The Pressures Placed on the Innovator

There are multiple “stretching and straining points” that make the life of the innovator increasingly uncomfortable. These build into increasing frictions where the eventual performance of innovation seemingly disappoints the leadership of organizations. So why is that?

It is only when we can truly understand the constraints innovation works under, can we provide more robust solutions to reduced all these frictions and pain points that innovators are under. There are many.

We often can’t seem to break down the rigidity win the organization’s system, to allow innovation to speed up, connect and deliver on its promise. Organizations continue to struggle with obtaining that higher level of agility and flexibility required for innovation speed of response and delivery.

The culture within organizations still is rather more closed-up into the silo mindset and not encouraged to be more open, engaging across functions in collaborating ways. We attempt co-creation to test ideas and try to deploy these but they come against institutional resistance to change. We continue to rely on emotional and gut decision-making and still have not fully embraced the data-driven cultures to make more informed decisions. All these constraints create that pressure to perform. So much around innovation is not optimal.

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Relating to the New Innovation Era

I firmly believe we are on the cusp of a new innovation era. When you step back and recognize all the different advancements we have been making in designing tools and frameworks, in understanding innovation, it holds promise.

Yet it is this recognition that the present is not working anymore with existing innovation systems, you do need to search for a real lasting change that does transform and connect all the parts into a new innovation designed ‘whole’. There are a number of intersections and driving forces that are coming together and what is emerging is this new innovation era. Now we have to weave them together.

Of course, much of what we have will still remain. We are still in need of finding innovations that provide new products, services or business models. These outcomes remain constant, it is the way we approach these that is in need of being seen as dramatically different. We require a more evolutionary, fresh perspective.

The sad part is that many of our existing consulting firms offer solutions that are unfit for todays need, or ill-equipped for offering advice on tomorrow’s purpose and the designs necessary. Equally, nearly all our larger business organizations are still locked in the past, or attempting to catch up to the present but in random ways. This does need a real change but can we achieve it?

Innovation is advancing but most of it has been designed for a different time, the old era of stable markets, predictable solutions and having a clear sense of your competition. All that has changed dramatically. We have all been trying (very hard) to stay relevant in an ever-increasing uncertain world, applying solutions left over from a past era. Something has had to suffer and I believe this is our innovation outcomes, that are not shifting the growth needle as we keep our innovation systems and thinking trapped in the 20th-century mindset. Continue reading

The Essential Connection Between Strategy and Innovation

Most organizations are seeking solutions to the necessary connections between Strategy and Innovation. The connection between the two are often broken.

Often it is within the strategies that should be outlined, lies the potential new spaces to play for innovation’s design. Yet how often do we fail to connect the innovation’s we design and execute specifically aligned to the strategic need?

We somehow seem to stay locked in the ‘here and now’ constantly repeating and refining the known and established within our domain of responsibility. Is this because innovation is not at the core of the business as it should be? Often we are inherently resisting to exploring change as it becomes risky and far more demanding. A good strategy, well outlined should encourage innovation and gain engagement but it can equally determine how we break down our imposed boundaries by its strategic intent, to encourage exploring and extending on what we know into the what we need to know. Strategic intent informs innovation.

If you have a clear strategic understanding of the needs of the business you are getting more of the understanding of where-to-play and how-to-win in your innovation activities and market investment. It is making these strategic connections that is giving innovators a better chance to deliver back concepts that offer alignment to this strategic need. Investing in this understanding and alignment should never be understated. The time invested, allows for the innovation investments to do their part in supporting the business and feeding it with the growth options required, or highlighting where the possible gaps might be, for additional investment or M&A activity, to accelerate this and bring-in fresh innovating momentum.

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We are in need of a common language for innovation

German Late Medieval (c. the 1370s) depiction of the construction of the tower.

Any innovation common language needs working upon. It firstly needs recognition it is in our best interests to find a common point. It needs to be relevant to each of us, it must be current, appropriate, accurate and highly visible throughout the entire organization. It also needs to be allowed to grow and flourish, to evolve and become the lingua franca of all our innovation work. It needs building and constructing in conscious ways and design.

Let’s step back just for one minute, these ‘sentiments’ are fine, yet we actually do, seriously lack a common language for innovation and we should find the ways and the means to change this. It holds innovation back significantly. It can’t continue in a world of greater networking and collaboration.

Languages unites us or keeps dividing us

Language can have the power to unite us or potentially divide us. Developing a language to unite us in our innovation efforts goes some way to reduce disagreements and egos, to qualify individual interpretation or bias, often a key inhibitor that can block a team’s success. It lays in a common foundation. It builds confidence and understanding.

Once we have a common language, we can set about building and creating a more robust innovation management system. One that builds on this framework so it can relate to the relevant context, conditions, and environment for innovation, to offer within this building block, the common identity.

These identifiers can build into better understanding how to structure governance, process, and functional structures, to build a culture that is responsive as ‘they’ can identify a need for a common cause of understanding. It is in this central innovation language that becomes our clear unifying context, the enabler, and sense of personal identity with the purpose of what we are wishing to achieve.

In any common language, we need to master the understanding, the nuances and how it all fits together. We need to exploit it and extract what it can offer to enhance all the work we do in innovation. We need to appreciate always its terms, its definitions (and limitations) and the related performance values that can help to improve our performance and in our achievements of working increasingly with others.  A common understanding of our meaning to ‘innovate’ becomes an imperative. Continue reading

Fusion, Flow and Fluidity are needed in our Management Practices

We are caught in a real tug of war within much of what we do in business today; in our responses and reactions to many of the dramatic business conditions we are facing, many deteriorating or being challenged by greater global competition.

We are facing a very uncertain future if we base our actions on past practices. We need a new management model, one where we are pushing to seek increasing new knowledge.

We actually are in urgent need of a new management operating model.

A new management model where we are pushing to seek increasing ‘fusion’ but still want degree’s of separation, we are seeking out ‘flows’ through new knowledge to break down barriers that restrict new insights so as to turn these into new value creation, and we are encouraged to seek out and establish a higher ‘fluidity’ in what we do and reduce the rigidity we presently have in place in our current organizations.

There are growing concerns centered around how we need to adapt our management practices to manage in a digital world, we are grappling with the consequences and we need to find new solutions and approaches. We face issues made up of increasing information overload, coming at us at increasing speed and failing in our abilities to fully interpret this. We lack the agility and flexibility to respond to what this all means in both its implications and potential, for sensing and seizing new value creation from understanding this.

We need a new management practice to deal with our digital world. One real need is for increasing knowledge and then being equipped in interpreting this in our learning, daily routines and activities is becoming paramount to break out of a declining performance cycle.

Applying the three horizon lens to develop new management practices

If you apply the three horizon lens we need to construct management and its performance approaches differently you begin to see the pathway for change.

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Advancing My Applied Innovation Thinking

I wrote a post “Needing to Think Applied Innovation Services” recently, it was extending my view that innovation needs to change. We need to think of managing innovation in different ways, we need to automate it and in addition, augment it. I suggested in that post “we need to pull down what is needed” and design a totally ‘adaptive’ innovation process to fit a specific need.

I argued we need to think differently about how we manage innovation. It needs to be more radical in design, actually, it needs to be far more up to date and in tune with the technology progress we recommend so much to others! Innovation systems are lagging, they should be leading in their design and connectivity.

What I mean by this is it needs to begin to ‘account’ for cognitive solutions that can augment and help automate our present highly manual innovation systems. I know we have some good software for different parts of the innovation process but none of these are integrated, fully connected up in their design. We still work in piecing them together. We lose significant collaborative opportunities and speed due to this mostly disjointed innovation approach. Surely this has to change?

We need to bring innovation and its process up to date. With cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, cloud-based solutions, purposefully designed apps and specific tools and frameworks, we do need to begin to stretch our imaginations further and flex our technology and app solutions more towards providing a better, more connected innovation process. I want to see a new innovation era happen.

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Needing To Think Applied Innovation Services

We can simply go on and on in the many ways we have evolved our problem-solving techniques or methodologies, as those help the innovation and discovery process; incremental, piecemeal and experimentally.

Yet we still get caught out by not resolving or addressing the essential building blocks of innovation (culture, environment, climate, governance, alignment). We have never ‘cracked’ the full innovation management system. Perhaps we can today. We should try at least.

Many of those innovation tools that have been emerging in recent years have now built up a powerful body of validation, and they become necessary to know and practice yet often miss the basic building block needs of innovation. We need to do better, we need to design a completely new innovation process that takes into account all that has evolved in our understanding and experiment in recent years. Some thoughts:

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