There are Knowns and Unknowns in Innovation: Let’s Manage Them Differently

quote from donald rumsfeld about the knowns and unknowns

This quote is from the former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Henry Rumsfeld, who mentioned: “unknown unknowns” (Rumsfeld, 2002). Since then, people have started using quadrants of knowledge, i.e., known known, known unknown, unknown known, and unknown unknown, to understand and explain the nature of risk but also of leading to an opportunity.

For innovators so much of innovation is hard to detect, it needs discovery and working through these quadrants of knowledge as well. We need to treat ideas the same on how anything needs assessing but it needs to pass through a different thinking about knowledge understanding, as there are ‘known knowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’ and we need to prepare for both within our innovation activities.

Our pursuit in life is often the same as our innovation efforts, it is in the search for discovery. Often it happens, that we already feel better equipped for exploring and observing by just getting out of our usual everyday working environment.

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Warm and Fuzzy at the Front End of Innovation

Warm and fuzzy inside

Perhaps I have fallen into the very trap I have campaigned about in the past, in recognizing and resolving the disappointing results we achieve from all the work we put into the front end of innovation. The “warm and fuzzy” front end of innovation can make us all a little grumpy.

Let me explain. I recently wrote out a newsletter – termed a thought or two – to my innovation network. This network is split between the advisers and consultants delivering into clients and the clients themselves, that I have a connections into that have built over the years. These are mostly through knowing them, working with them, exchanging or simply connecting in LinkedIn. The subject was the changes occurring at the front end of innovation.

My argument was the results we have obtained from a disconnected set of front end activities was poorer than they should be, and this needs changing. I feel there is a real shift potential happening today through connecting technology and connected solutions to ‘transform’ this front end. My feeling is the front end is often “warm and fuzzy” and it needs to be radically redesigned. I wrote about “hearing all the voices of ideas at the front end and the “two distinct parts of the innovation funnel” building from my original post “the new extended innovation funnel“, written in 2011.

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My innovation wish for 2015

2015 Innovation WishI would like to see emerge a different ‘sustaining’ capacity built around innovation as the continuous core, constantly evolving, adapting, learning and adjusting, in perpetual innovation motion.

A truly integrated innovation solution that sits in our organization to allow innovation to be fully leveraged and exploited.

We need to recognize innovation has many touch points, a myriad of dimensions that need to be aligned and integrated. I genuinely believe we need a solution provider, who takes a more holistic view of innovation management that can make a significant advancement on where we are today, in our processes and systems.

These need a total integrated solution as the approach. this has its complexities in the challenges but we do have the potential through technology deliveries, platform constructs, using the flexibility and adaptability found in the cloud and if we combine this with our innovation management understanding, then we can to begin to construct this systematically and thoughtfully. It is very achievable and necessary for our organizations abilities to absorb and translate knowledge into innovating growth, something missing for many.

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Are we moving towards integrated software for innovation management?

Software innovationWhat is striking me recently is the upsurge in the software being specifically designed for managing innovation. The competition seems to be warming up in the more ‘standalone’ out-of-the box segment and the innovation tools being provided are certainly accelerating the innovation process.

The software being provided is going well beyond the simply mining and capturing of promising ideas. The solutions are moving into sound idea enrichment, evaluation processes and managing a portfolio of innovation in more holistic ways.

The providers here, namely Hype, Brightidea, Spigit, Imaginatik and a growing group of others have been significantly improving their ‘front end’ offerings to capture and develop concepts- They are increasingly turning their attentions to the ‘back end’ and support with greater focuses on governance, knowledge repositories, campaign cockpits, evaluation and dialogue exchange mechanisms. Mobility has also been a growing feature to capture innovation ‘on the go’.

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