Author Archive | David Ednie

Collaboration: your path to Sustainable Competitive Advantage?

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”Helen Keller

Web apps and the internet have changed the way we work and live. Today we live in a world where the creative quality of work improves as we move along the “Hierarchy of Communication” from Connect to Communicate to Collaborate to Co-create.

Where would you place your organization on the following 4Cs Hierarchy of Communication?

1) Connect: is all about connecting and being able to connect with others. Connecting with those that you know and those you don’t yet know. Today this has never been easier, simply click to connect, without leaving your office and often without leaving your application. A ‘presence’ indicator lets you know who is there on-line and in your virtual neighbourhood right now.

2) Communicate: Once you have connected you want to communicate. Speaking with the other person now includes speaking with many other people through online virtual meetings. Communicating now includes: chatting, speaking, texting, sharing documents and sharing screens to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas.

3) Collaborate: you communicate so that you can collaborate. There are lots of different collaboration tools, applications and platforms available today that enable us to collaborate effectively across multiple boundaries: organisational, geographical and time zones. Examples vary widely: Skype, TeamViewer, Lync, Office365, Google Apps and Webex to name a few. All allowing you to share, review and contribute to a common project and collaborate together with others.

4) Co-create: you collaborate so that you can create. The desired outcome of collaboration is to create new ways to solve old problems and invent new ways to capture future opportunities. We brainstorm using rich media to engage the collective brain of the virtual community. We build ideas based on human interaction. We invent, create, develop new or better ideas and ways to achieve specific goals and objectives. And we build virtual teams that can deliver continuous creativity which will ultimately lead to sustainable competitive advantage.

Sustainable Competitive Advantage: The ultimate goal of co-creating (and therefore collaborating, communicating and connecting) is to maximise the quality and quantity of your business goals. Sustainable competitive advantage is the sum total of your organisation’s current abilities and future capabilities. By enabling your people to connect, communicate, collaborate and co-create they will produce exceptional solutions to today’s problems and create wonderfully innovative ways to develop future opportunities.


People, Processes or Platform? The challenge isn’t the technology it’s you and your people. The challenge is moving your people along the 4Cs Hierarchy of Communication. So they become more collaborative and adopt and use collaborative applications and tools in their everyday work. You need to set an example by demonstrating an ‘inclusive mindset’ and a bias towards working collaboratively. The cultural change required of your company will be far more difficult than the technological changes.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”General Eric Shineseki, Retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

Are you ready for the new reality?

View: Collaborating in the Cloud: Opportunity or Threat? by David Ednie, posted on slideshare.

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Recognising Markets in Transition: Move everything to the Cloud

It is always easier to see a market transition after it has happened than when you are in mid transition.

“We all have 20/20 vision in hindsight” – Anonymous

Think of the Candle Stick Maker. How many are still in business in your area today? Market transitions are usually not single occurrence events, but often a series of transitions along a larger continuum of change. Candles gave way to oil and then gas lamps, which were in turn replaced by electric light when Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric light bulb in 1879. Conclusion: be highly attentive to change because disruptive change (technological innovation in this case) is a pre-condition for all market transitions.

Market Transition Mindset:

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky, former professional Canadian ice hockey player

Nothing stays the same forever. What you are doing today may be still working, but you know that it is getting harder and harder to achieve the same level of results. OK, it is still working but the real question is for how much longer? You have to move from denial thinking “destroy the forces of change” to status quo thinking “don’t change anything” to possibility thinking “what could we change” to transformational thinking “what would we like to see changed”. By the way, did I say that this was going to be easy? No? Good! Why? Because you (and your organisation) tend to stick to what you (they) are best at, not what is required. Transitions are inherently unnatural acts.

Seek Indicators of Change: The Tipping Point of Markets in Transition.

Today, we are right in the middle of a ginormous market transition – the Cloud. The IT industry is facing an enormous period of brutal change as everything moves to the cloud, allowing users to use their computing devices of choice (PC, tablet, smart phone, other) and those applications they prefer on the OS of their choice. BYOD has gone from being a luxury to being a necessity.

Who will be the Winners and Losers?

Market transitions favour the instigators, the innovators and the early movers i.e. the perpetrators of change. They favour those who upset the game, those who innovate and those who change the rules of the game. They penalize, punish and sanction the rest; the laggards, the slow movers and the ‘no movers’. Will you be a winner or a loser?

The most destabilising aspect of Markets in Transition is that there are no established rules to follow. No established market leaders to compete with. There are no role models to copy or learn from. Your ability to adapt, try, correct, learn and try again is the key to navigating a successful market transition. Be quick to recognize, respond to and take advantage of transitions in your market. Re-think, re-strategize, re-invent yourself and re-position your business to benefit from change. Conclusion: Change before you have to change.

Learn from your Taxi Driver:

Every time I take a taxi to the airport I ask the taxi driver the same question: “How long will it take to get to the Airport today?” You would be surprised by the answers I get. One day my confidence in mankind was restored when the Taxi Driver took out his smart phone, tapped the screen a few times and announced with great certainty that it would take 47 minutes. I was impressed, to say the least! When I enquired about what app he was using he asked: “do you have an iPhone?” Then he told me where to go online to download and install the app and was quick to point out that it was free.

When your Taxi Driver tells you how to get to the cloud, the cloud’s time has surely come.


ROI or ROI? 'Return on Investment' or 'Return on Innovation'?

What percentage of your revenues in 2012 will come from products and services that are less than 18 months old? Are you constantly defending your business, and your offerings against new and improved competitive offerings? Do you find yourself defending the status quo and unwittingly discriminating against the future? Or are you constantly experimenting and innovating in order to bring new ideas and improved offerings to market?

Why are some companies spectacularly successful innovators while others are highly unsuccessful at innovation? Recently I read a Forbes article “The Seven Habits of Highly Unsuccessful Executives” and I was amazed to discover Habit #7: “They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past.” In other words they are prisoners of the past. They have fallen in love with the status quo.

At the other end of the spectrum we find those companies that are highly innovative and thrive on change. Consider IDEO a silicon valley based innovation factory specializing in innovation and design. IDEO’s many clients include companies that have recognized that they lack the ability to innovate in house.

“Failing early to learn quickly.”Tom Kelley, General Manager at IDEO

‘Return on Investment’ thinking seeks certainty and fixed outcomes. Both are highly desirable to be sure but usually at the expense of creativity and innovation.

‘Return on Innovation’ thinking requires a prototyping mindset. Requiring the acceptance of failure as being a measure of progress along the path to success.

A Return on Innovation mindset requires J-curve thinking. ie. the courage to go negative before the possibility of going positive and the courage to make asymmetric bets. Investing in those areas that don’t show a return today at the expense of investing in those areas that are delivering the lion’s share of revenue today.

A culture of knowing or a culture of learning:

Your job is to create a Culture of Innovation: Why is asking for ideas a bad idea? Don’t think outside the box, find a better box. Failure is always an option. Expertise is the enemy of innovation. The difference between a pipeline and a sewer is what flows through it.

Recommendation: Invest massively in innovation, but invest even more massively in your capacity to innovate, as this will ultimately determine your sustainable long-term competitive advantage.

View: Entrepreneurial Leadership by David Ednie, posted on slideshare

Read: The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization by Tom Kelley

Make it happen: lead first, manage second.


Competitive Separation*

Competitive Separation is what makes you or your offer unique, unmatchable. The more unmatchable your offer is, the great the level of competitive separation. Step 1. Determine your current level of Competitive Separation. Step 2. Determine your Aspirational level of Competitive Separation and Step 3. Create a plan to get there.

1. What makes you different?

What makes you different? What are your “Crown Jewels”? Why should your customers care about this difference? How can you leverage this difference to capture new customers and enter new markets? And finally, are you going to develop or acquire your “Crown Jewels”?

“Crown Jewels” are your unique assets that are proprietary to you, hard for competitors to replicate and highly valued by customers. They can be technology patents, size of installed base, disruptive business model, domain expertise, skills and capabilities that are unique to your company. That if developed and positioned properly create sustainable advantages that enable real and measurable competitive separation. We all have them. Sometimes we don’t know what they look like or where they are hiding in our organisation.

2. Who is in your Competitive Set?

Most of us live within the confines of our competitive set. A competitive set consists of you and every other company/capability/offer/product or service that customers perceive as comparable or equivalent. ie. Your customers view you as potential substitutes. Do you have a well-worn list of usual suspects that you compete with? Who is in your Competitive Set today? Should they be? Who will be in your competitive set in 3 years from now? Who would you like to include in your competitive set? Continue Reading →


The Death of Business as Usual: 12 Strategies for Growth in 2012

Welcome to 2012 a year of challenge and change. A year of challenge, why challenge? Because our challenge is to bring about change and this is a major challenge for us all.

“I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways”
– Michael Jackson


“If change were easy, I would have done it long ago.” – Unknown

The challenge of change is breaking through the status quo and that means your enemy in 2012 will be “status quo thinking”. Your job is overcome the Tyranny of Change, not to manage the inevitable. What worked in the past is less and less likely to work in the future. What made you successful in the past will not make you successful in the future. In short: what got you here, won’t get you there. You must turn off the life support system for “business as usual” and embrace the new realities of 2012.

How can you move beyond the status quo and free yourself from the gravitation pull of the past?

12 Strategies for Growth in 2012:

  1. Competitive Separation
  2. ROI = Return on Innovation (not Return on Investment)
  3. Capitalise on Markets in Transition. Move everything to the web.
  4. The Buyer’s Journey: Aligning with your customer’s decision making processes
  5. Discovering your “Inner Advantage”. What sets you apart from the rest?
  6. Accelerating time to adoption: Delivering the desired End-to-End Customer Experience
  7. Tipping the Funnel: Make your customers your unpaid sales force.
  8. Building 3 Horizons of Time (Portfolio thinking)
  9. AND Thinking (The end of OR Thinking)
  10. Differentiate or Die: How to avoid commoditisation
  11. Value Innovation: Understanding Price/Benefit sensitivity
  12. Identifying Next Generation growth

Over the next few months we will explore each of the 12 Growth Strategies listed above in a separate posts. So stay tuned….

Make it happen: Lead first, manage second


Creativity Loves Constraints

How many people do you know would describe themselves as being creative? A lot I find. “I love new ideas, creating new concepts, building new models, etc.” they will tell you. And many of them are highly creative when working with a clean sheet of paper, in “green field” situations or without any limiting constraints. This could be considered as pure creativity. But I think that the really creative people are those that can come up with new ideas, a reconfigured concept or innovative new models in response to constraints in order to solve a problem. This is what I call practical creativity. In other words it is the constraints that trigger the creativity required to overcome them. Cause and effect. Now, ask those same people how good they are at problem solving. I think you might get a very different answer? Creativity seems to evaporate rapidly when confronted with real problems to be solved.

So here is my point: No constraints, no creativity. The good news is that you can activate your creativity on demand by recognising problems, existing constraints or future constraints. Practical creativity is simply an advanced form of problem solving.

The key thing to remember is that creativity loves constraints. It is often times difficult to tap into our full creativity, but it is seldom difficult to find a constraint or three in our daily lives.

May the problems you face become the drivers of your practical creativity.


Leadership and Storytelling: Using Stories to Inspire Others

Everyone loves a good story. That’s why stories are so effective for engaging an audience, and inspiring action. Great leaders are great storytellers. Great leaders know how to capture people’s hearts and minds using stories that we well chosen, well constructed and well told. Great stories are engaging, inspiring and energising because they embody relevant, timely and are highly memorable messages. Great stories inspire, motivate and move people to action.

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” Plato, Greek Philosopher

What is a great story? A great story captures you, your identity, your journey, your values and beliefs, and where you came from.” according to Dr. John Sadowsky, Distinguished Professor of Leadership at the Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France. Great stories are:

Authentic. You live the story in visible ways.
Engaging. Your energy and passion engages your listeners.
Personal. You reveal yourself through your stories.
. Include the minimum to create the maximum impact.

Stories are so important and powerful because they are viral by definition. That is, people simply love to hear them and share them. This has been true since the beginning of time, and it remains true in today’s high-tech world. Storytelling is the way we express our passion. Stories capture emotions and those emotions are transferred to others through the stories we tell.

“Reasons lead to conclusions; emotions lead to actions.” – Saatchi & Saatchi

Where do you find great stories? They are all around us, every everywhere, just waiting to be recognised and captured. They are crying out “take me, take me, I am a great story!” However, if you are not looking for great stories it is unlikely that you will find any. So, ask yourself the question: “how could I use this as a story? How can I turn this into a great story? What is the meaning, message, analogy, anecdote, irony or humour that I can liberate and how can I inspire people to take action as a result of this story?  If you can’t find your own use other people’s stories.

“I … SHAMELESSLY STEAL … stories of others’ effective actions.” Tom Peters

Your life is a story. You just have to write it yourself.


Change Begins with Choice

Is openness or receptiveness to change holding you or organisation back? How can you create durable change initiatives at your place of work? Why is change so hard?

“People are not afraid of change. They fear the unknown.” – Dick Brown, former CEO of EDS

In today’s chaotic post-crisis world we are facing more unknowns than ever before. Incremental planning based on a safe set of assumptions has been replaced by scenario planning with probabilities assigned to a range of possible outcomes. Our ability to change and overcome our fear of the unknown is largely determined by the way we think about the future.

Adaptive Thinking is having a permanent focus on the desired outcomes while constructively responding to change in pursuit of achieving those goals. Adaptive thinking is the application of Divergent thinking (Possibility thinking) creating choices followed by Convergent thinking (Critical thinking) making a choice. But the secret to success lies in using both these thinking approaches sequentially: Divergent thinking AND then Convergent thinking, in that order.

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” – John Scully

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

Building our Future is a mindset, a conscious choice about how we choose to think and how we choose to respond to change. Develop your level of Adaptive thinking and you will increase your mental resilience – your ability to stay focused when all else around you crashes and burns. Adaptive thinking is the best way to deal with your fear of the unknown and your people’s fear of the future. It is our responsibility to build our future.


From Stress to Serendipity: How to create 'flow' and keep it

Stress is present everywhere in our lives today. Stress in the workplace is the most dangerous and debilitating because it is often unquestioned or accepted as being “just part of the job.” But stress directly impacts our effectiveness and productivity and therefore our ability to do our job. Excessive stress or negative stress impacts our ability function normally. When we have high levels of negative stress we lose the ability to remain positive, optimistic and we lose the ability to see solutions to our problems. Our creativity shuts down. The first victims of negative stress are: creativity, innovation and a positive, optimistic outlook. And the second victims of negative stress are effectiveness, performance and productivity.

How can you transform negative stress into positive stress?

Well one simple idea is re-framing how we think and how we encourage those around us to think. Here is a simple and powerful series of questions that will create positive stress for you at work and for your team, colleagues and peers. The quality of answers you get depends on the quality of questions you ask and nothing redirects people’s thinking better than a well-phrased question.

5 Killer questions that create positive stress or ‘flow’ in the workplace.

1. What is already working? This question primes the creativity pump, builds energy and gets people involved. It shifts our focus to ‘possibility thinking’ by tapping into enthusiasm, creativity, energy, drive and collaboration leading to an increase our job satisfaction, performance and productivity. Continue Reading →