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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Needing To Think Applied Innovation Services

We can simply go on and on in the many ways we have evolved our problem-solving techniques or methodologies, as those help the innovation and discovery process; incremental, piecemeal and experimentally.

Yet we still get caught out by not resolving or addressing the essential building blocks of innovation (culture, environment, climate, governance, alignment). We have never ‘cracked’ the full innovation management system. Perhaps we can today. We should try at least.

Many of those innovation tools that have been emerging in recent years have now built up a powerful body of validation, and they become necessary to know and practice yet often miss the basic building block needs of innovation. We need to do better, we need to design a completely new innovation process that takes into account all that has evolved in our understanding and experiment in recent years. Some thoughts:

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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

Business Needs Innovation Ecosystems

The significant transformation taking place around exploiting technology and digital management has made ecosystems and platforms a mainstream prospecting need, in most of our businesses today. We must engage in what all of this means and its business impact.

I certainly believe the ecosystem approach will increasingly become the main value-producing stream for innovation delivery. Platforms, strategic partnerships, new business models all will be on the agenda of any serious global organization and ecosystems through platforms are the organizing environment to enact these.

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Building Differentiating Capabilities for Innovation

pulling-the-levers-on-all-the-innovation-variablesWe so often get caught up in the building of our capabilities. In some ways, I keep attempting to “peel the innovation onion” in explaining the need to focus on building the capabilities in different ways but to be honest, it needs these various approaches to an ever-changing environment.

A different intensity of innovation onion perhaps? Why, well we have the business of today, the emerging business of tomorrow and the future business that will provide a radically different set of capability building needs?

The struggle to date is that innovation remains hard to manage well; we strive to systematize it and then attempt to replicate any success we then have, so as to achieve more, yet more often than not. we do not take into account all the variables that came together for that particular winning outcome. Often this does not work on a repetitive basis as the variables that make up innovation can be different for each innovation event or activity but we can learn under a growing ‘range of’ differentiating capabilities.

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Achieving Innovations Capability Coherence

Coherence 1Innovation often fails to align to the strategic needs. This is often not the fault of the innovator, happily working away with no specific guidelines, apart from the general remit of “we need to be more innovative”, it lies in the boardroom that is not communicating the board’s needs clearly enough down the organization.

Building up our capacity to innovation does need to understand and reflect the organization’s business activities, as innovators need to grasp the value creation aspects that will deliver the necessary capital-efficient and profitable growth, and then ‘go in pursuit’ to achieve their contribution into these goals.

Even the basic questions often remain unclear, those of how are we looking to grow revenue, save costs, reduce working capital or improve our fixed capital? Managing our innovation activities can help in all of these. Actually if you ask I expect the CFO would say “all of them” but each does have implications on understanding of the fit and eventual role of innovation’s contribution.

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Innovating: So What Is Possible?

Often we forget to frame what we want to really achieve in our innovation activity, instead we simply dive in and start innovating. I believe until we know what solutions we feel we need or the market wants, we will more often than not, end up disappointed in our innovation solutions. Simply generating ideas, for ideas sake, just does not cut it at all.

In recent years our innovation understanding and its management have significantly changed, due to numerous factors that have been happening. These have been advances in technology, methodology or design- thinking and we do need to stop and think about how we could do ‘things’ differently by asking “what is possible?” This should be asked not just on each occasion of an innovation concept design but within the total innovation system we are presently operating under.

Perhaps by asking three critical questions on “what is possible?”  we might produce better innovation answers (and solutions) than in simply not bothering to, at least, scope out the real possibilities, where we can miss so much.

The aim of asking is to reduce the constraints, free up resources, leverage the techniques available, and equally, push the boundaries of your thinking to want to generate “great” innovation, not just the mediocre, incremental stuff, so often produced and labelled “innovative” that we end up doing.

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