Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann


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The Big Secret of Digital Business Transformation

Simple understanding of turning ideas into standout successes

By N. Pfeffermann, February 11, 2018




What I’d like to share with you as an artist is this: We live in a world now where we get information fast, but we don’t get knowledge. Knowledge needs to be earned. There are no easy rides. Society perpetuates the idea of no process. Technology means we get what we want: Faster and easier. But are we happier? Are we more successful? Does it mean that we have achieved more? I think you know the answer to that. Put your focus on what you have to say to the world not what the world has to say about you.

Madonna, Billboard Women in music, 2016 [part of the uncensored speech!!]
#madonna #artists #empowerment #metoo



What is this process that we are not talking about? How can we achieve more in the world?

The last article of this knowledge series focuses on the process of turning new ideas into standout successes and the How? behind this process. That includes a three-step process of highlighting the big secret of transformation and what smart leadership is all about. Finally, six growth drivers are presented summarizing the articles from two different perspectives.



I. Linking Innovation Management and Communication

In the last years many researchers and managers have been focusing on the topic ‘Strategy and Communication for Innovation’ (see Springer publication) and how businesses and individuals can better interact, lead and prosper in the open innovation economy and era of profound digital transformation.

Managers deal with innovation dynamics and new ways to engage and interact with individuals within and across organizations in order to create next growth opportunities, anticipate shifts, continuously transform businesses and bring new ideas to fruition. In this context, three communication tasks are as follows:

As shown in Fig. 1, the following three management levels can be identified:
(1) Strategic innovation management - business level;
(2) Innovation management and communication - strategic level; and
(3) Innovation management and communication - operational level.


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



Many businesses invest time and manage activities at the business and operational level, meaning how to develop new digital businesses and how to communicate effectively with individuals in the open innovation process.

Innovation communication is thereby understood as relatively new communication fields at the operational level: Innovation marketing, corporate innovation communication/PR, and change communication/strategy communication (three of 30 communication fields + tools).

Communication Model Design: A Systematic Way

How can we communicate in a more effective and systematic way? Fig. 2 shows the new tool ‘Communication Model Design’ (read more about the tool and communication model check here or join the online program) which helps us to communicate the New and clearly link a strategy to operational communications.


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



A communication model design is the rationale of how individuals and organizations create value through communication, reach different markets, and link a strategy approach to a communication approach to achieve goals. It is a visual, one-page tool for developing, challenging and presenting new or documenting existing communication models.

Based on my coaching experience, I can say that it is a helpful tool for small businesses and startups to develop a real, effective business model/plan and visually work on it every day. The activity plan can easily be developed, for instance, by using trello or another app. From a lean process design view, this visual communication map gives advice and is a flexible tool in teams to discuss go-to-market strategies and activities including resource allocation.


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



Please read my other articles to better understand the CIS Cycle.

In sum, Fig. 3 shows the main difference between the transfer view and the strategy view:
1. Communication of innovation: Different communication fields facilitate innovation
2. Strategy communication for innovation: Different communication fields as part of a systematic approach to reach out to markets and link strategy to communications.

Practical advice! There is a risk involved for a startup in communicating a new idea and not focusing on communications in a systematic way and, therefore, eventually not building trustful relationships in sustained interactions with community members and connecting with individuals in the innovation process.You can download the template and work with it to improve communications throughout the business innovation process.

But the important step ‘how to link a new idea to communications?’ is still missing.
So, how can we do it? Is it a simple step, a method or a framework?


II. Information-Interaction Design: Connection View

Linking this article to the previous article, Fig. 4 shows the innovation-information process and how to create value 1.0 based on a firm infrastructure. At a first glance, it seems all good and logical to link the Porter value chain to the electronic value chain and, therefore, closely link the innovation process to the information process in order to gather information, make better decisions and combine & offer new information to consumers, for instance, on-demand via mobile devices (e.g. UBER, Google, …). Why is this understanding of innovation leading to enmeshed³ systems and dysrelational communication (i.e. disconnection, not in sync)?

This innovation-information process leads to enmeshed³ systems because there is something missing to connect the dots and create growth opportunities in systems!


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



New Value Chain and Information-Interaction Design

Contrary, the article also presented a new value chain and highlighted the relevance of interaction activities to create value 2.0 (Fig. 5). The information-interaction design—communication blueprint—is thereby key to understand the connection and re-connection step in the innovation-information process (human-to-human and tech-human connection) which leads to relational communication (i.e. connection, in sync).

A communication blueprint is a navigation system, so-called knowledge scheme, which helps us to interact, act and reflect on situations and events in our life. We have learned in childhood how to relate, engage and interact with other individuals and, hence, it is the knowledge scheme ‘how to communicate’ which is deeply anchored in our subconscious. It is so basic that often times the way how we communicate is a given.

It is our navigation system ‘how to communicate’—how to inform and connect with human individuals—that deeply affects the innovation-information process and innovation success. What happens when our navigation system is challenged? What if we experience something new or hear about a new thing? It depends on our knowledge scheme, the capacity to activate or modify a knowledge scheme, how successful we are in accomplishing our goals, building up knowledge and bringing forward new ideas to achieve greater impact.


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



III. Bridging the Disconnect – A Methodological Approach

One last part is still not answered yet: The ‘black box’ in the innovation-information process. It is the internal process of productive thinking (strategizing). It is the important step that can make the difference between INFORMATION and KNOWLEDGE, i.e. how to activate or modify a knowledge scheme to make better decisions, realize an idea or apply information.


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



Why is it so important and I decided to also add this part to the long article?
Because we cannot change the world around us and how people react to our new ideas, but we can change our mind and productive thinking process. The new methodological approach helps individuals to bridge the gap (disconnect) between theory and empiricism/methods, idea and reality, and innovation and data/information. It is our productive thinking process which is required to build the knowledge, strategize and visualize, connect and re-connect, and finally translate a new idea into reality—i.e. to get a job done and make it happen.

The Difference Between Methods and Methodology

As Gerring says: “Because the various methods and theories that populate the social sciences [management] are not currently unified by a single methodology, cumulation of knowledge is impeded. It is obvious that knowledge cannot progress unless there is some shared ground on which such knowledge can rest” (2012: 8).

Method “refers to a specific procedure for gathering and/or analyzing data.” Methodology “refers to the tasks, strategies, and criteria governing scientific inquiry, including all facets of the research enterprise. While method refers to specific choices made in a given study, methodology refers to the larger and more persistent features of the scientific enterprise” (Gerring, 2012: 6).


You can bring scientific language and the understanding of methods and methodology into the context of digital business transformation and innovation. I think it is a key theme in the era of digital transformation and it is obvious that knowledge cannot progress or is in any way appreciated unless there is some shared ground and less information overload. There are so many buzzwords, information, concepts, copycats, and new methods out there and many businesses apply those methods only because it is state-of-the-art without a methodology.


The two paragraphs about methodology and methods are copied from a submitted academic paper based on my dissertation, which had presented a new SEMT methodology (SEMT stands for adaptive Structural Equation Modeling THINKING). It is a methodological approach which offers a clear, productive thinking framework to build a solid foundation for management and business development [in science: theory development], see Fig 6. A structural model describes the cause-and-effect model, i.e. mental model and navigation system for the world.


PRACTICE VIEW: Reflective Innovation Dialog Tool

The best way to create knowledge and understand the value of good conversations is to work with the reflective innovation dialog tool. It helps you to better build, reflect and adapt your mental model based on critical thinking and scenario technique. This tool is designed for individuals who want to interact to create, get a job done and make a difference in the world.



Like an artist's palette, this technique can block off paths to new ways of thinking and seeing [...] to consider ideas in a new light.

Collisonet al., 2000: 144




In business practice critical thinking and problem solving are often used interchangeably. What is the difference?

Critical thinking leads to productive thinking in terms of "wider, more powerful and useful views of ideas" (Collison et al., 2000: 127). The technique of full-spectrum questioning thereby "can serve as a sort of scaffold [...] to frame questions in a reflective dialogue" (ibid. p. 142) and looking at a problem from different stances to move ahead by co-creating the solution and supporting the reasoning behind. In a systematic way this is a way that can help you to become a smart communicator in sense-making conversations on a 'shared ground on which such knowledge can rest' (Gerring 2012: 8). Please read more about it in other articles.


IV. Smart Leadership: How to Achieve Greater Impact

Based on the first article ‘Leadership Communication vs Political Communication’, this article describes what smart leadership really means in the digitalized information age. Fig. 7 shows that the information-interaction design is the answer to the question ‘How to do it?’ because an information-interaction design describes the ‘how to communicate’ and represents the linkage between innovation management and communication at a strategic level.


The big secret and simple formula for success in digital business transformation is:
Information + Interaction = Transformation >> 15 information-interaction designs



Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



Smart leadership means understanding and reflecting information-interaction designs—communication blueprints—and how to design a smart communication model to co-create value with individuals, find new solutions, and achieve greater impact in the world (Fig. 8).

I’d like to say it clearly: Smart does not mean to apply diversion tactics and persuasion. Smart stands for information-interaction design to create value and successfully grow ideas/knowledge in a process!!


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann




To sum up the six latest articles, the identified three major growth drivers are (Fig. 9):


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



You can read all articles on the website and find further resources free-of-charge on the service pages.


What’s next? Beyond design thinking, lean & protoyping,…

In fact, there is something we need to know beyond design thinking and lean business process design including prototyping and open innovation. It is the understanding about human connection and how to build a solid foundation for long-term growth.

I started my pathway in luxury & fashion design, studied Business Economics and then had the opportunity to dive deeper into Engineering, prototyping & IT, while I was working with a research team in robotics and automation at BIBA at the University of Bremen—an applied-oriented research lab with a demonstration area—more precisely, we developed a new hybrid, high-tech robotic system to autonomously unload containers and swap bodies using software code from EADS Space Transportation / Astrium. As for my work, that included to understand material handling, information process design and how the tech-human connection works including intelligence of systems and robots in processes in order to write up and present the business plan, coordinate internal and external communications throughout the open innovation process with involved parties, and develop real business cases for Deutsche Post, DHL and WALMART US, Exel, Metro,...

To sum up, I think it is time to balance systems and shift from open to dynamic innovation. I did my Ph.D. in Engineering in the international graduate school for Dynamics in Logistics and conducted several workshops with international Ph.D. students from France and other countries to discuss and learn more about dynamics in systems from a multidisciplinary perspective. It gave me the great opportunity to take on a wider view on innovation and how to balance systems beyond design thinking, engineering, and IT, as shown in the last Fig. 10.


Growth 2.0 - Leadership, Empowerment, System Design | Dr. Nicole Pfeffermann



What do I want to see and show the world; I create it.

Judith Maria Bradley


Let’s create the future and truly embrace the process of advanced co-creation! You can read more about the future of dynamic innovation and what’s next in my ebook and new book based on the contributed volume ‘Strategy and Communication for Innovation’, Springer.

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