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LEARNING ARCHITECTURE OF THE INNONETWORK

The learning architecture of the INNOnetwork aimed at initiating:

• Management System Learning

o Learning within "steering" as well as "changing & learning architecture" including the Executive Board (EXBO), the Heads of Business and Market Units (Corporate Management) and the Heads of Departments (Middle Management, and innovation managers of single units).

• Individual Leadership Learning

o Individual leadership learning within an "enlarged counseling staff" as well as "changing & learning architecture" and the "inventing & learning architecture" including the network coordinator, external counselors, and the steering group as well as INNOnetwork Swarovski.

• Network System Learning

o Network system learning including all subsystems apart from the EXBO and Corporate Management.

• Organizational Learning

o Organizational learning beyond learning architecture within the hierarchical organization of Swarovski (see Figure 20.4).

LESSONS LEARNED ON SYSTEM LEVELS

Management System Learning

INNOnetwork Swarovski supported management system learning. A critical success factor for management system learning was to develop,

Hierarchical organization of Swarovski.

Figure 20.4. Hierarchical organization of Swarovski.

visualize and negotiate outcomes with the first, second, and third management levels, and so forth. Network results proved that the time investment into cooperation led to more efficiency and profit.

Unfortunately, EXBO as well as all people of the Corporate Management remained outside of the network system and, thus, were not included in steering or review workshops. On the one hand, this allowed avoiding proactive questioning of the EXBO's role in supporting or hindering the progress of the internal network. On the other hand, top management welcomed results of INNOnetwork but was not committed to generating results within network structures and procedures.

The main lesson from this is that neither EXBO nor Corporate Management recognized the strengths and benefits of network organization for their steering ambitions. So, when SWAROVKI business units were completely reorganized each single function and structure related to its contribution for economic growth was questioned. As Corporate Management was not the initiator and contractor for the INNOnetwork structure they did not act as mentors to the INNOnetwork during this change period. This hampered the ongoing trial of reimplementation of an updated INNOnetwork to the changing organizational environment.

Decisions within management systems have to be made in situations where no one has sufficient information at hand to make the correct one (Simon, 2004). Yet, decision makers are part of a communication system. Thus, INNOnetwork Swarovski could not be invented by a single decision of the VP of innovation but had to be conceptualized and implemented by a critical number of internal entrepreneurs—supported by a mixed internal-external staff/group adding outside perspectives and interventions to reduce existing "blind spots."

Summing up we can say that to stand up as a "cultural island" and negotiating network outcomes with diverse management boards not only provoked changes on the content-side but also transformed communication patterns between the management subsystems.

Individual Learning

The VP of innovation motivated six influential innovation managers to voluntarily participate within the so called "INNO steering group".

Individual Leadership Learning of Steering Group Members

The INNO steering group jointly built up a case for action on "what happens if nothing happens" as well as a joint vision and network strategy. In succession the big challenge for the INNOmanagers was to stick to this vision and network beliefs and to keep up the identity of the internal network while environmental structures were periodically changing during the 5 years.

The Swarovski steering group invented itself by deciding on cross-functional cooperation on the same level and clear transparency with respect to functional targets and interests. Some of the lessons learned by steering group members were:

• To put the individual unit's interests into a perspective of enterprise-wide innovation.

• To critically reflect on dysfunctional cooperation patterns hampering Swarovski's innovation.

• To draw and hold a boundary to these patterns in favor of a more open and trusting organizational culture. In terms of Edgar Schein (2010), a "cultural island" emerged in the enterprise.

Individual Leadership Learning of the Vice President of Innovation

The Swarovski case study shows that the VP of innovation (who was elected as network coordinator) managed in the early implementation phases to avoid decision paralysis with respect to implementation of enterprise-wide innovation. Based on his systemic expertise, his key lessons learned during the phase of constructing a bottom-up-tailored network structure were:

• Standing up for his beliefs (e.g., reliability, trust-based cooperation, entrepreneurship) by searching for solutions beyond top management orders.

• Accepting that the internal network was not the goal but a very useful instrument to advance despite a lack of cooperation between managers of the first, second, and third levels. The necessity to use INNOnetwork as a steering instrument forced the VP of innovation to learn essential principles about the cooperation of network processes.

• Identifying benefits of the so called "submarine" strategy allowing the build-up of a distinct network structure without periodical reports to the supervisors in charge.

• Utilizing enlarged counseling staff for lessons on how to design and moderate workshops of small and large groups. Today moderating open space for Swarovski units has become a familiar role for the VP of innovation.

• Acting as an internal counselor also led to a transformation of roles of the external counselors. In lieu of asking external counselors to act as overall facilitators he utilized them as personal coaches and sparring partners. He thereby gained security with respect to how to govern network subsystems and internal counselor activities.

Individual Learning of External Counselors

In the very beginning the ties among the external systemic counselors and the network coordinator were very close as the architecture was developed bottom-up in a step-by-step feedback-loop guided process. After the steering group had set a vision and strategy it developed diverse standards in cooperation with internal and external experts.

o Importance of the evolving role of the counselors:

The network coordinator took responsibility for the face-to-face steering of group meetings on a monthly basis with telephone conferences taking place over the same period of time. Meanwhile counselors transformed their role from continuous facilitators of the steering group to supervisors who questioned roles and rules. Over time the importance of the Network Coordinator's supervisory role increased, giving the counselor's role a new relevance within the cooperation.

o Including both internal and external moderators (counselors) at network meetings:

In the fourth year of network implementation a seminar questionnaire was sent out by a marketing department in order to evaluate each network meeting. The impact was that the marketing department demanded the VP to change the counselors of the network events. The insight for counselors and the network coordinator was that network members could not recognize the counselors' work of conceptualizing and implementing the network setup: While the network coordinator was seen as the person in charge of the overall concept, the proper designs, and successful network development, the external counselors were judged on a personal level based on their likability and friendliness at particular events. Utilizing a new staff for the network meetings consisting of an internal and external moderator proved a well-fitting solution to the problem of external counselors being judged on a personal level.

o Publication and presentation of results lead to better image of INNOnetwork within Swarovski:

The coordinator and one of the counselors started joint publishing of this social innovation at conferences which allowed for joint learning as well as a better image of the INNOnetwork and the Network Coordinator's achievements within Swarovski.

Individual Learning of Network Members

The individual learning of network members was enhanced by opportunities to act as hosts within world café[1] rounds and by drawing conclusions of World Café table dialogues within the large group events. Furthermore, new insights in customer complaints and demands resulting from financial crises discussed in large group events allowed for the individual learning of staff members on an organizational and content level.

Summing up we can say that on an individual leadership learning basis the INNOnetwork allowed: (1) professional growth by taking on new and rewarding tasks; (2) opportunities for participative decision-making that was relevant throughout the entire organization; (3) taking responsibilities for driving topics and results via the INNOsteering group acting as a task force optimizing the enterprise-wide innovation process; (4) organization-wide visibility as an option for advancing professional careers; (5) the experience of rewarding relationships with colleagues based on respect for their contributions; and (6) a culture based on content orientation and quality as well as joy and enthusiasm (Grossmann et al., 2007).

Network System Learning

• Within network meetings:

o Network system learning was enhanced by facilitating transparent feedback loops and negotiation processes between the coordinator, the steering group members and cross-functional members of the internal innovation network. These helped to assess both the benefits and the need for further improvements of network structure and cooperation roles and rules.

• In addition to the annual steering group workshops:

o The roles of and rules for the coordinator, the steering group members, and the large group network events were questioned with respect to the changing environments and new objectives of the EXBO and Corporate Management. This led on the one hand to inviting new steering group members and on the other hand to intensifying dialogues with EXBO and representatives of Corporate Management.

Organizational Learning

• Lessons learned by steering group members:

o Some of the lessons learned by the steering group members were that they had to act as change managers in their line functions by transferring new patterns and standardized innovation management instruments (e.g., innovation portfolio management) into daily operational life. This allowed for natural organizational learning without an "outside-in-push" of lessons from external innovation-advisors.

• Cross-functional projects within the Swarovski enterprise:

o Cross-functional projects within the Swarovski enterprise made possible the establishment of new expert-networks on specific topics. This also enabled organizational and individual learning on the content side. The bottom-up implementation of technology and market driven innovation projects enabled cross-functional/ hierarchical organizational learning between experts and decision makers and the introduction of radical innovations for the market.

  • [1] World Café methodology of Juanita Brown and David Isaacs (2005) implements large group dialogues on questions that matter. An essential question is discussed within three dialogue rounds of about 30 minutes. One participant acts as a "table host" staying at the table during all three rounds. The other participants change the "dialogue table" per World Café round in order to learn lessons from the former dialogues and to add new perspectives to already existing insights. This process is completed by a plenary session where hosts summarize insights of all participants involved.
 
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