There are Knowns and Unknowns in Innovation: Let’s Manage Them Differently

quote from donald rumsfeld about the knowns and unknowns

This quote is from the former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Henry Rumsfeld, who mentioned: “unknown unknowns” (Rumsfeld, 2002).

Since then, people have started using quadrants of knowledge, i.e., known known, known unknown, unknown known, and unknown unknown, to understand and explain the nature of risk but also of leading to an opportunity.

For innovators so much of innovation is hard to detect, it needs discovery and working through these quadrants of knowledge as well. We need to treat ideas the same on how anything needs assessing but it needs to pass through a different thinking about knowledge understanding, as there are ‘known knowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’ and we need to prepare for both within our innovation activities.

Our pursuit in life is often the same as our innovation efforts, it is in the search for discovery. Often it happens, that we already feel better equipped for exploring and observing by just getting out of our usual everyday working environment.

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The Growing Value in that Crowd- Encourage it Out.

Finding Value in the CrowdThe use of crowdsourcing: the goal for me, is to engage and move the crowd towards a new direction, by encouraging out individual thinking and discovery, searching for combining these contributions; ones that lead to novel, new answers that move a challenge forward into a solution,  one that has improved value over the existing.

The community is encouraged to form, lead and build, taking ideas and thinking onto discovery journeys, seeking out and building on each other’s contributions.

The individual building blocks (like Lego) connect into a collective whole, that piece together, progressively being combined, to solve a problem, to frame something that leads to an answer of meeting the challenge initially set up.

The overriding need is to release the forces within the crowd, by seeking out and gaining their engagement and connection as something ‘they’ believe they can contribute into; as here lies the discovery of many, combining and ‘feeding off’ of each other, to change the existing into the preferred.

This is the third post on crowdsourcing that might offer some general background statements. Part one is here and part two is here.

Crowdsourcing can be powerful if harnessed well.

After a fairly detailed exploratory working through crowdsourcing in this mini-series, I wanted to offer my ‘take’, to help our thinking though in formulating clearer positions in this, to see its increasing value as contributing into an innovation management system.

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So Are You Thinking Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing does have a real potential in my mind but does seem to have some formidable issues to work through, to be well understood and managed.

Partnering with experts in this field will help overcome many of these barriers or at least have reassuring suggestions for resolving them. Let’s take a look at some of these here in this post.

Certainly, I think over time we will learn what works for us and what becomes leading practice, so we can become a lot clearer on crowdsourcing position and value to us, within our context, terms and circumstances.

That is why it will be really hard to cite ‘best practice’ as each crowdsourcing challenge will need different inputs and will yield very different outcomes for each unique challenge or problem raised.

Continuing with my exploring crowdsourcing. Part one is here. Within this second post, I want to offer some different thoughts to work through around the issues and concerns that came out in my researching the subject. There is a part three coming out in a few days to finish this mini-series off.

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Evaluating Crowdsourcing – offering a bright future?

Crowdsourcing 1Crowdsourcing has been growing in interest for some time to change our thinking in innovation discovery. It can hold a key for us to help solve vexing questions, real challenges, and connect different voices, that builds into a community that can combine and open up the fields of opportunity for new solutions.

Crowdsourcing does have both the potential to point towards disrupting possibilities, extends the concept of open innovation into a wider source of participation from a diverse community not possible to reach by other means as effectively. It can simply connect a ‘crowd’ of people to a common purpose. All in all, if applied carefully it can provide you with a leading edge of innovation knowledge and insight.

I wanted to step back a little and take a more measured look at crowdsourcing over three posts. This is part one.

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That sudden surge within the crowd

crowd surge 2Have you ever been caught up in a sudden surge within a crowd, when it all suddenly moves, temporarily sweeping you off your feet, making the pulse race a little more until you actually begin to enjoy the sensation?

It brings out a sudden rush of emotions. It can be intense, it moves you in a particular direction, often you are struggling to regain control, and everything around you heightens in your awareness. You love it or you hate it.

Either way it gives a real rush.

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Gaining idea engagement can be a five step process.

Having conversations 3I have been recently revisiting Everett Rogers work on diffusion and adoptions recently, evaluating if it has the same relevance in my mind in our more connected world, where speed, knowledge and exchanges are measured in micro seconds.

This reminded me of a suggestion I made some time back and I thought I’d ‘air’ this again for engaging with others.

We constantly fall into the trap of not providing our listener enough of a reason to ‘buy into’ our thoughts. We forget to either pitch it to their mental framework or we do not provide a set of compelling arguments that allows our idea a mutual recognition of its value or structure, to take it forward and transform it into something tangible and valuable.

I think using Rogers rate of diffusion principles you can end up offering a fairly powerful positioning statement. You can also offer a simple framework in this five point plan the chance to break down differences you might both hold, to build on the ‘evidence’ from a mutual recognition in the discussion on what your idea holds as potential promise. It can be transformational as a way to approach engagement.

 

Having conversations 5The five steps in engagement to map your conversations.

To get anyone out of their own thinking trap we need to associate our thinking to what would be valued by them, we have to make the value connections .

We can offer an uniformed path based on Everett Rogers five steps principle:

  • What we must always offer in any conversation is a clear relative advantage to what is presently available, so we can gain their permission and identification. Then we can set about to explore these better alternatives, to clarify their progress and gain general ongoing acceptance or questioning. Either way it becomes a mutual engagement. Stressing the ideas advantage by making a comparison, does allow for the chance of engage in a worthwhile conversation. Timing, circumstances and its value to the other person always need considering here. “Relative” becomes the critical word here.
  • If we can offer compatibility with our own and other people’s existing values, and explore a migration path from their past experiences we might get more space to experiment. We need to draw others in and so we have to align ourselves to their experiences to frame it to their thinking bias. This becomes a job-to-be-done on unearthing unmet needs or the needs that can be improved upon. The job-to-be-done thinking is a great practice methodology to achieve adoption.
  • The new tools, methods and different techniques becoming increasingly available to us, can certainly help us to explain complexity to reduce the perceived difficulties of adopting new practices. The whole gambit of gaming, the canvas techniques, visual mapping, design thinking all help considerably here. Any argument, discussion or position needs to simplify complexity as the one listening quickly ‘tunes out’ if we load the conversation with “too much detail” or jargon.
  • We then can offer new ways for trialability to experiment in safe and limited risk ways. Lay out a clear path of experimentation and result milestones to manage expectancies and gain increasing support commitment. Steve Blank’s contention of “getting out of the building” and his customer development process offers one of many ways to learn, pivot and progress in bite-sized steps.
  • Finally, we can provide observability, so others can see the results we can make progress. By keeping this open, it can be clearly challenged and blocked in many ways but openness and transparency does eventually reduce resistance. If we can clarify change and our progress in learning we give others understanding. It is when we fail to communicate what they need to hear, we are more likely to be blocked or our project cancelled. We need to ‘demonstrate’ progress and show its value.

Everett Rogers five steps might offer up a possible pathway to unlock much within innovation and reduce our different personal biases that can trap our ideas to not allow them to be seen in their real value to move forward, and be supported by others, as they gain their essential engagement and buy-in.

What do you think? It’s worth a try to build your own engagement stories around the five principles suggested. Give it a trial the next time you want to bring others onto your side and look to construct a mutual engagement.

There are two distinct parts to any Innovation Funnel

I wrote in an earlier blog called “the new extended innovation funnel” (http://bit.ly/hQTEJz) my reasoning for thinking differently from our traditional view of how the innovation funnel should look like. I feel it should look more like this.

Extended Innovation Funnel – are we really listening?

The ‘classic’ innovation funnel talked about is wrong for todays job!

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