Get Immediate Value from Your New Hire

HBR has some excellent advice on Get Immediate Value from Your New Hire:

  1. Start Early:  Start as early as possible in the process to expose your new hire to the organization’s or unit’s culture and to explain how work gets done. 
  2. Get Them The Right Network: The first thing a manager can do is ensure that the new hire understands how important the informal or ‘shadow’ organization is in getting things done
  3. Get Them Working: Giving them real work immerses them in the way things function at the organization. This doesn’t mean you should let them “sink or swim”; definitely provide the support they need. 

This are useful reminders for both manager hiring new team members and team members getting involved in new organizations.  My success in several organizations has been hampered by lack of understanding of informal / shadow networks.  One interesting observation: Supervisors in companies with strong shadow organizations were much more reluctant to explain them!  And some principles to Remember:

Do: Hire for cultural fit as much as for capabilities and skill; Introduce your new hire to ‘culture carriers’ and ‘nodes’; Explain how work actually gets done at your organization 

Don’t: Let a new hire stay in ‘learning’ mode for too long; Assume your new hire can’t be productive from the start; Rely on the org chart to help explain lines of communication

Does innovation improve with external collaboration?

The article Effects of Supplier and Customer Integration on Product Innovation and Performance in the Journal of Product Innovation Management has some empirical evidence on impact of co-design and information sharing with suppliers and customers:

After surveying 251 manufacturers in Hong Kong, this study tested the relationships among information sharing, product codevelopment, product innovativeness, and performance with three control variables (i.e., company size, type of industry, and market certainty). 

The findings seem to indicate a direct, positive relationship between supplier and customer integration and product performance. However, there are a couple of key learnings: For brand new product families (that have not yet percolated through the supply-chain), it is much more important to partner with the emerging customer to learn and perfect the product.  On the other hand, for improving existing product lines, it pays to work with suppliers.  Information sharing with existing customers is not that important, but customer intimacy is:

The empirical findings show that product codevelopment with suppliers improves performance, mediated by innovation. However, the sampled firms cannot improve their product innovation by sharing information with their current customers and suppliers as well as codeveloping new products with the customers. If the adoption of supplier and customer integration is not cost free, the findings of this study may suggest firms work on particular supplier and customer integration processes (i.e., product codevelopment with suppliers) to improve their product innovation. The study also suggests that companies codevelop new products only with new customers and lead users instead of current ones for product innovation.

How To Be An Innovative Leader had an article with three pointer towards how to drive innovation (How To Be An Innovative, Not Just Business, Leader):

  1. Reframe the challenge. 
  2. Focus on the customer experience.
  3. Practice rapid prototyping. 
Of the three, I find the first one of most interest.  We often forget to ask about the challenge itself and that in itself limits the possible solutions we come up with:

Innovative thinking can be used to redefine, or reframe, a problem. This is not a cosmetic or semantic change; it is a process of reexamining the situation. … By reframing problems, you uncover new places to innovate, or new angles to take. To reframe your challenge, ask powerful questions, challenge assumptions and bring in multiple perspectives. … He reframed the challenge away from fixing a past problem and toward differentiating the product and the company for the future. That was a vision that could focus and motivate the whole team. 

Here are a few more tips from another article in Forbes – Innovator’s Nirvana:

–Get strength at the top. “You can change business models,” said Miller, “but changing culture requires leadership.”

–Watch timing. The change may be great, but are all the support systems there? Remember what you innovate has to exist in an ecosystem to thrive.

–Communicate discovery for open innovation. The discoveries of Alcatel-Lucent’s scientists frequently end up in products far from their respective specialties.

–When ideas just keep failing despite tweaks to the prototype, have the guts to admit you were wrong. Just because it’s different, that doesn’t mean it was right. That judgment is more important. Plus admitting that and going on to try other new things can actually make you braver