Putting some dynamic tension back into the innovation system

I have been having some writers block recently and I was not sure how to unlock some random thoughts I was having in the past weeks, then in a great conversation I had today, with a fellow innovation colleague, it started to “reveal itself” in where I needed to go to give a new sense of repurpose.

A collaboration is being mooted between us but until there is a point of common understanding much stays under partial wraps until we both get to a more comfortable point, where we feel it can go for us but it certainly triggered this post as a starter.

The thinking hinges around the state of innovation today, how it is fragmenting in  a myraid of parts, all seemingly contributing; yet it seems learning has been replaced by personalized experience and the chase for individual knowledge. Mostly this does not get embedded back in the company, the ones who are paying for this exposure.

I was wondering if there was a decent ‘return on investment’ being made by the company or was it just being front-loaded on the individual, so they gain and then can take that understanding elsewhere, or simply set up their own shop of ‘innovation expertise’. The ROI and the Return on Learning seemed to be mostly heading out of the door, leaving the organization that made the investment, devoid of a return.

My feeling is this should change and we firstly establish a “System of Record” for innovation that brings the individual learning into a collective one, a “system of collective engagement” that enables all within the system to gain from and design innovation solutions, from a more ‘whole’ system thinking perspective, that gives innovation sustaining power connecting the individual to the organizations needs. Continue reading

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Choosing your direction of travel

In the past week or so, I have been looking a little harder at the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industry relating to innovation, it left me a little frustrated.

I felt that warm and fuzzy feeling, as I read all too often those comforting words or platitudes of how “innovation is vital to us” and one of the “highest areas of focus.” Yet as you then listen to the voices of the very leaders within these industries in interviews, or read on blogs, or in discussing what are the challenges they face, it does seem somewhat hollow. You know they are nowhere at the point of really understanding the potential of the changes that could take place within adopting a broader view on all aspects of innovation.

Nearly all in these current companies making up the Chemical and Pharmaceuticals sectors are well past their prolific era, the discovery part is bogged down in slow growth, expensive development costs and regulatory conditions. Blockbusters seem a thing of the past but perhaps they don’t need to be with a very different innovative approach.

You do get tired of hearing “we are looking to become a value-creating solution provider”, yet the willingness to really create collaborative networks is still stuck in the “us and them” mentality. The thinking through on the contribution around innovation needs to be changed.

The two industries are struggling in finding new operating models to adapt to a different, changing world. They are not yet tuned into those more integrated systems of collaboration, where platforms and ecosystems are critical to making improved progress, advanced by multiple contributions to the discovery and exploration stages, where there is a new potential force of collaborative breakthroughs. So from what I can see so far, change is highly constrained:

Evolution is slow, revolution is seemingly non-existent due to narrow vested interests.
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The limitations, criticisms and new pathways for Design Thinking – Part two

This is part two of my thoughts that came out of investigating and researching design thinking in the past couple of weeks. Part one is here.

Within these two posts, I want to provide my thoughts, bridging the present and pointing towards a better design thinking future, one that in my opinion, is urgently needed.

These two posts are not intended as a mapping of the present DT landscape, they are reflective posts coming from what I researched.

The ‘product of my work’ itself is presently being worked through to be available as an e-book in the coming weeks. It has not been easy and often I found a level of confusion that kept forcing me to dig some more and I’m still not sure I have the answers, perhaps just lots of open questions. I think design thinking seems presently fairly messy and I feel is in need of a complete reset.

The intent of the e-book is to offer a practical, direct takeaway of design thinking, more of the present practices and then where it is possibly heading. I tried to go linear, gone circular, gone holistic and at times ballistic and sought out tactical and strategic design, recognizing how its orientation has moved through product, service, experience, business model and is lifting design into new ways of orientation at tactical and strategic levels.

As I found out from my research, there is an awful amount of “noise” and “hype to work through to find the past, present and future positions of design thinking. In summary, I think design thinking is undergoing a revolution, a certain maturing but it is littered with a very messy, highly competitive present. Continue reading

Relating to the New Innovation Era

I firmly believe we are on the cusp of a new innovation era. When you step back and recognize all the different advancements we have been making in designing tools and frameworks, in understanding innovation, it holds promise.

Yet it is this recognition that the present is not working anymore with existing innovation systems, you do need to search for a real lasting change that does transform and connect all the parts into a new innovation designed ‘whole’. There are a number of intersections and driving forces that are coming together and what is emerging is this new innovation era. Now we have to weave them together.

Of course, much of what we have will still remain. We are still in need of finding innovations that provide new products, services or business models. These outcomes remain constant, it is the way we approach these that is in need of being seen as dramatically different. We require a more evolutionary, fresh perspective.

The sad part is that many of our existing consulting firms offer solutions that are unfit for todays need, or ill-equipped for offering advice on tomorrow’s purpose and the designs necessary. Equally, nearly all our larger business organizations are still locked in the past, or attempting to catch up to the present but in random ways. This does need a real change but can we achieve it?

Innovation is advancing but most of it has been designed for a different time, the old era of stable markets, predictable solutions and having a clear sense of your competition. All that has changed dramatically. We have all been trying (very hard) to stay relevant in an ever-increasing uncertain world, applying solutions left over from a past era. Something has had to suffer and I believe this is our innovation outcomes, that are not shifting the growth needle as we keep our innovation systems and thinking trapped in the 20th-century mindset. Continue reading

Advancing My Applied Innovation Thinking

I wrote a post “Needing to Think Applied Innovation Services” recently, it was extending my view that innovation needs to change. We need to think of managing innovation in different ways, we need to automate it and in addition, augment it. I suggested in that post “we need to pull down what is needed” and design a totally ‘adaptive’ innovation process to fit a specific need.

I argued we need to think differently about how we manage innovation. It needs to be more radical in design, actually, it needs to be far more up to date and in tune with the technology progress we recommend so much to others! Innovation systems are lagging, they should be leading in their design and connectivity.

What I mean by this is it needs to begin to ‘account’ for cognitive solutions that can augment and help automate our present highly manual innovation systems. I know we have some good software for different parts of the innovation process but none of these are integrated, fully connected up in their design. We still work in piecing them together. We lose significant collaborative opportunities and speed due to this mostly disjointed innovation approach. Surely this has to change?

We need to bring innovation and its process up to date. With cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, cloud-based solutions, purposefully designed apps and specific tools and frameworks, we do need to begin to stretch our imaginations further and flex our technology and app solutions more towards providing a better, more connected innovation process. I want to see a new innovation era happen.

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The innovation value lies within the new system

Image credit: the film “the Core”

Core capabilities have upsides and downsides. As many of our business organizations seek to optimize their processes across the company, they are constantly reaching more outside to gain growing partnerships and greater innovation interactions. They are looking to complement and reinforce existing capabilities through more open innovation thinking and approaches but is that enough?

One focus area is on value chain optimization, another on customer engagement, yet the one that has the potential to really transform the innovation process lies in the partnerships emerging from reaching back into established suppliers, but also by tapping into the broader network of knowledge that can be found in reaching out to the innovation community of start-ups, venture capitalists, research institutions and other key players, capable of fostering and delivering innovation in unique and diverse collaborations. The collaborating edges are becoming our new core.

The core is far more found at the edge, in the collaborating capability and networks we form and this needs very different organizational design. Continue reading

Are We Crushing Real Innovation?

Well, this morning I came across an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, entitled “America has become so anti-innovation – it’s economic suicide written by Ben Tarnoff, a writer on technology and politics, living in San Fransisco.

This article did disturb me, it triggered a number of validations in my own mind. Once you get past the opening rant about the infamous Juicero juicer, that has now been used as an illustration of how investors funded something that automates something that you can do faster by hand.

The article opens up the doors to questioning much that is going on under the Silicon Valley umbrella. The juicer got funding of $120m from a number of blue-chip VC’s but it was not this that actually disturbs me, it was this “ant-innovation” tag the writer was attaching to (North) America.

The article goes deeper in questioning where we are in our innovation thinking. We do have a real innovation growth dilemma that we can’t lay at the door of Silicon Valley alone, it is part of the Western world’s current sickness. It has lost that ability to take a positive risk in so much, ‘kicking the can down the road’ for others to resolve, be these societal, educational, health, infrastructural or institutional reforming and so much more. All really important innovation opportunities. Continue reading