Learning favours the brave

Knowledge and learning 4The challenges we are facing today seem to be coming faster at us, more complex to decipher and then re-evaluate how we should respond. To achieve faster response we certainly need to educate the organization more than ever.

We need to absorb more, we need to encourage learning more especially to pursue innovation. We need to actively set up learning ways within our organizations to establish their abilities to recognize the value of new, external information (knowledge), to assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends.

Innovation within the organization needs not just greater recognition of its vital parts, but also of its status as a value enhancing and organizational life-changing event that we need to move towards increasingly in more organized ways. Innovation needs to be recognized as a clear discipline, a new expertise that is as powerful as Marketing became some decades ago.

Seeking out knowledge that feeds our innovations

Knowledge and learning 3The more we embrace change and recognize innovation demands more of our time, the more we seek out knowledge that ‘feeds’ innovation. And the more we ‘push’ for learning, the greater chance we have of thriving in a challenging world.

The expectation ‘bar’ needs to be raised from those practicing innovation, I feel the constant need is for those working within innovation they have this real need to raise their game significantly. Innovation needs organizing but it also needs a better understanding of its contributing parts.

Learning and Education should always start at home.

The earlier we learn, have open interactions and form linkages, the more we will be ready to advance innovation into what it must become: a discipline highly valued for what it contributes with in terms of wealth and growth potential.

We need to find the determination to underpin the capacity for innovation, lying within us all, and that comes from knowledge and education through collaborative learning. So what is your capacity for innovation really like within your organization? Is the learning required for innovation set up in structured ways or left to individual learning and experimentation?

Do either structured or informal ways feed back into the organizational learning system to benefit others? Or is the knowledge gained just left ‘resident’ in the person, not being put to that greater use?

Knowledge exchange is the way forward but we need to avoid the easy paths.

Knowledge and learning 2Organizations need to move well beyond their lazy reliance on best practice comparison and they need to find better ways to explore emerging practices. But that takes many into the realm of increasing uncertainties, and most people and organizations are not trained for this exploration and experimentation.

It is easy to copy but we often fail to recognize all the contextual factors that went into making it that one specific organizations good practice, and I guarantee these are not yours!

Best practice has their comparable uses but it is your focusing on the good and emerging practices within your own organization is the area to focus, for learning and wanting to improve into those that make your practices really work. Then applying, experimenting and learning from novel practices that provide growing confidence in creative thinking.

Also give some thought for next practice, those practices that prompt reinvention. They start such totally fresh thinking, they challenge existing paradigms and move you towards considering new business models.

Organizations constantly anticipate risk by reducing all the variables within risk and play safe with just being incremental. Is that wrong? No, as long as we have our reward systems geared to short-term performance, while we measure leadership success the way we presently do, and the shareholder just expects consistent dividends as their part of the equation and is quickly mobilized to force change if it does not meet this immediate aim, we head down the wrong path.

We are not sustaining our organization and we are not advancing ourselves either, we are destroying much in our current approaches. We do need to focus more on the competence-enhancing not competence-destroying aspects.

We need to re-balance the “risk and opportunity” to push our use of new knowledge into fresh innovation that ‘advances’ on the existing. To recognize the difference we need to encourage knowledge to be ‘freely’ exchanged, and then provide the environment to encourage a re-educating on ‘seeing and exploring’ new possibilities that allow us to grow.

Shifting the knowledge needle takes real commitment

Knowledge and learning 1Can we recognize that choosing the tougher pathway of building our own distinct capabilities, learning block by learning block, is the right one to follow. This allows us to build capacities that are ours, seeking out the knowledge to build the absorptive capacity that acquire, assimilate, transform and exploit, so as to give us greater chances of finding new innovation that is valued and allows us all to grow and gain from this dedicated learning.

I can’t change our prevailing system but I can point to alternatives and suggest we have other options, ones pursued by the few, which are more visionary and brave and often disrupting the accepted. These are building on novel and unique practices, extracted not from others best practices but from emerging practices learn by deliberate design and our own personal experiences, formed within our organizations unique view of the ‘take of and place in’ the world.

Finding our own way relies mostly on us to find the answers. We grow by seeking out knowledge as it feeds our minds to find our unique ways to contribute and share.

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Moving Towards Globally Integrated Innovation

There are so many books out there on innovation that it sometimes gets just hard to decide which to buy and read, to invest time into. I’ve got a growing stack of books sitting on my coffee table or in my e-reader file all shouting “read me, read me!”

Managing Global InnovationWell one I recently finished has been one of those rare books that got the Paul Hobcraft treatment; considerable underlining, scribbles in the margins, circles around some pages that I want to refer back too as quickly as I can. You can never achieve that same sense of ‘ownership’ and possession through the e-reader can you, or am I missing something there?

So the book that joined that elite pantheon to the innovation gods on my top shelf was one written by Yves Doz and Keeley Wilson entitled “Managing Global Innovation – frameworks for integrating capabilities around the World”, printed by Harvard Business Review Press. I really recommend it.

The Key to bridging your Global Innovation Gap

The book is all about providing the understanding of integrating your global resources to build and leverage a global innovation network. I think it does a good job in explaining the different parts, the considerations and the tougher aspects of making this work for you.

Ok, I’m a sucker when it starts off by discussing the innovation challenges, then starts climbing into chapters on optimizing the innovation footprint, then communications, receptivity and then how to organize for global projects focusing on collaborative and integrated innovation, it does draw you in.

I’ll leave you to explore this in your own time, if global innovation and integrating is your bag. Equally I think it will be more than helpful in thinking this fully through or recognizing gaps within your present operations.

What the book does for me

Why it is one of those books for me is where it keeps coming back and placing the focus, on knowledge attainment, seeking out receptivity, transferring and integrating complex and codified knowledge. This emphasis fits so much with my own passion and constantly pushing “Absorptive Capacity” that it felt like coming home, that reaffirming feeling. The difference was the book took you through a different level of journey and understanding to add a whole lot more in my own thinking around this area.

Collaborative diffusion, building distributed innovation ecosystems, compatible strategic ambitions, cultural compatibility and discussing the interdependencies all challenge your thinking. As the authors nicely sum up in Chapter 7 it is how the behaviour of decision makers needs to move from that in-built notion of “being successful by competing” on their individual level and changing their mindset for more collaborative innovation across this diverse and global network.

The authors suggest this new way of managing is a difficult one to adopt and sustain but suggest the best way, perhaps the only way, is through constant practice and having a positive reinforcement of what makes for successful collaborations. I’d also add that ability to experiment, to learn from others around you constantly and recognizing ‘winning and being successful’ is not reliant on just yourself, it is leveraging everything that is all around you that builds your experience and knowledge.

Globally Integrated Innovation

Connected WorldWe live in a world of huge diversity and dispersion of knowledge. There is a growth and constant push into new markets, emerging new competitors that are increasingly challenging us to find solutions to this management of global networks, both inside and outside our organizations in more integrative approaches to capture the ‘best’ of innovation.

Today’s present structures of the innovation organization, the systems required, the processes, the diversity of cultures, different mindsets and the focus on extracting the best from this mix of structure and resources is hard and complex.

The authors argue the scope and scale of the tasks should not become an impediment to action and suggest three dimensions of change to help in this. I’ll leave you to search for these.

They warn there is one huge caveat to achievement.

Senior management’s vision, their commitment and attention to this will not achieve this globally integrated network alone.  It is the recognition that failure to implement strategic change is often this lack of buy-in from groups of middle managers who remain happy with the status-quo or unaware of the need and rationale for the required change.

These gaps within organizations are due to the lack of dialogue, openly discussing threats and challenges and being inclusive in the implementation. This took me back, again, to my own arguments and suggested solutions to bridge that gap, through the Executive Innovation Work Mat.

“Knowledge is increasingly dispersed”

We return to knowledge in the wrap up within the book, where the authors have identified five radical shifts taking place that will lead to greater knowledge diffusion and diversity: 1) globalization and the opening of new markets; 2) increasing technological complexity and convergence; 3) demographic changes; 4) greater external pressures, in particular environmental concerns (and scarcity); 5) offshore outposts and outsourcing.

Knowing what makes up the complexities of global innovation and managing and harnessing this in dispersed networks is a real challenge and there is no better place to start than in picking up a copy of this book and working through it thoughtfully and thoroughly, to “organize, build and manage a global innovation capability from design to execution”

My final thought – beyond the previous boundaries of innovation

With innovation increasingly moving beyond its previous boundaries of simply leaving it to the scientists or marketing departments has long gone, for today and in the future, innovation is about open, inclusive, exploration and harmonization to extract the best.

Innovation has moved beyond products into new services, changing value propositions and business models and needs this constant reorganization around changing the innovation activities. Technology- based alone is not enough pursuing greater functionality; we are increasingly in the disruptive era of simplification, which captures far more of the imagination and where the increased movement of wealth generating opportunities lie.

Look at the effects of reverse innovation, jugaad or frugal innovation and where this has potential, the strong underlying movement in start-ups that are far more ‘needs related’ or serving ‘unmet needs’ through lean approaches than those in the past, of simply cruising along for opportunity with a vague business concept.

Everything has become so much sharper in why we have to focus our minds down, it is far more on what and where innovation can give us the next growth opportunity and that comes from all the diversity we can muster. Managing in the global innovation space is no different, it needs a dedicated focus and understanding, to find the unique mix that suits your needs and knowledge accessing and translating becomes the global unlocking key.