Breaking out of the current economic dilemma needs radical innovation

I gaze through unbelieving eyes at the continued rise of unemployed in Europe. Unemployment in the Eurozone has reached another record high with the seasonally-adjusted rate for April  2013 going to 12.2%, up from 12.1% the month before according to the European Commission’s statistics office, Eurostat:Eurozone Unemployment May 2013 EurostatAn extra 95,000 people were out of work in the 17 countries that use the Euro, taking the total to 19.38 million. Both Greece and Spain have jobless rates above 25%. The lowest unemployment rate is in Austria at 4.9%.

It seems never-ending.

Youth unemployment remains a particular concern; you simply have to wonder what we are storing up in the longer term with this situation. Can the youth ever catch up, can our society as it is positioned give them the opportunities to turn today’s grim world into a world of optimism and contentment, or is it a lost generation?  In April, 3.6 million people under the age of 25 were out of work in the Eurozone, which translated to an unemployment rate of 24.4%.

Why does this issue of growing unemployment seem to be drowned out by events that seem important on the day but realistically pale in their significance against something as damaging as this present crisis?

Examples of persistent economic and social challenges

We are facing significant society challenges. These include declining Economic competitiveness, deepening Social inequalities, rising Mental ill-health, increasing Crime and social disorder and we see growing Alcohol and drug abuse, to name some of the issues being increasingly tackled as part of the consequences of these tough economic and social times.

We must increasingly recognise that the cost of deferring concerted action to confront these growing set of social challenges is beginning to rise – and could easily outpace our ability to respond.

Can we afford to wait? There are so many pressing questions. Continue reading

The Innovation Word within the World Economic Forum

I was reading through the World Economic Forum’s agenda for this year’s meeting in Davos, taking place between 23rd to 27thJanuary, 2013 and saw Innovation is back on the agenda, big time. The agenda is a collective ‘innovation tour de force’ to solve all of our current ills for our leaders to work through, to begin to find all the solutions necessary.

The three programme pillars of the 2013 session are in themselves a statement of where we are economically and socially and what we need to work though: “Leading through adversity”, “Restoring economic dynamism” and “Strengthening societal resilience”. The themes are all placing the emphasis on the building, improving, unleashing, rebuilding reinforcing, sustaining and establishing which tells us exactly where our present business and economic woes need to go to be on the economic up.

The rise of innovation

So let’s take a peek at the rise of “innovation” within the preliminary agenda available, it is actually used 47 times within the document but in very specific ways that take it beyond the buzzword into something that has substance.

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The separation effect required for innovation

Exploit and Explore 3I have recently been in some different discussions about the merits and balances required to manage incremental and radical innovation. Partly this is in preparation for a workshop later this month but partly from a conversation, I am having with a sizable, well-respected organization, with its head office based here in Europe.

In the conversation within the organization we were discussing the breakdown in their treatment of incremental and radical and they suggested this was being managed within an “ambidextrous structure” yet I was not convinced. I have to point out this was only a part of a broader story on the difficulties of managing conflicting innovation demands that they were having.

One key constraint in their thinking I felt was not having distinct units as they were trying to manage incremental and radical through the same process and that, for me, is a basic mistake.

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Innovation has layers that shear against each other.

“Slow constrains quick, slow controls quick”

There is so much built in tension, bias, barriers, mindsets, mental model conflicts, and all types of friction seemingly going on around us, you must sometimes think all our organizations can only be totally dysfunctional.

The Scream by Edvard Munch for Dysfunctional Organizations

Has anyone not come across some or all of these?

Dysfunctional leadership symptoms and those typical warning signs of dictatorial leadership, no feedback on performance, personal agendas, more ‘political’ compensation than ‘performance related ones, inefficient use of resources, empire-building practices, unequal workload distribution, too much management, fragmented organization efforts.

There is simply just too much talk, ineffective  and incessant meetings, a lack of collaboration across departments, ‘selective’ low productivity when you are working way beyond the normal, feeling in a constant crisis mode, watching a morale deterioration take place before your eyes, the,  backstabbing, starving projects of essential resources and finally, working in highly stressful workplaces.

A pretty depressing list isn’t it? I’m sure you can think of a few more besides. Continue reading

Is innovation today expected as the panacea to solve all our problems?

I am getting increasingly disturbed. This week two people I know and respect have been talking about the innovation effect. Is innovation the business process re-engineering of our decade; is it part of a bubble like the the dot.com boom. Is innovation simply a fad and fashionable to talk up when we are in the present economic uncertainties? Is innovation durable or will executives move on to new ‘feeding grounds’ as they smell that possible wind of change?  Yes, possibly, I hope not. Innovation is still a very furtile feeding ground.

Innovation is meant to be the catalyst of fresh jobs, new growth and leading us all out to the promise land of wealth and security. Can we place such a burden on the slim shoulders of innovation?

Politicians here in Europe and America are using the past tool kit of tried and tested methods to kick start their economies, restructure the mountains of debt we have accumulated and generally stimulate growth. Our economies remains stuck, entrenched and resistant, even some are about to possibly plunge even further back.  So it becomes “time for playing the innovation card”.

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The Challenges of Real Change Required by Innovation Consultants

Recently I was reminded of an article by Daniel Krauss, writing on the Forrester blog site (http://blogs.forrester.com) about the “Path to Revolution In Management Consulting” which lead me to reply to his question of “what constitutes a management consulting firm 2.0?”

I’ve adapted my view here to reflect where it becomes even more relevant to the innovation consulting companies that I feel are in general struggling in today’s environment, for multiple reasons.

The challenge today lies for many in that they are not providing real consulting value to clients, and unless this will change it will continue to erode the clients confidence in these service providers.

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Moving towards a more distributed innovation model

How are we going to really unlock the true potential of frontline managers, middle managers and the whole workforce for ‘seeing’ and engaging for their contribution to innovation?

Far too many organizations still don’t provide the opportunity for everyone to contribute to innovation. I think as open innovation moves from the labs and research centres then OI will be one of the ways for a shift in thinking to take place, not just with the outside world but within the inside organization for a number of reasons.

Critical needs of open innovation are the trust, the behaviors and the relationships that need to be at the forefront of thinking when you engage in more opening up to fresh avenues of innovation thinking. I think this changing mindset of how to manage within will permeate throughout the organization more and more as these (often dormant but available) skills get put into practice more.

We struggle to get rid of the ‘command and control’ approach to encourage more distributed sharing and exchanges to reflect the need today of being more agile and fluid in how we meet rapidly changing market conditions and counter threats or seize breaking opportunities.

How can we influence leadership in everyday contexts?

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The real desperate need for innovation

Our past business models are not sustaining us, to take us forward. We have made this ‘rod for our own backs’ by producing  thousands of competent managers, risk-adverse not risk- taking managers, with our business leaders continually look over their shoulders or in the rear view mirror who have become short term in most of their actions. Governments still take ‘adversarial’ positions.

Business still seeks short term results. The end result of much of the activities of the past decade have led us to build a ‘failure framework’, one more sustaining old model being layered on top of other equally out dated approaches, and not the ones that can shift us truly up a gear or two, into a new age of prosperity. Continue reading