The Organizational Strategist

February 3, 2010

Harnessing your Organization’s Innovation Potential via JAM Sessions


Generating ideas, making the most of the energy, intelligence and wisdom of an organization is often a topic that executives and leaders ponder. Who wouldn’t desire to get the most productivity out of their employee’s time? There are many activities that can help to achieve this, but they are often costly and/or take a lot of time away from the everyday demands of working life. What you may want to consider is holding what IBM has called a JAM session, which is also known as a flash forum. JAM sessions are also known as fly-ins or flash forums. I’ll use the terms interchangeably because they generally refer to the same type of action.

-Defining Fly-ins-

JAM sessions are high impact, short term, and intensive mass collaboration efforts done via virtual forums. Within these interactions members access the online forums wherever they may be to contribute ideas, add to the discussion of other ideas, and evaluate the quality of the created ideas. The participants can contribute at their own leisure during the day since forums allow for asynchronous updates. Usually these events last only a few days, but they are accessible 24 hours each day. That allows for global involvement and allows for contributions to be made at the participant’s convenience.

-Flash Forum Benefits-

The results of these events give energy, ideas, and increase networking in an organization at a fraction of the cost when comparing to the traditional in-person multi-day events. Such events are an opportunity for open innovation. For instance, it might play out that Susan in accounting introduces her new product idea in a forum that Claire in engineering helps imagine and then designs. With peer involvement and social navigation ratings (think or vendor reviews at Amazon), it becomes clear where the energy in an organization lies and how feasible an idea could be for implementation. These events conclude with loads of ideas, a more refreshed workforce from having done something different, and idea champions that could become future leaders in the organization.

-Making a JAM Session Successful-

There are many factors to making a large scale event possible and effective over time. I’ve listed suggestions that should help aid the planning, application, and follow through of the event.

Setting up the activity:

  • Direct the outputs to achieve particular aims that align with the organizational strategy
  • Bring in diverse stakeholder input to ensure representation and perspective sharing
  • Have a solid technological forum infrastructure to support the event needs such as:
    • high volume load capacity to allow for maximum involvement
    • ease of use (particularly in the readability areas of idea conversations)
    • information security (if needed)
    • objective peer rating and overall ranking

Implementing the activity:

  • Share and champion each other’s ideas
  • Create real dialogue to imagine implementation, predict ROI, and understand what resources or capabilities need to be aligned
  • Utilize respectful, professional behavior while contributing
  • Encourage and allocate time to allow employee contribution while the event is live

Following through the activity:

  • Recognize, celebrate and reward the good ideas, involvement, and contribution
  • Provide support from key decision makers to give sponsorship funding, empower the idea champions, and clear obstacles or hindrances to the projects
  • Make efforts to sustain the momentum, networking, and progress made from idea champions


The potential benefits from putting on a flash forum are tremendous. Employees get a chance to try out their ideas, exhibit their energy and organizational wisdom, and realize leadership potential through the championship of ideas. The management and executives can cultivate wide scale innovation, networking, and collaboration easily, effectively and at a significantly lower cost than traditional alternatives. The setup and execution of such events will only get easier and cheaper over time too! I hope that flash forums accomplish much for anyone who implements one.


October 17, 2009

Market Leadership Requires Enduring Strategy

Filed under: Strategy — Tags: , , , , , , — Whit @ 5:03 pm

Strategy, according to a highly respected and well known professor of mine, Richard Osborne, who is well known as “The Gorilla”, is defined as “the alignment of resources and capabilities to win in the market.” I immensely enjoyed his class on managerial consulting while studying for my MBA. The definition has served me well for many dialogues, modeling, and then planning the implementation of the strategy.

An enduring strategy requires making that alignment of resources and capabilities effective in the market environment and a lasting advantage over whatever competition is fighting over the same market. Major companies, like IBM and Google, are showing that their strategies are paying off for them, even though many companies are suffering from the present economic challenges. The Associated Press posted that Google and IBM third quarter results were good, each in their own ways. Google’s search based ad clicking and IBM’s technology services have been very lucrative for their organizations. The core business derived from the capabilities and resources of Google and IBM are winning in their market spaces right now.

There is much that can be discussed on strategy. The competitive analysis and market forces in play are often discussion points that contribute significantly to a firm’s strategy. Understanding the most profitable market segments to capture is a tantalizing pursuit. However, these endeavors alone will not ensure a lasting win in the market. They are very helpful and important to win in the current market environment, but the path to create that win is vital for the ongoing success of an organization. Building and developing the organization’s combination of resources and capabilities to be unique and/or very difficult to replicate paves the way for maintaining market leadership.

We can see that IBM and Google have been winning in their markets with the ability to prosper as they have. IBM, for instance, has its strategic partnerships and service contracts. Google has its data capabilities and search algorithms. There are many more aspects of each company that are strengths and aid in the success of their respective organizations. Yet, in each of those examples of organizational resources and capabilities, other organizations would find it remarkably difficult to duplicate. The partnerships and contracts with IBM serve as an ongoing source of business and barrier to other companies. Replicating the data storage/retrieval techniques and technology would require major brain power and funding to undertake.

Strategy is a major interest of mine. I have found that having a diverse background helps with the situational understanding, formulation, and implementation of strategy. I’m always interested in learning more and collaborating. Readers, what areas are of most interest? Which challenges might be helpful to explore?

The link for the Google article can be found here:

The link for the IBM article can be found here:

October 10, 2009

A bit about me

The internet, as I see it, is a meritocracy. This information superhighway often allows for everyone’s ideas to be given the benefit of the doubt until some sort of value judgment can be made. Having a reputation or credit can help tremendously in this avenue. For instance, the onion, while a fun read, will not give relevant research information like the NY Times might present. Reputations can be built in many ways. In this medium, it is harder to know the value of a person’s contributions quickly because the context, background, or other helpful information is not known.

  As such, I figured that having a background on me would be helpful to help balance and inform where I’ll be coming from in my posts. My professional adventures started in the Midwest with my technically based studies. I have a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Evansville (Evansville, Indiana). That degree and time lead to a handful of years experience working in small software companies with mostly antivirus/security, simulation, scenario planning, and visualization products. There I had a handful of roles ranging from quality/testing to development to project management/auditing. After that experience, I got accepted to Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management full time MBA program. That was a wonderful experience which opened up doors to big technology company work, consulting, and a vast growth of knowledge breadth and depth. There I worked with IBM for a short span in their Extreme Blue program in a project management and consulting capacity for Apache Geronimo and IBM’s other open source initiatives. My MBA also led to a Masters degree in Positive Organizational Development and Change from the same business school. The combination of degrees and experience has given me a good platform to work with people in many different roles and functions. During my time pursuing Masters degrees, I was consulting off and on in small and large projects from individual coaching to leading large scale change efforts. Soon after graduating from my second business degree from Case, I had a great time working with the Organizational Effectiveness group in Boeing doing Organizational Development (OD) consulting efforts.

  That only gives a fraction of my experiences. Further details can be found by going to my LinkedIn profile. In reading this blog, please do bring up any questions of interest. I am open to sharing from my experiences and background. However, there is much information that is not mine to divulge and so I may have to decline commenting or referencing information.

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