Mind the Gaps in Innovation.

Mind the gap 1Most of us that have travelled on the undergrounds around the world and are well used to the announcement as a train pulls into the station of “mind the gap” between stepping off the train and the platform. The reminder is to make us aware there is a gap and we need to be ready for this. We need to be consciously aware.

Innovation nearly always suffers some form of “mind the gap” and yet we tend to ignore the obvious and stumble into these gaps or fail to recognize them completely. These ‘gaps’ comes in so many different ways and guises.

We are in a need to constantly “mind the innovation gaps”, these are everywhere.

Firstly innovation is meant to bridge the growth gap found in organizations, it needs to have clear plans to manage the core, seek out new adjacencies and investigate the white space opportunities for making up the growth plans, so as to meet the strategic goals and aspirations of the organization. Often the resources are not allocated to all three of these, it is often left to the same team to bridge the gaps and more often than not, they fail. We also fail to think across different innovation horizons and not allocated dedicated resources and the time to each of these.

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Framing innovation around four management dimensions

Julian Birkinshaw, the London Business School Professor for Strategy and Entrepreneurship wrote in his book “Reinvention Management” about the failure of management. He is a strong advocate of reinventing and broadening out the awareness and need for a more disciplined and up to date practice of management

Working through a kind of contingency theory of management

Julian points out different situations demand different kinds of management. To be effective, a manager needs to adapt to the demands of the situation. Managerial behaviour is mapped on four dimensions: bureaucracy-to-emergence, hierarchy-to-collective wisdom, alignment-to-obliquity, and extrinsic-to-intrinsic motivation.

The principles of emergence, collective wisdom, obliquity and intrinsic are newer ways of thinking about management. I must say I like these as I do his framework as a really good way to think about the approach we need to explore that fits with the strategy and the way we want to develop a business and its environment.

Innovation needs to exploit all the ‘opposing’ principles across the four dimensions

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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 Age of Large Business Model Reinvention

Most of our existing organizations are searching for the mechanisms to reinvent their business models, through identifying, designing and executing differently from the existing ones, where they tend to simply be ‘locking themselves into’ repeating patterns, possibly opening themselves up to new forces of disruption.

There is a sense of urgency that is growing at the corporate level, to master this ability to design different business models and then set about executing them, to combat the multiple ‘disruptive forces’ swirling around in the present and near term business environment.

Reinventing the Business model is such a big ask in the complexities to overcome, the legacies, the vested interests, the distribution of created wealth (dividends, bonuses, performance) are all ‘locked into’ the existing business. Many of those necessary bolder decisions get caught up in horrible compromise.  Parallel managing is both an art and a science but it always needs clarity.

Addressing the current dilemma within business models

So we have a classic dilemma, we need to manage and extract as much as we can from the existing business but simultaneously begin to reinvent, to design something different.

Caught up in this dilemma, increasingly the large organization is questioning how it can use the Business model canvas in more effective ways. I believe there are many exciting options available.

Business models need a common language, they need to be easily described and here is the fundamental value of the BMC – it can set about supporting a common understanding, it can be used to describe in multiple ways.

Here is my view  

Move the thinking. Move the emphasis. Today the BMC is discussed more as the blank canvas to start new ideas and concepts and its present focus has been in its use for start-ups and entrepreneurs. From these opening sketches the canvas does a great initial job to describe these ‘emerging’ concepts. We need to change this emphasis point.

The possible new dimensional values of the Business model canvas.

Make the Business model canvas as a multiple describing and communicating tool. We should shift our thinking and open our minds up to its (BMC) greater value within the larger organizations

These are clearly:

  • To simply explore new business models as the book, the Business model generation, originally sets out, in the how, what and where of doing this through the business model canvas approach. To experiment with all the advice, tools and experiences that have been built up since this book first appeared.

The richer and perhaps broader dimensions that large organizations should explore:

  • To ‘map’ changes to existing business models as they evolve or need to pivot differently. Steve Blank has explained this in significant detail and terms as the BM dashboard that ‘indicates’ the important changes and these become the focal point of necessary discussion, knowing what is changing, to focus the thinking and see what changes need supporting differently.
  • Then why not to sketch out competitors positions to explore possible opportunity gaps. This should become one of those consistent ‘habits’ that so many large organizations often have a real blind spot to undertake, they just keep assuming nothing has ‘visibly’ changed. Then they get caught out and surprised when they see their share slipping away as the competitor has made a directional change and this was not spotted and communicated to all parties who ‘need’ to know. The BM Canvas can spot and track competitors.
  • Use it as a designing dashboard for innovations that have or could have an impact on existing business models. Whenever you have any major BM change you capture it on your BM Canvas so all above and below in the organization can picture this to see the possible risks this change might bring.
  • Use it to compare business model components across each of the countries within the organization, where more often than not different models are being applied to build businesses in multiple ways. This enables all involved to quickly focus on the differences on these operating models and how the market formation is occurring to get quickly into the strategic discussions, implications and requirements this ‘specific’ approach takes.
  • When you are pitching for internal funds having a clear BMC as the visual focal point provides the top picture that others can quickly see and appreciate the why and how – they ‘see’ the value and the $$ potential, . This can offer ‘intelligent enquiry’ not getting bogged down in detail and getting involved in the running of the business but supporting owners or business managers with different experiences and knowledge to compliment theirs, so as to conduct the type of ‘intelligent’ and strategic conversation needed, instead of many that needlessly occur today.
  • To have ready alternative scenario’s for volatile business conditions as ‘early warning scenarios’ that have mapped out potential changing conditions showing where, why and how the business model might be adjusted or radically changed. The earlier ‘warning system’ pays in volatile times that we are all facing at present to be more aware and ready of rapidly changing conditions, possibly already ‘worked up’.
  • Managing multiple portfolios of business is a complex challenge to spot ‘commonality,’ to detect change, different opportunities or simply recognizing there is a growing ‘drift’ of direction that needs addressing. You can use the BMC as the detection kit, the reoccurring adopted format practice to capture these different portfolios.
  • Rapid concept brainstorming to move into prototyping evaluation and market testing. Testing many different variations in small bite sized bets is rapid prototyping, do this through the effective use of the business model canvas. Testing fast in the actual market place new business models and then learning from them to improve the approach is absolutely critical. Get the customer involved and engaged, get your potential partners grouped around the BMC to build and extend out, the internal thinking.

The business model needs to be constantly tested for its potential in its recurring value, and it needs a canvas to constantly challenge its present position and worth.

There are multiple ways the business model canvas can be explored in exciting new visual ways so as to describe effectively in a common format and capture the wealth of different opportunities.  To invent, to communicate and explore the ‘richness’ within the potential value that is simply laying underneath the different components that make up a business model.

Let’s keep moving the conversation forward on where the business model can work in creative ways within large organizations. Do you have any further ideas?