What makes innovation sticky?

To achieve success you not only have to have a repeatable process but you have to ensure what is learnt ‘sticks’ so it can be used again and again.

The company we associate the most with when it comes to ‘sticky’ is 3M for its famous invention of ‘sticky notes’. They are used everywhere. As an aside, I recently I came across an even better product where you can ‘write and slide’ your sticky notes so they adhere to any surface and are particularly great for brainstorming or presentation concepts where you want to keep moving them around (sliding them) as your ideas grow and evolve.

These are new on the market developed by a young innovative Finnish company www.stattys.com. These great products allow us to keep something in place to ‘form’ our thinking around, they give us opportunity to share around and explore .

Motivational Glue

Besides ‘sticky’ we need something I’ll call motivational glue. A glue that binds between knowledge and learning to become a series of building blocks for innovation. These motivates us to keep thinking, pushing and developing our ideas into final products or services.

Innovation is made up of both tangibles and intangibles. Tangibles are more physical whereas intangibles are often our real hidden assets of knowledge, the intellectual assets that lie within our business. These can be made of firstly, databases, patents (assets that can be sold). Then there are ones that can be separated out and sold or spun off (R&D labs, organizational processes). The third and the ones that hold the real huge promise for innovation success are the knowledge and skills within our people- that they alone own.

For many it is the combination of these three that makes up the new balance sheet of the organization- the real value definer, often hidden away and not appreciated for its immense value.

The three capitals that make up our intangibles, those that bind our organizational structures.

These are often discussed as the three capitals- human, structural and relationship/customer capitals. It is the investment made within these that really delivers the future value of an organization- these make up much of the unique competitive advantage they can differentiate one organization from another in its successful outputs.

These three capitals are the essential ingredients upon which an organization’s future success is built and this is why you need a ‘strong’ glue to keep them bound together- my motivational glue.

Within these different capitals lies a set of value streams that need gluing within organizations. These are how you manage the relationships (internal and external), how you attract, embed and diffuse knowledge, how your leadership sets about communicating its vision, its beliefs, its desires. Then you have the make-up of the culture and its internal values, the reputation and trust an organization conveys, its processes and systems, its reach across different networks and lastly, its ways it sets about building the skills and competences. These make up in diverse ways the hidden value, the differentiators between one organization and another.

The motivational glue has learning as its base component

When we learn we are learning for the future. We need to gain skills in being adaptable, we need to learn from successes and failures and talk about them both and what we learnt. We need to know what skills will improve our performance, what attitudes and behaviours are the ones we can positively take forward and use time and again. The more we gather, absorb, explore and share, the more we advance.

Learning if it stands alone, then you are simply an island of knowledge that actually has little value in today’s world. It is the acting on your knowledge, as an innovation practitioner perhaps, that provides today’s real value. It is using your ‘know how’ to achieve effective action within groups, within your network, your team, your organization. It is making learning work. This is more today framed as social learning.

Social learning is becoming the essential ingredient in our glue today.

I have recently discovered the Internet Time Alliance and only beginning to explore this (http://internettimealliance.com). It is a small community of five independent people that learn from one another and collaborate on projects.

What I can see very quickly is how social learning is pivotal for developing going forward. In one article called: “A framework for social learning in the enterprise” by Harold Jarche (http://bit.ly/dlGKGA) he draws on his colleagues within this Alliance to put forward an excellent case for social learning.

He uses a quote from George Siemens :

There is a growing demand for the ability to connect to others. It is with each other that we can make sense, and this is social. Organizations, in order to function, need to encourage social exchanges and social learning due to faster rates of business and technological changes. Social experience is adaptive by nature and a social learning mindset enables better feedback on environmental changes back to the organization”

Also within the article one of his alliance partners Jay Cross offers a table to highlight some of the workplace changes he is observing I’d also like to share here:

Social Learning past & future comparision

Within the Internet Time Alliance they protect their work under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial License. I would suggest you do go and take a look as social learning fits with our needs for innovation to work today.

So for me learning, social learning, gives us our motivation- our glue for sustaining innovation.

Innovation is growing in its complexity. To keep pace we have to learn, we have to explore, to absorb and use our knowledge. The more we learn the more we offer value but we need to network and expand our relationships to make good use of this. It may seem intangible to others but the more we use our learning, push our experiences and demonstrate these, the more this becomes tangible within ourselves and through this experience to others. We are converting this into an asset that others will value. This becomes our innovating stickiness, the powerful building block for successful innovation to happen and provide our motivational glue to seek out experience repeatedly and offer real learning value to others.

What are the new paradigms in innovation?

There are some huge shifts taking place across innovation activities. The simple fact that innovation has been thrown open and organizations and individuals can simply explore outside their existing paradigms is offering us something we have yet to fully grasp and leverage. This is a W-I-P for us all.

Secondly innovation is simply getting faster, better is another story, but it is expected to move from idea or concept to final launch in ever decreasing compressed time

As they say ‘you can’t have one without the other’. Open innovation is potentially allowing for this compression of time but where we still ‘lag’ is within our organizations to reap the rewards. Why? We are still stuck in the previous structures, systems and processes designed for internal developments that were designed for different times.

We need two really critical things really fast.

The speed of change needs agility. We need to learn to adapt, anticipate and lead change before change leads us. Building an agile company to manage the enormous unpredictability and creative destruction going on around us is an absolute must.

Secondly we need to recognise that the capabilities and skills needed to manage in this rapidly shifting world must be different from many we provide and train into our people today. We need more ‘dynamic capabilities’: the ability to understand what is needed and apply these capabilities to the challenges on hand.

The past has simply flashed before our eyes

When you stop and think, after you have captured your breath, just reflect on what has happened in the last thirty years of where we have placed our emphasis within innovation

Firstly we focused on efficiency through innovation, then we applied quality to the process, then we introduced flexibility (leaner supply chains, smarter product processes) and recently we have moved to a more open innovation. This rapid movement or compression of innovation has been demanding, many simply have not kept up, or simply never changed and faded away

What is the future in any innovation focus?

We have skirted design innovation, we still attempt to link product and service, we are building more stand alone business models and we are experimenting with social media that seems to becoming established as Social product innovation-the practice of leveraging Social Computing principles and technologies to support the product development process, innovation and business goals, programs and resources. We are also striving to manage collaborative platforms, so as to manage projects that offer scale and market shifting paradigms. There is a giant mash up going on or mess up perhaps?

Disruptive, Radical and Volatile seems a reality

We seem to be heading into a real storm of change. Change brought on by over consuming, disposing quickly and demanding even faster, better, more improved products at ever lowering prices. This is not just a race to the bottom where commoditization lurks but where we simply will exhaust our resources, our planet and ourselves. We are facing some very unsettling times and we need to get equipped to deal with them fast in agile ways through new capabilities and competencies.

There is a race we are all in where eventually no-one wins. We need to change the race.

We do need a ‘real’ paradigm shift.

The problem is nothing stops, it simply keeps moving at ever increasing pace. We can’t consolidate, we can’t experiment as much as we would like and we can’t wait and see. We are all learning by doing and to do this we need to be highly agile, amass new capabilities and competences as we go- often on the fly, often by the seat of our pants. Innovation has become our treadmill perhaps. Can we afford to get off? To make a real paradigm shift?

What would that be- any thoughts?

There are two distinct parts to any Innovation Funnel

I wrote in an earlier blog called “the new extended innovation funnel” (http://bit.ly/hQTEJz) my reasoning for thinking differently from our traditional view of how the innovation funnel should look like. I feel it should look more like this.

Extended Innovation Funnel – are we really listening?

The ‘classic’ innovation funnel talked about is wrong for todays job!

Certainly every company does have some form of funnel, so it can whittle down the host of ideas into that final concept that eventually becomes commercialised and released into the market.

It is most commonly seen as wide at the front to capture all these ‘great’ ideas and narrows to the selected ones to go through a selection process although the more famous one being the Stage-Gate one made famous by Robert G Cooper (shown further on in the blog)

the Classic Innovation Funnel

I don’t want to get into the specifics of stage-gates, how many, why these have certain assigned hurdle rates, why they are equally loved and hated etc., etc. That is fuel for a later blog perhaps.

The funnel is always depicted as easier than the real thing, the activities that goes on daily in each company working through the idea to final concept. Taking ideas to commercialisation is an awful lot of hard work.

The worry and constant complaint is, that irrespective of our generating “thousands of ideas,” we still only seem to get between 5 to 10% success rate. This low success rate is what you seem to hear more about than anything else laying the blame on innovation, why? Maybe because our view of the funnel is wrong? Maybe because we are not listening and appreciating both sides of the funnel?

Tom Fishburne depiction of the funnel

Again this is seen set in the ‘classic’ traditional way, but with a real touch of Tom’s great humour. He also capture it well in that any idea entering the funnel is facing a ‘death of a thousand cuts’. The jaws of a hungry alligator realy to devour all (ideas) that enter the funnel.

He implies that the funnel has got a certain reputation as something ready to constantly digest its next prey. But does it need to be like that?

The Innovation Funnel Actually Has Two Distinct Sides.

The Left Side is the one often not deeply appreciated as the really critical one  and the side we often spend less focal time upon. “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”. Really mastering this side of the funnel, allows for the potential for better ideas/ concepts to move through the complete funnel.

Extended Innovation Funnel – the exploring side

This is the raw end, the side that really is the hardest part, the often really, really, fuzzy part. This is the place mostly lying outside your organization’s domain of knowledge where the ‘real world’ functions and where you really need to constantly search and scan the horizon for possible ‘breaking opportunity or posibility, not just ideas that you think might fit from within your own world but ones that alter that world.

What do you need to capture within the left side of the funnel?

1). Firstly, this is where innovation and your strategy need to get good alignment. Having a clear perspective of what you need to focus upon is going to get you far quicker to spotting possible opportunities. It helps you to have a ‘reasonable’ understanding of intent, of capabilities, of potential to take this ‘raw material’ and convert it into a tangible set of ideas or concepts.

2) The External Knowledge gathering and Internal Alignment need to keep working these ‘nuggets’ of raw opportunities, realting them, exploring them, turning them over in your mind, in your thinking about possibilities and seeking different points of alignment.

3) The connecting points come from the deeper set of insights you have about your markets, your customers and their unmet needs and your capacities to translate these through exploring any potential from the ‘raw material’ and the degree’s of learning that comes with this, to convert it into something value and eventually commercial.

4)  Knowing where to go as sources of knowledge is becoming more critical. These can be through existing partners, through university connections, collaborations with competitors, institutes or by completing your own desk research offers you a wealth of places to explore. Simply observation in different markets, in-use studies or travelling in different countries and absorbing different insights and experiences provides the ‘scout’ the capture points. The key is being alert to ‘seeing possibility’ but at the same time ‘being aware’.

5) Once you have some raw concepts or ideas they will need some testing against. Not just can this be translated into a finished product that gives us value but does it map back to your research, your internal understanding of market/ customer and their needs. To sell any raw thinking back into a company you need to make it relevant, it needs to connect, and it needs context.

You really do need to make the necessary connections

1)      Going back to matching goals, the knowledge gained and needed and the internal capabilities to translate this really needs working through before it enters the actual internal process

2)      Also a preliminary assessment of if this can be managed and where it is going to be developed; purely internally (closed innovation) or do you need to have a collaboration with external partners (open innovation) or equally, the raw thinking was already found through a collaboration and you need to build the justification to take this further, in agreements, resourcing etc.

3)      Many organizations are looking beyond raw thinking and deliberately searching for concepts already part-baked or proven concepts that can be ramped up or scaled quickly or just needing the additional expertise your organization can bring into the mix.

Then the final part of the left side of the innovation funnel

1)      Doing the assessment of risks and returns. Assessing the potential value to the organization to turn its full resources on and take the idea/ concept through the idea to commercialisation funnel. Addressing the gaps, the risks, the impact becomes the beginning of refining the business case

2)      It is at this point you transform possibility into business opportunity. The seeds of an idea have already been through a fairly vigorous evaluation, it is at this point you make the ‘case’ for this to enter the classic’ innovation funnel

Moving across to the Right Side of the Innovation funnel

Extended Innovation Funnel – the exploiting side

This is the better known and discussed part of the funnel.

I will not go into that so much on this side, this is well discussed and debated by many. I just offer a few thoughts.

The crucial difference lies in listening and interpretation of the inflow from the left side.

By working through the left side of the funnel ou have refined much more. What is entering the funnel is arguable not needing the traditional wide-neck funnel; it actually becomes the narrow part. It is then a real need to widen out these as the concept takes hold and has resource taking these up and exploring the idea and working through the concept to turn it into final offerings or multiple ones for release into the world.

The generation of thousand of ideas becomes a misnomer as applied here.

Ideas were evaluated well before they entered the commercialisation process (the right side of the funnel). The critical thing here is they need to meet your portfolio aspirations and goals, any concepts need to ‘fit’. Fit not just a portfolio but the strategic goals, the product intent, the market and customer needs. This is the point you start really testing and refining inside the organization. Stop just ideas simply entering your commercilaization part of the funnel, it wastes precious resource and dilutes energy, better spent on focusing on the real few valuable potentials moving across into the right side of the funnel.

Taking concepts through the internal process,

We come back to the stages you take a concept through; it could look like this, based again on the stage-gate approach.

The Stage Gate Model

Emerging to the World

Where I do feel all the efforts made that get a raw opportunity into a concept and through often a highly structured and laborious internal system often misses the critical execution stage. Some even offer the view execution can be the harder part; it is where all the hard work meets market and customer reality.

The ability to execute an innovation initiative sometimes interrupts the ongoing business. Execution is an area that Chris Trimble and Vijay Govindarajan have written about in their book ‘The Other Side of Innovation- Solving the Execution Challenge.” It is worth reading to understand this final part of any innovation introduction, it brings execution into its appropriate place, the realities of the market place and where (innovation) rubber really does hit the road.

A brief summary

So for me, the present thinking of the innovation funnel needs to be extended back, back before the classic ‘ideas’ of people gathered in brainstorming sessions or simply using idea management software to explore mostly random thoughts that often do not translate.

You need to start with a strategic perspective and define your intent, your intent to look for ‘targeted’ ideas and raw opportunities not the ones randomly offered in idea generation sessions. Start at the beginning and not as we seem to do, in the middle. Simply ‘ideas’ entering the funnel is a myth, it is far too simplistic a view. Lets listen to both sides of the innovation funnel, it can produce a better (re)sounding results.

The more and earlier you know what kind of value your business is aiming to create, the better the eventual concepts entering the commercial end of the funnel will be. Then managing these in the most appropriate way given the context in which your business operates makes both ends of the funnel mutually important.

Innovations ‘rates of exchange’ require better understanding

Innovation happens across time. We often constrain our innovation because we ‘shoe horn’ any conceptual thinking into a given time, usually the yearly budgetary plan seems to exercise a large influence in this constraining. We should make the case that different types of  innovation operate and evolve over different time horizons.

I call this the innovation rates of exchange.

A little of the theory: Coherence between organizational context and coordination of outcomes is subject always to those natural tensions of planning, resource allocation and the time imposed. Often decisions have a real tension built into them and they ‘shear’ against the real forces in play. Like our tectonic plates ‘shear’ and cause earthquakes, the ‘shear’ effect has a disruptive influence on innovation outcomes.

Often the time horizon of possible desired innovation often has these real conflicts. The actual realities and needs of the organization we lower the innovation impact in final delivery. We fall back on incremental solutions as the organization does not have the patience, appetite or desire to see through the potential fully.

It is such a pity the different time horizons for different types of innovation are not simply treatly differently in most organizations thinking and planning. We need to ‘account’ for innovation differently. This is where my suggestions around the three horizons can partly help, these I have extensively outlined in previous blogs to see the value of different mindsets for different horizon thinking.

Different types of innovation needs to be treated differently- certainly more than other parts of the business in the planning cycle.

Sometimes innovation cannot fit neatly within timing budgets, being assigned yearly targets and having tidy plans for allocating resources and expecting results. Innovation is simply messy; it does not often fit the norm of budgetary planning. There is a need to treat different levels of innovation differently. Incremental, Disruptive and Radical all have distinct characteristics that often don’t fit the norm in organizational mindsets to allow them to be worked through at their ‘right’ pace, we force them far to often.

We have three emerging horizons that need different treatment for innovation.

1.Those innovations meeting given goals– these should be within specified period covered by a yearly plan and cover mostly incremental innovation.

2. Objectives that are more disruptive in nature-these are often attained later, after a lot of experimenting until a clear approach emerges. These need to be progressed within the period but have a likely longer horizon, in this case our horizon two within the three horizon framework but usually more than one planning cycle of 12 months. Sometimes they can take two to three years to emerge.

3. Ideals that offer Future Radical Promise– unattainable within the usual time period, more longer term, but the progress is certainly possible during and after the period planned as they move from a weak signal or an apparitional point by probing and investigating over an extended period of time. As this flow of understanding gets translated into something more tangible, as the future simply ‘firms up’, it falls more naturally into what fits more in the longer term horizon perspective but still needs allocating resource within the planning cycle. Breaking down these into milestone achievements that fit more within traditional planning cycles would make sense.

Our existing planning does needs to account for all three, they cannot be simply fitted into one set of plans, all having clear metrics and financials. In many cases it simply ignores the differences completely and forces short cuts, dilution of a great, potentially radical idea , so it becomes ‘boiled down’ into a series of part disrupting but more often incremental innovations.

The search for breakthroughs

Not accounting for those vital differences simply reducing the chances of more radical breakthroughs, the very thing the C-Level is often crying out for. We need to think our ‘numbers’ and planning differently for innovation, pure and simple, otherwise you end up with innovations competitors can easily copy, and quickly and you chase each other to the point of ever increasing commoditization.

Innovation has its own rhythm

We need a change in planning out innovation, it does not ‘beat to normal time’, and it does certainly have its own unique rhythm.

Any coherency of innovations purpose, of what you want to achieve, and applying this in a rigid accountancy planned way does not work, unless you treat innovation differently in planning cycles and recognize these clear different horizons. Innovation operates through a different set of behaviours and also in its delivery commitment and purpose from ‘business as usual’, it is searching for “business not so usual’. This requires different mindsets at the C-level. They need to manage expectations of when the potential value being extracted is worth and be patient for achieving a far more impactful return on investment. Breakthroughs happen but usually with a lot of hard work and sense of commitment, even when you have set backs.

Different innovation requires different thinking and planning. It is these different ‘rates of exchange’ in understanding that need more understanding and perhaps by using the three time horizons framework it might give innovation a more appropriate context to plan them differently than present and permit more disruptive and radical breakthroughs to occur.

The Navigation of the Three Horizon Framework- An Emerging Guide.

I have planned to explore in three simultaneous blogs, a trilogy of blogs, the three horizon model more extensively. It is a most valuable one to build into your thinking about strategy and innovation.

This is the final blog of the trilogy on the Three Horizon Framework and offers my thinking on an emerging framing to help in navigating through this.

The need is to define your different horizons.

Firstly time is relative; relative to your industry, your situation, your changing circumstances, your customers. They can often compress into one but the likelihood is that you can separate out each horizon for its value and time.

The Value-Time within the Three Horizons

An emerging framework to help navigate across the different horizons.

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Connecting the Future Across Three Horizons combining Strategy and Innovation

This is part two of three blogs on the Three Horizon Framework and follows my one called “The value of managing innovation across the three horizons.” It further adds to the initial blog I wrote last year, called “the three horizon approach to innovation (http://bit.ly/ck8KfN). That blog gave a short introduction to the three horizon approach arguing we should take a more evolutionary perspective across the entire innovation business portfolio by using this model.

Going beyond that initial introduction in a trilogy of blogs, I plan to explore in this one, the second of these three simultaneous blogs, much of the thinking behind the Three Horizon model.

The Innovation Clustering within the different Horizons

I’ve drawn on different articles and views and acknowledgement to these authors is at the end of the third blog. I’ve added my interpretation to a number of visuals that significantly help understand the value of the Three Horizons in aligning innovation and strategy as it connects the present with the future in a useful way.

The future never stays the same

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The Value of Managing Innovation across the Three Horizons

I wrote a blog last year called “the three horizon approach to innovation (http://bit.ly/ck8KfN). That gave a short introduction to the three horizon approach arguing we should take a more evolutionary perspective across the entire innovation business portfolio by using this model.

Going beyond that initial introduction- a trilogy of blogs

I plan to explore in three simultaneous blogs the three horizon model more extensively, this is the first of the blogs. Part two is here and part three here

The three horizon framework is valuable to build into your thinking about strategy and innovation.  It places emphasis on where to tackle the different approaches to innovation (incremental, disruptive and radical) and place these within their different timing frames that are often need to manage these successfully across their development cycle. The three horizon framework also allows for greater organizational participation on taking out ‘future thinking’ with different mindsets to visualize a variety of challenges in these various horizons and that has a huge value to work through and frame the activity and resources they will need over different time periods. Continue reading