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

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Caught in the Headlights of Disruptive Innovation.

Exploding DsruptionThis past weekend I had an extended period of re-reading about the effects of disruption that seems to be occurring across all points of business, our politics, our governments, it seems across our lives.

I had been looking forward to a nice break up in the mountains of Switzerland, in a place near St.Moritz for five days of some walking, catching up with good friends over some great meals.

The evenings playing different card games or board games, as the temperatures dropped outside to minus six centigrade, the competitive nature raised the inside temperatures significantly. All good plans sometime get disrupted.

Regretfully a few days before, I ‘pulled’ some ligaments around the knee and this rendered the walking to some pretty tame stuff but the company, food and drink seemed to compensated a little I must admit, it eased the pain.

So I had some time on my hands so I decided to go back over the whole area of disruption to get a broader understanding and how this is driving so much within our innovation activity at present.

Disruption is all around us, coming at ever-faster speeds Continue reading

Seeking fresh winds and new directions

the_winds_of_changeAnyone who has felt the ‘full force of the wind’ will know the feeling of how hard it is to keep on your feet, to stay determined to stay upright and true, to hold the course, whatever happens.

When you feel the force of change running through the organization, you tend to have that same sensation, to resist the force with all your energy.

It is often really hard to let go, the environment was something you had become used to, you accepted and become resigned to its weaknesses and constantly exploited its possibilities or even possibly the other way round.

Ignoring the power of choice within change is dangerous

Constructing a climate for any transformation is hard. Our cultures are deep-rooted; we resist those winds blowing into us “full on,” well beyond being reasonable or smart enough to avoid them before they confront us. The Chinese proverb below gives us a clear choice: “to build walls or build windmills”

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The sharks that prey are arriving a lot earlier now

The Sharks are CirclingChange is all around us, it is accelerating not abating. Do you feel you are trapped, encircled and just a little concerned. You often hear of volatile trading conditions, a more complex market and situations changing constantly and moving faster than ever. ‘Much’ seems to be closing in on us.

We do know we need to re-equip ourselves for constant disruption; we are really beginning to see a shift from the classic bell curve into more of a shark fin for adopting change.

One that is characterized by sudden, even violent success or an event, some moments of brilliant dominance, followed by a dramatic change in conditions as others have spotted the same opportunity and you hit a rapid decline, the race to the bottom of competition constantly negating one another.

Market are segmenting, the life cycle is shortening or having an even longer tail of dealing with slow decline and constant erosion of any competitive position. The sharks are arriving even earlier and in a greater need to show their dominance.

market_segments

It does seem “creative destruction” is a central force in many of our activities. Activities where innovation is continually replacing not just in products and new services but in designing radically different business models, searching to replace less adaptive competitors in the marketplace at faster rates.

Adoption is far earlier, the pace of change is quickening and from this the competition is responding in new ways, often surrounding the new innovation with their version, built on often a really ‘fast follower’ principle to keep in step, and throttle off any different adoption, knowing what it costs to have to win this back over time, if it can at all when it switches. The life cycle is becoming even more important to manage in all of its stages, as its traditional shape I feel, is radically altering. It is coming faster and fading away quicker unless you manage its parts very specifically.

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Leaders need to engage and drive innovation

It continues to amaze me; actually it is depressing that although our business leaders constantly confirm that innovation is in their top three priorities yet they stay stubbornly disengaged in facilitating this across their organizations, especially the larger ones. Of course I am not suggesting this is all our business leaders but I would argue innovation and its ‘make up’ remains a mystery to nearly all our leaders. They are more than willing to allocate responsibility down the organization, failing to recognize their pivotal role in managing or orchestrating innovation engagement themselves, or even ensuring the mechanisms are fully in place. Why is this?

Time and time again you read one report after another, about the leadership gap in innovation or issues relating to innovation disconnecting from the top of the organization. You can read reports from Booz, Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting, the Conference Board, Harvard Business Review, IBM, A T Kearney, A D Little and many others all reporting issues and gaps in connecting innovation at the top of our organizations. Can they all be wrong, if not then why aren’t our CEO’s listening? Why are we not resolving this and only just keep reporting it?

In March of this year Capgemini Consulting and IESE issued their report called the “Innovation leadership study” and this went deeper than most into the problems.

The study revealed that “the absence of a well-articulated innovation strategy is by far the most important constraint for companies to reach their innovation targets.”

In the report they mentioned not just the lack of many formal mechanisms were missing but the total environment for innovation was missing this explicit innovation strategy. That is a serious failure at the top of organizations in my opinion. How can leaders expect innovation if they remain unclear of their role and function in facilitating and encouraging it? Can this change?

A collaborative effort

Jeffrey Phillips of Ovo Innovation and myself have collaborated on a number of different innovation frameworks over the last twenty-four months or so. These have been  to offer concepts or frameworks that we felt were missing or needed explaining. We have set about the offering up of possible solutions to reduce much of this ‘mystery’  that seems to still surround innovation.

As we shared and exchanged views, we have mutually recognized our personal frustrations on this continued leadership gap towards innovation. This has been triggered even more by this Capgemini report and so we decided on a way forward as our ‘tipping point’ to set about studying this and seeing if we could find a solution to this innovation leadership issue.  Or at the very least, advance this recognition, beyond debates from this constant recognition of a problem, into offering an emerging framing on the ways to begin to resolve this.

A soft launch will happen offering our integrated innovation ‘framing’ as a solution.

We think we have now arrived at a further tipping point and will ‘soft’ launch the integrated innovation framework this coming weekend, starting Sunday 9th September 2012. We will build within a series of seven articles, one per day over a week, which we believe make up the component parts. We will attempt to explain what we see as an integrated executive innovation framework that will be delivered through a work mat methodology approach. These articles will be published initially through www.innovationexcellence.com to gain an audience of innovators and then will be taken out further by our two respective organizations in further field work, validation and consultation.

I recently wrote a series of articles in August and one is perhaps worth reading again, this is “From a buzzword to the imperative.” In this I discuss this need for a framework and then go on and explore different components within a series of subsequent articles, that I felt needed leadership attention.

The present argument needs moving on and resolving

There is no argument surely that we need to break into this leadership gap around innovation? We need to offer suggestions towards their role, to address this lack of engagement or awareness? We need to provide an organizing framework that achieves alignment into the organizations goals and provides the structure across innovation that can ‘cascade’ down and across an organization. The end aim is that so all those involved within the organization, or closely associated with it, can relate too and ‘gather’ around an overarching framework, articulated and constructed from the top, that guides innovation.

We want to narrow this leadership gap and organization understanding so as to achieve a specific connection between leaders and their role in how they can facilitate and bridge this clear divide and present seen ‘impediment’ for innovation. The leaders of organizations are no different from all the employees working within the company, they are all looking to secure a sustaining future and participate in a vibrant one that primarily comes from the innovation engine needed for all businesses and economic growth. The contribution of the leaders within organizations falls mainly on defining their role, laying out its parts in a coherent way for all to relate too. We believe this framework approach can be one of the primary organizing ways for that engagement and identification so much needed.

Tune in please and we certainly hope you can relate to what we are offering

We believe this integrated framework will require some real leadership engagement but we believe the outcome can offer four significant benefits:

  1. The framework can create cohesion and consistency of innovation purpose that will reduce many existing barriers and uncertainties around innovation
  2. As the leadership does become engaged this will demonstrate a significant commitment and promise that will certainly increases the visibility of innovation, lowers risks, encourages more involvement and generation of better ideas.
  3. The framework itself will generate work flows that connect, become more dynamic to explore and promote the innovation skills, capabilities and competencies needed. They become more cohesive, coordinated and focused
  4. As the framework connects, in its understanding and as its impact grows, we certainly believe confidence builds. Both formal and informal areas are addressed in parallel, growing all-round identification and alignment.

A challenging road to travel

To get to this tantalizing promise needs a lot of recognition, engagement, investment and commitment. You don’t suddenly arrive at enacting such a change without some ‘hard yards’ to cover and tough issues to resolve.

We are only at the starting point by offering this integrated innovation framework. We have confidence it will help, what we need is the right audience to listen and simply say “I get it.” For the leaders, to hopefully see its organizing value and fit and their critical role to play in supporting innovation through this organizing and integrated framework so the organization initiates and delivers what is expected, better than today.

Do we see bumps on the way, of course, do we feel they can be navigated, again of course; otherwise you don’t start the journey. We are equipping ourselves for some demanding challenges.

We continue to invest in this framework as we see it does offer real potential

We feel this period of research, investment and consistently exchanging between us both has certainly increased in intensity over the last six months. We have built a structure; a methodology and a guiding set of approaches that help facilitate and provide the CEO and his leadership team with a way to radically reduce that innovation leadership gap.

We can offer a clear ‘way forward’ for engagement and alignment that can help, perhaps radically, the organization to establish innovation firmly into the minds of the boardroom and their vital role to play within this real need for all to engage in.

We seek to bridge the innovation leadership gap

All I can do at this stage is ask you to please explore this series of articles, don’t rush to judge and dismiss, take the more explore and reflect, approach. We simply want you to have a similar identification and equally ‘I get it, maybe we need it’ at this stage. We hopefully begin to bridge the innovation leadership gap and the role they need to play and we feel we offer a way to address the lack of innovation leadership that is clearly ‘out there missing’ in nearly all organizations.

In organizations this needs internal discussions to recognize this ‘gap’ and then gain the leaderships attention to how this can be addressed. The proposed integrated innovation framework might be the place to start and our arguments might be the catalyst.

We launch our “emerging thoughts” in this series of articles on the different innovation domains needed to be explored at the leadership level, this coming weekend 9th September 2012, and each day, during that week. We outline these through the frameworks different domains themselves. Do take a look and I hope you agree, we offer a way forward and are wanting to engage and deploy this framework to the leadership of innovation.