Are we playing snakes and ladders with innovation?

Snakes and Ladders 1Have you ever played snakes and ladders? Called chutes and ladders in the US. A number of “ladders” and “snakes” are pictured on the board, each connecting two specific board squares.

The object of the game is to navigate one’s game piece, according to dice rolls, from the start (bottom square) to the finish (top square), helped or hindered by ladders and snakes respectively.

Originally from India the game is a simple race contest based on sheer luck and I am beginning to wonder if we are playing a new version of this with innovation? This is called “bust or boom” or “success or failure” or even “maybe or maybe not,” or even “will we, won’t we.” It just all depends on our luck in rolling the dice, a serendipity with a darker twist that many companies seem to be playing with their innovation capability building.

The game came to mind as I read through a recent survey on Innovation

I have just been reading an Innovation report / survey from Accenture called “Clear Vision, Cloudy Execution” and I really do think we are playing with innovation as a game, it has some really serious implications within it that need more drawing out than possibly offered in my view. We should be getting worried that many bigger companies are losing the innovation game.

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Closing the innovation leadership gap

Closing the Innovation Leadership GapWe cannot get away from the reality that in most of our organizations we have a disconnect going on around innovation.

Research shows a lack of engagement around innovation by non-managers, also there are claims through studies that 7 out of 10 of employees do not understand how they can make a worthwhile contribution.

The cynicism around innovation has turned it into nothing more than a buzzword for many, not taken with the seriousness that it really deserves for sustaining growth within organizations and achieving broader engagement to make this happen.

Innovation is treated as more the opportunity taken when it fits and works, often toned down when it does not. There is often a total lack of sustaining strategic commitment to innovation.It is just not integrated into the core of the organization.

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Warm and Fuzzy at the Front End of Innovation

Warm and fuzzy inside

Perhaps I have fallen into the very trap I have campaigned about in the past, in recognizing and resolving the disappointing results we achieve from all the work we put into the front end of innovation. The “warm and fuzzy” front end of innovation can make us all a little grumpy.

Let me explain. I recently wrote out a newsletter – termed a thought or two – to my innovation network. This network is split between the advisers and consultants delivering into clients and the clients themselves, that I have a connections into that have built over the years. These are mostly through knowing them, working with them, exchanging or simply connecting in LinkedIn. The subject was the changes occurring at the front end of innovation.

My argument was the results we have obtained from a disconnected set of front end activities was poorer than they should be, and this needs changing. I feel there is a real shift potential happening today through connecting technology and connected solutions to ‘transform’ this front end. My feeling is the front end is often “warm and fuzzy” and it needs to be radically redesigned. I wrote about “hearing all the voices of ideas at the front end and the “two distinct parts of the innovation funnel” building from my original post “the new extended innovation funnel“, written in 2011.

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Achieving a Level of Fluidity

fluidy 8There is this constant set of discussions about changing structures and models to become more adaptive, agile, lean, flexible and fluid; to react and deal with the increasing turbulence occurring all around us.

We all sense this pressing need to react and become more responsive, becoming more adaptive to changing environments and business challenges, that are often unknown, unexpected, or not yet explored or exploited. The question is how much and how far can we go?

Organizations are facing increasing a dilemma in how they organize and manage within their systems and structures.They are being forced to deal in increasingly complexity and environmental turbulence and ‘adapting the appropriate response’ remains increasingly a difficult one to master, within the existing regime they have in place.

On the one hand the value in stability is still essential; working within specific routines and practices gives a clear ‘path dependence.’ This stability allows for efficiencies and effectiveness to be constantly at practice, constantly building the problem-solving processes, to master tasks in complex environments to resolve ‘known’ problems in ‘given’ ways but this relies on this stable flow and that is not the case of much of what we have to handle today.

We are being challenged more and more on this efficiency and effectiveness focus. It is often not working to deliver the results. We are missing a new way of working. Continue reading

Caught in the Headlights of Disruptive Innovation.

Exploding DsruptionThis past weekend I had an extended period of re-reading about the effects of disruption that seems to be occurring across all points of business, our politics, our governments, it seems across our lives.

I had been looking forward to a nice break up in the mountains of Switzerland, in a place near St.Moritz for five days of some walking, catching up with good friends over some great meals.

The evenings playing different card games or board games, as the temperatures dropped outside to minus six centigrade, the competitive nature raised the inside temperatures significantly. All good plans sometime get disrupted.

Regretfully a few days before, I ‘pulled’ some ligaments around the knee and this rendered the walking to some pretty tame stuff but the company, food and drink seemed to compensated a little I must admit, it eased the pain.

So I had some time on my hands so I decided to go back over the whole area of disruption to get a broader understanding and how this is driving so much within our innovation activity at present.

Disruption is all around us, coming at ever-faster speeds Continue reading