So I keep asking myself “What is the role of social media in innovation?”

Social media haunts us all. For many years you first become aware, then very aware and then fully aware that social media is changing our lives.

Let me confess: I am not alone I am sure but I seem to be presently suffering from Social Media Return Dilemma. There I’ve said it, it is out in the open, “I suffer from SMRD”.

To be honest I am struggling with social media in innovation, struggling to get my head around it for my business, for me for a long time. It often seems overwhelming, do you feel the same? I worried about this years ago and still do. What is the best social media to have as part of your communicating strategy, how much time do you network?

It starts with a realization

I can see daily the amazing power that social networking can provide, it is certainly eating into my day, more and more. Is this a good thing or bad? What suffers, what benefits? The time issue has to increasingly be managed, and I have yet to come up with a repeatable plan to manage social media consistently each day into my work. I get so much from viewing, commenting, relating and learning.

I don’t have a clear enough strategy for it or where to direct my social media energy, does anyone? It continues to evolve in front of our eyes, are you cresting the social media wave or swimming like crazy to get back up on the surfing board?

I am still learning, experimenting, exploring through a combination of writing blogs, contributing to others, updating my connections, tweeting sometimes like crazy, publishing, promoting or simply clicking on a retweet or offer a “like” back to the author or the one that has publicized something that interests me. Often I do wonder all this frenetic energy leads to what end. It does nag away at me?

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What goes around, comes around, in Innovation

It is funny but that often-used phrase “what goes around, comes around” seems appropriate here.

I was catching up with my often collaborator and sparring partner on “all things innovating” Jeffrey Phillips  recently, and within our conversation, some of our discussions sort of triggered a reflection back to some fundamental work we undertook some years back.

In revisiting it, I felt it does stand the test of time and does seem to make this “come around” seem true. Let me provide a quick introduction along with some brief explanations : Continue reading

Applying the Three Horizon Thinking to a Fresh Perspective of Innovation Design

There is huge value in applying the three horizon framework into your thinking. It is as useful a framework that you can get, to help decide where you are heading.

It is not just for innovation application, that can determine innovation activities. It has multiple values in any organization thinking and alignment.

The 3H informs the decisions to be taken, by recognizing their importance to the future and ‘frame’ resource allocation, identify current capability gaps to resolve.

It helps to enable the whole organization to “get onto the same page” and move towards that desired future.

This 3H thinking helps break down complex issues. Thinking in different horizons prompts you to go beyond the usual focus of fixing innovation just in the present it provides the connections of the present with the desired future. The 3H builds portfolio design, outline the steps to resolve in any complex challenge, it ‘informs’ strategy and builds the business case for taking a specific direction to that ‘desired future’.

If you want to read more on the three horizons then take some time out to explore the “insights and thinking” resource page shown under the ‘tabs’ above.

I recently applied the three horizons thinking to ‘frame’ a new innovation design Continue reading

The Dynamics within Agility.

There has been an awful lot to absorb when it comes to skills and how organizations need to be designed for the future. The suggestions have come ‘thick and fast’ from so many sources.

The number of helpful reports, observations and suggestions are constant and becoming overwhelming to translate effectively.

How can we map a new pathway for shifting current practices and transform them?

Where do we focus, what do we recognize as organization practices that can begin to transform the organization and re-equip it for a different future?

After working through a number the one that held my attention and has become central to my thinking to take organizational practices forward was provided by a recent report from McKinsey “How to create an agile organization”. This report has been part of a broader ‘agile’ series from them but this one specifically gave me my necessary anchor point, to move forward with my own design thinking for agility and innovation.

Agility for me is vital, it allows us to increasingly be adaptive in an uncertain world.

As innovation continues to be central to growth far more in the future it is our ability to adapt and adjust to all the uncertainties and this requires the ability to be agile. Continue reading

A new paradigm: focusing on Work to be Done

Much of what we read about with artificial intelligence, deep learning and robots can present a fear that our jobs are simply going, vanishing fairly soon. Technology, machines and information solutions will take over in this new world of accelerating technology with the concern of “so then, what do we do?

Well, I believe we have a real chance to, at last, celebrate. Yes celebrate, we can finally be liberated! Ever since the industrial revolution, we have been caught up in the productivity and efficiency trap, in the monotony of repeating work.

Today we are on the cusp of changing that.  Can you imagine all those boring, repetitive jobs we are faced with today can be simply handed over to machine intelligence, just happy to do the task at hand? Surely, if we manage this correctly it can release us up, it can enable our ingenuity to thrive. Continue reading

Identification sits at the core of innovation

There are so many aspects to get right in innovation. These can be ensuring the culture, climate and environment for innovation are working well, it could mean setting up processes, well-designed procedures and structures, it can be providing innovation governance. Each part has a vital part to play in being combined for innovation, so it can function but these are not the core. Our identification with innovation is that core.

The core lies in the scope and definitions, the context that innovation is set and the identification with these. How often do organizations fail because they rushed into innovation, along those classic lines of: “let’s experiment and learn as we go” as their mentality.  We fail because we don’t take the necessary time to examine the significant differences in innovation terminology, in the different ways or types of innovation, in gaining from ‘evidence based’ research and experimentation. What we expect to see from our day-to-day work seems not to apply to our innovation selection criteria. We experiment indiscriminately, poking a stick around the opportunity haystack looking for that elusive ‘golden’ needle.

Random selection and discarding practices

Organizations have been randomly selecting, then discarding practices constantly, in a never-ending search of more of other organizations best practices, without understanding what these truly entail, or what this truly requires in commitment. No wonder innovation continues to receive a bad ‘rap’ when you often have the innovation blind, leading the blind. There are so many facets within innovation that need a much deeper, extensive understanding that is so often lacking. We love to collect or synthesise and then quickly dismiss what doesn’t work, dispensing with some valuable utility on the way, as we move onto the next ‘complete’ package. Then the cycle repeats itself, perhaps not immediately but in its quiet eroding way that throws innovation even more into question and doubt.

Lost identities, lost opportunities

We have lost our identification, yet this one word strikes at the core of innovation as the essential to have. Everything we do should have an overly binding context to it. If we don’t place innovation within its appropriate framework we fail to contextualize our activities, the intended fit, which offers the real relationship we need. We need to fit our work to the strategic goals.  If this is simply missing then innovation is likely misfiring, or not hitting the targets because it is scatter-gun in approach and its interpretation.

Innovation cries out for an integrated innovation framework.

Offering an integrated innovation framework is the place where we can gain the necessary identification. It is central to what we should be doing; it establishes the boundaries within which innovation should take place. This is the one essential place for leadership engagement. If innovation is never placed in its context, then how do we expect the results often asked for by the CEO? Innovation is adrift, it is actually unsupported, and we don’t achieve that precious identification.

If we don’t  have provided that innovation framework, we leap into innovation, often in good faith, as asked, so we become often hyper-active as we all find our own ways forward. Eventually we stumble along and finally work out our own language and understanding of what innovation means, different to even the persons sitting at the next desk. Just take a look at all the different definitions of innovation you will find, just in one large organization alone. This lack of a clear context is so harmful we add further unnecessary complexity and over time frustrate the organization and confuse the majority.

People disconnect because they lack what is needed to connect! They continue to work hard, often very hard, but sometimes never truly understanding how their tasks and roles contribute to the strategic direction. We need to make sure each person makes their specific connections to an integrated approach for themselves. To achieve these connections you need a shared understanding, a common framework and a common language, to reduce the mental traps and misunderstandings of what innovation is individually meaning. We need everyone to try to get onto the same page.

Educating formulates the understanding

Educating, informing, clarifying constantly simply helps formulate understanding and aids execution. We need to find ways to communicate a common language, a common way to frame the needs expected from innovation.  That needs to come from the top of organizations and then built up by a growing contribution from all as they become engaged. If you can achieve this, you can move to a growing consensus but this takes time. You can eventually achieve a common identity that begins to move ‘mountains’ through collective achievement, that is both distinctive and unique to your organization. A uniqueness that can never be copied, perhaps just admired or envied.

CEO’s that are seen to be successful achieve connections, what is often called that emotional connection through describing the context, setting the values and vision driven criteria and by often pushing the organization towards ‘impossible goals’. It is amazing how this brings alignment as long as it is consistent, constant in its messages and widely shared and understood. Then the leadership makes it their business to position individuals and the decisions over what, where, when and how in the context of this, to allow them to make their decisions, as individuals and within their teams. Innovation activity becomes ‘orchestrated’ not micro-managed.

The value of the middle makes for the new connectors we need.

Middle managers tasks should be increasingly become more those of connectors and facilitators, not the guardians and gatekeepers for the decision makers.  Their work should include the encouragement that everyone is engaged in innovation work, for each person to constantly go back and check against this integrated innovation framework to work out their place to relate to this and become aligned. The middle manager carries through connection and identification.

Through this new work they achieve this ‘shared understanding’ or set about correcting any areas of concern through their own dialogues with senior managers of where any shifts have taken place or seem in conflict with the understanding. This is identification again, for it lies at the core of innovation. Making sure everyone has a ‘sight-line’ and identification into this innovation framework so they stay well-connected. Communication and relationships becomes the key.

Today we are living in a world of knowledge-intensive innovation

To build distinctive competences for sustaining those often elusive competitive advantages, is very much context specific. We need to provide learning events as competence is actually firmly embedded in the specific context in which it is created. If an organization lacks that context of innovation then how can it acquire the appropriate knowledge to give it any advantage? If the CEO and his leadership team can’t articulate the context, then they can’t expect winning at the innovation game. It is not their people failing to deliver innovation, it is them, as leaders, failing to deliver this integrated innovation framework where context sits and identification is gained to seek out knowledge-specifics needed.

Until the CEO identifies with his core role in innovation, the organization remains rudderless.  If he can’t supply what is expected, then it is more than likely the corporate strategy will be ignored, as it has not been placed in its appropriate context.  It fails because it is not communicate in ways that can be understood, it lacks personal identification.

Without the appropriate identification of the opportunities seen for growth not communicated then how can the right innovation be applied? Innovation stays disconnected to strategy. It is arbitrary based on interpretation and choice designated down the organization hoping it aligns. Context set in a clear framework for innovation changes that. It gives innovation a real chance to contribute.

Boundaries and Freedom

How we harness our innovation activity does not need the advocating of tighter controls, it needs articulating the potential and releasing people by underpinning how that will be managed through innovations organization. Ideally this can come through having a clear governance structure and providing the right environment that is needed, so as to allow others to do the work that needs to get done and see how they contribute in meaningful ways. Management’s dictates or rules should not stand in the way, they should be swept aside.  What should be put in that critical space is a common set of agreed organization definitions, a real clarity made up of what connects and why and then ensuring the resources are made available to achieve the innovation ‘called for’. This calls for a focused yet adaptive and flexible leadership, that constantly looks to engage and provides the clarity necessary within a corporate  innovation framework that can cascade down the organization. Leaders need to actively ensure through clear designation that everything is in place for all the appropriate conversations, and is equally ready and listening to the new ‘pulse’ of innovation, they are generating from this new intensity of focus.

Identification becomes the core to innovation

Eventually with enough of this leadership engagement, constantly being articulated and framed for the challenges identified, there emerges a common consensus and organizational language around innovation and its intent. It connects and gains both organization and personal identification and this ‘identification’ sits at the core of innovation.

We get closer to achieving a consistent, more vibrant innovation as it becomes more routine and embedded, for it becomes increasingly linked to everyone’s goals, a certain oneness and because of this, it is sustaining. We identify as we understand what our contribution will be, then the leadership has done its primary job, its aligned innovation purpose to the goals, by laying out the parameters to achieve this.