Dwayne Spradlin

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The Profound Importance of Challenges: A Better Way to Organize and Distribute Work (Part 3 of 4)

Posted by Dwayne Spradlin on Jan 26, 2012 12:56:57 PM

By Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive

This blog is the third installation of a four part series: ”The Profound Importance of Challenges,” by Dwayne Spradlin and Alph Bingham, authors of The Open Innovation Marketplace, published in 2011 by FT Press.

To read the other posts in this series, click on the links below:

The Profound Importance of Challenges (Part 1 of 4) by Alph Bingham and Dwayne Spradlin

The Profound Importance of Challenges: The Fundamental Unit of Problem Solving (Part 2 of 4) by Alph Bingham

The Profound Importance of Challenges: A Powerful Strategy Tool (Part 4 of 4) by Dwayne Spradlin

In our book “The Open Innovation Marketplace: Creating Value in the Challenge Driven Enterprise” published this year by FT Press, Alph Bingham and I explored Open Innovation and the Challenge Driven Enterprise. As we continue our discussion of Challenges and why they are profoundly important in this four part series, we turn our attention now to Challenges as a better way to organize and distribute work.

There are many kinds of work. There’s work on the assembly line, analyzing water for impurities, delivering newspapers, and fighting wars. And loosely speaking, Challenges may have a role to play in all these kinds of activities. And there is a different kind of more intellectual work requiring more creativity and invention, whereby a need is identified and a solution sought. Examples include development of a marketing strategy, a new plastic material for manufacturing, or an innovative approach to engaging customers.

In this latter kind of work, well-defined Challenges represent a powerful tool for organizing human activity and motivating innovative outcomes.

Organizations have spent years defining efficient organizational forms, writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), crafting job descriptions, and even developing robust platforms for planning and tracking work. And they are becoming more efficient. Use of contract labor and outsourcing of work, even whole functions, is more commonplace than ever. These approaches have often improved the bottom lines of businesses by increasing flexibility, lowering costs, and enabling projects to be accelerated. However with notable exceptions, these exercises in efficiency and shifting labor costs have done little to fundamentally change the rules of the game—to create anything like a “step change” in business performance and breakthrough innovation. In most instances, the 20th-century approach is essentially institutionalized resource planning and labor arbitrage that is simply commoditizing work and trading high cost labor for lower cost alternatives. It is not creating a unique competitive advantage. And it is certainly not tapping the creative capacity of organizations and the world to innovate. In some cases, it has actually achieved the opposite effect. Consider how many companies arguably lost their innovative edge by focusing so singularly on cost reduction that they lost the very resources and capabilities needed to be competitive over time (for example, Dell, General Motors). Some even created their next generation competition by turning their suppliers and partners into the only true sources of innovation (for example, semiconductors).

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Topics: Innovation Insights, Challenges

You Helped Change The World in 2011

Posted by Dwayne Spradlin on Jan 9, 2012 10:09:56 AM

As we turn the page on 2011 and turn our eyes to 2012, I wanted to reflect on some of the remarkable things we accomplished together this past year.

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Topics: Solvers, Challenges

The Profound Importance of Challenges (Part 1 of 4)

Posted by Dwayne Spradlin on Nov 22, 2011 10:48:50 AM

by Alph Bingham and Dwayne Spradlin

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Topics: Innovation Insights, Challenges

Stepping on the Gas: Fighting the Urge to Back Away From Business Risks

Posted by Dwayne Spradlin on Nov 8, 2011 1:53:15 PM

By Dwayne Spradlin, CEO, InnoCentive

I recently attended NASCAR Racing School as a birthday present from my family. And it was an incredible experience. In the midst of the searing Texas heat, I was given several hours of instruction on both the car and the rules of the road. Somehow, Texas Motor Speedway looks less daunting on television than when you’re sitting in an actual racing car. Did I call it a car? My mistake. It is a rocket engine with a steering wheel. And the banked areas of the track have a much more severe incline than you could imagine. I must say that even though I pride myself on being even keeled, my heart was pounding.

The highlight of the school is taking several laps around the track at whatever top speed you feel comfortable with. In reality, you follow an experienced driver, so when you are ready to go faster, you signal to the car in front of you by coming within a few yards of their car, which is the sign to accelerate – both terrifying and invigorating at 140 MPH (not actually sure why a headset isn’t a better idea).

I grew up learning to drive near Chicago and I assure you, I-94 is not sufficient coursework for being a NASCAR driver. Although it felt like an eternity, I was driving on the roadway for less than 30 minutes. My top speed? Just under 150 miles per hour, not even close to the speeds professionals must manage every day. This was the adrenaline rush of a lifetime!

Adrenaline or not, stepping on the gas was not a natural act. Every fiber of your being senses danger because, in your head, you know that man should not be going this fast. There was an ever present fear that something bad was right around the next bend. Self-preservation and fear of the unknown are hard to overcome because they are instinct. Professional drivers must have a certain skill set, including a level of fearlessness.

The same is true of change agents within organizations. They know that the organization conforms to a certain set of rules. The safety margins are built in and the performance of the vehicle is well understood. Standard operation procedures, culture and management systems ensure that; employees follow their “experienced drivers” to reach a desired destination at their comfortable speed. To go outside that comfort zone is to take an organization into new territory, to push the comfort level. Suggesting an organization can deliver higher performance levels is suggesting that current systems are inadequate. Pulling ahead puts you right in the sights of all the other cars on the track, signaling to all the spectators that those other cars are falling behind. And those other cars are not going to exit the track. They are going to fight to keep things just as they were. Although challenging the status quo within an organization may not feel life threatening, it may feel career threatening.

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Topics: Innovation Insights

Don't Let a Good Idea Get Away!

Posted by Dwayne Spradlin on Oct 28, 2011 12:55:14 PM

Recently we challenged a team of students from Tufts to create a video in their own voice about what it means to be a problem solver. And to make it particularly challenging, we gave them no resources or guidance.  They'd have to make magic happen with only their creativity, energy, a video camera, and a PC for editing.

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Topics: Challenges

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