Checking for the global pulse of innovation

As a report, the 2019 Global Innovation Index (GII) is a whopper, at 450 pages, although 50% of this is detailed economic profiles and data tables for each country within the index.

This GII report investigates and reports on 129 countries and then analyzes and ranks them accordingly.

When you are caught up in generating innovation within a business these sorts of reports can often pass you by as not so relevant to your everyday job of innovation.

I can certainly understand that but as a barometer of the health and investment going into innovation, it will eventually filter through to you and has more relevance than you first imagine.

This report is mainly for those interested in forming national policy on innovation, or judging where they are within the global race on innovation, yet it tells us all some really important points on the current health of innovation.

Yet the innovation message is for us all. If nothing else read this summary. Continue reading

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Your Future Lies in Occupying the Innovation Job and Using the Skills it Provides

Source: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report 2018.

We all need to begin to grapple with what is redefining work in knowledge, skills, our experience, and our necessary abilities to be viable and useful

We continue to hear and begin to see the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It continues to impact skills, tasks, and jobs.

The implications are a growing concern that both job displacement and talent shortages will impact business dynamism and societal cohesion. It is the pervasive power of technology integration that will change the business models of all industries.

Yet we are recognizing it will also giving rise to a number of emerging jobs yet to be identified or formulized to be trained in. A proactive and strategic effort is needed but based on what? We need to manage reskilling and upskilling to mitigate against both job losses and talent shortages but prepared the future workforce to be more nimble, agile and fluid. Here is where innovators are going to be well-positioned.

Working within the innovation space will be one of the best launching pads for being more comfortable for the future of work. Let me explain why Continue reading

Facilitating the Innovation Ecosystem Design

I do like to capture thoughts within Mind Maps. I am never sure if they work for others as the map maker does see things in his or her own way. In the end, it is seeing the other person getting it, that light bulb moment.

I have a group of Ecosystem Mind maps but I thought I’d share this one here to trigger further the thinking that needs to go into building an Innovation Ecosystem. Does it work for you? To be honest I am not sure if it conveys as much as I would like, to reflect on differences when you come to working in innovation ecosystem designs .

To get groups to think more openly about considering innovation in a more ecosystem approach to design and interaction I like to often refer to my mind maps to trigger discussions.

Sometimes it is mine, and mine alone, and I simply talk around it without showing the map, other times I show the map. The problem when you show maps, everyone works through it in their own unique way, however hard you try to get them to work through it in the way you want them too.

I have found mind maps are increasingly highly personal and it can take twice as long to explain something when you show the map to someone else. I think to put the mind map into a powerpoint “stages” it accordingly but it takes away the total map effect.

The key for me in the map shown below is to view considerations differently when you are thinking innovation ecosystems. There are your strategic considerations, there are tactical considerations and then there are value building considerations. Continue reading

I prefer the work-to-be-done for innovation.

When we are really innovating we are actually working on the Work-to-be-done, it is a far more exciting activity than constantly focusing on work done, that we need to do to refine, it, to make it more productive, efficient and effective. This work is done, certainly needs doing, no question but it is the “work-t- be-done” that gets the pulse racing. Yet both are really hard work.

The work-to-be-done is the need for our future growth and well-being to be derived from innovation activities.

These are so often made up of so many intangible parts that need exploring, investigating and discovering, the exciting parts of work. As we reveal ideas, concepts or new designs we are providing the new wealth of organizations, in the knowledge sharing economy of today and the near future. We are adding discovery. Continue reading

All things considered for Innovation Thinking

Source: Rikke Dam and Teo Yin Siang

When we are designing innovation for the future, the search is even more centered around strategically connected value creation.

The task of searching to resolve more complex problems allows Design Thinking to step up and become a far more visible component on how we can go about this.

Design thinking needs to work in harmony with many other thinking skills to make its contribution. Here I outline some of my “must go to” frames or tools.

The need when you “cast out” and look into the future we need to make a lot of connections, these can be really different, seemingly disparate in ideas and approaches. The whole search for diversity can generate so much fresh thinking if we open our minds to the alternatives.

We need to draw on insights, creativity but most importantly have a growing sense of the context we are thinking through to search for new ideas, concepts, and eventual new innovating solutions.

We often get caught up in data far too early, looking for the real nugget that can transform our thinking. I would guard against this, we always need the “larger” context. Never allow the “narrow prism” to dominate until any concept is getting clearer in its final design. Continue reading

Seeking a new middle management’s innovation perspective

It is often claimed that the middle manager seems to the ones holding back innovation. I tend to subscribe to this as well although I feel the circumstances and ‘blame’ might lie elsewhere, more than likely further up the organization. Irrespective of where the culpability lies we do need to change this perception through altering the current dynamics.

The general argument goes that the middle manager is so pressured to focus on the delivery of short-term results that all their efforts are centred far more on delivering ‘just’ an effective organization, that drives out any excess or leeway, reduces variation, constantly dampening down potential risk and uncertainty that is in direct conflict with what innovation required.

By the middle managers obsession with constantly chasing efficiencies alone, there is little ‘slack’ for innovation and new learning. Their measurement is often based on this efficiency and effectiveness emphasis and not on generating innovation.

Resources are often in conflict when it comes to innovation. They are being stretched far more, pushed hard on being involved in multiple tasks and with the prevailing mentality to keep their focus on generating the immediate short-term results. This not only squashes out opportunity to explore, it is actually squeezing the middle managers ability to build a more flexible, responsive organization. Innovation is in direct ‘tension’ with much that is being undertaken at middle management level.

This does result in working towards a well-tuned and efficient operating system but it seems one that is not capable to allow innovation to move from a collection of ad hoc activities into one that builds progressively that more sustaining innovation structure, establishing a deepening set of capabilities that this requires.

Although organizations claim to be innovative often the very people that we are expecting to manage the ‘dynamics of innovation’ within organizations, the Middle Managers, are seeking the very opposite, doing everything possible to keep the environment as stable and consistent as it can be. They are taking away the ‘vital essences’ that innovation needs – a fluid, agile, open, diverse and flexible environment and putting consistent constraints and barriers in the way in their pursuit of efficiency and predictable effectiveness.

So how can this change? How can we move the needle and tilt it more towards innovation becoming more central without inflicting a more radical overhaul, one that is unlikely to happen in most existing organizations.

Let’s turn the existing core competencies needed for middle managers on their head and offer a new mix of primary, critical and core capabilities that are the measuring point for the MM’s new core competency set that provides for a clearer  innovation focus as essential to master.

1.       Core competences need to be changed – we should flip the requirements

We all recognize that the dedicated middle manager holds the organization together. They are often the glue that connects the organization with the leadership and enable the ‘forces’ to flow, yet do they allow this for innovation?  In traditional Chinese culture qì (also chi or ch’i) is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as “life energy”, “life force”, or the energy flow “and innovation is the same vital need within organizations.

Let’s flip the thinking

Flipping the thinking on capabilities around for the Middle Manager

Flipping the thinking on capabilities around for the Middle Manager

  • ·         Primary becomes the base not the pinnacle. What they do in efficiency and effectiveness remains as their primary capability – you don’t alter this, it is too engrained. This can only change over time and through their inner awareness and recognition that innovation needs to be embedded, alongside the existing ‘fixation’ on efficiency and effectiveness. Don’t try to radically change, make progressive step changes. Efficiency and effectiveness clearly remains the inventory repertoire of solid capabilities so as you set about to build a new platform, based on innovation, it layers and interlocks
  • ·         You target selected critical capabilities to learn and explore. You provide the MM a clarity of the new and emerging critical capabilities they need to build up. These are the capabilities that will provide the greatest impact for competitive advantage, not internal but external in all its orientation.
  • ·         At the top of the pyramid is the core capabilities they need to have. This cluster of capabilities is centred on the critical capabilities to make innovation main stream, to be a daily part of their thinking, their make-up, their intent to ensure happens. These differ according to the role, area of focus and contribution.

2.  We need to focus the middle manager on different learning concepts

Peter Senge and his learning organisation concept is helpful in establishing an innovation learning organization. His five main characteristics are system thinking, personal mastery, mental models, a shared vision and team learning. In summary these are:

Systems thinking – the idea would be to introduce a distinct innovation system thinking approach that needs to be in place within their organization. Overtime it will help measure the performance of the organization as a whole, and of its various components, and the organization shifts in the very ground for middle managers has to manage within.

 Personal mastery – the commitment by an individual to the process of learning is known as personal mastery, so it is therefore important to develop a culture where personal mastery is practised in daily life, based on clear innovation capabilities and capacities needed to be practised.

Mental models – the assumptions held by individuals and organizations are called mental models and these are seemingly, stuck more in the efficiency and effectiveness ones at present. To become a learning organization, these models must be challenged.

Shared vision – the creation and constant development of a shared vision on innovation and its place within the organisations activities, to make it a core and so create that essential common identity and sense of purpose. This sharing and identity gives real focus and energy for learning and exploring what ‘makes up’ innovation.

 Team learning – the accumulation of individual learning constitutes the last aspect, into team learning. The value of the middle manager in bringing people and their contributions together is vital, this is done in innovation efficient and effective ways through increasing experimentation and shared learning to explore and understand the aspects that work and can be honed more.

The emphasis in learning needs a more radical shift in encouraging boundary crossing and openness and seeking out a more networked, relationship environment that draws in increasing external perspectives to compliment the internal knowledge already built up.

3. Then we need to work the innovation learning ‘muscles’ through the three learning loops

Reinforcing loops 1

Reinforcing loops to strengthen the innovation change management  (Peter Senge)

So the middle manager has to begin to think through a new agenda for innovation change and the organization has to ‘fully’ provide the necessary support and structure for them to move towards this (radical) change in their managing within the middle.

The value is the middle becomes our connector for innovation

Middle managers tasks should increasingly become more about performing the role 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. Making sure everyone has a ‘sight-line’ and identification into their contribution for any organizational innovation framework so they stay well-connected and engaged.

Communication and relationships becomes the key. We need to find that new high ground for middle managers to be seen as the real connectors and enablers and not the current view as more often than not the blockers on innovation.

All we need to do is convince the top they need to provide the Innovation framework for this to work and that can come through the form of the Executive Innovation Work Mat no less.