Seeing Your Innovating Future Across Different Horizons

The three horizons offer us much to frame our innovating future

IFD Mountain ViewFollowing a couple of recent posts on reflecting on the three horizons methodology, firstly here and then here, I wanted to come back to where I see real value, in managing innovation into the future.

The 3H methodology enables us to look out into the future, across three different horizons that can manage the transition between short, medium and long term in our innovation activities, something often badly lacking in most organizations thinking.

It allows us to gauge  the challenges, adding aspects we are beginning to gain a sense of, transitioning from one position to another. It allows us to deepen our evaluation of the innovation portfolio of activities, resources and skill sets across different delivery frames of short, medium and longer-term.

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Three Horizons – fields of future, full of foresight.

Three Horizon Book Bill SharpeI’d like to relate to parts of a book that came out in late 2013 from Bill Sharpe. His book, or actually more a booklet, called “Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope”, published by Triarchy Press, has some really helpful insights.

In this book, Bill outlines his distinct ways of creatively working through many of the unknowns, by framing and connecting though the Three Horizons, (3H) as his contribution to the patterning of hope for all our futures.

I draw out a lot within his thinking, experiences and approaches within the book. Some of these initial thoughts outlined here, re-affirm my own thinking and focus on the 3H, specifically for innovation and its management.

Here are some of the ‘triggers’ I connected with strongly from his book:

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Reflecting on the Value of the Three Horizon Model for our Innovating Future

Business as usualThere is that prevailing sense that we are just managing for ‘business as usual’, leaving many increasingly uncomfortable and feeling exposed. Why?

Our businesses are not adapting fast enough to changing conditions in the market, often lagging in the competitive race to update and keep relevant.

Businesses are struggling with conflicting knowledge flows and incoming intelligence, just simply managing their talent to keep them relevant, engaged and outwardly orientated.

They need to constantly adjust and adapt to the demands and challenges within the societal conditions, environments and markets, grappling with constant shifts in consumer demand and coping with the declining natural resources and of what all of this might mean.

We are often short on foresight and certainly struggling with growing complexity.

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Correcting an innovation oversight sometimes hits you hard!

I’ve had one of those weeks where a certain realization took hold, something that had been nagging away at you suddenly surfaces and slaps you in the face. Ouch!

I have just completed my own gap-analysis on how I have explained the Executive Innovation Work Mat methodology and its value.  It actually was a bit of an eye opener. I was surprised in this audit of all associated posts, articles and papers written by myself or in collaboration with Jeffrey Phillips, that there were some very glaring gaps in my posts on explaining this methodology.

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

The Innovation Work Mat has seven components or domains

What was crazy here is the fact I have the research, the component parts all worked through, structured and being used in actual engagements to prompt the essential discussions, yet I had not been publishing these enough through my posts to underpin the methodology.

I had been missing essential domain component messages that are the very essence of why you need to work around the entire work mat as essential. I was missing the opportunity to publically talk about ALL the parts as it is the combining of these that does provide its value as an integrated approach to innovation that can cascade throughout the organization.

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The Role of Governance needed in Innovation

Questions for GovernanceLater this month a book I have looked forward too, is finally being launched. It is called “Innovation Governance: How Top Management Organizes and Mobilizes for Innovation” written by Jean-Philippe Deschamps & Beebe Nelson.  Jean-Philippe Deschamps is emeritus Professor of Technology and Innovation Management at IMD in Lausanne (Switzerland).

Innovation Governance is promising to provide a comprehensive framework to help top management develop the overarching values, policies and initiatives needed for a corporate innovation constitution. The authors are providing a framework for encouraging and focusing innovation by explaining what innovation governance is, the various models for governance and their advantages and disadvantages, how to assess and improve governance practices, and behavioural tactics for maximizing the effectiveness of governance.

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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: 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 that is 100% focused on innovation and also 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:

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?

The Innovation Pathway Curve of Understanding

One of my recent articles outlined a three horizon framework for innovation. Let me extend this a little further. I’m sure we all agree Innovation needs to be worked at, it needs to be understood and often many people do get confused by not taking a more measured approach to the need to break innovation down into its manageable parts. Innovation does not just have a time axis that the three horizons framework refers too but it has a complexity and scope axis in learning as well.

By taking a more systematic approach to any innovation you achieve a greater understanding over time of what is involved.

Firstly you have to ask what you are trying to achieve, is it incremental innovation, distinctive, disruptive or even radical white space innovation? Do you approach innovation differently for each of these? I would argue you need to learn and build from one to another as you learn on the way, this is my going up a curve that increases in complexity and its scope/ outcome. Continue reading