So why are we not facing up to the big challenges of today?

Societal ChallengesPerhaps why innovation feels somewhat flat (well for me) is our organizations and societies are utterly failing to allow us all to step up in innovation to tackle the massive, growing problems that are swirling all around us.

We need to shake out of our lethargy and really begin to attempt to solve the real issues of our time. Some organizations are clearly working on and trying to draw attention and gain greater engagement but we need a much greater concerted effort to focus on the big societal challenges.

Global warming, rising health issues, finally cracking cancer, malaria, dementia, finding different solutions to the ageing within society. How are we going to tackle the rapidly depleting natural resources, the future conflicts over water, food, or energy . These are big, hairy, audacious gaps to be resolved.

Many are avoiding the need too stare hard into the future as we are not re-equipping everyone with skills that combine inventiveness, innovation and creativity that contributes into their communities, we have got stuck in the “me”. A reality of depletion is racing towards us and it is not a pretty sight.

The growing radical innovation activity gap

We are facing the innovation gap as our problems keep growing linearly yet we must find ways to rapidly scale and deploy our knowledge in new, more dynamic ways. This requires society to learn how to apply effective innovation themselves, not just being whipped up, waiting for the latest gadget or incremental advancement to be put into their hands.

We need to build the desire of wanting to be part of rebuilding society; making our contribution to real advancement or feeling they were there, involved, part of the “times” when this shift to societal innovation was happening.

We need to be collectively moved by innovation and what it can offer.

Technology ideas and connectionsTechnology does hold a vital key, so does the emerging social media for reaching out to critical masses but let’s face it, today we are deploying the best resources (the best and the brightest) not in the area on solving big societal problems but in slavishly churning out the next technology or gadget. These actually mean nothing unless they become increasingly part of the solutions we really do need urgently, to tackle the big societal issues.

We certainly need communications, platforms, different media techniques and mobility as part of the initial global building blocks to putting in place the infrastructures to solve these societal problems. We need the tools, infrastructure, methods, and techniques to scale for solving societal problems not the latest incremental improvement for Apple, Facebook or Google. How about providing innovations that can deliver the parts that give us the power to tackle the problems of our time?

We need innovation tools, structures and methods that will allow us each of us to invent, to innovate, and to be creative in finding our contributions and solutions to societal problems. To go and apply these in practical solutions not just simply adopt them.

I liked what Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup recently said: “What’s going to make it more likely for someone to start a start-up in the first place?” “Open data is one such thing. If you give people access to the tools, the information about what’s happening in the world, you give them the opportunity to stumble on more novel solutions”

I’d add you give them the empowerment and skills, they will provide the desire and energy.

Then we have the hidden potential behind social media and big data

Can you imagine a world where we all can communicate and contribute into these global societal problems. Combine technology, the internet and social media and you have begun to connect up the parts or the whole planet. The exciting prospect is then ‘feeding’ all this data into finding patterns for solutions. Solutions that are relevant to you, your immediate community but also to the wider ones.

The ability to scale, glocalize, adapt and diffuse

Social innovation struggles today with scale and replicating success in one place and making it work in another. This replicating might be the barrier, perhaps we should not apply other solutions just extract the parts that can work for us. This extraction needs knowing what is valuable to you or applicable, what is not. The need is to educate everyone to ‘break down’ the context and we need to teach numerous different skills to allow this to work. Then you need to work on where are the synergies that can be tailored and applied to local needs. Diffusion and adoption comes into the picture here too.

Dealing with value creation and growth but in radically different ways

We seek value creation, most usually by creating demand, pushing for increasing consumption. Growth is measured by our productive gains. Is this the right way to measure ourselves and how we set about preserving our precious resources? No, we need to challenge this, a real paradigm shift that alters our lenses looking out on the world.

Changing our thinking for a new world of preserving our precious resources

Fresh ThinkingToday’s modern economic activity does need challenging and it is through rethinking much of our view of judging success. Success in preserving, in effectively trading precious resources needs a fresh set of thinking, a new economic understanding. This thinking is way beyond my preserve, there are far better qualified people to offer suggestions than me on this. All I know is that innovation, creativity and invention must all play their part.

Some of my emerging thoughts relating to where innovation can fit are:

1). Stepping back and putting innovation to its better use

We have a world were transparency is finding its place. We ‘witness’ unfolding events faster than ever, they are nearly instantaneous. Governments are really struggling on this new transparency. We can manage this in new ways, instead of trying to control the flow of ‘selective’ data through repression. We need to open up all the positive activities occurring every day that others can learn from. We need to focus on the positives, not dwell on the negatives.

2). We need to provide places for experimentation

There needs to be places, instruments, resources, knowledge platforms that help us all to discover. We need a dynamic flow to discover needs, expose variability, enable experimentation to happen and construct ways to measure improved performance

3). We need to granulate and customize activities

The world is far to big to manage as one, even our countries struggle in adapting policies. We constantly reduce down the positive impact by this ‘crazy’ compromise of adjusting great ideas to meet the broader position. We need to segment down, we need to allow what has the best impact for a given community to be allowed to happen.

4). We need to put to use the non human aspects to speed up decision-making

Computers, sophisticated analytics, automated algorithms all can play their part in any redesign of our activities to preserve our critical resources. Modelling decisions that have impact within the world need to be more freely distributed. Not only knowing our ‘footprint’ on the planet but bringing together communities footprints and redesigning the sharing of the burden. We can optimize so much to help us develop better decisions, knowing the broader impact placed upon communities and beyond.

5). Innovating the future needs new business models, products and services

The growing movement in a number of more enlightened businesses towards only using renewal resources is gathering momentum. It is changing business models, products and services. We need to change from being a ‘throw away’ society into ones that re-use, repair and don’t chase increasing consumption but work to reduce consumption to save energy, water, critical resources etc. We do need a far more radical innovating agenda.

Connecting into the already under way experiments and improving them

Slope of Enlightenment 2There are many different ways we can apply innovation into tackling today’s real societal problems, there are lots of experiments under-way, we somehow need to connect into them in global ways.

We need to make the real efforts of connecting all these dots – we need to design a world where surplus has to be rapidly replaced with managing dwindling stocks. It calls for a concerted, connected and comprehensive manner where technology, ingenuity and our innate ability to be creative, innovative and determined to discover real breakthroughs that can contribute to solving societal issues.

The place our innovation focus has to go is in global engagement

Connected WorldWe need to know far more of where to go, what to connect into, how we can contribute. We need to engage society across a broader agenda of our challenges. Today these are diverse, dispersed, dissipated and disparate set of activities.

We need to bring these together, perhaps to form a new ‘collective’ world organizational as a body that consolidates, connects and diffuses societal challenges. One that is not layered with bureaucracy and governmental nominees but one powered by a new social platform that allows each of us to connect and explore, to learn and engage.

This needs to be built more than likely by the millennial generation, who are clearly  seeing societal challenges as their global innovation task to tackle and resolve. They are more than likely better equipped to understand social engagement and learn to connect and deliver the tools to do the jobs into everyone’s hands. They understand the power of ‘connection’ through today’s application of technology, social platforms and application of the knowledge being learnt and adopted in practical use. We need them to engage and lead.

What do we need to do to lift innovation onto that slope of enlightenment?

Seeking SolutionsWe need to firstly acknowledge our growing global problems that need tackling through more radical  application and solutions. We need to learn to scale, learn, deploy, apply- we need to put our own intelligence into innovation. We need to move the innovation needle significantly, individually and collectively.

Relying on organizations providing their solutions in a radically different world of challenges where they are stuck in delivering their steady state of ‘ever consuming’ incremental thinking is not good enough. We need a new evolution and revolution, applying new innovation thinking by putting radical innovation solutions back on the global agenda that reduce our throw away consumption and focus on preserving what we have.

We need to regain a collective sense of momentum and a belief that we are truly working on something that changes our lives and helps save the resources we need to live in this world.

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So are we in a trough of innovation disillusionment?

BoredomYou get this increasing sense that the ‘fizz’ has gone out of the innovation bubbly. The innovation party presently feels a little flat; the numerous delicious canapés to choose from are turning up at the edges as we are becoming disillusioned, just being fed on a present unexciting incremental innovation diet, lacking any real substance.

People are milling around with that bored look on their faces, some are also slumped down checking their watch or smart phones on when is the best time to cut out and find somewhere else to be, rather than be here. Has the fizz gone from innovation?

Are we being moved by innovation any more?

Is innovation becoming a boring place to be seen for hanging out and being involved in? Are we all feeling that there is less creative buzz going around? Perhaps, it depends for each of us yet collectively you might agree we do feel something is definitely missing. The excitement has left the room, innovation has become too predictable.

I could blame technology or perhaps just Apple- should I?

Innovations have become the next novelty, entertainment or the latest talking point. Apple has become predictable in their format, their focus on sustaining innovation when we all are craving the next big thing. Perhaps Apple will burst into the room and the innovation party suddenly springs back into life. We need something to lift our moods.

Instead we get innovation that is simply thinner than before, faster than the last model, processors that allow up to multi task with even more capacity, increased memory, we hear this has new architecture, even a new retina recognition device and then we all applaud. “Oh wow”, then some stifle a quick yawn.

Then we quickly check our phones for any message from someone else telling us to” get over here it’s all happening” Nothing, an awful lot of innovation has simply become hype. Nothing seems earth-moving; it’s all getting fairly predictable.

Working to the predictable script is not helping innovation

Yes, Apple and Steve Job are to blame, they set the bar high, yet today Tim Cook likes to run the same ‘event’ parties based on the ‘sustaining’ theme, just like the supply chain, delivering on expected and increasingly the predictable promise. Where has the excitement gone in innovation?

Everyone seems to be playing it safe. The truth is we are all to blame, we have over-hyped the word ‘innovation’ and are under delivering on its potential performance capacity for our real need for some radical redesigns of today’s real challenges – global challenges we must solve to survive, let alone thrive.

We are already in or heading for a trough of innovation disillusionment

Garner Hype Cycle for InnovationWhere is the excitement gone? It all seems down to getting the news first

We are fed rumours weeks before launches on what we might expect that when we get to the big event nothing is surprising us any more. We are witnessing even more incremental creep; we have lost the effect of serendipity, the “wow” factor, the moment something happened that changed our world.

All we get is that feeling, that peer pressure we must upgrade for fear of missing out or to be seen without the latest. We are on an incremental treadmill and we are the mouse turning the wheel.

When you have been weaned on the bottle of excitement, when you don’t get it you feel flat, bored and start to blame innovation as simply “innovation is dead.” No, it is simply not being allowed to really work any more. Much has become totally underwhelming.

Our business organizations are loving the ‘playing it safe’ routine

Over time our organizations are finding increasing reasons to put off the more radical innovation that is needed. Incremental innovation is safe, contains all the risks within acceptable levels, so as it allows the organization to keep its fixation on the short-term as its only line of site (and executive pay-off).

Let others make the investments and ‘we’ can pick them off……hopefully later and we play catch up!” It is funny how a good few are being caught out on this strategy though and are not learning often you never catch up, you just fall further behind. A fast follower strategy is really hard, think Apple actually.

So do we all having this growing feeling of a lack of real innovation?

The proliferation of advanced insights as news, the ability to spread the word in seconds, the ability to line up, pay on-line and receive your shot of instant update makes it all seem a little mundane, a little boring, where is the innovations of past generations that solved real society issues and problems? The instant gratification indulges us but leaves us stuck on wanting more of the same – like the craving for sugar.

We are losing the appetite for adventure, we equally are losing the ability to wait, to speculate, experiment and discover. Innovation is being delivered up on a plate; all we have to do is consume it as long as we can afford it!

This loss of sudden discovery undermines curiosity and excitement

SerendipityInnovation gets exciting when you stumble across something, totally unexpected. Researchers in a lab suddenly make a connection, that changes and often challenges their thinking, perceptions alter.

It becomes “game on”. It all becomes potentially exciting. We work for moments like this or should do. Perhaps we should have a course on serendipity, where we are required to seek discoveries by accident, by learning to listen more to others and their problems so we can make the connections to resolve their problems.

No, lets take out discovery, lets offer up predictability, it takes out fresh learning through experimentation and trial and error. Let curiosity die in wanting to fix something, to figure it out, lets just simply throw it away and buy the latest replacement.

The organizations working on innovation love sequential order.

Sequential order, hierarchies, linear processes all allow for predictability, the ability to see what is coming before you, you can do rational analysis. This type of thinking ensures innovation can be highly planned out, projects can be well constructed and everyone can fall in line and wait their part along the incremental innovation production line.

The mantra of it being “that much better than the last version” makes everyone feel part of the innovation road show and simply take the incentives being dangled like the carrot to deliver on this “exciting” development.

Innovation is simply missing the big picture, we are stuck in revolving doors.

It is all so marginal, we are back checking our clocks, looking to head out of the door, off to do something else. Again the excitement and buzz around innovation seem to be missing.

Why as we are utterly failing to tackle the real big problems of today and that is not “should we buy another smart phone” or what ever we are being fed as innovation, these are societal ones that are racing towards us, needing global solutions and that is one hell of a party to get stuck into.

Slope of EnlightenmentWe need to lift innovation out of this current trough and recognize we have some major problems of the day, that will impact everyone on the planet. Innovation can be one significant key to combine with others that unlocks all the creative and inventive forces this will require.

We all need some enlightenment not the latest gadget. Applying innovation that makes a substantial and radical contribution is the party we all should be wanting to join.


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Gaining idea engagement can be a five step process.

Having conversations 3I have been recently revisiting Everett Rogers work on diffusion and adoptions recently, evaluating if it has the same relevance in my mind in our more connected world, where speed, knowledge and exchanges are measured in micro seconds.

This reminded me of a suggestion I made some time back and I thought I’d ‘air’ this again for engaging with others.

We constantly fall into the trap of not providing our listener enough of a reason to ‘buy into’ our thoughts. We forget to either pitch it to their mental framework or we do not provide a set of compelling arguments that allows our idea a mutual recognition of its value or structure, to take it forward and transform it into something tangible and valuable.

I think using Rogers rate of diffusion principles you can end up offering a fairly powerful positioning statement. You can also offer a simple framework in this five point plan the chance to break down differences you might both hold, to build on the ‘evidence’ from a mutual recognition in the discussion on what your idea holds as potential promise. It can be transformational as a way to approach engagement.


Having conversations 5The five steps in engagement to map your conversations.

To get anyone out of their own thinking trap we need to associate our thinking to what would be valued by them, we have to make the value connections .

We can offer an uniformed path based on Everett Rogers five steps principle:

  • What we must always offer in any conversation is a clear relative advantage to what is presently available, so we can gain their permission and identification. Then we can set about to explore these better alternatives, to clarify their progress and gain general ongoing acceptance or questioning. Either way it becomes a mutual engagement. Stressing the ideas advantage by making a comparison, does allow for the chance of engage in a worthwhile conversation. Timing, circumstances and its value to the other person always need considering here. “Relative” becomes the critical word here.
  • If we can offer compatibility with our own and other people’s existing values, and explore a migration path from their past experiences we might get more space to experiment. We need to draw others in and so we have to align ourselves to their experiences to frame it to their thinking bias. This becomes a job-to-be-done on unearthing unmet needs or the needs that can be improved upon. The job-to-be-done thinking is a great practice methodology to achieve adoption.
  • The new tools, methods and different techniques becoming increasingly available to us, can certainly help us to explain complexity to reduce the perceived difficulties of adopting new practices. The whole gambit of gaming, the canvas techniques, visual mapping, design thinking all help considerably here. Any argument, discussion or position needs to simplify complexity as the one listening quickly ‘tunes out’ if we load the conversation with “too much detail” or jargon.
  • We then can offer new ways for trialability to experiment in safe and limited risk ways. Lay out a clear path of experimentation and result milestones to manage expectancies and gain increasing support commitment. Steve Blank’s contention of “getting out of the building” and his customer development process offers one of many ways to learn, pivot and progress in bite-sized steps.
  • Finally, we can provide observability, so others can see the results we can make progress. By keeping this open, it can be clearly challenged and blocked in many ways but openness and transparency does eventually reduce resistance. If we can clarify change and our progress in learning we give others understanding. It is when we fail to communicate what they need to hear, we are more likely to be blocked or our project cancelled. We need to ‘demonstrate’ progress and show its value.

Everett Rogers five steps might offer up a possible pathway to unlock much within innovation and reduce our different personal biases that can trap our ideas to not allow them to be seen in their real value to move forward, and be supported by others, as they gain their essential engagement and buy-in.

What do you think? It’s worth a try to build your own engagement stories around the five principles suggested. Give it a trial the next time you want to bring others onto your side and look to construct a mutual engagement.

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Learning favours the brave

Knowledge and learning 4The challenges we are facing today seem to be coming faster at us, more complex to decipher and then re-evaluate how we should respond. To achieve faster response we certainly need to educate the organization more than ever.

We need to absorb more, we need to encourage learning more especially to pursue innovation. We need to actively set up learning ways within our organizations to establish their abilities to recognize the value of new, external information (knowledge), to assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends.

Innovation within the organization needs not just greater recognition of its vital parts, but also of its status as a value enhancing and organizational life-changing event that we need to move towards increasingly in more organized ways. Innovation needs to be recognized as a clear discipline, a new expertise that is as powerful as Marketing became some decades ago.

Seeking out knowledge that feeds our innovations

Knowledge and learning 3The more we embrace change and recognize innovation demands more of our time, the more we seek out knowledge that ‘feeds’ innovation. And the more we ‘push’ for learning, the greater chance we have of thriving in a challenging world.

The expectation ‘bar’ needs to be raised from those practicing innovation, I feel the constant need is for those working within innovation they have this real need to raise their game significantly. Innovation needs organizing but it also needs a better understanding of its contributing parts.

Learning and Education should always start at home.

The earlier we learn, have open interactions and form linkages, the more we will be ready to advance innovation into what it must become: a discipline highly valued for what it contributes with in terms of wealth and growth potential.

We need to find the determination to underpin the capacity for innovation, lying within us all, and that comes from knowledge and education through collaborative learning. So what is your capacity for innovation really like within your organization? Is the learning required for innovation set up in structured ways or left to individual learning and experimentation?

Do either structured or informal ways feed back into the organizational learning system to benefit others? Or is the knowledge gained just left ‘resident’ in the person, not being put to that greater use?

Knowledge exchange is the way forward but we need to avoid the easy paths.

Knowledge and learning 2Organizations need to move well beyond their lazy reliance on best practice comparison and they need to find better ways to explore emerging practices. But that takes many into the realm of increasing uncertainties, and most people and organizations are not trained for this exploration and experimentation.

It is easy to copy but we often fail to recognize all the contextual factors that went into making it that one specific organizations good practice, and I guarantee these are not yours!

Best practice has their comparable uses but it is your focusing on the good and emerging practices within your own organization is the area to focus, for learning and wanting to improve into those that make your practices really work. Then applying, experimenting and learning from novel practices that provide growing confidence in creative thinking.

Also give some thought for next practice, those practices that prompt reinvention. They start such totally fresh thinking, they challenge existing paradigms and move you towards considering new business models.

Organizations constantly anticipate risk by reducing all the variables within risk and play safe with just being incremental. Is that wrong? No, as long as we have our reward systems geared to short-term performance, while we measure leadership success the way we presently do, and the shareholder just expects consistent dividends as their part of the equation and is quickly mobilized to force change if it does not meet this immediate aim, we head down the wrong path.

We are not sustaining our organization and we are not advancing ourselves either, we are destroying much in our current approaches. We do need to focus more on the competence-enhancing not competence-destroying aspects.

We need to re-balance the “risk and opportunity” to push our use of new knowledge into fresh innovation that ‘advances’ on the existing. To recognize the difference we need to encourage knowledge to be ‘freely’ exchanged, and then provide the environment to encourage a re-educating on ‘seeing and exploring’ new possibilities that allow us to grow.

Shifting the knowledge needle takes real commitment

Knowledge and learning 1Can we recognize that choosing the tougher pathway of building our own distinct capabilities, learning block by learning block, is the right one to follow. This allows us to build capacities that are ours, seeking out the knowledge to build the absorptive capacity that acquire, assimilate, transform and exploit, so as to give us greater chances of finding new innovation that is valued and allows us all to grow and gain from this dedicated learning.

I can’t change our prevailing system but I can point to alternatives and suggest we have other options, ones pursued by the few, which are more visionary and brave and often disrupting the accepted. These are building on novel and unique practices, extracted not from others best practices but from emerging practices learn by deliberate design and our own personal experiences, formed within our organizations unique view of the ‘take of and place in’ the world.

Finding our own way relies mostly on us to find the answers. We grow by seeking out knowledge as it feeds our minds to find our unique ways to contribute and share.

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Organizations are in a constant dilemma concerning innovation

Organization's innovation dilemma.The issue of “where does innovation fit?” is one of the most difficult ones to address in many organizations. It seems to fit uncomfortably for many.

At the top of our organizations they ‘require’ innovation but will often not want the potential disruption this might entail.

Yet the organization today is being challenged like never before, it has gone from managing the predictable business to responding to the unpredictable, more opportunistic and alert to change, a place innovation can fit within the need to respond to this different environment.

This is the final post in the series that has focused on the innovation work mat components

Within this final post I look at why innovation needs to align into the organization. Innovation seems to be in conflict and tension within so much within our organizations. Innovation is challenging the established order; today’s world is also demanding a new organizational design. The Executive Innovation Work Mat offers a framework to gain a higher level of strategic focus around innovation. Innovation requires engagement throughout the organization to deliver in today’s tougher, more challenging world.

In this series of articles I have looked at the seven components to raise questions, to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations around building innovation that sustains and delivers to the strategic need.

Adjusting our innovation systems to the changes happening all around us

Constant changeI certainly believe there is an awful amount of change occurring around innovation. Organizations are attempting to integrate innovation far more into their existing practices. I think many of these attempts will fail. Existing practices often are not innovation friendly!

The old organization model built on efficiency and effectiveness, operating in predictable conditions is being destroyed, we are in the world of the disruptor. Innovation needs to be more central to organization design to counter this challenge. Innovation thrives well in networks, it gains from ‘being connected’

Innovation is at the core of a new battle for securing an organizations future, in its relevancy and importance, yet our organizations continue to struggle with where to box this. If innovation stays a side-show the organization faces a slow demise, as it hangs on grimly, determined to continue to work in ways it has become comfortable with.

Those ‘old’ ways that values controlling in prescribed hierarchies and through rigid plans are simply struggling in today’s more connected world. We are in uncomfortable times where past systems and structures are not fit for purpose.

What is valued more today is “guiding coalitions” where iterations and co-creating thrive. Strategy and execution are highly interrelated and it is the power of a connected network, working on common cause within innovation that can generate powerful results. ‘Connected’ and ‘collected’ intelligence gives us fresh capacity and far more promising futures.

Innovation is operating in this growing organization world of the designers’ dilemma.

Old and New SchoolThe middle of our organizations continues to focus upon constantly looking to achieve efficiencies and effectiveness to deliver that more predictable result that the top really prefers. Much of middle management is working with yesterday’s tools and techniques. Innovation is caught up in this middle kingdom and continues to be in conflict. This needs changing.

The innovator themselves, those beginning to roam around the organization, are seeking to disrupt, to challenge, to alter the established pattern as their remit is to bring new innovations into the world. They often face considerable resistance from so many antibodies to this new way of managing.

Organizations have to face this constant ‘tension’ around innovation and where it fits in design, function and structure. Innovation is today not the most comfortable space to work within in our organizations. It often seems to ‘rub’ up against much that seems immovable, innovation generates often unwanted heat and conflict. Yet innovation is essential, it ‘must’ reside, so we need to manage this ‘creative’ tension to achieve real value out of innovation, results that have lasting impact.

Moving through this disruptive and tense world calls for a more radical response.

Tension within the systemOrganizations want to see well-defined processes and coordination happening across the functions undertaking the activities of innovation. It wants innovation to fit within existing organizational design.

This struggle that innovation has with this ‘need to fit’ is a tough challenge. The resolution requires senior management attention to work this thoughtfully through.

It is through this designing of all the essential parts that make up innovation, that will give it the functioning fit for ‘innovation purpose’ but this takes time, engagement and dedicated energy. It needs integrating and co-ordinating throughout the whole organization.

Innovation is certainly no different from other functions specializing, it does need to be well-designed into the organization but it needs carefully managing, piloting through the organization and that attention to its needs has to come from the top, as it can challenge many established practices that need resolution.

Innovation requires a well-designed system, this is where risk can be managed and defined. This requires having in place a well-designed innovation framework that accounts for and builds around all that good innovation needs.

Designing an integrated innovation system that can ‘pilot’ the activities safely is critical. Organizations will not permit undue risk unless they are in desperate situations where radical actions need to come into play, regretfully these are often too little too late.

How do we design innovation into our organizations systems?

Designing innovation into our systems 1Innovation overtime I believe will become more of the core of an organization. To do this it needs to be well-defined, fully resourced and valued. It constantly needs to demonstrate value creation.

Organizations need to set about building distinct set of capabilities that deliver on the essentials to provide the future health of the organization.

Innovation offers ‘much needed’ fresh oxygen that allows an organization to thrive and grow. If it starves the organization of this oxygen not only innovation dies but over time so does the organization and it will die.

Innovation must fit somehow into an organizations thinking, find a way to be worked into the routines and practices to do its job of creating the growth, the advancement in new products, services and business models to compete effectively with others to attract the customer to buy. It needs to balance risk and opportunity; to deliver both efficient and effective results, be highly visible, organized and able to deliver on its future promise.

The design of the organization’s innovation engine room is the place for managing the future growth. It needs examining and managing carefully. As the current organization tensions are being navigated through with new organization designs emerge, Innovation has the potential within its possible design and management that could significantly contribute to this new emerging organization order.

Every organization has some clarity in their design, function and their innovation process yet it is constantly constrained by these tensions within organizations. Today there is a need for a new architecture of design for our business as outlined here, a post relating to designing new business models.

The call is for a well – designed innovation framework.

Within this series around the Executive Innovation Work Mat we covered the different components that make up this work mat. The overarching aim with the work mat is to address one of the missing links we face in innovation today.

We need to achieve a clear alignment and engagement on innovation with the top through to the bottom of our organizations, where a strategic innovation document or framework lays out the integrated thinking for innovation and its contribution to the strategic needs of the organization. This can provide a clarity and purpose to unite behind.

This intent is determined by aligning innovation with the strategic needs and business outlook from the Chief Executive downwards.

In conclusion to the innovation work mat series.

In my view organization engagement comes from adopting a framework that prompts identification. By working with an integrative innovation work mat it outlines innovations critical aspects to be worked through across the organization, to gain this greater alignment to the strategic intent of the business.

Seven Domains for Innovation AlignmentAny design and engagement needs to be highly dynamic, where the learning taking place will flow throughout the organization, top down, bottom up, to make innovation alive and all connected.

This endeavour starts creating a thriving innovation ecosystem. One that is fuelled by energy and organization commitment as all can see the connected parts and their contribution into this.

Can the Executive Innovation Work Mat be the catalyst needed? I think so.

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How are you evolving the function and design for innovation?

Organizations are struggling to forge a new path that captures opportunities fast and also exploiting that increasing need of being adaptive and flexible.

They are looking at structures for their innovation activity that are taking a more agile and focused approach, wanting to push for constantly accelerating the process. New practices are emerging.

This is demanding more radical redesigns of the function, processes and structures around innovation. Innovators are being more challenged.

Against this need for new, more radical designs there still lies that underlying concern, often at the top of our organizations, on how to manage innovation risk without significant organization disruption. There is this lingering fear that pushing for more radical innovation can create significant upheaval within the organization. Innovation is being challenged by the view of “we want predictable innovation but radical enough to make sure we grow.

Innovation has to manage within this conflicting message. It is through the well-designed system, processes and function that this can happen but this needs redesigning fairly radically to adjust to today’s world of wanting innovation faster than ever.

This is the sixth post centred on the executive innovation work mat

Within this post I focus upon the function, design, structure and processes needed for successful and sustaining innovation within organizations. In this series of articles I have looked at the seven components to raise questions, to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations around building innovation that sustains and delivers to the strategic need.

The lexicon of today’s existing management of innovation needs rebuilding.

common language is neededYou can read an incredible variety of advice on designing the innovation process. These can include managing through idea management system software to reverting to simple ‘pen and paper’ brainstorming environments and spreadsheets. Simply having in place some structured processes is essential to managing innovation. These can become very complex that go from idea all the way to final execution.

Then we get into the approaches to designing a portfolio to balance your innovation activity, the use of stage-gates to manage this, the whole product life-cycle process, the need for robust pipelines and well-designed platforms all enter the lexicon of managing innovation. It has become part of the lexicon of the innovator but not yet the common language we speak of, that a whole organization can talk and gather around.

Many of these systems we have become comfortable with, by working with them everyday but I believe there is the need of some radical challenging and redesign needing to take place around these. Much within the innovation system needs designing out.

We need to rebuild a new common language surrounding innovation that is broader and more inclusive to all within our organizations. We need to recognize the changes taking place in competition, the need for a sense of urgency for growth and a ‘breaking out’ of the incremental mindset, that is still prevailing in many organizations.

There is a new chase for growth and even more through purposeful design.

Puzzling out innovationThis end choice is not which system or process has the best functions, the sexiest piece of software or the coolest design for its platform, it is about going back and asking the basic of basic questions to the organizations top leadership: “what do you want innovation to achieve?”

You will get the simple answer: “growth” and also “innovation delivery needs to speed up in new products and services”. You will also get “we need to outperform or at least keep us competitive in the market place” and then perhaps “innovation is expected to deliver what the market wants”.

These statements are all helpful but quite simply not enough. To deliver on innovations ‘promise’ you need to go deeper. Besides having a clearer strategic vision, for innovation there needs this greater alignment to the strategic aspirations. For that, innovation needs explicit links and all of these point back to the strategic needs, goals and visions. The innovation work mat aids this exploration.

Achieving a well-designed design, function, structure and process is utterly dependent on the organization to translate the innovation needs and aims, define the work-flow that ‘this’ will follow and how and where this will take place. Then it needs fully supporting and resourcing.

Today we need to think innovation outcomes differently.

Image credit: thinking-differently

Image credit: thinking-differently

The higher demand from innovation requires the system to respond far quicker to breaking opportunities.

Innovation needs to have a system that is constantly adaptive and flexible. Most of the rigidity needs to be designed out.

Organizations are requiring structures and processes that are far more agile, nimble, constantly recognizing speed as the essence of today’s competitive worlds.

The challenges that need to be addressed are replacing a linear system with a spiral one, where you constantly loop back to refit your innovation understanding back into the idea-to-launch system from the new knowledge you are gaining. The system needs resetting around shorter bursts of high intense activity that factor in risk-based contingency, are encouraged to keep exploring and adapting.

The criteria to measure innovation passing through development, needs to become more open-ended. This can allow greater discovery periods to go where it is needed and not what the system is forcing it squeeze through a gate. The ‘go/kill’ criteria needs to change.

The system becomes a learning process to reduce uncertainty but keeps advancing on improving insights and physical demonstration that what is being investigated. This is through constant prototyping exploring and meeting customer or market needs with these stakeholders involved. As innovation discovery advances, the outcomes become more tangible, risks reduce.

We need to reduce where Innovation often sits waiting.

the waiting gameWe need to challenge the constant waiting within the development processes for innovation. This can be achieved through better designed systems of management perhaps a more value-stream analysis, accelerating by overlapping stages, encouraging concurrent activities, ensuring dedicated teams are assigned to properly resource projects.

We need to challenge and reduce the built-in slack within the innovation development system, wherever we can.

Today the emphasis is to maximize speed, working really hard on scoping the front end in greater detail really helps, and asking key questions on where the right track is and what this needs in resource, time and development and committing dedicated teams to the tasks.

We need to find better ways to incorporate lean principles, even six sigma into reducing the non-added value out of our innovation system. We need to provide succinct deliverable packages that tell the ‘advancement’ and learning story as the innovation concpet moves along its development path.

Changing the milestone dependencies by using canvas techniques has exciting potential

blank canvasWe need to reduce the dependencies on financial milestones and make these more physical, with constantly evolving and functioning prototypes that demonstrate new value, so stakeholders can understand and provide even greater inputs on ‘seeing’ new value creation.

The principles that are being built up around the Business Model canvas within our business organizations offers much to be re-evaluated within our development life-cycle.

The introduction of new thinking such as the value of starting with a complete blank canvases or allowing the radical reworking of existing canvases of innovation concepts can offer new concepts to begin to be tested and evolve for products, services as well as new business propositions.

The physical activities of testing, validating, clarifying a more integrated design across all the parts does allow for exploring the uncertainties and risks in potentially imaginative ways. Taking a different design-thinking to the development process can challenge old assumptions and processes.

We can constantly determine the critical but evolving assumptions, and then work at delivering updates that can advance the development process through a dashboard approach of informing when critical assumptions or learning change.

We can take a more imaginative approach to the business model canvas to adopt many of its emerging tools and methods but this calls for a completely different mind-set in larger organizations in my opinion to their whole development process.

We are in real need to reinvigorate our innovation systems.

As I have stated in past posts, our legacy systems  are holding us back today. We need to challenge our innovation functions, our existing design of the structure and processes to bring innovation into the core design of the organization, to align its value to present business conditions, where growth is required.

These do need to be more agile, adaptive and accelerated to meet the challenges and uncertainties organizations are facing. Innovation needs to step up to the plate and respond differently than in the past. It must rethink and challenge. Our processes and structures to manage innovation have become too linear, too rigid and far too planned, grinding through the innovation system.

Rethinking our innovation in function and designs calls for a more integrated approach offered in the Executive Innovation Work Mat. Each of the seven components need carefully designing to bring innovation far more into the core design of the organization and fully understood by all.

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Successful Innovation needs a common language, context and communicating

The story of Babel

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

People disconnect because they lack what is needed to connect!  Innovation thrives from knowledge and you need to make sure this is allowed to flow. To achieve those essential knowledge connections, you need a shared understanding of innovation, that common sense of purpose as a framework. This will though, always stay a work-in-progress.

You need to begin to build a common language of greater understanding. We need to unite around innovation. Imagine if you work consciously to put knowledge in the hands of people willing to make innovation happen, what the potential might be?

Give people the power of the context for their innovation engagement and that shifts everything to give them a clearer shape and meaning. You are laying out the conditions, criteria and circumstances, giving innovation its foundations.

Connecting the seven parts of the Innovation Work Mat

In this series of articles I will be looking at each of the seven components within the executive innovation work mat to raise questions, to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations around building innovation that sustains and delivers to the strategic need.

This is the fifth post in the series, here I’m exploring the essential need to build a common language, gain growing identity through knowing the context for your innovation activities by communicating these to build a lasting innovation connection and organizational awareness. This flows from the top and cascade down the organization to make the essential connections and alignment.

Giving people space through communicating the common understanding

What would happen if you allow people to openly invent, to brainstorm, to generate initial concepts and prototypes because they understand the strategic innovation framework. One that lays out a vision of meaningful innovation that would be valued as it is more aligned to the strategic direction.

For me, the executive innovation work mat moderates an organizations innovation. It can go much towards reducing the multiple interpretations and personal agenda’s of a variety of initiatives, often described or justified as essential innovation but constantly miss the strategic mark.

The need to cascade innovation

Closing the innovation gap design

If you have in place a clear innovation framework you offer a communicating mechanism to guide innovation activity. The framework can establish a common language, a growing sense of common cause for this to ignite innovations focused activity.

You can cascade this down the organization and actively look for the cascading effect to flow back up in new ideas, a sense of engagement and purpose.

You are looking for everyone involved to understand ‘the bigger picture’, to look towards the communicating platform so they can move their innovation activity back and forth within the structures, processes and systems designed for innovation to align them to the organizational strategic need. Innovation becomes increasingly more connected as it is more integrated in its designs, use of resources and outcomes, to meet the more complex challenges being face in a competitive world.

Engagement can become the behavioral footprint needed for change 

If you give each person a sense of meaning, that explicit and implicit encouragement because this is coming to them in an integrated message- the seven components of the executive innovation work mat – it can shift their mind, it can direct their energies. Engagement can become the catalyst for exciting innovation if there is this sense of trust, continuity and the identification is well-constructed and makes sense.  Organizations do need a commonly shared framework that moderates innovation

There are so many aspects to get right in innovation. These can be ensuring the culture, climate and environment for innovation are working well, it could mean setting up processes, well-designed procedures and structures, it can be providing innovation governance. Each part has a vital part to play in being combined for innovation, so it can function but these are not the core. Our identification with innovation is that core.

Working on innovation needs a deep commitment

Building Innovation

German Late Medieval (c. 1370s) depiction of the construction of the tower.

We need to work hard to communicate that innovation is different than ‘business as usual’. The fact ‘we’ are building something different and we need to build this together.  A counter to existing processes, the commitment need is to overcome practices honed over many years. This needs thinking through in its value and importance.

If the Senior Executive is not totally involved in creating the imperatives needed in innovation then the organization lacks the context. Signalling the kind of innovation and breadth of impact – delivers the vital aspects. Well stated innovation objectives can shift the focus of the organization substantially. It generates collective building capacity.

Incremental to Disruptive requires different engagement points – actions send signals to the organization and having a clear governance provides guidance to risk, principles and the mechanisms to manage these two ‘extremes in innovation and all in-between.

By providing a strategic innovation framework you provide a consistency in purpose, you are aligning innovation to strategic need and by actively engaging across the seven components, sharing their conclusions, these can create the dynamic aspects and sense of growing identity. You need to send a compelling set of messages throughout the organization.

Innovation engagement needs a common language, a clear sense of purpose of innovations context and the mechanisms to communicate and cascade these intents throughout the organization to bring people onto the same page.

Obtaining a ‘given’ flow for innovation

Designing a new strategic innovation framework at the top of organizations helps close the many gaps we see today. There is a flow for improving innovation performance. If we don’t frame the business context how can we compare and contrast?  How do we know what we are missing or what it is meant to be achieving? When we go about seeking out opportunities we need to understand the context these are placed in.

Educating, informing, clarifying constantly simply helps formulate understanding and aids execution. We need to find ways to communicate a common language, a common way to frame the needs expected from innovation.

When we work together we can move mountains

You can eventually achieve a common identity that begins to move ‘mountains’ through collective achievement, one that is both distinctive and unique to your organization. A clear uniqueness that can never be copied, one that allows you to stand out as true distinctive innovators, admired and even envied.

We get closer to achieving a consistent, more vibrant innovation as it becomes more routine and embedded, for it becomes increasingly linked to everyone’s goals, a certain oneness and because of this, it is sustaining. We identify as we understand what our contribution will be, then the leadership has done its primary job, its aligned innovation purpose to the goals, by laying out the parameters to achieve this.

Successful CEO’s achieve organization connection

CEO’s that are seen to be successful achieve connections, what is often called that emotional connection through describing the context, setting the values and vision driven criteria and by often pushing the organization towards ‘impossible goals’. It is amazing how this brings alignment as long as it is consistent, constant in its messages and widely shared and understood and the organization see’s the leadership engaging, visibly seeking and believing in innovation and what it can potentially deliver.

Delivering a coherent and consistent innovation message that resonates

Choice cascade model

The Choice Cascade Integrative Innovation Model

This engagement needs a different honing than most organizations are certainly not capable of delivering, without thinking long and hard about the way they must undertake a more transformational pathway.

I suggest the Choice – Cascade integrated innovation model. One that can connect and deliver a consistent and coherent innovating performance across the organization.

I believe there is an essential gap within the way we set about innovation today. There is needing to be well-articulated and well-communicated innovation strategy that flows both ways in searching for the best solutions that align to the organizational strategic needs.

We need to find more fluid and flexible organizations that respond through searching for innovation consistency. They need to have a ‘flow’ of knowledge, of clarity, of a sense of scale in their learning and dialogues that promotes greater successful innovation outcomes as the sense of on-going mission.

The orchestrator needs to orchestrate.

 We need to align, offer clear vision and purpose and this needs orchestrating from the top of the organization to the bottom. Organizations need an integrated innovation strategic framework that can deliver commonality in understanding, in purpose, in language. Then this needs to be cascaded

To do this you must orchestrate the capabilities, to purposefully build innovation. Orchestration is fundamentally dynamic, full of uncertainties but the need is still to connect the parts. To orchestrate you need to communicate and conduct to make the innovation music

The important “C’s” of innovation

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

For me, the central part of the Executive Innovation Work Mat has been deliberately placed, it conveys the important “C’s”of innovation.

This is made up of the search to build a common language, to put innovation in its appropriate context, to work on communicating and cascading this throughout the organization can spark the distinctive aspects.

The ultimate aim is identification, understanding and then build up the capability, capacity and competencies required to deliver on the integrated approach taken. This is led from the top through this work mat approach and fully cascaded throughout the organization to align and bring innovation to life for all involved.

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