Redesigning the organizations middle for a new innovation shape.

managers-choice

Let’s admit it; our middle management needs a radical makeover, a new fitness regime to make us far more ‘innovation fit’.

Most organizations do need to change their middle management structures as they are far from that necessary ‘fitness for 21st century purpose’ in a constantly changing, challenging, more open innovating world.

The general argument goes and I relate to this, that the middle manager is so pressured to focus on the delivery of short-term results that all their efforts are centered far more on delivering ‘just’ an effective organization.

An organization that focuses on driving out any excess or leeway, reduce the variations, constantly dampening down potential risk and uncertainty. Today much of this being ‘efficient and effective’ is in direct conflict with what innovation requires. A space for ‘cutting’ some slack, seeking differences, exploring what variances can provide, encouraging a certain risk and uncertainty to allow for fresh thinking to emerge that leads to better things within the organization.

Yet the middle managers obsession with constantly chasing efficiencies alone, there is little ‘slack’ for innovation and new learning. Their measurement is often based on this efficiency and effectiveness emphasis and not on generating innovation.

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Measuring and motivating the innovation elephant

Elephant and the blind men 1I often think of the parable of “The Elephant and the Blind Men” when I get into discussions about measuring innovation. What are truths, what are the fallacies?  The parable implies that one’s often subjective experience can be true on your need, but not necessarily the other persons view of their understanding of value.

You get, as the end result, a failure to account for other ‘beliefs’ or capture the real value and miss providing broader motivations to encourage the innovation elephant along.

Establishing the right metrics that motivate and yield the result you are looking for is sometimes a tough challenge. You should always start with the bigger picture, organizational needs and then design the metrics and cascade these throughout the organization.

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Innovation is like a tropical rainforest

Innovation is like a tropical rainforest

Innovation is like a tropical rainforest

Recently I have been asked about my innovation activity ‘going forward’ and I described it like a forest needing some fresh attention. There is my need to cut down certain trees, clear away a lot of the floor covering to allow the sunlight in and permit those ‘selected innovation tree’s’ to be allowed to grow stronger.

We all have those times where we need to choose, to pursue clearer pathways we believe are better for us. To be more selective in what we do, to be more focused and hopefully achieve a better, lasting result that hopefully offers a more satisfying set of outcomes, to both clients and to ourselves.

Within this comparison I am presently making of innovation being like a forest, I really began to see so much more of a connection in what is happening around in innovation that it can be compared to understanding a tropical rainforest. There are many comparisons, let me outline some of these here.

The ecosystem within the rainforest is also needed for innovation to work effectively  

Firstly I would argue that innovation, to be managed well, needs to operate like an ecosystem, the same as a tropical rainforest. Ecosystems to flourish need to experience critical feeds, in the rainforest this is high average temperatures and significant rainfall. Well innovation to thrive needs equal attention; it needs a real focus, above average and significant attention to be well maintained.

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Framing innovation around four management dimensions

Julian Birkinshaw, the London Business School Professor for Strategy and Entrepreneurship wrote in his book “Reinvention Management” about the failure of management. He is a strong advocate of reinventing and broadening out the awareness and need for a more disciplined and up to date practice of management

Working through a kind of contingency theory of management

Julian points out different situations demand different kinds of management. To be effective, a manager needs to adapt to the demands of the situation. Managerial behaviour is mapped on four dimensions: bureaucracy-to-emergence, hierarchy-to-collective wisdom, alignment-to-obliquity, and extrinsic-to-intrinsic motivation.

The principles of emergence, collective wisdom, obliquity and intrinsic are newer ways of thinking about management. I must say I like these as I do his framework as a really good way to think about the approach we need to explore that fits with the strategy and the way we want to develop a business and its environment.

Innovation needs to exploit all the ‘opposing’ principles across the four dimensions

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