The limitations, criticisms and new pathways for Design Thinking – Part two

This is part two of my thoughts that came out of investigating and researching design thinking in the past couple of weeks. Part one is here.

Within these two posts, I want to provide my thoughts, bridging the present and pointing towards a better design thinking future, one that in my opinion, is urgently needed.

These two posts are not intended as a mapping of the present DT landscape, they are reflective posts coming from what I researched.

The ‘product of my work’ itself is presently being worked through to be available as an e-book in the coming weeks. It has not been easy and often I found a level of confusion that kept forcing me to dig some more and I’m still not sure I have the answers, perhaps just lots of open questions. I think design thinking seems presently fairly messy and I feel is in need of a complete reset.

The intent of the e-book is to offer a practical, direct takeaway of design thinking, more of the present practices and then where it is possibly heading. I tried to go linear, gone circular, gone holistic and at times ballistic and sought out tactical and strategic design, recognizing how its orientation has moved through product, service, experience, business model and is lifting design into new ways of orientation at tactical and strategic levels.

As I found out from my research, there is an awful amount of “noise” and “hype to work through to find the past, present and future positions of design thinking. In summary, I think design thinking is undergoing a revolution, a certain maturing but it is littered with a very messy, highly competitive present. Continue reading

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The limitations, criticisms and new pathways for Design Thinking – Part One

Let me summarize where we are today in design thinking. In the past couple of weeks, I have been spending a fair amount of time on investigating design thinking.

This is part one of my thoughts that came out of investigating and researching design thinking

In these two posts, I want to provide my outcomes, bridging the present and pointing towards a better design thinking future, in my opinion urgently needed.

The ‘product of my work’ itself is presently being worked through to be available as an e-book in the coming weeks.

The intent of the e-book is to offer a practical, direct takeaway of design thinking, the present practices and where it is possibly heading. I tried to go linear, gone circular, gone holistic and at times ballistic and sought out tactical and strategic design, recognizing how its orientation has moved through product, service, experience, business model and lifting design into new ways of orientation at tactical and strategic levels.

As I found out from my research, there is an awful amount of “noise and hype” to work through to find the past, present and future positions of design thinking. In summary, I think design thinking is undergoing a revolution, a certain maturing but it is littered with a very messy, highly competitive present.

I am suggesting that perhaps design thinking is a current ‘burning platform’ and the term ‘design thinking’ is so loaded it might need to be reworked under different banners to allow it to evolve as it equally needs to be restated and deepened in its skills, practices, uses, and methodologies. Continue reading

The New Innovation Value Chain Perhaps?

TSatisfied or Nothese are simply some opening thoughts. For a long time I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the way we have managed or even depicted the innovation value chain. I really think we should bring it up to date.

There has been such a considerable change taking place in many of the parts of innovation management, I think we need to replace the existing fuzzy front end, the pipeline and portfolio stage followed by execution with something far more reflective of how we think and what we deploy today as tools, methods and frameworks to deliver innovation.

The ‘old approach’ just does not calibrate anymore for me with the where we have been heading, or more importantly in how we are attempting to manage innovation within our organizations.

So I feel we need to determine a new innovation value chain and would like to make a first attempt

Continue reading

Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation

SurrondedFinally I am completely surrounded. I have that feeling of being somewhat overwhelmed, I can’t twist and turn any more, it simply will not go away. Do I throw myself off the building or decide to listen a little longer? It really is forcing me to think.

Today it seems whenever I pick up a business book each chapter has a section on it. Also I seem not to be able to not fall over all the articles extolling its virtues, I mindlessly “Google it” and you can see your whole life flash before you, if you decided to investigate this seriously.

What am I talking about?  Well nothing other than Design Thinking. I know, most of you are so heavily into this you feel you might as well ‘flip’ over to the next article but are you, really?

Continue reading

The Case for Re-engineering Your Innovation Process (part two)

There are a host of reasons ‘renewal’ might be needed to be explored as part of a more radical redesign of your innovation system. Today, when markets are especially tough, looking long and hard at what you have and jettisoning what you don’t need becomes essential to reposition yourself as leaner and more flexible, far more agile.

Looking to be capable in incremental innovation is simply not enough, we need to be at the same time achieving more distinctive and breakthrough innovation. This is the higher demand point that is expected from the innovation system within organizations,  and regretfully this is not happening as much as it should.

There are many pressing needs why organizations have to ‘shape up’ and make some adjustments to their innovation activities. One of these is simply don’t ignore the need for looking to explore a re-engineering of the innovation process. It can really make a lasting difference to the fortunes of the organization.

Herein this second part of the case for re-engineering are some thoughts to offer and support this call for a more in-depth look at redesigning your innovation process.

What is valuable, what is not?

What does give you real value within the existing process? What are really non-added value activities that have been implemented over time to defend, to protect, to layer on the existing? Perhaps having a fresh perspective, driven by changing market conditions, you can challenge many present activities as work that might be unnecessary, as you make a greater focus on optimization and speeding up, consolidating activities, as part of your needs to adjust and meet this market change that is happening at present.

The need for focusing on new responsive outcomes not just task or unit inputs and process outputs does need radical rethinking.

To be more responsive you might need to place into the innovation system a higher sense of urgency, of reducing time to market, of delaying certain decision points closer to the end. You need to be more adaptive to these changing market conditions and this might need some radical rethinking by challenging existing practices and norms.

Firstly what is achievable within the existing system?

What is possible with leveraging different technologies, collaborative platforms, more flexible structures and exploring synergies across the whole innovation system? If you were able to cut across existing boundaries, changing existing controls and constraints presently imposed and challenge the existing structures, what would that achieve?

Of course you begin to challenges sensitivities, threaten personal silo’s and comfortable routines built up and nicely established, you challenge existing attitudes.  All of this has increasing ramifications on existing structures so you have to move cautiously and in thoughtful ways.

Focus on those that might be effected most, that can block and challenge, then set about to offer them a clear alternative. One that they can see a different potential and ‘richer’ promise than often just the protect and defend of the daily grind. You need to paint an inspiring vision and some details of the journey and outcomes expected. Get them involved, excited and wanting to change, those that don’t, well it just simply will get harder for them to block real progress if you can gain real momentum and early success is quickly seen and felt.

A more radical rethink needs a reason

When we are evaluating the existing business processes, there will always have a certain structure and measured set of activities within it. These are designed to produce existing acceptable results from a set of particular outcomes that might have worked, but I expect, really expect, you were not really happy with the results, it seemed to give a certain disappointment. If you are truly dissatisfied with your innovation outcomes then you need to see these existing systems and structures as an obstacle and barrier to a different innovation path.

It is when the dynamics change, then you need to be alert and ready.

What if you needed from your innovation process, the shift to a real need for building in agility and higher market responsiveness for example? Changing the existing process is unlikely to work it needs re-engineering. You certainly don’t just change just for the sake of it, this does not make sense but changing it for a new strategic purpose does. If you markets are changing, if we are moving towards more volatile trading conditions this provides the strategic intent and motivation to change.

Are you ready when the CEO enters your office and expects different innovation?

In the coming months and over the next few years CEO’s will be finding their way to your executive office, more and more. Or equally to the marketing teams office or R&D centres, demanding far more from innovation. As responsible for managing within the innovation system do you have you a complete ‘handle’, an in-depth understanding, of what is truly possible to respond to this increasing demand from the CEO? Not just knowing your existing innovation system and structure but what are the possible options and ways to rise up and respond to a new set of challenges?

I would suggest that you should be already working on it because the way we are all doing business today, is certainly about to change, if it is not already under-way.

It happened to me some years back

I recall one event many years ago when it was expected to improve productivity within the system by 15 to 20% in the organization I was working for.  Admittedly not the innovation system but the whole organizational system. I had to go out and deliver this as my area of responsibility across a global operation. Equally there was a further demand to reduce operating costs by 15% and standardise the process so it could be understood and totally visible to the CEO.

The outcome delivered was 25% improvement in productivity and 25% saving in operating costs to channel differently. Both outcomes allowed for increasing throughput desperately needed and holding operating costs so as this allowed us to channel much of this to different new value adding activities to raise performance even further and drive through more volume.

It took a significant amount of time, commitment and resolve to alter structures, systems, processes  and the mindset across a global organization that had been very defensive in its local organizations. What it did do is radically altered the market competitive position of the total organization and gave the customer more of what they wanted, a guaranteed delivery to his desired needs when it was expected.

Why can’t these types of results be applied to the innovation system you have?

Don’t be dismissive simply because my example is a business process re-engineering one, what do you think innovation has become? It is a business process, with its entire supporting infrastructure, systems, management structures, processes, controls, culture and practices. Recognize the beast that lurks across your organization called innovation in all its forms, it can make or break you, it is that important to your future.

Innovation needs to find slack, it needs to utilize technology, it needs to find new ways to combine and explore. To achieve this you need to engineer time, to save on your existing costs, to improve on your existing process and to allow for experimentation, fresh generation of ideas and concepts and allow for the three ’S’ needs. You need to stretch, to scope and too scale differently on your innovation activity if you want more real distinctive innovation breakthroughs that truly accelerate growth.

What are my three big imperatives (BHAG’s) that push you towards re-engineering innovation.

  1. We need to improve the operations around innovation. We need to improve the formal and informal aspects of managing within the innovation system. We have to adapt our organizational structures to improve the balance between local and global responsiveness. We need to capitalise on all the information systems, communication technologies and infrastructures we have introduced progressively over the years and not harmonized or integrated fully. We need to account more for open innovation. Finally we need to look harder at what adds real value and what doesn’t and rebalance the two
  2. The scope within the operations is increasingly complex and we need to reduce this. We need to build more scale where it matters to outperform competitors and outperform in (deteriorating) market conditions. We need to add flexibility, we need to maintain a standardization in approach, we need to add a higher risk profile into our innovations.  We need to share in a more inclusive innovation strategy and we need to maximise our global processes to help deliver in reducing time frames. We need to make innovation life simpler.
  3. The chance to build fresh capabilities into your innovation systems. When you need to reconsider innovation beyond the existing incremental you have delivered you need to find compelling value propositions. To achieve this everyone involved needs to lift their heads up and find some solid, decent time to be allowed to think through this challenge. Knowing the (changing) innovation strategy and the need, being more included in this dialogue, adding their personal insights built on solid market understanding and not just through reliance on other people’s focus reports. Having a growing sense of trust that the outcomes of any re-engineering will release them.

We need to build  new competencies and capabilities into our innovation system, so as our people engaged in innovation can be able to contribute to improving more helpful processes for them to do their job and, feel engaged in a more compelling work experience. A place where their contribution is truly valued and seen, feeling included and able to ‘freely’ reach out across internal and external networks. Placing real trust and investing in the skills will open up individuals to want to take on new experiences and challenges. They can see they are making a real difference.

So any first step is to see and then respond.

So what do we really need to do to seize emerging opportunities quicker, at tomorrow’s new innovation speed?

Six simple opening steps to begin to think through

  1. Redefine our need from innovation
  2. Sketch out an opening road map of how to tackle any re-engineering of innovation
  3. Identify some opening improvement opportunities that can really galvanize change and significant for the organization can get behind.
  4. Take a hard look on what you need to achieve for any change like this and what it means in efforts and resources. Often not as much as you initially think.
  5. Begin to organize and draw in a team that can undertake the redesign and can share in this. This calls for expertise but seek out a real diversity of opinion but can all come together as a united team once the debating has run its course and results come in.
  6. Seek a growing commitment from those around you, determine the appropriate approach and be ready to clear the decks and take the initiative out of your office into the heart of the organization.

So, concluding my opening case for re-engineering innovation.

As I suggested in my opening remarks in part one of this, innovation as we know it today is grinding to a halt for many. The existing treatment and values we offer in innovation’s name are tired, over worked, often over engineered and under delivered into the market place to make real difference.

We need to radically re-engineer the innovation systems and structures to offer a better value from all the innovation activity that is going on within organizations. In  not recognizing the crisis within, is not providing the opportunities to explore & extract the best opportunities we can deliver to meet our customers needs and what markets are looking for in growth and stimulus today.

We have available more means at our disposal to move from the existing to the preferred than ever before. Innovation needs to go back to being the real option for significant growth by offering something that ‘wow’s’ the consumer and creates fresh new markets, found by tapping into the unknown needs and jobs-to-be-done that our consumers are trying to achieve with the existing products and services but failing.

We are in volatile times or heading towards them. The markets and consumers requirements are changing, much is by being forced into making change and they, our consumers, don’t like that. So we have to find different ways to meet these changing conditions with radically altered approaches within our innovation management to respond and be more agile, to draw the consumer back in.

Without question we do need to put back the ‘wow’ factor back into innovation if we want to first survive and then begin to thrive in more compelling ways and in tougher times.

There is a time for this need to re-engineer what we do in the name of innovation and this might actually be that time

The Case for Re-engineering Your Innovation Process (part one)

Real innovation is slowly grinding to a halt in many organizations. If the top leadership are not totally engaged in driving innovation it struggles, it grows in complexity; it gets bogged down in the internal politics of self-preservation and delivers only a ‘watered down’ end result, seen far too often to be a lasting sustaining solution, which it is plainly not. When are we going to recognize that innovation, as we have it organized within many organizations today, is failing to deliver on its promise of providing the growth expected and so often talked about by the CEO?

Larger organizations, let’s face it,  are so caught up in the incremental trap. Risk mitigation rules at every level of the management of innovation, as it ‘churns’ slowly through the complex innovation process, built up over the years. If an organization is totally happy with spending all its knowledge and internal resource on providing incremental products to its customers and gets away with it, then fair enough but does it have to be so?

Alternatively, if shareholders, customers and competitor’s sense there should be far more, then the organization is travelling a road that indicates the pathway to decline. The worry becomes simply, can it reverse this mind-set of incrementalism and risk mitigation in driving its innovation? There is a different pathway on offer but to travel down it, you have to think about some serious form of radically altering your existing innovation structure and processes.

Much has happened in innovation in the past ten years.

Often you wonder if any new understanding really has permeated through the outer skin of some organizations, perhaps with the notable exception of open innovation. We have greater technology, software, and understanding of systems, people, and structures than ten years ago. We are better at measuring innovation in inputs, throughputs, outputs and outcomes or have the potential to do this. Of course, that is, if we chose too.

The real issue for me is that much of this potential, these potential advancements are often seemingly being ignored, or certainly not fully leveraged. We just keep adding more and more on top of the existing systems, instead of stepping back and looking for a more radical redesign, one that can change the innovation dynamics. The one that transforms and goes well beyond our existing slow growth reality, seen today based on present performance of so many. The extra margins of profit today are more likely to come from reducing not enhancing.

So why do I argue we need some radical re-thinking of how we manage innovation?

Well most of the economies are flat on their back; the money in the pocket of the consumer is dwindling and less certain than in recent years. Many of our larger organizations continue on in their juggernaut fashion, believing they are that irresistible force that is indestructible and that they can keep on going offering increasing extensions to existing products, passing on higher prices expecting those higher sales. Will this last? I doubt it.

They are busy chasing higher revenue, not so much in existing markets but more by expansion into new markets. Much of the existing market activity is quickly negated by competitors, which stalk every move and cover off any short-term advantage to try to regain the status quo. Layoffs, reductions across the board just continue to eat into the very fabric of the organization to extract profit, often at the price of real innovative growth.

Organizations are increasing their complexity by the very nature of the business model they are pursuing.  They are reducing decision-making away from the markets and the field and centralizing this, therefore requiring the building up of the necessary controls to make sure there is compliance and fulfilment of these decisions. They are increasingly remote and losing the very trust of many of their employees by this ‘drip by drip’ set of actions.

Complexity comes with a growing cost.

It is slowing everything down. More people are spending all of their working days coordinating and justifying more than ever. The productive person, seen before to be the one producing something new or different is today plainly different. They are more likely seen as dynamic by the way they respond to requests, the way they communicate and coordinate, the way they chase and monitor. They shut down more in creativity by their need to satisfy growing demands placed on them.  Organizations are employing hundreds, if not thousands caught up in feeding the machine not driving the value-adding process. We spend increasing more time in seeking out efficiency and being more effective but effective at what? Certainly not on working with great innovation in the majority of cases!

The need to shift from efficiency to agility for innovation

Our focus is on efficiency and control, delivering more and more incremental better products, trying to stay one step ahead of competitors. By being in increasing control by planning and knowing your outcomes well ahead of the real need you are running your process to minimise risk and variation. The need is to have constant visibility and anticipating obstacles by employing the means to make this happen, being in total control, taking out uncertainty, taking out experimentation and replacing it with certainty. Six sigma enthusiasts must be delighted.

What if we changed this?

We want to bring in agility, the ability to adapt quickly to changing market conditions, to lead market change that increasingly shows signs of volatility and uncertainty. Would our existing ruthless grinding execution machines be up to the different challenge? Challenges like building in accelerating effective exception handling, separating the prevailing present business and application logic to be driven by different innovation logic of rapid, more radical, responsive product and service offerings that provide solutions that get closer to meeting some often radically changing customer needs. We need to be looking to take greater variation and turn it into a market winning advantage.

To achieve greater agility we need to cut rework, we need to seek faster problem resolution and reduce cycle times way down, reduce downtime involved in waiting for escalating decision-making of the past, minimise any backlogs and combine current innovation into bigger big bang solutions that can cut through market uncertainties to maintain your share of wallet, mouth or band width. We need the principles of Six Sigma but with distinct differences.

A corporate culture dominated by Six Sigma management theory will be primarily incline toward inwardly focused, continuous improvement types of innovation activity — process, customer service, systems, operations, and so on. The aim is small, incremental innovations that really can add up but only can go so far!

Seeking a more entrepreneurial environment

A culture that fosters disruptive or encourages distinctive innovation is going to be more entrepreneurial, more outwardly focused on new markets, technologies, and business models. The goal is to find big new growth platforms that add significant chunks of revenue and profit.

Innovation is uncertain, unsure territory and requires sometimes a significant level of unstructured thinking to spot the emerging patterns and opportunities; the innovation system needs to build this in as slack. We need to ask the underlying question is whether the discipline of process management will fertilize or strangle those new ideas that come from light-bulb moments of brilliance”

The need is for a different orientation

We cannot make money without innovating for growth, and we cannot save money by not having efficient processes. What we need is to strike a new balance from what we know that works and what we know is questionable if the activity does not have a real value add component to it.

The task would be to re-invent how we work to carry out this. We need to focus on the fundamentals within our existing processes and even be ready to tear down many of the current ways of managing innovation within the business. We need to seek solutions from a fresh perspective. When you begin to question you begin to re-engineer.

Part two, published tomorrow, will delve further into this case for re-engineering innovation.

Establish a different global thinking for your innovation.

When you read through a paper on transformative innovation by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) at www.executiveboard.com that offers in its conclusion: “Innovation teams have been reorganized, de-layered, downsized, and (increasingly) dispersed, weakening the underlying structure of many companies ’innovation efforts” you do stop and reflect.

Then you read in one of the latest McKinsey Quarterly’s articles about “the global company’s challenge” (http://tinyurl.com/8yvwsrv) suggesting many issues are needed to be faced within large global organizations, you get even more of a confirmation that all is not well for innovation.

Innovation’s future seems to need some wholesale changes to take place and those innovation leaders are facing multiple dilemmas and choices that can’t be ignored for much longer.

The issue is “are the leaders of these organizations up to the challenges?”

According to McKinsey, through a fairly extensive survey overall, global organizations are struggling to adapt in many areas. A year ago, McKinsey uncovered a “globalization penalty”: high-performing global companies consistently scored lower than more locally focused ones on several dimensions of organizational health. For example, the former were less effective at establishing a shared vision, encouraging innovation, executing “on the ground,” and building relationships with governments and business partners.

Also another section of the CEB report states clearly that “the past decade of economic uncertainty made executive teams risk averse—focusing on incremental innovation to improve existing products and ensure more predictable, near-term revenue. In effect, these firms have been trading larger, higher-impact (and riskier) ideas for a greater number of smaller, more manageable (and less risky) ideas, causing incremental and next generation initiatives to dominate most innovation portfolios.  Incremental innovation still accounts for more than 80% of funded innovation initiatives

The CEB report further goes on “With weakened ideation networks, stretched management, and ineffective global working relationships, many companies are hard-pressed to restock their innovation pipeline with breakthrough ideas. Without re-establishing the necessary organizational capabilities, companies are unlikely to shift their innovation portfolio fast enough to compete and win in new markets”.

It does offer the following glimmer of hope “while daunting, the challenges are not insurmountable” but let’s think more radically in resolving these barriers.

I think we should stop the innovation bus and re-evaluate where large organizations are really going.

In both reports they indicate fundamental underlying weaknesses that are not being fully addressed that seems to me is a major constraint on innovation. Unless those on the ever-moving faster wheel don’t pause and reflect they are just going to run harder and harder for diminishing returns and growing frustration, then they are facing the road to nowhere.

I think it is time to get off the existing tread mill and really begin to think through a major re-engineering of innovation.

Four tensions need addressing but differently for each organization

In many ways I like the McKinsey suggested four tensions they put forward as needing to be addressed in their article to be overcome; in managing strategy, people, costs, and risk on a global scale. The importance of each of these four tensions will vary from company to company, depending on its particular operating model, history, and global footprint. My approach to these:

  • Firstly manage within the global innovation team differently than today. We need to bring back strategic confidence and put a different stretch into the structure that builds on trust, on exchanging, on collaborating and building a deeper ,a  more globally spread experience level that is both dispersed, yet still globally orchestrated and one that is simply not imposed and driven centrally.
  • Make people more the central asset to your accelerating innovation. Place more trust in them. Not by simply dumping more work upon them and asking them to fill in more forms for a central repository on their progress. Or equally demanding a constant feeding back, often in one way conversations but in permitting the unleashing of  the talent that does reside within and across organizations, so often buried, by giving it a higher level of trust and self-determination. This would mean a much more focused coordinating platform that exchanges on a mutual respect and value for each person’s contribution and value generating contribution. Balancing local insight, adapting global brands and tailoring the final offering to tap into local opportunities needs a different approach than we are seeing today. Stop imposing, start listening and adapting and adjusting more to what is needed in local markets not ‘driven’ from some distant point of reference that needs significant compromise to meet different market demands .
  • The huge advantage global organizations should have is simply being eroded more and more. Not just by the local more nimble competitor but more importantly by the way organizations seem to be structured in recent years. The advantage of shared infrastructures that large organizations are supposedly meant to have, does seems to me, all but eroded. You see the duplication in the system as often staggering. The myths of shared services can be often illusionary, as well as more and more complexity is layered in the system to offset and counter potential risk. The growing cost of compliance, seeking global standards and coordinating these needs constant re-evaluation, cross validation and assessment is pushing out products by turning them into just safe innovation. Often we are seeing even longer delivery-to-market time horizons with all these internal exchanges .  There is a real pressing need to release this layering-on effect and find new and different ways to speed up and become more adept and agile.
  • Reducing risk often seems the first overriding priority in many large matured organizations. Take all the risk out of innovation and all you end up with the incremental approaches we are seeing today, all too often touted as innovation breakthroughs, what rubbish. Can this change, I think it must do, as real growth demands different solutions than what is being offered today, otherwise we will just simply ‘bounce along’ in slow growth across many industries. How to manage a more diverse business portfolio in global organizations needs a different hedging policy to rebalance the risk premium with more of an adventurous exploration of innovation bets. Re-balancing infrastructures and deciding where to locate skills to support both a global business but with a greater diversity of innovation within local operations and regions is a tough challenge. Managing mind-sets and embedded thinking calls for a more radical overhaul if more breakthrough thinking is called for.

Each of these four tension points needs to be re-balanced, to be re-engineered. Innovation needs some radical re-thinking, a more ruthless review of what is working, what is holding it back.

To achieve this I feel a complete re-engineering approach to innovation is called for. Large organizations are strangling great innovation ideas at birth and slowly to death through a heavily compromised pipeline These are being replaced with lacklustre concepts that are often boring their customers and compelling them to question the value and look more and more elsewhere, for solutions that fit their needs and pockets.

Otherwise global scale will simply not matter if organizations can’t leverage the people on the ground, so as to link more specifically to the customer needs in different regions and markets and provide them with what they want.

The urgent need is to improve the organizations abilities to connect locally and adapt globally, not the other way around. Yes, you can call that reverse re-engineering in the way you are managing innovation.