Exploring the criteria for collaborative innovation

Collaboration discussionsThe shape of our collaboration activities has been radically changing in recent years. The combination of technology, the internet, resource constraints and opening up of innovation to the outside world has changed the shape and content of conversations.

Shaping conversations can be either intentional or through serendipity. Ideas are usually never fully formed but emerge over these conversations, from fragments that need nurturing, encouraging, aligning and developing through ongoing conversations. Often the fragments need a wider network to come together and form around.

sharpen-ideas-quicklyThe push today is the ability to sharpen the ideas quickly and move into some early testing and validation, ideally with the final customer somehow engaged and then from this ‘interaction’ the idea shapes and its final understanding deepens onto a concrete delivery. There is a growing need for more radical, out of the existing box innovation to tap into. Collaborators help here.

Collaborations are far more complex and I suggest our thinking this through might be managed in three phases of understanding: Identification, definitions and then diffusion.

1) The first part is identification

identification

Here we are looking to maximise our connections, we are searching for diversity to help explore and then reframe emerging ideas. The search for different perspectives always needs to be brought in.

  • The hardest part is defining the problem to tackle and then be adaptive enough to make changes as you learn and discover. We need to constantly expand our networks through partners. The level of trust within these partners needs establishing, testing and constantly reaffirming.
  • The search to engage: we need to find the brightest, the best, the more engaged to get the quality of conversation in both breadth and depth. We should not be quick to dismiss but actually seek out reciprocal learning, perhaps working on a ‘pay it forward’ approach.
  • The often over used ‘win-win’ does need our constant attention because if we all are focused on the value-creation opportunities for all involved and less on the value capture for one we are going to grow our collaborative efforts over time in far better ways. These become true partnerships.
  • Knowing who you are dealing with, their level of knowledge, experience, the track record behind them and their organization allows for a growing compatible level of commitment as each value the other, within any collaboration. Each appreciates the other and values them for what they bring.

2) The second part is definitions and delivery

definition

Projects today are always looking for speed, who you bring on board needs to possess the right capabilities but you need to be clear on what these need to be.

  • You need to search for the complementary in any collaborative innovation, you want to avoid or minimise the duplications.
  • The working out of contributions and rights in any collaborative project need addressing early. The search for striking the balance, achieving equitable assignment is tough when it comes to IP but it needs addressing as early as possible.
  • The motivation for collaborating needs better understanding. Reputations and credibility are made or broken on structuring collaborations correctly as ‘good partners’ become known fairly quickly in areas where there are limited players or potential partners. Establishing this credibility ‘stock’ gives significant advantage.
  • Compatibility comes in all shapes and sizes but culturally compatible in style, openness, sharing and possibly management outlook are important to establish.

3) Diffusion has to be mutually supportive and is moving towards building established ecosystems

diffusion

We’re increasingly looking towards ecosystems to build around us. These have completely different needs to manage and reflect upon, and why I have separated this into a clear phase. Managing the diffusion through ecosystem collaboration is often highly complex for more radical innovation.

  • Firstly, these ecosystems might already be available to tap into, or we may need to build a new one. This calls for true catalysts to handle the growing complexity that needs consciously managing and drawing in others to the cause.
  • Partly these ecosystems might need to be built as the idea is radical or architectural. We need a clear ‘define the cause’ to which we can group around. Ecosystems need that symbiotic relationship to work. Knowing what makes this is important to keeping the relationships and collaborative efforts flowing and building in sometimes difficult circumstances.
  • The level of early identification of the interdependences within the collaborative partners is important. Organizations are increasingly looking to fully integrate partnerships that will work not just at the front end but throughout the innovation value building process right through to final execution.
  • The compatibility of the partners and the people working within the ecosystem need the same identification. Who has critical impact on its success? The dealing with potential ‘choke points’ where you may need additional partners can lead to stability or crisis in complex partnerships. The project leader needs to continuously identify and drive towards solutions.

Problem solving always causes its own friction

Any ecosystem should remain transparent and have this constant re-affirming mapping back to the collective value-creation proposition identified at the stage or as adapted as the ecosystem learns, it becomes updated and recommitted as it evolves. Often a more radical innovation platform takes some of the participants outside their comfort zones, the importance of a visionary insight about the potential becomes key to help contain and manage this. The emphasis on emerging compatibility or extending core within their existing business often needs to be conveyed to dampen this concern down.

Working in complex ecosystems is not easy, the partner selection, the managing of the system usually requires clear and well-honed project and management skills. Engagement will thrive or flounder on the mutual understanding of the benefits and these may be very different as an end goal.

Identifying what makes up your collaborative design early is important

challenging-existing-behaviorsThe key thread that is consistent during these three phases of different collaborations of identification, delivery and diffusion is that it is challenging the existing behaviours usually found in closed systems. The need is to replace ‘competing’ with ‘collaborating’ and that is not easy.

Collaborative innovation is about exploring the dispersed knowledge by attracting; foraging and experiencing that can make up collaborations. These more open, external collaborations will enable organizations to discover, sharpen and shape innovation in very different ways than being reliant on ‘just’ themselves. Yet collaborating requires a real growing specialisation within any organization.

The earlier you can identify the critical aspects, the more likely you are to ‘allow’ collaborative innovation to work but it is hard work.

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.

 

The Ability to Move from the Existing to the Preferred

The Innovation PathOne of those defining extracts I came across many years back, as it is one that has shaped much of where I believe innovation needed to go, let alone where I believe it still does.

It is a pathway I want to continue to travel along and will constantly try to encourage others to equally take the walk.

I was working through a set of presentation files today and came across this extract again and thought I must share this. It ‘rings’ true as much as it did those years back.

Strategy is useless without innovation; innovation is directionless without strategy”.

Below is an extract from Reinventing Innovation by John J Kao. For me, it is sadly as relevant today as when I first came across it, some years back. Are we making real progress in our innovation activities?

Read it slowly, can I ask you to linger over its implications, its questioning and its suggestions. The extract offers much for any innovation pathway we might be considering.

The Innovation Pathway

Innovation fits with a designer’s definition of design: the ability to move from the existing to the preferred.

Innovation is the path by which we seek the future we prefer. Not the future that we’re going to get, but rather the future we want.

Today, there is a vast gap between the aspiration to innovation and its reality. Innovation practices that are in step with the speed, uncertainty, and volatility of the new economy are still a promissory note, in this day and age.

Until we have practices that go beyond brainstorming on the one hand or simply tweaking a new product development process on the other, we will never arrive at the promised land of strategic innovation. Few if any can point to systematic practices that realize corporate innovation in a reliable and continuous fashion.

If you take innovation seriously within an organization, it touches every aspect of how business is done. It’s about leadership, organizational structure, knowledge management, corporate purpose and values, norms regarding collaboration, and strategic foresight processes.

Innovation touches everything. An innovation system requires an examination of the organization in a holistic kind of way, which is why most organizations have a tough time grasping the agenda.

We have to talk about the hard work of creating deep capabilities within the organization, capabilities that once established with tremendous effort don’t go away and confer competitive advantage over long periods of time

The economies of scale organization is hierarchical and control focused, as is the mindset of its managers. Economies of discovery, on the other hand, which in my opinion are characteristic of the new economy, work quite differently.

Instead of efficiency, we strive for originality, for what will change the game. Instead of hierarchy and control, the focus of management must be on collaboration and enabling what is new.

There must first be an intimate connection between strategic thinking and innovation. Strategic planning must co-exist with strategic foresight. Innovation becomes an answer to a set of strategic questions. Strategy is useless without innovation; innovation is directionless without strategy. Second, we must develop robust innovation processes

We also need a new sense of the scope of innovation, to look far beyond products and services of seeing things and shifting perspective, so that a new vision, a new set of possibilities can emerge.”

Extract is from “Reinventing innovation by John J Kao, The Idea Factory.

This simply needs re-reading and recognizing what John said then, still applies today. Do you agree?

 

Absorptive Capacity, Knowledge Management and Innovation

Source : Haas Leadership Initiative

Let’s start with some defining statements. Innovation is totally dependent on becoming aware of external ideas and innovations. We can ‘fall over these’ or we can find ideas or concepts through explicit search. Then to translate these and turn them into something new and different we need to have established some sort of diffusion and dissemination processes. Having this established as a sustaining system provides an essential source to building organizations capabilities and competencies.

The more we work external knowledge the more we potentially enhance and multiply its value from a single idea into the potentials for multiple innovations. Having a systematic framework can be dramatic for generating new knowledge and gathering ideas for new innovation potential.

Throughout this post I’ll link into previous posts that you might like to explore but this is not necessary.

The issue is how we set about adopting and adapting new knowledge.

Each organization we work within collects its knowledge in different ways. Each has special characteristics, systems and ways to set about doing this. Often finding the knowledge is highly random. Many cases the knowledge we are searching for already resides in the organization, sometimes when we go outside we find one of the paths of this knowledge actually leads back inside our own organization. When this happens it leaves us puzzled on how and why this happens.

A long time back two researcher, Cohen and Levinthal (1990) pioneered the concept of absorptive capacity, further defined as the ability of an organization to identify, value, assimilate, and apply new knowledge. Since their 1990 publication, the concept has been further developed and given rise to many thousands of published papers around this subject.

Adoptive Capoacity Steps 1 The value of absorptive capacity is that when organizations have some prior knowledge they are more receptive to adding new understandings and new ideas.

Organizations that encourage and set about learning consciously set about the search for new ideas and by having this already established ‘learning’ are far better at recognizing new ideas that might lead to innovation.

These organizations develop deeper understanding of integrating and experimenting this new knowledge and set about placing it in a new setting, concept or hypothesis, to push this knowledge forward into new innovation. They are consciously advancing learning.

This gaining of continuous knowledge encourages constant learning and this has a positive feedback cycle as it builds the capacities and capabilities for future innovation activity. Absorptive capacity, once recognized and established as a system promotes the search for new knowledge that greatly increases the capacity to make the necessary new connections for new innovation to happen.

For this to happen, it does need continuous focus. If organizations take the alternative route of wanting to squeeze every last drop out of the existing innovation activity or research department, organizations over time develop as bad learners, they begin to ignore, to assume they have the knowledge and get fixed in their mind sets. They fail to absorb, they tend to reject and take on increasingly that “not invented here” syndrome. That can only last for a limited time before ‘innovation decay’ sets in, people leave and the knowledge often goes with them also.

The problem also can lie in too much knowledge

The other vital part of understanding absorptive capacity is its terrific benefits for diffusion and dissemination of ideas. As the knowledge we glean from outside comes inside it can confront, it can challenge the “what we know”. It is at these times we must stop the initial reaction of “let’s reject this” and allow time for a deeper evaluation, making sense from this different perspective. Looking through alternative lenses helps here.

Organizations are always in a hurry. They design innovation pipelines to get narrower and narrower. They want to quickly dismiss ideas that don’t fit in their norm, the system is poorly equipped to handle different, more challenging thinking, yet this is the very place radical, breakthrough and disruptive innovation ‘sits’. Organizations must find better ways to resist allowing knowledge pathways to become narrower before the knowledge, insights and potential connections have been well absorbed.

Allowing a greater access to new sources of knowledge, discussing emerging innovation concepts by diffusing the understanding does allows for increasing those ‘real’ connections where something really different beyond the existing can be shared as emerging.

It is allowing the absorptive capacities to fully work through the knowledge gained, to improve your capacities. Providing innovation and your ideas and concepts extended time, you can provide for different connection points for exploiting innovation impact even more. If you allow for this additional time to explore and discuss specifically in the search for those more radical connections and outcomes, you have the potential for far more.

We do need to allow knowledge inside our organizations to flow more openly

Allowing innovation inWe need to stop the ‘cognitive blinders’ that constraints the diversity of opinion by allowing concepts or knowledge to be more broadly seen and worked upon, shared more openly. Make innovation far more open inside the organization as well as outside. Practice a more ‘holistic’ open innovation is highly valuable for pushing beyond the current incremental approaches, simply because knowledge is only residing with a few chosen people. We do need to avoid all the cognitive traps around.

Let’s really adopt open innovation, internally as well as externally. It is allowing not just new knowledge in but to allow this new knowledge to flow and be absorbed and then can be better translated into new application or worth. There are significant roadblocks within open innovation today that need resolution.

The art of harnessing knowledge lies in our intellectual capital

When we are chasing after new growth we do need to employ all our capitals. Today the dominant capital is financial, it rules the others and that stifles knowledge, innovation and the potential for being different. Financial capital tends to be based on past numbers or immediate concerns, it struggles with the future. It wants to reduce time, risk, inefficiencies and replace this with always improving the rate of return on the financial capital.

We need to think about a better way to judge ‘rate of return’ and that should be on recognizing the critical importance of the other capitals, those that make up the intellectual capitals. Broadly these fall into human, structural and relationships. They are the capitals that make up the value and provide the new generating value that are embedded in the personnel, organizational routines, and network relationships. They provide fresh capital through innovation and strategic renewal.

There is an incredible set of connections between all the parts of intellectual capital, absorptive capacity and knowledge that make for new innovation and give us the real chance of value creation. I’ll discuss this set of connections further in a subsequent post.

Thankfully some organizations are becoming enlightened

Knowledge and Innovation are engaged at the ‘hip’, they are inseparable. To separate them both would die, one feeds the other. It is through the application of approaching them through a system like absorptive capacity you can generate the flows needed to keep our search for new ideas stimulated, our innovations pushing forward and allowing others to benefit and build on this knowledge further.

If you have not considered the place for absorptive capacity and its value, it is high time you did. It might be your missing link.

Lining up the fundamentals in leadership and innovation

A week can feel like a long time, actually this present week has got condensed from six months of investigating, exploring and debating but even now it is only the beginning, that public ‘coming out’ of a new framework for innovation. It is what happens after this first exposure, that we will this find its value and contribution and that does depends on a lot of factors, mostly in other people’s hands. Those that will recognize a clear value to help them and their organizations should welcome this, we hope.

So what am I talking about?

The development of an emerging framework, which we call the Executive Innovation Work Mat, is where we are suggesting, lies the responsibility of the CEO or senior executive, to construct and enact. Executives need to fill a leadership gap found in innovation, and define a robust innovation framework.  They can deliver the missing innovation alignment part by engaging and providing this leadership required in innovation that is often missing. What these contain are outlined in our framework that we have exposed this week in a series of seven blogs. Just click on the link above for the foundation article.

There is a movement detected in the innovation air!

We are seeing that innovation is becoming a more vital part of organizations ability to manage their future. There is an emerging formalized need for innovation within organizations but its whole structure, the innovation ecosystem or whatever name you want to call it, is today being simply left to chance. Its construct is not pieced together in the best coherent way to build a culture for sustaining innovation. Innovation lacks people who are specifically accountable, it gets built-in often ad-hoc, piecemeal fashion. It leaves many involved in the process frustrated with the amount of effort innovation needs and the lack of results that have not delivered that necessary impact and performance-effect often promised and so desired, to break from the competitive pack.

We are failing to build and nurture this ‘innovation ecosystem’; we are not formulating and communicating where innovation links into strategy, it stays inarticulate and poorly communicated, it is left to others to interpret with a hope it fits somehow. Because there is often lack of internal clarity, there is also a poor connection to the external environment where opportunities are never recognized for their value. Equally where the customer remains dissatisfied with the present offering as one not meeting their explicit needs and where they often have to continue to compromise waiting.

While we continue to lack this explicit innovation structure or only recognize parts of it, it does have both short and long-term implications to the business. Businesses gets locked into set pathways; they tread the simple incremental path, for fear of stepping off it, is stepping into the unknown, just a foreign, really alien place where fear and failure lurk behind every tree. Each sound carries warning and cries out danger. We believe clearing a new pathway leads to better innovation

Closing the disconnect on innovation

There is such a disconnect going on. The organization ‘demands’ innovation, the leadership presents innovation at every opportunity, often more as a fig leaf for the embarrassment that eventually arrives, as innovation into the market place. We need to set up a real connection between rhetoric and having in place real innovation infrastructures that work and are fully supported from the top. The leader is the source or energy point to make that happen, no one else. It cannot be simply delegated away. Whoever wants a leader that simply delegates growth, new wealth creation and your future to others?

There are certain correlations between leaders who are immersed in innovation and their organizations superior performance. This has been spoken off as one of the principle reasons why certain organizations have an innovation premium in the minds of customers, shareholders, investors and the community at large.

This week we offer a framework, the Executive Innovation Work Mat, that offers a real way to bring innovation as a topic to the highest level of the organization through its organizing mechanism of the seven essential domains for their engagement.

These efforts rely on mutual recognition that this leadership gap does exist and that it needs narrowing. It is for the leaders to construct the alignment points of the innovation efforts that deliver on the strategy and vision the leadership seeks.

We ask, Jeffrey Phillips and I, that you share our thinking and deliver this White Paper into the boardrooms of your organizations. Be those champions and advocates to place innovation in the spotlight, demanding it has to be changed. Within this spotlight the aim is one that seeks to improve the organizations ability to achieve more than it offers today from its innovation activity, because its leadership is engaged and inextricably connected. If we can accomplish that growing recognition, we can then go deeper into a specific set of dialogues that ‘fits’ with your organizations innovation aspirations. We stand ready for that set of challenges.

We start by talking about the issues and this is what this week has been all about. Talking and explaining this need for leadership engagement within this framework, first to the innovation community and equally across Jeffreys and my own networks, so as to gain a recognition and we trust a certain traction from this that we believe is valuable to achieve .

Will you become engaged in this?

The long and winding road we travel in the name of innovation

Innovation is a long hard and tough journey. Regretfully we do ourselves no favours in not having a common language, a repository of proven techniques and methodologies. We often continue to layer on to the existing often failing to consolidate and validate. I get frustrated as you look around there are most of the answers but not the ‘attention span’ or the real incentive to go and properly learn it, to master it. We lack discipline in innovation although that might sound counter to the way innovation is often presented. The art of innovation needs to be broken out of the science that needs to be applied………

This was how I started in a reply to an email sent by Ralph-Christian Ohr (@ralph_ohr). He was commenting on my recent series on the Three Horizon framework, I had collated and sent this to him and Tim Kastelle (@timkastelle) to comment upon. This had been updated recently and published in the site of www.innovationexcellence.com over five days recently. Ralph clearly caught me in a reflective mood when I replied.

We travel a long pathway called innovation

Paul McCartney originally wrote the song “the Long and Winding Road” at his farm in Scotland, and this was inspired by the growing tension among the Beatles at the time

The opening lyrics to the song copyright to Lennon/McCartney

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door

Innovation equally has to deal with different tensions and I often feel we need to keep coming back and banging on your door. We do need to constantly repeat ourselves, to remind ourselves of where we are and the long road we still seem to have to travel for innovation.

Ralph was pointing out a recent article written by Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff, partners at the Monitor Group in a recent article “Managing Your Innovation Portfolio”, published by HBR. Initially I was not so impressed by the article, actually a bit dismissive, but this time around something caught my eye that made me even more reflective and made me appreciate its final message – I did strongly identify with it, so sometimes being ‘dismissive’ you can miss some valuable messages.

I want to share part of the closing remarks under their paragraph heading of “Moving Forward”. This rings loud and clear for me, I hope equally for you:

“Managing total innovation will require a significant shift for most companies, which are used to a less orderly approach. But the pathway to such discipline is clear. The first step is to develop a shared sense of the role innovation plays in driving the organization’s growth and competitiveness. Managers should agree on an appropriate ambition level for innovation and find common language to describe it.”

Then they further add some further sound advice and suggestions that I let you go and read but the final end part struck me and made me think of the song “the long and winding road”:

For many companies, innovation will remain a sprawling collection of activities, energetic but uncoordinated. And for many managers, it will remain a source of frustration. For the best managers, however, it represents the most exciting and important challenge of all. By figuring out how to manage innovation as an integrated system within overall portfolio goals, they can harness its energy and make it a reliable driver of growth”

Sometimes we all need to renew our faith

I stay committed too, and determined to support in different ways, this “figuring out” about innovation. It is why I focus 100% on innovation. It equally remains a source of frustration that we are unable to find that ‘tipping point’ where we can finally unite in “crossing the chasm” (in Geoffrey Moore parlance) as his book and much of his subsequent work has been looking to achieve, “to overcome the pull of the past and reorient their organizations toward a new era of competition”

Making the case for investing in innovation

Innovation is without doubt a different mind-set than usual. Successful business innovation is the result of the deliberate assessment of what the market needs, evaluating conflicting demands and aligning your internal strengths with the real world around us.

Today we struggle as much as ever to obtain a sustaining innovation capacity. The role of leadership or the lack of it, for innovation in many organizations holds us all ‘collectively’ back. For some reason we are failing to make the case for why innovation should be “front and center and not somewhere in the pack”.

Leadership still is lacking to embrace innovation fully

I share a view that unfortunately, the clarity of the leader’s role in innovation has still not been well-defined, so they rarely achieve well thought-through and well-executed innovation that is devolved down the organization that is seen as essential as breathing.

Jeffrey Phillips and I are working on different ways to demand more innovation understanding from the senior executives as they must demonstrate links between corporate strategy and the work of innovation. Between their vision and the activities necessary to create new products and services, and also between their expectations and the actual culture of the organization. They have the power to enable innovation.

Today, Executives continue to fail in this vital role, so in the words of the song “the long and winding road”: “I’ve seen that road before, It always leads me here, Lead me to your door”

Are you listening –  is anyone really there?

We do need to keep banging away on your door, I make no apology for that but the perennial worry I often have is, “are you really caring enough to listen?” Innovation really thrives when we are in crisis and for many we are perhaps moving that way to get the many needed to actually sit up and embrace innovation fully.

We really do need to fully figure out how to manage innovation, because we are even more in need of harnessing this to give us some much-needed growth across our world economies.

The art of innovation needs to be broken out of the science that needs to be applied, and then knowing all its component parts then recombined in sustaining, thoughtful ways. We do need to harness the energy of innovation and we are not yet fully achieving that.

Are we all upside down?

This is one of those ‘rants’ occasionally I feel a real need to express. Forgive me, normal service will be resumed after this ‘break’.

Coffee in hand, soap box set up, let me begin.

Today, we are all struggling to transform ourselves in our businesses, even just within ourselves, to adjust to the current economic difficulties we all seem presently to be facing. We are not only confronted with the toughest downturn in modern times but with all the pressures with the speed of decision-making, technological advances that seem to just simply ‘suck up’ more of our daily lives instead of helping to resolve it. We have the pressures of global competitiveness and calls that constantly are urging us to never stand still because others aren’t.

We often become overwhelmed by the merging, acquiring, rethinking that is going on constantly around us, the changes in processes, new alliances and the sudden emergence of a ‘new kid on the block’ who sees a weakness and rapidly fills that gap overnight. Oh yes, and we still are not very good at being more innovative!

Lots more hot fixes or a more radical redesign?

These pressures compel us to focus on a host of ‘quick fixes’ but what we are failing to recognize is where all these changes fit within our longer term plans. Just finding the opportunity to take out precious ‘thinking’ time to synthesise and reorganize ourselves seems impossible, we are just getting caught up in the flotsam of live, just bobbing along.

We need to not only re-imagine but we need actually breakthroughs in our thinking, some of that bunker busting stuff to give us all a ‘concentrated’ focus on what is important to our business, to our lives and what is important to us as individuals. Where do we grow, where do we go and how do we achieve this? We can’t continue down towards the rapids that lie ahead of us, just around the next ‘economic crisis’ corner.

Where innovation and invention needs to combine

Innovation has an important part to play in this future, far more than in the past. We must try to reflect on the effect of too much cost cutting that is going on at the very fabric of our lives, the communities we live in. Nothing is replacing it, we just seem intent on knocking down what we have presently got and not offer alternative solutions, accept more ‘self-sufficiency’. This will eventually have the very opposite effect of destroying more than creating, it will extract more out of it than we will be able to replace.

Today the rush to cut budgets, to have ‘fiscal consolidation’ will not give a more flexible environment, actually it will be the very opposite. The expediency of the measures to slash and burn is not healthy. Our world has been turned upside down on us, but we must strike the balance between cutting back and building up.

Who is going to allow us the necessary time for rebalancing this mood for cost cutting and provide the leadership and eventually the stimulus for the necessary innovative thinking, so as to enable us to think about how we can rebuild, regroup. We need to seek out new opportunities, we need growth but I think it needs to be from a very different type of economic model. Politicians and mainstream economists all advocate a return to ‘normal’, which I certainly feel is doomed as ‘normal’ can’t be based on the past economic approaches or ways we have organized ourselves.

The task ahead is to do the opposite of what we used to do: we do need to save resources, improve the environment, create jobs, shift to another model for consumption, and restore confidence in the economic system – all at the same time.

Use innovation for resource saving.

Now the time has come for resource saving innovation. to extend what we already have. We need a clear political shift to the new courses that will gear us to to do that. Instead of market economy pricing favouring individuals and corporations we have to shift to ones based more on society. As painful as it is for some, we need to increase the premium onto those short-sighted people who are still insisting and  managing our economies and businesses for the short-term extracting costs. They simply cannot ignoring the need to invest, build and promote more onto the longer term potential for containing consumption as we know it today, and finding new ways of adding different lasting value. We need to invest in the future, we just can’t keep cutting and reducing.

We do need to shift our thinking onto a new type of consumption model; we must practice a more frugal type of innovation that still offers plenty of opportunity if we can break the ‘throw away’ attitudes of society and business design. We need to go back to repairing not just throwing stuff away. To do this the redundancy deliberately built to our products so one part that always seems to break before others and you can’t obtain a replacement, or you find it far more expensive to have repaired than replacing it has to be designed out from the existing product design.

Current material consumption actually is not fulfilling

Did you know that the current material consumption actually is not as fulfilling as we expected, according to work that has been undertaken by researchers, psychologists, and anthropologists. They conclude that less materialistic consumption gives a better and longer lasting feeling of ‘happiness’ than material consumption. They also are suggesting that we have hard-wired into us, that basically human beings still are inclined to want to work together, help each other, and do something for others and with others.

So the good news is that this nagging fear I’ve had that we are just shifting to islands of individuals just connected through our computers remotely seems like we really don’t want that, I do hope so. If we don’t think society really wants this then it can’t afford these billions of islands of individuals, it needs to find new ways to deepen the emerging global connecting model that works more for societies good, than the individual as it seems at present. We lose far too much of that deeper happiness factor it might seem, we become increasingly disconnected, inward and remote and that surely is not healthy for us as human beings that thrive on ‘human’ interactions.

Interestingly this is where the emerging of new connected communities gets exciting. What we have to do, is redesign these dispersed ‘connected’ societies into better economic blocks and find different ways to work together that will give us back a new economic value plus lasting pleasure, satisfaction and identification. We need to reverse where we are seemingly heading and that requires some radical redesign of how we want to collaborate for economic value within these new communities.

Collecting money and taxes becomes a growing problem

I’m just not sure where it leaves national boundaries or who will pay for the entire infrastructure if there is no attribution and way to make sure this happens. Presently we learnt from a recent report that the major banks and the financial global elite, as well as a number of developing nations are now confirmed to have as much as $20 plus trillion in hidden assets stashed away in offshore accounts that are subject to little or no taxation. As a result, around $280 billion is estimated to be lost in tax revenues.

In other words, the multi-trillion dollar banks and wealthy elites are combining in novel ways for avoiding any taxation, while forcing the vast majority of tax paying citizens to foot their tax avoidance bill. Amazingly, the $20-odd trillion stashed away it is suggested represents the overall GDP of the United States and Japan combined. The “scale” of the numbers is staggering and are these huge sums actually being employed for different innovation or just accumulating more the present model of consumptive. So much off shore wealth and financial mischief is ‘killing us’ all off.

I also wrote a blog on this destructive creation http://paul4innovating.com/2012/03/01/the-innovating-era-creative-destruction-or-destructive-creation/ and along with this latest report on hidden assets that is actually putting some hard numbers on this tax avoidance just adds more to this growing concern of a really messed up world that is closing its moral compass.

The time has come to restructure and rebalance production, consumption, and corporate governance and how they work together, in short in a more connected global world is the overwhelming need to invent a new economic model.

So where does innovation fit in any new model?

It sounds actually a little bit of “more of the same but better” as our starting point. We understand that innovation grows our businesses, it can certainly grow our equity, it shows it does grows our economies.  It is one of the best platforms around that can provide you greater economic returns (growth, utilization, new activity) if you set about doing this thoughtfully and right. Innovation should always replace something we have with something better (often today that is not the case) but in different ways than encouraging us to not throw away what we have but to utilize it in better, lasting ways. We can begin to change that right away with some ‘ground swell of push back if we wanted too.

Of course the complexity we are facing today does need a far greater recognition of its ‘multiple’ parts that must somehow fit together in new innovative and novel ways. We still need to offer and entice people to change their existing ways and habits. We need to find better models that will give real new returns that provides more lasting value and identification than what is on present as offered.

Innovation has to be central to our future, it needs a more systematic and integrated approach that has a ‘heart’ that beats on a continuous repeating basis. One that scales accordingly to the challenges we are facing and these are growing in challenges, not declining at present.

It needs a ‘fitness’ that knows where it has to focus and why so you can meet these constant challenges in a flexible, coordinated, well-balanced way with speed and combined strength…..the art of building  increasing agility into your innovation thinking and approaches.

We all need to work on the answers to fixing our current problems; otherwise we face a protracted, maybe bleak future. We certainly do have to turn everything upside down. Innovation and invention need to combine in new powerful ways and we need to search for different business and economic models that put together human ingenuity for changing the consumptive model and perhaps put to use some of the trillions stashed away needing to be put to better use than just sitting in offshore funds.

I wish I had some decent answers but my first need was to write about my increasing concerns here. I hope this ‘rant’ prompts your thinking to stop and think a little more.  There are answers; we just need to find them faster than you think, I feel. There are enough burning platforms already around us.

Well let me get off my soap box, my coffee is cold and I need to warm it up, certainly I’m not going to throw it away!

A No Better Moment

When you have some sun on your back after a long period of those winter months, you just always begin to feel life is so much better going forward. Life seems to reawaken within. I often wish we could capture the ‘sense’ of spring and what it promises to bring from this change of season. Those of us who witness the change of seasons are so lucky.

I’ve also been reminded recentlyabout the phrase offered by a number of leaders to explain a positive encouraging shift after a tough time, it goes like this: “we do see some green shoots that are offering some early signs of growth and recovery.”

Spring captures that growth moment. It is often talking to us of renewal. Innovation needs that capturing opportunity as well.

Freezing the moment to listen

Tell me why are we so notoriously bad at not learning from our past downturns? We still fail to talk to each other, to spend the time to reflect, to learn, to adjust, and too observe. So much is “brushed under the carpet.”

We still can’t find a common language of understanding within organizations, or dealing across organizations. We just simply end up spending a ridiculously large part of our time “talking at each other, or across each other” We lose so much time, energy and opportunity.

We are simply losing so much time in the innovation debates

Innovation is challenging, it is complex, yet we chose to ignore so much of what is available to us to ‘spot’ new possibilities, resolve those unmet needs or improve on what is offered to help in our daily needs.

There is no better moment than to stop and rediscover how to listen, to truly listen. Just stop for one minute. Innovation is calling for a common language, a common understanding yet all I hear is the consistent throb of different views, making it difficult to interpret what is right, what is wrong.

With there being so much conflicting advice being offered in this innovation space we ‘freeze’; regretfully not for the right reason, to enjoy the moment, to learn from it, to take something positive away to improve our lives but more than often we become even more unsure and stop listening. We shut out many of the sounds because they conflict, they are jarring and not as they should be, in harmony.

The search for a common language

I’ve argued, as have others, we need to find a common language for innovation. Alexander Osterwalder in his opening to his concept of the Business Model Canvas always starts by posing the question on Business Models “We lack a common language” as everyone see’s the business model differently, if at all. The brilliance within his canvas approach is that it offers a unique way to bring everyone onto the same page. We need to do this across more of innovation’s activities- to bring everyone on the same page.

I see the canvas approach taking hold in many different ways. I’ve read about the Enterprise Canvas, the Business Architecture Canvas, the Lean Canvas, and recently the Business Case Canvas.

I watch with growing interest the approach taken by Paidi O’Reilly, along with some of his colleagues in Ireland, who are presently working on the development of their view of an Innovation modelling software tool. It offers up at its heart, an Innovation Model Canvas, for moving from generation to commercialization.

I’d come up one level on what I’ve seen and read of Paidi’s work and argue we need an Innovation Structure Canvas as well. One that articulates the innovation environment we would wish to operate within. Something that ‘frame’s’ innovation from that firms perspective so we can keep going back to this overarching ‘innovation canvas’ to confirm and test where we are going to see if we are achieving the climate and environment we agreed .

We also need to combine forces

If we could learn to capture,  articulate and explore what we want to achieve on this “Innovation Structure Canvas” we can really begin to talk to others in a shared language. Open innovation, collaborative innovation is fraught with misunderstanding. Whenever we engage with others we must work hard at overcoming differences of opinion, if we want to engage them in our venture.

Structuring our conversations firstly around this canvas perhaps is a good way to test and validate what is in there, shown on this one page canvas so we can gain far more quickly from the other person’s reaction in smarter ways. They can identify or challenge what we want to achieve and we all can achieve and go to a deeper level of conversation by sharing this common starting point.

Steve Blank argues we all need to get out of the office more and test our hypothesis. Innovation is uncertain, it is often made up of guesses and hunches, of sparks of ideas and the more we can ‘show’ its potential value, the more others can relate and improve on that concept. Steve has a customer development process based on two distinct parts- search and execution.Creating a right environment for innovation is made up of a constant ongoing search and execution also.

Business the world over is in search of growth, more today than for a long time. We are ‘emerging’ from a severe downturn, a shock to the world’s economies and one thing recently struck me as a gap to fill, to build a bridge across a divide.

Seeking each other out

Large organizations are desperately searching for ways to change, to adapt to the new circumstances and challenges happening. The problem for many is they simply don’t know how too, the more they try, the more it seems complex. They often lack the real courage to rip up the existing business model and all that supports it. They presently are searching for the how too so as to navigate in these choppy waters of change.

Small organizations are seemingly more nimble, less burdened with heritage, legacy, superstructures that weigh you down and they can see so many breaking opportunities on where change is happening. They are closer to the ground from ‘seeing it’ to ‘reacting to it’ quickly but so often get held back for the lack of the very resources large organizations have, often in abundance, to mobilize and capitalize once they are set on a course.

Now is a good time for both large and small to find their ‘complementaries’, to recognize that have value even more to collaborate together. The large organization might have to moderate it ‘predatory’ behaviour though, the small organization’s fear of ‘David and Goliath’ and worried their ‘single shot’ is not going to make the mark does need careful and consideration in managing.

They both need to find new ways to combine, so the ones that have resources work with the ones that have the ‘sharper’ pulse of seeing opportunity, and this combination of ‘creative juices’ and ‘appropriate resource and energy’ are combined for mutual gain far more in collaborative, mutually sharing ways. Not in the old ways of simply ‘acquisition’ that so often tended to destroy the very entrepreneurial essence that gave the success to the venture.

The back of a napkin

Great ideas are often captured on a napkin, on one page. We need to find ways where that initial capture of a great idea, of a real reason for instance on why ‘we’ should combine forces, needs some capturing mechanism.  The concept of the one page canvas can be the place to paint our vision but in a structured way and the initial meeting place for innovation to come alive for all those that choose to go there.

A road map that ‘speaks’ of growth, of differentiation, of operational and execution excellence and customer potential/ acceptance as the necessary building blocks, of how to achieve it, so others can ‘see it’, challenge or improve upon it because they are “speaking the same language.”

By the way check this out: the Napkin Academy on http://bit.ly/HrYhKX

The pressing need is in finding a different ways to talk a common language.

If we do want to move beyond our past ways to manage, top down, bottom up, we need to engage far more people, across a far more diverse marketplace of interested parties. We need to draw them in, to seek their participatation and understanding, within our innovation canvas design, so we are all on this same page.

We might want to extend the concept of the canvas across business in even more novel designs than the Business model canvas so we can quickly sketch, to discuss and to listen to all those who chose to want to engage, who equally want to share and seek out fresh opportunity.

Innovation might be made of many things intangible but it can be captured. We need to allow it to be seen, just like those first ‘green shoots’, so it can be nurtured, improved upon and fully shared in common understanding.

Just like spring, we need to ‘trigger all our senses’ for  the need to grow, to talk to each other in a common language and appreciate how we are going to ‘set about’ innovation by achieving this new growth that can only be really achieved in a different way of shared understanding.