The New Game Or Is It? Asset Orchestration

asset-management-for-innovationIn a recent post over on a dedicated website for discussing ecosystems and platforms, I was discussing the differences between Amazon and Alibaba. I quote “I’d say Amazon are “asset heavy” whereas Alibaba remains “asset light”.

They might be operating at the two ends of the current internet trading spectrum and are coming from different market maturity positions but it is the asset management that is becoming critical for delivering the profit or dragging performance.

Now Amazon is far from “asset heavy” when you compare them to the Industrial companies like GE but asset orchestration is seemingly getting far greater management time for all companies it seems. The lighter you are, the more likely you are to be more flexible and adaptive to respond to more disruptive challenges being faced by industries that are undergoing the shift to being more “digitally enabled”. Alibaba is very much a good asset orchestrator.

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So how do you manage exploiting and exploring for Innovation?

Innovation Exploit and Explore to TransformSo how do businesses organise their structures to be able to simultaneously manage the needs to exploit and explore innovation?

In this post I wanted to explain my thinking through on this ability to be ‘ambidextrous’, knowing the difference of when to exploit and when to explore as essential to leveraging innovation, in all its forms and watching out for some of the traps in not managing this well.

Managing this, in all honesty, though, is hard to get the balance right but highly valuable if you do achieve it, it can transform the business. Many of our organisations struggle to manage both successfully as they tend to focus more on separation mostly in organisational structures alone as their attempt to become ambidextrous. It is far more than ‘just’ this.  Get the balance right across the organisation’s design and in its leadership management, it becomes a very powerful mechanism for accelerating performances by delivering significantly new innovation and equally sustaining and leveraging the core business you have today.

Recently I contributed a blog post over on the Hype Innovation Blog ” Balancing Exploitation & Exploration for Changing Performance” that opens up the subject but then extensively dives into three examples of Apple, GE and Google that are working in highly ambidextrous ways, pursuing exploiting and exploring in their own unique ways.

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Making Agility Compatible For You

Learning Agility 2Is Agility compatible for many working in established businesses?

“To be agile” is often a badge of honor. It conveys your flexibility, nimbleness and your ability to be adaptive. Agility is today going far beyond just being responsive,it goes into constantly adjusting and being versatile, modifying to meet rapidly changing conditions.

Yet this often seems the very opposite within many of our organizations and the very people employed within them. They seem rigid, inflexible and determined to stay ‘resolute’ to the established ways and routines built up over years. They love stability, it is their bedrock but equally they do need a greater fluidity to their performance and structures as well.

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Striving for the innovation balance: between exploring and exploiting.

Exploit and ExploreWe never seem capable of adapting as well as we should do. Adapting always seems a work-in-progress, or it is often something where we are simply making little or no progress!

We often stay ‘stuck’ in the way we do ‘things’ around here, never seemingly able to break out into something new or different.

To adapt we need to open ourselves up to learning and adjusting our organizational ‘form’ in new ways.

In business there should be a constant battle to reconfigure the assets and extend the existing capabilities. Yet often these stay ‘static’ not learning or improving.  In our innovation activities there is an even greater pressing need to build into our thinking the ability to find more dynamic capabilities. It is a constant innovator’s dilemma to think through and get right.

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Building the new dynamics into our capacity to innovate

Exploit and ExploreDo we know what are the dependencies and requirements for building and sustaining your organizations innovation success? How do you sustain innovation, is it more through the structuring of everyday work, by creating a particular set of social rules and resources that foster specific routines? Or something different?

We work really hard at maintaining these re-occurring processes, never willing to extend and push them in different and new ways. We have actually become very static in our approaches and learning, we are not learning anew. We often simply end up with incremental innovation that might just ‘nudge’ the growth needle but does little more than sustain us in the present and can be ‘contained’ in a tidy process that makes many, including the ‘bean counters,’ very happy until someone changes the game.

Then we need to think differently but this is usually far too late.. As demand is more volatile today we need to experiment, explore, learn and adjust. What becomes more important is the ‘work to be done, and how we go about tackling this and not the work done’ where we often simply ‘default too. Surprisingly Adam Smith identified this important difference in work way back in 1776.

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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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Delivering the innovation core: building capability, capacity and competency.

Building capabilities 4Each organization needs to understand its strategic resources to build continuously, so as to sustain and grow the organization; otherwise it will eventually die, starved of what is vital to sustain itself.

The resources provide the lungs that give oxygen; they need to constantly be nurtured, too breathe and pump new life into the existing.

For innovation the same applies, we need to consistently build our innovating resources, they give delivery of the healthy living cells to promote and sustain us in new value potential.

The problem is we often are not very good at maintaining our resources and innovation activity. We just simply do not sustain our efforts, we tend to allow them to drift along or become lopsided from one individual teams efforts, while the others simply ‘wallow’ Continue reading