Innovation’s Deepening Linkage

For me, 2012 was a defining year. Much of what I wanted to achieve in bringing together a growing but fairly comprehensive innovation tool set has seemingly materialized. The collaborative work that Jeffrey Philips and I undertook has been a significant contributing factor, and I owe him a big thank you for being such a great collaborating partner.

Also during the year I have tried to keep a consistent update on the flow of this work through this blog: paul4innovating.com and wanted to keep publishing selected aspects in association with the recognized leaders in innovation knowledge. I often like to think out loud and it is specifically motivating when others respond positively to what I’m thinking – thanks for that, it is motivating and encouraging.

You may not know but I work through two organizational structures, firstly www.agilityinnovation.com that is 100% focused on innovation and also www.hocaconsulting.com that works on subjects important to growing organization’s capability in today’s world but keeping innovation central to the framing solutions. These combine and underpin my advisory, coaching and consulting work. These need more shaping but do have all the essential content, perhaps too much!

Recently I was outlining my thoughts on 2013 here and here

For me, last year the most important piece of work was around the Executive Innovation Work Mat. This was conceived and designed by Jeffrey and myself in 2012, to help assess the strengths and gaps that exist in an organizations innovation management process, and to deliver a formal “workout” methodology for those that holding senior positions. who are the biggest influences for innovation to be successful or not.

This work mat approach allows them, through its engagement process, to recognize their roles and all the necessary links within innovation they need to influence and think through. This work mat provides the essential framing desired around innovation articulated by the senior team, so it then can be used as the mechanism to discuss and communicate this throughout the organization, so they can gather around it and relate their contributions into the innovation need.

The work mat forms a crucial part of the strategic innovation framework that becomes essential to understanding and then building a sustaining set of innovation competencies and capabilities, so as to deliver innovation required and aligned to the organizations strategy. This work mat can then be used as the communicating framework to ‘cascade’ throughout the organization, with the aim to achieve engagement and be used as the founding ‘mechanism’ to align innovation activities to the strategic intent.

The concept of a Work mat is to ‘wrestle’ over it, to debate and then deliver a formal workout methodology that provides the essential framing desired to be understood throughout the organization to align the innovation activities as much as possible to the strategic direction and goals. It provides the basis for a well-articulated innovation framework for the organization to work from.

Going beyond the Work Mat

Beyond the Executive Innovation Work Mat, I have equally been working on offering a cascading set of frameworks to help innovation executives and teams throughout their organizations to build the methods and structures for strong innovation functions and processes, understandings of cultures, environment and methods. These are expressly established around strong innovation governance, a clarification and set of approaches to establishing different environment and cultural make ups, mostly through focusing on a fairly broad selection of capability and competency approaches, tools and methodologies.

I do believe the make-up of innovation services that are needed to be offered by external solution providers has to be broad ranging and robust. The range and scope can often be highly dependent on the level of executive understanding associated with innovation and the conditions imposed or set.

You can, as the external facilitator, be highly involved or fairly hands off, more a guide and mentor but this is determined through the conducting of a variety of assessments and audits, drawing down on different training programs and workshops and selecting within a toolbox the different methods and practices to satisfy the inquiring mind, rightly so.

I find a mix of advising, coaching and consulting as a real help. In initial discussions you can define the executive team’s role and create an environment where innovation can be sustained in taking this approach but it is demanding on everyone’s time in these early ‘storming and forming’ discussions.

Researching different aspects to underpin innovation  becomes critical, it provides the position and does validate each of the essential components that make up any approach to innovation. Within the frameworks Jeffrey and I developed it was absolutely necessary . From this work you can provide a structured and measured process of the transfer of knowledge that can be assimilated and embedded, and then adapted to the unique circumstances you find in each organization. It all adds up to a lot of dedicated work but I believe worthwhile.

Exploring the Innovation Reference Framework

One layer further that Jeffrey and I went was within developing and structuring a comprehensive framework. This was through the application of our Innovation Reference Framework, which defines the different cascading activities toward building a robust innovation capability or discipline. It examines four key “layers” of innovation – strategy, people, process and types and delves into each one in considerable detail.

This Innovation Reference Framework is designed to ‘map’ back into this Senior Executive Innovation Work Mat to underpin it, with a set of robust approaches to structuring innovation, that enable innovation to be greatly enhanced and linked throughout the organization.

This offers a very useful way into establishing a common language and  you can see through the different modules within the  Innovation Reference Framework a clear understanding  of the essential of innovation. This provides a meeting point for organizational understanding, often missing due to this lack of structure taken here. This can be viewed at:  http://cirf.pbwiki.com.

I do think this framework provides a reasonable, thoughtful approach to developing a robust innovation capability and ensures your team considers all the relevant aspects of an innovation discipline.

As organizations continue to turn more towards innovation to regain their growth and provide a more sustaining future the ability to ‘frame’ innovation in its entirety becomes critical. Clearly building competencies and capabilities requires expertise, time and commitment. Having access into a toolkit of innovation solutions, along with access to a deep knowledge base, combined with cross industry experience does certainly offer a broad understanding of all the essential aspects needed for successful innovation, so it can fit together, but in each organizations unique way.

Innovation is presently gaining greater senior executive attention.

Organizations are beginning to engage in new, often different but exciting experiments to reinvent the way they firstly conceptualize then translate to see how they fit to create the future. There is growing recognition that the old business-as-usual approaches have not produced the desired results or has simply run their course in alternative productivity and efficiency approaches.

Innovation is at a point where it is becoming embedded as a transformation method for its sustaining value and potential for discovering and exploiting new growth. Many are being forced beyond taking just the incremental route within innovation.  Innovation is increasingly recognized as essential to establish in more formal, structured ways as it is the catalyst to provide both the broadest possible relevance to all our futures and the ability to manage the parts that we can specifically impact. Impact comes from more breakthrough, disruptive and distinctive innovation and this needs careful managing and senior managers specific focus. I’m trying to be the equipment source and translation point for this.

Entering 2013 ready to do battle

I enter 2013 knowing it is going to be an extremely demanding year, to compete for attention, for funds, for gaining access and people’s time is not going to be easy. Having the structure, processes and understanding of innovation to the level I have will help me justify and hopefully get me through the door but business development is never easy, is it?

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My one word for 2012 – ingenuity

Some weeks go better than others; I’m sure we all have found that. This last week has been a good one for me. I think my weeks are getting better the more I read and explore other peoples thinking or find that ‘precious’ time to have a good conversation or two- they simply spark and strengthen my identification with critical points for innovation and its need.

This week I was talking to Jeffrey Phillips in one of our regular exchanges and he was asking me if I took some time out, straight after Christmas, to reflect on the past year and also begin to sketch out some of the thinking for next year. I love mind maps to capture these evaluations but I also like to ‘squirrel’ away lots of insights into a folder (scrapes of paper, articles, insights, references and visuals) that sits on my desk, for one of those moments I need reminding or prompting me to get back on track. That folder can stay unopened for weeks but it is a constant ‘drop box’ for those reminders.

Unrelated connectors often occur for gaining new clarity.

I then had two unrelated prompters to get me thinking. One was an article by Linda Naiman from her blog on “Reflections on Working with Centers of Excellence” (http://bit.ly/ru0Xnw ) talking about arts-based business learning  and the need for more humanity and fewer algorithms to develop emotional intelligence and empathy. Part of Jeffrey and my conversation had been on the value of art to stimulation and where I had argued that it had its place in business of relaxing the brain to absorb more information and knowledge than just business only related aspects. I do feel the business brain has a certain ‘tightness’ and it needs a different stimulus to allow it to relax and let go.  I liked that timely coincidence from Linda just hours after the conversation, a sort of reaffirming of a growing need. Something I must become more conscious of in my own approaches.

The second prompter came from the Atlantic, for me an increasing source of good innovation thinking. The article that caught my eye was from John Kao, Chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation who wrote an article “What does innovation even mean?” http://bit.ly/t8Cuc8

John was suggesting too propose a new lexicon, in hopes of better structuring and focusing discussions of innovation through its constituent parts, and related concepts. His final one struck me with such force; it stopped me in what I was doing to really think about this, he suggested human ingenuity.

Ingenuity is the secret sauce of innovation

He suggests innovation is enabled by human ingenuity. In a sense, he suggests, it is the “secret sauce.”

“While innovation is the journey from the problem statement (A) to a result (Z), ingenuity is the capability of getting from A to Z faster. Ingenuity is often about a surprising process in which the dots are connected in unexpected ways. And ingenuity delivers social value, not just economic gain.”

“Ingenuity” , he offers, is perhaps the most under-represented discussions of innovation, and at the same time, one of the most critical elements for addressing the challenges facing global society today. Many of these, from climate change to economic disparity, are escalating at a staggering pace that requires precisely the acceleration of the innovation process that ingenuity can provide.

Ingenuity is my watchword for 2012, maybe it should be everyones’.

It was after this I realized the force of this word and how it will play such a critical part of how we manage in 2012. We should recognize ingenuity and its importance in the innovation process as it takes you from an idea through to an achievable dream. It is the art of overcoming and winning against, sometimes, impossible odds to really achieve something different.

Those that struggle to overcome in the developing world

Ingenuity, invention, inspiration, improvisation, ingenious all are leading to innovation in the developing world that seem to offer initiatives that create ‘leapfrogging’- that ingenuity against overcoming often intractable problems. You do see ingenuity occurring more and more to resolve obstacles. It is lying within us all to find and use.

The definitions of ingenuity

Wikipedia suggests the term ingenuity refers to the process of applying ideas to solve problems or meet challenges. The process of figuring out how to cross a mountain stream using a fallen log, build an airplane from a sheet of paper, or start a new company in a foreign culture all involve the exercising of ingenuity. Human ingenuity has led to technological developments through applied science, but can also be seen in the development of new social organizations, institutions and relationships. Ingenuity involves the most complex human thought processes, bringing together our thinking and acting both individually and collectively to take advantage of opportunities or to overcome problems.

Ingenuity is often inherent in creative individuals, and thus is considered hard to separate from individual capital, more of personal quality. I think it actually can be developed, encouraged and worked upon in collective environments, it is not just individual.

Ingenuity is that pioneering spirit– to find those ways to overcome natural obstacles for tomorrow’s solutions that will add new vitality, new prospects, and new horizons. Ingenuity sits alongside innovation; they are blood related, both essential for evolution and both in-built in us as a species waiting to be released so we can be able to push the limits of possibility.

The ingenuity within art and creativity

Creativity and ingenuity—creativity is also a personal quality and a collective one, creativity is also inherent to ingenuity, there is ingenuity in music (the jam), in painting, in design.

It is often explained to achieve certain mastery for instance in improvisation you do, paradoxically, require intensive detailed preparation and equally innovation needs to be a sustaining process. It is the constant practice, the search; the experimentation is the result of many hours of preparation and reinvention, learning and adjusting.

We must find creative ways to transcend and overcome barriers and as Linda Neiman writes “arts play vital roles in helping us find our authentic voice, and remembering who we are as human beings”. Ingenuity flows from this ‘well’ if we allow ourselves time to tackle those seemingly intractable problems that are around us today.

So a word for all of us to carry into 2012 with a real mission – ingenuity.

We need solutions………through ingenuity……..in response to market needs and many problems we are facing around the world as we enter 2012. It just struck me as this is the word that should govern my approach to my advisory business next year. Ingenuity everywhere needs to emerge.