Ken Tencer

About Ken Tencer

Ken Tencer is CEO of Spyder Works, a leading business consultancy for organizations and investors seeking to drive sustainable growth. If you have any questions about this article or its relevance to your business, reach out to Ken at The Spyder Works team, whose strategic and operational experience spans six continents, helps clients turn their most pressing challenges into powerful solutions. We provide consulting and enhance capacity in the disciplines of corporate and financial strategy, innovation and intrapreneurship, branding and marketing, organization and operations, and learning, leadership and culture.

Posts by Ken Tencer:

Author & Innovation Expert Ken Tencer to Share the Stage with Disney, GE and Other Global Brands at Annual Innovation Conference

Unleashing Innovation Summit, Speaker, Chairperson, Spyderworks

For more than twenty years, the team at Spyder Works has worked with a variety of businesses both small and large in the US and Canada, educating corporate leaders and entrepreneurs on the value of making strategic innovation and growth a well-planned and continual practice.  With signs that the global economy is finally emerging from its recent doldrums, and with the pace of technological change growing ever faster, Spyder Works CEO Ken Tencer says that there has never been a better time for businesses of all sizes to explore new opportunities for growth that capitalize on their existing strengths and respond to the latest needs and desires of their customers.  (Tencer’s belief was validated in a high-profile way just recently, when Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella used the word “innovation” frequently in his company-wide email greeting and in various speeches and presentations on his first day on the job!)

This is a message that Tencer will share with corporate leaders attending the two-day “Unleashing Innovation Summit” in New York on March 26 and 27, as he serves as Chairperson and keynote speaker on the first day of this well-attended annual event. This is also a message that Tencer and co-author John Paulo Cardoso, Spyder Works’ Chief Creative Officer, share in their new book “Cause a Disturbance” (Morgan James Publishing, January 2014).  This inspiring and practical guide offers an easy-to-follow six-step formula that any business can follow to maximize their most promising opportunities for growth.  “Cause a Disturbance” is the authors’ follow-up to their previous book, “The 90% Rule,” which was widely praised by the business press and warmly received by those participating in innovation workshops from Washington, DC to Cannes, France.

The formula that Tencer and Cardoso share in their latest book offers businesses of all sizes a strategic way to generate new ideas for growth on an ongoing basis and a way of tapping into those opportunities most effectively.  According to the authors — as many of the world’s most successful and enduring brands have discovered – some of the most promising new ideas for growth come from within, from those in constant touch with customers and their changing needs, and many revenue-generating ideas require little additional capital investment.  As Tencer and Cardoso say in the subtitle of their new book, “If you can slice a melon or make a right-hand turn, you can be a breakthrough innovator” – acknowledging two clever and financially rewarding ideas implemented by the supermarket industry and UPS delivery, respectively.

As he will share with those attending the “Unleashing Innovation Summit” in March, Ken Tencer says that the practice of generating new ideas from within a business – known as “intrapreneurship” – is frequently underappreciated by those in corporate management, despite the impressive results this approach has yielded over the years for firms like American Airlines, LinkedIn, Lockheed Martin and DreamWorks. Intrapreneurship not only serves as an innovation catalyst in its own right, but it creates a culture of innovation which is recognized as the driving force behind repeatable and sustainable innovation.

As Tencer and Cardoso share in their new book, businesses often stray far from their core competencies, only to find that the costly development of those products and services has turned out to be a mistake.  Similarly, by tapping into the ever-changing needs and desires of their long-time customers, and stretching themselves (by only 10%) businesses can serve their customers in ways that are appreciative and financially rewarding.

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This three-letter word can lead to greater business growth

Originally published on February 12, 2014 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail


If you’re one of those people who gets out of bed each morning eager to find new opportunities for your business, your commitment to innovation is alive and well.

Business is all about attitude, and the drive to make a difference to our customers, families and community. The truth is that building a business means sacrifice, risk and uncertainty. The great entrepreneurs and leaders will tell you that success comes from the heart, attitude and determination you bring to each problem, every day.

I urge all entrepreneurs and change makers to adopt an ‘and’ mindset. Be open to finding new ways to serve your customers and offer more value.

This can be difficult for entrepreneurs just starting out, surviving on thin margins. As a young entrepreneur, I remember rubbing my credit card for good luck before buying supplies, hoping I had enough credit left to buy what I needed.

I encountered a similar mindset in reading Bruce Poon Tip’s new book, Looptail. As the founder and visionary behind Toronto-based G Adventures writes: “When I started the company in 1990 with a couple of credit cards, I was living in a garage apartment and had a vision. I never thought that it would become what it has. I wasn’t given the tools from my upbringing to think big.”

As entrepreneurs, we need to build on this combination of passion and sacrifice to push for more. To make the impact we want, we need to struggle beyond our constraints to create value – something different and engaging that will inspire and capture a whole new group of customers.

Roger Martin, the innovative former dean of the U of T’s Rotman School of Management, crusades against “either-or” decision making. He says too many business leaders approach decisions in terms of choosing between two or more alternate paths. “This or that” thinking represents unnecessary compromise; it’s the easy way out. I believe in ‘this and that.’ After all, ‘and’ means more: more value for the customer and ultimately more opportunities for my business.

Mr. Poon Tip’s success was founded on this same principle of more. In his view, “there was room in the industry for a travel company offering package tours using local services – giving visitors a chance to experience a real flavour of their destinations, rather than to just stroll around a few notable landmarks.”

He had a clear vision and a burning desire to create a new level of value and satisfaction for a largely ignored segment of the travel market; those who didn’t want to be stuck within the confines of posh, antiseptic resorts. But he also recognized that average adventurers did not want to have to plan, chart and tour the more remote, exotic locations of the world on their own. With G Adventures he combined tours and local flavour, creating unique experiences that ultimately built one of Canada’s most unique and global companies.

As entrepreneurs, we need to push our teams as hard as we push ourselves, to find new ways to combine separate ideas into one new vision, a breakthrough innovation. Your success could begin by changing one simple word. But what a difference one word can make. Thinking in terms of ‘and,’ rather than ‘or,’ can be game-changing. The word ‘and’ is the jet fuel of innovative thinking.

Most importantly, this attitude generates maximum value to the customer. By focusing on it, we choose to add value, not compromise it. Challenge your team to explore the power of this simple word, which can lead to success and sustained growth.

And what more could anyone ask?

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Reimagine Your People Practices to Deliver Transformational Results

attract-retain-perform-cogsBeing a strategic people practitioner for more than fifteen years it has become clear that there are three key areas within people practices that will make or break your business.  These areas are like three integrated gears with the spokes of each gear driving the advancement of the others.  The three gears are Attract, Retain and Perform.  These gears are of varying size with an interdependence and sequence to them.

 First in the sequence is Attract.  For organizations to operate they must have an employee brand that speaks to prospective employees, draws in people that align with the company’s values and have the needed talent.  Today to be able to compete for prospective employees companies must satisfy their desire for an experience not just a job.

With the chosen employees now in place the company’s efforts turn to ensuring they stay.  Retain is the next gear in the sequence and is all about delivering on your brand promise made during the hiring stage.  Organizations must get to know their employees as individuals, what they need to succeed and provide them with the tools and environment to be the best they can be.

 The final, and in some ways, most significant gear is Perform.  While business can’t operate without having the right people in place through attract and retain, I’d argue that the largest opportunity for leveraging an organization’s results comes from this area.  Through a culture of innovation, leadership practices, team effectiveness and employee engagement organizations can measurably impact performance.

 In the coming months a more in depth look will be taken at each of these three critical stages in the employee life cycle with the goal of enabling companies to re-imagine their people practices to help organizations realize transformational results.

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