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Business idea champions: where do they come from? (Business Corner).

Ideas can be forthcoming from many different sources in business organizations. Ideas can be generated, for example, from both within the organization itself, as well as outside the direct confines of the organization along the supply chain of activity. Within the organizational entity, these include top management, middle management, labor and sales persons. Outside the organization, these include customers, distributors, consultants and application suppliers.

These idea sources are not uncommon and most of you are saying that you are aware of these sources and many of you have utilized these sources with relative success. However, there are two constraints in effectively utilizing these sources routinely and successfully. The two constraints are: effectively capturing the ideas and communicating the same and, finding an effective "idea champion."

In this article, we will address the idea champion, specifically, what is an idea champion, why is the idea champion important and where can an idea champion come from?

An idea champion is a person who, once learning about the idea, catches the vision of its tangible and intangible possibilities for the organization and either has now or has been given the authority to proceed. An additional key attribute the idea champion must possess is an emotional attachment to its theme. Ideas can be generated, cataloged, prioritized and assigned for promotional follow up, but without the idea champion who sees the unique possibilities of the idea and provides the initiative and emotional promotion to fuel its flight it, many times, will fall far short of its potential even though the idea is good for the company.

Initiative to consider a broad array of ideas is usually aligned with a disruptive change in the business environment. We find this especially true when our industry has faced technological shifts that are disruptive to their normal way of doing business. Although most times less dramatic disruptive "shifts" occur that must be dealt with, here are some major disruptive events that have occurred in the coatings industry:

* General metals segment's rapid adoption of dry powder coatings starting in the early 1970s.

* Automotive and other major segments moving rapidly into electro coat starting in the mid-1960s.

* Plastic substrates taking significant share from metal causing a coatings technology shift starting in the mid-1970s.

* UV coatings replacing lacquers and 2K coatings for two-dimensional plastic and wood substrates starting in the early-1980s.

* EPA pushing for less solvent emissions starting in the early 1960s.

Disruptive Shifts Mean Problems and Opportunities

Technological disruptive shifts cause problems and opportunities. Where would the coatings industry be today if the EPA had not been creating a "push" for change? Without this directive our industry would certainly not have expended nearly the amount of resources and converted to other coatings technologies without a market to accept them--an unmet need. The technology broadening we saw starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s ushering in new coating systems such as, powder, UV/EB, e-coat, high solids, water-based were a direct result of a technological disruptive shift need created by a "third party" in the coating industries environment--EPA.

As suggested, these shifts are many times subtle and much less obvious than the ones thus far discussed. Recognizing subtle disruptive shifts can produce some of the neatest opportunities for those who both identify them early as well as a willingness to act quickly to establish a champion to expedite its movement. Subtle disruptive "shifts" can be advantaged and momentum gained without showing your hand early, thus creating an opportunity for a successful preemptive strike position prior to other suppliers getting their competitive act together.

It has been our experience that when projects fail to leverage a disruptive shift in the coatings, adhesives and sealants industries, it is usually characterized by the absence of a volunteer champion.

Some companies sponsor idea champions by providing free time. 3M is an example of this type of management style. Within large companies, idea champions go by various names and include--but are not limited to--advocate, change agent or intrapreneur.

Within smaller companies an idea champion could be the entrepreneur owner, the founder, a consultant, the next generation of family ownership, etc. Whatever one wants to call it, and whether its in a small, medium or large company, an idea champion and his/her beliefs will make major differences in the growth vitality of an organization. This is especially true in industries fraught with slow growth and modest profit contributions. Guess what? That's our industries isn't it?

Be Prepared

Ideas can be generated at anyplace along the supply chain of a company, both inside it as well as outside the company. These ideas can be captured and prioritized by members along this supply chain. However, an idea can only be championed effectively by someone within the organization itself.

Phil Phillips heads the CHEMARK Consulting Group, a consulting firm focusing on the coatings, adhesives and sealants industries. Services range from M&A and value chain analysis to competitive analysis. Mr. Phillips can be reached at phillips@chemarkconsulting.net.
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Author:Phillips, Phil
Publication:Coatings World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:829
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