

Open Architecture Network

As we have examined in various posts the open source phenomenon has extended far from its roots in software to launch new businesses and revitalize old ones using more open business models, product or service design and production processes, and online community.

Open source online community is often created and promoted separately from mainstream association activities.

Today we look at the Open Architecture Network (see link from Social Responsibility in right hand column) – an open source online community dedicated to the promotion of an architectural revolution to “improve living conditions through innovative and sustainable design.” OAN founders seek to help 100 million slum dwellers improve their lives through improving the built environment around them.

OAN was created by Architecture for Humanity and volunteers from its local chapters. AH is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded in 1999 to promote architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises. Through competitions, workshops, educational forums, partnerships with aid organizations and other activities, Architecture for Humanity creates opportunities for architects and designers from around the world to help communities in need. OAN grew out of the collective frustration in sharing ideas and trying to work together to address shelter needs after disaster in informal settlements and in our own communities.

OAN was founded with support from the prestigious TED Prize (from the TED Conference – see previous posts on TED). Sun Microsystems, Hot Studio, Creative Commons, and AMD joined Architecture for Humanity to launch a beta version of the Open Architecture Network: the first site to offer open source architectural plans and blueprints on the web.

Interested architects and designers are able to:

  • Share their ideas, designs and plans
  • View and review designs posted by others
  • Collaborate with each other, people in other professions and community leaders to address specific design challenges
  • Manage design projects from concept to implementation
  • Communicate easily amongst team members
  • Protect their intellectual property rights using the Creative Commons “some rights reserved” licensing system and be shielded from unwarranted liability
  • Build a more sustainable future

OAN sees other stakeholder involvement from across a wide global spectrum to include: community leaders, nonprofit groups, volunteer organizations, government agencies, technology partners, healthcare workers, and educators.

OAN’s goal is to “allow people to work together in a whole new way, a way that enables 5 billion potential clients to access their skills and expertise… and to generate not one idea but the hundreds of thousands of design ideas needed to improve living conditions for all.”

Presently, OAN has over 5,000 registered users working on 209 projects in:

  • Design development (169)
  • Design complete (38)
  • In construction (32)
  • Construction complete (33) for all

Across all global regions:

  • Africa & Arab States (34)
  • Asia & Pacific (21)
  • Europe & Former Soviet States (19)
  • Latin America & the Caribbean (9)
  • North America (55)

To alleviate the following social needs:

  • Accessibility (22)
  • Adaptive Re-use (12)
  • Affordable/Cost-effective (53)
  • Agit Prop/Policy/Politics (10)
  • Agriculture/Food (9)
  • Biomimicry (3)

Lessons Learned

The Architecture Network offers some good reminders as association executives study how best to use open source strategies:

  1. Online community runs at the heart of good open source strategy and engages stakeholder groups outside your own traditional member base.
  2. Community business opportunity are stakeholder outcome-based, meaning collaboration has a purpose that is tangible and measurable.
  3. Sponsoring organizations see themselves as facilitators and respect average participant expertise and experience while designing experiences that empower registered users.
  4. Knowledge is collected, organized and shared.
  5. The experience lets people or businesses pursue and apply their passions and expertise and profit from them however their motivations are defined.

free hit counter


Constructing Customer Conversation with New Media the Open Source Way

30 05 2007

free hit counter

OS Radio

Open Source Radio’s lead in of its radio broadcast from inside Second Life.

“Ready, Fire, Aim” or “Pitch, Revise, Report”

Your communication and media can’t just be a like a bullhorn anymore. It has to be an invitation, a conversation or it misses out on the ability to create life around your content.

Would you be brave enough to “let go” by constructing a new, more dynamic two way conversation with your information consumers like this?

  • Every time you have an idea for a story you post it to the website for member comment. The story idea will not be produced for another month because the direction of the story isn’t finished until suggestions or questions from members on the story concept are considered and followed up.

  • You know that quite often your consumers have more expertise and experience on any story than you do – so you invite them to share it BEFORE the story is written.

  • You’re willing to tap the blogosphere to find someone with the “local” knowledge on the content you plan to report. In fact, you make sure at least one blogger is included in the story itself as it never hurts to generate word of mouth marketing for your stories.
  • You let your consumers pitch story ideas. Every day one of your editors reads the submissions and responds in the thread. You make sure to read every suggestion and respond to as many as you can.
  • Editors take pitches that could make a good story and present them to the editorial staff in a story meeting. If the rest of the staff thinks the story might work too, you prepare a short description and post the idea as a new story on the website.
  • The story is completed and posted while you facilitate continuous discussion on its content.

Open Source Radio does all this.

In their own words:

“Open Source is a conversation, four times a week on the radio and any time you like on the blog. We designed the show to invert the traditional relationship between broadcast and the web: we aren’t a public radio show with a web community, we’re a web community that produces a daily hour of radio.”

In their case, the medium is audio podcasts wrapped around a community of engaged listener-contributors who post ideas, thoughts and questions – before, during and after the shows are produced. Recommendation tools help fellow listeners follow the most popular content. A profile system helps users learn and build relationships with other listeners.

250,000 + listeners from the US, Canada, Australia, Spain United Kingdom and more…

It’s time to take your listserv software behind the woodshed and shoot it dead.

You can’t bring your content to life unless you create experiences that fully integrate different kinds of content (in this case posted text and photos with podcasts) to create a contextual experience that will make it compelling.

As we saw with Gannett’s new news production strategy, you will need a different approach to satisfy the “lean in audience” who want to interact with their content versus the old “lean back” crowd who were satisfied with being “talked at.”

Those days are fading away.

Global Standards & Certified Practices That Promote Sustainable Business

30 05 2007

As we have seen from earlier US studies from Pew and the National Consumers League and Fleishman-Hillard International Communications, the consumer appetite for buying from sustainable businesses is growing as a key factor in their purchasing decision.

But confusion reins when it comes to understanding what products or businesses represent “truly” sustainable products and services.

Just like the world’s version of the Baldrige Award, ISO 9000 reflects a standard of global scale recognized for quality. The next few years will witness many businesses and products seeking third party validation of their sustainable business practices to eliminate this confusion and create more separation among competitors who meet more rigorous standards and practices.

Previous posts have demonstrated how “social responsibility” is evolving mainstream business strategy and practice as executives realize the profit potential of redesigning business to become more sustainable economically, socially and environmentally.

Dramatic new business and product design management initiatives such as McDonough and Braungart’s “Cradle to Cradle” protocol or the European’s “Industrial Symbiosis” are some of the leading examples that I urge you to examine more fully (Visit the links under Social Responsibility off the right column to learn more).

Demand for more global standards and practices have driven a variety of exciting efforts by stakeholders in business, academia, nonprofits and government throughout the world.

The following is a list of some of these ongoing efforts leading the way to improve business efficiency and productivity. Please note that although some of these certifications often refer to themselves as “green,” they are in fact focused on economic and social sustainable management practices in addition to environmental ones.

ISO 26000

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is developing an International Standard providing guidelines for social responsibility (SR). The guidance standard will be published in 2008 as ISO 26000 and be voluntary to use. The intent is to “encourage voluntary commitment to social responsibility and will lead to common guidance on concepts, definitions and methods of evaluation.”

Stakeholders developing this guidance standard include: industry, government, labor, consumers, nongovernmental organizations and strives for a geographical and gender-based balance.

US-based American Society for Quality is the coordinating body of the US Technical Advisory Group that will help guide US contributions to ISO 26000. If you would like to participate as a US-based organization, contact ASQ directly.

ISO 14000 & 14001

ISO 14000 is a series of international standards on environmental management. It provides a framework for the development of an environmental management system and the supporting audit program for an enterprise.

ISO 14001 was first published in 1996 and specifies the actual requirements for an enterprise environmental management system focusing on “aspects which the organization has control and over which it can be expected to have an influence.”

ISO 14001 is the only ISO 14000 standard that can be certified against by an external certification authority although it does not itself state specific environmental performance criteria.

The purpose of this standard is to help all types of organizations to protect the environment, to prevent pollution, and to improve their environmental performance through creating environmental: management systems, policy, planning, resource and structures, monitoring and measurement, and management reviews.

Cradle to Cradle Certification

One of the leading business and product design certifications gaining traction globally, C2C provides a means to tangibly, credibly measure achievement in “eco-effective design” and helps customers purchase and specify products that are pursuing a broader definition of quality.

Business benefits include:

  • Liability and risk reduction
  • Regulatory cost reduction
  • Product and service innovation
  • Product and brand differentiation
  • Customer relationships extending beyond the sale
  • Increased competitive advantage
  • Tangible social responsibility

Leaders who have embraced C2C protocols include: Herman-Miller, Nike, Steelcase, Ford, and the Chinese government. The latter will build 6 new cities designed from the C2C protocol.

The Natural Step

Since 1988, The Natural Step has worked to accelerate global sustainability by guiding companies, communities and governments on an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable path. A nonprofit, the Natural Step was founded in Sweden in 1989 by Swedish scientist, Karl-Henrik Robèrt.

The science based TNS Framework helps solve problems in a way that avoids new problems, develops an organizational vision and core values within a framework for social and ecological sustainability, and refreshes a vision in a step-by-step way while doing good business.

You can read more about TNS here.

US Green Building Council

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the US benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance.

LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Forest Stewardship Council

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.

Landowners and companies that sell timber or forest products seek certification as a way to verify to consumers that they have practiced forestry consistent with FSC standards. Independent, certification organizations are accredited by FSC to carry out assessments of forest management to determine if standards have been met. These certifiers also verify that companies claiming to sell FSC certified products have tracked their supply back to FSC certified sources. This chain of custody certification assures that consumers can trust the FSC label.

Fair Trade Certified

The Fair Trade Certified label is a leading independent, third-party consumer guarantee that companies have complied with strict economic, social and environmental criteria for particular products, thereby creating a more equitable and sustainable trade system for producers.

The principal criteria of Fair Trade certification are:

  • Direct trade with farmer organizations, bypassing unnecessary middlemen
  • Fair prices for farmers, and decent working and living conditions for workers
  • Free association of workers and farmers, with structures for democratic decision-making
  • Access to pre-financing, and additional premiums for community and business development
  • Sustainable agricultural and farm management practices, including restricted use of agrochemicals and no GMOs

When consumers see a product with the Fair Trade Certified label, they are guaranteed that farmers received a fair price and all of the other benefits of the Fair Trade system. To date, sales of Fair Trade Certified products have supplied nearly $80 million in above-market revenue to millions of farmers, workers and their families in over 50 developing countries worldwide.

Green Guard Environmental Institute

The mission of GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) is to improve public health and quality of life through programs that improve indoor air. In accordance with that mission, GEI currently has three third-party certification programs.

  • GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified – Product certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finish systems.
  • GREENGUARD for Children & Schools – Product certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finish systems used in educational (daycare and K-12) environments.
  • GREENGUARD for Building Construction – Building certification program for newly constructed multifamily and commercial properties that follow best practice guidelines for preventing mold during the design, construction and ongoing operations.

Food Alliance

A nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable agriculture by recognizing and rewarding farmers who produce food in environmentally friendly and socially responsible ways, and educating consumers and others in the food system about the benefits of sustainable agriculture.

Food Alliance operates the most comprehensive third-party certification program in North America for sustainably produced food. Food Alliance Certified distinguishes foods produced by farmers, ranchers and food processors who use environmentally and socially responsible practices. FA runs the Farm and Ranch Certification Program and Handler Certification Program.

Green Globe

Green Globe is the worldwide benchmarking and certification program for the travel and tourism industry.

Green Globes environmental reports demonstrate responsible behavior across the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental management. Green Globe states that partnering with Green Globe will help a business increase and sustain its profits while meeting Corporate Social Responsibility obligations.

The Rainforest Alliance

Works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. Companies, cooperatives and landowners that participate in our programs meet rigorous standards that conserve biodiversity and provide sustainable livelihoods.

The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal of approval makes it easy for consumers to know they are buying a product that has been grown or made sustainably. The companies who sell these products also make sure their customers know they are good neighbors in their communities and that they take care of their workers and protect the environment.

Business Week – Sustainability Is the New Driver of Innovation

22 05 2007

Business Week

If you’ve been reading our earlier posts on social responsibility as a source for innovation, you know that we suggest that social responsibility can be used strategically to create new compelling value for the industries and professions associations represent.

This is not simply about the greening of business. You miss the point. This is about “rethinking and redesigning how to enhance business efficiency, productivity, and profitability” that will improve the external costs created by wasteful practices and grow business.

For instance, if you would like to reduce your costs budgeted to combat or comply with regulations and plow the savings into product development that adds member value, you’ll be particularly interested in using a sustainable business strategy to redesign your business. So this could possibly affect association operations and how we manage besides the companies or professions we represent.

Please read the earlier posts on this site on Cradle to Cradle and Interface Carpet to understand. Use the search function to the right.

BW columnist Bruce Nussbaum posted a new article today entitled Sustainability Is the New Driver of Innovation.”

He writes….

“I’ve been talking to the Nike folks lately and learning a lot about viewing sustainability as an energizer of innovation and a growth engine for corporations. This is important because however much people want to perceive sustainability in terms of “limits to growth” and “restraint on excess,” we need to link it to economic expansion and business development if it is ever going to have any chance of succeeding in the US. Harnessing sustainability to change the WAY we grow–Bill McDonough’s cradle-to-cradle paradigm–is critical.

With the political election season starting to heat up, I would like candidates to begin moving beyond yakking about global warming as a threat to a conversation about the kind of solutions that make sense for us. Promoting sustainability as a business enterprise offers enormous opportunities for new products, new processes and new profits. We have all been critical of the corporate community in the US for being so far being Europe on the sustainability issue. But, frankly, it has only been the last year or two that the culture at large has tipped green. Now everyone from IBM and GE to a whole slew of startups such as bio-clothes maker Nau, are piling. This is a very good thing.

And stay tune to Nike. It has a big announcement on sustainability coming up. Marketers and brand managers should watch what Nike is about to do. There is a real, but small market for what I call “hairshirt” environmentalism, which asks for people to do less. I myself fall into that category, believing that we should live lightly on the land (who really needs 30,000 square feet McMansions?) and “consume” by way of having great experiences in our natural environment, not gobbling up more stuff.

But most folks want “more,” as Seth Godin puts it and you can have that “more” in a much better, planet-friendly way (as McDonough points out, forests grow and they grow fast–but they’re not polluting). The US and European cultures want this kind of growth. Corporations have to follow or fail.”

Association executives must take advantage of this opportunity or risk watching your industry or profession innovate you into irrelevance. Be part of this process, promote the innovators in your market. Learn from them and apply this knowledge in your own business.

Because one day, how associations operate today will not be viewed charitably by your board members who are innovating today.

Confidence & Innovation (Part 2) – Turnarounds of Gillette & BBC

22 05 2007

Confidence by Rosabeth Kanter

This is the second post in this series on the role of intangible asset management in innovation which began this week profiling the book “Confidence” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Today we look at two case studies from her studies of organizations who succeeded at reinventing themselves.

Facing ResponsibilityGillette’s Turnaround

In 2001, Gillette was a well known global brand which had not kept up with marketplace innovations. Gillette had championship assets but a minor league cultural system that mired its people in bad habits and avoidance of responsibility.

Their new CEO Jim Kilts and his leadership team moved to transform this behavior while solving business problems. Their actions forced the company to take a look at itself, face facts, and restore responsibility and accountability. Kilts’ guiding principles included:

  • Straight talk about problems and expectations
  • Courage to admit responsibility
  • Open dialogue and widespread communications
  • Clear priorities and attention to detail
  • Performance feedback

They placed all of the facts on the table with no room for those responsible to avoid them. This included a complete top down analysis of strengths, weaknesses and key issues. He clearly articulated his expectations in terms of a new behavior he desired (set and achieve realistic targets; annual and quarterly objectives with structured feedback).

Gillette drowned in meetings. Kilts introduced a new more efficient meeting approach that promoted fact-based management, open communication, simplicity, collaboration, measurement, reports, and methods for working together. He wanted excellent performance that included the ability to collaborate across business units.

Kilts emphasized cultivating one-on-one customer relationships. Visits to customers for developing an ongoing dialogue was essential. Quarterly objective reviews of business units were instituted on a few broad priorities for growth with detail on implementation (e.g. business, markets, competition).

Managers were encouraged to break down performance into specific elements, look at details, chart statistics, and assess patterns. Each business unit maintained a “business health chart” tracking key indicators. Quarterly meetings were held with top management to score postings and provide coaching.

In October 2005, Procter & Gamble bought 100% of Gillette for $57 billion.

Inspiring Initiative & Innovation – BBC’s Turnaround as “One BBC”

Of all the pathologies that accumulate, the most damaging to people and organizations is passivity and learned helplessness. The true test of any culture is whether it is possible for everyone to take initiative and for everyone to be trusted to perform when the pressure is high.

Cultural change begins with symbols and messages from management but must be accompanied by behavioral changes through formal programs that support the culture, leadership, and competency development of your human resources (staff or volunteers).

Beginning in 2000, director-general Gene Dyke started a turnaround of the world’s largest news organization who had historically lived off the license fees charged to British consumers. The result had been a slow, bureaucratic, low risk tolerant organization that stifled innovation. But Dyke and his team worked to rebuild the BBC culture around themes and underlying management practices that promoted:

  • Just do it – “don’t complain make something happen”
  • Inspire creativity everywhere – “everyone has a say”
  • Connect with all audiences – “build genuine customer contact”
  • Value people – “respect them, give them initiative”
  • Lead more, manage less – “focus on a vision, motivation to reach it”

Each of these themes were led by a employee team to develop initiatives around them.

Within 18 months Dyke’s One BBC cultural change initiative demonstrated evidence of a culture of innovation was growing:

  1. Departures from tradition – popular programming was being developed locally rather than “only London” by going out into the community to learn from customers
  2. Fast, decisive action – faster time to market for programming that often went against the old BBC charter guidelines
  3. Innovations through collaboration – web site interactivity increased across all business units led by its New Media group to create new customer experiences
  4. Surprising successes – a new trainee used training video funds to create a ten minute pilot for a new comedy about life in a dead end, white collar job – and The Office was born.

Lessons Learned

Leaders can energize depressed people, passive teams or sluggish organizations when they:

  • Believe in people and their power to make a difference. Leaders must show this through investing in the things that matter to people.
  • Redirect energy tied up in negativity into more positive action.
  • Make initiative possible and desirable by making it easier to contribute new ideas and support systems that fund and manage them.
  • Start with small wins…things people can control. Give them a taste of victory.

Leadership is about how you build confidence in people. Leaders should articulate standards, values and visions. Leaders should be role models, leading through the power of example. Leaders must build formal mechanisms to support confidence: processes, routines and structures. Leaders must ensure to deliver confidence at many levels: the self, among one another, in the system, among stakeholders (internal and external).

DNA of Confidence for Organizations

Kanter lists three imperatives based on her research.

1. Individual and System Accountability

  • Foster straight and factual discussion
  • Communicate expectations early
  • Repeat the standards to everyone through clearly articulated goals and priorities
  • Ground vision in details of execution
  • Make information transparent and accessible
  • Access to abundant performance data empowers

2. Mutual Respect, Communication, Collaboration

  • Structure collaborative conversations -across positions, departments, groups
  • Reinforce respect and inclusion – not just with stars but all team members
  • Define joint goals and collective definitions of success – create “wins” where everyone benefits

3. Initiative, Imagination and Innovation

  • Open channels for new ideas
  • Welcome from everyone, every place…fund them, praise them, sponsor them
  • Treat people as experts in their work
  • Encourage small wins and grassroots innovation

A Leader’s Ultimate Work
Leaders build and strengthen ties with their stakeholder network that provides support, loyalty, revenue, or capital. A turnaround requires closer, more collaborative efforts with stakeholders than normal.

Your organizational values are key to your character. They can be taught and communicated. They can be reinforced. Once instilled, people will use them to internalize them by being more accountable, collaborative, and risk taking.


Confidence & Innovation (Part 1) – Importance of Managing Intangible Assets

21 05 2007

Confidence by Rosabeth Kanter

Hardware is to software as innovation is to people. It isn’t enough to have the right technology, the right strategy, or even some of the best performers in order to innovate. If you seek to build and sustain innovation then you need a strategy that nurtures your people assets and builds a strong values-driven organizational culture.

In 2005, the well known author/consultant/speaker Rosabeth Moss Kanter published her latest book, “Confidence” which studied winners and losers to understand the systems used to create powerful organizational culture that can innovate. Drawing on more than 300 interviews with leaders in business, sports and politics, Kanter shows how systems that promote accountability, collaboration and teamwork turn groups of “individuals” into powerful teams.

This post is in two parts:

  • What makes winners sustain excellence over a period of time and how they can go into losing streaks
  • Examples of innovators who turned losing streaks into winning streaks

Winning Culture Is all about Leadership

Winners Value & Nurture

  • Mutual Respect – throughout the organization and two-way (top/down, bottom-up)
  • Opportunity – what you learn here can build a rewarding career while you are here
  • Support – a willingness to invest in people if you show initiative
  • Ethics – doing business the right and fair way
  • Communicate/Share – collaborate to inform, learn, advise, etc
  • Performance – everything we do is measurable or not done at all
  • Initiative – do what it takes to succeed
  • Leadership – be accountable for one’s actions or inactions
  • Creativity – try new things, experiment, think different, mistakes are ok

Kanter’s research showed consistent patterns of behavior led businesses or teams to winning or losing streaks. People gravitated toward behaving in ways that support confidence. For instance, they accepted being accountable and avoided blaming others, they wanted to work together better, and they took greater initiative because they knew that what they did mattered to management.

She found that routines activate talent by building a discipline of accountability and using self and peer evaluations that scored attitude, character, performance, discipline, leadership, community, and ambition.

Those who scored well were identified as having the most desirable leadership talent. Winners would contrast these scores against the organizations core values to assess fit and weed out those who didn’t or wouldn’t.

Winners reward “the act of taking initiative.” They study outcomes of initiative taken to learn from success or failure. They realize that creating and preserving leadership dynamics is core to team success.

HR practices most used by winners included:

  • Selective hiring
  • Extensive training
  • Extensive information sharing (knowledge management)
  • Performance feedback
  • Reduced status distinctions among different levels of management
  • Rewards were performance-based
  • Promoted self-managed teams
  • Encouraged decentralized decision-making

Winners receive many advantages from their success. Their external confidence attracted:

  • Better recruits who want to test their abilities and work with other top talent
  • More access to influence and information (power networks)
  • More career opportunities
  • Better “after life” (legacy boost once an employee moves on)
  • Better deals come to them from those who want to deal with them
  • Easier to attract top volunteers
  • Less costly business deals, more gifts, better positioning opportunities
  • Better means to be selective

When Losing Streaks Occur – Denial and Powerlessness
Kanter also found commonalities were present among organizations and teams who went from winning to losing and those who sustained prolonged losing streaks. Winning ends when threats and problems are denied. This denial can be a deliberate or unconscious act or tendency.

While winners excel at trends analysis and the ability to adapt to market changes; losers let it ride. While winners face problems head-on; losers practice avoidance.

Denial comes because decision-makers make flawed assumptions based on past successes, management doesn’t routinely examine “relevance” of one’s operations or products and services to new situations. They don’t want to see, hear, or speak trouble which Kanter calls”destructive defensiveness.”

Cover up is eventual. People protect themselves from change or their mistakes from exposure, make topics off limits, and cover up the cover up.

Overcoming Denial

Having a system that reinforces accountability, collaboration, and initiative will rebuild confidence and problem-solving to promote open dialog, objective diagnosis, and mobilization that can take corrective action to defeat denial. In essence, the greater the level of confidence the better able organizations become at self-examination and action.

Powerlessness Corrupts
Turf warfare increases when managers retreat to defend against change. Centralized decision-making kills cross-functional or cross-department projects and initiatives. Then people share information less and the organization becomes less aware or caring causing isolation and avoidance. Perceptions of a lack of respect often follows.

People become timid. Set low goals. And feel their effort will not make a difference. Defeatist attitudes even make way into product or service pricing through “price discounting traps” designed to achieve a short term win that only makes it worse.

Decline becomes a trajectory not a state rising from an accumulation of decisions, actions and commitments that self-perpetuate. Losing streaks begin in response to a sense of failure, falling out of control, and loss of confidence when organizations have poor coping mechanisms and people fall back into self-protection.

Warning Signs

Finally, Kanter defines nine pathologies of losing.

  1. Communication decreasesLosers are four times as likely to keep information in the hands of small groups and in secret.
  2. Criticism and blame increases – Social psychologists distinguish between “informational feedback” and “controlling feedback” which is seen as punitive and destructive to self-esteem.
  3. Respect decreases – People lose respect in others and confidence in the system; losing organizations are perceived as being three times more likely to tolerate low performers, low hiring standards. Failure to root out bad wood rots good
  4. Isolation decreasesHalf of people in declining organizations rarely or never socialize with peers outside of work compared to only a quarter of those from successful ones.
  5. Focus turns inward – Self-focused organizations perpetuate losing; studies show that self-focused attention is associated with depression and failure experience.
  6. Rifts widen and inequities growPeople in losing situations are four times as likely as winners to say their team or work group never or rarely pull together nor present a unified image. Losers are twice as likely to be characterized by internal rivalries or competition between groups.
  7. Stereotypes are perpetuated – Initiative decreases losers are likely to do just the minimum, rarely or never make suggestions. General work style for losers is nearly twice as likely to include many ingrained policies and routines that are hard to change; and 1/3 offered zero encouragement to those who propose new ideas or support new projects
  8. Aspirations diminishPeople in losing organizations are more likely to report that others don’t care about performing to higher standards. Pessimism is associated with excuses for failure, denial of responsibility and drives a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  9. Negativity spreads – Energy loss significantly erodes momentum and promotes stagnation

Ingredients of a Turnaround

It is possible to turn losers into winners. Kanter’s research shows that you need:

  • A Superb leader/coach
  • Franchise “players” who execute
  • Excellent HR department
  • Outstanding infrastructure tools and support
  • Core strategy
  • Fixing operational problems
  • Emphasizing a culture of sustained excellence

Every turnaround starts with the same overriding challenge: the need to make unpopular decisions while restoring confidence. Barriers to action slow the desire to act. These include: lack of imagination, lack of power, and passivity.

Immediate action (financial, strategic or operational) alone will not stop losing streaks without a system of “cultural change” that instills a winner’s attitude and confidence.

In a future post we will examine the turnarounds of Gillette and the BBC.



BBC Innovation Labs – Accelerating Good Ideas into Profitable Opportunities

17 05 2007

BBC Innovation Labs

Not Your Dad’s Same Old News

Besides Gannett (who we featured in an earlier post this week), the BBC in the UK has become one of the most innovative news, information and entertainment operations in the world today. The BBC turnaround story is a fascinating one which was featured in Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s book “Confidence” and illustrates how important developing systems to manage intangible assets are to innovation, collaboration, initiative and trust. More on that later.

Today we showcase their Innovation Labs. What are they?

Innovation Labs is a program for “commissioning and developing innovation projects with independent third parties by creating an “innovation community” to explore near-term product research (1-3yrs) that can have commercial application. These Labs help BBC learn how it can collaborate with outside creative, content or production talent.

In essence, this is a faster way to tap the community for user contributed ideas that meet BBC needs and then turned into rapid proto-types that can have a business case developed for it.

Innovation Labs use a three stage process:

  1. “Launch Days”– meetings with interested third parties to share BBC strategies and briefs
  2. “Idea Filtering” – scoring “idea” submissions from the website and selecting teams to invite to the Labs
  3. “Labs” – are a five day rapid prototyping workshop that end with third parties presenting their pitches on the last day

Third party ideas are “IP protected” and give BBC an exclusive three month first look.

The BBC partnered with several regional creative agencies who shared in the funding and ideation process.

In 2006, BBC conducted three pilots in different regional locations – Yorkshire, North-West and London. Over 170 ideas were submitted to the website with 29 ideas chosen for invitations to the Labs. Twelve were later invited for further development following the Lab pitches.

Some of these included:

  • Technophobia – A CPS tool to help local sports clubs feed info to

  • i-Tabloid – A navigation tool to help users with learning difficulties access content using visual icons/imagery

  • aMap – An argument mapping tool to illustrate complex arguments

  • Ymogen – A set of geo-mobile tools to capture and illustrate athletes training

  • Bleep/Synergy – A “track by track” music education/making tool/platform

  • Luckybite/Kidsize – A set of tools to make CBBC content more accessible for the under 4’s

  • Coolbook/Headshift – A social bookmarking game for teens

  • Dubit – Visual navigation/contextual search application

  • Poke/Amberlight – Recommendation engine base on ‘taste profiles’

  • StarDotStar – A tool to capture and illustrate feedback via mobiles in real time. A prototype is planned for Eurovision 2007

Can you imagine asking your own internal IT department to design and deliver these product concepts? Can you imagine being able to develop such ideas to enhance your own member experience in so short a time?

What Innovation Labs gives BBC is a chance to tap the best creative and technical people to innovate new value that can be integrated into new or existing BBC customer experiences. They have streamlined the first phase in product development “ideation” and brought outside innovations inside to meet stated plans.

Lesson Learned

The Labs were a very effective way to see lots of ideas in a short period of time.

The better the brief and contextual information they provided, the better the ideas.

The Labs were creative, collaborative and stimulating – a good opportunity to just focus on ideas for a long period of time, but the ideas have taken too long to get to next stage. They feel this can be improved.

Plans for 2007

BBC added a major new partner the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts which is the UK’s largest single endowment devoted exclusively to innovation.
They will provide business growth and professional advice to all invited third parties.

Four Labs will cover twelve regional development areas in the UK.

The Labs will focus on the following BBC priorities and seek submissions to meet these needs:

  • Localness on – There are currently 55 separate Where I Live websites on containing a mix of local news, sport, information and community content from across the UK. How can BBC offer local content in more innovative and flexible ways to engage and reflect the relevant local content and conversations taking place on the web?

  • News services for young people – BBC News currently has a declining reach amongst 14-24 year olds, and wants to grow this reach via innovative new products. How could BBC deliver BBC News in an engaging and interactive way to this audience via the BBC News website and platforms like mobiles, online games, public screens or social networking sites?

  • Real-Time Sport – BBC Sport is looking to increase its interactivity around the major events in the sports calendar (eg Wimbledon, Rugby World Cup, Euro 2008, Olympics, etc). In particular BBC is looking to provide innovative services to enhance its coverage of the live action, in real time. BBC seeks to increase its reach among younger (15-24) audiences and are exploring opportunities on the BBC Sport website, but also on mobile platforms and on the wider internet beyond

  • Cross platform/location navigation – The BBC is looking for more ways to move users between interactive platforms where there is complementary content and experiences available. How can BBC move users between various media platforms and physical locations to increase the quality of their BBC experience by delivering them relevant content?

  • Interactive Drama & Entertainment – The BBC is looking for new ways to tell stories online. It is looking for ideas aimed at young audiences who are familiar with the web (13-19 year olds) and at older, more mainstream audiences who are becoming more comfortable with the technology. Successful proposals will have an understanding of:

  1. how new web technologies can add depth to the storytelling process,
  2. how gaming elements can be incorporated,
  3. how social networking elements could be incorporated.

This case study is a good reminder on the importance of several factors needed to initiate and sustain innovation: being open to new approaches, tapping ideas from the outside, leveraging partnerships, using a product development process that is common across your business, and maintaining a culture and staff competencies to manage same.