Professor of Strategic and International Management at London Business School
Julian Birkinshaw is Professor of Strategic and International Management at London Business School. He is co-Founder and Research Director of the Management Lab (MLab).
He has PhD and MBA degrees in Business from the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, and a BSc (Hons) from the University of Durham. He has worked at the University of Toronto, the Stockholm School of Economics, Price Waterhouse and ICI.
Julian’s main area of expertise is in the strategy and management of large multinational corporations, and on such specific issues as corporate entrepreneurship, innovation, subsidiary-headquarters relationship, knowledge management, network organisations, and global customer management.
Julian's most recent book Reinventing Management: Making Smarter Choices for Getting Work Done, was published in March 2010. He is also the author Giant Steps in Management (2007), Inventuring: Why Big Companies Must Think Small (2003), Leadership the Sven-Goran Eriksson Way (2002), and Entrepreneurship in the Global Firm (2001), and over fifty articles in such journals as Harvard Business Review and Sloan Management Review.
In 1998 the leading British management magazine Management Today profiled Julian as one of six of the “Next Generation of Management Gurus”. He is regularly quoted in international media outlets, including CNN, BBC, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and The Times and speaks regularly at business conferences.
Management thinking is inherently faddish, but there are some perennial favourites that never fall out of favour. Innovation is one those evergreen themes: it is a rare CEO who doesn’t list innovation as one her top four or five priorities.
Here is a tricky question: How many living management gurus can you name who did not learn their trade in North America? I have asked many colleagues this question, and it's pretty hard to come up with a good list. For example, consider the individuals in last year's "Thinkers 50" ranking list. By my reckoning, there are only seven who make the cut: Richard Branson (Virgin), Kris Gopalakrishnan (Infosys), Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale (Stockholm School of Economics), Lynda Gratton, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones (London Business School).
Does this matter? I think it does.
In the years following the Second World War, the United States dominated the global business world completely--it was the major source of capital, the home of advanced manufacturing, and the source of most major technological developments. It provided the best quality management education, and it was the source of all the latest management thinking.
Today, we live in a more complex, more plural world. The US is now the world's largest debtor nation, and the biggest sources of capital are the large Sovereign Wealth Funds of the Middle East, Russia and China. Leadership in advanced manufacturing is spread across such countries as...
We all know that big, established companies struggle to respond to "disruptive" change. Blockbuster, HMV, Nokia, and Yahoo! are all current examples of companies that are struggling with this problem--they are trying to adapt, but are being held back by powerful and often invisible inertial forces.
A recent example of corporate inertia really struck home, and got me thinking about the key role management processes play in preventing change.
In October 2010 I agreed to do a Webinar for a big book publisher. I have done half-a-dozen webinars before, typically for small companies with a subscription-based business model. The process looks like this: they email me, I agree to do it, we arrange a date 2-3 months out, we do a quick technology check the week before, and then the event happens. It is all very easy for me, lecturing to an unseen audience in my own office. Frankly, I am not sure how much the audience gets out of these events, and indeed I sometimes wonder how many people are actually listening. But that is a question for another day.
The process with the publisher was rather different. The person I was talking to suggested a...
What would it look like if the rapidly-evolving social world of Web 2.0 collided with the sterile and static corporate Intranet? What would happen if information flowed from the outside in, instead of inside out?
Those are the questions at the heart of an interesting experiment unfolding at global consulting firm Capgemini .
A few years ago, in response to disruptive changes in its operating environment, Capgemini began experimenting with Yammer , a private and secure enterprise social network that allows employees to hold conversations, read posts, and actively collaborate with their co-workers in real-time. Chief Technology Officer Andy Mulholland says that activity is feeding the "collective consciousness of the 20,000 people who subscribe to Yammer internally."
Yammer is decentralising the information flow at Capgemini to create greater collaboration from the outside in. Far-flung IT consultants who work at client locations around the world make up about half of the firm's 110,000-person workforce. Those "edge-dwellers" are the most active users of Yammer. They're using it as a tool to help them deal with the variability they encounter in the field and to do more by tapping into a corporate knowledge bank in real time....
Employee engagement is, as they say, a no-brainer. There are stacks of literature showing that companies with committed employees who feel strongly about their organization do better financially than those with indifferent employees. In many cases, too, improvement is actually quite easy to achieve.
Large numbers of employees work in silos, with deep functional expertise but no line of sight to the person ultimately buying their product. Yet it turns out that exposure to customers can be a powerful source of insight and motivation.
That is what pharmaceutical giant Roche found when a team devised an experiment to put the engagement proposition to a test. But, in the end, it wasn't quite as simple as that.
The Roche team realized it would be easy to get stuck at a high level of abstraction in a study of this type, so they focused on a simple straightforward hypothesis: that a deeper emotional understanding of the company's real value to patients and society would deliver extra engagement among employees .
Now, the team believed its employees were already engaged...