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of innovation today, how it is fragmenting in  a myraid of parts, all seemingly contributing; yet it seems learning has been replaced by personalized experience and the chase for individual knowledge.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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Jumping to a fresh cycle of innovation design

I have argued in the past that innovation management needs to radically adjust, it requires being designed differently, it needs to be highly adaptive, technology driven.

In my opinion, it needs to be based on the thinking around the shift from products to solutions, from transactions to building far more value-adding ongoing relationships, from a supplier of product services into highly valued network partnerships, exploring innovation across all options.

instead of delivering on discrete elements; this requires managing the whole ecosystem of the innovation design differently through technology where platforms dominate and transformation becomes an ongoing process to evolve the business model, so as to seek out constantly changing market opportunities, in agile, adaptive and fluid ways, for successful innovation outcomes, that meet those real customer needs.

I’d like to offer some views, partly looking out to the future, partly considering what is potentially within our grasp, if we step back and rethink innovation design. So here I offer some parts of this design, my thinking out loud, somewhat in random order and some of the reasons why:

For me, I have a picture floating around in my head. It is emergent and not yet in full view Continue reading

Exploring frameworks and methods you need to know as an Innovator

Recently, well actually, over the past twelve or eighteen months, I was asked to explore and explain different frameworks that the innovator might need to know, or at least have an opinion upon.

These were for HYPE and posted on their blogs, mostly under their “Methods & Frameworks” tag.

Some of these investigations or explanations were fairly long so I decided to not reproduce them here but to have an opening summary and then set up the links onto their site for you to read the ones that are of interest or curiosity to you.

So far I have covered ones that were asked for, there are a few more that need covering or even deepening out in explanations in my mind, lets see.

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Reducing the friction around innovation

I was reading a report by the IBM Institute for Business Value’s “Fast Forward: Rethinking enterprises, ecosystems, and economies with blockchains”. In IBM’s thinking, they have clearly taken friction as part of the need to be broken down within any rebuilding of the supply chain. Well, I also believe these apply equally as innovation frictions. Reducing any frictions that get in the way is good, right?

So I decided to builds out of their friction analysis, building on the thoughts offered in the report, adding the innovation perspective.

So here I am suggesting constraints that need tackling in reducing the innovation friction points, theirs was for blockchain. I did like a comment in the report stated: “Friction, in theory, could be digitized away” (page 3) and partly why I looked at the report in this digital perspective for future facing innovation solutions. The frictions hold true for innovators to resolve. Continue reading

The Pressures Placed on the Innovator

There are multiple “stretching and straining points” that make the life of the innovator increasingly uncomfortable. These build into increasing frictions where the eventual performance of innovation seemingly disappoints the leadership of organizations. So why is that?

It is only when we can truly understand the constraints innovation works under, can we provide more robust solutions to reduced all these frictions and pain points that innovators are struggling with. There are many.

We often can’t seem to break down the rigidity win the organization’s system, to allow innovation to speed up, connect and deliver on its promise. Organizations continue to struggle with obtaining that higher level of agility and flexibility required for innovation speed of response and delivery.

The culture within organizations still is rather more closed-up into the silo mindset and not encouraged to be more open, engaging across functions in collaborating ways. We attempt co-creation to test ideas and try to deploy these but they come against institutional resistance to change. We continue to rely on emotional and gut decision-making and still have not fully embraced the data-driven cultures to make more informed decisions. All these constraints create that pressure to perform. So much around innovation is not optimal.

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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