Intrapreneurship

It’s About Learning – Not Training.

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Check out IMDB.com, which lists her professional acting and voiceover roles – including her most recent stint as Rabiah, a mentor to young super-heroes in the animated TV series “The 99.”

That’s pretty fitting, because Vivian’s first love has always been talent development: creating programs to help people become strategic resilient, lifelong learners. Transforming training from organizational afterthought to strategic win-win: that’s Vivian’s super-power.

Vivian started as an auditor, working for one of the U.K.’s accounting firms. “But I didn’t want to get labeled as an accountant,” she says, for reasons we’ll leave unexplained. Instead, she found her jam in the firm’s training consulting group, where she learned that business transformation starts with people. She also developed the concept of “the strategic employee,” which encouraged employees to manage their job as if it were their own business – an initiative designed to enhance employee alignment and drive innovative business opportunities.

Her career then led her to a major chartered bank, where she helped transform the building and delivery of learning for many new strategic initiatives at a time when the financial sector was experiencing significant change – including the launch of a national program for 25,000 people that was completed in just two months.

Moving to Nortel, Vivian pioneered a virtual classroom that was at least a decade ahead of its time. She then formed her own business, providing customized learning programs to retailers, financial institutions and other clients – when she wasn’t acting for the stage and TV.

Now Vivian has joined forces with Spyder Works to expand her ability to help companies learn. Their new joint venture, Icicle Learning, provides transformational learning by creating and delivering innovative learning solutions that are integrated into the workplace and directly aligned to business strategy. All with her trademark blend of engagement, integration and relevance.

Her new role is a natural step forward on both sides. As Spyder Works was helping clients develop ever more innovative design-driven strategies, the firm saw a growing need to help employees adapt to change and seize opportunities faster. “With Vivian, we now have the expertise to develop talent or change culture, from the frontlines to the executive suite,” says Spyder Works CEO Ken Tencer.

“With the combination of Icicle and Spyder Works,” adds Vivian, “we can now provide the entire business-transformation process.” (We think it’s cool that they already finish each other’s sentences.)

Now, some cynics will tell you that training doesn’t work. And Vivian agrees that’s often the result if all you’re doing is teaching people a new skill for their current role. You’re missing the opportunity to embrace change, create alignment and develop new leaders in uncertain times. Says Vivian, “People really want to know more about the new world of business.”

That’s especially important now that millennials are dominating the workforce. They’re generally thought to bring a creative entrepreneurial spirit to the office, but they have short attention spans – and they’ve been warned to expect 15 different jobs in their careers. “Most companies are experiencing high turnover, because their employees aren’t engaged in what they’re doing,” Vivian notes. But she’s seen this movie before. When you train employees and managers to think and act like leaders, she says, you create greater productivity and lower turnover, “because they’re totally engaged in what they’re doing.”

If you’re interested in engaging Vivian, please note that she’s not interested in selling training. “I am driven to inspire people to see the value of learning every day; to create their own opportunities to learn and grow,” she says. “There’s something to learn every day.”

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Will you help us by taking this Intrapreneur Assessment?

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Will you help us by taking this Intrapreneur Assessment?

As a global thought leader in intrapreneurship, I have been asked to collaborate with Multi-Health Systems, a people analytics and solutions company. MHS is currently developing an assessment on entrepreneurial competencies, and they are looking for participants to help them in the final stages of testing. At my request, MHS has agreed to incorporate individuals who self-identify as intrapreneurs. 

Will you help us by taking this 20-minute online assessment? We are looking for leaders, entrepreneurs and individuals who identify as intrapreneurs (i.e., they are employees of a company and are officially responsible for creating something new, or for solving problems using entrepreneurial skills). I am sure you will find the assessment questions interesting and thought-provoking. And in return for participating, you will receive a personalized report that will give you new insights into your entrepreneurial skills and behaviors.

To me, intrapreneurship is not a “program.” It is a necessary mindset that all organizations need to embrace to thrive in fast-changing, competitive markets. Ultimately, MHS’s research will provide an even richer foundation upon which Spyder Works will help our clients build more successful cultures of intrapreneurship.

Thank you in advance for participating in this important research project.

Gratefully,
Ken 

PS: As a member of my network, I would also like to offer you a 25% discount for the upcoming Intrapreneurship Conference in Toronto, Nov. 15th to 17th. The conference theme is “Building an Innovation Ecosystem.” To register, please enter the promo code IntraCnf-SpyderWorks. (I’ll be speaking on Nov. 15, to share four key insights for creating a more successful intraprenership program. Hope to see you there!)

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How a hackathon can encourage your employees to innovate

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Originally published on March 16, 2017 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-managing/hackathons-arent-just-for-hackers-any-more/article34146640/ 

Everyone in business has heard the expression that if you’re not disrupting your market, someone else will soon be disrupting you. But this raw challenge doesn’t help most leaders understand how they’re supposed to get started in the creative-destruction business.

But Steven Stein has figured it out. The chief executive officer of Toronto-based Multi-Health Systems Inc. has created an in-house “hackathon” to encourage innovative thinking and transform ideas into new products.

Stein is a true believer in creative destruction. He founded MHS 33 years ago to disrupt the psychological-testing industry by automating conventional paper-based tests for the personal computer. Today, MHS is a global industry leader, with 160 employees and clients in more than 75 countries. But Stein knows his company remains vulnerable to new entrepreneurs with better ideas – so he’s shaking up his team to ensure they develop those bold new products first.

It was an off-site strategy session for senior leaders that launched MHS’s innovation project. “Two years back, we had a presentation on disruption,” Stein said. “We went home and had nightmares about how new people could kick us out of the market.”

Stein and his team knew hackathons were popular, if sometimes messy, events that help small teams turn new ideas into working prototypes fast. Even when they don’t produce new products, hackathons can be powerful problem-solving exercises that can build positive attributes such as agility, risk tolerance and trust. So Stein appointed a team, led by president Hazel Wheldon, in the summer of 2015 to put MHS on the hackathon circuit – and make it fun and engaging.

Since then, MHS has held two hackathons at its Toronto headquarters, and created a five-person “innovation hub” to select the best ideas and turn them into customer-ready products. Innovation is a long game, and the first market tests are still in the field. But Stein believes the process has already been successful. “The biggest benefit is the excitement it created,” he said. “People loved working with new people. It’s been worth it just for the engagement, not just the products we got out of it.”

Could your company pull off a similar innovation coup? Here’s how MHS did it.

  • After researching how other companies managed innovation events, MHS’s hackathon planners developed guidelines and rules. They decided on a one-day hackathon on a January Monday – with the 15 teams competing in a “Demo Day” the following Friday, in conjunction with MHS’s annual awards dinner.
  • Teams formed in groups of five to eight in early fall, so they would have lots of time to develop ideas and research solutions prior to the big day. To help the teams focus, planners identified four sectors as most likely to be disrupted: big data; mobile apps; gamification; and process improvement.
  • As the employee teams took shape (each one restricted to one programmer and one employee from user experience), the planners scheduled a series of “lunch and learns” through the fall. Topics included creating prototypes, writing business plans and making killer presentations.
  • The incentives? The team with the most promising idea (as judged by Stein and a panel of internal and external judges) would win $5,000. There would also be a $2,000 second prize, and a third prize of $1,000.

On hackathon day in January, 2016, the 15 teams had until 6 p.m. to finalize a prototype and hammer out a business plan. MHS supplied food and colour-coded team T-shirts, creating a festive atmosphere. Participants were laughing, sweating, debating and tweeting – so much so that competitors started noticing. For 2017, MHS had to say no to tweets that gave too much away.

All teams presented to the judging panel on the following Friday. Each team was allowed a five-minute presentation, followed by five minutes for answering questions. Stein was thrilled by the winning ideas: an inexpensive “candidate competencies” test for employers to help MHS hack its way into a highly lucrative market; a mobile “early warning” solution that let psychologists share with patients (or their parents) preliminary test results in minutes instead of weeks; and the identification of new markets for some of the firm’s underused mental-health surveys through sales to the insurance industry.

Stein said some of these ideas might have daunted the team prior to the hackathon. “But now these guys have mapped them out. They said: ‘We can do it. Here’s how.’ ”

The next step was for the implementation team to review the finalists’ ideas and adopt the most promising projects. For now, MHS is funding this project through unbudgeted foreign-exchange gains; Stein hopes the group will start paying its way before the Canadian dollar turns up again.

The innovation hub – two psychologists, two programmers and a UX person – fine-tuned initial prototypes for hand-off to sales, which arranged pilot programs with real customers. The team set itself quarterly goals to ensure it was doing its job; in innovation, knowing what to stop working on is just as important as spotting winners.

“Over all, there are eight or nine projects we’re moving ahead with,” Stein said. With two hackathons now under his belt, a pipeline of new projects and a re-engaged work force, he said the whole process has been a winner. “It’s turned us from a disruptee to a disruptor.”

Ken Tencer is chief executive officer of design-driven strategy firm Spyder Works Inc. and the co-author of two books on innovation, including the bestseller Cause a Disturbance. He holds the Institute of Corporate Directors certification (ICD.D). Follow him on Twitter at @90percentRule.

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