A Cascade of Better Choices for Greater Innovation Outcomes

It is not an easy job to achieve the level of consistent innovation expected within any organization. Often those breakthroughs never seem to be repeated, we struggle to understand the reasons why we can’t achieve that regular rhythm or dependable outcomes from the innovation portfolio, that we would have expected or the board demands.

If you ever look at high performance in sport it is in the consistent, hour-upon-hour, day-upon-day of dedicated practice, hard work and consistent honing that gets you to that performance point. You seek to reduce deviance; you look to achieve a certain consistency.

Business Organizations will like that approach, it ‘plays’ to the efficiency and effectiveness message, it offers up a predictability and reliability that allows for dedicated planning and ‘predicting’ solid performance and certainly. This is the ideal for those investors looking for a consistency in results and dividends and the Executive Board yearns for.

Today’s uncertainly  asks for a different performance

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The Cascading Effect Needed for Innovation Success

Getting innovation through any process of understanding is hard. Knowing what is required to generate innovation throughout an entire organization is even more so.

We need to deploy the cascading effect on innovation

Often we fail to understand our role in contributing to innovation, we need a cascading effect. For me the “cascading effect” for innovation is “a sequence of events in which each produces the circumstances necessary for the initiation of the next”. It is the presenting of an idea, a concept, prototype, a piece of knowledge that provides the catalyst to be exploited in a broader community as the next step and so on. It cascades. It is where we fit within the innovation web.

Innovation often has to go through a set of stage gates, or cross thresholds, set by others or judged to be the essential cross over points. When you achieve these cross over points you induce more resources, more attention and momentum. The more it successfully progresses, it eventually gains a higher resilience and then the innovation picks up more for this “cascading effect”.

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Finding space for growing innovation

Making innovation a constant daily task for everyone to become involved is certainly a real problem for many organizations. Innovation does not sit comfortably alongside efficiency or effectiveness as it requires a much looser structure. It constantly ‘flies’ in direct conflict too much for many within organizations to create resistence and adoption. Innovation is looking to increase variability, nearly everything else in the organization is the exact opposite. How do we address this resistence and make innovation part of the daily working routines? Where can we start?

We have to open up our thinking to a number of “possible paths” to allow it to flow. I believe innovation should not be highly structured; it should be more loosely structured to allow possibility.

For a start individuals and organizations needs to explore multiple ways to learn and find the right pathway for innovation learning as they progress. This needs a more ‘dynamic social fabric’ to allow it to flow, it needs organizational encouragement. It needs mutual adaption and mutual adjustment. The understanding of absorptive capacity framework I’ve outlined before helps structure this.

Three simple rules have great intent.

Possible a starting point is through three simple rules I came across, but presently I can’t find the reference source on this regretfully. These seem to me to have a powerful intent:

  1. Mapping organizational and project innovation processes in the context of a shared responsibility for innovation relies on the rule of taking full responsibility that allows all “to see” the space of innovation that exists.
  1. Generalizing organizational and project knowledge in the context where knowledge is a central task relies on the rule of supporting routines for getting to that space and for keeping it open for all to share and explore:.
  • -This helps people be collectively conscious of what they know and how they now, build up and having expertise in are all dynamic routine activities to become competent experts.
  • – It also fosters respect for knowing and leaning from what others know and contributes to a growing improved skillset far more geared towards understanding higher-level conceptual frameworks
  1. Spiraling across cycles of adaptation in a context of constantly looking for new opportunities relies on the rule for constantly searching for new opportunities that creates an organization in which people are used to innovation that becomes a second nature– “the chaos is that we are constantly innovating”. Also the rule provides people with vital resource of having ways to deal with inevitable surprises of innovation.

We need to find ways to combined general knowledge for wide awareness of available options, and specialized knowledge for assessing the systemic impact of specific options. We need to move towards the development of “T-Shaped skills” being available constantly, to apply to different problems. Choice can stay fluid and it gradually ‘firms up’ to allow greater exploration and evaluation, as we ‘master’ knowledge and progressively experiment.

The ability to innovate is in the people, it is not in a procedures. Our pressing need is to structure innovation activity into everyday work, to make it dynamic in capability and become the new routine work.  I feel these three simple rules just seem to make such good sense as a starting point for making innovation part of every persons working day. Do you?

The Real Need Is Achieving Innovation Fitness

So how do we become innovation fit?

www.innovationfitnessdynamics.com is new and perhaps your possible innovation work-out gym.

Firstly stop and survey our world from a new advantage point

Can you imagine standing on top of a mountain, looking out across a vast expanse of nothing but mountains and valleys stretching out before you. If you squint hard enough you can just make out that somewhere in the hazy distance, the end point of your travels. The distance you have to travel towards that much needed innovation understanding, that are made up of so many different dynamics that make you and your organization that much fitter to compete in today’s challenging world seems really far off, or actually is it?

Exhilaration can quickly turn to reality.

Clearly while you are on top of this mountain you feel exhilarated to have even got up to this point. To even get to there you have already made a decision that you and your organization needs to become a more innovation one and needs to look beyond what you have, to what is possible, you are curious to explore this further, you have to, innovation is a strategic imperitive for, adding value, growth and improved wealth creation.

You have innovation choices

You had some vague ideas on what that might mean when you set out on that first climb to achieve this first advantage point. What you never expected once you had got to this particular mountain top was just what the vista that had so suddenly opened up in front of you, would actually mean. The sudden shock of what might be in front of you suddenly became overwhelming; it stopped you in your tracks. You felt suddenly confronted on what all this might actually mean. Do you go on or go back down?

Starting any journey always needs a first step.

While you had lived fairly comfortably down in the valley below, you simply kept looking up wondering what it would be like to become a more innovative organization. What was beyond that one mountain you constantly looked up too? You had survived, sometimes you even thrived but much of that ‘success’ was actually outside your own hands, it was often determined by some luck, often those abilities to react to something quickly enough on what went on around you. You followed others, you adapted and adjusted to changes going on and kept simply going but you felt this was not a really sustaining position. You wanted to change this, you felt you just wanted to be more in charge of your own innovation destiny. The question was how?

The big idea, a decision to walk a new path with a journey’s end in mind.

Then the big idea came to you. The way  to change was to make a critical decision, to move on by following a new path, a path towards innovation fitness. Why innovation, why the need to get fit? What was the journey end you had in mind?

To help on your journey I believe we need to raise our game and provide a greater fitness to the way we manage innovation. The dynamics of innovation need to be understood

A new web site dedicated to Making Your Organization Fit.

Innovation Fitness Dynamics is a structured approach, you might want to find out about. There is a fair amount of information already ‘posted’ but in any journey you need to get prepared, to be equipped. Jog on over:

www.innovationfitnessdynamics.com

This blog is about offering you a pathway towards achieving your own innovation fitness dynamics

The journey has many peaks and troughs, mountains and valleys to forge. Firstly you have to understand your present fitness to travel on any ‘change’  journey and in this particular case, to achieve any innovation fitness is highly dynamic and challenging. There are lots of fitness points needed to transform your innovation potential from a simple follower to a leader, recognized and respected for your ability to consistently deliver innovation in a sustaining way.

The end goal of your journey is simply “the greater fitness you can achieve in innovation capability the more it can equate to a new value creation“.  The exploring of the terrain that suddenly is opening up in front of you as you look over the mountains and valleys is in need of exploring, of travelling, of searching out those different combinations you require to get you to your own dynamics of innovation fitness understanding.

Welcome.  You will find here your guide, your companion, to be available to walk alongside you on your innovation journey.

The first step towards achieving any innovation fitness is to decide that you are are not going to stay where you are and so you become aware, the second step is a clear acceptance that you have to take a journey. The first step leads one to the second.

“One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything – and one’s last is to come to terms with everything”

–  George Christoph Lichten- physics professor and scientist 1742- 1799.

We begin our journey, a journey full of innovation fitness dynamics.Visit:

www.innovationfitnessdynamics.com

Orchestrating the new dynamics of innovation fitness

In my work investigating different aspects of innovation activity one thought tends to dominate my thinking: “How do we achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of innovation within our capabilities to be more successful?”

I’ve already written in previous blogs about the need of “constantly checking for the pulse of innovation” ( http://bit.ly/c3G0Ta) and suggesting the way to “open up your thinking to dynamic capabilities for innovation success” (   http://bit.ly/bxTeYO).

I’d like to take this one step further in this blog and outline my thinking on innovation fitness landscapes and why they are essential  to understand .

Each organization needs to know its Innovation Fitness Landscape- why

There is a pressing need for a firm is to consistently build and reconfigure internal and external competencies and capabilities to address rapidly changing environments. It is the mastering of this ability to achieve new, more innovative forms in rapid changing market conditions that will enable certain organizations to emerge as the winners of the innovation race.

This view requires a more ‘dynamic’ set of capabilities. Often the question becomes one of “which are the critical ones to focus upon to improve the chance of greater success?

Knowing your fitness landscape does provide a good understanding of your existing position and set of capabilities and can ‘point’ you towards the ones that you need to have to move towards to have in place to improve your innovation capacity and achieve closer to your goals.

Survival of the fittest dominates

Each organization has limited resources, it is to know where to focus your limited resources to maximise your abilities to deliver better innovation. The key is to map out those current innovation capabilities to the tasks (and aspirations) at hand and identify the opportunity spaces and gaps that need to be filled to match aspiration with abilities, so as to deliver against the stated strategic need. It does seem Darwin seemingly raises his head in much of what we do to simply keep up and adapt. So we do need to understand innovation in more of its entirety not only to survive but to thrive.

So what are Innovation Fitness Landscapes?

“The greater the fitness to innovate will equate to more value creation potential.”

I believe we do need to provide a solution to this understanding the innovation challenge by constructing a more comprehensive framework. Part of my present work is to find a working model to achieve this, I’m getting close.

It is this critical need of any business organization or country for wealth creation through (new) growth and successful innovation lies in understanding the path to achieving this. But what are the factors, the enablers to support this? It is by identifying the more dynamic capabilities and then plotting these to understand your existing ‘fitness’. There is still today far too much of a ‘piecemeal’ approach in evaluating the inter-related dynamics needed for innovation still going on, both at Government and Organizational level. We need to see this differently, to tackle it in a more comprehensive manner.

If you can imagine that you are looking out over a range of mountains and valleys and you need to determine your journey to get from one point to another as your goal. You need to understand your fitness and in this case your innovation fitness of what is needed to achieve your goals with the resources you have available or understanding what will bridge those gaps and transverse the challenges you face. Let me explain this a little more.

Let’s mix the theory of fitness landscapes with your innovation objectives

  • By firstly mapping out your innovation capabilities to the task at hand enables you to understand and relate to what is needed- we call that the context for innovation. Innovation Fitness Landscapes helps in this task by identifying the opportunity spaces on where you need to focus your efforts‐ and apply the appropriate resources to navigate the terrain. The greater understanding of the ‘fitness points needed’ can transform your innovation landscape potential, or in business parlance, achieve your goal.
  • Achieving this fitness accelerates your opportunities into final tangible outcomes. Here is a little bit of the theory:  you look for those critical factors that will give higher value potential or ‘peaks’ that are more valuable to your needs. The more ‘rugged’ the landscape, the tougher the innovation challenge, can also determine the greater fitness for the rate of innovation. The height of the peaks in these landscapes, the greater value placed upon them, illustrates how intense the innovation challenge is, and the number of critical peaks shows how diverse its potentially is to provide the appropriate resources.
  • The ability to identifying the emerging patterns provides the need to act and invest, making adaptive even exploratory walks to provide the appropriate resources needed so as to move you to the higher fitness points where innovation viability is enhanced and needed to be so as to resolve the challenges faced. You need to experiment, to take these exploratory ‘walk’s to realize the potential and learn how to scale accordingly.
  • Greater fitness equates to more value creation potential. The ability to inter‐couple landscape entities, to constantly combine the different capabilities in different often unique ways and exploit individual interactions alters your dynamics to innovate and does improve repeatable cycle times from this constant recreation potential.
  • The key  is to know what these capability points are- by dynamic linking those that are important and ignoring those that are not.
  • By learning from these experiments or adaptive walks you can quickly operationalize routines that can be quickly absorbed across the organization and so reduce uncertainties and strengthen the capabilities.
  • The ability to create ‘natural tensions’ from this fitness learning triggers the need to further explore and search out different combinations, this adds even further to your dynamics of innovation understanding.
  • Clear distinctive capabilities emerge; these are your dynamic points for innovation.

Act effectively amid uncertainty

There is a consistent need to keep looking around us; on what is going on, what has happened in the past, what is alongside us, what might be ahead and the people and resources we have available. This is taught to anyone who wants to be well equipped in any mountainous area. We need to be prepared as best we can in business and be ready to anticipate different scenarios and predictions- to be ready to be more adaptive and agile. Innovation requires that.

It is knowing this so called innovation terrain, understanding the opportunities or possibilities around us along with appreciating the time pressures, positions both internally and externally in the market that provide us much of the context of why we need to innovate in a certain way. Knowing the intensity of your innovation challenge gives you a better appreciation of what is needed to resolve these challenges- your innovation fitness.

In our understanding of the often ‘diverse’ set of challenges you have to overcome and knowing what is available to you and what you need to find to bridge any gaps becomes essential. The obtaining of insights for innovation enables you to relocate or locate the resources that are capable to be combined to traverse the landscape (or challenge) and innovate better.

Innovation is complex but can be modelled.

Innovation is complex, it is the intricate and often multiple intertwined interactions and relationships that lead to innovation. The greater the connectivity and interdependence that spreads across the organization and externally in our more open innovation initatives does effects the actions, decisions and behaviours throughout the whole innovation ecosystem. We often talk about the cultural and environment needed to innovate. Knowing the inter-coupling points mapped out in an innovation fitness landscape, depicting the richness of individual interactions and combinations can alter the dynamics and your thinking of where you need to place your scarce resources to innovate better and in more sustainable ways.

Knowing what is dynamic, those critical determinants within your innovation capabilities do lead you to achieve new and innovative forms of competitive advantage. I feel it is worth understanding your present fitness levels and knowing what is required to get you to become a more ‘fit’ for the purpose to innovate on a consistent, repeatable basis. I feel it  is worth knowing, don’t you?

Opening up your thinking to dynamic capabilities for innovation success

As someone who runs a small, independent consulting and research business that is 100% focused on innovation, I am always grateful for the continued involvement of the bigger consulting companies in producing sound, relevant and topical research issues on innovation. They ‘stoke the innovation fire within’, they confirm what you felt you knew but needed it to be validated. These great sources include McKinsey, Bain & Co, Booz & Co, Monitor, BCG, ADL and to a lesser degree Accenture for innovation research. There are others but the ability to have access to C-Level thinking is this groups real strength and so they come more immediate to mind.

The emphasis is on distinct capabilities for innovation success.

Recently we had the release of the annual Global Innovation 1000 from Booz & Co (now Strategy&), updated under “global innovation” and there was an increased emphasis on distinct capabilities that each company has in talent, knowledge, team structures, tools and processes that are put together to enable their innovation efforts. Booz calls this the “coherence premium”.

I regard these as “the dynamics within the capabilities that need to be fully understood and needed to be focused upon to be more successful in innovation”.

Irrespective, those big, consistent growing questions still nag away in the CEO’s mind on innovation .

“What and where do I place my limited (and scarce) resources to maximise the impact of our innovation efforts and how can I be sure?”

“What are those capabilities that generate differential advantage?” How can the CEO or CIO identify the links and connections they want to make their innovation activity align more with the overall capabilities system they have in place? Where does the CEO place his ‘bets’ to get the limited resources he has available aligned to gain this better return on the investments in innovation?

Can we identify a common set of critical innovation capabilities?

I believe we can. Something that is not as it is presently, scattershot in building innovation capabilities but distinct to what the CEO wants to achieve, knowing the capabilities that matter most to their particular innovation strategy and then in his awareness of the organizations innovation fitness learn how to improve, focus and execute these distinct capabilities needed in a highly focused manner- sound too good to be true? I don’t think so.

My work on dynamic capabilities for innovation

Over a period of the last eighteen months or so, I have been studying and researching this whole area. I have some hypotheses that need testing but the outcome of this effort to date has got me closer to believing we can achieve greater identification with those distinct capabilities to support EACH unique position.

Firstly you have to keep in mind the big four issues to think around 1) the Environment Complexity, 2) The Existing Asset Base, 3) the Value Creation Mechanisms established, and lastly 4) the Organizing Context of what innovation needs to achieve for the organization. Context for me is really important and often lacking.

The objectives behind this work are to show present and future impact of innovation.

Simply put it is to provide a robust model that understands the critical aspects that impact innovation, that can show the critical dependencies to focus upon and understand there need, so these can lead to which ones are more likely to deliver ‘greater’ growth through a more focused approach and provide longer‐term sustainability in innovation activity.

 

Background of why this model is potentially important to provide.

All companies talk about innovation and its growing importance but few succeed in actually doing it on a repeatable scale. What inhibits innovation? What would drive innovation success? What aspects of innovation are critical to have so innovative growth can be achieved? Where should a company place its emphasis to gain both an improving impact on its performance and strengthen its innovation capabilities?

Let me firstly outline the challenge I see.

Knowing what are the critical factors and their dependences for sustaining innovation success is vital to understand so that an organization can place the appropriate resources behind them. The questions are: which are critical, which naturally occur when others begin to be put into place, which seem to have limited or no real effect on changing the dynamics of innovation? Knowing these answers and having these clearer to achieve a higher ‘return on impact/investment’ (ROII) has a real business value.

Today, we lack a clear system model that brings the critical innovation factors out and gives them their appropriate values of importance so resources can be allocated accordingly. Also if this can further be extended to provide the ability to model different future states and conceived future scenarios through different impact-investment simulations, this would certainly provide a strong relational tool for assessing business and innovation allocation with the appropriate resources to achieve a greater ‘fitness and impact’ in innovation to focus upon within their capability build.

Today’s challenges lies with understanding Dynamics Capabilities and the organizations fitness to innovate.

Firm resources are scarce; we still don’t understand the ‘dynamics’ of innovation, the interdependency of the parts, this framework I’m presently working upon sets out to achieve this. Which parts have greater impact, which are not so important? Innovation is still not treated company-wide in a holistic way as recognition of the dependencies is poorly understood. This is what I want to change. What and where do you place your resources to gain greater impact? What is important to recognize as needing additional ‘weight and focus’, what capability and competencies need to have a stronger emphasis and why? How can we identify these, make the innovation process more dynamic yet these embed constantly as routines? What would happen if we ignore certain innovation aspects, what would give greater impact to our business?

Why each company needs to know its Fitness Landscapes

The pressing need for a firm is to integrate, build and reconfigure internal and external competencies and capabilities to address rapidly changing environments and it is the ability to achieve new, more innovative forms in rapid changing market conditions that will emerge as the winners of the innovation race.

This calls for more ‘dynamic capability” to be achieved. The basic question that needs to be addressed is “what are our dynamic capabilities?” More importantly “which critical ones should we focus upon to improve our capabilities and competences to innovate?” Fitness landscapes provide the understanding of the existing position and then point to where to place your resource so as to improve your innovative capacity through understanding the dynamics of ALL the parts and selecting the ones that are the critically important ones for the organization to achieve their goals.

Jumping to the end result of what I want to achieve.

Progressively within this blog I can outline this concept further as I continue. Now is not the time as my work is still a significant work-in-progress, and I am searching for ways to take this forward quickly through a collaborative format where the potential partner can support and develop this further. Do you have any collaborative  suggests?

All I can do at present is share the result outcomes I would like to achieve from this work:

Expected results I am seeking out of this work will lead too:

  1. A framework that moves towards a company-wide development program that gains identification and the target of company-wide improvement of routines and different skills required for innovation to succeed/ improve and be distinctive.
  2. Pursuing limited or ‘selective’ development will not have the desired effect, it is not just a human resource department exercise or individual division or team level exercise, but provide a framework that offers the real answer to innovation and why it does require a ‘holistic’ view of innovation development to manage.
  3. Be in a position to challenges long-established organizational capabilities and routines that are taking place by knowing where (and why) they reside and are often more ‘static’ in reality than understood. Often many of these ‘static’ capabilities are simply not valuable to further invest in, the waste of precious funds just for the sake of it, as other areas identified offer a more dynamic aspect closer to achieving the strategic results set within the corporate strategy for innovation return.
  4. Importance of linking capability to become dynamic with the strategy gives greater alignment and potential and can offer a clear capability portfolio where resource needs to be applied to bring new value and alignment to the organizations goals.
  5. The internal dialogue generates a self-reflection process for identification of true and ‘false’ dynamic capabilities and identifies the more static ones that often just need reinforcement. The solutions draw out internal discussions for a recognition and reality of the present and future needs in this area of innovation resource allocation.
  6. It provides the means to achieve additional resource allocation and raising the importance of these to support the strategic intent of the company and it intensifies and solidifies the studies and importance of innovation within the framework of the organization as an area of specialised knowledge.
  7. Results achieved from this raises the need to understand dynamic innovation capability. Knowing the importance and effect of dynamism for the growing need of greater flexibility and agility in changing, challenging times becomes a clear focus. Then through seeking routines and knowing the diversity within these choices, one can identify the basis of sound differentiation to meet different innovation challenges.

My closing thoughts here.

 

Can I achieve this framework; I stated that I think so. Clearly there are many variables or factors for innovation success and far too often organizations suffer from the inability to sustain innovation over time. There is a failure to fully appreciate or recognize that there are many interdependencies that surround innovation. We must break out of selecting innovation activities that simply appeal or are the current vogue. To generate sustaining, distinctive innovation does not have to be elusive, it is through a more comprehensive, holistic approach and recognition of the dynamics within innovation capabilities that are needed to solve your objectives. I’m working on it as we do need to provide a more comprehensive framework for knowing which capabilities are the important ones to focus upon and which are not.

The Innovation Pathway Curve of Understanding

One of my recent articles outlined a three horizon framework. Let me extend this a little further. I’m sure we all agree Innovation needs to be worked at, it needs to be understood and often many people do get confused by not taking a more measured approach to the need to break innovation down into its manageable parts. Innovation does not just have a time axis that the three horizons framework refers too but it has a complexity and scope axis in learning as well.

By taking a more systematic approach to any innovation you achieve a greater understanding over time of what is involved.

Firstly you have to ask what you are trying to achieve, is it incremental innovation, distinctive, disruptive or even radical white space innovation? Do you approach innovation differently for each of these? I would argue you need to learn and build from one to another as you learn on the way, this is my going up a curve that increases in complexity and its scope/ outcome.

How do we embed innovation in all its forms needs what I feel is a unique approach that I have called the Pathway Curve Methodology

Getting a thorough understanding of what it takes to move up what I call this Innovation curve, does takes time, and growing a deeper understanding of how one step is followed by another in experience and understanding needs working upon. This is rarely understood and practiced in this structured way and that lack of understanding often creates the disappointment and frustrations that an organization is not achieving that innovation success they desire. The more you move steadily up this curve the more you can explore the different types of innovation with growing confidence and success.

There are five separate curves of learning- 1) dealing systematically with obstacles, 2) building capability and capacity to move methodically up this curve, 3) the building and understanding of different approaches to innovation for growth building, 4) recognizing the organizational impact and knowledge needed and finally, 5) a discovery and transformation curve.

Let me illustrate one of these five learning curves to provide a little more of an understanding by taking the aspects of needed learning for organizational impact, gaining improved return (ROI), controlling of costs and increased visibility.

Organizational Impact Curve

Recognizing and working upon the five learning curves together is important

You need to be very structured in this approach, it may look like a slow build but in any ‘fitness’ requirement you build in a methodical way. What is it to achieve, is it incremental, distinctive, radical, disruptive and how do you manage this in a clear way to support any initiative.

Understanding your fitness, landscape and dynamics for innovation is essential

In future blogs I will expand on the need to plot your Innovation Fitness Landscape and the ability to identify your organizations Dynamics of Innovation.

Progressively we will be moving towards the DNA of Innovation much of the intent that this blog is all about.