James Governor's Monkchips

On Bottom Up and Grassroots Innovation, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, and what RedMonk does

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Irving Wladawsky-Berger: Some Personal Reflections on the Changing Nature of Strategy

After talking recently to Irving, IBM’s point-man-for-what-comes-next, about blogging I was gratified to be pointed to in a recent post of his.

Irving manages to straddle radical inflexion points with an incrementalist approach to his own thinking on a wide range of subjects. You see a systematic approach on his blog. I personally would like to see him be a bit more more interrupt-driven in his blogging, but I completely respect his approach. You could turn Irving’s blog into a book pretty easily, which is certainly not something you can say of monkchips.

What Irving Says

A lot of what Irving says chimes very well with some core RedMonk tenets:

“More and more businesses are realizing the importance of looking at the innovation of the leading users of their products and services as strong indicators of where their markets are heading. Collaborating with universities, research labs, and open communities is essential in order to anticipate the fast-coming future with sufficient time to do something about it. These collaborations cannot be done with corporate staffs tracking what is happening out there; the business needs to have its own talented people who are respected by, contribute to, and work closely with the communities with which they collaborate.”

IBM’s CEO Survey Result Clarification

Irving also pointed out something which cleared up an issue that had been bothering me. At a recent IBM event Gina Rometti, who runs IBM’s business consulting services, had said that IBM research showed CEOs didn’t believe their own people were a great source of innovation. That idea concerned me a lot, and to be honest I thought it said more about the poor quality of CEOs out there than the quality of their people.

Irving though clarifies that in fact the research indicates CEOs are not sure their own R&D functions are the best sources of innovation thinking. The grassroots may well be a good source of new ideas to put into practice according to IBM’s survey.

RedMonk As An Innovation Amplifier

RedMonk likes to work with clients by talking to the grassroots innovators and then amplifying the most interesting ideas to senior management. Its kind of like classic consulting- show me your watch and I will tell you the time and charge you for it. But unlike classic consulting we’re not just holding up a mirror to the senior executives’ reality distortion fields and getting paid-we tend to amplify contrarian tendencies, while our conversations with the grassroots are free.

The company that has bought into our model most deeply and effectively is IBM itself. It pays us good money and we give it good service. But many folks at IBM we spend a great deal of time talking to pay us no money at all. That’s as it should be. Innovators often don’t have money to pay people like us, but their insights are incredibly valuable, and hopefully we can help see some great ideas put into practice. Sun is another company we work with in this way.

Almost certainly the greatest buzz in this job is helping to turn innovative ideas with little or no budget into products with associated development, sales and marketing P&L.

Its why we’re proud, not embarrassed that most of our clients are technology vendors. Its where we can have the greatest impact.

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