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EdSmart Technologies is a mid-size, growing education technology (edtech) company based in Sydney. They focus on a range of software solutions for the education market. They primarily focus their a... ttention on Australia, as a trial-market and have expanded into Asia in the last three years and are now considering entering the UK and US markets. Their software provides web-based platforms to achieve specific tasks in higher education such as managing work experience for students, online conference software solutions, and audience-response software. A week ago Keith Caldwell, the head of operations at EdSmart got a call from Peter Bain, an educational designer for one of their larger clients who shared his frustration: “The biggest challenge for us is that there is a plethora of software tools out there, but these just don’t talk to each other – it’s like software providers only focus on the solutions they provide. They don’t consider how it’s being used together.” “Yeah I hear you, Peter, let me get back to you – I’ll see what we can come up with.”BUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case Daily Stand-up meeting “Welcome everyone, we’ve had a good week in terms of accomplishments and key goals” Keith shared the visual charts at the daily stand-up meeting. “I’ve added a section for our upcoming Hack Day. One of the priorities is to develop plug-ins for our software and potentially other software solutions as clients use these as a package, not stand-alone products like when we just started.” “That’s all good, but a key obstacle is that we’re losing developers every week. It’s like they’re escaping from a sinking ship,” said Vikram Srinivasan, the head of recruiting. “How long is this list of escapees?” asked Keith. Everyone chuckled, except for Luna Nguyen, the vice president of HR. Nearly 100 employees had given notice in recent weeks. “We’re losing them faster than your people can bring them in,” Lana said, turning to Vikram. “Our staff turnover rate is up to 35%.” Vikram shook his head. “This isn’t our problem. It’s the IT labour market. And it may not even be a bad thing. Some studies show that if employees move around frequently in an industry, it becomes more innovative” he argued. Luna was not convinced, EdSmart was growing – in revenue, profitability and reputation, but it was still much smaller than companies like Coursera, BrainGroom and StudySoup. In the past decade, EdSmart’s charismatic CEO, Steve Graham, had saved them from bankruptcy and made it an industry success story—but it was hardly one of the top ten edtech companies in the industry. “I need to present these numbers to Steve at the end of the week, and I can’t do that without reasons about what’s happening and a solution,” said Luna. “What about the People Support-idea from the Future Vision exercise?” Vikram asked. EdSmart had just finished its annual HRfocused innovation process. Employees from all over the company—BUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case particularly new and young ones—were encouraged to join senior leaders in brainstorming and design sessions focused on how the firm could reach its goals for the year. This event, a hallmark of EdSmart’s inclusive culture, was meant to foster collaboration and an entrepreneurial spirit. People Support had garnered attention proposing the creation of a new function made up of managers whose sole purpose would be to listen to other employees’ grievances and figure out solutions. “I, for one, love the People Support idea,” Vikram added. “It emphasizes Steve’s philosophy of genuine caring for our people.” “It sounds genuinely expensive to me,” said Keith. Luna loved his pragmatism. “Cost aside, I’m not sure that’s the direction we want to take.” She pointed at the screen. “These people have told us that Steve’s ‘broculture’—our attentiveness to both personal and professional matters—isn’t so alluring anymore. They don’t necessarily want to feel like part of a family at work.” “Come on,” Vikram said. “That’s our biggest selling point. Recruits love that they won’t be a cog in the machine, that we—Steve included—will listen to them, that everyone at EdSmart matters.” “That expectation may attract them, but it’s not keeping them here, especially when competitors offer a 30% pay raise,” Luna countered. “That’s what we’re hearing in the exit interviews.” Vikram was clearly not convinced: “We need to go bigger. We should put our money where our mouth is with People Support, show that we’re 100% committed to our culture of caring. That’s the best way to reverse the trend.” Big Brotherly Love Andy, an associate in his twenties, came prepared for his exit interview with Luna. He was checking off items from his list.BUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case “Everyone says I’ll hate it at CodeMonkey, that it’s too rigid there. But it’s CodeMonkey! How can I refuse?” “Yes, I’ve heard they have the same high expectations we do,” Luna said. “But it’s more process- driven, far less personal. Here you get more attention from the top.” Andy smirked. “Yes, if you’re one of Steve’s clan.” “What do you mean?” Luna asked. “Don’t get me wrong. EdSmart promised access to senior executives, and I got it. But Steve doesn’t swing by the office, put his feet up, and chat with just anyone. There’s an in-crowd. Only his favourites get that bro-mance, family-like attention. I guess it’s understandable—one man can only do so much. But if I’m not seeing him or other top people, I’m just stuck at a company that wants to be overinvolved in my life.” “This People Support idea, for instance,” he said, pointing to the last item on his list. He seemed to be on a roll, so Luna just listened. “I heard about it from my friend who was in that Future Vision group – the whole thing feels a bit like Big Brother. A whole group of managers dedicated to walking around and asking about our problems? We don’t need more people to talk to. We need more money.” He sat back in his chair. “Thank you for being so candid,” Luna said. “This really is helpful, and we wish you the best of luck.” A few minutes later, Andy’s manager poked his head into Luna’s office. “Did you get an earful?” “I sure did,” Luna said, gesturing for him to come in. “I think he’ll be happy at CodeMonkey—it seems more his speed.” “You should know that Andy is an outlier. Most people on my team are not like him. They love EdSmart’s culture.” Thinking about her long list of “escapees,” Luna wasn’t sure managers really had a grip on what was going on with their teams.BUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case A New Best Practice? Steve’s office, where he regularly held big meetings, was crowded with inviting, comfortable couches. Luna scanned the room as people settled in. It was a typical gathering: most of EdSmart’s senior leaders, including Vikram and Keith, and a handful of younger employees. I’ve asked Nani to tell us more about People Support,” Steve announced. “It’s the brainchild of her Future Vision team. Ready, Nani?” Nani, who looked to be fresh out of business school, began her presentation, describing how the new function would work. She included a scenario: An employee is worried about his future with the company because he’s been given a time-consuming project that will involve working late, compromising his ability to look after his sick mother in the evening. Aware of the People Support function, he seeks out one of its designated “listeners,” as they would be called, and explains his dilemma. The listener helps him negotiate an arrangement with his boss that allows him not to stay late every night. Nani’s last slide showed cartoons of all the characters—the employee, the boss, the listener, and the sick mother—smiling. Everyone in the audience clapped, and Steve congratulated Nani. “This is what I love about coming to work every day: fresh ideas from smart young people.” Not surprisingly, Keith was the first with questions: How much would the function cost? How would it scale up as the company grew? Who would manage it? Nani attempted to provide answers, but Steve interrupted before she got very far. “We must still work some things out, of course, and those all are legitimate concerns. But I think this would be money well spent.” Keith wasn’t satisfied. “OK, so we won’t discuss specifics today, but what about our broader plansBUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case for growth? Will this be appropriate outside Australia, with to our Asian workforce?” “That’s also an important issue to explore,” Steve said. “But people everywhere want their company to care about them.” With a glance, he indicated to Keith that the interrogation should cease. “Luna, do you have any questions? This obviously falls into your area.” Luna shared Keith’s concerns and more. But she wanted to ask something new. “Nisha, thank you for this thoughtful presentation. I was wondering if you’ve considered how the listeners will be evaluated. How will we know if they’re performing well?” “Retention numbers,” Nani said. “The lower our turnover rate, the better the listeners are doing.” Luna contemplated the complexity of evaluating anyone based on employee turnover, given the uncontrollable nature of people’s motivation and the volatile labour market. She dreaded delivering the most recent attrition numbers to Steve. Vikram piped up to ask whether any other companies in Australia or elsewhere had tried a similar program or if EdSmart would lead the way. “As far as we know—and Nani has researched it—no other company has done this before,” Steve replied. “Sure, StudySoup has its employee-first culture, but this is about truly understanding and meeting our people’s needs. Nisha and I were talking earlier about how someday this might become a best practice for all of Australia, perhaps beyond.” Later, as everyone was filing out, Steve pulled Luna aside. “Thank you for going easy on Nani. We want to encourage young people like her to put forward bold ideas. But I do want your honest opinion. We’re meeting on Friday, yes? You had something for me?” Honest SkepticismBUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case Luna took the elevator to the fourth floor. She hoped her colleague and business school friend, Amelia, would be in her office. “It’s so good you’re not busy,” she joked, finding Amelia with her head down at her desk. The two women were always swamped, but they had an open-door policy for each other. Luna explained about the meeting in Steve’s office, the People Support discussion, the exit interview with Andy, and the horrible turnover numbers. “I’m sceptical of this People Support idea because I’m not sure we can really nurture Steve’s bro- culture across a fast-growing company. It’s one thing as a philosophy of how he interacts with people but building processes and formal management structures around it is a whole different story.” “That’s a tough message to deliver to someone who has tripled revenue and quintupled profits with that culture at the centre,” Amelia said. “I’m sure he thinks this is solving the problem of his limited capacity.” “But can you formalize a culture as distinctive as ours into processes and roles?” Luna wondered honestly. “Will People Support even work? And if it does, won’t it alienate more employees like Andy? What if it worsens our turnover problem instead of fixing it? If we want to expand to Europe and the U.S., don’t we need to be less like a cult?” Amelia laughed. “You know what Steve likes to say: ‘Cult is part of culture.’” She paused. “Listen, it’s not your style to just say what he wants to hear, Luna. If you think People Support is a bad idea, tell him. He’ll take your advice seriously.” Luna knew she had more power than most HR heads. Steve wanted to run a company valuing everyone there, and that meant giving her a say on big issues. “I plan to be honest with him,” Luna replied. “But another thing Steve always says is ‘Don’t come to me with a problem; come with aBUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case solution.’ If Vikram and Nani are right, People Support could be just the edge we need against the likes of BrainGroom and StudySoup, a way to retain our people and win new recruits.” “Do you really think it will, Luna?” “I’m not sure, but I don’t have any better ideas right now.” Questions Luna approaches you as an innovation consultant for EdSmart Technologies. Before meeting with the CEO she wants to gain more insight into the way innovation works at EdSmart. You are required to apply the theoretical and practical principles you learnt in this course to provide insight into EdSmart’s innovation challenges. Use evidence from the case study to support your analyses and recommendations. 1) a) Help Luna understand the situation at EdSmart by diagnosing the Forces of Change in the education technology industry. How do these forces of change influence the demand for software development talent? (5) b) EdSmart has a strong culture and nurture corporate entrepreneurship but could do more to stem the flow of staff leaving to work for competitors. What kind of rewards beyond remuneration can EdSmart offer to retain staff? Use theory from the course to support your answer. (2)BUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case 2) Steve is proud of the culture at EdSmart but Luna has reservations. It is important Luna understands the complexities of culture and climate. a) Help Luna understand by differentiating between culture and climate. Describe culture and climate and emphasize what makes them different from each other by giving an example of each from the case. (3) b) Using Ikvalls Creative Climate Assessment tool, choose two dimensions on which EdSmart is strong (high scoring) and 2 on which EdSmart is weak (low scoring). Explain each dimension you choose (using your own words) and use examples from EdSmart to support each of your scores. (8) 3) Understanding how teams work is an important way to keep an organisation innovative. Explain Belbin’s Team Roles to Luna and give examples by suggesting which roles Keith and Steve play. Support your suggestion using examples of both strengths and allowable weaknesses from the case. (5) 4) While it is good to have many creative ideas, money is too tight to pursue all the potential innovations that may come from each Future Vision event. Suggest options that can help EdSmart select which ideas are best to move forward through the innovation process using models from the course. Explain how these models work. (2) 5) Which steps of the Strategic Innovation Model are engaged at the ‘innovation team’ level? Name and describe each step using your own words. (6)BUS705: Innovation Management Task 1 Case 6) Managers should expect resistance to change and plan for it from the start to effectively cope with objections. Authors commonly identify six organisational blockages to creativity (Goodman & Dingli, 2017). List the 6 organisational blockages people experience within companies and give a brief explanation of each. (6) 7) Keith is pushing to get his staff to find innovative solutions for Peter Bain’s problem of software tools not communicating with each other saying, “I’ve added a section for our upcoming Hack Day. One of the priorities is to develop plug-ins for our software and potentially other software solutions as clients use these as a package, not stand-alone products like when we just started.” Creating new innovations will give EdSmart an edge, but competitors will be close behind and innovation needs to be addressed at a strategic level to stay ahead. Evaluate EdSmart’s strategic approach to innovation using Pisano’s (2015) recommendations. Does EdSmart have an Innovation strategy? What are the essential tasks the executive team should undertake to connect innovation to strategy? (8) [Show More]

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