Opening Ourselves Up to the Innovation Mashup

Mash Up VisualSometimes some things come slower than others, and then they suddenly rear up and hit you. We don’t make all the connections we should; we are too caught up in our little world, beating our existing drum, drowned out by its own noise, to step back and appreciate something new is really happening.

Recently I was investigating one strand of thought and then bingo! Something else, leads to something else and the rest, so to speak, becomes history.

I’ve been reflecting on the new era of innovation and opening myself up to exploring alternatives, different thoughts, discussions and viewpoints. Underlying this is a growing sense of my convictions, still partly forming, malleable but trying to drive certain ‘stakes’ into the ground to keep testing and improving on a hypothesis or two; that innovation and its management definitely has to change, and fast!

Of course the cloud figures in this as a whole new different way to orchestrate innovation. More on that at another time as I need to get into some more robust discussions with one or two others on this and expand on my own position a lot more.

My recent ‘bingo’ moment was as I was listening to a round-table discussion within GE and its lighting division with a panel of outside thinkers. Beth Comstock, Senior Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer was chairing the discussion, so it will always stay lively and stimulating and it did not disappoint on that. Her throwaway line at the end of the panel session was “Perhaps the headline here is the Big Data Mash Up”.

Mash-up?  So am I missing a certain beat here? Or does it fit into my thinking

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Understanding Challenges Within Innovation Complexity

Complex adaptive system 1

Termite colonies are a complex adaptive system

We need to think differently about innovation and why it needs complexity and adaptive thinking as part of its design.

Complexity within systems challenge us to think differently, it pushes us to think outside often our normal experiences, to confront and understand and then restructure, often the unordered, into a new ordered.

Organizations are in need of understanding the complexities within their systems far more.

Complexity within innovation is always adaptive.

The challenge with managing complexity is that it is made up of many shifting and connected parts, that form much around interactions and relationships. These new ‘connections’ are shifting and challenging much of our previous understanding, built often on past practice and entrenched thinking.

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The Use of the Cynefin Model for Innovation

Cynefin Revised 1

The Cynefin Framework is a sense-making one and is registered copyright to Cognitive Edge

Firstly a very brief explanation of the Cynefin Model and why I find it highly valuable for innovation.

Innovation has many characteristics of a complex adaptive system as I have crudely  attempted to explain here.

The three primary states within the Cynefin framework are Ordered Systems (including Obvious and Complicated), Complexity and Chaos.

Order is split into two, as this handles a key difference in human knowledge between those states, where the cause and effect relationship is obvious and those where it requires greater analysis or expertise.

Exploring a process of emergent discovery for innovation

Most innovators are working in and certainly are far more familiar with the ordered domains, for ‘obvious’ innovations that extend, enhance or evolve their existing products and services. Equally they understand their more specializes place and contribution to be growing in their comfort, in the part they play in the more ‘complicated’ domain, where expertise, dedicated focus and specialization is often required or called upon.

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Lingering dogma, fixed mindsets and conflicting needs

Sometimes you would be amazed at the underlying tensions that occur when you get into those discussions around the board table on what and where innovation contributes to strategic direction.

Even managing the present portfolio of innovation initiatives gets caught up in these underlying tensions as it becomes another opportunity to open up the old wounds of bruising past battles and get back into those discussions again.

Suddenly the CFO becomes animated over the uncertainties; the research director grows defensive, and the marketing director more strident in why it is constructed that way. The HR director raises their concerns on stretching the resources too thinly and suddenly a fast and furious open debates erupts. Then the Supply Chain director throws in the concerns that the system will not cope with the sudden influx of new introductions in the remaining part of the year.

Each has a valued perspective but much of these are based on past positions, attitudes built up from other pitch battles and scores to be settled. The CEO listens and silently thinks to himself:  “what happened to the series of bonding exercises that we had all had invested in, suddenly just gone”. Continue reading