Genevieve Bos | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND
Transforming Ideas into Innovation
By Karen Rosen
When Genevieve Bos was introduced to the technology behind IdeaString, she felt an immediate connection.
“My heart leapt,” she says. “I knew I was looking at the future.”
Bos also could see IdeaString becoming part of her own future. After calling about 20 CEO friends around the country to gauge their opinion – “Everyone said, ‘Absolutely, this is brilliant!’” – she took over as CEO in June.
IdeaString is a perfect fit for Bos, a technology entrepreneur whose email tagline is “Global Connector of People & Ideas.”
“It was the craziest thing,” she says. “When I saw it, I went, ‘Oh my god, this is manifesting what I’ve been doing in my life, but in digital form.’”
IdeaString markets itself as an executive web-based tool designed to unlock and harness the thinking power of people networks -- employees, consultants, vendors, customers and stakeholders – and then manage, promote and evaluate their best ideas to transform into innovation and business process optimization.
“It enables tens, hundreds, even hundreds of thousands of people to come together in a virtual environment and build on each other’s ideas to drive breakthrough thinking,” Bos says.
IdeaString’s patent-pending system and method for dynamic conversation management has the power to be a dramatic game changer. The company also identifies the types of people who have specific "thinking and innovation styles" that should be included in a conversation to drive innovation.
“This is taking social networking tools and applying it in a business context,” Bos says.
As an example, she cites Celanese, a $6.5 billion chemical manufacturing company that used IdeaString technology to drive dramatic results. The chief purchasing officer asked 100 of his purchasing agents around the world to spend 15 minutes a day for three days on the platform answering three questions around cost-saving.
“The results were just terrific -- an immediate $9.4 million of cost savings with an additional $25-$35 million of very probable cost savings over the next three to five years,” Bos says.
IdeaString can also help a company cut to the chase.
“As a top executive with GE told me, ‘This would be great to see if we have alignment from our executive team to our management team,’” Bos says. “Because you know how everybody ‘yes’s ’each other in the meeting? But when you start seeing dialogue about a particular topic, then you really are able to understand that the ideas and the new processes that you want to socialize are really taking hold – or not.”
Focus Brands, another client whose properties include Schlotzky’s, Cinnabon and Moe’s Southwest Grill, plans to use the tool with some of its franchisees to socialize their new products, processes and procedures. “It’s going to massively cut down on the time it takes for them to get feedback from the field and be able to drive innovation,” Bos says.
IdeaString is creating an entirely new asset class it calls “thought capital,” which is the aggregation of the hundreds of thousands of ideas that it collects over time. A company’s executive team will be able to draw on these ideas immediately to get insights for use in formulating strategy and making decisions.
Conversations on the IdeaString platform can be assessed "post-event" to understand if organizations are fully aligned, identify hidden talents and passions in the organization and massively increase engagement around change management.
“The old style of competitive model surrounded the importance of economies of scale,” Bos says. “That hasn’t gone away, but what’s becoming more important is how fast you can tap the collective intelligence of your people network and be able to translate their thinking into value creation and innovation. “
Bos says some companies worry that they are wasting their time with social networking – and some of them are.
Connectivity into Productivity
“So we really help them understand how to translate connectivity into productivity,” she says. “To connect for connection’s sake is not useful, to connect and make sure that you’re in a goal-oriented environment, where you’re really going to drive the serious result, is mission critical.”
IdeaString is still a nascent company, with a team of six.
“We can take on a lot, we’re a SaaS model (Software as a Service),” Bos says. “We have capacity for millions of users. The issue is really the customer service part. The product is so easy to use; so far what we’ve experienced is very little customer interaction is needed day to day.”
Bos also finds time to sit on several boards, including BLiNQ Media, advise startups and accept invitations from major companies to deliver keynote addresses.
Bos has addressed companies including Cisco, Dell, Morgan Stanley, GE, Ernst & Young and The Home Depot, and recently gave the keynote to the Top 500 women at Coke. The theme was “Your Network Equals Your Net Worth.” She also has a speech entitled “Leadership Secrets from the World’s Most Influential Businesswomen.”
In addition, Bos is a regular guest lecturer at Emory's Goizueta Business School in entrepreneurship and business development.
As an expert on professional success -- especially as it relates to women in business -- Bos has been featured by media outlets including CBS Good Morning, NBC, CNBC, WE TV and CNN.
“People see me as this women’s advocate, but I wouldn’t be where I am now without a lot of really amazing men and women as mentors to me,” says Bos, who has taken on the responsibility of giving back as a mentor to others. “I think part of a great leader is constantly looking for amazing mentors to help you get to the next level, and not being afraid to do it.
“I definitely have benefited from that in my career.”
An Early Entrepreneur
Bos first exercised her entrepreneurial spirit by creating her own major at Georgia State University.
“I took everything from business and psychology to art -- it was an amalgamation,” says Bos, a Montreal native who grew up in Atlanta after her father, an aerospace engineer, took a job at Lockheed.
“Frankly I was able to find a professor to sponsor me so I could just take the classes I was interested in.”
Bos says every class she took has been useful in her career, but she didn’t become acquainted with technology through her coursework.
“I’m embarrassed to tell you it’s because Georgia Tech was my dating pool,” Bos says with a laugh. “I ended up with tons of friends who were programmers and technologists, and I started hanging out in the labs here on campus. I thought, ‘There’s this whole other world out here, and this is the future. I have to be part of it.”
She and some partners started a company called InfoGraphix and grew it from zero to $50 million. Bos handled all top line revenue and worked extensively in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
“When you’re the only woman in a board meeting in the Middle East, it really teaches you to appreciate what it means to be a woman in business in this country,” she says, noting the freedoms, rights and respect from their male counterparts that U.S. women enjoy.
“One thing I learned abroad is we are the light in the world of what’s possible and what great things can happen when men and women work together, how much more competitive we can be in business,” Bos says.
Building the PINK Brand
When she had the opportunity to start a publishing venture for career women, she grabbed it. Bos became publisher of PINK Magazine, helping build a readership of 650,000 primarily female business executives in two years.
“I was audacious enough to think that I could move the needle for career women in this country,” Bos says. “At the time, no publication catered to career women -- so we never saw ourselves. That is why we decided we needed something that would be more like ‘Fortune meets Oprah.’"
PINK was a publication that looked “at the world the way we do,” she says.
Women toggle back and forth between personal and business all day, which men don’t tend to do, Bos says. In the space of five minutes, a woman may think about her children, her employees’ annual review and an upcoming dinner party while managing a P & L at the same time.
“Just because you’re a woman and you like pink, it doesn’t mean you can’t manage a P & L very powerfully and make a profit for your shareholders and your stakeholders,” Bos says. “I know for sure, based on our stats, that we impacted positively 10 million women in this country.”
She sold the venture several years ago, and her timing was impeccable: “I sold 10 days before Lehman Brothers announced they were going out of business.”
Despite the advances women have made in the corporate world, Bos finds statistics about women in technology “very disconcerting.”
These statistics show that until age 9 or 10 girls are equal to or better than boys in math, but they lose interest after age 13, which Bos attributes to the way they are socialized.
“There’s also this incorrect assumption that you have to be a math whiz to be in technology,” she says. “It’s totally not true. I’m certainly not a math whiz. You have to understand conceptually what you’re doing, and have to be very interested in what technology can do for you.”
Now that’s an idea.
Secrets to Success
- Be passionate about whatever it is you’re doing, because that gives you the extra energy and the drive.
- Surround yourself with the best possible talent. That’s pretty self-evident.
- Be a lifelong learner. Never stand still. Stay curious
- Stay healthy. I think physical stamina affects your ability to reason and to make good decisions.
Genevieve Bos is CEO of IdeaString and a Global Connector of People & Ideas. Atlanta Trend expresses its thanks and deep appreciation to Genevieve Bos for sharing her thoughts with us.
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