The State of Innovation Management in 2015 Just Released

tate of Innovation Management HypeAs we come closer to the year-end it’s good to look back, make some dedicated time to take ‘stock’, in this case, on innovation’s progress. In a just released “The State of Innovation Management in 2015” that I have authored and kindly provided by HYPE for free, I believe you will find something of interest that you missed during a busy year, coming to a close. I certainly hope you will find time to go through it.

You’ll gain a valuable and quick insight into critical aspects that innovation managers and CINO’s should be aware of. It is in an easy format of thirty plus pages and offers a reference resource that builds a solid understanding of innovation today regarding relevant factors that will stimulate and support your innovation activity.

The Surge of innovation reports in 2015

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Organizations are in a constant dilemma concerning innovation

Organization's innovation dilemma.The issue of “where does innovation fit?” is one of the most difficult ones to address in many organizations. It seems to fit uncomfortably for many.

At the top of our organizations they ‘require’ innovation but will often not want the potential disruption this might entail.

Yet the organization today is being challenged like never before, it has gone from managing the predictable business to responding to the unpredictable, more opportunistic and alert to change, a place innovation can fit within the need to respond to this different environment.

This is the final post in the series that has focused on the innovation work mat components

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Entering the zone of innovation uncertainty

“The future never stays the same as it is in the present”. 

Today we grapple with more uncertainty than ever before. For many of us this is the time of year when planning out the future becomes more ‘top of mind’. These are moments where we have to stop chasing the daily numbers, pushing the immediate projects that are in the pipeline and turn our attention to laying out our future plans. Sadly we often make a poor ‘stab’ at this thinking through process; we don’t get our thinking into the right mental frames.

The problem for management is anything discussing the future enters the ‘zone of uncertainty’ and this ability to often ‘read the tea leaves’ can very much determine the future health and direction of the organization. Ignore these shifts or signals and you are on the path to your own ‘destruction’.

Three Horizons Future never stays the same

Not only should we search for possibilities that extend and strengthen our existing core offerings but we should search out on a wider basis.

Often we make a complete mess of this planning out of our future.

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The fog surrounding innovation

I’ve been in a little bit of an innovation fog recently, I’m possibly losing orientation. I hear so much sound around me but it is becoming disorientating, I’m not sure where to tread.  Am I heading in the right direction, or going off on a tangent, away from much that is “the place to be”.

The more I read, the less I understand, yet the more I read, the greater my awareness of innovation and all the mountains we have still to climb. It is a never-ending journey it seems, yet I’ve found I have pressed the pause button. I need some time to allow the fog to lift but can I afford too?

There is this increasing intensity of innovation wisdom being produced daily, you can just get utterly and totally all-absorbed in all the nuances, all that advice. So much that is written is offering the ways forward on past approaches, highlighting where we are going wrong on past experiences, and in some cases providing the “cure all” simply all within one article based on their narrow view of the solution, set in a specific context. It can bring you to a stand-still but much more than this, it can all be highly dangerous.

Funnily enough, if you do stop and listen, even when there is so much swirling on around you, you begin to hear different voices; you begin to discern new sounds. Often those people who are alert to these faint sounds  like to group these under “weak signals” or “future plausible directions”.

“Futures studies is the study of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. What is likely to continue and what could plausibly change.”  (Wikipedia )

A little postulation for possible and probable futures has a long way to go in innovation.

I sort of like this. The key word for me is “postulate” suggesting (for each of us) that the assumptions – the countless words, the proffered advice –  all has grains of truth, and form a small part of the argument or theory of innovation – trying to make the business case for change. Are they or holding us in the past?

It is really getting harder to sift through all this advice, this deluge offered in the name of innovation to pick what is sound and valid and applicable to our needs expected from innovation? Much within these messages is actually holding us back. In truth, much of it should be totally ignored. It is missing the future, it is far to rooted in the past.

I often do wonder why innovation is so elusive and seemingly hard.  Should we simply agree to manage innovation as individuals differently, or should management recognize finally that innovation is actually different and turn their serious attention to it? We do need to allow those in the organization to think, to have time to personally think, to be creative, and to become fully aware of each of our own powerful contributions to all our future well-being through innovating.

The need for emerging fusion needs amplifying.

Innovation relies on engagement and exchange, on relying on people wanting to be involved. We need to cut through the chatter, blow away the fog, the swirling advice and go back to basics, otherwise we continue to confuse. We are actually discouraging serious investment in all that makes up innovation as it seems, on the surface and in all the countless, often highly conflicting opinions, as just simply impossible to get our ‘heads around’ yet we do need a seismic shift in our thinking.

Where we do need to take innovation is in combining all of its fusion points that we have available to us. Those that can combine aspects of art, design, engineering, technology, social awareness and in all the different disciplines of science by coming together and coalescing in unique ways is where we will see the great innovations of the future, those that will tackle this set of economic, social and political problems pressing in on us. It is at the intersections spoken about in a terrific book that still occupies much of my thinking “The Medici Effect” by Frans Johansson that will give us in his words: “the breeding grounds of breakthrough ideas.”

What is very clear to me is the management of innovation needs to change to take on our growing set of global and local challenges in completely different ways. We do seem to need a new generation of top managers to blow away the cobwebs of 20th century management thinking.

The weak signals I seem to be hearing

I hear new sounds that give me hope on innovation emerging out of its “dark age” of our crude attempts to fit innovation into existing structures that are no more “fit for purpose”. We need some more enlightenment through the evolution of innovation’s management and all it means.

Possibly I do hear the growing sounds of a new age of enlightenment concerning innovation that is presently confusing and confounding me. It is being mixed in with much that is old, of past value. Perhaps we all need to become more discerning. But we do need to push the advancing of numerous new theories, experiment more to learn new ways because the way innovation is presently structured in organizations is simply not working, as well as it can do.

Maybe if we can gain a new momentum for the management of innovation so we can lift the fog, mine, and I bet yours, if you pause long enough. Until then I think this fog will drift in and out until there is enough behind the reforming wind to allow us to ‘advance’ again. It would help me gain more of the “true north” I need again in my innovation orientation.

So I have to cut out all the extraneous noise and begin to strive even more for the way out of this current fog. Where is that compass of mine? It points towards the future of innovation, which is so very different from the past, where so many seem to be trapped and suggesting our answers still lie. How wrong they are, I must follow those ‘weak signals’ to lead me out of this current fog, ignoring much that is stuck in the past.

The essential innovation vision

In a recent leadership study on innovation by Capgemini Consulting, one of the studies top line concerns was the lack of a well-articulated innovation strategy, and then beyond this, a lack of organizational understanding of the linkages required.

It is amazing how many organizations lack a clear innovation vision and an explicit set of statements from the Chief Executive or their designated C-Level Officer on innovation.

One great visual paints a thousand words

This visual I came across some years back, and for me, it is outstanding in providing the feedback loops that go into developing the right innovation vision. To get to a definitive end point of having an innovation vision you are faced with some complex challenges. These are well shown here. Each influences the other and constantly loop back, making hopefully an improving vision success.

The critical feedback needs for constructing an innovation vision

The different challenges seen in this terrific depiction, provide the sort of dialogue and efforts that needs to go into ‘crafting’ the innovation vision. It is hard, thoughtful work. Lets look at each of these a little more.

The Time Challenge

We get caught in annual planning cycles that often leave little time for ‘considered’ opinion and debate. The annual plans all come in a deluge and this is plainly wrong. Creating a vision needs a lot of time to consider all the aspects. The ‘time gap’ seriously impacts the visions success and clarity of purpose

The Diversity Challenge

Not only within the same board room do you have a diversity of opinion, you have that up and down any organization. Getting the views first out in the open, then managing the conflicting aspects and dealing with the ‘polarization effects’ all is difficult. This is where a dedicated focus, a Chief Innovation Officer, can really make a difference. To get people to talk about the vision, what it should stand for, what needs to happen leads eventually to a greater clarity.

The Relationship Challenge

Managing the relationships both within and outside the organization when it comes to the right thinking on innovation is hard, converting doubters, drawing out differences, improving the quality of any conversations around innovation (ideally with facts not conjecture) and raising the enthusiasm to engage is crucial to moving towards the right vision

The Vision Cap Challenge

There is a reality to what and where you are and the perceived gap that need addressing honestly. This  is something we tend to be very poor at, is, holding a ‘creative’ tension that can stimulate and create a vibrant and exciting innovation vision. We try to dampen the divergence in opinions far too early so we can (quickly) got to convergence. This ‘keenness’ to take away the ‘creative’ tension tends to replace it with potential set of ‘destructive’ ones and this often creates much of the beginnings of the barriers to innovation. People resent not being well listened too or allowed time to develop their arguments.

The Vision and its Success

If you get people to ‘freely’ talk about innovation, its importance, its impact and can ‘paint’ the future in broad brush strokes, they achieve a growing clarity and enthusiasm and that often missing critical component a sense of shared identity.

Innovation is complex; it deals with formal and informal mechanisms. There is an awful lot to constructing a solid innovation vision but believe me, it is even harder to understand the right components that make up the innovation strategy, so it does eventually become a well-articulated innovation strategy. More on this to come at a later date.

What’s hot and what is not in Innovation currently?

So what is hot, what is not in innovation at present? Any thoughts?

What do we need to remind ourselves about as we go about our ‘daily’ innovation business?

Some of my top of the mind quick thoughts:

  • Innovation is not the preserve of the (selected) few but the domain of the community. Driving this message home yields a real upsurge of new, often exciting activity that you would have missed out upon without engaging the broader community.
  • This absolute growing need to move on from the reliance of symbolic projects to justify innovations existence. Stop dipping your toe in the water, just jump in and get wet. Get everyone involved and wanting to contribute.

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Clear trends are shaping the future of innovation

In the last week or so I took a step back to look at the emerging trends around innovation. It certainly seems to have a bright future but its management is growing in complexity. It now needs a deeper understanding than ever. Are we achieving that?

My viewpoint on observing different innovation dilemmas:

  • Innovation used to be about product, technology and R&D but it is far more now about value and anything that carries value. It is about creativity and entrepreneurship and it is even more tied to a clear vision today than ever, so it does become a vital part of the culture of the company. Innovation and its potential value generation have certainly broadened out in options and needs even more to be tightly integrated with the strategy- how different types of innovation are aligned is really critical. I think many organizations are failing badly on this alignment recognition.

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