The art of “Back Casting” needs care

Backcasting is a planning method that starts with defining a desirable future and then works backwards to identify policies and programs that will connect that specified “future to the present”. The fundamentals of the method were outlined by John. B. Robinson from the University of Waterloo in 1990. The fundamental question of backcasting asks: “if we want to attain a certain goal, what actions must be taken to get there?”

While forecasting involves predicting the future based on current trend analysis, backcasting approaches the challenge of discussing the future from the opposite direction; it is “a method in which the future desired conditions are envisioned, and steps are then defined to attain those conditions, rather than taking steps that are merely a continuation of present methods extrapolated into the future”

I have collected different views on “Backcasting”.

Those are from assorted references like Wikipedia, from past work on water and energy systems, from Natural Step, from Innosight, discussed and promoted in Mark Johnson’s book “Lead for the Future” and a really recent one from Roxi Nicolussi and her Backcasting; Creating a Strategic Roadmap for the Future” or finally here, this one “All Roads Lead From The Future Back — A Vision and Spoke Model” by Aidan McCullen. I am looking to further explore the applications applied in water, energy and climate work.

So exploring backcasting as a method

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Those that learn to frame the Strategic Innovation discussion are the big winners

discussion

Constructing an innovation conversation framework is never easy, we all come at it in different ways and when it comes to those strategic conversations, we feel a sense of panic and growing tension as our messages begin to fray at the edges and slip more into tactical, the more we talk.

If you just diving into innovations, this sort of strategic conversation can change the goalposts, alter the perspective, and can give the innovation a more focused framing to build propositions around. It enables you to stand out as you are able to articulate the “bigger picture”

The framing of an innovation conversation framework

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Sharply accelerating clean energy innovation

Today the International Energy Agency (IRA) released a long-awaited update on where innovation needs to be in the energy transition we are undergoing.

At their own admission, it has been three years since they (IEA) released its last Energy Technology Perspective (ETP) report. Although they argue they have been reflecting on the critical technology challenges, it is way overdue.

In this new report, “Energy Technology perspective: Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation” released today, 2nd July 2020, they have developed some improved modeling tools to bring a higher capacity to answer key technology questions in greater detail. This is good news.

IEA will further follow up later this year with a flagship ETP 2020 publication later in the year to keep a tighter and more consistent focus on the role and need of innovation to accelerate clean energy transitions.

They, the IEA are planning an IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit really soon to convene ministers and CEO’s to the aim of driving economic development by this more robust focus on clean, resilient, and inclusive energy systems. Continue reading

Cracking the complexity code

Cracking the complexity code of organizationsThere was a good article within the McKinsey Quarterly published way back in 2007 entitled “Cracking the complexity code,” written by three authors Suzanne Heywood, Jessica Spungin, and David Turnbull. It still has a lot of relevancy in my mind today.

They lead this article with “one view of complexity that holds that it is largely a bad thing- that simplification generally creates value by removing unnecessary costs.” Yes, we all yearn for a more simplified life, structure, organization, approach to systems or just reducing complexity in our daily lives to find time for what we view as improving its ‘quality.’

Within the article, they argue there are two types of complexity – institutional and individual.

The former concerns itself with the interactions within the organization; the latter is the way individuals or managers deal personally with complexity.

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Continuing the Energy Transition Journey

This week I have had one of those most intense periods of researching and then absorbing the material around different energy issues.

Everywhere you turn, you stumble across reports on one aspect or another of the energy transformation we are undertaking.

I am looking at this energy transition through the eyes of the innovator, as it offers so much in new solutions and designs that any innovator would love to be part of.

Energy is tackling one of the world’s toughest tasks, turning our existing energy system, reliant on fossil fuels into one based on renewables, is an enormously complex set of challenges in its goal of decarbonizing it.

There is such an innovation landscape of solutions that are contributing to the world achieving a more renewable-powered future. Technology innovation, suggested new business models, outline proposals for changing policies, processes, and market design all are being “sketched out.” It is overwhelming, but innovative solutions need to be continuously refreshed to reflect this consistent inflow of understanding, relating to the energy transition that is being undertaken. It is evident innovation must be way broader than just technological RD&D.

During this past week, I have been working through specific aspects of the energy transition model. Continue reading

Facilitating the Innovation Ecosystem Design

I do like to capture thoughts within Mind Maps. I am never sure if they work for others as the map maker does see things in his or her own way. In the end, it is seeing the other person getting it, that light bulb moment.

I have a group of Ecosystem Mind maps but I thought I’d share this one here to trigger further the thinking that needs to go into building an Innovation Ecosystem. Does it work for you? To be honest I am not sure if it conveys as much as I would like, to reflect on differences when you come to working in innovation ecosystem designs .

To get groups to think more openly about considering innovation in a more ecosystem approach to design and interaction I like to often refer to my mind maps to trigger discussions.

Sometimes it is mine, and mine alone, and I simply talk around it without showing the map, other times I show the map. The problem when you show maps, everyone works through it in their own unique way, however hard you try to get them to work through it in the way you want them too.

I have found mind maps are increasingly highly personal and it can take twice as long to explain something when you show the map to someone else. I think to put the mind map into a powerpoint “stages” it accordingly but it takes away the total map effect.

The key for me in the map shown below is to view considerations differently when you are thinking innovation ecosystems. There are your strategic considerations, there are tactical considerations and then there are value building considerations. Continue reading

Extending innovations value- appreciating the whole system.

There is always a time to reflect. It is when you have those spaces within your daily work you must take a view, a break, consider something that builds your energy up some more, to make it more resilient.

Do you stop and reflect, do you “veg” out, do you seek alternative points of stimulus or find something completely different to go and do, read a book, listen to music, take a walk, climb a mountain or simply tune-out. We need a time out for reflection.

Well, I had a reflective moment on some points I consider within innovation that need re-emphasizing.

So my reflective points were these as we always should consider the whole connected system of innovation. Continue reading

Defending Europe, including the Brits, on innovation

Europe does seem to be always lagging. You get the impression those in Europe’s leadership are beating back the waves of progress, not embracing them- it is all self-serving. They also seem to operate in a fortress mentality. They seem to be spending all their capital on trying to make this (unholy) alliance of 27 + 1 to function.

The herculean task of integrating the impossible; in rules, regulations, attempting to reduce centuries of proud independence, individual cultures to be boiled down into the Super-European one. For me, it just can’t work.

I had an incredible 15 years living in Asia and came back to Europe some years ago and noticed a real difference, in many ways it has simply gotten worse, not better. Europe has been intent on institution building, forging an EU out of all the different countries that make up the European Union. In this “obsession” it has become very inward focused, the different leaders of the individual countries are battling to save their turf, yet the world continues to turn on different axes, that Europe seems not to have grasped.

This institutional building has forgotten the people-related building where aspiration, identification, inclusion makes the transformation happen or not. The EU has forgotten to translate all its work into true meaning for the people, believing in a worthwhile future. In Asia, you feel vibrancy, energy, opportunism, dynamism, that chance to get “part of the action”, here in Europe you sense a drifting, a separation, and growing fragmentation. Continue reading