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Innovation is about "Getting Out of the Box"...So what?

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What do we mean by “The Box”? Is this outside or inside of us? If you think about it The Box is who we are today – made up of deep beliefs and assumptions from our life’s experiences so far. Everyone’s boxes are different and unique. We tend to associate with and hire people who have a box similar to ours: not a good practice if one wants to expand and grow. 

To help you discover your own box, here are some questions for you to think about.

  1. Where is this Box? What material is it made up of? How tall is it? How big is it to others?
  2. Who can come in your box? Who cannot?
  3. Does everyone have a box?
  4. When one is born, did the box exist? How does it get created?
  5. What is the role of parents in creating the box for their children?
  6. What is the role of a manager in crafting a box for new hires, especially new graduates?

The Box is one’s “context” or “point of view” about what is right and what is wrong. 

Most of us are happiest when we are at the center of the box. We don’t like to be pushed to the corner of the box. We get scared. What does that mean? 

The center of the box is where the left brain is most happy. It is where everyone around expects us to be in order to do “the work” assigned to us. Most of us work from the center of the box on a daily basis – routine patterns, nothing new, boring, etc. 

The best innovators are keenly self-aware of their own box and its characteristics. They also have trained themselves to go to the edge of the box on daily basis. They also “jump-out of the box” often to find new ideas, see what others don’t see, and are not fearful. They are “lost” (deeply loving what they do) when they are away from the center of the box. They in fact hate being stuck in the center of the box. Most people look at them as “different.” They become innovators because of their out of the box qualities along with an ability to navigate organizational systems and overcome deeply rooted orthodoxies. They can be considered corporate missionaries. 

Finally, the very best, the world-class innovation leaders are fully aware of their box and also the boxes of others around them. They also love to get outside the box. So what is the difference between the best and the world-class? The world-class innovators also know how to pull others outside of their respective boxes as well. 

Organizations must learn to create a pipeline of such leaders to deal with the complex and fast changing world. 

What is your organization doing to institutionalize out of the box environment and reward out of the box thinking?

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How Innovative is your Organization?

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You must be having certain parameters or yardsticks to judge the performance of your organization and exactly calculate the return on investment (ROI) vis-à-vis the planning, the performance and the potential. Despite all the available mechanisms of analysis, most leaders fail to understand the immeasurable gap between speculations and reality. The root cause of this immeasurable gap can certainly be tracked down to a few intangible factors. Primary among them is the capacity to innovate for a particular brand, organization or a corporate entity.

Innovation Obstacles

The major problem faced by an organization is the absence of a clear directive or formula to innovate. The work force, which is a major decider of innovation, largely works as a cog in the machine rather than a radical unit intelligent enough to innovate as hierarchical processes are better preferred by a linear human resource.

Another area which makes innovation a difficult process to be imbibed by your workforce is lack of liberty to express in a highly structured system.  Whenever there is lack of liberty at an individual level, an organization fails to innovate on the whole. More structured-driven the culture, harder it is to embrace innovation; which by its nature, is somewhat unstructured.

Organizational culture is a result of inherited and tolerated past behaviors of the staff; especially the leaders at the top. Organization suffers from lack of innovation due to contemporary business practices and the nearby environment it operates in. Thus, innovation as a process should begin at the level of an individual with full support of the leaders. This can lend a character to an organization where performance, profit and potential grow manifold by significant innovation on intangible, impromptu research, and management decisions.

How ready is the culture for innovation?

How adept your workforce is with a dynamic knowledge system or how porous they are with circumstance fluctuation are simple questions which help you to approximately understand how innovative your organization is. However, to ensure that your organization is ready for such innovation trials you need to first make sure that your organization is innovation-ready.

At The DeSai Group, our innovation consulting processes are deliberate and drastic. They are designed to be transformative in nature. We believe in a sustained innovation strategy instead of piecemeal innovation. This means that our consulting techniques rely heavily on a dramatic change to completely undermine forces of resistance and new growth opportunities. As necessity is the mother of invention, we facilitate an environment in your organization where necessity is induced to alter psychological performance and create a climate of innovation. The process makes your workforce rehearse find measures of self-innovation. This means there are real entrepreneurs working on their passions in an environment that promotes experimentation, risk-taking, and future thinking.

The right brand image within insiders of an organization is a necessary precondition for any kind of innovation. If a nagging employee has a negative attitude toward the organization’s optimism the result is not only affecting the performance of the concerned individual but the overall environment as well. Such individuals can be motivated through vigorous team-building and venturing skills.

The process of innovation is largely a psycho-social process wherein knowledge transfer and experiential methods are largely employed to achieve the goal. We, here at The DeSai Group,  clinically approach the intangibility quotient of innovation through hard-core rational, analytical science we call “Innovation Execution Methodology”, while keeping in mind that innovation is also very much a form of art and it is the artistic and unpredictability that actually gives rise to new ideas for commercialization and value generation.

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Nine Excellent Ways To Stifle Innovation

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Innovation doesn't just happen…it comes from awesome intrapreneurial teams. Are you or your company guilty of killing good ideas?

Yes, everyone at the top is interested in innovation. It has become a business mandate in many organizations. But are the leaders serious? We find that plenty of companies are not walking the talk. They want innovation, but also don’t want to recalibrate the organizational systems. These systems are where a good idea has as much opportunity to succeed as me going to the moon. Why so?

For starters, organizations do not have an internal muscle for a creative process. The creative process is not well understood and it is truly a fragile process. This situation promotes uncertainty; something most leaders do not want to spend time on. Additionally, there are very few internal experts who can support it and nurture it like there are for project management processes, customer service processes, budgeting processes, etc. This is very tough in today’s short-term focus surrounded by the fear-inducing environment of rapid technological change and dynamic markets—but this also makes innovation essential.

So what to do? First, kill the innovation killers. Here is our list of innovation killers that will need significant moderation if not surgical removal. You can discover for yourself if you have an environment that is crushing good ideas or allowing growth and change to be welcomed.

  1. Clear(?) and cumbersome approval processes, rules, regulations for every action at every level within the organization. Making decisions takes forever and when they are made, they take forever to implement. Too much process everywhere.
  2. Silos are promoted. The organization loves to allow departments and individuals to compete against one another for resources and protect their areas.
  3. The truth is one-sided the truth comes mostly in the form of criticism without praise. The glass is always half-empty. The focus is so much on execution, that the culture often forgets the impact on human spirit.
  4. Don’t trust new ideas. All ideas are evaluated with great suspicion and ‘yes, but’. When someone contributes a new idea, the first thing someone says is ‘yes but…’ followed by ‘not sure if we can do that, or we have never done that before, or management will not approve it, etc.’ Moving away from the status quo is very difficult and not often welcomed.
  5. Control and calibrate everything. The organization is very systematic, dashboard driven, precise, and project managed. Although all of that is very essential, the system does not allow for any quick experimentation of new ideas or technologies with spontaneity. Missing target goals is frowned upon more than the lessons gathered through failure.
  6. Organization is very secretive. Restructuring, product launches, competitive news, and executive changes all occur in a secretive manner. Leaders believe that “the less people know, the better they can stay focused on the day-to-day job.” The firm does not like to share bad news with employees until the last minute. 
  7. Promote class-based relationships. There are seniors and inferiors. Seniority and tenure are heavily used to promote fear-based execution. The culture perpetuates the idea that seniors know everything and they should get the best of everything. The higher you are up in the ladder, the more you are allowed to look down at others. Unpleasant duties can be delegated to inferiors.
  8. The pyramid is inverted. The higher-ups know everything important about the business, and the bottom does not need to know how the business should be conducted; as long as they do what they are trained to do.
  9. Leadership is invisible. Leaders are not able to connect to employees. Employees do not have confidence in the leaders based on their action and those of the top management team.

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Innovation Tatva(Truth) #2: Put a ceiling on time.

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  By setting time limits, things get done. Time is one of five most critical resource. Protect it with passion - no matter the size of the challenge.

Put a large clock in every meeting room and make it your team's best friend for every meeting. Some of our client's estimate that they spend almost 75% of their time in meetings - and half of them are unproductive and not needed.

In our work, we have found innovators who love to experiment all day, just for the sake of learning and broadening their insights. This is a critical activity, but when compounded with other innovators who also love to learn, the team may collect lots of insights and new knowledge, but no results.

Make sure all innovation is tied to strategic results - hard or soft. Hard being financials such as revenue, profit, EBITDA, etc. Soft goals can be customer satisfaction, knowledge of new technology, lessons learned from a pilot project, market variables that worked or did not work, etc.

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Innovation requires "Corporate Freaks"

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In today's crisis we need out of the box thinking to move ahead. Looking at the past on how we got this horrific financial melt down is critical. Everyone is asking how are we going to get out of this mess? Who is going lead us out? Who will rise as the leader? Will it me the world bank? National Treasury Leaders? McCain? Obama? Or will it be the (God forbid) "W"?
To get out of this mess, every business is going to have to become more innovative and drive new ideas to the market. Harvesting on old ideas and incremental thinking is going to kill you sooner then you think. So, what will you need to do first?
Hire some 'freaks'. Yes, you heard me! Hire 'freaks' to shake up your organizational culture.
Here is what Tom Peters ( says about freaks:
Why Do I love Freaks? - By Tom Peters:

(1) Because when Anything Interesting happens … it was a freak who did it. (Period.)

(2) Freaks are fun. (Freaks are also a pain.) (Freaks are never boring.)

(3) We need freaks. Especially in freaky times. (Hint: These are freaky times, for you & me & the [fill in whoever you want here]....)

(4) A critical mass of freaks-in-our-midst automatically make us-who-are-not-so-freaky at least somewhat more freaky. (Which is a Good Thing in freaky times—see immediately above.)

(5) Freaks are the only (ONLY) ones who succeed—as in, make it into the history books.

(6) Freaks keep us from falling into ruts. (If we listen to them.) (We seldom listen to them.) (Which is why most of us—and our organizations—are in ruts. Make that chasms.)
Tom is one heck of a communicator, isn't he? Most people in corporations are 'most people' and not 'freaks'. If we had 'freaks' as per Tom, our corporations would not have been normalized to the level of greed, manipulation, selfishness, and chaos that has resulted into a global financial meltdown.

Feel free to view a short clip of Tom Peters speaking on Innovation by clicking here

CEO Bottom-line: Go hire some 'freaks' and fire all the 'ruts' that got you in this mess.

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Building Living Organizations

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Recently I spoke at a conference that had about 150 human resources, talent management and talent development executives. I asked them how many of you are offering and teaching explicitly today creativity and innovation classes to your employees. The answer was 2 out of 150 raised their hands!

Unfortunately, we as businesses are not giving time and attention to creativity and innovation.

First and foremost, the journey to becoming a Living Organization is not a short, quick or fast journey. It is hard to find organizations that have demonstrated what it is like to be a Living Organization and create a living culture.

The following steps are fundamental towards building a living organization:

1) Recognizing that this is a journey. The book, Innovation Journey provides a good account of this journey.

2) Realizing that it is not something you can go outside for and bring it in for implementation such as Six Sigma which can be brought in to optimize of your business process. Living organizations are geared towards unlearning which helps to provide more time and reflection towards creativity. Realizing that is a creativity and innovation journey about being alive.

3) Recognizing that this approach is top-down. It starts from the top of the ladder at the level of the CEO, board of directors and senior executives who must demonstrate what it is like be a part of a living organization. Authentic leaders in the organization must start out by clearly demonstrating their leadership. Once they have succeeded at that you can tell others about it. Individuals at the top of the organization must become fully aware of what a living organization is all about through personal education and new-scar development.

For more on Authentic Leadership, please click here.

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Role of Personal Vision in Innovation

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Many world-class companies cannot survive without a great vision. Especially in the current climate, how can an organization survive without a well-defined vision? I don’t mean vision-statement alone, I mean a real vision – a vivid enough picture of the future that has no boundaries, it is larger then the organization itself, it is far enough in distance to want to work hard for. A great company vision, everyone can see a clear direction, not the exact path, but a focused path to the future.

Good organizations have a vision; Great organizations are living their vision. Any strategy guru will tell you, without a company vision, the company will fail.

Therefore, if company must have a good vision to be successful, why don’t every individuals have a vision? Do you? Do you have it written for your self?

I don’t think it is possible to be ‘tuned-in’ to our work without having our personal vision connected to our work. Is it? Without this connection, doesn’t it just feel like ‘work’?

Who loves to go to ‘work’ everyday? Not too many. Work can become our own worship only if is fun and exciting. How can we be creative in our work if we don’t have a vivid picture of our own future?

For innovation to work, I have already argued that employees must be fully engaged – more often, everyday, in every project they contributing to. ‘Engaged’ being - more creative in their work, more passionate, more meaningful, less stressful, collaborative etc.

Most people I know haven't thought to do a personal vision statement for themselves. The great athletes, as we watched Olympics in Beijing recently, all spoke about how they got there, how they envisioned their accomplishments, how they visualized their success, how they even ‘watched’ the medal ceremony and their dreams coming true years ago.

Aristotle observed that "the soul never thinks without a picture."

Creating a compelling vision for our lives -- one that includes not just a vision of our professional accomplishments but also a vision for family life, education, health, community engagements, travel, and adventures -- can point us in new directions and provide the drive we need to get there. A personal vision statement asks: what do I want to be, do, and contribute in life -- and who do I want to share it with?

Many people struggle with the concept of defining a vision of the good life because it sounds too abstract and distant. Fortunately, authors Richard Leider and David Shapiro have come to the rescue with an elegantly simple definition of the good life: "living in the place you belong, with the people you love, doing the right work -- on purpose."

It is important to realize that a vision is very different from purpose ("mission") and goals. Our purpose is our reason for being, and we should think of it as timeless. Our goals are the targets we want to accomplish, and they are best conceived in near term; usually within 1-3 years. By contrast, our life vision is a vivid description of what we will do with our lives. It’s best thought of over a decade, or even a lifetime. Our life vision should give goose-bumps, make us cry, and take our breath away with its boldness. It should roar with passion and set markers for what we plan to do with our days on the planet.

A personal vision for yourself, may take long time to arise in your consciousness. But, once you have it, it will become your ‘being’, the creative and catalyzing force in your life.

Carl Jung says that "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." In essence, our vision statement is an authentic expression of how our purpose and values play out in the world.

C-Suite Bottom Line: To drive enterprise innovation, and create a remarkable living organization, one of the easiest action you take, is to help every employee craft their personal vision statement. This will allow every employee to put their dreams on the line of their own vision of the good life. Once they can see the line of sight between their purpose, values, and work, then let them go – see what happens to your culture for innovation. Creativity will overflow, ideas will come from everywhere, continuous innovation will become the food for sustainable growth, and therefore business strategies will become reality – faster.


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What is definition of Integrity and its relationship to Innovation?

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Recently a friend asked me what is my definition of integrity. It was an exciting interchange because it helps me deepen my views and obstacles that I am working on within my inner world.

Here is what I said:

1) At the level of highest Universal Truth, it means tight alignment of my thoughts, words, and actions. What I think, must be what I say, and what I do. So, by definition it is Spiritual Integrity - within my self. Many people define integrity from the point of others and not first within themselves. That is fine, but lacks depth and meaning - for me. Integrity therefore is firm adherence to code of personal values - especially moral values. So depending on one's value, virtue and belief system (their level of consciousness), what they think, what they say and what they do, might be quiet different then for others. This does not mean they are not acting with integrity. As long as one is fully aligned from their own internal and higher self, they are acting with integrity. I have to be very careful that I do not judge others in their own integrity. They very well might be acting with full integrity. Does this makes sense?

So how do I know I and others around me are acting with full integrity? That is, how does it show up in my life?

Integrity is a result of three components - Honesty, Respect and Courage.

Acting with integrity means being honest, respectful, and courageous. If I do that correctly, it leads to Trust within myself and with others. Without Trust, we cannot maintain or build relationships with each other. Without relationships, life may have very little meaning - for us mortals that is. Without good relationships, we generally cannot bring our highest self in our work (no matter what we do or what part of our life) and serve others with meaning.

So, I know integrity exists, if my relationships with others have strong bond of Trust and that all three dimensions are active in that relationship. If I lack courage to say the truth to someone, or I have lost respect with someone or them in me, Trust dwindles in our relationship. If trust dwindles, I should feel lack of integrity and I should do something about it.

Integrity is cornerstone for personal creativity. When one is creative with integrity, they are filled with passion in their work and work-teams. There is enough evidence that shows that individuals and teams who act with full Trust (honesty, respect, and courage) with each other, consistently achieve breakthrough results.

Bottom Line for C-Suite and HR: To drive innovation in your organization, simply create an environment of Highest Integrity. Don’t just declare it and talk about it, teach people how to integrate the three components of Honesty, Respect, and Courage in to their work, in to their teams, and with customers. Offer a class on "Integrity 101" and maybe another class on "How to bring Courage in your work 101"

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Are you born to be a leader or can you learn to be a leader?

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It depends on your definition of leadership.

In my experience with building leadership capacity for an organization and coach C-level executives, I would highly suggest you first distinguish between what is Leadership and what is Management for your organization – at the top.

Once you have this definition then look for following traits to build via experiential learning(you can't teach leadership in classroom alone).

One of the best teachers of this subject is my friend Mel Toomey of Generative Leadership Group( He has taught me very important lessons about the topic of leadership, and I regard him as one of the best in the world. He says that most leadership education in Corporate America is Management Training. Leadership is a form of art. Management is a form of science. You cannot teach leadership in a scientific manner. You can create leadership literacy in class – but that is all.

I asked Mel, what is the one most important thing to teach (or learn) for different levels of leaders in a typical organization. Here is what he said:

1) New leaders: learn to TRUST THEMSELVES - a leader's capacity for trusting others is bounded by their trust for themselves.

2) Experienced leaders: learn to PREPARE TO MAKE MISTAKES... One cannot lead unless they are willing to be wrong... the handmaiden of original thinking are mistakes.

3) For senior leaders: learn that they WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION TO MAKE THE DECISIONS THEIR JOB CALLS FOR... By definition, the decisions leaders make involve creating... bringing new things into existence, dealing with matters that are unique. While history will inform a leader, a leader’s decisions involve maters for which they must write the history.

4) Finally for the top level executives: they need to learn to BE A "LEADER EDUCATOR"... the source of growth and innovation in your organization will come from those you educate, develop and mentor as leaders. Be "the coach" and clear the field of play for your "experienced leaders."

If you look at the list above, the question you asked no longer matters. The answer becomes - all human beings have the capacity to be a leader. The difference is, what in the ‘context of leadership’, the ‘play arena for leadership’ are you talking about and what needs to be developed between where they are now and what level of leadership they need to practice. As a side note, most organizational cultures are not tolerant enough for the craft of leadership to be learned fast and safely – en entirely different issue, but an important one.

It is very unfortunate that, many “Leadership Programs” are just that – one brush fits all. Total waste of time and money – most of this stuff does not work.



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Global Warming inside Busineses

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Did you see the movie Incoveniant Truth by Al Gore?

How do you 'power' the business and still fight the global warming (corporate intangible assets) inside of your business?

Does your business have the 'energy' to create peak performance?

What are you going to do when your 'internal natural resources(people)' run out (the door) caused by X-Gen middle management shortage and the Boomers leave for retirement?

Looking at the X-Gen and Y-Gen value systems, what "alternative resources" are you experimenting with to keep the G&A expenses low?

Most businesses have a huge 'climate' problem in their culture. Global Warming in a business culture is reality. Innovations to create Living Organizations fueled by creative energy from with-in, strong leadership at the top, and holistic corporate policy are sorely needed if we are to cope and compete in the new(but getting old fast) flat-world.

Here is brief Mega Story and my Purple Cow (Seth Godin expression-my American-Marketing Idol) solution. Ready? Here it goes:

Mega Story on Global Warming(GW):

1) A prerequisite for life on Earth, the greenhouse effect occurs when infrared radiation (heat) is retained within Earth's atmosphere.

2) Most of Sun's solar energy reaching the Earth is absorbed at the Earth's surface.

3) The warmed surface emits infrared radiation back up into the atmosphere and keeps us warm.

4) Like a blanket, atmospheric green house gases absorb and reradiate the heat in all directions, including back to earth.

5) Human activity has increased the green house gas in the atmosphere and thus at the amount of heat returned to the surface. In consequence, global temperatures have risen.

Mega Story on Global Warming Organizations(GWO):

1) A prerequisite for sustainable life of a company, the 'living' effect occurs when the cultural fabric of any organization, explicitly, integrates human values(the heat energy) into all processes and products.

2) Most of company business (solar energy) reaching company turns into extraordinary compensation for the top, and unequal regard to the rest of the organization.

3) The over cost-cutting and focus on rear-view mirror items, such as process automation, continuous improvement, etc., has created workforces without a clear alignment to the purpose, vision, values, and the brand of the company (the warmed surface).

4) This warm surface, creates unwritten rules and misunderstanding with unplanned constant change initiatives in the climate. This climate emits infrared radiation(unclear, unwritten communication) back up into the atmosphere(culture) and heats up the environment, causing stress, anxiety, and lack of accountability.

5) Like a spiral downwards, atmospheric 'black' cloud of negativity in the air, reradiates and begins to impact your top talent back into other parts of the organization.

6) Human activity in the workplace, in form of pride, jealously, attachment to personal gains, lust, anger, and selfish acts has increased the 'black' house gas in the atmosphere and thus the amount of innovation and creativity is reduced. In consequence, organizational temperatures have risen.

Are you feeling the heat? You may not be. But just like Global Warming, its real and its there in your company.

What is your plan to keep your Organizational Carbon(negative culture) in check?

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