To bring out the best ideas, IBM holds an ‘innovation jam’ at frequent intervals; which are the rewarded and implemented. Regardless of the variety in reach – negative or positive – the outcomes are amazing.
In order to make an impact on the bottom line, strategy needs an effective execution and alignment plan behind it, simply relying on vision and opportunity is not enough. With social participation, crowd-sourcing serves a better fit for operational drivers that will leverage strategy into success.
Companies, with leaders that seek this type of expanded view and feedback as it relates to their strategies, need to be applauded. To allow such a process outside of traditions to work, CEO’s and leadership teams must exhibit confidence and courage, which most generally lack in these scenarios.
As difficult as Steve Jobs was, he realized that customers wanted a computer that was: a) reliable (so they wouldn’t have to feel anxious about being not in control when it broke down) b) simple to use (so they wouldn’t have to feel intimidated, stupid, and inadequate) and c) beautiful to look at (instead of institutional grey and boxy). This drove his strategy. In other words, find out what people truly want and then give it to them instead of telling them what they should want and jamming it down their throats. The same applies to strategy, i.e. find out what the people tasked with executing it want, and then give them that.
It is amazing to see the democratization of society in multiple ways, including, as this article shows, democratization of strategic decision-making. The concepts of open accessibility, rapid spread, channelization, and consolidation of opinions and thoughts through viral networks poses some challenges for leaders. What qualities do leaders need in order to capitalize on a revolution led by social networks and technology?
The reason employees stay silent is they lack confidence in the particular field of the proposed strategy. When they feel that the proposed idea is not good, they just accept it because they assume that “others know more than I do.” At the same time, one reason top managements underestimate the value of employee feedback is they assume their employees do not see the big strategic picture. In order to execute this crowd-sourcing strategy, it is crucial for the company to prepare the internal infrastructure and culture to support it. This can be achieved through open discussions between employees and top management. By creating a supportive and sharing atmosphere in the company, all employees will have much stronger sense of attachment to the organization, and top management can be more confident in the quality of the feedback they are receiving.
Part of the problem lies with the definition of ‘leadership’ and what individuals, companies, and shareholders expect from those at the top of organizations, how much confidence they have in their abilities, and how prepared they are to ‘share’ the role of leader. Leadership, by definition, by action, and by experience, means having the ability and the nous to listen, accept, and filter input and advice from others. It also means communicating and sharing information and delegating a degree of responsibility, but, ultimately, being able to make decisions based on experience.