Designing Unique Workshops is hard work

Finding opportunities for Innovation and Growth is hard work. It is the value of having good, interactive, highly particpative workshops breaks much of those initial barriers to allow the hard work to begin in a more cohesive and collaborative way.

I believe any design of workshops must meet your needs, to push the thinking and to generate new returns in innovation understanding.

Boilerplate designs might look initially attractive but knowing your needs, limitations, concerns, and ambitions can transform a workshop into one that lasts in the participant’s minds as they felt it was “clearly” designed for them

Which end of the innovation spectrum do we need to go?

  • Workshops can mean different things to different people. Find ones that are 100% focused on engaging with and accelerating innovation. They need a couple of simple rules
  • Conducting ‘open’ dialogues or focused conversations should always have a sound context so the contributions slowly build-out and hold real promise
  • Discoveries can start with different ‘fields of enquiry’ to achieve different connections and deepen our perspectives

A great book, written by Bill Sharpe, explaining the Three Horizons often comes to mind. I wrote about it here “Three Horizons- fields of future, full of foresight”

Then I find the Divergent / Convergent approach in thinking as highly valuable

We need to always challenge ourselves and taking you through a set of lenses of discovery that go from ‘divergent to convergent‘ is important.

You need both to explore and exploit the multiple possible solutions. Divergent thinking is the ability and opportunity to offer different, unique or variant ideas adherent to one theme, while convergent thinking is the (eventual) ability to find the ‘correct’ solution to the given problem.

You encourage and ideate many solutions, both possible and impossible, and then use convergent thinking to move towards a realizable resolution or solution.

I use this ‘divergent and convergent’ structure for many of my workshops, it allows for broader engagement and involvement and that eventual drawing together from this process. Once or twice you have to be nimble on your feet to move from one to the other but the discipline comes from timing these as shared spaces but giving each a clear discipline of dedicated time as you do need a very different mindset to think openly then begin to narrow the options down.

Creativity makes use of divergent thinking, which is solving problems with many possible solutions, as opposed to convergent thinking, which is solving problems

The process of figuring out a concrete solution to any problem is called Convergent Thinking. Divergent thinking is the process of thinking that explores multiple possible solutions in order to generate creative ideas. It’s a straight forward process that focuses on figuring out the most effective answer to a problem.

Divergent thinking” is the process of coming up with new ideas and possibilities. We are more in a creative and intuitive mindset. We explore lots of possibilities and stay more at this point on the conceptual abstractions.

We work this through then we go more into  “Convergent thinking”, this is associated with analysis, judgment, and decision-making. We become more analytical, rational, sequential and objective. We begin to explore constraint driven issues. It is the process of taking a lot of ideas and sorting them, evaluating them, analyzing the pros and cons, and making decisions, and exploring options that reveal, over time and discussion emerging value

These journeys are personal ones as well as team forming opportunities and form the backbone of good workshops.

 Understanding innovation requires a deep awareness- through a variety of tailored or purpose-designed workshops, dialogues or discovery trips you can rapidly enhance your awareness and grasp of what ‘makes up’ innovation. 

Innovation is our 100% of our focus and we can, without question, advance your knowledge and insights across all of its complexities to be simplified through our workshops, dialogues and discovery approaches.

Building the workshop it is deliberately designed to help you need to think through many areas of productive innovation opportunity. For example:

1. Understand the trends and drivers in your industry as well as explore alternative perspectives allows you to look at not just ‘best practice’ but leading and emerging practice.

2. Look constantly outside your organization to ‘see’ and collaborate from the values of applying open innovation principles and techniques

3. Fostering the culture and climate for Innovation to workinside your organization can create the environment you are looking for but it takes a real understanding.

4. We all need to be aware of the way we earn our profit and where and why and it becomes absolutely vital that our innovation activity fully aligns to the strategic needs

5. Complete differently in the value chain- what it gives from new Business Models and discovering new opportunities to energize your business in different ways

6. When we stop and look at customers in different ways so as to listen to their needs we can discover new innovation opportunities and then how do you discover those unarticulated ones?

7. Expand into new markets and customers thoughtfully using the core within your business, in exploring the adjacency spaces and probing those ‘white spaces’ needs careful consideration.

8. Develop new product, services, structures and processes needs debate and understanding

9. Pursue a range of degrees of novelty to generate a greater sense of innovation possibility

10. Being able to sustain your momentum and make innovation repeatable does needs a broad identification and set of discussions to raise awareness, and build those capabilities and capacities well.

These journeys are personal ones as well as team forming opportunities.

 Understanding innovation requires a deep awareness- through a variety of tailored or purpose designed workshops, dialogues or discovery trips you can rapidly enhance your awareness and grasp of what ‘makes up’ innovation. 

Innovation is our 100% focus and we can, without question, advance your knowledge and insights across all of its complexities to be simplified through our workshops, dialogues and discovery approaches.

Building Capability and Capacity to Expand Capabilities for Innovation

A new equation

For innovation to be successful, the bottom line is the commitment and focus made for the building the capabilities and competencies in innovation as people make us the real value and ARE the innovation success equation in my opinion,

So we must simply invest in them by focusing on the 3 C’s of developing peoples Capability, Competency and Capability.

As we set about to build and expand capabilities we need to consider:

  • How we can accelerate uptake of innovation activity around the conditions provided through investing in them
  • The need to trigger engagement and achieve a growing attainment of knowledge acquisition and dispersion skills- essential for collaborative innovation
  • Setting about building practices for greater synergies, relationships and networking conditions, for ongoing learning and absorptive capacity
  • Extracting the right cultural, design, climate and environmental conditions,
  • Placing increasing value on evolving the structures, processes and technology application
  • Investing in lessons learnt, in validation and resolutions to challenges to build an ongoing adaptive capacity.
  • Recognizing people solve the critical bottlenecks and find solutions to overcome the constraints, they become increasingly motivated to find solutions and resolve gaps through their ability to be creative and inquisitive.
  • The ongoing building of capabilities and competencies clearly leads to a more sustaining and determined innovation future.

Increasing capacity through coaching

There are many benefits from having an intense course of one-on-one coaching, irrespective of the level of responsibility you have for innovation within your organization.

It is very similar to management behavioural coaching to change perceptions, to reorientate your thinking and approach, to open up to different thinking to build out your innovation understanding. Coaching yields a clear return but the hard work lies with the one being coached, wanting to see the alternatives and add these into their daily actions and lives.

Increasingly your innovation knowledge through coaching, you can accelerate different insights that can form a vital part of any innovation comprehension that can reduce uncertainties, encourage experimentation and draw others towards a changing relationship of trust, increasing productivity and engagement.


Through working with us through some fairly intensive and context specific sessions you quickly deepen personal knowledge and accelerate your critical business awareness and contribution.

Our innovation coaching approach provides ideal safe environments to enable innovation to quickly take hold and be translated.

Leaders, champions, sponsors and teams can gain from this coaching as well as the individual.

The Real Tipping Point in your understanding comes through ‘tailored’ Innovation Coaching where you see real benefits by discussing why and this, in my opinion always is framed around content and context:

•Context matters a great deal

•Content needs to offer a total solution

•Success takes time & effort

•Finding a release of working time to focus on adding new value to the Business (hard-wiring) becomes essential to achive this shift

I wrote this sometime back “Learning the Mantra of Innovation Context”It has value to read.

I take th approach in coaching innovation in multiple ways:

•Our approach is a mix of questioning, listening and re-skilling techniques and why this makes sense

•We recommend coaching is normally on a 1to1 basis as ideal but this can be in team situations as well, although this has a different approach

•This coaching is always innovation centric in everything we do in these 1on1 sessions

•Ownership lies with the person being coached and we seek to transfer the necessary insight and knowledge quickly and effectively

•We facilitate the unscrambling of many random thoughts and provide the clarity of piecing the innovation puzzle all together

It is yours alone to finally assimilate and use this new knowledge gained; we will help you in achieving your personal goals and provide the fresh dimension and place innovation understanding into the context necessary.

Why not contact me to find out more about a number of unique ways we approach innovation through coaching. Many of these become ‘deep dives’ to provide the necessary breakthroughs.

Then we have Peer-to-Peer Mentoring

There are certainly growing benefits in using external advisor’s and innovation mentors

To find someone who is empathetic and experienced in business innovation is growing harder so as to avoid many typical, sometimes unseen ‘pitfalls’ on innovation.

Someone who has a depth gained from their own business experiences; working in large organizations, managing complexity, projects and starting up fresh initiatives or taking them over to turn them around.

Someone who can empathize with the managing of innovation; in learning and leading significant activities.

A mentor or advisor can certainly provide:

* The opportunity and environment for you to step back from the day-to-day detail to take fresh stock, to re-engage in the bigger picture of what innovation can provide. They can help you to refocus and re-energize innovation activities. They can be timely.

* They can be a great sounding board as they listen they can prompt and stimulate your thinking. They can challenge it and help in arriving at new ideas towards solutions to your challenges. They can offer a series of directions and courses of actions to be considered.

* Growth or the needs for Renewal needed are often tough areas to manage and deliver through innovation activities. Timely advice can instil a growing confidence, the chance to debate and explore alternatives, and explore emerging options. A mentoring approach can help in avoiding ‘classic’ mistakes made by others.

* Today, we need to leverage the connections within our networks more and more. Knowing who, where and why becomes increasingly of value so as to avoid loss of time, energy and basic mistakes.

A mentor who has a wide network to tap into can seek out the best advice to support assumptions or offer even more clarification.

Each mentoring or advisory engagement will be different

Discussing constantly changing business challenges often values external evaluation. Often you can forget one issue as another one ‘pops up’ into the crowded agenda.

A mentor can remind, prompt and connect issues and bring a fresh perspective to these. Having the opportunity to revisit the different complexities within innovation so you have available a knowledge resource to share and reflect on constant changes since the last conversation or meeting can provide a catalyst to taking the appropriate action.

Having the opportunity to engage around different topics of discussions that surface around innovation can become a powerful motivational force for you to recalibrate, stay motivated, and have added incentives to think through these again.

In our view an innovation advisor or mentor needs to offer:

A good innovation mentor or trusted advisor should offer a different perspective based on a combination of their own practical business experiences along with a real depth of innovation understanding to provide a real return to your needs from innovation.

So to build the 3 C’s of Capabilities, Capacities and Competencies we can follow a peoples equation and invest in coaching and mentoring to really accelerate these.

Building the Innovation Business Case

The building always the Innovation Business Case offers a unique approach to tackle one of the real problem areas within innovation- making the case compelling.

One of the toughest aspects within Innovation is making the Business Case. Much of the information is imperfect, the returns are often fuzzy and the doubters ready to block and deter new ideas from entering the commercialization process.

Knowing the issues, reducing often the ‘noise and distractions’ and making the professional case is what we need to do to attract commitment to the projects we are working upon.

How can you reduce down uncertainty? By ensuring the innovation business case takes a clear methodical approach to this and builds the arguments up in a sound structured way, that shows the areas of clear discussion and conclusion and reduces down the more ’emotive parts, so as to allow the ‘idea or concept’ to firm up and be seen for its real merits.

Continue reading

Why do we have difficulties to self-disrupt?

“Why do we always seem to have internal difficulties to self-disrupt?”

Now that is an interesting question. My quick and simple answer is to look at all the internal constraints you can see, or ask those around you what they can see as constraints for them. You will be surprised at all the constraints that stop the individual or the organization to make changes.

It is also being constrained when you look outside your organization and not recognizing the (perpetual) changes going on, often until it is too late or a fast, nimble entrepreneur has nipped in and set about building a new alternative to your existing offering that has, perhaps for some time shown signs of business model decay. Continue reading

Future Innovation demands a different approach

Innovation requires a fresh approachI certainly believe we are in need of a fresh approach to innovation. We are facing unprecedented challenges, sluggish growth and increasing competition from unexpected sources.

We need to increasingly deliver better end results; as more distinctive, bolder and creative, delivering greater value to our customers’ needs. Can we change our thinking to achieve this?

Let me offer some of my thoughts on why we need to reinvent our innovation management.

The power of technology, software and the use of the cloud is combining in new powerful ways. We are looking for greater data capture and analytics and this is offering us a very different set of options than in the past. The framing of the innovation potential has to be altered. Altered in different products. services and business models. But will it?

Continue reading

Shining a powerful innovation light into the Corporate Boardrooms

Strategy Palette Used for Innovation RenewalSo after a fairly ‘dark’ period for me, of absorbing and reflecting on a series of reports, each indicating that innovation and its management understanding is not as deeply understood in the boardroom as it should be, you need to respond.

This seems an appropriate time to begin to rethink and explain innovation, partly in this need to fight these “immune systems” in fresh ways and partly to redrawn, re-frame and renew the value of innovation; in how it can help organizations going forward in very volatile times.

So let’s shine some light on new ways or even recognized paths for innovation to re-enter the thinking within our corporate boardrooms, in different ways that might resonate more in these more ‘dynamic’ times.

I like this organizing framework shown above, it can  allow us to gain a revised understanding of how innovation can be mobilized in different ways, to give value in dealing with these different forces to help move you towards a growing level of renewal.

So I want to begin a series of posts around positioning innovation frameworks, tools or approaches that build the boardroom “innovation toolkit” to deal in both the predictive and unpredictive environments. The suggestions that will be offered are designed to help tackle the disruptive forces swirling around the business that are rising, increasing the uncertainties to future invest. It is attempting to address the concerns on how to organize the “forces of innovation” to combat them, to raise the confidence level in the boardroom to ’embrace’ innovation far more than seemingly the case today. Continue reading

No Company deserves to survive with apathy in its future

The grim reaper of innovationI have always found April a difficult month. It seems to be the defining month for transition between winter and summer. It can fool us on the first day (April fools day) and its weather for us in Europe does exactly the same, usually all month long, confusing us.

One where it is offering up a healthy mix of rain, stronger sun, a little flurry of snow and some heavy wind too.

It can constantly confuse us as it can rapidly alter within the same 24 hours to often keep the heating on, when it should be switched off and visa-versa. It can be an uncomfortable month of adjusting constantly, second guessing of what might be ahead.

On the innovation front I have been experiencing the same feeling of adjusting to uncomfortable days.

Continue reading

Why we often can’t self-disrupt

In the past few days I enjoyed listening to a webinar by Clayton Christensen and Max Wessel for the Forum for Growth and Innovation, a Harvard Business School research centre initiative.  The Forum for Growth and Innovation seeks to develop “breakthrough theories to help businesses become more successful innovators and create new, robust sources of growth”.  The webinar was all around surviving disruption but discussed also “looking beyond the horizons”.

The Theory of Disruptive Innovation

To offer a quote from the Forums own website (www.thefgi.net.):  “Disruptive innovation describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves ‘up market’, eventually displacing established competitors”.

“An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill. Characteristics of disruptive businesses, at least in their initial stages, can include: lower gross margins, smaller target markets, and simpler products and services that may not appear as attractive as existing solutions when compared against traditional performance metrics”.

The webinar raised in my mind many unanswered questions. Continue reading