Applying the Three Horizon Thinking to a Fresh Perspective of Innovation Design

There is huge value in applying the three horizon framework into your thinking. It is as useful a framework that you can get, to help decide where you are heading.

It is not just for innovation application, that can determine innovation activities. It has multiple values in any organization thinking and alignment.

The 3H informs the decisions to be taken, by recognizing their importance to the future and ‘frame’ resource allocation, identify current capability gaps to resolve.

It helps to enable the whole organization to “get onto the same page” and move towards that desired future.

This 3H thinking helps break down complex issues. Thinking in different horizons prompts you to go beyond the usual focus of fixing innovation just in the present it provides the connections of the present with the desired future. The 3H builds portfolio design, outline the steps to resolve in any complex challenge, it ‘informs’ strategy and builds the business case for taking a specific direction to that ‘desired future’.

If you want to read more on the three horizons then take some time out to explore the “insights and thinking” resource page shown under the ‘tabs’ above.

I recently applied the three horizons thinking to ‘frame’ a new innovation design

Using the 3H you have to have a ‘reasonable’ framing intent, those essential guidelines that can provide “the Wireframe (a concept taken from thinking about a UX backbone) for establishing the basic design and activity process. It forms the foundation to move forward with a ‘united’ purpose, it gives the essential backbone to your future thinking. This is a useful way to think about the initial 3H outcome. We capture those signals around us today that can point to a very different future.

So the thinking intent of searching for a new innovation design had some framing assumptions that can leverage where we are to move towards a new future

  • In my view, we must go way beyond “open innovation” as we practice it today. There is a real need for a broader ecosystem approach that taps into a constellation of diverse and specialized players that all come together around a particular challenge, collaborating to deliver growing complex solutions that offer real growth value for the client.

I would argue this fits within a constellation of partners all working towards delivering innovation that is highly valuable, radical, disruptive and distinctive. A network of highly vested ecosystem partners all working towards a common goal on behalf of the organization that holds the principal intellectual property, as the founding partner.

I believe one option to seriously consider is you can project this forward as becoming an ecosystem arrangement with a multitude of agents participating in resolving complex challenges, sharing their individual knowledge. The ecosystem sets about pooling their collective expertise, working in a collaborative creative environment, built on a platform design, where the development and commercialization of the process are established, mutually understood on who shares or owns what and driven to a co-created proposition. The significant outcome being a collective approach to working on creating real value creation, one that delivers on the expertise and passion infused into this.

  • We recognize today we need to be highly adaptive in what innovation applications, processes, tools, and frameworks can be used, or possibly “grabbed” then why not perhaps from the innovation cloud and ‘drawn down’  into the individually designed innovation process we believe we need. Applying transformative applications at speed requires the approach to rapid experimentation, frequent iteration, and close collaboration between those involved. Adapting agile management to empower a more dynamic collaborative environment, using all that is available to you, intelligently and appropriately.  Designing a process that looks capable of delivering the challenge or idea but can also be updated and adjusted, as we learn and go.
  • We also know today that innovation management itself must become “fluid” in design, in adaptation so the right approach is to be constantly ‘adaptive’ and put together what is needed to tackle the challenge that needs resolution. A constant redesign to meet the circumstances seems to be a goal of what we achieve in any new innovation design.

So we have a series of questions to ask and explore based on this ‘premise’

  • It will be how and where a business or entities of business come together and see where people, things, and knowledge understanding that is often fragmented and dispersed, can be combined, and where the mutual value is based on the unique combination and utilizing the different technologies available. This needs designing in unique ways, not in rigid processes and structures, expected to be repeated and only achieving incremental advancement. Each innovation challenge is unique and needs to be treated so.
  • I think applying a digital mindset is clearly a transformational phenomenon across much of the existing business today. The unique combining of the cloud, big data, social streaming, the internet of things, mobility, the industrial internet, are all making this the time for new growth opportunities, exploited through this digital economy and require a radical overhaul of the design today, to realize the benefits. Where is innovation within this? Innovation needs to embrace digital fully.
  • Can we find ways to be highly adaptable, agile and fluid in grabbing and taking the parts of the innovation system, and then constructing them into that design and process that works for that specific challenge? We build a process that relates to the problem at hand in its structure, offering the suggested process needed in frames, tools, process designs that you adapt to each challenge.

Becoming adaptive in organizations that are often highly rigid and standardized is so conflicting, so different, you must separate the two that many are arguing even stronger today than ever, offering a dual innovation process or organization design to exploit and explore.

  • We recognize that Innovation today conflicts with much of our existing organizational designs. We need to separate it out and recognize it can be highly fluid and adaptive to extract the best, not to be constantly forced to be compromised by constraints within the system.
  • We also know innovation involves a more abstract thinking, as we are increasingly focused on “engineering our business in new and different ways” and this becomes the new goal of providing a clear uniqueness, a real competitive edge that is purposefully designed in our innovation systems, to meet specific needs.

So there is this growing need to have a new cycle of innovative design.

So in my premise, I believe we need a really radical way forward on innovation, a highly adaptive solution, where all these solution parts are available on demand, constantly adjusting and adaptable to the situation you have to resolve.

Does this recognition of the growing importance of platforms and ecosystems, of designing with more of a digital “eye” be able to shape any future innovation design? What type of innovation intelligence platform can be built so multiple ecosystems can form around it? It needs to be one that is integrated and connected up; in tools, methodologies, frameworks, in solution providers and collaborative clients, all working on common problems with data intelligence, feeding into their decision-making process, evolving the discovery and the needs required through innovation, by what they are “intelligently” learning and exploring

There is a sequence to work through within the 3H thinking, shown here to help in this

So as my initial outputs in thinking I came through this 3H sequence (H1- H3- H2) in establishing my “wireframe”.

You might recall, the aim of understanding the 3H is to recognize differences between horizons; H1 is often seen as the prevailing or dominating system and what it needs to deal with for sustaining those parts that have value, validate the purpose or need a “refit” as the external environment changes over time. With H3 there is a need to build the desired future state, the ideal system we believe will transform and allow us to grow and then begin to explore the options of what and how we get there.

Often that future understanding is clearly present in the existing, as commonly referred too as “weak signals” or blind spots, these are often hidden amid the noise of delivering on today. We need to amplify these signals and harness the ones that have become emerging in practice that challenge our thinking. These help us to figure out what is changing.

H2 aims to draw out often the conflicting tensions and dilemmas between vision and reality and determine differences, distinctions to manage diverse views, that often can collide & diverge. H2 is the place you experiment, build and strengthen the existing (H1) but explore the concepts, prototypes, fill the missing gaps in your capabilities to move you towards H3, validating and adjusting in what you are learning as you go.  Hence why you work H1- H3- H2 as the sequence.

The absolute underscoring of this is to raise “future consciousness with a common awareness of the future potential within the present” It is to gain common identification and sense of purpose, both at an individual, team and organizational level.

Often within our ‘business as usual’ attitudes, there actually lie the seeds of destruction. Today there is a relentless pace; we are facing a relentless change occurring. 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.

The underlying need in searching for a future ‘desired state’ in innovation design is we do need to recognize that Innovation is constantly facing disruption; it is constantly going through life cycles and new waves of different activities and business invention, we begin decay faster today than ever. We run increasing risk that we begin to lose any dominance or competitive position increasingly. We need to innovate, to evolve, to sustain ourselves and maintain our market positions in a rapidly evolving world. To cope with this accelerating world we need to ‘go digital’ in any innovation design.

Here are my opening thoughts framed in the three horizons thinking I undertook.

Horizon One – keeping the lights on, managing today but moving forward

We have to recognize that innovation will certainly not get any easier; it will be faster, more demanding and a heck of a lot more risky to design, create and execute.

Without a doubt, digital and physical do operate at really very different speeds. We need not only a new innovation management system, we need a modern engagement platform.

At the moment innovation is seriously lagging in its potential as we have failed to “connect it all up.” Yet it is not just a need to simply connect up, we have this need to redesign innovation from the bottom up in its design to ‘account’ for all the changes that have ‘advanced’ our understandings.

 We need to leverage technology in significant ways to automate the process and capitalize on the power of data, intelligence, and flexible design delivered in highly adaptive ways.

We know a lot about innovation and its needs – in culture, environment, treatment, processes, collaboration and aligning to customer needs and being integrated into any strategic intention of the business, going forward, to deliver the new growth ‘called for’.

Horizon Three – confirming future aspects and realities to move towards

I think we need to see a greater advance in multiple Business models, each will not stand alone, they will interlock in intelligent ways, to benefit from scale that becomes the essential need and greater appreciation of sharing services, jointly working towards common outcomes.

These strategic connections will open-up due to collaborating in different partnerships those opportunities for shared cost of new channel developments, building their part of the value propositions, driven through common back office services.

These will increasingly rely on platform management to manage these and partners within ecosystems to come together to achieve more complex solutions that advance customer experience.

The growing pressure will be demanded to find solutions that provide a cohesive and business-focused approach to the new social enterprise where we seek engagement at scale into multiple arrays of communities and advocates that has data and innovation as their operating core.

Horizon Two – the zone of conflict to resolve and work through.

As we recognize that the enterprise will need to move towards a design that is constantly evolving, adapting, adjusting and reacting. We need to design our systems to be highly agile. Systems that allow people to make their decisions based on the data they can access and predict a result.

This needs to be designed so it will be totally redistributed down to the person that is the interface so they can have decision authority, to seize breaking opportunities and achieving customer satisfaction far more quickly than in the past.

It will be how and where a business or entities of business come together and see where ‘people, things and their business offering’ can come together for mutual value based on the unique combination of the different technologies available.

We go and simply ‘grab them’ to fit the innovation we are working upon. We design the innovation system we need after we know what we are trying to achieve the challenge or idea. We “pull down” what is needed. Can we design a totally ‘adaptive’ innovation process to fit the specific need?

Moving from the present H1 into a world of Ecosystems and Platform collaborations, calling for a different innovation design.

There will be a constant evolving evaluation of the assets both internal and externally that make up this digital world (people, the business, and things) that will take this out beyond the control of one company, into a system within a larger system to make it works at a far constantly evolving speed, gaining adoption and appreciation of the value of being connected and collaborative.

We need to adapt our system thinking to the challenge identified, not the other way around, that of trying to fit them into a generically designed process. It should be each real challenge needs the innovation system design that is unique to fit the mission; highly adaptive, designed to the business need and the innovation discovery that helps fulfill the mission. It adjusts and you learn.

The dizzy array of strategic choices will totally disrupt existing business models if they are right in their design. We can scale a concept faster than ever, we can utilize others for resources, we can collaborate in highly agile, flexible and fluid ways. We are partnering more than ever, how can we accelerate that? How can we design innovation purposefully to work within this digital world, where (global) scope, scale, and speed are being demanded?

In summary

The whole world of communicating, transacting and designing all the different negotiations and products that meet the immediate needs of the customer makes this the “digital business era”, where constant redesigning and orchestrating the parts will keep it at the forefront by a constantly evolving set of combinations and leveraging a network of diverse capabilities.

All of this ‘calls for’ a radically new innovative design, built upon the digital age and the technologies available, as well as flexible enough to adapt into the future to provide a more dynamic innovation process, not one that today is very static in its present form. We need to make this case for change, as well as search for the mechanisms of that change.

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One thought on “Applying the Three Horizon Thinking to a Fresh Perspective of Innovation Design

  1. Thank you, Paul, for a very compelling and actionable strategy framework for innovation design. I intend to apply it in a platform I’m planning for next year. I hope I can offer useful observations for you and your readers during the run-up.

    Like

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