Is innovation really important to you?

How can we establish Innovation as the vital link to a process of change and strategic direction options? One that lifts the debates of managing today’s business by linking it into the future and then turning this thinking into a series of plausible and coherent set of activities?

Innovation can drive change, change is required.  Without innovation, we progressively die, as we provide no option for change, no prospects of new, different growth. So why does it continually fail to happen?

We innovators certainly need a new model of change, for at least eight important reasons I can think of, that render what we have practiced in the past as obsolete: Continue reading

Reflecting on our innovation practices

reflecting-on-our-innovation-practicesInnovation has been rapidly changing and much of its basics have been swallowed up by some newly defining frameworks that have raced up to the top of the innovation agenda. They have driven much of our thinking and reacting. It is right that we all respond to these but we often forget much of the rest of what innovation needs to be built upon.

The problem or challenge with this focusing upon ‘breaking’ practices or new methodologies, are they can be so much harder to master and build them into established positions and practices, without the right amount of debate, understanding and assessing the implications and impact.

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The growing need is to move innovation into the cloud.

Moving innovation into the cloudAs business organizations continue to struggle with the decision of ‘if and when’ and then ‘what’ within their systems and processes should go into the cloud, there is this gathering, if not overwhelming view, that the cloud will bring IT closer to the business needs of today.

Innovation is certainly one of those in need of concerted effort to bring up to date within organizations, to make it more inclusive and that can come through delivering it across the organization within the cloud. Highly visible, agile and core to the organizations future, seen by all and truly valued.

Let me outline my initial thoughts here, put the seat belt on for the ride please: making the business case.

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Exploring Diffusion and Adoption for Innovation – Part 3

Dealing with DarwinOne of my favorite books is “Dealing with Darwin– how great companies innovate at every phase of their evolution” written by Geoffrey Moore. It is well worth a read.

When you work through his other books and connected thinking of “Crossing the Chasm” and “Inside the Tornado” you really appreciate the learning stories coming out of Roger Moore’s studies of the Technology Adoption Life-Cycle.

We all need to rethink a lot as the new challenges come rushing towards us. In his work Geoffrey Moore talks about ‘traction’ and I think this is a great word for thinking about how to gain diffusion and adoption in product, service or business models, to gain market and customer acceptance.

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Exploring Diffusion and Adoption of Innovation – Part 2

Finding itThe future within our engagements will determine diffusion and adoption

It is all about letting go but also grabbing more at the same time, and then finding ‘it’.

Technology has opened up the door to both scale and fragmentation and social business is the one pushing through this open door. We are increasingly facing the Collaborative Economy everywhere we turn. Social business is becoming the denominator of success or failure.

We are needing to confront the new questions that are emerging

New rules are emerging – you could say new theories – and where are these fitting within the corporate mindset?

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Exploring Diffusion and Adoption for Innovation – Part 1

Theory and RealityAccording to Professor Clayton Christensen and drawn from his book Seeing What’s Next: Using the Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change”, by Clayton M. Christensen, Scott D. Anthony, and Erik A. Roth published by Harvard Business School Press, the only way to look into the future is to use theories.

The best way to make accurate sense of the present, and the best way to look into the future, is through the lens of theory.” The theory of innovation helps to understand the forces that shape the context and influence natural decisions.

This might not be fashionable for many because as soon as you introduce “theory” into the discussion for many of my practical colleagues they want to dismiss it.

Going back to Christensen “good theory provides a robust way to understand important developments, even when the data is limited. “Theory helps to block out the noise and to amplify the signal”.

Diffusion of Innovation Theory is important for our innovation understanding

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Making innovation practice spread

Recently I have enjoyed reading Peter J Denning’s thoughts around innovation. He is Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Cebrowski Institure for information innovation at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

He discusses adoption, team practices, ubiquity, networks, language actions, the practice of innovation and other related topics. All are stimulating and worth finding the time to read but one caught my eye and I’ve gone back to it at least four, maybe five times. It intrigues me.  It is entitled “The idea idea” written in early 2011 and asks the question “What if practices rather than ideas are the main source of innovation?”

I think we all agree “ideas pervade our professional work” and as Professor Denning points out “we borrow them, we apply them, we solve problems with them, we create new ones, and we try to foster more of them in our teams”. We do put a disproportionately greater emphasis on ideas yet as he points out, all these great ideas and the energy applied to them we still end up with really poor adoption rates, he suggests our success rate in business are around 4%.

All of this ‘idea’ energy seems to be wasting so much time, resources and money. He puts this so well “we are idea rich, selection baffled and adoption poor”

The whole thrust of the article is perhaps that innovation is not ideas generated and I agree so much on this, but practices adopted. We need to spend more efforts on the skills and adoption of new practices and as he suggests “as the framework for new practices”

The two schools of thought

He suggests the two schools; if you believe ideas are the key to innovation you will put your efforts into generating, analysing, selecting and publicizing ideas where the emphasis is on creativity, imagination, borrowing and recombination. The other is adopting new practice as the key to innovation- the efforts go into selling others the value of doing new practice by building credibility it works, teaching people how to do it, furnishing tools to help them and providing the guidance and leadership to overcome obstacles and resistances.

I’m sitting more and more in the second school, I enjoy the first school of believing in ideas but I feel, well actually place my focus on the second school- the process of new practice. This is why and where I earn my living (or try too) or increasingly so. Also this is why I just keep going back to this article, it resonates so much for me, a confirmation of a confirmation.

He puts both cases well- outlining that “the diffusion model and the pipeline model share this common feature that they both put idea generation as their source. They differ on how ideas move from source to market”

The case of practices he starts by rightly stating “an idea that changes no one’s behaviour is only an invention, not an innovation”. He talks briefly of “the prime innovation pattern” as part of a new theory where innovators goal is to bring about changes of practice to change that “sense of disharmony” detected and they go through different activities to achieve this change. This gets to the point that the practice suddenly becomes adopted, someone starts doing something different, often in the early stages as improvisation, to overcome something blocking them from doing the job they need to meet. When it is seen as superior others imitate it, the practice spreads.

Where I feel Absorptive Capacity fit here

Many people have offered views on this adoption and promoting its practice as it is aiding making things better for others. I very much wish more people would look a little harder at Absorptive Capacity for many reasons, some of those I’ve previously outlined. The more we access, anchor and diffuse capability the greater chance for innovation. This links into Absorptive Capacity and for instance Zahra and Georges work on acquisition, assimilation, transformation and exploitation as the four phases of Absorptive Capacity.

Professor Denning rightly suggests it is finding the right balance between cultivating ideas and cultivating (new) practices. Maybe we should all question our balance on this?

He offers three thoughts

The iceberg theory- the visible top part (about 10%) is analogous to the set of ideas, the invisible submerged part (about 90%) relates to the practices of innovation. The practices keep the ideas afloat.

He suggests you beware of the idea idea- pursuing ideas for the sake of them- and you keep deferring adoption until the idea is perfected. He suggests you need to put 10% of your efforts into explaining the value and principles of your ideas and 90% into fostering the new practices you advocate and it is the work of adoption is from the beginning.

Lastly it is how  and what you learn from experiment and trial practices. It is then later  how you distil the knowledge gained into the pursuit of the emerging ideas, these emerging new practices. This makes for less value placed on ‘crude’ ideas, more on ‘refined’ ones that do raise the chance of market adoption significantly. You just keep filtering and improving, experimenting and exploring not just pushing ‘ideas’ simply through the innovation process. You seek to raise the adoption rates of not just translating the idea but the very new practices that get you to that success.

So, it is the connections between ideas and adoption, the idea adopted into practice, and it is the focus on the “dispersing” and “adapting” that accelerates innovation, simply not just the ‘idea’ alone worked through in ‘established’ ways.

What are your thoughts?