The value of the visiting consultative fireman

Keep calm I am the visiting firemanI was reflecting on the value and role of consultants and have written here, here and here on this. These thoughts have covered the topics of suggesting different consulting models, exploring the shifts taking place in consulting and where consulting can contribute. Then I offered a post late last year under the title of “client engagement- full of whipped cream and lumpy gravy?

So in this post I will reflect and look at the visiting fireman here, the ones I experienced in the corporate world. I still believe they are far from endangered species.

Consultants hold a specific fascination for me, they come in all shapes and sizes, offering a bewildering array of solutions for your business.

For many clients, consultants have become ‘totally essential’  yet for others a necessary evil. Today with far less resource within our business to call upon and coping with increasing pressure on time there is also this total reluctance to employ someone on the books, it is better to bring it in on an ‘as and when’ basis. Keep it lean and mean, charge it off against that years operating expenses, don’t bring it onto the longer-term books.

Mostly the consultants knowledge leaves when they do Continue reading

There are no easy innovation answers.

Inspiration and InnovationIn response to a recent post of mine, Tobias Stapf on the Social Innovation Europe LinkedIn networking group, pointed me to a really good report “Innovation Is Not the Holy Grail” and I really have appreciate it. I wanted to draw out some useful learning from this report and useful reminders here in this post that there is no easy answers in innovation, social or business related.

The report outlines the difficulties of enabling innovation in social sector organizations. In this review the authors undertook exploring what enables organization capacity for continuous innovation in established social sector organizations, that operate at an efficient scale, delivering products and services.

Three oversights that conflict in working in the social innovation area Continue reading

So why are we not facing up to the big challenges of today?

Societal ChallengesPerhaps why innovation feels somewhat flat (well for me) is our organizations and societies are utterly failing to allow us all to step up in innovation to tackle the massive, growing problems that are swirling all around us.

We need to shake out of our lethargy and really begin to attempt to solve the real issues of our time. Some organizations are clearly working on and trying to draw attention and gain greater engagement but we need a much greater concerted effort to focus on the big societal challenges.

Global warming, rising health issues, finally cracking cancer, malaria, dementia, finding different solutions to the ageing within society. How are we going to tackle the rapidly depleting natural resources, the future conflicts over water, food, or energy . These are big, hairy, audacious gaps to be resolved.

Many are avoiding the need too stare hard into the future as we are not re-equipping everyone with skills that combine inventiveness, innovation and creativity that contributes into their communities, we have got stuck in the “me”. A reality of depletion is racing towards us and it is not a pretty sight. Continue reading

So are we in a trough of innovation disillusionment?

BoredomYou get this increasing sense that the ‘fizz’ has gone out of the innovation bubbly. The innovation party presently feels a little flat; the numerous delicious canapés to choose from are turning up at the edges as we are becoming disillusioned, just being fed on a present unexciting incremental innovation diet, lacking any real substance.

People are milling around with that bored look on their faces, some are also slumped down checking their watch or smart phones on when is the best time to cut out and find somewhere else to be, rather than be here. Has the fizz gone from innovation?

Are we being moved by innovation any more?

Is innovation becoming a boring place to be seen for hanging out and being involved in? Are we all feeling that there is less creative buzz going around? Perhaps, it depends for each of us yet collectively you might agree we do feel something is definitely missing. The excitement has left the room, innovation has become too predictable. Continue reading

Gaining idea engagement can be a five step process.

Having conversations 3I have been recently revisiting Everett Rogers work on diffusion and adoptions recently, evaluating if it has the same relevance in my mind in our more connected world, where speed, knowledge and exchanges are measured in micro seconds.

This reminded me of a suggestion I made some time back and I thought I’d ‘air’ this again for engaging with others.

We constantly fall into the trap of not providing our listener enough of a reason to ‘buy into’ our thoughts. We forget to either pitch it to their mental framework or we do not provide a set of compelling arguments that allows our idea a mutual recognition of its value or structure, to take it forward and transform it into something tangible and valuable.

I think using Rogers rate of diffusion principles you can end up offering a fairly powerful positioning statement. Continue reading

Learning favours the brave

Knowledge and learning 4The challenges we are facing today seem to be coming faster at us, more complex to decipher and then re-evaluate how we should respond. To achieve faster response we certainly need to educate the organization more than ever.

We need to absorb more, we need to encourage learning more especially to pursue innovation. We need to actively set up learning ways within our organizations to establish their abilities to recognize the value of new, external information (knowledge), to assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends.

Innovation within the organization needs not just greater recognition of its vital parts, but also of its status as a value enhancing and organizational life-changing event that we need to move towards increasingly in more organized ways. Innovation needs to be recognized as a clear discipline, a new expertise that is as powerful as Marketing became some decades ago.

Seeking out knowledge that feeds our innovations

Knowledge and learning 3The more we embrace change and recognize innovation demands more of our time, the more we seek out knowledge that ‘feeds’ innovation. And the more we ‘push’ for learning, the greater chance we have of thriving in a challenging world.

The expectation ‘bar’ needs to be raised from those practicing innovation, I feel the constant need is for those working within innovation they have this real need to raise their game significantly. Innovation needs organizing but it also needs a better understanding of its contributing parts.

Learning and Education should always start at home.

The earlier we learn, have open interactions and form linkages, the more we will be ready to advance innovation into what it must become: a discipline highly valued for what it contributes with in terms of wealth and growth potential.

We need to find the determination to underpin the capacity for innovation, lying within us all, and that comes from knowledge and education through collaborative learning. So what is your capacity for innovation really like within your organization? Is the learning required for innovation set up in structured ways or left to individual learning and experimentation?

Do either structured or informal ways feed back into the organizational learning system to benefit others? Or is the knowledge gained just left ‘resident’ in the person, not being put to that greater use?

Knowledge exchange is the way forward but we need to avoid the easy paths.

Knowledge and learning 2Organizations need to move well beyond their lazy reliance on best practice comparison and they need to find better ways to explore emerging practices. But that takes many into the realm of increasing uncertainties, and most people and organizations are not trained for this exploration and experimentation.

It is easy to copy but we often fail to recognize all the contextual factors that went into making it that one specific organizations good practice, and I guarantee these are not yours!

Best practice has their comparable uses but it is your focusing on the good and emerging practices within your own organization is the area to focus, for learning and wanting to improve into those that make your practices really work. Then applying, experimenting and learning from novel practices that provide growing confidence in creative thinking.

Also give some thought for next practice, those practices that prompt reinvention. They start such totally fresh thinking, they challenge existing paradigms and move you towards considering new business models.

Organizations constantly anticipate risk by reducing all the variables within risk and play safe with just being incremental. Is that wrong? No, as long as we have our reward systems geared to short-term performance, while we measure leadership success the way we presently do, and the shareholder just expects consistent dividends as their part of the equation and is quickly mobilized to force change if it does not meet this immediate aim, we head down the wrong path.

We are not sustaining our organization and we are not advancing ourselves either, we are destroying much in our current approaches. We do need to focus more on the competence-enhancing not competence-destroying aspects.

We need to re-balance the “risk and opportunity” to push our use of new knowledge into fresh innovation that ‘advances’ on the existing. To recognize the difference we need to encourage knowledge to be ‘freely’ exchanged, and then provide the environment to encourage a re-educating on ‘seeing and exploring’ new possibilities that allow us to grow.

Shifting the knowledge needle takes real commitment

Knowledge and learning 1Can we recognize that choosing the tougher pathway of building our own distinct capabilities, learning block by learning block, is the right one to follow. This allows us to build capacities that are ours, seeking out the knowledge to build the absorptive capacity that acquire, assimilate, transform and exploit, so as to give us greater chances of finding new innovation that is valued and allows us all to grow and gain from this dedicated learning.

I can’t change our prevailing system but I can point to alternatives and suggest we have other options, ones pursued by the few, which are more visionary and brave and often disrupting the accepted. These are building on novel and unique practices, extracted not from others best practices but from emerging practices learn by deliberate design and our own personal experiences, formed within our organizations unique view of the ‘take of and place in’ the world.

Finding our own way relies mostly on us to find the answers. We grow by seeking out knowledge as it feeds our minds to find our unique ways to contribute and share.