Disruption, Destruction, Digital – Our Way of Future Life?

disrupt gaping voidI wanted to depart from just focusing on extolling innovation within this post – a sort of sound off, of sorts.

It seems in all I keep reading that we are being extorted to disrupt our enterprises before someone else does.

The constant threat of both those known to us and those unknown competitors who can simply raise money based on a disruptive concept, provide a different business model and then attack tomorrow. It is not a comfortable feeling is it?

We are told It is in our ‘complacency’ that we are losing our competitive advantages, even face extinction from these that attack and tear down, replacing it with something different and supposedly better. Did we really need it?

Can we learn to adapt as fast as all that is seemingly coming towards us?

There is so much disruptive power being harnessed that we are all facing an exponentially more complex and challenging environment. Why is there seemingly this determination to tear down many parts of the fabric of our society by challenging institutions, businesses and government structures?

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Innovation being served up with a growing angst, anxiety and Kiasu

fighting the clockTime, we are told, can be our best friend or equally our worst enemy. This week time showed its bad side to me, actually it might have been doing this for some weeks when I stop and think about it.

When you feel the pressures of time, you seem like you are “fighting the clock”, it just seems to heap more pressure on you and that need to break out, that spark of creativity, seems to have been buried under an avalanche of what keeps coming into you. The acceleration of what keeps landing on your desk, crying out to be read, answered or translated into something more.

Of course, most of us are that rational type and we tell ourselves most of this is self-imposed or is it? I think most of this is externally-imposed. I blame the advancement of our social tools and all the multitudes of opinions, thoughts, suggestions that are ‘spewing’ forth in streams and becoming so overwhelming you begin to go ‘stir’ crazy. I equally blame myself for getting so hooked.

Addressing the problem

This is not simply a time problem, it is deeper than this. It is actually tickling away at fear, it is giving a growing intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety and inner turmoil. I think I’ve been suffering this for some time. I’ve got FoMO thanks to all these social platforms I feel I need to connect into.

Each day is getting into a growing dangerous routine. I arrive into the office my early routine- check my emails, check twitter, check the blog, check facebook, it is eating into my time but I need it. Do I really? This is social anxiety with a big kicker. FoMo – that fear of missing out.

Then we have the staggering array of social networks constantly prompting us to check out our Klout status or your Kred score or the latest articles in our designated areas of interest. Then you go in search of the scoops of the day. You must feed the hungry beast, baying for your time.

Then the daily snippets, LinkedIn reminders, slideshare updates, headline notifications and then the drip of the dailies from paper.li capturing all the breaking stories you subscribed too, needed you felt for your work. Were they?

This is angst, an acute anxiety type, I am dreading where this is all going. So do we really need all these ‘social’ interactions, are they profitable investments or just simply satisfying events and quick fixes. No, we just want to all feel loved, special, in the loop and by giving something back into this, achieve a little respect. What are we really getting out of them? We reply, we contribute and we feel productive but are we, are we economically productive?

Now if this economic productivity is happening then great. That is defined as increasing the economic value or are social platforms just simply sucking the economic life out of us all?

It just dulls our creative process so we are getting more defocused aberrations

The reality is it is dulling our own creative processes. Is it spurring us to do more within our own work? Is it not undermining the precise kind of creative thinking for us to do our own creative work? It is blurring us, it is surely this constant ‘mass’ of contribution that chips away at making us less individually distinct, perhaps a new form of defocused aberration.  The higher the intensity of this social ‘interaction’ the more we get defocused, not actually more focused, I feel.

Then we come to Kiasu.

Anyone who has ever lived in Singapore will recognise this word. They even have a Mr. Kiasu. This really is a wonderful word for that “fear of missing out”. I think it applies to me more and more. I’ve caught the dreaded Kiasu fever.

Kiasu is a mental attitude, it is always looking for a sense of opportunity. This has its positive sides but it shows itself far more in its less attractive ones. It makes you feel if you don’t do something now it will be missed opportunity and where it adds a real pressure on you, is you have this fear that it will not be simply lost, it will go to someone else.

So  you experience with Kiasu a sense of lost opportunity and a growing disadvantage in relation to other people who are ‘working’ the social scene. This feeds compulsion that I equally have to do something now, it is my own sense of obligation kicking in as I owe it to myself and so I have to do it. This nicely links into a pressure to compete with others and I can’t lose out, can I?

Understanding Kiasu

Anna Wierzbicka wrote on Kiasu “Singapore English- a semantic and cultural perspective” that does an excellent job of describing much around Kiasu. Also David Chan Wah offered a essay some time back on “Kiasuism and the withering away of Singaporean creativity” with the wonderful maxim of “better grab first, later no more”.

In Singapore, Kiasu manifests itself in queue jumping or others barging in front of you, with perhaps, if you are lucky, only a simply “sorry lah”, it also is seen on the roads when no one likes to give way when lanes are merging. Kiasu is deeply ingrained into Singapore ‘s psyche, it has its good and bad points.

Growing up with Kiasu and its pressures often makes for ambitious business people; you become ‘big’ on working towards number one. The problem is always double edged, winning is never totally sweet as it carries the dread of ceasing to win, to get ahead, to ‘grab’ the opportunity.

There is even a A to Z of Kiasu I came across sometime back, although I’m not sure of its source on the sometimes amusing side of Kiasu in Singapore. I think we should compile one for our growing social anxieties of that FoMO.

Kiasu Philosophy

We are all increasingly in an information maze

We of course, do need to devote time to reaching out, reading, responding, to gathering in and absorbing but we do need our own plans of what amount of time we should spend on this and its ultimate purpose.

We need to certainly find time, to make available time as others offering their thinking and experiences does help us relate and often make sense of our world. It does stimulate our creative process but it is the ‘act’ of filtering but this can’t be imposed by a simple click of a delete button, it has to be more than this.

The pressure today is externally- imposed but we need to regain the upper hand by making this flow of social interactions coming to us, like a social tsunami, by taking back control to make it far more self-imposed. My anxieties, my FoMO needs redirecting into greater economic worth. Recognizing the symptoms is a start.

We all I feel, need to be more selective, more discerning to make our own insights more personally creative and not becoming even more elusive, growing reliant just on our ‘feeds’ being beamed in daily to dull our creative brain, by simply adding to them. We need to ‘carve’ out our own time to allow our ‘creative juices’ to flow more, I forgot to get this jab shot recently, where is that creative needle?

Becoming more selective- is that my answer?

So I need to come to grips with all this. I’m not sure if all this inflow is helping as much as it should be, it is not generating what I think it should be, certainly from the time I seemingly put into it. I need to break into this with a different perspective, it is sucking up far to much of my time.

But as Mr Kiasu says in Singapore English “I’ve got to get my money’s worth lah!” I’ve got to “everything also I want” and “everything must grab”  with “everything also want extra” but with more of “everything also sure win“. Work that out!

Leaders are feeling the effects of Innovation Vertigo says GE

GE have just released their latest Global Innovation Barometer survey and they are strongly detecting “Innovation Vertigo” from the survey conducted through more than 3,000 senior business executives in 25 countries.

This ‘dizziness’ for many is being caused by a growing unease with the continuing changing dynamics of today’s business landscape and uncertainty over the path forward. This is forcing leaders to think differently about how they will achieve growth. The good news though is it does seems that many are beginning to embrace this complexity by exploring new and sometimes unexpected opportunities to innovate.

According to Beth Comstock, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer of GE, “leaders are betting big on more unconventional approaches to innovation to unlock growth”. It seems GE are trying to stay ahead of the pack in unlocking innovation by exploring different markets, partnership structures and business models. Big data is accelerating up the inside as we have seen both GE and P&G, placing increasing emphasis on this, as a potential source of innovation insight they feel is presently missing.

The most important point comes back to these tensions or vertigo being felt, that is showing through in this report, between the desire for globalization and protectionist temptations that organizations sometimes tend to favor. It seems as our leaders are being pushed outside their comfort zones they are having this uneasiness with the pace of change and confusion over the best path forward.

I’d hazard a guess  on what they feel as ‘vertigo’ does go beyond the usual symptoms of light-headedness and dizziness and is possibly far more: that of a chronic lack of solutions beginning to creep into their  psyche as their worlds are spinning out of their control, to stay managing in the ways they have been. Perhaps welcome to our world Mr Leader.

As many of them will be gathering in Davos, Switzerland between 23rd to 27th January 2013 (http://tinyurl.com/afde4w5) I think the higher than usual altitude, will not help their brains or nervous systems as the whole economic system is still out of balance, so having “Innovation Vertigo” is part of a bigger malaise I would expect.

Still, here are the top line summary points of the report

The protectionist debate

There seems a growing undercurrent of wanting protectionism but making sure it works in their favour. This could be trying to get Governments to prioritize promotion of domestic innovation rather than imported but many others continue to feel markets need to be opened even more to promote the imported innovation and attract the (domestic) investment that goes with this, or should.

A growing number of leaders see growing challenges for innovation within local economies, believing that the increased competition and accelerated pace of technological advancement has a negative impact. So this is a growing set of policy paradoxes, leaders want clearer decisions through local governments to determine this and bring it under control.

The wish to go beyond just product innovation

There is also a growing recognition that incremental innovation is simply just not enough as organizations are suffering from this lack of growth momentum, causing much of the “vertigo”. Business model innovation is becoming more and more the solution with a growing view that a new business model may offer businesses a less risky and resource-intense path to reach customers over the current ‘traditional’ methods.

I read an awful lot into this but top of mind does come the word ‘naivety’ and a chose this word due to its definition: “being naive is often lacking developed powers of reasoning and criticism.”  They might look far more at the “within” and come down from their often lofty heights and recognize they are the ones that inhibit and constrain the existing structures to perform in so many ways, far too many to start to outline here.

I welcome new business models of course, I teach the methodologies associated with them, so they are needed but are these organizations equipped to design, construct and execute new business models?  Also what happens to all the resource-intense ones, do they continue, only to wither and die as new ones are pushed by their own leaders?  No, this might be fanciful but it needs a far more robust debate and thinking through.  Of course focusing on the right forces for growth mentioned to master innovation is the real need for innovating successfully, business needs to master customer and market insights, talent and technology development.

Grasping new business models alone does not change that inherent weakness seen today in existing organizations. Theory and desire might be one thing, reality and sunken investment might be another –  maybe more vertigo then?

Collaborations continue to feature

According to the report, it is the belief that collaboration between businesses is emerging as a means to surpass competitors, enabling faster access to new technologies and markets particularly in emerging markets. Yet despite global acknowledgement of partnership’s power, concerns over revenue sharing, IP protection, trust and talent poaching pose barriers to action. Germany, China, Brazil and Sweden seem to have the most experience at partnerships.

It does seem collaborative innovation has plenty of global appeal as a key to business success, and momentum are accelerating in developing markets and seemingly slowing down in developed ones. The reasons for collaborations are given as access to new technologies, access to new markets; improve existing product and service and speed up time to market. The downsides are a lack of trust and policy protection underpins much of the anxiety over business collaboration and the continuing “old chestnut” of IP protection, which all fit with developing country lag issues on legislation protection.

Government as stewards of the innovation environment

This one also gets me intrigued – stewards – umm. We are in such a “fog” from lack of dynamic leadership at government level, partly due to the complexity and tangled knots we have got ourselves into but also the underwhelming mandate delivered at the ballot box leaves the politics of politics in stalemate. I always get the sneaky feeling business leaders keep pushing government to lead and make policy and then scream and shout, another vertigo moment, if they don’t like the decisions that go with this.

Of course policy environments affecting innovation are caught up in this and the usual call to safeguard business interests adds to the tensions. Business worries over the lack of talent, of loss of knowledge, in IP issues and fear bureaucracy (besides their own) and over regulation (beside their own again) but often we can’t see our business leaders heading the charge to hang onto talent already in place, reduce the knowledge we all have by insisting on many brain-numbing daily activities, called specialisation and filling in information called for by the “system” etc.

Our business leaders want to see “a stronger entrepreneurial culture in the education system through stronger linkages between students and business savvy individuals” but sitting on their hands and wallets until this comes through any changed education system does not solve our immediate and next ten years of problems –  does it? I suspect more vertigo moments for them.

Lastly, guess what, talent is not in the right place

Leaders want to have access to the creativity and technical prowess within their workforce but the lack of preparedness and access to this ‘talent’ is holding them back in “unlocking innovation”. I find it hard here to not become a little cynical on this. Matching jobs and people is hard, no doubt and lining up the right skills to meet the economic needs required today is correct but if all the millions of messages of caution in the past about investing in people, in nurturing what you have, holding onto what you have in experienced people, instead of simply letting them go, many on early retirement packages or just leaving out of continued frustration, I do have a hard time on their concerns. They made the bed……..

Perhaps another symptom of “Innovation Vertigo” is “Innovation knee-jerking”, turning it off and on for the short-term needs and abandoning the notion of continuous, sustained investment in the skills, along with developing the experience base through challenging environments and leading edge investments. Well at least if new business models come into serious ‘play’ then the skills, experience base and challenging environments will all equally be in ‘play’ but not in the controlled ways they would want to see but at the edges of much discomfort for some white knuckle rides.

Thanks GE for providing this, it is certainly helpful to see inside leaders minds.

I enjoy the GE Global Innovation Barometers they often do raise the blood pressure and that of course is a certain tell, tell sign that I might be suffering “Innovation Vertigo” as well. Can I go to Davos as well, please? I do live in the country but more at  solid ground(ed) level, I’d like to be a little light-headed above the clouds.

The report is at http://www.ge.com/sites/default/files/Innovation_Overview.pdf

or with different views here: http://www.ideaslaboratory.com/projects/innovation-barometer-2013/