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The Next Olympic Games of Process Management

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Gianni Giacomelli

Chief Innovation Leader

August 8, 2012 - So the great Games came and went, reminding us of what humans can do, and leaving us in sheer awe (I don’t have a TV – but airport lounges and iPad’s retinal display did the job). However, someone is worried – and that’s not the anti-doping brigade. As it happens, the fastest and strongest humans are still awesome, but they aren’t getting much better anymore. At least, according to an analysis that  The Economist published in its August 2nd edition. Breaking records has become tougher and after over hundred years of athletics, it is rarer to see smashing improvements. 

Our business is at risk of the same, at least if we still rely on the power of awesome individuals. Relying on individual capabilities can make business process services performance plateau. Moving the work from a person somewhere to another person somewhere else might at some point not give anyone a big enough delta anymore. 

But there are options that athletes don’t have. Getting people to work together globally is still an immature science. It isn’t the Olympics’ 100-years experience. Our ability to redesign processes for them, to be worked on by globally located individuals, is still relatively rudimentary. And that is really good news, if we pay attention. 

Technology is being used in very different ways these days. Social and other communication technologies, as well as data analysis are still advancing at incredible pace – and their use is becoming more effective. 

For example, we are now able to create self-help social media and mobile extensions to our high-tech products support services. Similar techniques enable us to eliminate unnecessary calls to the customer care, enabling clients to find faster solutions – which typically leads to better satisfaction and net promoter score. For manufacturers of capital equipment, we can use the incredible amount of data provided by machine-to-machine communications to inform analytics and optimize the profitability of their maintenance services – while at the same time increasing the reliability of those assets, from healthcare equipment to airplane engines. 

These are axes of innovation that will continue to yield results. We will experiment, and will learn. 

In the 1968 Olympic Games, the world learned that humans can jump higher. Much higher. An American gentleman called Dick Roxbury realized one simple yet brilliant thing. The spreading of foam mats where high jump athletes now landed allowed him to jump differently. Technology (the mat), and technique (the jump): the Fosbury jump changed a paradigm, and ever since the best athletes get their butts over two meters routinely. By the way, that jump is called the “Fosbury flop”. Yes, an innovative flop. An apt name for an innovation that requires someone to trust the landing after the jump. 

Just like innovation teams in Genpact are given the latitude to experiment, and gain some learning – not flopping...