Innovation Needs To Expand To Include “Leadership And Management Innovation”. Business Schools Need A Reset.

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Here is our summer collection. Everybody like these. I guess the message is cool. I get people coming up and ask me where did I get those.  Rethinking management and leadership – one innovation that is less talked about is “Leadership and Management Innovation”, OK what does it mean?

Management practices have always circled around a narrow view of Return on Capital and that drives many of the key business decisions. Optimization of profits, financial capital and assets are an important part of executing a business strategy, but have we thought about how to innovate “leadership and management” itself. I mean new thinking around business strategy that provides additional bottom lines beyond just financial. Where money, purpose and systems are aligned.

Any CEOs who are only interested in maximizing short-term profits or trading hedge funds and companies are not the one that can steward organizations to a healthy and sustainable future. So what do we mean? Here are some examples.

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There are cases of CEOs who have broken away from the norm of the “classical, narrow view of what investor accountability which is suffering from QRB (quarterly returns obsession). What they have been doing in innovating the very core of leadership and management and rethink the role of it. Here are some examples:

Founder and exCEO of Nike, Phil Knight, who responded to global protests by overhauling the company’s labor standards and then lobbied for other firms to be held to the same standards; Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, who sought to convince shareholders that legislation capping US carbon emissions is a smart business move; and Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia who was the first to pledge 1% of annual sales to grassroots environmental organizations and the first major retail company to switch all its cotton clothing over to organic, the first to make fleece from recycled soda-pop bottles.

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Each of these business leaders broke the rules of what their own organizations would have considered the right thing to do, and is not only profits, profits and profits. Leadership requires building a culture of “Integrity”, creating a brand with “Authenticity”, reinforcing purposes and values through “Communities”, encourage the organization’s decision-making style for “Transparency” and making sure key resource decisions need to consider “Sustainability” beyond just environmental.

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Management needs to innovate itself the very idea of management and leadership. CEOs have larger responsibilities, not only creating a viable future for the organizations and return for shareholders; they need to be change makers of our future societies. Real change will not come from governments; it will be the multinationals that possess the power. My observation is that that the biggest constraints that business leaders facing are their “inability to value new types of “competitive advantage” and the true power of “sustainability” embedded in business strategy making.

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Government and NGOs can advocate our social problems, clean water, climate change or obesity or women empowerment etc, but top business leaders are having a hard time interpreting, sense-making, translating them into business strategies, One day we wake up and realize “Sustainability has become the new Capitalism.”

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On a different note, MIT Global Challenge is a wonderful idea towards solving many of our problems. In 2011 the global MIT community will be invited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of a world-changing institution. In the spirit of celebration, innovation and service, the MIT Global Challenge is launching a competition to involve the MIT community worldwide in innovative, multidisciplinary problem solving, reconnecting alumni with the spirit of invention and enterprise that pervades the Institute.

Idea Couture is proud to be a partner to design and develop the platform which is an unique online space through where people can engage in an ongoing, interactive process to identify problems, propose solutions, reward the most innovative and workable ideas, and document experiences as the winning ideas are implemented in communities around the world. Our team is very excited to be on this project.

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There are no shortage of global challenges. Some are really complex. For example, the inequality of the distribution of natural resources on the planet, especially of energy, gives rise to powerful structural tensions within the systems that try to resolve the problem locally with uncivilized methods. 

Another example is business as such. The obvious globalization of worldwide production all the more powerfully enters into conflict with the national character of political activity, when business in the lawless space of an international muddle acquires the forms of earlier, wild capitalism with all the terrible consequences for society and the environment. But the attempts of some public movements to stop the globalization of money flows are waste of effort: no one has the least chance of successfully resisting the laws of economic development. These are no simple challenge that simply throwing money at it can solve the problem or creating a new policy. It truly requires innovative thinking. Probably too much for the sunny weekend.

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I am pleased to officially announce that Idea Couture is the proud sponsor of TED 2010 Toronto. We’re looking forward to connect with others in this exciting event. Expecting to see many cool people.

Off to the arrport to SF for a a few days. Back-to-back meetings but looking forward to meet up with old friends and colleagues.