Monday, September 08, 2008

Interviewed for article in Federal Computer Week - Army Retools Knowledge Culture

I was interviewed for an article in the current issue (Sept 8, 2008) of Federal Computer Week. The article, “Army Retools Knowledge Culture”, by Brian Robinson can be found here [LINK].

See below for my research papers that examine knowledge management programs of defense organizations:

  • Desouza, K.C., and Vanapalli, G.K. “Securing Knowledge in Organizations: Lessons from the Defense and Intelligence Sectors,” International Journal of Information Management, 25 (1), 2005, 85-98. [LINK]
  • Lausin, A., Desouza, K.C., and Kraft, G.D. “Knowledge Management in the US Army,” Knowledge and Process Management, 10 (4), 2003, 218-230. [LINK]

Friday, September 05, 2008

New Innovation Paper Published from the i4i Project

Baloh, P., Jha, S., & Awazu, Y. (2008). Building strategic partnerships for managing innovation outsourcing. Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal, 1(2), 100-121.

This is a conceptual paper attempting to uncover the mechanisms of organizations managing innovation outsourcing to business partners. In a business environment characterized by the development of deep, niche expertise in a particular domain, business partnerships can provide a source of innovative rejuvenation by outsourcing the innovation to business partners who have complementary skills and expertise. This paper addresses a critical challenge that organizations are currently facing: how do you manage outsourcing of innovation to business partners effectively while maintaining your strategic competitiveness?

In this paper, we conducted multiple exploratory case studies of over 30 innovative European and US companies. It involved 50 semi-structured interviews with senior executives from research and development, product management, information technology, and marketing. We identified three complementary models of managing outsourcing of innovation to business partner: acquisition, strategic alliances, and open source (OS). Based on these, a three-dimensional ‘‘Co-Innovation Space’’ is proposed that can help in analysis and planning of current and future innovation projects.
The practical implications of the study are that partnerships can open the door to multiple knowledge sources. Accessing and integrating information from these sources can greatly enhance knowledge base of organizations and can help fuel sustainable innovation. The models proposed in this study provide a lens to examine existing innovation project portfolios and/or to plan for future innovation programs.
However, although the research is carefully designed, it is an exploratory study and has the limitation of generalizability of the findings. Nevertheless, findings from multiple case studies from diverse organizations shed a light to current innovation and strategic alliance literature. The value of this study is that it is probably among few to study such a large, diversified, and geographically scattered group of organizations. Although exploratory and preliminary, this makes the findings of the study insightful.
Summary provided by Sanjeev Jha

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Security and Outsourcing: The Neglected Dimension

Having witnessed several dozen organizations strategize, plan, operationalize, and even terminate their outsourcing agreements, I continue to be amazed with the lack of care and consideration given to security elements in these efforts (Power, Desouza, and Bonifazi, 2006; Power, Bonifazi, and Desouza, 2004). As one manager remarked:“No one really has the time, patience, or resources, to spend a few days evaluating the security issues associated with an agreement…Most of our time is spent working out details such as the financials, the project management plans, the personnel and public relations dimensions…Unless there are glaring security issues, most outsourcing agreements have the standard boiler plate text on security…you know…the NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements), the data and information protection clauses, etc…”The above quote is not unique to a particular manager or organization; one might argue that it is a norm in most outsourcing deals, with the exception of one class of organizations – organizations who have been burnt by security breaches! Only after an organization has witnessed the dire consequences of not adhering to security elements, does it begin to pay due attention to it when considering outsourcing. In Desouza (2007), a whole chapter is dedicated to the issue of securing intellectual assets in the context of strategic alliances. This article will point attention to the need to seriously consider the security dimension in sourcing agreements. Let me begin by sharing two small vignettes that illustrate two different kinds of security breaches (Desouza, 2007):

A large manufacturing firm in the Midwest of the United States outsourced the physical security of its corporate buildings to a security management organization. It was up to this security organization to hire the necessary personnel to monitor the premises. Not known to the manufacturing firm was the fact that the security-outsourcing vendor never ran thorough background checks on its hires. Upon investigation it was found that two of the guards working in night shifts at the manufacturing firm, George and Alan, were stealing high-end office supplies such as printer toner and reams of papers. It was even discovered that George and Alan were using unprotected computers (i.e., computers that were not locked) to surf pornographic websites during their night shifts. The investigation commenced only after a routine IT audit discovered that two computers had traffic to the pornographic websites. Besides the minor expenses involved in replacing stolen office supplies, these actions may have had a more severe cost, such as viruses or spyware that may have been inadvertently downloaded onto office computers.

A boutique strategy consulting company based in downtown New York had about 30 employees and just under a dozen clients. The firm received an offer to participate on a project involving a firm based in Shanghai. No one in the firm had any serious experience in the Chinese market, and hence, they decided to hire a new employee: a recent graduate of a prestigious law school who was interested in international law with a special focus on Asia. The new hire passed the initial background check with flying colors and began her assignment. During the course of the assignment, suspicious behavior started to emerge, including loss of documents and extended phone calls with Chinese counterparts. The organization decided to commission a new check on the employee. During the investigations, which included information on the exchanges with the colleagues in China, it was discovered that the employee was in serious financial trouble and had ailing parents who needed her immediate financial assistance. As a result, she got involved in illegal activities, which included the sale of sensitive information and spying on the organizations’ clients for the benefit of the Chinese business counterparts.

  • Desouza, K.C. Managing Knowledge Security: Strategies for Protecting Your Company’s Intellectual Assets, London, United Kingdom: Kogan Page, 2007.

  • Power, M.J., Bonifazi, C., & Desouza, K.C. “Ten Outsourcing Traps to Avoid,” Journal of Business Strategy, 25 (2), 2004, 37-42.

  • Power, M.J., Desouza, K.C, & Bonifazi, C. The Outsourcing Handbook: How to Implement a Successful Outsourcing Process, London, United Kingdom: Kogan Page, 2006.

If interested in reading more, please drop me an email. The above is an excerpt from an article accepted for publication in Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Organizational Innovation Programs – Upcoming Talks

I will be giving several talks around South Africa based on the Leveraging Ideas for Organizational Innovation and Demystifying the Link between Innovation and Business Value research projects. Here are a few dates:

  • August 13th – Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town
  • August 26th - Department of Informatics, Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, University of Pretoria
  • August 29th – BSG South Africa

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Seattle Innovation Symposium – University of Washington – 2008

I will be chairing a panel discussion on innovation at the 2008 Seattle Innovation Symposium (June 9-11) at the University of Washington. The panel will debate a simple, yet critical, question – Does size matter in respect to sustained innovation? For the panel, I will draw on a completed research project that examined challenges faced by incumbent firms when trying to build sustainable innovation programs. This project was conducted as part of the i4i research program. The final report from this project will be published in Research-Technology Management. Please see below for details:

Braganza, A., Awazu, Y., and Desouza, K.C. “Sustaining Innovation: The Challenge for Incumbents,” Research-Technology Management, Forthcoming.

In today’s competitive environment, the ability of an organization to innovate is considered paramount. While most organizations have flashes or spurts of innovation, only a handful of organizations have been able to innovate on a continuous and sustained basis. In this paper, we report on the challenges faced by firms when trying to build sustainable innovation programs. These findings have been deduced from an examination of innovation programs in over 30 organizations based in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A New Work Force Wave: Managing Millennials (See beyond the stereotypes of the ‘Me Generation’ to harness creativity)

I was recently interviewed for an article on innovation by Colin Simpson of the Bellingham Business Journal. To retrieve the article, please click here [LINK]. As I continue to study innovation practices in high-technology organizations, I continue to be amazed by the innovative capacities of the ‘Me Generation’….

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Customer-Driven Innovation

A research paper from the Leveraging Ideas for Innovation project has been published:

Desouza, K.C., Awazu, Y., Jha, S., Dombrowski, C., Papagari, S. Baloh, P., and Kim, J.Y. “Customer-Driven Innovation,” Research-Technology Management, 51 (3), 2008, 35-44.

The paper can be retrieved from:

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Big Think Strategy (Harvard Business School Press, 2007) by Bernd Schmitt

Big Think Strategy (Harvard Business School Press, 2007) is an interesting and thought-provoking book. As Schmitt notes (pg. 15), “data, spreadsheets, and analytical charts are mostly reactive tools that illuminate the past. They cannot envision strategies directed inherently towards the future. They are good for diagnosing problems, not for creating big ideas and powerful solutions…” I could not agree more. Too often executives are paralyzed by analysis and are risk averse. As a result organizations make incremental changes and adapt to their environments in a reactive manner. Only a handful of organizations have the capabilities, and will power, to truly undertake risky and breakthrough innovations.

Recently, with two colleagues, Yukika Awazu (Bentley College, USA) and Ashley Braganza (Cranfield School of Management, UK), I wrote a paper that examined challenges faced by incumbents in developing sustainable innovation programs. This paper can be accessed via the Institute for Innovation in Information Management (see and will be forthcoming in Research-Technology Management (see LINK). We open our paper with the following paragraph:
“When facing disruptive innovation, incumbent firms often exhibit incompetence and respond inappropriately. Organizational structures, routines, and systems that are tailored to existing operations prevent incumbent firms from responding to and leading disruptive innovation. As firms grow, they design systems, processes, and structures that are suitable for current operations. In this way, organizations can minimize their costs and increase their operational effectiveness. Hierarchies reduce transaction costs and increase efficiency. However, efficient, rigidities embedded in functional hierarchies and authority structures do not fit with the natural flow of innovation processes. For innovation to occur, ideas need to be represented freely, exchanged, and filtered. Idea generation activities are typically done in informal or open environments. Cross-functional departments or loosely coupled structures are better for mixing people in various knowledge domains. The optimized operational structure may hamper incumbent firms, particularly with respect to disruptive innovation. Operational protocol is often unsuited for the quite different processes of calibrating inventions and turning them into innovation. In this case, incumbent firms tend to invest in daily, minor, incremental innovations that fit their current organizational design…”

Given my interest in the topic of strategic innovation, I was pleased to find a book that proposes a framework for thinking about breakthrough innovations. Schmitt focuses his comments on how should organizations (1) source new ideas, (2) evaluate risky (and breakthrough) ideas, (3) commercialize ideas by developing enabling strategies, (4) execute big-think strategies, (5) lead via big-thinking, and (5) develop sustainable processes for having repeatable success with big-thinking. The book is laden with interesting examples; the writing style is highly conversational; I enjoyed reading the book; Highly recommended!