Winning the Head and the Heart

I was speaking to a C-suite higher education executive not long ago regarding her need to build effective and efficient new product launch teams. Now you may ask, as I did, what is a new product in the higher ed context. Well, this can be distilled to the introduction of a new, ideally innovative capability or service offering for students, faculty and/or the community. Here is an example of innovative new products collected by for your reference.

The executive I was speaking with shared that the university launched a new product that was intended to go fast and be lean, but in the end, it took over 200 team members and many more months than expected to get this service offering over the finish line. The executive then asked me if I had any ideas how to speed this process up for the future.

I, in turn, shared two stories. First, my colleague @Will Jacobs' experience of launching a new business line against the odds and secondly a delightful HBR article titled “Accelerate” by John P. Kotter.

In Will’s story, he took a team of very talented but under-motivated colleagues from a successful technology company, tore them away from their everyday work and then built a $95M USD eCommerce business in 24 months! There is a lot more to this story and is the basis of a Gartner CSCO executive forum talk in Germany this week. Look out for updates from Will after the presentation.

This caught the interest of the executive, but then she asked how Will motivated the team. Here is where I spoke about “Accelerate”. Kotter opens his article with the following passage:

“Perhaps the greatest challenge business leaders face today is how to stay competitive amid constant turbulence and disruption.”

Kotter goes on to explain that in order to get large organizations to innovate rapidly that they need to move towards a networked, non-hierarchical structure that runs in parallel to the hierarchical processes that most large business run on today. Of course, there is a case for the structure that the hierarchy provides. This is very useful for ensuring safety, regulatory and process consistency, but it is through sacrificing flexibility and agility. This is where the network can offer an advantage.

In Will’s case, he pulled the team out of the hierarchy and developed his own networked expert coalition, or in Kotter’s words, Will constructed a “volunteer army” with a shared vision and commitment to succeed.

These volunteer armies are powerful for many reasons. The one reason I believe to be paramount is that the network is able to capture the “Head and heart, not just head” as Kotter explains:

“People won’t want to do a day job in the hierarchy and a night job in the network—which is essentially how a dual operating system works—if you appeal only to logic, with numbers and business cases. You must appeal to their emotions, too. You must speak to their genuine desire to contribute to positive change and to take an enterprise in strategically smart ways into a better future, giving greater meaning and purpose to their work.”

When teams really believe in the vision, amazing outcomes often result. After sharing these stories, I explained that these strategies are portable across industries and thought they could be useful for the university. What do you think?

How do you launch new products or services effectively and efficiently?

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