I watched with continued fascination the other day one of my favourite TV shows about the business world, The Undercover Boss. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet takes the CEO of a large corporation, disguising them as they go “back to the shop floor” to experience what it is like to really work in a variety of roles inside their company.
A film crew accompanies our secret CEO as they come to grips with the variety of roles they undertake in the guise of a documentary. Through the show, the CEO goes on a journey of discovery and revelation. Discovery in some of the amazing people they have working for them, who are going above and beyond to do their job and keep the company wheels turning, to the revelation in the things that are being ignored in the company that are hindering its operational efficiency or potential growth. You would think from watching one program that these findings are limited to that company but amazingly you tune in next week to see the same story. This is no coincidence.
So for the second part of the program we move from the fly-on the wall documentary style filming to the big reveal, where the employees who worked alongside the CEO are called to HQ under some false pretence. Interviewing them on the way in, some are full of hope of being finally recognised for their hard work, others are fearful for their futures. That alone tells you a lot about the state of a company’s culture. Then the big reveal. In they walk and suddenly they have the realisation that their recent colleague is in fact, The Boss. Few are relieved. Most are apprehensive. Then the big speech begins as the CEO walks through their experiences of the job, personal reflection on the employees’ performance and then the praise. Thankfully at this point we all smile. The employee relaxes and we, the audience, who are in on the secret, can share in their relief but now the anticipation.
So what’s next? Firstly the CEO shares their plan to change with immediate affect the problems or opportunities they’ve observed. This is not only good for the business but also that individuals happiness/well-being on the job. Then the CEO looks to and often surprisingly to most of the individuals in question, substantial reward their efforts. It would be simple to give away cash but these CEOs want to go beyond that initial reward. They look to make it more personal, from a family holiday to the addition of opportunities of advancement in their careers. But this isn’t a free ride. They provide the opportunity but the employee still has to work hard to make the most of it. These are smart rewards. Public recognition with the people who matter most in their lives and the support to help drive their private ambition to develop their careers. Credits roll and we tune in next week.
So are the lessons learned? Are other CEO’s around the world taking inspiration and buying fake glasses and moustaches?
Probably not but I’m sure a few volunteer for the next series, which of course keeps us all entertained. On a more serious note, do these CEOs put in place the processes to sustainably detect problems, opportunities and importantly, react to them? In some instances they do but more often than not they appear to be a “one hit wonder”. We know in most cases the CEOs only scratched the surface of opportunity hidden within their companies and of course, as time passes, things continue to change.
So what can CEOs do to stay on top of what is really happening in their companies in such a personal way? What would you say if you could be not only the secret CEO but actually the visible CEO on the shop floor, front-line and heart of your operation every day across your company? Discovering the problems that matter and need solving. Unearth the new opportunities that need developing to take your company forwards in ways you hadn’t realised. Reacting to customer and partner needs early as they emerge when they are weak signals and not obvious to all market analysts. Discover the amazing people who can transform your business and will take any chance you give them to develop and give you more. Interested? If not check your pulse or look in the mirror as you may be a Clerk Kent CEO and one of the early adopters?
There is a new kind of CEO emerging who is not a CEO who only identifies innovation as one of their top three priorities but also acts on it in a very public and engaging manner. These new dynamic CEOs are actually rolling up their sleeves and making it one of their top priorities that they take an active roll and get involved through Collaborative Innovation, which is the perfect avenue to connect 24/7 throughout the organisation to drive this valuable change. They are no longer cautious about Collaborative Innovation but actively sponsoring, seeking, structuring, resourcing, rewarding and helping to drive it positively to embed it throughout their culture.
The Collaborative Innovation Evolution is coming and it’s transcending the early idea management models many companies are familiar with but few have advanced. From CEO sponsored Innovation Tournaments with great challenges, prizes and inspiring opportunities to B2B Customer Innovation engagements that dazzle key customers who never knew how much you valued their business. The Collaborative Innovation Playbooks are being taken to a whole new level to drive this huge competitive value. As these programs connect to the C-level with strategic support from CEO, we are seeing the barrier to long-term sustainability being removed as they become an integral part to generating not only incremental but are actively promoted to discovering new to world (or as some people prefer breakthrough) innovation. This is leading to some truly impressive ROIs. So isn’t it time you signed up to the Collaborative Innovation Evolution, no false moustaches or glasses required?