Delving into a complex world: helping to keep pace

Complex World 1“The world has never been as complex, dynamic and uncertain as it is today and the pace of change will only increase.”

We hear this consistently, our continual problem is trying to make sense of it for ourselves, we know all around us seems to constantly increase in its complexity but how are we keeping pace or at least trying too? I can’t check out of the human race just yet, can you afford too? If not then read on.

For me, I try to attempt to keep up to date by investing increasing time in acquiring a better understanding, a deeper knowledge of all the interconnected parts. As part of my job, advising others on all things swirling around innovation, I invest significant time in researching, learning and applying what I feel is important to others to understand or at least to raise their awareness.

Even if we are “time starved” we simply must try and keep moving along in this understanding and hopefully once in a while keeping ahead of the curve, or think we are!

There is one rich source of knowledge that comes from many of the larger consulting firms.

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Seeing Your Innovating Future Across Different Horizons

The three horizons offer us much to frame our innovating future

IFD Mountain ViewFollowing a couple of recent posts on reflecting on the three horizons methodology, firstly here and then here, I wanted to come back to where I see real value, in managing innovation into the future.

The 3H methodology enables us to look out into the future, across three different horizons that can manage the transition between short, medium and long term in our innovation activities, something often badly lacking in most organizations thinking.

It allows us to gauge  the challenges, adding aspects we are beginning to gain a sense of, transitioning from one position to another. It allows us to deepen our evaluation of the innovation portfolio of activities, resources and skill sets across different delivery frames of short, medium and longer-term.

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Three Horizons – fields of future, full of foresight.

Three Horizon Book Bill SharpeI’d like to relate to parts of a book that came out in late 2013 from Bill Sharpe. His book, or actually more a booklet, called “Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope”, published by Triarchy Press, has some really helpful insights.

In this book, Bill outlines his distinct ways of creatively working through many of the unknowns, by framing and connecting though the Three Horizons, (3H) as his contribution to the patterning of hope for all our futures.

I draw out a lot within his thinking, experiences and approaches within the book. Some of these initial thoughts outlined here, re-affirm my own thinking and focus on the 3H, specifically for innovation and its management.

Here are some of the ‘triggers’ I connected with strongly from his book:

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Reflecting on the Value of the Three Horizon Model for our Innovating Future

Business as usualThere is that prevailing sense that we are just managing for ‘business as usual’, leaving many increasingly uncomfortable and feeling exposed. Why?

Our businesses are not adapting fast enough to changing conditions in the market, often lagging in the competitive race to update and keep relevant.

Businesses are struggling with conflicting knowledge flows and incoming intelligence, just simply managing their talent to keep them relevant, engaged and outwardly orientated.

They need to constantly adjust and adapt to the demands and challenges within the societal conditions, environments and markets, grappling with constant shifts in consumer demand and coping with the declining natural resources and of what all of this might mean.

We are often short on foresight and certainly struggling with growing complexity.

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Drawing fresh innovating oxygen into the body

This must be the time of year for all those innovation reports to resurface for fresh innovation thinking. Recently I went back to the OECD report (opener here. and began to breathe in more innovating air. Not bad from the OECD but that is one of their purposes in life I suppose. Why? A number of points stand out and using OECD summary headings, these were:

Policies need to reflect innovation as it occurs today.

We all do get stuck in repeating old ways yet the world and how it explores, experiments and investigates is constantly changing. It has become highly interactive and a multidisciplinary process with so much more need for collaboration across a diverse network of stakeholders. Although it is getting more complex to focus on performance through innovation is very much a today thing.

People should be empowered to innovate

I felt a little like yawning here, I needed more oxygen quickly as this has been a mantra of “people make innovation work” for years but seemingly still ignored by many. This report placed its focus on the way we educate and equip people with new skills. For Entrepreneurs I found a new mantra “Experimentation, entry and exit” and how the population should be provided entrepreneurial education and this comes from encouraging the circulation of knowledge, its creation and diffusion. I liked that- fresh or more life giving oxygen at least!

Innovation in firms should be unleashed

The question raised here was how can you relocate resources quickly; to more efficient and innovative firms, when between 20% to 40% of all new firms fail in the first two year? They rightly suggest that firms are essential to translate good ideas into jobs and wealth and new and young firms are particularly important, as they are usually the ones that exploit technological and commercial opportunities often neglected by established companies. Again we came back to experimentation- try, succeed or fail but move on. The other point made here was providing ‘sufficient head room’ for healthy risk taking.

The creation, diffusion and application of knowledge is critical.

This is all about the thriving part. Knowledge networks need to be underpinned. This is arguing for the development of a knowledge networking infrastructure so exchange of knowledge can freely happen. Perhaps open innovation is part of this change process but we do need a greater exchange mechanism to stimulate innovation brain activity- more oxygen please!

Innovation can be applied to address global and social challenges.

Innovation is a real means of dealing with global and social challenges that I’m totally convinced. My heart races at the prospect, no oxygen needed here, however we need an awful lot of factors to come into play to get this really moving. This is a real frontier still. How can we achieve more concerted efforts, encourage diffusion and transfer of the relevant aspects that would benefit another part of the world in overcoming one of its social challenges. This is so important but we are at such early days to frame this in a better way to gain the needed momentum. We need a social innovation framework, like a National Innovation Agenda but on a global scale.

The governance and measurement of innovation

The argument is to deal with innovation in medium and long term perspectives. There lacks today a coherence in capturing the positive benefits of innovation to drive it up the agenda and position it in the top of minds of everybody to make their contributions to solving social challenges, country ones and personal ones. We need better evaluation techniques to diagnose innovation and its effects.

We can’t allow oxygen to be strapped onto our backs so we can up the pace on the same treadmill, we do need to stop and reflect on the positive power of innovation but in new ways. The OECD makes the case and let me finish off by a summary by  one of the most distinguished thought leaders of innovation, C. K. Prahalad, who died recently.

“This report by the OECD on the new nature of innovation is an important milestone. It represents four significant philosophical departures.

First, from a traditional ‘firm centric view’ of innovation, this study moves us to a ‘personalized, co-created view’ of innovation, from the centrality of the firm to the centrality of the individual.

Second, it demonstrates the institutional interdependencies in the innovation process where specialized skills are sourced from around the world.

Third, innovation is seen not as episodic but as interactive, iterative and continuous.

Fourth, it is a call for the democratization of innovation. Consumers’ not just institutions will have a voice in the innovation process. The entire ecosystem – of suppliers, nodal firms and consumers, will be involved in the creation of value. Collaborative capacity will be critical for innovation.

This is a bold and timely departure from the traditional view. I recommend this report to policy makers, managers and students of management.”

This report is giving me renewed energy, that fresh innovation oxygen into my system, to stimulate and motivate me in the pursuit of innovation, my 100% focus in what I do. A timely reminder of the help we all need for injecting fresh oxygen into the thinking.