Harley Stays Cool in the Heat

Few brands were hit as hard by the recession as Harley-Davidson. Demand for motorcycles has taken a hit, and demand for premium motorcycles has taken an even bigger hit. It’s hard to sell a lot of twenty-some-thousand-dollar bikes when discretionary income is at a premium. Harley’s revenues continue to suffer, dipping 7.7 percent in the third quarter. Under these circumstances, the last thing you’d expect from Harley-Davidson is solid profitability, but the company’s profits more than tripled in the last quarter as management cut costs, laid off employees and closed plants. That, however, is only half the story. Beyond cutting back on its supply side—here’s where Harley departs from average brands—the company managed its demand side as well. As the economy tightened up, Harley began requiring larger down payments from its credit customers. The company tightened up its lending standards, too, making it harder for the average Joe to afford … Continue reading

Posted in Finance, Leadership, Strategy, marketing | 1 Comment
Choosing Optimism

The writer Douglas Coupland, coiner of the phrase GenX, is an ominous kind of guy. In a reverse mirror image, he’s calling himself a “radical pessimist” against my school of “radical optimism.” By radical I’m not just meaning extreme, but consciously applied, as per the Rules for Radicals classic by late veteran activist Saul Alinsky. Coupland’s school of radical pessimism has led him to create “A Radical Pessimist’s Guide to the Next 10 Years” which has just appeared in the Globe & Mail, and true to form, offers a bleak depiction of the coming decade. Of the 45 “tips for survival in a messed-up future”, the first one is to recognize that “it’s going to get worse”; the last is that “we will accept the obvious truth that we brought this upon ourselves.” In between are a bunch of glass-half-empty insights and predictions such as “You’re going to miss the … Continue reading

Posted in Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Psychology | 1 Comment
Importance of Icebreakers to Brainstorming

Often brainstorm workshops are being held for groups of people who normally don’t work as a team. For example people from different departments or layers from a company. In the workshop the group is expected to brainstorm about a topic in a very short time (one or two hours). As a warming-up exercise for the workshop attendees, I like to use ice breaker exercises. Ice breaker exercises can be used to: Form a group within a short period of time Learn out of the box thinking Learn to innovate & brainstorm Icebreaker exercises help people get to know each other, and to prepare themselves mentally to brainstorm about the topic at hand. The rules: Keep the ice breaker exercise short; 5 – 7 minutes. Show a real life version of your example (can of Coca-Cola and a set of batteries). Let the people form a circle and let them stand … Continue reading

Posted in Creativity, Headlines, Management | 4 Comments
Creating Lasting Influence

Anyone can create moments of influence, but creating lasting influence is where your sights should be set. Understanding how to leverage the influence factor can make a defining difference in your ability to drive change, build cohesive teams, and to successfully implement strategic vision. As a leader your “Influence Quotient” is the IQ you need to pay attention to. In fact, your influence quotient will be a much greater determinant of your ultimate success than your “Intelligence Quotient” could ever be. Innate, raw intelligence while certainly something to be prized, is much more common and much less powerful than real influence. In today’s post I’ll examine the often misunderstood value of influence… Let me be clear…when I mention influence I’m not referring to manipulation, elaborate schemes, or other forms of skulduggery. Ill-gotten gains will always be exposed for what they are, and moreover, they will never be worth the compromises … Continue reading

Posted in Leadership, Psychology | 3 Comments
Are You Ready for the Pendulum Swing?

Without question, the past recession has hit many companies hard. But as business leaders struggling to keep our companies afloat, we sometimes forget that it’s been hard on employees as well, including those who managed to keep their jobs. According to a survey conducted earlier this year by Kelton Research, today’s employees are feeling under-empowered, underappreciated, demotivated, and overworked. In the six months prior to the survey: 68 percent had not received any useful feedback from their supervisors 82 percent had not established career goals with their supervisors 53 percent did not understand how their role contributed to company objectives 25 percent were given new job responsibilities outside of their primary skill sets This does not sound like a motivated and contented workforce! Even if your company managed to escape the worst of the layoffs and cutbacks, don’t assume that your workforce remains happy or motivated. People may still be … Continue reading

Posted in Leadership, Management, Psychology | 1 Comment
Increasing Global Demand for Innovation Success

I recently conducted an innovation workshop in Kuala Lumpur. The energy and enthusiasm for innovation from firms that attended is really impressive. We had attendees from Malaysia and Thailand, as well as from Sudan. For all the firms represented, innovation represents a method to drive new differentiation and new revenues based on new products, new services and new business models. It’s interesting to see how quickly firms of all types and all industries, in all regions, are understanding the importance of innovation. Whether it was an oil and gas company, a research firm, a cell phone provider or a firm that offers outsourced software development, all understood the power that innovation offers their business and the possibilities for future growth. As I mentioned in my previous post, while they all understand how important innovation can be to their businesses, they also face some of the same constraints that …

Posted in Creativity, Innovation | 1 Comment
Innovation and Business Models

Which must come first? by Stephanie Baron Day one of the EPIC conference convinced us that open innovation, while not being a one size fits all, can be tried and will deliver results in every industry. Chicken first! Day two of the conference embarked us on exploring new business models in those open partnerships systems. We started with a chicken or egg conundrum: If we develop the technology should we also create the need for it? Or is it necessary to first find an unfulfilled need and develop a solution. In short, if we build it, will they come? Keynote speaker, Alexander Blass, of Alexander Blass Int’l, insisted that we must start with a need. Mark Johnson, another keynote speaker for the day, also drove home the point that you have to start with customer value in mind. “That may start by looking at unsatisfying jobs that need to be … Continue reading

Posted in Headlines, Innovation, Open Innovation, collaboration | 3 Comments