Are We Crushing Real Innovation?

Well, this morning I came across an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, entitled “America has become so anti-innovation – it’s economic suicide written by Ben Tarnoff, a writer on technology and politics, living in San Fransisco.

This article did disturb me, it triggered a number of validations in my own mind. Once you get past the opening rant about the infamous Juicero juicer, that has now been used as an illustration of how investors funded something that automates something that you can do faster by hand.

The article opens up the doors to questioning much that is going on under the Silicon Valley umbrella. The juicer got funding of $120m from a number of blue-chip VC’s but it was not this that actually disturbs me, it was this “ant-innovation” tag the writer was attaching to (North) America.

The article goes deeper in questioning where we are in our innovation thinking. We do have a real innovation growth dilemma that we can’t lay at the door of Silicon Valley alone, it is part of the Western world’s current sickness. It has lost that ability to take a positive risk in so much, ‘kicking the can down the road’ for others to resolve, be these societal, educational, health, infrastructural or institutional reforming and so much more. All really important innovation opportunities. Continue reading

Covering Innovation My Way

I set out to engage 100% in innovation work, it has been quite a journey of discovery, relating and then translating the parts into solutions. I still get overwhelmed by the sheer information overload or advice that seems to be offered.

Just trying to stay your own course is tough enough but with all the diversity of views, it must be even more overwhelming for others, those who are asked to take on a role within innovation. Where and who do you turn too must be a real dilemma?

In recent years I have found I need to diversify away from one given ‘voice’ on innovation and channel this out into specialized and more focused areas of innovation activity. At present, I have SIX channels open on innovation advice or advisory service that has made my life partly more complicated but more importantly, able to separate my thinking into these parts, as they deserve a ‘deeper’ dive and/or broader exposure.

I thought I’d outline the six here in this post as the sum of the parts that  contributes to the whole Continue reading

We are pushing away from the old innovating core

I continue to investigate and explore as much of the thought leadership on innovation as I can, it continually points to a change in how we approach innovation. Delivering this changing message becomes simply a cause in itself as so many are failing to recognize it as radically different from their past innovation management.

I have written about the new innovation era in 2017 made up of higher levels of needed collaboration, where platforms, ecosystems and customer experience understanding become increasingly central.

I felt I needed to provide a more dedicated perspective on these in a collaboration with my established sparing partner Jeffrey Phillips over at Ovo Innovation in our website of Ecosystems4innovators.

We do stand at the cusp of a new innovation era but where do you stand?

We need to push well beyond our existing core of (existing) innovation understanding, we actually need a new innovation institutional design that recognizes the “core” lies at the edges of discovery. Continue reading

The future innovation core lies at the edge.

our-new-core-lies-at-the-edgesBoundaries seem to be continually pushed in business, nothing seemingly is standing still, yet we are faced with many things that stay caught up in simply not being changed. Something eventually has to change, there is increasing pressure. We need to jettison old ways and establish new ones. In with the new in 2017, out with the old.

I continue to read and explore as much of the thought leadership on innovation, it continually points to a change in how we approach innovation.We need to embrace this need for change.

I have written about the new innovation era in 2017 made up of higher levels of needed collaboration, where platforms, ecosystems and customer experience understanding become increasingly central. We need to push well beyond our existing core of innovation understanding, we actually need a new innovation institutional design.

We are pushing further away from the old core. Continue reading

The Perfect Conditions for Entering A New Innovation Era in 2017

a-new-connected-pathway-for-innovation-2So if there was ever a time to clear the existing innovation agenda and rework the entire space for innovating, it is about to become the pressing reality as we enter into 2017.

There are so many forces coming together that require this reworking. We are moving from diverging into one of converging, we are at a changeover point for innovation; let me explain each of the contributing factors but firstly, a brief overview.

The Merging Conditions and Forces

The very different political and economic conditions that will be arising in 2017, the continuing shifting social conditions, profound shifts we are undergoing in business and our own personal ones, makes it a world that is moving from being complicated to complex.

Any renewing does need innovation to become more central in our design but it will be managed differently far more collaboratory.

There is a lot of change occurring around our innovation abilities. There is the shift to more open-sourcing, the profound shifts that technology and digital transformation is having upon all our worlds is allowing a very different “connecting” innovation to come into play. We will see a significant acceleration of more innovation ecosystems, we are increasingly recognizing all the different collaborative tools increasingly at our disposal, we are exploring both platforms and forming ecosystems to radically alter the competitive edge previously seen to reside inside the single company.

A more opening out, forming more connections into customers, engaging them in appreciating their needs is leading us to recognize the value and power in the seamless customer experience. All of this comes from achieving a greater access and deepening the connections across networks. It is becoming the network economy

So I am exploring here each of these conditions that I believe are coming together for a really important transforming storm built around a new innovation management, increasingly making it the core to the future for growth. There is a time where each business has to become highly adaptive, agile, open and mutually dependent on others to deliver in this ‘connected’ world to exploit these conditions and explore the opportunities that will emerge. Continue reading

Why We Are Entering A New Innovation Era In 2017

Credit: Acacia Communications

Credit: Acacia Communications

I wrote this recently in a post entitled “Bringing New Innovation is Stretching the Mind“. It opened with this view:

“There is a profound shift taking place, relating to innovation. Increasingly we are seeing a growing dissatisfaction on the impact that innovation is having; in growth, in returns, in market and customer impact. There is a search for new solutions.

One of the implications is this growing recognition that innovation is rarely succeeding in isolation but it is growing on a more highly dependent type of complementary innovation, a collaborative network, working around this new emerging innovation to deliver a more connected, radical experience, requiring innovation ecosystem management.

This dramatic change we will all be undergoing will have a significant impact on each organization’s innovation management design as it will require new connected thinking, built upon a substantial network of collaborations and partnerships

I believe innovation has been in the need for change for some time and 2017 will be the transforming year. Continue reading

The New Innovation Need: Organizing within a Networks of Collaborators

network-of-networksWe are facing tough challenges within the business world. To work through these we are all being asked to transform but there has to be a clear end, a return for all this energy and resources it requires, that we are being asked to spend?

How and where does innovation fit will clearly depend on this transforming effect. We are fairly clear that incremental innovation is just not cutting through to give the types of growth expected. There are many outside our existing organizations, standing impatiently at the gates, waiting to come in and take over with market breaking concepts through different business models .

We need to transform, be disrupted or certainly re-imagine and this is where knowing your ecosystem comes in.

Our existing organization needs to envisage a changing world full of disruption that calls for radical change. To meet different challenges, to be highly adaptive it needs to begin to organize around ecosystems to deliver on a vision that recognizes it has to be part of a greater collaborating network to thrive in this highly connected world.

Today larger organizations are having to face the stark truth. Continue reading

The Innovation Bunker – Avoiding Cognitive Traps Part Three

Often we forget to look back as we constantly get into that habit of always wanting to simply keep moving forward. So, sometimes I would recommend we stop and reflect. I, for myself, keep returning to great thinkers in innovation to remind me and these can often bring me back on track in avoiding certain traps.

Part Three of the Cognitive Traps we find ourselves in. Go here for Part One and Part Two

Signal AmplificationI’ve always valued one terrific observation of Professor Clayton Christensen (of many thoughts) where he talks of the core theories of innovation. One small part:

He states “theory helps to block out the noise and to amplify the signal

So I looked back at a theory to go forward to reduce our cognitive traps

If we link back into Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovation for much, it is not a bad place to go. He firstly offers us his five stages of adoption or the decision stages of the innovation-process of Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation and Confirmation.

Within this five stage approach he raises the issue of cognitive dissonance, where people do have the (eventual) motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of these dissonant elements

Rogers also teaches us that knowledge acquisition, risk evaluation, value acceptance, social/economic/political constraints, adaptation to specific situations, time, money, and the expertise of change agents all influence the adoption of an innovation.  We need to bring these far more into our thinking so they can, over time, alter our cognitive biases to allow for ‘greater’ innovation.

In his work it is suggested we must encourage more comparisons that allow us to make greater connection, attempt to understand the innovation-decision (thinking through) process, encourage all around us changing attitudes, different behaviours and supporting structures and finally mitigate the risk and consequences when we push for adoption.

Isn’t there within all these connections a cognitive resolution pathway?

The more we share, the more we learn. The more we participate in open communities the more we can gain. The more we spend time in seeking new knowledge the more we see fresh alternatives.

Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations can be a more than useful frame for our learning strategies for gaining adoption that we are presently struggling with. In our board rooms the cognitive bias is partly because much of the thinking is based on their past experiences, often gained in different times and circumstances. They are often more uncertain than you are, due to these increased complexities and volatiles, feeling less equipped to deal with them, so our role is to increasingly bridge these anxieties.

The challenge we have as innovators is to convince those within the boardrooms that there are new tools, new ways, new approaches that do not place the core business at more risk but can provide the foundation for experimentation, for exploring in new ways. If there is no pushing of our thinking and staying within our comfort zones, well it leaves us at greater risk.  So  we need to have a clear approach to allow this wanting to experiment but for it to occur in ‘concurrence’ and support by those that are around us.

We need an adoption process to take into the boardrooms

If we agree still with Everett Rogers characteristics of innovation then perhaps we can start here for raising change in our board rooms more often. To overcome these cognitive traps spoken off by Henry Chesbrough and others, then we do need a framework to unify around and use. We need a thinking through process to work through to reduce these cognitive traps. One that engages others in this agreed structure.

I think we have a terrific one offered up by Everett Rogers to tackle cognitive traps.

To get anyone out of their own thinking trap we need to associate it to what would be valued. We can offer an uniformed path based on Everett Rogers five steps principle

  • What we must always offer in any conversation is a clear relative advantage to what is presently available, so we can gain permission and set about to explore better alternatives, to clarify this and gain general acceptance.
  • If we can offer compatibility with our own and other people’s existing values, and explore a migration path from their past experiences we might get more space to experiment. We need to draw others in and so we have to align ourselves to their experiences to frame it to their thinking bias. This becomes a job-to-be-done on unearthing unmet needs or the needs that can be improved upon.
  • The new tools, methods and techniques can certainly help us to explain complexity to reduce the perceived difficulties of adopting new practices. The whole gambit of gaming, the canvas techniques, visual mapping, design thinking all help considerably here.
  • We then can offer new ways for trialability to experiment in safe and limited risk ways. Lay out a clear path of experimentation and result milestones to manage expectancies and gain increasing support commitment. Steve Blank’s contention of “getting out of the building” and his customer development process offers one of many ways to learn, pivot and progress in bite-sized steps.
  • Finally, we can provide observability, so others can see the results we can make progress. By keeping this open, it can be clearly challenged and blocked in many ways but openness and transparency does eventually reduce resistance. If we can clarify change and our progress in learning we give others understanding. It is when we fail to communicate what they need to hear, we are more likely to be blocked or our project cancelled. We need to ‘demonstrate’ progress and show its value.

Everett Rogers five steps might offer up a possible pathway to unlock much within innovation and reduce our cognitive biases we all have that traps us often not to move forward.

We need to break free of our personal and collective cognitive traps.

To innovate differently, we need to open our thinking to as much of the diversity that is going on all around us as possible. We need to unlock innovation in new, imaginative ways. The more we open our minds, our organizations and allow new tools, new thinking in concepts, experiences and ideas, then the more we permeate and change existing beliefs. We need to start looking around us and see the multiple ways we can get out of our traps and biases in thinking.

Our rationale and reasoning change progressively as we expose ourselves to new experiences and new knowledge, then innovation can surely follow.  I think we do ‘play’ into to many innovation bunkers. We can’t ignore the cognitive traps all around us but if we become more conscious of them I do believe with constant practice we can easily  avoid many of them with the right mind frame, the right approach and the awareness of what others are seeking within the collective frame we need to work through.

Avoiding the cognitive traps  needs consciously working upon in discipline and resolution.

Cognitive traps are not good for any innovation, especially transformational work. They are vital to understand if we are reliant on others. We can work far more consciously at surfacing differences but within a clear, open and transparent approach. A cognitive bias is a mental error that is often consistent and predictable. We can often anticipate them and be ready to offset them, in ways that ‘appeal’ to those with these biases.

So by making innovation a process where we work on reducing all those places of variance where we might not have a clear process, structures and design for innovation we might get less (cognitive) resistance. Equally if we can work more consciously being open, showing ‘increasing’ evidence, talking through probabilities, risks and returns and finally working harder on understanding the pressures, uncertainty and needs of others we might reduce many of the (hidden) barriers and ‘draw out’ those that have reservations.

Open conversations based on mutual knowledge can go an awful long way to reduce these cognitive barriers. Irrespective we need to be constantly aware of others and their opinions.

So we need to consciously  craft the alternative.

I leave you with this final contribution of “we need to craft an alternative path” a visual by John Hagel. It sums it all up at the end: “our actions individually and collectively will determine whether opportunity or challenges prevail“.

For me, innovation needs the challenges of working collectively together, so we all can move towards the opportunities, We need to avoid those cognitive traps and play out of the innovation bunker well and the best way to do this is to learn to seek out knowledge.

We need to recognize, value and exploit together in open and collaborative ways to reduce these personal biases and cognitive traps we can often fall into. We need to leverage all of today’s cognitive structures all around us that include mental structures, mental tools, and patterns of thought offered to us in new exciting ways with a little bit of older theory perhaps, thrown in.