Is the Team Leaning to the Left or Right?

Over the coming weeks I will be looking at how teams are, or aren’t, formed. I am sure most of you will know of the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, if not I am sure I will post something about the theory in the future.

In many situations we will find ourselves having to work in teams and if we are to believe most of the commentary on the future of the workplace, we will forced into many short-term teams to deliver a specific outcome. The team will then be disbanded in order to form news teams.

Tuckman’s model works well as an academic theory but what if the team is unbalanced. Initially, I’m not looking at when one or more members of the proposed team are disengaged with the anticipated outcome this will come later. What I would like you to consider is the “sidedness” of each individual members thinking. No, not their political bias!

Is the group more left or right brain focused?

This can be described simply:

Left                              Right

A: Facts                       C: Future


B: Form                        D: Feelings

(I shall put a proper drawing in later)

If you have a team where the left is dominant then you may find that spark and creativity are stifled as there will be a reluctant to take the leap of faith required to make a significant change. Conversely, if the dominant view is right side biased the team may run away with ideas without grounding or little substance leaving the entire team in jeopardy.

Both options ultimately result in the team never reaching the desired outcome or if they do it will be after a considerable number of failures or a significant extension to the deadline as all potential risks  need to be considered be planned for. I am in no doubt that we have examples of this is our lives, projects that over run by years or are on time and deliver very little in the way of benefits.

How do you avoid being caught in the paralysis of the left-right brain struggle? First thing to do is take a step back and have a look at how the team thinks. Are they left focused or is it a right leaning team? Who has the power to within the team, is it the push forward into the future or put the brakes on as I still have questions? Remember the biggest hurdle to overcome is your own bias, if you don’t what that is yet maybe that is where you should focus your time.


The Challenge and Opportunity of Open Innovation

Open innovation has been defined as the exploitation of both internal and external knowledge to accelerate the process and expand potential commercialisation of innovations (Chesbrough et al, 2006). It can be traced back to Silicon Valley tech start-ups in 80’s and 90’s, where superior R&D budgets of organisations like Xerox and Bell Labs were unable to compete with resource deficient smaller businesses. Studies into these anomalies noted a more collaborative/open approach to innovation was evident, this has now become an excepted norm regards general management and strategy within many technical businesses, especially software (Gassman, et al, 2010).

Organisations becoming concerned where the next innovative idea will come from have begun to explore open innovation and crowd-sourcing. Some organisations are concerned with venturing into an entirely new innovation process. Others have embraced these new methods yet did not fully appreciate the risks, or opportunities, engaging external resources with innovate. Open innovation principles stem from classic innovation principles such as idea generation and selection (Campbell, 1965). As with all processes, success relies on implementing suitable methods to organize, monitor and manage progress.

Organisations understand one of the significant advantages of open innovation is the potential for idea-generation with the sheer volume of prospective ideas. As organisations’ main experience of cultivating ideas is internal; open innovation has been used build high-quality ideas banks. Rather than being constrained to the finite number of employees to produce ideas for existing problems, external experience and intelligence could be utilized. The logic is simple: if anyone can provide solution ideas, (the statistical principle is) the more ideas generated the better the quality of the best one is likely to be. The advantage to casting the net widely to capture significant quantity of ideas may mean the average the quality of ideas is extremely low; yet the possibility of one to be spectacular is greater.

“The more ideas generated the better the quality of the best one is likely to be.”

Secondly, a lesser-known advantage of open innovation is that the value of ideas generally increases with the level of variability. Studies found organisations believed only employees possessing the industry and strategic knowledge could judge on validity of ideas. Yet opening idea-selection process externally could generate significant value, harnessing distinctive expertise and perspectives, in selecting most successful ideas. This selection principally builds a majority consensus thus selecting the most popular idea. Therefore the deviant and extreme radical viewpoints with be marginalized, thus the remaining options will tend towards mundane and ordinary incremental improvement. The outlandish and revolutionary viewpoints are necessary to produce disruptive innovation (Berglund, 2004).

With organisations moving a more processing into the digital space and the prevalence of internet technologies open innovation will increase in popularity. As seen in the case of SAP establishing a platform to enhance their existing eco-system is paying dividends. They are flexibly using both open idea creation and selection processes dependent on their needs. It was highlighted that open innovation is based on traditional theories yet traditional approaches do not scale to large audiences, nor support shorter implementation cycles. The SAP Idea Place provides a simple platform to co-innovate with customers and partners. Traditional product feedback relied solely on user groups or costly one-to-one interactions, which is unsuitable to open selection.

“Outlandish and revolutionary viewpoints are necessary to produce disruptive innovation.”

Not only are SAP benefiting directly, established partners have used the Idea Place to define products or solutions to address specific customer needs which have not been prioritised by SAP. This enables the ecosystem to scale while SAP plays a more supportive, enabling role. The lack of physical product and large install base has lent itself to this more collaborative method of working. As highlighted in the SAP case, the control of the environment is fundamental to the commercialisation of the numerous ideas generated via the open innovation model (Rodgers, 2012).

In the arena of physical product creation with the need for differing levels of resource to manufacture goods, open innovation may be restricted to the ideation phase of the innovation process. The majority of opportunities would exist in more collaborative endeavours, where the various parties are able to share resources; physical, technical, financial or physical. This type of collaborative innovation and partnering approach has existed for many decades and we could conclude that this is not a form of open innovation. As the number of involved becomes controlled this would form of closed innovation group resource sharing and joint commercialisation efforts in order to maximise revenue generation.

The established legal protection devised decades ago to protect large enterprises is unsuitable. Intellectual property rights, product & service ownership will continue to hinder open innovation initiatives as potential participants seek protection from “Arrow’s information paradox”. Protecting individuals’ ability to capitalise on the commercial value of their ideas generated restricting unauthorized use needs legal focus (Arrow, 1971).

Thus concluding open innovation regardless of its theoretical potential will struggle to produce significant breakthroughs or revolutionary inventions without substantial corporate sponsorship.




Chesbrough, H.W., West, J. and Vanhaverbeke, W. (2006) Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gassmann, O., Enkel, E. and Chesbrough, H. (2010), The future of open innovation. R&D Management, 40: 213–221.

Campbell, D.C. (1965) “Variation and Selective Retention in Socio-Cultural Evolution,’’ in “Social Change in Developing Areas: A Reinterpretation of Evolutionary Theory,” ed. H.R. Barringer, G.I. Blanksten and R.W. Mack (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Schenkman Publishing, 1965).

Rodgers, Chip. “Phone interview, January 2013; David Kiron,“SAP: Using Social Media for Building, Selling and Supporting,”.” MIT Sloan Management Review(2012).

Arrow, K.J. (1971) “Essays in the Theory of Risk-Bearing” (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: North-Holland Publishing Company, 1971), pg 152.

Berglund, H. (2004). Interesting Theories of Innovation: the practical use of the Particular. Department on Innovation, Engineering and Management.




Forget Users, External Customers is Where Its At.

Are you a victim of the internal customer, the one that is forever changing their mind chasing the next big thing? You spend months streamlining processes using cross functional teams delivering IT systems that provide the business outcomes you set out to achieve. Another successful project brought in on time and on budget. Yet many of these celebrated project never will fulfil their full potential as they often forget include the external customers (suppliers, paying customers, etc.).

over the years we find ourselves into serious trouble when we focus too much on the end user of the software application being designed. You tend to focus on making it an easy as possible for the internal employees to do what’s expected, the internal management team are pleased that their teams are being catered for. Don’t you want to make it easy for your external customers to deal with you, streamline the supply chain. all to often the two objectives are in direct conflict.

Creating a self-service mindset within your design processes, regardless if you’ve adopted enterprise architecture, you can offset many of the process tasks to the most practical. Purchase order progress maintained by suppliers; credit limits, overdue accounts visible to paying customers. If you start with the external view then move inward to where you have greater influence then you will stand a greater chance of delivering ‘real’ value and lasting significant benefit. Don’t rely on your internal users to hold the answers to the best solution. Obviously you need to ensure they are consulted and informed, but the drive needs to be outside in.

That’s right, no more internal-only applications. If you are looking at HR expense management, your billing systems, or revamping the inventory management systems, everything impacts your external customers. everyone needs to understand that success must be measured from multiple view points. Be brave an challenge some of the businesses practices you could save huge amounts by removing costs and building relationships with the outside world.


Getting Things Under Control

Do you ever feel like your life has gotten out of control? Some days, it’s easy to feel that way and we’ll all feel that way some days.

No matter you set goals, how hard you visualize results and affirm a positive outcomes, every once in a while your going to feel like life’s has one off the rails. Carefully laid plans in tatters. People you relied on, abandon you. A health or family crisis, a financial surprise or an earthquake puts you back to square one.  Suddenly you feel as if you’re out of control, and lost at sea.

At times like this, there are a few things it may help you to remember. First of all, no one can control every aspect of his or her life, and adversity comes to all of us, no matter how moral we are, and no matter how good our attitude is. Bad things happen to good people all the time.

Second, it’s important to realize that there is one and only one thing in life that is completely within your power to control, and that is your response to what happens to you. When you find yourself overcome with feelings of fear, helplessness, doom and gloom, you can put the brakes on these feelings by gently but firmly choosing to shift the focus of the thoughts that are running through your mind.

Your feelings are a direct result of the thoughts you think, and setting aside some time every morning and evening for positive visualization, affirmation, or guided meditation is a highly effective way of getting these thoughts back under your control again. Try it. You will be surprised at just how well it works.