KARL MOORE – This Is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak to Bill Fischer from IMD, the leading business school in Switzerland.
Bill, when we look at it, you and I have faced much more change today than we did 20 years ago. How does an individual, a manager at the middle management level, handle that kind of increased change?
BILL FISCHER – It is not only increased change but it’s reduced budgets and manpower so it makes the problem even more difficult. My sense is that we need to convince every manager, no matter what function that they are in, that they have innovation responsibilities and then we need to provide insights on how they can do this without investment, other than their own time, and without permission. My sense is that it’s more of a mindset change than anything else. If we can convince people that they are in fact responsible for innovation, innovation begins with them, then there is all sorts of things that they can do that require neither investment nor permission that will increase the propensity to get a good idea in whatever it is that they do.
KARL MOORE – So that is about the individual manager, how about from a CEO level? What is your take on this issue from a CEO [standpoint]?
BILL FISCHER - CEOs who ought to be embracing innovation as a way to break out of the problems that they have almost inevitably constrain it. I don’t think they do it deliberately or maliciously but they do it unconsciously - focus on the numbers, focus on the short-term. My sense is that what we have to do is convince CEOs that change is fundamental; that for the rest of their lives, and their organizations lives, big changes are going to be more the norm than the exception. And then I think we need to give them tools, concepts and approaches that make such change less forbidding, less personally forbidding but also less forbidding for their organizations as a whole. There is a wealth of concepts out there and lessons to be learned from successful organizations that have reinvented themselves but so many CEOs are so busy selling the financial prospects for their organizations to the financial community that they are not cognizant of what is available. So I think part of our message is how to get those - you are an innovator, you need to be an innovative leader, you need to be curious, how do we instill this in a CEO mind.
KARL MOORE – How do encourage them, how do you get them to say, “No I need to be back inside innovating”?
BILL FISCHER – I think at the moment I believe that the best way to do it is to go through the business model. So if you can expand the business model, and think about the various elements of the business model, first you are using a vocabulary that is familiar to the CEO but you what you can begin to do is to prototype with, “What if we change this, what if we change this market segment? What if we change this value chain partner? What if we change the activities that we do or don’t do?” You can begin to build layer by layer a sense of the potential of innovation that is finance friendly, if you will, but also can unleash very powerful forces from within the organization itself.