Organizational Innovation: Is Your Company Prepared to Pivot?


Our April hangout “Organizational Innovation: Is Your Company Prepared to Pivot?” was our 21st hangout in our “Innovation by Design” hangout series, and our last. This is a wrap for this series. We have deeply appreciated the time and knowledge shared by our innovation expert panelists and appreciate all those who listened in on our lively hangout discussions.

On April’s hangout our innovation and design thinking experts chatted about how IoT and digital disruption are causing a shift in skillsets and organizational structures in businesses today. And about how the digital shift is causing a growing need to have a culture open to innovation and change. Our panelists from Cisco, GE, and Accenture discussed why an innovative culture needs to be at the heart of companies today and they shared tips for how companies can shift their culture through “organizational innovation.”

Our panelists included:

  • GE – Dyan Finkhousen, Director of Open Innovation & Advanced Manufacturing, and President of Fuse which is a new business model for agile manufacturing
  • CISCO – IeashaTaitano, Senior Innovation Consultant and Program Manager
  • ACCENTURE – Joe O’Boyle, Principal Director

Is Your Company Prepared to Innovate?

Joe kicked off the hangout with a checklist to consider before undertaking innovation.

  • Understand how innovative your culture truly is – can your culture encourage iterations and can they overcome roadblocks?
  • Know what skills you need and are valued – value deep expertise as well as innovation expertise.
  • Recognize if your company can execute on the innovation – you are likely doing something that has not been done before so be sure you know if you company has the culture, leadership, tools and skills to make this happen.

As with every hangout, as the moderator, I had our panelists wrap the hangout with the top takeaways they want the listeners to remember. Once you have considered if your company is prepared to innovate, these are a good way to set the stage as we delve further into the discussion on our hangout topic “organizational innovation”.

Key Takeaways

Ieasha from Cisco: Don’t mistake your sponsor’s enthusiasm for experience as a sponsor. They may not have been a sponsor before and not know how. So, your job as an Innovation Leader is to bring your sponsor on board and be sure they know what to expect and how to sponsor an iterative environment appropriately.

Dyan from GE: Crowd power your innovation operations….While technology is important, the talent is important, too. The talent side of your organization is equally, if not more, important…It is absolutely critical to take a community-based approach to innovation. This is the only way to get the intellectual reach, diversity, and speed you need to be successful in a digital era.

Joe from Accenture:  It is incredibly important to look at the culture, talent, and ways of working. Be sure these advance at the same pace as your technology efforts are.

All three of these tips assume you already have the right leadership to support your innovation efforts.

Do You Have the Right Leadership to Innovate?

Joe kicked off our discussion on the type of leadership that is needed to drive innovation by saying, “Driving a culture of innovation needs to be embedded in the thinking and goals of the leadership team, and their willingness to change things.” He added that a company’s leadership must demonstrate support for innovation and doing things in these new ways so people truly believe experimentation and innovation is viewed as a positive thing. And, “…it’s okay to fail as part of the experiments so we can get data on what won’t work. It’s incredibly important for leadership to lead the way forward in an organization. When that’s not present, I have seen a lot of rhetoric around a desire to embrace innovation and a culture of change that doesn’t actually manifest because it’s simply words and not actions.”

In addition to the right leadership, innovation needs to have the right talent to execute on innovation.

Technology or Talent?

Joe shared that he is “…seeing that there is tension as a company looks for deep expertise versus general knowledge. When we’re in an environment of lots of new and emerging things, it is helpful to have people with deep expertise yet broad knowledge to connect the dots…I’m constantly challenging people to ask ‘how do I do the job that I am doing today in new ways to bring to bear a lot of these new technologies?’…it’s through lots of this decentralization, experimenting, focusing to accomplish your mission and figure out how you can use these technologies.”

Ieasha added, “Risk adverse companies still think the technologies are sexy. But the path to get there can be painful. What’s important is getting the skills they need to go down the path.” So they realize they need IoT skills, for example, but often risk adverse companies don’t realize they need someone with the “…skills to drive innovation and experimentation specifically because that’s going to be the data driven activity that will comfort the people on the board with what the technology experts are coming up with…”.

The Impact of New Technologies on How a Company Organizes to Innovate

Ieasha kicked off the panelist discussion on how the past year’s technology, including IoT, augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and more, have impacted how companies organize to innovate. She stated, “What we are seeing now is exactly what happens when very disruptive technology hits the market. There are very few people across the corporate landscape in America right now who are engaged in innovation and doing it well…We’re not really sure what the mechanics are. I see a lot of frenetic energy around these technologies but not with a clear vision of how to do it. I believe what we will see in the future is business and operating models created around the technologies which is when we will see the technology start to spread.”

Joe commented that, “…there used to be a reliable set of tools you could use over and over again. And what I have noticed is that because of the pace at which new technologies are coming out, a lot of that predictability is there to an extent but in a lot of cases we’re having to co-create the answers as we go through it. This is particularly true if you move back to that notion of effective ways to do the particular task in front of me and leveraging emerging technologies that we’re seeing. It creates a struggle between industrialization and predictability on one hand, and then trying to experiment on the other.” So, organizing to address this struggle is key. And looking at the ways people can adapt by looking at historical results as well as continually asking at each step “How do we innovate better and faster?”

And as companies seek to improve at each step, they often lean on models for help.

How Models and Tools are Used to Boost Innovation

Dyan discussed GE’s, “FastWorks operating system which is a network of resources and a playbook that everyone at GE follows to rapidly and systemically experiment with new technologies, new models, new services. And always anchoring on the customer needs and…experimenting rapidly to get to market as quickly as we can…This makes innovation everybody’s day job in addition to their (core) day job…We are focused on building a community using a platform so ideas truly can come in from everywhere amongst our employee community.”

Dyan added that, “…’launch, learn and refine’ has been our doctrine so we anchor on the customer’s needs, we experiment, we validate that we’re developing new innovations that align with customer value and we rapidly pace those to market.”

Ieasha picked up further on Dyan’s comment about “experiments” and added that “…people are curious about experiments and iterating, so they talk about waterfall versus agile today to help them sell ideas. Dyan agreed, “Experimentation is more accessible while agile sounds more technology based. Experimentation opens the innovation landscape to anyone.”

Ieasha shared two models from Alex Osterwalder she uses to help rally people into the right innovative mindset:

  • Business Model Canvas – this is best used “when you have an idea and want to figure out how it fits and what the market is so you can decide on your business model going forward.”
  • Value Proposition Canvas – “this connects any innovation effort to what your customer needs.”

 She added that these models address the questions you need to ask yourself when embarking on innovation:

  • Who are we?
  • What do our customers need and how are we going to do it?

Dyan shared that her top 3 tools for strategic design are:

  • Leverage a talent market model – use crowdsourcing if needed internally and externally.
  • FastWorks or similar model – launch, learn, refine, integrate, experiment.
  • Use journey maps – anchor innovation efforts on the customer journey and needs.

If you want to hear more on this lively panel discussion, tune into listen to the complete hangout, “Organizational Innovation: Is Your Company Prepared to Pivot?”.


Our panelists included:

Dyan Finkhousen, Director of Open Innovation & Advanced Manufacturing, and President of Fuse which is a new business model for agile manufacturing. Dyan leads GE’s GENIUSLINK(tm)group, building crowd-powered business models that accelerate innovation and improve performance.  She collaborates closely with the GE business verticals, customers and entrepreneurs to establish the company’s vision for and execution of collaborative business models.

Ieasha Taitano is Senior Innovation Consultant and Program Manager at Cisco. Prior to this role we have seen Ieasha on our hangouts as the VP of Innovation and Design Thinking at LPL Financial. Ieasha is a true expert in the adoption of Innovation and Design Thinking principles across the enterprise and on major projects and initiatives.

Joe O’Boyle is a Principal Director in Accenture’s Talent & Organization practice, focused on Communications, Media and Technology clients.  He focuses on helping clients navigate enterprise change and transformation.  Joe has collaborated with MIT researchers on post-merger integration case studies and is currently focused on the implications of automation and digital disruption on organizations and operating models as they shift to create a stronger culture of innovation.

Gretchen Hoffman

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Gretchen Hoffman

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