Exploring the Drivers of Innovation Change

ChangeI always show a particular interest in statements claiming to have identified a relevant driver of innovation change, then to think through these. Can these be valuable and be associated to the portfolio situation within an organization’s need, in seeking different viewpoints of product or service change?

Opening up our thinking to change can drive our business offerings very differently.

Often within these drivers we do need to explore what is the underlying force behind them, it allows us to pause and think. As you think through what these different change drivers on what it might mean to extending your new product or service developments, these can prompt radically different and  imaginative solutions to consider..

Using the different drivers can give you new insights into your innovation activities plus also can prompt significant changes to freshen up your innovation portfolio. They are certainly a good place to start to get the creative juices flowing even more.

It is worth constantly working around different drivers of innovation change.

Periodically I would suggest you work through each of these and see if this changes your thinking or approach and you can then see a different angle or opportunity that might emerge that changes the thinking.

So let me share my opening nine identified drivers for innovation change:

Continue reading

Are we all upside down?

This is one of those ‘rants’ occasionally I feel a real need to express. Forgive me, normal service will be resumed after this ‘break’.

Coffee in hand, soap box set up, let me begin.

Today, we are all struggling to transform ourselves in our businesses, even just within ourselves, to adjust to the current economic difficulties we all seem presently to be facing. We are not only confronted with the toughest downturn in modern times but with all the pressures with the speed of decision-making, technological advances that seem to just simply ‘suck up’ more of our daily lives instead of helping to resolve it. We have the pressures of global competitiveness and calls that constantly are urging us to never stand still because others aren’t.

We often become overwhelmed by the merging, acquiring, rethinking that is going on constantly around us, the changes in processes, new alliances and the sudden emergence of a ‘new kid on the block’ who sees a weakness and rapidly fills that gap overnight. Oh yes, and we still are not very good at being more innovative!

Lots more hot fixes or a more radical redesign?

These pressures compel us to focus on a host of ‘quick fixes’ but what we are failing to recognize is where all these changes fit within our longer term plans. Just finding the opportunity to take out precious ‘thinking’ time to synthesise and reorganize ourselves seems impossible, we are just getting caught up in the flotsam of live, just bobbing along.

We need to not only re-imagine but we need actually breakthroughs in our thinking, some of that bunker busting stuff to give us all a ‘concentrated’ focus on what is important to our business, to our lives and what is important to us as individuals. Where do we grow, where do we go and how do we achieve this? We can’t continue down towards the rapids that lie ahead of us, just around the next ‘economic crisis’ corner.

Where innovation and invention needs to combine

Innovation has an important part to play in this future, far more than in the past. We must try to reflect on the effect of too much cost cutting that is going on at the very fabric of our lives, the communities we live in. Nothing is replacing it, we just seem intent on knocking down what we have presently got and not offer alternative solutions, accept more ‘self-sufficiency’. This will eventually have the very opposite effect of destroying more than creating, it will extract more out of it than we will be able to replace.

Today the rush to cut budgets, to have ‘fiscal consolidation’ will not give a more flexible environment, actually it will be the very opposite. The expediency of the measures to slash and burn is not healthy. Our world has been turned upside down on us, but we must strike the balance between cutting back and building up.

Who is going to allow us the necessary time for rebalancing this mood for cost cutting and provide the leadership and eventually the stimulus for the necessary innovative thinking, so as to enable us to think about how we can rebuild, regroup. We need to seek out new opportunities, we need growth but I think it needs to be from a very different type of economic model. Politicians and mainstream economists all advocate a return to ‘normal’, which I certainly feel is doomed as ‘normal’ can’t be based on the past economic approaches or ways we have organized ourselves.

The task ahead is to do the opposite of what we used to do: we do need to save resources, improve the environment, create jobs, shift to another model for consumption, and restore confidence in the economic system – all at the same time.

Use innovation for resource saving.

Now the time has come for resource saving innovation. to extend what we already have. We need a clear political shift to the new courses that will gear us to to do that. Instead of market economy pricing favouring individuals and corporations we have to shift to ones based more on society. As painful as it is for some, we need to increase the premium onto those short-sighted people who are still insisting and  managing our economies and businesses for the short-term extracting costs. They simply cannot ignoring the need to invest, build and promote more onto the longer term potential for containing consumption as we know it today, and finding new ways of adding different lasting value. We need to invest in the future, we just can’t keep cutting and reducing.

We do need to shift our thinking onto a new type of consumption model; we must practice a more frugal type of innovation that still offers plenty of opportunity if we can break the ‘throw away’ attitudes of society and business design. We need to go back to repairing not just throwing stuff away. To do this the redundancy deliberately built to our products so one part that always seems to break before others and you can’t obtain a replacement, or you find it far more expensive to have repaired than replacing it has to be designed out from the existing product design.

Current material consumption actually is not fulfilling

Did you know that the current material consumption actually is not as fulfilling as we expected, according to work that has been undertaken by researchers, psychologists, and anthropologists. They conclude that less materialistic consumption gives a better and longer lasting feeling of ‘happiness’ than material consumption. They also are suggesting that we have hard-wired into us, that basically human beings still are inclined to want to work together, help each other, and do something for others and with others.

So the good news is that this nagging fear I’ve had that we are just shifting to islands of individuals just connected through our computers remotely seems like we really don’t want that, I do hope so. If we don’t think society really wants this then it can’t afford these billions of islands of individuals, it needs to find new ways to deepen the emerging global connecting model that works more for societies good, than the individual as it seems at present. We lose far too much of that deeper happiness factor it might seem, we become increasingly disconnected, inward and remote and that surely is not healthy for us as human beings that thrive on ‘human’ interactions.

Interestingly this is where the emerging of new connected communities gets exciting. What we have to do, is redesign these dispersed ‘connected’ societies into better economic blocks and find different ways to work together that will give us back a new economic value plus lasting pleasure, satisfaction and identification. We need to reverse where we are seemingly heading and that requires some radical redesign of how we want to collaborate for economic value within these new communities.

Collecting money and taxes becomes a growing problem

I’m just not sure where it leaves national boundaries or who will pay for the entire infrastructure if there is no attribution and way to make sure this happens. Presently we learnt from a recent report that the major banks and the financial global elite, as well as a number of developing nations are now confirmed to have as much as $20 plus trillion in hidden assets stashed away in offshore accounts that are subject to little or no taxation. As a result, around $280 billion is estimated to be lost in tax revenues.

In other words, the multi-trillion dollar banks and wealthy elites are combining in novel ways for avoiding any taxation, while forcing the vast majority of tax paying citizens to foot their tax avoidance bill. Amazingly, the $20-odd trillion stashed away it is suggested represents the overall GDP of the United States and Japan combined. The “scale” of the numbers is staggering and are these huge sums actually being employed for different innovation or just accumulating more the present model of consumptive. So much off shore wealth and financial mischief is ‘killing us’ all off.

I also wrote a blog on this destructive creation https://paul4innovating.com/2012/03/01/the-innovating-era-creative-destruction-or-destructive-creation/ and along with this latest report on hidden assets that is actually putting some hard numbers on this tax avoidance just adds more to this growing concern of a really messed up world that is closing its moral compass.

The time has come to restructure and rebalance production, consumption, and corporate governance and how they work together, in short in a more connected global world is the overwhelming need to invent a new economic model.

So where does innovation fit in any new model?

It sounds actually a little bit of “more of the same but better” as our starting point. We understand that innovation grows our businesses, it can certainly grow our equity, it shows it does grows our economies.  It is one of the best platforms around that can provide you greater economic returns (growth, utilization, new activity) if you set about doing this thoughtfully and right. Innovation should always replace something we have with something better (often today that is not the case) but in different ways than encouraging us to not throw away what we have but to utilize it in better, lasting ways. We can begin to change that right away with some ‘ground swell of push back if we wanted too.

Of course the complexity we are facing today does need a far greater recognition of its ‘multiple’ parts that must somehow fit together in new innovative and novel ways. We still need to offer and entice people to change their existing ways and habits. We need to find better models that will give real new returns that provides more lasting value and identification than what is on present as offered.

Innovation has to be central to our future, it needs a more systematic and integrated approach that has a ‘heart’ that beats on a continuous repeating basis. One that scales accordingly to the challenges we are facing and these are growing in challenges, not declining at present.

It needs a ‘fitness’ that knows where it has to focus and why so you can meet these constant challenges in a flexible, coordinated, well-balanced way with speed and combined strength…..the art of building  increasing agility into your innovation thinking and approaches.

We all need to work on the answers to fixing our current problems; otherwise we face a protracted, maybe bleak future. We certainly do have to turn everything upside down. Innovation and invention need to combine in new powerful ways and we need to search for different business and economic models that put together human ingenuity for changing the consumptive model and perhaps put to use some of the trillions stashed away needing to be put to better use than just sitting in offshore funds.

I wish I had some decent answers but my first need was to write about my increasing concerns here. I hope this ‘rant’ prompts your thinking to stop and think a little more.  There are answers; we just need to find them faster than you think, I feel. There are enough burning platforms already around us.

Well let me get off my soap box, my coffee is cold and I need to warm it up, certainly I’m not going to throw it away!

Shifting paradigms, refreezing the organization for innovation

I would like to continue on “unfreezing the middle” for innovation to really take hold and have a greater mometum in organizations.  Largely it is about our ability to unlock those ‘frozen innovation moments.’ To radically redesign the approach to innovation that today is constantly occurring in ‘discreet parcels’ of innovation activity within organizations. It is this ‘selective’ approach I certainly believe needs changing.

To achieve this I believe the middle manager in organizations needs to make some significant changes within their perspectives of ‘how’ innovation must fit within the design of their organization. This will allow them to achieve a fundamentally different organizational state than many seemingly need but perhaps are stuck with existing designs at present. Perhaps they are not seeing a different perscribed pathway to take- the innovation pathway suggested here http://bit.ly/dnCj1m and built upon here http://bit.ly/ikgR4f can serve as thoughts

Innovation in organizations does need fresh perspectives.

Jeffrey Phillips argues in his recent blog that “middle managers need new perspectives, new skills and new directions”. “We need to unfreeze the middle so the rest of the organization can adapt and change. Only then can innovation become what is needed it to be”- taken from his blog: “From smooth and steady to rough and ready”.  (http://bit.ly/OVsuX)

The question is how to unfreeze what we do today and relearn?

A good proven body of work has been built around psychologist Kurt Lewin’s suggested methodology that identifies the three stages of change that are still the basis of many approaches today- Unfreeze- Transition- Refreeze.

Much of the fear in innovation lies in ‘what is appropriate risk’ not just for the individual but for their organization. We are ‘’creatures’ that still want to go back to being safe, so we can feel we have a handle on events to experience that sense of control we always seeingly search for. We normally do not like discomfort except in ‘given’ intense periods when we are being challenged or threatened. The difficulty is you cannot maintain this ‘heighted’ threat, we seem to always (eventually) revert. What is needed is not to simply return to a former state but to replace that ‘state’ with a more appropriate platform of operating than before, built more on innovation for our future well-being and security.

The problem today, is that our world that we would love to be stable and be comfortable within, is being challenged more than ever. We need to find different positions of comfort to survive and thrive, innovation is in my opinion one of these. The problem is innovation in itself, can be uncertain and often risky. I would argue though that this can equally be a new position of stability, if you seek to master innovation and know its strengths and weaknesses intimately.

If we remain in our present states, then what I suggest as a ‘frozen state’ remains, we default back to what we know, based more on repeating patterns based on efficiency, effectiveness and doing what is necessary to manage on a daily basis. This, regrettably, is simply not good enough in today’s world. We need to change and in my last post I offered a number of approaches to structure this around change approaches (http://bit.ly/xfHWMM)

We need to make some real, significant effort to push ourselves into learning to ‘master’ innovation. We require both ‘push’ methods to get this moving- the organization sets innovation learning as a distinct goal for instance- and we need ‘pull’ methods to keep any momentum going until it instils itself as the new norm we identify with and get a different sense of yes, comfort, within ourselves over innovations critical position.

Lewin suggests 3 steps to work through as a model: Unfreeze- Transition- Refreeze.

Firstly we need to unfreeze the existing core.

There are plenty of techniques to help in this that have innovation as the focal point. To name a few

  1. Burning platforms- create a crisis or agree there is a real crisis
  2. Challenge the comfort zone and shake things up
  3. Provide proof that situations being faced are changing- cold hard evidence
  4. Restructuring deliberately to force change into the system
  5. Offering fresh goals and visions for innovation as formal corporate objectives
  6. Provide opportunities to learn, to be trained in innovation techniques and methods
  7. Shift the rewarding metrics to outcomes based on innovation activities
  8. Recognize that many of the existing contributions made do make up the past, not so much the future of what is needed to be achieved, based on growth and wealth creation.

Then we have to make a set of transition points.

These are the fuel to keep the innovation engine nourished and moving in the new innovation pointing direction.

  1. Inspire the organization to achieve some remarkable new things to change the existing conceptions.
  2. Provide internal and external stimulus in coaching, inspiration talk’s, providing an innovation knowledge site.
  3. Set about an organised training and education programme for innovation understanding that this moves in steps of learning.
  4. Re-educate by exposing more within the organization to fresh alternative thinking, both with your industry or in other sectors that you can ‘take and apply’ appropriately.
  5. Offer open spaces, ‘safe’ environments to learn and experiment, to trial and sometimes fail but learn from these moments the positives and re-apply them.
  6. Establish innovation champions to be the support team to ‘go to’ for advice.
  7. Push beyond incremental innovation by slowing turning up the heat so it gets more visible and noticed. See my blog on different dominant designs of organizations http://bit.ly/zdUhKp
  8. Learning to take first baby steps, followed by improving the pace within innovation activities by using different experimental, prototyping, piloting methods and approaches. Grow the confidence and talk of the learning from any failures along the way to improve.

Lastly we look to refreeze the ‘state’ into a new innovative one.

We actually do need to  refreeze but in a more responsive, proactive, agile way – with clear innovation intent to achieve a end goal. For instance, the goal of being seen to have a set of clear competitive distinct positions, recognized and acknowledged both internally and externally parties and then, measured in clear ways that added value that is seen in results, not just talked about as a ‘future promise’ based on present planned activities.

  1. We need to burn any bridges to ensure there is no way back to the old ways, where innovation was talked about but not enacted upon
  2. Make sure you achieve the ‘show me the money moment’- your evidence stream of innovation activity and success.
  3. Keep the focus on being ‘relentless’ and focusing on the future and why innovation is an important part of this in increased activity and performance
  4. Keep returning to the ‘rationalization’ of this so each action is a validation of a path being travelled which encourages certain actions.
  5. Make sure rewards are aligned to the new ‘innovation’ way, place rewards into the mid-term as much as the short term, often called golden handcuffs but valid in institutionalizing change through innovation.
  6. Build all the efforts over time into the very social fabric of the organization and make the middle manager responsible for engineering and designing the innovation mantle needed to be worn by all.

Passing through the three learning stages

Unlocking the innovating potential within organizations always needs to pass through different learning stages. The middle manager lies at the core. Focus on this as your ‘unlocking’ point and establishing a way to build in the necessary competencies and capabilities in a well thought through innovation development programme and process surely can allow innovation to take hold?

Until we approach innovation in a clear, methodical learning way, innovation, that deep capacity for innovation, will never fully ‘take hold’ in organizations as the middle of the core remains frozen in the past of efficency and effectiveness only. We do need to change the innovation middle core.

Unfreezing the middle, seeing a different innovating prospective

This past week we had a #innochat tweet session(www.innochat.com) around Jeffrey Phillip’s book “Relentless Innovation”( http://amzn.to/xXoHof ). The chat was framed around a set of questions here (http://bit.ly/Awvh5E ) but basically the premise of Jeffrey’s thinking was “can it be possible to shift from business as usual (BAU) to innovation business as usual”?

He suggests that one of the most significant challenges for innovation is the fact that many firms have spent years, if not decades, creating business models and operating processes that are exceptionally efficient and effective but neglect the essential part that innovation plays.

Equally the middle manager is so focused on the delivery of short term results through effective organization and pursuing efficiencies they have little ‘slack’ within the system to learn and build innovation into it.

I would possibly argue the very people that we are expecting to manage the ‘dynamics’ within organizations, the Middle Managers, are seeking the very opposite- doing everything possible to keep it as stable and consistent as it can be.

So how can this change?

Change is the word. If you accept the premise of BAU and Middle Managers holding back innovation, then we need to contemplate change, a more radical agenda of change. Jeffrey in his book goes some of the way in offering up different solutions to this but I think we should think deeper and harder, around a fully fledged innovation change management programme. Let me offer some thoughts.

How can we move the needle and tilt it more towards innovation? I can think of five immediate ones  to contribute to this debate that would significantly advance the change called for in Jeffrey’s book.

1.       Core competences need to be changed

Recognizing the middle manager holds the organization together, they are the glue that connects the organization with the leadership and enable the ‘forces’ to flow. Lets turn their existing core competencies on their head. The mix of primary, critical and core capabilities that are the measuring point for the MM’s new core competency set.

  • Primary becomes the base not the pinnacle  . What they do in efficiency and effectiveness remains as their primary capability- you don’t alter this, it is too engrained. This can only change over time and through their inner awareness and recognition that innovation needs to be embedded, alongside the existing ‘fixation’ on efficiency and effectiveness. Don’t try to radically change, make progressive step changes. Efficiency and effectiveness clearly remains the inventory repertoire of solid capabilities so as you set about to build a new platform, based on innovation, it layers and interlocks.
  • You target selected critical capabilities to learn and explore. You provide the MM a clarity of the new and emerging critical capabilities they need to build up. These are the capabilities that will provide the greatest impact for competitive advantage, not internal but external in all its orientation.
  • At the top of the pyramid is the core capabilities they need to have. This cluster of capabilities is centred on the critical capabilities to make innovation main stream, to be a daily part of their thinking, their make-up, their intent to ensure happens. These differ according to the role, area of focus and contribution.

2.  We need to focus the middle manager on different learning concepts

Peter Senge comes to mind for rethinking his work for establishing an innovation learning organization. His five main characteristics are system thinking, personal mastery, mental models, a shared vision and team learning. In (brief) summary these are:

  • Systems thinking. The idea is to introduce a distinct innovation system thinking approach as a conceptual framework that allows people to study innovation as bounded objects that make up the innovation ecosystem, that needs to be in place within their organization. Overtime it will help measure the performance of the organization as a whole, and of its various components, and the organization rewards on the ‘whole’ not on selected parts. This shifts the ground for middle managers to manage within.
  •  Personal mastery. The commitment by an individual to the process of learning is known as personal mastery. This is their part of the core capabilities they need  to be seen as making a direct contributino to the competitive advantage the organization believes is its set of goals. The workforce can learn these more quickly once identified, and apply them, so it is therefore important to develop a culture where personal mastery is practiced in daily life, based on clear capabilities needed to be practised.
  • Mental models. The assumptions held by individuals and organizations are called mental models and these are seemingly, stuck more in the efficiency and effectiveness ones at present. To become a learning organization, these models must be challenged. We have to guard against the individuals and middle managers that tend to espouse theories, which are what they intend to follow, and theories-in-use, which are all what they actually do. Also over time we must shift the organisations ‘memories’ which preserve certain behaviours, norms and values. Existing unwanted values need to be discarded in a process called ‘unlearning’ and allow time for new learning and maximised through applying ‘triple loop learning.’
  • Shared vision. The development of a shared vision on the place that innovation occupies. It becomes important in motivating the staff to learn, to relate too, to create those essential common identities of the value of innovation’s contribution and their distinct contributing part in this. This sharing and identity gives real focus and energy for learning.
  •  Team learning. The accumulation of individual learning constitutes the last aspect, into team learning. The value of the middle manager in bringing people and their contributions together is vital, this is done in efficient and effective ways but also in increasing experimentation to understand and find the ones that often just seem to work . This needs structuring  for encouraging boundary crossing and openness for both shared meaning, and shared understanding.

3. Working the innovation learning ‘muscles’ through the three learning loops

So in our new learning we recognize the value of the three learning loops- the first loop, the single one is reinforcing what we do, whereas the second loop or double loop is learning through increased insights what we can do, what is possible, what and who can contribute to ‘our’ advancement of innovation in establishing competitive advantage in these two way, increasingly open exchanges.

The third loop is the real learning loop- the one where innovation takes hold, where the establishing principles, capabilities and competencies goes beyond insight and discovery- the beliefs in what we should be- our triple learning set of loops. Moving from a certain static, predictable level to a more dynamic one where innovation thrives. This is the multiple conversation loop, built on enquiry, one feeding off another, a more open (innovation) approach and allowing these to evolve, often in seemingly unstructured ways.

One of the best visuals for reinforcing the loops is shown below. Again it is by Peter Senge and I use it a lot in any change programme. It is where you are heading too for innovation to become part of the BAU or in Jeffrey’s parlance of “innovation business as usual”

Reinforcing loops for innovation change management results

So the middle manager has to think through a new agenda for innovation change and the organization has to ‘fully’ provide the necessary support and structure for them to move towards this (radical) change in their managing within the middle.

4.       My forth contribution is applying a coaching framework

I wrote about this in a recent blog (http://bit.ly/zrzJc1 ) on “the value of having an innovation coach”. In this I offered the four stages we all go through in changing behaviours that I really believe can be applied here specifically.

  • Unconscious Incompetence– this is often a self reflection stage where the person, in our case the middle manager, reflects and draw out areas of incomplete knowledge on innovation. These become the agenda to learn about and need organization support.
  • Conscious Incompetence– From these reflections you gain insights, you begin to explore tested tools and techniques, you begin to frame new references that are relevant, you begin to explore and experiment, the middle manager encourages others within the organization to do the same. They look consciously  for growing confirmation that it has real value in contributing to advancing innovation towards competitive advantage.
  • Conscious Competence– As you begin to ‘grasp’ differences this enables experiences to build up so a middle manager can do what he is good at, look at the alternatives with a growing confidence and some ‘matching’ begins to occur and you see an emerging path for innovation action beginning to emerge from this.
  • Unconscious competence– the final part where the impact of what has been learnt, understood, investigated and explored has a real personal impact. It seeps into the make-up of the person and changes there ‘going forward’ behaviour. These comprehend the value of  innovation meaning differently than their original perspective and build their personal core competency levels. These become their clustering points of contribution and expertise as the way they will manage innovation going forward as the increasing value ‘gels’ for them and it integrates more and more into the existing efficiency and effectiveness mind set to move BAU into Innovation BAU .

5. Lastly I still enjoy using the ADKAR methodology of change

In any change we pass through different aspects, the building blocks for successfully navigating any change. For instilling innovation as part and parcel of the day-to-day, working within an organization and ‘radiating’ from the middle manager this is achieved, but only over time and in clear steps.

The ADKAR methodology was created by Prosci Research back in the nineties. Effective management of the people dimension of change requires managing five key goals that form the basis of the ADKAR model .

ADKAR is simply the acronym for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. These are the elements of the the most fundamental requirements for anyone to succeed and maintain change. Once you identify the first weak element, you have identified the resistance to change. Therefore, these elements cannot be reordered or skipped. You need to move from one to the next once understanding has been fully established along the ADKAR escalating model .

  • Awareness of the need to change
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change (and what the change looks like)
  • Ability to implement the change on a day-to-day basis
  • Reinforcement to keep the change in place

This model tries to attack the root of the resistance, in this case establishing innovation within the day-to-day working model of the organization. What really gives this model the edge is its emphasis on individual change and each middle manager has different needs, innovation competencies and understanding to learn to embed in them, the change needed. Change is often seen very differently, person to person.

So these are my 5 thoughts to contribute to embedding innovation into business as usual.

Until we approach innovation in a clear, methodical learning way, it will never fully ‘take hold’. Building innovation capabilities and competencies is where I hang my advisory hat- no shame in that- and we need to recognize the value of having a more structured approach to tackling this. Otherwise we all remain frozen in perspectives (personal), in implementing ‘parcels’ of innovation skills that is not ensuring innovation has a holistic approach from vision, through mission into its delivery. We suffer far too many ‘frozen innovation moments’ .