Fostering New Thinking within Organizations

Injecting new thinking into existing organizations, from within the organization itself, is difficult. Even when the need for “thinking different” is plain, entrenchment – of process, people, expectation – make diverging from set paths a chore. One entrepreneurial speaker is seeing an encouraging trend:

Eric Ries, the driving force behind the “lean startup” movement, which encourages high efficiency and meticulous metrics tracking within entrepreneurial ventures. Ries … noticed a trend among some of the people attending his talks. Many managers from large companies were coming to his sessions to learn what they could, because, as Ries discovered, the principals of lean startups can exist within larger corporations that are attempting to innovate.

Thinking Inside the Box: Eric Ries On Creating Startups Within Large Organizations

Efficiency and metrics tracking – and you can’t achieve one without the other – shouldn’t beĀ  solely the realm of the entrepreneur – they’re core to any successful business.

“The real value is [this] starts to catalyze change because by changing the way you work you start to accelerate that feedback loop […] and that can become the basis for making other changes,” Ries says.

Companies could also benefit … by inspiring their existing employees to be innovative, instead of wrangling up entrepreneurs from a startup, which would save them money in the end.

[17:38] idee?Creative Commons License photo credit: westpark
Paving the way for New Thinking helps
New ideas presented from within an organization can be met with derision, resentment and the entrenchment mentioned above – the reason there’s a consulting industry generally isn’t becauseĀ  organizations don’t have the talent and ideas aboard already. In my experience, those things usually *are* there. The reason outsiders are brought in is to help those ideas get a foothold and succeed.

It’s almost unfortunate, but many times outsiders are brought in because insiders haven’t gotten it done. It’s not that they weren’t capable; it’s that they didn’t. Without assistance, there’s little to reason to believe this will change. So “fresh eyes” come in to help. Those new perspectives can be brought in even from other parts of the larger organization – the point of the exercise is to make time to think specifically about what your processes are, why they are that way, and what the team can do to improve them.

(Management) “have this idea that a certain alchemy will happen that ‘if I bring these special people into my organization, they will teach my regular people how to be special,’ and that’s just a formula for breeding resentment,” Ries told ReadWriteWeb. “If the people doing the acquiring had more of a theory about how entrepreneurship is supposed to work […] they could start to think of better ways to plug an acquired company into the larger organization, taking advantage of what they’re good at without destroying it.”

Read more of Thinking Inside the Box

The bit about alchemy is mostly true – especially when a larger organization works to consume a smaller, more entrepreneurial organization in whole, it can create a lot of friction without creating the intended value: The good ideas both sides bring are lost to disdain.

Encouraging efficiency and the importance of metrics – “data-driven decision-making” – would improve chances of an organization actually synthesizing what an acquired team had to offer. Putting a framework around how existing team members can be innovative within the organization would make any injection of new ideas that much more welcomed and effective. Then the “fresh eyes” have their best shot at ensuring everyone’s successful.

Contact Management is the heart of CRM and SFA

Saleforce is smart to jump in with their “gateway-drug” pricing for core Contact Management. Their new offering targets a universal issue – organizing your rolodex – and markets to those who might not think they want the bells, whistles and complexities of Salesforce’s full product.

The Arch at sunrise
Creative Commons License photo credit: slack12

SugarCRM, and others in the space – (Act!, GoldMine) – are foolish to have allowed Salesforce first-mover advantage on this front. They’ll be more foolish still not to counter.

I call out SugarCRM as the base price-point of their very-capable platform is $0; they could offer (and should have been offering) core Contact Management at even less than $9 / user / month that Salesforce offers. Their product does Contact Management well – as they’ll tell you, completely devoid of sexiness (and Sales Reps appreciate sexy) – and their licensing flexibility is very business-friendly.

Upselling opportunities from providing core Contact Management are myriad:

  • Initial installation and configuration work
  • Moving all “siloed” Contact information (FileMaker, Act!, spreadsheets, other custom databases) into the one new centralized Contact Manager
  • Hooks into your company’s web site, Facebook pages, twitter feeds and other marketing efforts

And Contact Management certainly is the gateway drug to additional CRM and SFA wants: once you have your base rolodex setup well, organizations will want to take advantage of simple ways to actually manage the communications with those contacts, track activities around them, and report on which of their contacts and activities around those are actually producing positive results for their organization.

If SugarCRM isn’t ready to take on this kind of market with their Services teams, it’s a great opportunity for 3rd-parties to come in and do it using Sugar’s own open source platform.