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Part-1: For CEOs, what are the FOUR critical innovation barriers that must be addressed? (Part 1 of 4)

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In our experience working with other CEOs and senior executives, they have realized that the markets are very unforgiving and will always continue to be unfriendly, and that embracing innovation is not an option, the next logical question they generally pose may be obvious. 

What must CEOs do to embrace innovation while managing the associated risk and overcoming the barriers? 

Before I share with you the four barriers, let me say that the answer lies in developing a clear Innovation Mandate - a strategic statement that describes innovation in the context of your business, the value it promises to generate for growth and disciplined process by which to get there. 

Innovation Mandate must be vividly clear for everyone in your organization; it must be concise to help drive alignment to business unit initiatives, and it must help articulate specific employee behaviors necessary at all levels for innovation climate to take root.  When designed correctly, it is clearly linked and driven by the business strategy. 

Additionally, keys to become innovative are highly dependent on your ability to address four critical barriers that are incumbent in most organizations.  When not addressed together, the journey towards sustainability and value creation invites a higher risk of failure, potentially minimizing the results of innovation investments. 

The first barrier is that most organizations do not have the mindset to harvest ideas and manage those ideas as Venture Capitalists do. This requires demonstrated confidence to consciously fail, experiment often, and win occasionally. Goal is to do more of it, so you can out-compete the markets. 

The sole role of Silicon Valley was to quickly take the best ideas and apply entrepreneurship and agility to turn those ideas into commercial ventures.  Silicon Valley did this because they recognized that large corporations are unwilling to abandon the tightly-knit safety net of resource allocation. 

It is clear that the amount of “innovation opportunities” available to large companies dwarfs the potential available to small companies.  So the myth that only small, nimble businesses can be most agile and innovative is completely false.  In fact, here’s case in point (not to mention hundreds of other such examples): Medtronic, a Fortune 500 Minneapolis based global leader in medical technology, on average used to earn 70% of its sales from products introduced in the previous two years alone.  This resulted in long term sustainable growth of 20% and created a high barrier for its competition to enter into Medtronic’s markets. 

The bottom line: new ideas are easy to find in every corporation; it’s the distinctive capability of turning them into commercial ventures that most companies fall short on. This requires leaders to role-model what innovation means to them and the company.  First step to address this barrier would be to develop an appropriate funding strategy and structure that will quickly demonstrate your commitment to innovation.

For complete details, please download full 23 page whitepaper on “Mastering Innovation – Roadmap to Sustainable Value Creation by Mr. Jatin DeSai”.


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3 Core Principles on Innovation

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The DeSai Group's 3 Core Principles on Innovation are:

    1. All is One

  • Everything is connected. Innovation requires one to see what is not seen or being ignored. Innovators must find deep interconnections and interdependencies - at the level of macro and micro - within an organization. Real innovators understand that their work has ramifications beyond what is currently being visible. 

    2. Thoughts --> Words --> Action --> Outcomes

  • Future Thinking brings awareness of what is possible. This causes development of ideas, both incremental and radical. When ideas get mobilized in form of passionate energy, it leads to new business conditions. Therefore, new thoughts creates new outcomes. To succeed with innovation, people must practice Future Thinking.  

    3. Everyone is Creative and Innovative

  • All human beings have the ability to create - from birth. When we create, we find meaning and purpose in our work. 

For more, feel free to check out:

The DeSai Group:

Blog & Downloads: 

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Significant Innovation since Internet is Social Networking & Web 2.0

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If you want to see a real disruptive innovation since the Internet, get ready for Social Networking and Web 2.0

If you are completely new to Social Networking , go check it out now. If you are a visual learner like me, then you can watch this simple video on YouTube as well:

For example Linked-In is one of my favorite Social Networking sites. There are plenty of others such as FaceBook, MySpace, etc. You will be surprised how many Fortune 1000 companies have pages on these sites. These trends are currently turning the industrial marketing complex upside down. If you have not figured out a way to leverage these new innovations to grow your business, to find talent, to generate leads, your business is about to hit the wall in a very near future.

For example Linked-In is one of my favorite Social Network. I spend hours and hours on it every week. Here is a post from a great Blogger Mickael Nadeau who has summarized the benefits of LinkedIn on his Blog:

  • LinkedIn is a social network where you can interact freely with millions of people;
  • Like other social networks, it relies on viral marketing to grow: you basically invite your contacts to join your network and are, in return, granted to contact theirs;
  • What differentiates LinkedIn from other platforms is that it is primarily intended for businessmen and professionals, recruiters and job seekers… So, you won’t be able to post a picture of your dog there;
  • You can think of it as a virtual board of commerce;
  • It is very straightforward and easy to use.

And some advantages…

o It’s quicker. You don’t have to travel the country to attend conferences, lunches and never ending meetings to get acquainted with people. It is there and full of activity 24/7, no matter why you need it.

o It’s international. Want to speak with a decision maker in India, China or London? No problem: it’s just a matter of a few clicks. A lot of people around the world will learn about you and what you do without ever spending a dime.

o It’s useful. On LinkedIn, you have access to many of the best experts on any given subject. I have had some of my questions answered very intelligently within 2 minutes. In fact, that is how I came to use WordPress for this Blog.

o It’s profitable. There are a lot of leads and opportunities to be discovered on this network. Build your business and your connections at the same time!

o It’s free. Most of us wouldn’t invest in our own personal branding. Because of its scale and because its free, this tool could give you a real competitive advantage when branding your name and accomplishments.

Once you create a LinkedIn account, the best way of grow it is to leverage your current network (which should be growing everyday if you are looking at your new connections everyday already) with the capacity of time and resources you have to devote to growing it. If you are a recruiter for a firm, it might be ok to grow it for the sake of growing it. But if you are like me, using LinkedIn to find leads or find knowledge, quality of contacts are much more important.

So, I suggest you declare your ‘network growth strategy’ first. Once you know this, do everything possible to find update your profile to support that strategy, then answer every questions and pose every question that supports that strategy, and then to open meaningful conversations using external tools (your CRM system, Outlook, Blogs, Company Website, etc.). More qualitative conversations you are having in Linked-In and outside of Linked-In, you will grow your network and achieve your ‘network growth strategy’. 

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How do we identify the "invisible patterns" right under our nose?

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Many organizations are spending a fortune to help predict the future for them and their surroundings. Having a competitive position and sustainable growth requires such investments. As obvious as this seems, in our innovation work at The DeSai Group, we find most organizations lack the art and the discipline to do this well. Most organizations rely on expensive research from outside, or rely on a more recent trend such as “Voice of The Customer” to help predict the future. Most organizations follow the same basic research and analytical resources (such as McKenzie, or Gartner Group, or IDC, etc.) as if that was the only truth to the future. I am not saying these resources and the reports they generate are of no value - on the contrary. They have value, but it is not enough. In fact, it might create negative patterns and limit your window to the future. Most leaders have relegated the tough task of predicting the future to someone else. That is poor leadership. That is not being innovative and lacks true sponsorship for innovation.

Let me take a seemingly trivial example. I’ve been going to a health club since 1985 and was an avid tennis player before that - until I had few operations on my left knee about ten years ago. I remember jogging to stay fit back then, as I still do today. Back then, it seemed that I was mostly alone when jogging. Today if you go to a health club, a local jogging track, Hyde Park in London, or The Jogger’s Park in Mumbai, you could run into a stampede. Trivial, but not so if you are Nike. Today, running shoe category is one of the fastest growth line in the shoe business.

Reflecting on my experience, this signal was about a change in values and attitudes. This is a startling reality and an eye-opener for me. I asked myself, how come I didn’t see this inner-shift in people’s value system sooner? Not only do we have trouble forecasting economic and political change like the oil crisis, but we also treat values and attitudes as if they never change.

Therefore, the $64,000 question is “What is invisible that is invisible?” How many of these patterns are around us today that cannot be seen and are unknown, but right under our nose? How do we identify them before they reach the center of the bell curve, where it ultimately lands on a Commodity Island?

Innovation Prompt #1: How can you and your organization bring early attention to weak signals – weak signals that are about to double in frequency and amplitude, before someone else in your industry does? At The DeSai Group, we call this developing “Deep Insights”. Deep Insights can reveal knowledge that can build differentiated innovation platforms – group of ideas that can either grow the top-line or improve efficiencies. Deep Insights can also reveal potentially disastrous situations to avoid as well. There are disciplined tools and methods, just like any other process, to help you see these unknown patterns – right under your nose!

Innovation Prompt#2: Other strategic question to explore is “What is known now that was previously unknown? Thus, trying to uncover concepts and descriptors, as in this case, “values, beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes”. How are values created? What are the difference between individual’s values, organizational values, societal values, human values, and moral values? How are these related? How are they created? What impacts changes to individual values within your constituencies – leaders, employees, customers, and other stakeholders? To what extent do they change or stay the same? What are their effects on our dynamic and evolving future? How do they link to the new climate and culture you want to build for your organization?

Got ideas or a Deep Insight? Let’s Talk.


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Three Lanes on the Road to Innovation

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In our experience at The DeSai Group, we have discovered three critical lanes on the highway of innovation. If you maneuver correctly across all three lanes, managing your navigation, the car, and the environment, you will succeed in your journey.

If you decide to manage the journey in an informal way, without clear intent on your destination, health of the automobile, or taking the environmental factors for granted, the risks of failure will increase.

If you decide to manage the journey, as you go along, you will ge there, just not fast enough or in the most efficient way possible.

The three lanes on the journey are: Alignment, Insights, and Mobilization.

First is "Alignment". In this lane, the business must specify, clarify and commit to specific innovation vision and mission that will help achieve pre-defined business value – your target destination.

Alignment is about strategically sponsoring, aligning, monitoring, and supporting all innovation activities at every level of the business structure. If properly executed and adjusted as the organization matures, result will be climate and culture of innovation for long-term sustainable business growth.

Second lane is called "Insights". In this lane, the company builds collection of ideas and knowledge, connected or not to each other, for potential implementation. Insights is about analyzing and understanding your efforts to innovate, including the people involved, the processes used and the outcomes achieved. To gain insight into projects, market positioning and corporate performance, you can view Gantt charts, two-by-two matrices and balanced scorecards, respectively. Like these other forms of business insights, Innovation Insight depends on finding (sometimes through visualization and highly diverse breakdown exercises) new knowledge that leads to practical ideas for consideration. What arises from Insights are "Innovation Platforms" and "Fresh Ideas". This helps managers see the state of current initiatives and to tweak and tune those efforts, along with discovery new and novel.

Finally, the last lane on the journey is called "Mobilize". In this lane, it is all about strategic innovation execution. Mobilize is set of processes, methods, tools, and structures that will allow employees and managers (in informed way) to operationalize ideas for implementation/venturing.

It is critical to know that, all three lanes are always at work. The leaders must integrate all three lanes across the portfolio of innovation activities – we call this Strategy-Driven Innovation.

As your organization builds the innovation muscle and the innovation-engine continues to grow, you will need to adjust the integration points as part of the overall business planning conversations and activities at the top.

Would love to here your thoughts as well. 

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CEO Talk: Relationship between Innovation and Innovators

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As a 25 year veteran in business and being an entrepreneur (I started our first family business with my father in 1983 – last year of my college at University of Connecticut), I have always wondered why so many businesses fail and disappear, and why others succeed. Same is true about thousands of people that I have met – how do some people make lot of money (anything they touch seems to turn into Gold), while others always suck-up more resources and generate very little value (ROI, wealth, brand, reputation, etc.).

I have now concluded that some people are “wired” to make money, and others are just not.

To take it further, I think real definition of "innovator" is those who generate value more then they consume resources - simple. Not only once, but almost every single time at bat.

So, as a CEO, if you are committed to innovation as the instrument of choice to help you create a sustainable growth (and profit) engine, put real “innovators” in charge of innovation in your organization. Probability of success will be very high. And your risk will decrease.

Additionally, make sure you are clear on these critical questions as well, before you invest into innovation programs and infrastructure expenses:

  1. How can your organization improve the probability to enhance your organization’s financial performance – particularly relative to that of competing organizations?
  2. Do you know if your team can generate real wealth – high value using minimal resources?
  3. Do you have the right team makeup you need to create value and wealth – based on your organizations’ current life-cycle situation?
  4. Within your team:
    • Do you know who will utilize the most resources and who will utilize the least? 
    • Who will generate the most value and who will deliver the least? 
    • Who may have the required mental agility and who will need a lot of help?

By answering these questions, you will be able to optimize and direct innovation correctly. 

Innovation is the responsibility of the Top-Team. Do not relegate it off to Product Development, or Human Resources, or R&D. Those tactics don’t work anymore alone. More about this issue, later…


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The Game of Innovation

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My dear friend John Madigan, President and Founder of Executive Talent Services (, invited me to give an executive briefing to many of his clients who were all senior leaders from variety of backgrounds with deep corporate experience.

The session was very engaging. During the interactive exchange and free flow of Q&A that was occurring, I realized how important it is for all current leaders (and aspiring leaders) to better understand the Game of Innovation.

Over the last 25 years being an entrepreneur along with real-world field experience, our applied research shows that it takes many elements to nurture innovation, two of those elements are:

1) Innovation is elusive; it cannot be produced on demand, nor can it be corralled or scheduled. In fact research shows that over 75% of ideas that turn into practical business ventures come from unplanned activities.

2) Real breakthrough innovation that matters and has a major impact in practice is extremely difficult to achieve. At best, the organization can create an environment in which innovation seeds are planted and nurtured— so the fruits can be harvested quickly thereafter. This requires foresight, courage, and persistence by the leaders at all levels.

3) Like a game of soccer or ice-hockey, innovation is arduous, difficult and tricky. Be prepared to score a game-winning hat-trick once, maybe twice – but only if you are ‘in the game of innovation’.


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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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