Drawing out the different voices within the three horizon methodology for Innovation

Three Growth HorizonsWe so often struggle to articulate our innovation activity and then can’t seemingly project our plans into the future in consistent and coherent ways. We often lack the framing necessary.

If this rings true of the innovation activity in your organization, then it is in danger of being seen as isolated, one-off events, that fail to link to your organizational strategy. Furthermore you’ll be missing out, or not capitalizing on emerging trends and insights where fresh growth opportunities reside.

I so often come back to the messages we need to learn, which centers around the three horizon methodology.

I just wish this framework would be adopted far more within organizations. wanting to build a sustaining dialogue around innovation, it can be such a powerful enabler.

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Are you engaging with all the different voices around you?

How do we manage future discussions

Having different perspectives and voices will enhance your innovation activities, they provide diversity, stimulus and greater options for you to consider the future innovation journey. How do we set about engaging with all these different voices surrounding innovation?

Have you ever worked with the three horizon framework?

It is really useful for managing your innovation activities, drawing out the often conflicting voices within the organization on how to take innovation forward. The approach can unlock you from just being caught in the present, to one of envisaging a future that then allows you to begin to build different capabilities, competencies and capacities.

Find out more here and here and here on the three horizons or within this blog site put “three horizon approach ” into the search box. You will find  I have provided a considerable overview in different posts thoughts on the 3H thinking and why I place such value in it for innovation’s evolution.

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I wonder who is withering on the innovation vine?

Dying on the grape vine 1This week I tuned into the Pipeline virtual conference for product development practitioners and gained an encouraging feeling that innovation is progressing along nicely. Packed all within a day there was plenty of material ‘fodder’ to feed off of and learn from.

A really good conference but what quickly followed was a strong dose of that withering on the innovation vine.

I read two consulting surveys around innovation

I’ve been suddenly pulled out of my virtual bubble back into the harsh realities of where innovation really is. Just simply how innovation is struggling and that lies far more at the top of our organizations than below, those below who are simply trying to ‘get on with the job’ but with at least one hand (or even two) tied behind their backs.

I have been reading two sets of observations, one from Fahrenheit 212, the other from Innosight and my mood began to change. I’m suddenly back in reality where we have this huge gap between those ‘working’ innovation and those at the top simply not engaging with innovation or still failing to understand it or even failing to connect the dots.

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Entering the zone of innovation uncertainty

“The future never stays the same as it is in the present”. 

Today we grapple with more uncertainty than ever before. For many of us this is the time of year when planning out the future becomes more ‘top of mind’. These are moments where we have to stop chasing the daily numbers, pushing the immediate projects that are in the pipeline and turn our attention to laying out our future plans. Sadly we often make a poor ‘stab’ at this thinking through process; we don’t get our thinking into the right mental frames.

The problem for management is anything discussing the future enters the ‘zone of uncertainty’ and this ability to often ‘read the tea leaves’ can very much determine the future health and direction of the organization. Ignore these shifts or signals and you are on the path to your own ‘destruction’.

Three Horizons Future never stays the same

Not only should we search for possibilities that extend and strengthen our existing core offerings but we should search out on a wider basis.

Often we make a complete mess of this planning out of our future.

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Traversing different horizons for transformative innovation

Irrespective of the organization, we all struggle with transformational innovation. So often we are simply comfortable in our ‘business as usual’. We gear performance to the short-term, we put the emphasis on the current fiscal year, and we support the core business in numerous ways, usually with lots and lots of incremental innovation, so the results are realizable in this year.

We are sometimes comfortable or confident enough to move into adjacent areas, to expand and feed off the core but these are less than transformational in most cases. This space is the one we are the most comfortable to work within, this is the horizon one of the three horizon model approach outlined to manage innovation across a more balanced portfolio of investment.

In summary, the three horizon model for innovation is actually a reasonably simple idea: with Horizon One (h1) being the current business focus, Horizon Two (h2) being more the related emerging business opportunities and Horizon Three (h3) being those that are moving towards a completely new business that can have the potential to disrupt the existing one.

The complexity lies underneath this simple idea, you need to manage these different horizons with completely different mindsets. You need clear well-structured ways to extract the real return from managing a comprehensive innovation portfolio based on knowledge, experience, intelligence but exploring plenty of the unknowns about the future and openness to get you there, as ready as you can be . Its necessary today.

The seeds of destruction lie in horizon one

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Casting-around with a wider innovation net.

When we ‘cast around’ we are looking for something; to try it out, to think about it, to search for connecting a vague idea with something more tangible. So let’s go innovation fishing.

The word ‘cast’ is around us in so many ways – anglers cast their line, we are cast adrift, we cast or drop anchor, we cast to put about, to tack, we cast our eyes upon the speaker, we cast light, we cast aspersions, we cast someone in a play, we cast a plan, we cast into a certain mould, are all just some of the many examples of how ‘cast’ is part of our everyday thinking.

In innovation, cast can become a fairly dominating action – we can cast about or around for ideas, to devise a plan, we can equally cast off those ideas or concepts we reject or simply cast out, or finally, we can agree to cast one’s lot into a plan or concept to take forward as a united team.

For me casting around is a most important part of how I work through innovation coaching.

‘Casting around’ in coaching is trying to understand and see the possible ways to get someone from point A to a new point B. This needs to be in a safe environment, so as to tackle any blockages or misunderstandings and were established patterns might need challenging can be discreetly explored so we cast around initially to explore the different triggering points. Also by having a ‘neutral’ environment but having a clarity of why we are coaching permits for a growing receptivity based on specifics. This allows for being more specific in changing and shifting perceptions that can eventually lead to better innovation understandings and outcomes. Casting is actually essential and becomes a significant part of the solidification process within coaching.

Good casting needs a clear routine, method and structure.

So why is casting important to innovation? Casting objects has been around for thousands of years. The better your experience in ‘casting’ the more likelihood you arrive at something that is useful and valuable (and highly appreciated) from the efforts put in.

When we think through building the capabilities for more open innovation, it is the finding and developing good ideas that innovation is all about. To get to this end-result of delivering upon the idea into tangible innovations it is often thanks to having in place the process to find, capture and commercialize and providing the corporate culture that promotes and protects these processes, to allow for trust but to execute rigorously against clear criteria and (emerging) objectives measured against specific goals. This becomes the art of casting open innovation.

It is this art of casting around we can increase discovery, we can capture and act on that discovery or set of connections to generate our future innovation activity. The more we establish a set of patterns, perhaps to have a casting process, the more we can evolve ideas and move them along the innovation process. We gain confidence if we know where we are going but we do need a ‘casting plan’.

What is important when we set about casting we do need that certain ‘something’ that gives the process a good structure and a given clarity. I think as we cast we need to work through five stages of casting :Discovery, Generation, Conversion, Diffusion and Acceptance. We raise our abilities if we cast in a prescribed way.

The virtues of openness are like casting a wider innovation net for better return.

Open innovation gives us all considerable benefits from looking outside our existing organizational boundaries for different concepts and ideas. We can also draw in outside help and partly to confirm those ideas in our growing connections with the final consumer. We need to cast more often today in a world where we have to work at being the smartest.

It is reckoned that an organization that has strong and robust open innovation capabilities are seven times more effective than firms with weak capabilities and is twice as effective as those with moderate capabilities, in terms of generating returns on their overall R&D project investment portfolios (source Booz & Co research)

Innovation needs casting practice in knowing where to ‘fish’.

If we keep practising casting, we will be making longer and longer casts as we gain in open innovation experience. Just like in fishing you gradually loosen up the control until you get confident in where, what and why you want to cast (around).

Remember when you are searching for innovation, no different from fishing,  always reel in enough line after you cast to make enough tension, so you can begin to ‘feel’ the response and gain that feel this is worth ‘reeling in’.

The real key to innovation casting though is back-casting.

Back-casting method

The back-casting method helps define our innovation understanding

As you might know, I have consistently argued about having a clear understanding of where you want to go (a vision and awareness) and in particular why I think the mapping across the three horizons is a more than valuable technique for knowing where and why you are ‘casting’ in specific areas. If you have some clarity on the future, those multiple horizons you need to explore, then your efforts of landing from your ‘casting around’ increase significantly.

You can ‘cast’ simultaneously and more accurately for those multiple needs. Those immediate ‘burning needs’ required for improving on today’s products and then you can open-up possible areas for those future ‘winning needs’. But more importantly this back-casting allows you to ‘look across’ new horizons, explore and take a greater time to ‘feel’ out and explore new areas of discovery to take you then through the five stage loop suggested above.

Having three different mindsets of the ‘here and now,’ more entrepreneurial, and more futuristic, based on this vision and awareness and then back-cast, allows for throwing open the innovation net for catching ‘greater’ possibilities.

No, casting is absolutely critical to innovation.

If we can learn the technique of ‘casting forward’ and ‘casting back’ we are gaining insights into ‘casting around.’ We have a much clearer plan of where and why we are looking for something because it has become more specific. Then we can try it; explore its possibilities, to think about it, to search for the connections that turn a vague idea into something more tangible. Open innovation becomes highly focused and well-cast! It becomes aligned.

Casting correctly can lead to greater promise, perhaps the innovation ‘catch of the decade’.

The Innovation Bunker- Getting Out of Cognitive Traps Part Two

Help seems to come from new quarters – unlocking our minds and breaking free from our cognitive biases.

Part two of the Cognitive Traps we find ourselves in. Part one is here

Breaking Free from our Cognitive ChainsSo how can we break free from what holds us back? As we have these cognitive biases then we have to consciously work on reducing their effect in our judgements, decisions and actions. We need to break out of those cognitive chains that can hold us back and limit our innovation thinking

I think there is so much help at hand

If I take www.innovationgames.com, as one example, of where Luke Hohmann and his team are taking us.  I think there is this important emerging ‘rush’ into games-based tools partly because they can significantly help offset cognitive bias. They allow us to become more engaged in collaborative thinking.

On http://www.innovationgames.com site they offer this as their value statement: “our on-line and in-person games help organizations solve problems across the enterprise by using collaborative play to tap into true innovation”. “Games bring your ideas into Action” in our ability to come together and then actively collaborate, helps you discover market opportunities and uncover customer needs and challenge your thinking in new and stimulating ways. Engagement in imaginative ways allows you to break free of some of your cognitive traps.

Have you explored the different books around games, for example Gamestorming: a playbook for innovators, rule breakers and change makers.  They state “we’re hardwired to play games. We play them for fun. We play them in our social interactions. We play them at work. That last one is tricky. “Games” and “work” don’t seem like a natural pairing. Their coupling in the workplace either implies goofing off (the fun variant) or office politics (the not-so-fun type)”.

The authors of Gamestorming, have a different perspective. “They contend that an embrace and understanding of game mechanics can yield benefits in many work environments, particularly those where old hierarchical models are no longer applicable, like the creatively driven knowledge work of today’s cutting edge industries

I’d suggest that in any industry there is this pressing need to open up the thinking to see ‘things’ in new ways. The challenges are becoming more complex, faster paced and needing far more agile minds. These game storming approach are allowing us to alters our cognitive biases in new ways.

Have you read the article by Jordan Shapiro on “How gamed-based learning can save the humanities” where he discusses example of game-based learning platforms that uses the magic of interactive storytelling–video game design–to bridge the catastrophic gap that undervalues the humanities in education. He goes on to suggest “Metaphors, signs, and symbols are useful. As the building blocks of language, they let us articulate our experiences through a shared system of meaning-making”. Any shared language reduces personal bias.

Take a look at this slideshare “Building a sustainable innovation ecosystem” for exploring translation pathways to new ways of learning in the 21st century. Game-based learning is significant to alter our perceptions and challenge our thinking.

The Blank BM Canvas

Following the success of Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas we are all getting more comfortable in building off a ‘blank’ canvas our new business models. Since this canvas there are countless other alternatives that can help us to overcome bias and prompt different thinking around most of the aspects of business design.

Collaborative and visualization tools are equally making a difference

We are seeing the art of storytelling, of taking part in simulation work, making better use of the different visualization techniques and we are opening up in allowing ourselves more time for strategic and concept conversations.

If we take the Heath brothers suggest in their book “Made to Stick” I certainly believe this can help in ‘chipping away’ at cognitive bias. It reduces bias though drawing out, more often than not collectively and giving time to debate. This shifts our personal perspectives and allows us to see things differently as ‘I’ moves to ‘we’ in association and assembled knowledge of the broader community engaged in the conversations and exploring.

Can we use the tool from “Make It Stick” for reducing cognitive traps?

For example in their book “Made to Stick” they (Heath brothers) lay out the critical elements of a sticky idea of Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, Stories. This encouragement makes for more conversations, both within our own minds and in greater participation with others. This idea for structuring conversations will be great offsets to our cognitive bias in my view. It certainly can become a great starting point.

So taking the Heath Brothers suggested acronym of ‘SUCCES to reduce Cognitive Bias

  • Simple — find the core of any nascent concept and allow it to permeate.
  • Look for the Unexpected —let it surprise us so we can see its possibilities
  • Concrete —Grasp it and its potential effects to share this new insight with others
  • Credible — work on the association to give it ‘growing’ believability
  • Emotional — help people see the importance of this to achieving innovation that transforms.
  • Stories and Narratives — for crafting a compelling narrative to change our cognitive biases into new logic and value propositions.

Knowledge diffusion I believe can reduce cognitive bias also

For me the more we can diffuse knowledge, the better, for recognizing its potential new value in enabling innovation to be translated into “exploitive learning”. I’ve previously suggested absorptive capacity as a help in knowledge adapting. I wrote a piece called “Moving towards a more distributed innovation model” can allow your thinking to absorb and have a greater flow.

Envisaging different states for innovation needs clear application.

Scenario thinking is a more than helpful place to go for changing our perspectives. What we have to guard against is that these do not become another cognitive trap where we want scenario thinking as long as it is on ‘our terms’.

I believe if we only ever construct scenarios in one ‘mindset’ we miss so much. As many who have been reading my posts I strongly prescribe the three horizon methodology for approaching innovation. Take a look at mapping innovation across the three horizons to see where this can ‘shift’ our thinking beyond accepted present day thinking norms for innovation to be advanced more effectively.

Langdon Morris wrote in a book called “The Innovation Master Plan” there are four devious mindset traps of 1) fixation on the status quo , 2) short-term thinking dominates at the expense of longer term, 3) too much incremental innovation and 4) ignorance of the real meaning of change, its rate and impact. We need to radically alter these traps. Fixation, biases simply do have innovation consequences.

Seeing across multiple horizons ‘frees’ us from many cognitive traps

I believe we can go well beyond the present value of ‘just’ fitting your existing innovation portfolio and directional management into a one-dimensional framework, viewed in our present ‘here and now’ mindset. You can see opportunities completely differently beyond the existing mindset and activities, if you think in different time horizons. These different thinking positions take innovation from tactical to strategic, then into foresight in your three different mindset evaluations. This three horizon approach challenges your cognitive biases as you really do just have to let go and open your mind right up, to see and that is in different thinking frames.

Perhaps I can go one step further, a final step, by reflecting back.

So in my final post coming up (part three) on the Innovation Bunker – Cognitive Traps I offer a simple framing technique that I think has value. One that we all can relate to it, not so much to each others cognitive biases but on how we can manage innovation and its progress in a ‘common’ approach- It can reduce differences and allow for better results.

We certainly do need to encourage adoption and decrease the rejections in innovation.