Exploring Diffusion and Adoption for Innovation – Part 3

Dealing with DarwinOne of my favorite books is “Dealing with Darwin- how great companies innovate at every phase of their evolution” written by Geoffrey Moore. It is well worth a read.

When you work through his other books and connected thinking of “Crossing the Chasm” and “Inside the Tornado” you really appreciate the learning stories coming out of Roger Moore’s studies of the Technology Adoption Life-Cycle.

We all need to rethink a lot as the new challenges come rushing towards us. In his work Geoffrey Moore talks about ‘traction’ and I think this is a great word for thinking about how to gain diffusion and adoption in product, service or business models, to gain market and customer acceptance.

Over three posts I am looking at different aspects of “diffusion and adoption”

The first post outlined the different theories and establish their value in our thinking.

The second post relates these theories into their to achieve success in penetrations of our target markets and increase sales through growing adoption.

This is the third and final post in this series, it looks at how Rogers’ theories relate to us in today’s connected world, and in particular with reference to Apple and finally offers up some of the reasons why diffusion can fail to occur.

Seeking even more than ever, the One-2-One (1to1) of many

Marketing departments talk penetration, “message penetration, market penetration” and so often ‘force’ customers to become aware and then buy. Does this really work today? I doubt it.

Also many organizations hang on to old media ways to get their message across when the use of technology, the internet and social engagement may seem harder but I believe is far more rewarding to engage with the customer on a more personalized basis. I regard this as 1 to 1 of many.

Today we are in an ever-faster world

Connectivity is driving the diffusion rates of nearly everything. Just take a look at the following table:

diffusion-rates-table

Even this table is already out of date on the speed to reach critical mass. Companies are not just setting hurdle rates on launch dates but demanding innovations that have critical mass in revenue and when they achieve critical mass.

It is not unusual to set 18 months to achieve critical mass from the inception to settling on the critical factors that make a value proposition to drive penetration. This can only come through engagement and that comes through technology making the connection to the user.

Just study how Apple manages its diffusion and adoption cycle

apple logo differentThere are lessons for us all to learn here. Apple have not been the first into markets, they are a classic fast learner and follower.

Yet they master the convergence of ‘breaking’ technology, design, user experience, pushing materials used and providing ease of use within the make-up of the product, and deliver this ‘bundle’ through the sheer generation of excitement and buzz.

The huge difference is their deep understanding of what can be put together that achieves this diffusion and adoption. What can others learn from this integrated approach to product and people?

Take the iPod for example

ipod earlyThe first digital music player entered the US market in 1998 and it was not until 2001 Apple released the iPod. The market had already shown signs of plateauing at the time of Apple’s launch, which must have been worrying.

Yet it was the unique factors of Steve Job’s clear vision of what a musical experience should have, Apple’s superb understanding of design and usage of materials, and its building upon the growing brand recognition and reputation as front edge.

Yet Apple also benefited from previous product releases because the behaviours and expectancies were being understood and were able to be articulated far more to validate and confirm Steve Jobs emerging view on what customers actually wanted- their own unique choice of music in the palm of their hand.

Steve Job’s innate sense of driving a solution to a winning value proposition by demanding all the parts to be incorporated, often taking uncompromising positions, was the additional factor. For example, being determined to offer a progressively growing store of downloadable music provided that incredible ‘complete’ usage experience. It met an un-articulated need but saw the different signals in its convergence of a total package.

paul-apple-quote-adoptionApple gave everyone in the adoption curve something that set their imagination alight. Recommendations compounded so even late majorities and laggards felt compelled to buy, and the sales simply exploded.

The basic criteria with the theories of Roger’s Diffusion and Adoption were met.

Then look at the Apple iMac

IMac imageFor the consumer, Apple took away complexity. The learning gap became dramatically reduced. It was quickly understood you took your computer out of the box and plugged it in.

The complexity of most of our past experiences in complicated set ups, the need to download and fiddle with conflicting software, had been taken away.

Apple set about integrating the system and providing a better user experience. It did away with proprietary connections, set USB and CD-Rom drives as their standard, dragging along most in the industry. It again focused on pushing to the maximum from Rogers characteristics of innovation.

The iMac proved to be phenomenally successful, with 800,000 units sold in 139 days. It’s translucent plastic case, originally Bondi blue and later various additional colors, is considered an industrial design landmark of the late 1990s.

Again design, attention to details, focusing on user needs to reduce complexity, offer relative advantage, make the way forward as compatible and integrated, allowing a fast set up to gain immediate experience and a great design or observability ticked all the boxes of Rogers Five Factors.

Then we get to the iPad

Apple IpadWhere do you start? The iPad had built-in Wi-Fi and, on some models, cellular connectivity. An iPad can shoot video, take photos, play music, and perform Internet functions such as web-browsing and emailing.

Other functions—games, reference, GPS navigation, social networking, etc.—can be enabled by downloading and installing apps. As of October 2013, the App Store has more than 475,000 native apps by Apple and third parties.

There have been five versions of the iPad. The first generation established design precedents, such as the 9.7-inch screen size and button placement, that have persisted through all models. The iPad second generation  added a dual core Apple A5 processor and VGA front-facing and 720p rear-facing cameras designed for FaceTime video calling. The third generation added a Retina Display, the new Apple A5X processor with a quad-coregraphics processor, a 5-megapixel camera, HD 1080p video recording, voice dictation, and 4G (LTE). The fourth generation added the Apple A6X processor and replaces the 30-pin connector with an all-digital Lightning connector.

The iPad Air added the Apple A7 processor, the Apple M7 motion coprocessor and reduced the form factor for the first time since the iPad 2. iOS 5.1 added Siri to the third and fourth generations and the iPad Mini. There have been two versions of the iPad Mini.

Apple were delivering wave upon wave of new technology in a rapidly accepted format.

A story of design, combining technology, understanding the unmet needs of the market, combining revolutionary materials. It filled a need, and it ticked all the boxes again of Rogers Five Factors of Product.

Yet we had by this time the real effect of the People Difference.

Apple Community 1Apple have such a powerful body of innovators and early adopters creating such a pre-launch noise, it draws in early and late majorities. Apple has been a fashion ‘must have’ statement.

Demonstration of products in Apple stores are ready to be put to any user test, the staff are providing you a ‘user experience’ and support structure that understands our needs and provide all your personal reasons to adopt.

paul-apple-quote-speedThe advocates of Apple products are phenomenal. They are nurtured, engaged with and pampered, as they generate such chatter and noise it can’t be ignored. It delivers the powerful messages Apple want to get out there for accelerating sales at mind-boggling speed.

Apple has institutionalized its product and people diffusion, and adoption process – can you?

We can all take away some powerful learning from this by aligning the theories of Rogers, articulated originally in 1962 and see how they seem highly relevant to Apple’s approach to its thinking. They have added triggering (conversations, user experiences) with contagion and have been working the different tipping points to gain market traction, penetration and constant appeal to stay up to date and in tune with the latest and greatest.

Lastly let’s remind ourselves of why diffusion often fails to occur

1. Getting the price wrong and staying stubbornly rigid with it

2. The wrong identification of the target markets

3. The poor selection of channels often because they are known, and they’re the sales forces’ most comfortable point of contact

4. A really poor communication of the product or service benefits

5. The unique attributes are over-hyped and quickly not seen

6. The new product really does not give much benefit over existing products

7. It simply has no innovative advantage, it was more of a cost- reduction exercise

8. The ease of access to the relevant information about the product is complex, difficult, time-consuming and unclear. It becomes complex

9. The real needs and expectations of the consumer were actually ignored, never discovered or just not met

10. The product or service offers no really clear value proposition to switch and buy.

I’m sure you could add a few more but I leave those to you.

The principles of diffusion and adoption I believe are both important in innovation.

Working the diffusion and adoption theories and putting these into your practice is something that needs an integrated approach, it might develop over time, perhaps through serendipity but knowing its principles helps you begin to map out the pathway.

This is the third and final post within the discussion on exploring diffusion and adoption for innovation.

Publishing note:  This blog post was originally written on behalf of Hype and with their permission I have republished it on my own site. I recommend you should visit the Hype blog site where they have a range of contributors writing about a wide-ranging mix of ideas and thoughts around innovation, its well worth the visit.

 

Exploring Diffusion and Adoption of Innovation – Part 2

Finding itThe future within our engagements will determine diffusion and adoption

It is all about letting go but also grabbing more at the same time, and then finding ‘it’.

Technology has opened up the door to both scale and fragmentation and social business is the one pushing through this open door. We are increasingly facing the Collaborative Economy everywhere we turn. Social business is becoming the denominator of success or failure.

We are needing to confront the new questions that are emerging

New rules are emerging – you could say new theories – and where are these fitting within the corporate mindset?

The shift of what our customer means to us, are we still competing with them, pushing them to accept a value proposition that forces them to begin to look elsewhere?

Are we still determined to hang onto control, in the (mistaken) belief we know what is best for our customers?

learning-the-power-of-cocreationAre we really bothering to learn the power of networks, cultivating communities, fostering co-creation and optimizing shared-value, instead of just creating and selling things?

Are our structures and processes still stuck in the past or are you transitioning to managing a more social business that operates in more dynamic ways?

There are a huge number of new rules and ways to manage. It is the ones that master these that will succeed in diffusion and adoption at very different speeds than we can imagine today.

In three posts I am discussing different aspects and challenges within diffusion and adoption for innovation

The first post outlines the different theories and establish their value in our thinking.

The second post, this one, relates these theories into their to achieve success in penetrations of our target markets and increase sales through growing adoption.

The third and final post in this series looks at how Rogers’ theories relate to us in today’s connected world, and in particular with reference to Apple and finally offers up some of the reasons why diffusion can fail to occur.

Back to this blog……..

We are all in need of answering numerous questions and finding our way.

Social media is for many business organizations, the new kid on the block

It is relentlessly chipping away at the fabric of how organizations have been organized. In less than half a decade societal and cultural shifts through technology, the transfer to global open digital networks have taken us way beyond “just the internet” for connecting.

We are in need to engage in totally different ways. It is really not good enough to sell just products and services anymore. These are basic value propositions. Customers are looking on how these are connected into different “bigger pictures”. 

The questions of your sustainability approaches, environmentalism, corporate social good and responsibility and a growing interest in governance are shifting their thinking. Your customers are wanting to connect and establish a different level of trust than simply those invested in a brand name, that is becoming table stakes or even irrelevant. We are moving into a very different territory. Grasping the changes to your business are highly challenging.

Large organizations are being challenged by the sudden rise of self-organizing communities where people come together online and create shared value that often forms an immediate organization to challenge the existing. Traditional business models need to learn to adopt in different ways themselves.

In an era of high-velocity online start-ups, where the next generation of digital businesses are taking up the space as they focus increasingly on the dynamics of social business where does this leave our existing organizations?

Everything has sped up, we diffuse and adapt in seconds

There is an urgent need to “letting go and grabbing more”. Traditionally “we” provide products and services and many of our existing organizations are slowly coming to grips with providing on-line services. The belief is this is enough to satisfy customers, keep them buying and using the product or service. Is it?

The social connected economy has reversed the relationship. Consumers just want to use and have provided product and services on ‘their’ demand and seek increasingly the platforms where they can easily go to find out and then use the required products and services. Often they don’t want to buy these, they just want to rent them to do the appropriate job.

The whole movement of jobs-to-be-done, identifying customer needs is yet again a place of increased focus. The larger organization still struggles with this as it wants to fit this ‘seen’ need into their structure and system. They are spending growing time adapting while others are pivoting quickly to capture this fluidness in need.

the-new-social-economy

In many ways diffusion and adoption lies more in the organizations inabilities than the customers. Perhaps the theories of Rogers have reversed. It is the power of people and how organizations react and determine differences that will determine diffusion and adoption, as explained by Everett Rogers. Dion Hinchcliffe, an expert on next-generation enterprises suggests an Engagement Fabric.

Are we in a reverse situation for diffusion and adoption?

Consumers race to diffuse and adopt, it seems our larger business organizations struggle. The organizations are the ‘laggards’.

We need to think about the organizations ability to engage at scale. Perhaps we need a further theory to add to Rogers ones. The interpretation of the Engagement Fabric goes like this for aiding diffusion and adoption:

The organization as one does need to engage to any, not many. It is the ability to allow information to flow; we learn to aggregate stories or decipher trends to engage back to new groups of audiences that see your diffusion as valuable to their adoption.

The organization continues to throw open its store. The ability to engage and promote self-organizing communities to exchange and extend around our product and services and keep them as engaged stakeholders who you work to keep involved in the evolution that triggers better innovations.

Simultaneous engagement that is constantly synchronized with the evolving story, built more on business and social value, less on your product or service. Constant insights and thinking get captured for its ongoing community value and ability to keep improving on the product or service offered.

Making the space highly visible and user-friendly. By ensuring ‘ease of access to knowledge you are allowing conversations to build and become increasingly valuable to all involved in the community.

The ability to analyse, interpret and filter. Offer the place that captures the many good insights so as to set about the continued building of value into your products and services.

preparing-for-engagement-at-scale

So we need to transform our own internal design to better diffuse and gain increasing adoption

To quote from Dion Hinchcliffe whose future thinking I have drawn heavily upon for this post makes this comment:

The future of the enterprise requires a mindset that doesn’t think in terms of fixed markets or point products or services. Instead, we must create, cultivate, and control fast-moving and highly competitive ecosystems of people, information, and value across a virtually unlimited number of channels.
Those who can move first, co-create, and own the best class of information and then deliver it in forms the market wants, when it wants it, will be the winners in the short-term and long-term. Companies organized to do any less than this will falter and fade.”

We need to rapidly move to an engagement platform

Diffusion and Adoption are even more of a business organization’s challenge to adapt to the most significant set of changes since the internet. It is the power of all the disruptive technologies, the power of social business and the incredible impact of all the connected networks are accelerating acceptance or rejection.

Diffusion and Adoption is so far more complex but the principles of Rogers theories, offered nearly fifty years ago, can help to understand a single innovation perhaps.

It is today the way you build your platform for engagement which will determine where you stand in any adoption race for the health of your business and its model in the future.

It is the business organization that is in its race for adoption.

Publishing note:  This blog post was originally written on behalf of Hype and with their permission I have republished it on my own site. I recommend you should visit the Hype blog site where they have a range of contributors writing about a wide ranging mix of ideas and thoughts around innovation, its well worth the visit.

 

Exploring Diffusion and Adoption for Innovation – Part 1

Theory and RealityAccording to Professor Clayton Christensen and drawn from his book Seeing What’s Next: Using the Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change”, by Clayton M. Christensen, Scott D. Anthony, and Erik A. Roth published by Harvard Business School Press, the only way to look into the future is to use theories.

The best way to make accurate sense of the present, and the best way to look into the future, is through the lens of theory.” The theory of innovation helps to understand the forces that shape the context and influence natural decisions.

This might not be fashionable for many because as soon as you introduce “theory” into the discussion for many of my practical colleagues they want to dismiss it.

Going back to Christensen “good theory provides a robust way to understand important developments, even when the data is limited. “Theory helps to block out the noise and to amplify the signal”.

Diffusion of Innovation Theory is important for our innovation understanding

One set of theories I believe we simply cannot ignore even more today lies around the work of Everett. M. Rogers where he outlined his thinking in his book Diffusion of Innovations the first edition was published in 1962. The fifth edition (2003, with Nancy Singer Olaguera) addresses the spread of the Internet, and how it has transformed the way human beings communicate and adopt new ideas.

Over three posts I will look at different aspects of “diffusion and adoption”

The first post, this one, outlined the different theories and establish their value in our thinking.

The second post, relates these theories into their to achieve success in penetrations of our target markets and increase sales through growing adoption.

The third and final post in this series looks at how Rogers’ theories relate to us in today’s connected world, and in particular with reference to Apple and finally offers up some of the reasons why diffusion can fail to occur.

First we need to have a clear grounding or reminder within the theories

By developing our understanding of why some products seem easier to diffuse while others can take longer or often fail, innovators can improve their likelihood of understanding the differences through exploring these different diffusion and adoption theories.

Besides the classic “S-shaped curve” associated with diffusion it is useful to also reflect on this tougher curve to manage from its development costs into profit requires a greater focus on the commercialization stages.

product-development-cycle-profit-loss

Product and People determine diffusion and adoption

According to Rogers the rate of diffusion can be attributed to a combination of “product differences” and “people differences”

Product differences

Research suggests that up to 87 per cent of the variance in an innovation rate of diffusion can be attributed to the following five product characteristics. These are known as Rogers Five –characteristics of Innovation.

Relative advantage refers to the degree perceived to be better than the product (or service) it replaces.

Compatibility is the extent to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the values, past experiences and needs of potential adopters.

Complexity is the degree to which the new innovation is perceived as being difficult to understand or use.

Trialability is the degree to which the new innovation can be experimented with, piloted and used on a limited basis.

Observability is the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible, observed and communicated to others and where the rate of adoption can often be determined.

People differences

Once the product’s position in relationship to the Rogers Five Factors is known, the diffusion process is best managed by focusing on the people difference. The classic bell curve is broken down in the five categories of adopters. 

crossing-the-chasm

It is from this initial work of Rogers we then got Geoffrey Moore’s classic on “Crossing the Chasm” which recently have been significantly updated in a recently released book around the Technology Adoption Lifecycle. The chasm can happen throughout the early adopters phase, you have to be alert and responsive enough to finding solutions quickly enough to bridge this and ‘cross that chasm.’ Pivoting on the parts that are good, exploring the parts that are needed.

The five adopter categories are:

Innovators- venturesome, risk-taking, information seeking, early seeking status and very experimental, enjoy the degree of early challenge or even uncertainty involved.

Early adopters- Often respected opinion leaders within their social groups, seen often as role models for others.

Early majority - more deliberate before adopting new ideas; interact frequently with peers and trendsetters. They like to merely stay ahead within the curve from that more informed decision-making.

Late majority – Tend to be sceptical, cautious to adopt but ‘feel’ pressure of peers to adopt, tend to need intervention strategies to overcome barriers and see their ‘needs’ resolved by the innovation

Laggards – Traditional , last in the social system, often they pay little attention to opinions of others, they have more a clear point of reference in the past to overcome, are often suspicious of new innovations and their decision process is often lengthy.

product-adoption-chart

Then we have the decision process or stages of adoption:

Awareness and Knowledge refers to a customer’s acknowledgement of the presence or existence of the new innovation and where they form a general perception of what it might entail and is often driven by the intersection of need recognition through marketing communications. This is the point of being inspired to find out more.

Persuasion and Interest – this occurs when a consumer processes the available information associated with the innovation and considers the product or services appeal on this. This positive or negative attitude tends to be based on the five characteristics mentioned above. Here the consumer actively seeks out information and details.

Decision and Assessment – Having considered the persuasion factors the consumer will come to a decision about whether to adopt or reject the innovation. Their activity in seeking out advice, data gathering, comparing or making different assessments happen clearly here. They consider the switching costs and weighing the advantages up. This is the hardest stage to understand.

Implementation and Exploration – These are the series of activities to put the innovation to use. The consumer employs the innovation to a varying learning degree. The usefulness is determined and they may search for further information about it.

Confirmation and Adoption- is mostly concerned with post-adoption behaviour exhibited by the adopter, reinforced by the innovations actual delivery against the relative advantage ‘claims,’ its complexity and compatibility on their understandings. The individual finalizes their decision to continue using it or searches for extending its use to its full potential.

So in summary for this opening post:

Diffusion is the manner in which innovation spreads. It is the degree of how we facilitate, accelerate, and sustain it.

There are constant difficulties of exploiting these different theories within organizations, the questions are where to place the emphasis and the means of communicating these. The process is contingent upon the structural, cultural and size and scope considerations.

You have to watch for that constantly changing the implementation requirements and lack of sufficient resources or application, as they considerable constrain the innovation outcomes and often you don’t spot these until it is too late

The execution or commercialization stage of any new innovation often fails to address the theories offered by Rogers adequately enough, then organizations often suffer poor diffusion and adoption rates, unaware of the considerable efforts this stage of understanding diffusion and adoption needs to address.

The second part of this post will deal with….

My second post in this diffusion and adoption discussion will deal with managing within a far more fluid set of conditions than we seen to be facing than previously. The combination of technology, social media and the internet gained a ‘closer’ relationship with final consumers encouraging engagement and feedback has introduced a far more dynamic environment.

Innovation adoption or rejection is getting riskier, far more complex and we need to bridge the learning gaps far better and smarter. Are Roger’s theories still relevant or even more so today and in the future?

Then the third post provides different examples of diffusion and adoption and offers a starters list of why diffusion can often fail to occur.

Publishing note:  This blog post was originally written on behalf of Hype and with their permission I have republished it on my own site. I recommend you should visit the Hype blog site where they have a range of contributors writing about a wide ranging mix of ideas and thoughts around innovation, its well worth the visit.

 

Surfacing ten great intractable’s for innovation’s resolution

Intractable's needing resolution for innovation to flourish in organizations

Intractable’s needing resolution for innovation to flourish in organizations

So what does block innovation? Arguably there are plenty of things up and down organizations: a lack of resources, an overcrowded portfolio of ideas, a lack of dedicated people, treating innovation as one off, keeping it isolated and apart from mainstream activities. The list could go on and on, no question.

Let’s take a different perspective.

If you could ask those that lead innovation, your senior organizational leadership, a series of question that might help unlock innovation blockages would that be valuable? This would need a good external facilitator as my recommendation who has deep innovation knowledge and expertise, able to manage the ‘dynamics’ within the room.

What would happen if you could get the leadership in a room together to discuss innovation which would allow innovation dialogues to emerge? Perhaps allowing those conversations that begin to build a common understanding, a common language for innovation? Different views can surface for the challenges but they all need addressing. Gaining a working consensus to share across the organization so these blockages can be openly discussed and in time resolved.

That chance to surface different views and then map those into an emerging consensus as they start to address the hidden barriers and often personal blockages or misunderstanding that can occur.

As part of the Executive Innovation Work Mat methodology you need to find the dedicated time to allow a ‘robust’ conversation to occur within the leadership team to bring out the possible barriers and viewpoints.

I’d suggest these might be a great starting point, tough to manage but phenomenal to address through a clear leadership dialogue.

The ten innovation intractable challenges- surfacing real barriers to innovation.

Addressing the issue of unfamiliar responsibilities – new and different ways of working, of understanding, of allowing innovation to take hold and flourish is often demanding new ways of responding, often adding to increasing responsibilities. This needs surfacing. Many holding leadership positions in our organizations are uncomfortable with innovation, it is too intangible, it was not something they worked upon, it often seems to ‘sit’ outside the normal processes and structures. It is full of risk and uncertainly.

Innovation demands new directions – making significant changes to the way the organization is run is very challenging, potentially disrupting and needs thinking through at the top level well. To ‘hone’ an organization into a lean efficient and effective ‘machine’ is one thing, to allow diversity and conflicting signals to pervade and challenge this is extremely uncomfortable territory, so ring fencing this keeps it at bay! Is this the right solution, are we facing different times to manage our organizations in 20th century practices.

Inherited problems always surface – addressing countless and inherent problems is messy and requires dedicated resolution. Changing a culture to become more innovative can be a massive step in structure, organization and policies. How do we manage such a revolution, what is needed, what is a culture and environment for innovation anyway?

Problems within the organizations make up – inadequate experience and resistance to change especially surface when a person is not equipped to deal with it. Installing innovation capacity, capabilities and competencies needs figuring out. How long does this take, where can we turn too?

High stakes of innovation – demanding breakthrough innovation makes everyone feel increasing vulnerable, increasingly visible and leadership has a real responsibility to manage this risk and set of fears. They need to be ready to ‘positively react and encourage’ both in supporting winning solutions and extracting positive learning from failures.Can you run breakthroughs alongside incremental innovation activities, what is really different in how we manage these?

Scope and scale of innovation – Managing in scale and scope is demanding and requires well thought through systems and processes. To scope innovation needs robust business case approaches, its flexibility in its management and then to scale this up requires well established approaches and clear commitments to its engagement and execution. Are we really good at seizing ‘breaking’ opportunities and quickly scaling these up. Can we learn new approaches to this.

External pressures multiply – everyone has an opinion outside the organization, let alone inside. Balancing these different interfaces and the pressures from these as you explore innovation needs managing well. Avoid that trait of just keeping on the raising of expectations and failing to back this up by not actively work at this alignment. What does it take for the ability to deliver on the promise?

Influencing without full authority – key activities within innovation usually demand that you become reliant on others. You need to spend (seemingly) inordinate time explaining and gaining others buy in and their own identification with concepts so as to move emerging innovation concepts along the pipeline. You need to find often imaginative ways of attracting across the resources needed. This is especially hard for senior managers to adapt too, the need to attract across, instead of simply expect, demand and simply take. How can we learn new ways or different ways where collaboration becomes the norm and we can learn to borrow and exchange resources across functions more freely?

Work more with a listening and feedback culture – this can be totally different from the way business has been conducted today, through a more hierarchical structure. Flattening organizations to allow greater two way flow sucks up time; it simply undoes or unpicks command and control over time. It takes time to establish and gain the confidence and momentum. You need to allow more for debate, it shifts and alters the hierarchy and structures and that is a big step into an unknown, yet it is necessary for organization change, to allow innovation to truly flourish on a more sustaining basis. What needs to be put into place to listen and respond to our organizations and customers’ needs?

The need to develop work group diversity – innovation asks for more diversity in opinion, it draws out more in thinking, in discipline, in alternative approaches and solution. This often leaves senior executives feeling they are less in control, reliant on other and that can feel scary and surface their own insecurities, buried increasingly as they moved up the organization and took on responsibility and accountability. It challenges often their very notion of management as they have known and experienced it. Innovation in its management challenges many past notions of managing. How can we encourage a greater diversity of thought, of working, of judging performance that would help our organization’s absorption of different knowledge and approaches occurring all around us?

To summarize

Each of these ten innovation challenges needs to be surfaced at the right time, usually as early as you can, within any innovation executive work mat discussion. Each one of these ‘intractable’ points can individually block innovation from advancing – we must find ways to bring them out, to surface opinions and find common solutions to resolving them. We need to build these into a common understanding to move innovation forward. To send out a compelling message into our organizations we are wanting to tackle these intractable’s to give innovation its rightful place within all our thinking and activities.

Finding that right moment is not easy to draw these out but it is certainly necessary, otherwise those (often) hidden barriers never come to the surface and get resolved, leaving innovation trapped unable to release its true voice and significant worth and value to the organization’s fortunes.

** The original list of the ten innovation intractable’s has been adapted from “creating learning experiences without changing jobs” by Cynthia McCauley at the CCL in 2006. I’ve applied it in a way for surfacing innovation issues and personal concerns at executive and senior organization level that need their resolution.

Journeying across the darker side of the innovation moon

When you decide to make any trip, you need to have some sort of roadmap to navigate yourself by. The difficulty is when you decide to step into the other side of the often known, into the lesser known or completely unknown sides of innovation, where there seems to be no decent roadmap, the enjoyment is partly in setting about it and trying to create it, to piece it together.

I wrote about the dark side of the innovation moon in mid-2012 and why it should always make us curious. Within my blogs that I’ve written here on this site I have kept coming back to its initial stated aim of “building the DNA of innovation” This has become a real journey of ‘stated intent’.

My journey of the past 18 months

For me, in the past eighteen months or so, I have achieved much of what I wanted in ‘advancing’ awareness of innovation, mine as well as others, for those that cared to read my ‘wanderings’. I wanted to wander and explore innovation, go where it takes me, sometimes follow a whim , pursue an avenue of enquiry or rely on the known facts and see if they ‘stand up’ to examination, to analysis, to actual practical application.

While I’ve also travelled on this investigative journey I have equally had to stay ‘grounded’ in the work that allows me to make these ventures. This grounding is the work I do with clients in advising, coaching, mentoring or consulting on innovation. It often is from my exploring comes the very source or triggering points, that many need to have explained, to help them in overcoming their problems or roadblocks.

Often these conversations determine where my next foray will take me in my explorations. I am just always uncomfortable when there are open issues left over from these engagements, that I felt I did not have the best answers when asked. It makes me want to go and find better answers. It is in all honesty, a never-ending quest if you have an enquiring mind. Innovation is always restless and constantly evolving, so we also need to be. So I have to certainly be.

So much within innovation is hidden, it is implicit not explicit, it relies on the people element for its generation and that is so often reliant on gathering a set of experiences to translate this dispersed knowledge into all the necessary connections to make something different, something new, something that is needed in the market place.

Exploring the lesser known regions of innovation, amplifying the known

In my travels I’ve explored much of the less understood sides of innovation. I have set about to try to explain them. I’ve tried to relate them to the aspects of everyday innovation, give those novel and logical frameworks or some method and structures to approach them, so they can be integrated into this work. Some have worked better than others.

When you arrive back to a certain point, you take stock, you reflect, you judge what has made a contribution or not, what still needs explaining more. Don’t get me wrong this is not a one man quest to explain innovation but it is borne from a real belief we do need to push the boundaries of innovation.

We do need innovation to enter the mainstream of our everyday thinking, to be something we feel naturally comfortable undertaking, as part of our make-up for our growth or prosperity. I often feel those that ‘see’ innovation that listen and engage, still make up the minority. It is those that don’t understand innovation, and I feel this is the majority, including most of our leaders, who simply pass over it, these are the ones we must find ways to draw into our circle of influence.

Presently those that are not fully picking up on the value of innovation are happily assuming others are fully active and totally switched on to all that makes up innovation potential. We need to get them involved. They have not fully realized they are as essential to contribute to a sustaining future, based on innovation solutions, so we can collectively tackle growing societal problems. We need to move ‘many’ from being the problem to being ‘engaged’ in mapping out the innovating future so innovation can fulfil its latent potential .

Drawing in the vast majority so we all become innovation savvy

The sad truth is, until we bring innovation up in each person’s thinking, we stumble along. The joy of any investigative journey that you undertake, is that you meet fellow travellers along the way. I am blown away at all the creative and thoughtful innovation thinking going on but sadly, still have to ‘put up’  with that not so imaginative thinking that goes equally under the guise of innovation writing.

I’m not just talking about those tired old lists of handy, instant solutions to follow that conveying that promise that this will help you to master innovation, but the many trivial comments that are just beyond twitter length. These often do not serve innovation well, or for the person grabbing at them feeling that if they clamber on board, they can float along quite safely. How wrong they are, they are simply drifting along, most probably moving further away from their real objective.

We all need some form of roadmap or blueprint I feel for innovation and life

We do need our roadmaps, our blueprints of innovation. They are essential when we decide to undertake a journey. If you don’t have the essential of a compass, spare food and drink, warm clothing, good walking or mountain shoes then you should not venture out into the mountains. I am more than fortunate, to live in an area surrounding by mountains and you give them a certain respect, I think innovation deserves that as well.

So I have taken stock of this journey I’ve been making in the name of innovation. I’ve written about 120 articles (blogs) in this time, applied the learning wherever possible. Some of the results have been highly satisfying, even gratifying, others upon reflection simply did not work out as well as they should have done, I felt they did not get the ‘resonance’ I had desired or intended.

Clearly I set out in my search and have ended up eighteen months later, very clear on one absolutely basic point for innovation. If we do not come together and gain a common language for innovation, not as a throw away buzz point, but as a unifying point, we will never be able to teach and transfer innovation to all the others that have not bothered to pick up on understanding the innovation language.

Why is a common language for innovation important?

Innovation has so many pockets of confusion and traps to fall into for adding to our inefficiencies. We still see so much fragmented energy, plenty of differences of approach and potential misunderstandings. It often saps the very juice of innovation. Organizations have plenty of unproductive capital, even when they hack away at all the undergrowth. Resource allocation required for good innovation remains patchy, under-served and often starved. We all become increasing busy at fixing what we have, trying to understand those hidden costs, spent energies and lost opportunities.

Until we arrive at a more uniformed approach to innovation, improve the management of innovation and its development within our systems, structures and processes we stay stuck in constant re-invention and duplication. Seeking a common language allows us to form ‘stickiness’ in value, it becomes the glue to align the parts that make up innovation and forms the whole we seek.

Reflecting on a journey, translating it into clear outcomes

I think I should stop journeying and focus down in the future just a little more. There are real focal points of need that will be required for us all to live through in 2013. Having available possible solutions, providing some objective advice (hopefully) so as to discuss and demonstrate these for clear points of impact can be more beneficial at this time. My journey needs to become more based on an ‘expedition’ to deliver even more tangible benefits and outcomes to all that care to engage.

Moving into 2013

So 2013 will be for me, one that becomes a ‘converting and driving’ of many of the areas I have been investigating in the recent past. Exploiting and extending, experimenting and exploring.  It allows me to extend further in that constant sense of renewal I always feel we need to have when one year closes and another one beckons.

Any ’journeyman’ always welcomes those moments of recuperation before that need to go back out and ‘push out’ on the next adventure. Certainly for me innovation is certainly that, full of excitement where you can be enterprising and intrepid, thoughtful and determined.

I just need a ‘touch more’ of the enterprising to come out in 2013 as my stated intent and be more focused on those impact points we are all in search of. Tackling the issues, challenges and problems where I hopefully can contribute clear solutions too, one way or another.

So my goal is to be “the innovation translation point” for providing the needed impact and focus by supporting and delivering different solutions to the challenges we will be facing in the year ahead. Simple huh! Why not set a challenging target?

Please enjoy your Christmas and New Year celebrations, I certainly will.  Thank you for all your time that you have invested in reading my thoughts, its highly valued and greatly appreciated.