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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Establishing a new mentality for innovation

Dual mentality thinkingVisual two heads….different mindsets, different thinking about innovation but working together, a duality of thinking and managing innovation going forward. We must learn to explore and exploit at the same time, both in parallel and where needed, in separate ways, or entities.

If we ‘subject’ all of our innovation thinking to go through the same process we lose so much. How can you treat incremental innovation in the same way as radical or breakthrough innovation? You need to apply a completely different thinking and approach to the type of innovation you are thinking through. You must be prepared to abandon established thinking if it is not resolving the problems you are facing.

Beginning any journey is never easy, you stumble a little until you find a certain rhythm

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Achieving a Level of Fluidity

fluidy 8There is this constant set of discussions about changing structures and models to become more adaptive, agile, lean, flexible and fluid; to react and deal with the increasing turbulence occurring all around us.

We all sense this pressing need to react and become more responsive, becoming more adaptive to changing environments and business challenges, that are often unknown, unexpected, or not yet explored or exploited. The question is how much and how far can we go?

Organizations are facing increasing a dilemma in how they organize and manage within their systems and structures.They are being forced to deal in increasingly complexity and environmental turbulence and ‘adapting the appropriate response’ remains increasingly a difficult one to master, within the existing regime they have in place.

On the one hand the value in stability is still essential; working within specific routines and practices gives a clear ‘path dependence.’ This stability allows for efficiencies and effectiveness to be constantly at practice, constantly building the problem-solving processes, to master tasks in complex environments to resolve ‘known’ problems in ‘given’ ways but this relies on this stable flow and that is not the case of much of what we have to handle today.

We are being challenged more and more on this efficiency and effectiveness focus. It is often not working to deliver the results. We are missing a new way of working. Continue reading

Moving innovation even more in 2016

Innovating in the year ahead 2016Are we entering 2016 with an innovating mind-set? We need too, so as to seize the growth that is going to be tougher to find.

As we look to enter into 2016 what is top of mind for innovation to take hold and become the real core within our business organizations? Some of my quick thoughts or repeating mantras, no apologies here:

• Innovation is not the preserve of the (selected) few but the domain of the community, it is encouraging our connections to actually connect and exchange mutual value and knowledge.

• Moving innovation from just being symbolic to essential. We must stop dipping our toe in the water, we need to just jump in and get wet. We need to get everyone involved and wanting to contribute engaged and  excited on where innovation can really take us

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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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Technology leads, innovation exploitation is lagging

Technology and PeopleThere is a growing, perhaps even an overwhelming business case, for transforming the innovation management structure. The new combination is the new connections through people and things (IoT) that we can achieve a new innovation potential.

We will obtain increasing more powerful insights that have the real potential of being turned into new innovation outcomes, through the connected businesses we are presently needing to  build. This can generate new value and business propositions.

Today the virtual world of digital is moving much faster than the physical ‘enacted world,’ of turning insights into actual innovation activities, through the innovation pipeline. Our innovation systems are lagging significantly behind. We need to radically redesign them and bring them up to date, fit for managing innovation in the 21st century.

The whole discovery to final execution, is for most organizations still a very fragmented, often disconnected system. It is highly reliant on manual systems with people often disconnected from the real innovation engagement making decisions on inadequate data or insights.

We are failing to leverage all we have gained from our innovation understanding over the years. We have this ongoing inability to adapt, to connect the innovation system through the use of technology and growing value networks, so as to provide the integration, the dedicated resource and accountability to deliver successful innovation outcomes that our customers require.  Successful outcomes that are certainly possible, from a well-designed innovation management system brought up to date, adaptive, flexible and responsive, if we apply the time and effort to conceive and construct it.

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The separation effect required for innovation

Exploit and Explore 3I have recently been in some different discussions about the merits and balances required to manage incremental and radical innovation. Partly this is in preparation for a workshop later this month but partly from a conversation, I am having with a sizable, well-respected organization, with its head office based here in Europe.

In the conversation within the organization we were discussing the breakdown in their treatment of incremental and radical and they suggested this was being managed within an “ambidextrous structure” yet I was not convinced. I have to point out this was only a part of a broader story on the difficulties of managing conflicting innovation demands that they were having.

One key constraint in their thinking I felt was not having distinct units as they were trying to manage incremental and radical through the same process and that, for me, is a basic mistake.

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