Digital growth depends more on business models than technology

More than 20 companies launched in 2009, including Uber, Slack, Pinterest, and Blue Apron, all eventually achieved $1 billion-plus valuations. Given that those companies were all venture-financed and emerged from Silicon Valley, you might assume that the key ingredients that have ensured their success were cutting-edge technologies, digital platforms, and customer bases that were chiefly made up of digital natives.

You would be wrong.

Each was able to satisfy real customers who needed real jobs done — a fundamental problem in a given situation that needed a solution. In other words, they had great business models.

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The hard truth about innovative cultures

Innovative cultures are generally depicted as pretty fun. Other characteristics extolled by management books include tolerance for failure, willingness to experiment, psychological safety, highly collaborative, and nonhierarchical. And research supports the idea that these behaviors translate into better innovative performance.

But despite the fact that innovative cultures are desirable and that most leaders claim to understand what they entail, they are hard to create and sustain. How can practices apparently so universally loved—even fun—be so tricky to implement?

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