Exploring the Rich Tapestry within the Three Horizon Framework

3H Halley Comet and Bayeux TapestryWithin our ‘business as usual’ attitudes, there actually lies the seeds of destruction. Today there is a relentless pace; we are facing stagnation in many maturing markets if we don’t evolve.

Yet we actually subvert the future to prolong the life of the existing. We need to frame our innovation needs differently for exploring and exploiting innovation across different time horizons to move beyond the usual.

Commonality within innovation is becoming increasingly important. We need to build clear common languages of innovation, frameworks, methods and approaches.

There is a pressing need to frame innovation in different ways, to meet change that lies in the future. We are in need to clarify our options and this requires multiple thinking horizons to work through to deliver a richer tapestry of innovation discovery.

Innovation is constantly facing disruption; it is constantly going through life cycles and new waves of different activities and we begin decay faster today than ever. We run an increasing risk that we begin to lose any dominance or competitive position increasingly. We need to innovate to sustain ourselves and maintain our market positions in a rapidly evolving world.

The key requires us to manage this transition, not let others manage it for us. We need a far more robust, well thought-through way to apply our innovation resources to meet and anticipate these changing events. It is how we manage this transition becomes so critical.

The three horizon framework needs to become the innovation space for dialogues, planning, portfolio debates, differentiating the distinctions between the three time line perspectives and generally arguing for inclusion, the value and importance of the thinking and then applying the appropriate resources needed in the management of innovation across these three different timelines.The 3H framework is a powerful enabler.

The value of the weak signals needs amplifying

We need to exploit developing trends that are emerging in the different but future horizons and begin to tune in and discover the emerging possible options in the future.

The discussions in any forecasting or futuristic planning often have conflicting views of the future, compared to the existing realities based on those products and services that are providing the returns for today’s business. Yet the future is also equally rooted in the present, often called ‘weak signals’

I am a great follower of Dave Snowden’s thinking and work over at www.cognitive-edge.com on “making sense of complexity in order to act” which includes SenseMaker® and the Cynefin Framework, which I have written upon in its value, in this post “use of the Cynefin model for innovation” ,and within his work equally are clear views of managing change.

Dave Snowden’s has a view that works for me in applying the thinking around the three horizons, this fits so well. He argues instead of trying to tackle the unknowable, as it is inherently unknowable, he rightly suggests 1) we fully explore the evolutionary potential of the present, 2) bring in as wide an engagement of views to find a more sustainable or resilient set of solutions to emerge and 3) in his view, and most probably the most important point, it is how you build the narrative and descriptors, as the danger becomes the more you attempt to predict and evaluate, the more you can close down options, some far too early.

He suggests the more you can hold onto this descriptive level, the longer you have in widening the range of intervention points as more knowledge becomes available. You spend less time on (predicting) outcomes and more time on measuring vectors (velocity, acceleration, magnitude, force of direction) which for me, allows the progressive build of the right future capabilities, in more evolving and evolutionary ways of learning from exploring and experimenting, the key transition point of Horizon 2 (h2).

Resisting the early decision.

It is often the cases we can detect change but we consciously ignore it or dismiss it out of hand. This is often the place where the disruptor is presently at work, both existing or new competitors, exploring or exploiting different options, working at displacing your products and market positions. The combinations of new technologies, concepts and business models are constantly emerging and we need to be pioneers these as well as detect them as they emerge, anticipating the change these might bring and focus on building the capacity and capabilities to advance on your own curve of understanding.

We need to separate and structure different mindsets to developing innovation capabilities to explore and prepare for the future, as well as deepen the exploration, to leverage the present. Structuring the approach, by looking across multiple horizons, allow you to evolve the entire innovation portfolio and begin to recognise the many gaps that exist within your thinking, within your capabilities and capacities to innovate.

Separating the horizon lenses

By looking at this through separate horizon lenses does equally assist you in allocating the appropriate but usually different resources that are needed to be applied, to each of the time horizons and challenges that are identified and lie within them.

The three horizon framework has the clear intent to grow awareness and offer a better understanding of how innovation works and fits, with also its great value for clarifying the structuring and allocation of innovation’s management. It can be used for portfolio alignment, resource structuring and the mechanism for broad dialogue of explaining decisions and describing the growing consensus of the future direction.

The three horizon framework  can offer a vital part within all the organisations thinking around working through its innovation ambitions, not just for the present but for the future and how these can transition, connecting the reality of the present with the concepts of the future.

The need is we all should make the case that different types of innovation operate and evolve over different time horizons and need thinking through differently.

The three horizon framework  goes well beyond simply a planning tool, it does provide a valuable evolutionary perspective that dialogues can be formed around, so decisions on where to focus and what resources need to be applied can be made for delivering a constantly evolving ‘state’ of innovation development. Dialogues that deliver that then get translated into more plausible and coherent set of activities, projected into the future, searching for emerging winners that can change and challenge your existing business.

The three horizon framework is about having strategic conversations about the future, that feeds the discussions about your innovation direction, shaping the longer-term portfolio and capability understandings. It is increasingly vital to understand all of its ways to contribute to your innovation developments and needs.

Its value – if well-managed – can offer a helpful way for a significant series of dialogues and tensions to surface, but through this engagement and respect for different positions, you can find mutual ways of connecting your innovation activities and resolve these different opinions, emerging over the different horizons and diverse thinking. You are managing uncertainty in better ways, as a team or organisation through this framing dialogue.

If you would like to explore all the different ways that give the three horizons framework a much richer return in its value and use, then let me know.

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One thought on “Exploring the Rich Tapestry within the Three Horizon Framework

  1. Pingback: Reflecting on our innovation practices | Paul4innovating's Innovation Views

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