“Destroy! Devastate!! Demolish!!!” With his voice thundering louder than lightning, the professor at the seminar was almost shouting at all of us that any CEO who continues to practise tried and tested business processes will be doomed to be shallowly average at best, if not a b-school case for leading an extinct corporation at worst. Though my narcissistic cook [a self-proclaimed CEO], with his most irritating and unpalatable dishes, came first to my mind, I realised the professor’s bent was more corporate. For radical transformation into a superlative global leader, what is required – especially in these recession times – is fanatical belief in the 3-D Ternion; that is, destroy, devastate and demolish ‘standard’ processes and structures and most importantly, complacent CEO attitudes for never before seen business growth. And the No.1 key to this is discovering ‘profitable innovation’!
It’s clearly the CEO, who is solely responsible for bulldozing in this attitude within this company. Way back in ‘97, when, despite all research to the positive, this man’s engineers gave him 38 reasons why the proposed strange multi-coloured computer would be a failure and questioned him on why he was so steadfast about the product, he shot back, “Because I’m the CEO, and I think it can be done.” The iMac is a historical top-seller, Apple’s top grosser till date! Innovation is not at all about the money, as Steve justifies, “...Or about how many R&D dollars you have. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led...” Zuckerberg was an imp of a Harvard student in 2003, pulled up by the administrative board for computer security breaches as he uploaded a software for rating students’ photographs/profiles. Four years later, on October 24, 2007, this imp sold 1.6% stake in his new creation to Microsoft for $240 million [valuing his entity at a walloping $15 billion]. You know his ‘product’ as Facebook. We know it as a $40 billion revenue grosser in 2007.
And you don’t even need to have a dramatic ‘product’, so to say. A great idea is more than enough meat. In May ‘81, when Rolfe Shellenberger, Marketing Manager of the $184 million revenue grossing American Airlines, proposed a strange new discount scheme to entice current air travellers to take future tickets too, CEO Bob Crandall didn’t take much convincing, once Rolfe had proved the innovative idea was profitable! ‘AAdvantage’ became the world’s first frequent-flyer scheme, resulting in a mammoth 13,000% revenue increase. The case has been the same since years. Accenture’s benchmark report [Measuring Profitable...Innovation] shows how “each new product introduction mentioned in the WSJ between 1975-84 resulted in an average return to shareholders of $115.7 million beyond industry norms.” AT Kearney, Wharton, Harvard, IMD, Booz Allen, BCG, the industry is splattered with similar reports.
From Post-It notes to YouTube, from ball-point pens to potato chips and cola, profitable innovation has ruled and the CEO has to believe fanatically in it... Well, I was a believer. The shouting professor had succeeded. With unshakable belief now in the 3-D Ternion, I rushed back home from the seminar pretty late in the night. Despite being very hungry, and with lions growling in my stomach, all I had in my mind was to ‘Destroy, Devastate & Demolish’ the super-ego of my arch nemesis – the utterly non-innovative cook! Strangely, the house was empty. I kicked myself for forgetting that everybody had gone for a birthday party. But where was the cook? It was then that I saw the note on the refrigerator. It read: “1. I’m off for a week. 2. There’re no groceries... 3. And no dinner too!” [Goddammit, innovation never happened on an empty stomach!]