Opening Ourselves Up to the Innovation Mashup

Mash Up VisualSometimes some things come slower than others, and then they suddenly rear up and hit you. We don’t make all the connections we should; we are too caught up in our little world, beating our existing drum, drowned out by its own noise, to step back and appreciate something new is really happening.

Recently I was investigating one strand of thought and then bingo! Something else, leads to something else and the rest, so to speak, becomes history.

I’ve been reflecting on the new era of innovation and opening myself up to exploring alternatives, different thoughts, discussions and viewpoints. Underlying this is a growing sense of my convictions, still partly forming, malleable but trying to drive certain ‘stakes’ into the ground to keep testing and improving on a hypothesis or two; that innovation and its management definitely has to change, and fast!

Of course the cloud figures in this as a whole new different way to orchestrate innovation. More on that at another time as I need to get into some more robust discussions with one or two others on this and expand on my own position a lot more.

My recent ‘bingo’ moment was as I was listening to a round-table discussion within GE and its lighting division with a panel of outside thinkers. Beth Comstock, Senior Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer was chairing the discussion, so it will always stay lively and stimulating and it did not disappoint on that. Her throwaway line at the end of the panel session was “Perhaps the headline here is the Big Data Mash Up”.

Mash-up?  So am I missing a certain beat here? Or does it fit into my thinking

This started me off – Mash Ups, Ecosystems, Platforms, Big Data so how about the Big Mash Up to help the necessary Smash up?

So off I go on one of my walkabouts, needing to plug into mash-ups a little more.

Business jargon is drawing more and more from our software and computer worlds. We have seen lean, agility, scrum and a host of others entering into our business practices in broader ways than the original application; the principles are being extended out.

So what is a mashup?

In web development it uses content from more than one source to create a single new service, displayed in a single graphical interface. It works if it is fast, easy to integrate and has clear application interfaces that allow this to happen.

The original term of mashup, according to dear old Wikipedia, comes from British – West Indies slang, meaning to be intoxicated or a description for something or someone not functioning as intended. I like this as it is the way many of our companies are reeling from with all the disruptive changes swirling around them. Also within music, it is used when we remix and combine different aspects of music or song from one vocal track to another. Thereby ‘mashing them’ together to create something new.

So why do I feel the innovation mashup is coming?

The main characteristics of a mashup are combination, visualization and aggregation so as to make ‘it’ (whatever it is) into something more useful, for personal or professional (or organizational) use. We have a fair number of mash-ups going on already; in business mash-ups to reveal actionable information, consumer mash-ups that can come through our browser interfaces (maps and info) and data mash-ups that provide new, more distinctive web services.

I’m not going to get into all the technical stuff on this, let alone the challenges but as you read about the taxonomy structures I start thinking innovation taxonomy. Don’t ask me why but I do.

Let’s smoke a little more here (I’m kidding) and think the Internet of Innovation

We have been digesting the internet of things, the internet of everybody so we need to push this a little more and ask “can a comprehensive vision of how this set of events around digital, data etc., alongside our physical needs be translated into returns for a business wanting to engaged in greater, more valuable innovation”. These will come from platforms and connecting everyone.

I hold one additional thought here “virtualizing the core business” and extending this beyond the core, to deliver innovation faster and better by orchestrating its parts to architect the future, based on responding to real needs and extending those existing deliverables that continue to provide value.

We need to manage innovation in more real-time, we need to dramatically improve the process, we need to pull together often the disparate knowledge, we need to inform better, we need to place what we are doing into a greater context and we need greater predictive decision-making. What we have working the innovation activity is ripe for disrupting. Innovation and its management is mostly operating with the 20th century model.

The move towards digital – physical mashups

Darrell Rigby of Bains & Co wrote a recent article in the September 2014 Harvard Business Review entitled the “digital-physical mashup”. You could image that got my attention in my walk about.

His view is we are in a period of upheaval, do we see technologies as a threat or a new pathway. The growing reality is digital has the real potential to destroy our existing positions in existing markets.

We see this with digital platforms, those lean on physical assets attack the incumbents, take Airbnb for example in its mattress and B&B challenge to hotels or Kickstarter for alternative funding. Value creation is being rethought in totally different ways and business models and being staged on platforms.

Now what happens when you combine digital and physical? As Darrell comments there is a growing ‘weaving’ of digital and physical worlds to come tightly together. He cites Nike+ that is giving more than 30 million customers a tracking, sharing of runs, workouts and setting fitness goals as the shoe has a built-in sensor and can work with your iPod to see data on time, distance, calories burned and can all be synced back, compared for charting your progress.

Here we see digital sport emerging, the ones not embracing technology will suddenly have their market position erode (and fast)

Then we come back to GE and Beth Comstock’s throwaway line “the big data mashup”

GE when they decide to move into something, they tend to do it big time. They make “big bets on big things” according to their CEO and Chair Jeff Immelt. Big Data Analytics is one of these exploding for them. They have housed this under “Industrial Internet” and GE Predictivity TM for asset and operations optimization.

This will come from these analytic insights, through the use of sensors and other technologies in aviation, rail, oil & gas, power generation, wind, power distribution, healthcare, mining, water and process technologies, lighting and manufacturing from machines that are self-aware interacting with other machines and their human operators.

The collecting of data is impossible to manually analyse but if this can be translated into insights through analytics’s and big data management techniques, visualization and dashboards techniques, that can manage complex machines, save labour, downtime, direct resources and reduce costs it certainly opens up the thinking.  GE’s estimates could be as much as $20 billion in wasted deficiencies per year. Further opportunities will simply occur as this gets understood more as it gets rolled out.

Wikibon analysts believe the analytics market will be worth more than $47 billion by 2017 and Gartner reckons the rise of the Internet of Things will propel the global IT industry past the $3.8 trillion mark by the end of this year.

I can certainly see this as a valuable and seemingly ‘big bet’ sandbox to go and play in and GE are doing this on a strong execution platform. They already have scale, they are just scaling this more into a different business model and value propositions.

Big Data is coming of age, can we handle it?

Big Data is going to certainly drive IT spending in the next few years, yet it is its translation that promises to be within the value extracted, on how we interpret this though analytics, insights and what it then yields in improved productivity, new product designs and service offerings. It all signals a very healthy set of new innovation activities in new products, services and through new business model designs. The fusing of digital and physical for new opportunities is upon us.

So are we seeing the groundwork for a new industrial age where innovation will increasingly play even more of a part, one that needs us to focus on the data, our people and the whole architecture, where the ability to collaborate, exchange, network and decipher what is coming towards you in meaningful ways to turn insight into commercial opportunity seems beckoning.

So is our current innovation systems fit for purpose?

So real-time comes up against old-time innovation processes – something will have to give.

So there is a whole new world of possibilities, a mash-up of the cloud, data, analytics, digital / physical combinations, real-time activities all crowding into the existing innovation pipeline, manually being cranked along. No, something needs to change. We need to really begin to dump these legacy systems for manual innovation and really step back here.

The BHAG for innovation is needed here

We need to take a very different perspective on the innovation process. We need a greater visual control across our organizations; we need to build a completely new end-to-end innovation management system on a platform approach.

We need to collect and aggregate more knowledge, information and data than ever, the complexity will simply grow as we connect more the digital and physical worlds and innovation is being expected from this fusion.

Fusing the parts, forming the bigger picture

We need to give up on ‘hard end of line’ measures and metrics (so anti-empathy) and go into analytics far more, for driving innovation along its new process constantly at its point of need (note that), embrace data, seek and design new deployment models like cloud and mobility, merge the architecture design of the innovation process onto a visualization platform, seek out those that can contribute both inside and outside the organization.

We need to orchestrate, provide stunningly different user interfaces (beyond the Excel spreadsheet please) that can come into you wherever you are, tailored to the individual’s role within the innovation development process at a particular time to make it flexible as an on-demand need, drag and drop knowledge into your space to make it hugely dynamic full of interactions, modular and capable of being extended within our more elastic (flexible) enterprises.

A future full of collaboration built on real-time and valuable insight

The future will be collaborative, full of mash-ups to make innovation happen. Innovation management needs to be in the driving seat of changing in response to the next revolution of digital and physical that is ushering in the next era of innovation.

Who is going to take up this grand challenge or is innovation just going to be lagging behind again as efficiency and effectiveness remain as the big brothers dominating the organization’s thinking ‘block’? We do need a whooping big innovation mashup. By all indications, what is coming towards us we certainly will need some big innovation mashups.

Can we overturn built-in innovation legacy?

Often organizations are weighed down by legacy. This comes in many forms; in its culture, in its history, its core markets or products, in its systems, structures and processes built around innovation practice.

Today, we are confronted with a very different global market place than in the last century. National borders and regulations built to protect those that are ‘within’ in the past have rapidly become a major part of the ‘containing- restraining’ factors that are rendering many previously well-respected organizations as heading towards being obsolete and not in tune with today’s different world where global sourcing determines much.

They are increasingly trapped in declining markets, starved of the new capabilities and capacities to grow a business beyond ‘traditional’ borders, so this means they are unable to take up the new challenges that are confronting them. They see themselves as reliant on hanging on to the existing situation as long as they can, often powerless to make the necessary shifts, failing to open up, finding it increasingly more than difficult to find the ways of letting go, of changing. They are trapped in legacy.

Legacy can choke an organization in so many ways to limit expansion.

How can we break out of this and rethink? When we begin to investigate legacy to cut lose and design differently, it begins to infringe, it challenges, it simply attacks what has taken often years to build and those most involved become defensive and fit to hang onto what has been established, as it feels familiar. It feels like ‘their’ legacy is being destroyed and what they have fought hard to gain know needs protecting. Most organizations never feel fully capable to address legacy, they even will deliberately design duplication into their operating model, they will recognize they are far from optimal and more often than not, live with the consequences. In today’s world this is a real mistake.

The world is changing; you can’t afford to keep heads buried in the sand like an ostrich, although that’s actually a myth of when ostriches are faced with attack by predators they bury their heads. New global adversaries are altering our landscape and forcing us to become increasing competitive, forcing us to often reluctantly alter our established ways. We can’t afford not to refresh and renew on a constant basis. We need to not just adapt, become more agile but we must think through what, where and how we manage. We need to build a more dispersed network of connections within our organizations to gather and synthesize knowledge that have potential value and future worth.

Today, innovations new knowledge lies elsewhere

Increasingly we need to open up our organizations to different learning, experiences and knowledge. The growth of open innovation has been part of that. Equally we are recognizing increasingly, that basing everything in one central place is becoming severely limiting. We need to adopt a more genuine openness that increasingly relies on a collection of dispersing and gathering points, where knowledge obtained has been closer to its markets and customers to provide greater potential of discovering future value. Places where you have been able to gather these understandings and begin to quickly ‘translate’ them across a dispersed, highly connected networks of expertise, that can work on transforming this knowledge into new revenue opportunities that meets that identified need before others do, often set in 24 x 7 time to achieve the result.

Any journey starts with ‘letting go’

Control gives comfort; we constantly design this into the system. The larger we are, the greater the controls built into the system it seems but somehow, controlling for control sake, does need replacing; we need to let go of more than we realize to reduce the constraints placed on our business. We need to replace ‘command and control’ built up over numerous years with something different.

We need to begin to ask a range of strategic questions that question our legacy, so we can be released to move forward.

So what do these strategic questions cover?

I can’t do justice to all the avenues of this strategic inquiry but I can offer some of the most critical that will inevitably fuel others in your own specific situation.

Taking as an example an existing organization, caught increasingly in declining or stagnating markets, who are forced to address many important issues in designing into the organization, new, more diverse capabilities, that have significant ‘legacy’ issues running through them, let’s take a look at some of the most important ones to address.

  • Legacy issues must be a significant ‘part and parcel’ of what needs to go, separated out from what needs to be kept and modified, or simply kept in place as it is strategically essential to the well-being and functioning of the organization. Managing legacy out of the innovation system, can be highly liberating.
  • Where do you hold your core knowledge? – Is this centrally, perhaps in a home market or do you reflect on how you are going to disperse this across a more decentralized organizations. What has on-going value, what does not and can be dispensed with?
  • What does it take to diversify your knowledge? Pushing knowledge to new centres needs carefully re-designing. You do not want to end up having even more islands or silos of knowledge; you need to think through carefully a more integrated (global) model. It needs to build in my 6F framework of formality, flexibility, facilitation, form, function and focus. You need to take out what is irrelevant.
  • Taking any decision to ‘attract’ and ‘disperse’ knowledge you must set about building the competencies, confidences, trust and network to bring this together. This ‘gelling’ needs lots of communicating, collaborating, and consistent feedback mechanisms that are well-built into any new system. Don’t try and adapt old structures methodology to a radical change, it needs redesigning from the bottom up. Get rid of as much of the legacy as you can.
  • Redesigning a new culture becomes essential. It needs to be an adapting one, one that places demands on all within the networked system, it needs an overarching set of innovation culture and environmental principles. It needs clear governance structures and well thought-through innovation processes and systems that allow innovation knowledge to flow where it simply needs to go. Again absorptive capacity principles are important to design and build in here. Don’t overlay practices that were based on being closed for ‘command and control’, design new ones that allow knowledge to simply flow and open up, in structures that can ‘encourage and compliment’
  • Any ‘system’ has constraints. As you rid yourself of some, others quickly fill the space. It is how you manage constraints will determine you ability to make transformational change. The devil they say always lies in the details, and as you configure and design a new integrated model you have to constantly examine these trade-offs. There is lots of divergence and then convergence needs to be within the thinking this system through. Taking a whole lot of old practices out of the system is essential as they have no value or place in any new dispersed network. It simply works differently.
  • When you are integrating in new ways requires certain like-mindedness of the people within the dispersed network. Building new teams that are spread out is hard, dedicated work. The recruiting, retaining and reallocating can make or break any new initiative in how they work together. Working within dispersed teams is demanding due to the make-up of cultural, education and time differences. You need increasing reliance on collaborative technology, creating as many face-to-face opportunities as possible but more importantly having projects where  it becomes the unifier and common identifier. This unifies far more the cultural differences and tensions by focusing on the project outcomes itself, personalities are supplanted by the higher goal and motivation of working on ‘meaningful’ work . Tough as it may seem, root out the blockers, dispense with those not prepared to work in teams.
  • Costs accrue for a fair time in any starting up and transferring of knowledge, before the benefits really ‘kick-in’ and accrue in greater innovation capability. The working through the design of a new integrated but dispersed structure, in its logic and its make-up of the parts that will contribute into building increased innovation capacity and capability all need to ‘add up’ to larger than within the existing design. Don’t delay this potential by weighing it down with inadequate commitments and lukewarm understanding. Commit to a radical redesign and be realistic on when the (higher) returns are likely.

Managing complex knowledge and dealing with codified knowledge

As you learn to manage increasingly outside one central resource, you quickly come up against one of the biggest challenges within ‘dispersed innovation’. What is needed to be put in place for you to capture and translate knowledge that can give increased value and (eventual) commercial benefit. Clearly that is the goal of any significant change in design but acquiring, assimilating, transforming and exploiting knowledge comes in many different ways.

Partly this depends on your industry and how you have allowed knowledge capture to evolve.  Certain industries need to manage their knowledge differently. For instance the chemical, automotive or electronics industry have built up over many years significant ‘codified knowledge’ that is simply necessary to have in place. Other industries like consumer goods, pharmaceutical or the healthcare find it much harder to codify as they have a much more complex knowledge that requires greater understanding of differences to exploit each market.

This is not universal in its practice but knowledge should be valued, recognized and treated, partly in traditional ways but I would argue, it can be broken down in radical new ways where old constraints (legacy again) can be challenged in light of advances in technology, regulation, protection, intellectual property reinforcement, than in the past.

There are huge implications in the managing of innovation knowledge. The incentive to learn, absorb and translate knowledge is its unique value to you for ‘new to the world’ outcomes.

The essential need is to design for agility, flexibility and leveraging.

There is a need in any framework design in building a new integrated innovation network that it needs to have agility and flexibility. It is more than likely that in the past design, the legacy within existing systems needs radically dismantling and redesigning to reflect the multitude of changes happening. These need to account both internally, in making a new structure for crucial decisions, based on dispersion principles but also on the external, in how you will be reacting to competition and the challenges being presented in changing market conditions.

Increasing knowledge dispersion, shorter cycle times demanded to meet and respond to ‘breaking’ opportunities requires you to effectively manage these across your network in speedy response cycles, having in place a highly focused management and clarity of what is important and needing to worked upon. Even harder strategic choices, evaluating what gaps are needed to be filled in capability constraints, the ability to project and build a new collaborative culture play significant roles in any design and managing across this network.

Any new design has to carefully reflect on overcoming existing obstacles as well as anticipating and  accounting (as best it can) new barriers. You consistently are working towards the maximisation and leverage of this new dispersed knowledge and what it can collectively bring  in its contribute into that ‘greater’ competitive advantage than the old system was able to achieve.

Balancing legacy and new designs

The whole legacy issue needs those certain degrees of reciprocity, a moving or paring back initially to then move (significantly) forward. If you can’t understand the clear reasons why it is crucial to change the organizations ability to innovate across a more diverse network then simply don’t do it.

To make such a commitment, to make this sort of move, to a dispersed integrated innovation network requires huge commitment, in its sustaining and management of a growing complexity. But it is often absolutely essential to make these commitments in rapidly changing circumstances and global challenges to seek out innovations potential that lies across the globe. The more you are networked and closer to emerging opportunity, the greater chance to translate this (quickly) into new innovation value to meet different  and common market needs.

We all  have come to recognize today, that “all knowledge does not reside within one place” and how we set about dismantling and redesigning our organization for tapping into global innovation knowledge will determine our future place in any competitive race, the one we all are seemingly caught up in. Don’t let legacy be the reason to hold you back.