Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 42 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 9

Posted in book recommendations, HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 12, 2019

This is my 42nd installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-41.)

I initially posed two topics points, both developed around strategically and operationally framed issues that can be expected to arise when moving forward innovatively in a business, in Part 39 of this series. And I have repeated them in Part 40 and again in Part 41 as an orienting framework for how to think about this narrative and as indicators of where it is headed.

I repeat those topics points here, as I continue laying a foundation for specifically addressing them, turning in this posting to consider two specific case in point business examples that I would address them in terms of. That noted, the two points that I have been preparing for through all of this, are:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows. (Note: see that posting for an explanation of why I would focus on mid-range risks here, rather than on risk in general, or on mid-range and higher risk level possibilities.)
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

And with these here-goal oriented topics points offered again in this still developing narrative thread, I repeat my single bullet point-framed opening descriptions of the two case study businesses themselves, that I would raise and discuss here:

• ClarkBuilt Inc.: a small to medium size business by head count and cash flow that was initially built to develop and pursue a new business development path as built around its founders’ jointly arrived at “bold new innovative products” ideas. The Clark brothers, Bob and Henry came up with a new way to make injection molds for plastics and similar materials that would make it cost-effective to use injection molding manufacturing processes with new types of materials, and cost-effectively so. They have in fact launched their dream business to do that, and have developed a nice little niche market for their offerings, providing specialized-materials parts to other manufacturers.
• And Kent Enterprises: a larger and more established business that in fact has at least something of a track record of supporting, or at least attempting to support innovative excellence within its ranks and on a larger, wider-ranging scale.

And I begin that by pointing out what might for many readers be a fairly obvious point. Both of these businesses start out as innovation oriented ventures. But ClarkBuilt is built around an initial core innovative insight and its realization, and with a long-term goal that would focus essentially entirely on that.

• Bob and Henry Clark are not planning, at least as a core element of their overall business model in seeking out or developing entirely new sources of disruptively novel New to supplement or even replace their initial injection molding technology innovation. So while they would most likely be expected to continue at least something of an innovative effort in their business, this would be more evolutionary and fine-tuning and upgrading in nature, and not revolutionary and game changing.
• Kent Enterprises, on the other hand is more of an innovation factory, at least as a matter of intent. And it is, as intimated above, open to innovative ideas and innovative potential as they might arise through larger swaths of their organization than might be contained in a designated in-house research and development department, or through an innovation outreach office that would buy rights to New from outside sources (e.g. university-based research labs.)

This point of distinction is very important here, as the decisions that inform it for these two enterprises, and the actions and subsequent decisions that each would follow in pursuit of their own particular vision, effectively shape and define what meaningfully relevant research and meaningfully relevant innovation might even be considered by them.

ClarkBuilt very specifically seeks to become and remain the leading manufacturing business in its entire industry and sector and both when competing against rival manufacturers and when facing and meeting the needs of its market. And that industry and sector, and that marketplace are organized around and effectively defined by injection molding parts manufacturing and any immediately competing technology alternatives that a business such as ClarkBuilt might come to face. Innovation that would take essential resources from that defining focus and its realization, and that would arguably compete with their effort to achieve this goal, would be problematical at best and certainly as an initial and essentially default response to it.

Kent Enterprises, on the other hand, is more fundamentally aware of overall change, and of the longer-term need for them to keep exploring and developing towards new markets and types of them, as current ones mature and opportunity to innovate in them begins to dry up – because their more comfortably established markets and their buying participants have become less and less interested in next-step new for what to them might even just be legacy system products.

If you were to ask the leadership of these two businesses what they read for inspiration as they plan for and lead their businesses, which set of them would be more likely to have read – and taken to heart, the more expansively innovative messages of a book such as:

• Gertner, J. (2012) The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Golden Age of American Innovation. Penguin Books?

And the points of distinction that I raise here, have immediate and direct impact on both the hiring and retention policies of the managers and leadership of these businesses, and of their Human Resource departments as each of them variously develops and makes routine, the personnel side of their business plans and strategies.

Both of these businesses need creative, innovative people on their staffs, and in both hands-on and managerial positions. But ClarkBuilt is more likely going to be much more focused in precisely what they look for, and both in specific job-related skills and experience sets that they desire to bring in, and for the perhaps less easily defined communications and other soft people skills and qualities that they might look for in a good-fit new hire. And at least if they are managing and growing their business effectively and with an eye towards their actual needs, Kent Enterprises should be looking for innovative potential, using more open and flexible filters and wider good-candidate identification criteria.

• Overly narrow job description filters that would most likely discard anyone as a possible next hire who does not fit their job description postings in some fixed and limited, key word matching manner,
• Would be too likely to eliminate the good and even the best possible candidates who have applied for that job from the applicant pool that is available, and for any given position they have open
• This obviously applies to a business such as Kent Enterprises, with its business model orientation to finding and developing the New and even the disruptively game changing New. But ultimately, the types of hiring process blinders that I write of here, can become just as problematical for a more tightly defined business such as ClarkBuilt too.

I have raised this type of concern in earlier postings, and both in this blog as a whole and in this series itself. And I raise it again here, for its crucial importance, and certainly for any business that would, or should see innovation as its best path forward. (And yes, broadening this discussion for a moment at least, that ultimately means any business that would seek to endure and even thrive longer-term and in the face of the ongoing flow of change that it is certain to see.)

I am going to complete my discussion of these two case study examples in my next installment to this series, at least for purposes of its line of discussion. And then I will at least begin addressing the above by now oft-repeated topics questions that I offered at the top of this posting. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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