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Issue 14 – January 4, 2013
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
21 Innovators on What We’ll Be Doing in 2013............................................... Mari Anixter How Renaming the C-Suite Can Spark Innovation ……..…………..…….…. Luis Gallardo Igniting Innovators DNA to Flourish in 2013 ………………….....…..……… Janet Sernack Think Like Nature to Innovate .............................…. Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber Technologies for the Emerging Digital Universe .………………...…………… Steve Todd January 2nd Kick Off ………………………………..…………………………. Donna Sturgess 6 Digital Trends to Watch in 2013 ………………...………………………….….... Greg Satell Why a Common Language Matters for Innovation ………………..…...….. Jeffrey Phillips Let Me Speak! ……………………………………………………………...…..….….. Drew Boyd Why Corporate Culture is Important for Innovation ….………….….…..… Jeffrey Phillips
Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and strategic advisors to many of the world’s leading companies.
“Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.”
Cover Image credit:
Close Up Champagne Explosion
21 Innovators on What We’ll Be Doing in 2013
Posted on December 30, 2012 by Mari Anixter
What will innovators be doing in 2013? When we asked a sampling of our authors/bloggers/community members, inspiration for the New Year tumbled forth! Thank you for big picture predictions, personal proclamations and some gorgeous wishes. If even 50% of these come true it will make for a great new year.
IBM Global Services
1. Innovators Will Be Surfing
I am approaching 2013 like a surfer floating in the ocean scanning the horizon. I am looking for the next big innovation wave to ride, trying to make sense of a churning sea of one wave after another, counting to see which is the seventh wave, which in surfing lore is usually the best to ride. I worry that there is such an intense focus on innovation as a corporate panacea that as a practitioner I might choose a wave that is too big to ride. I have to remind myself that the smaller waves will still get me to the shore and, more importantly, in one piece.
Orange Innovation Group
2. Innovators Will Have Timely Dialogue
I wish Innovation will feature a ‘timely dialogue’ in 2013 involving active co-creation, modular design, sparkling collaboration. This will ensure constant knowledge circulation across the innovation team riding in a collective adventure.
- Timely means to me finding appropriate time to listen to and the tolerance to sometimes not to be listened to!
- Catching the right moment for innovation to connect people, leveraging on digital to deliver a meaningful impact in a humanistic and social approach.
Principal of TheHealthMaven, LLC, IX Healthcare Editor
3. Innovators Will Focus on Digital Healthcare around Lifestyle and Wellness
It will be huge in 2013. Consumers will become more engaged in their own healthcare; employers and health plans will continue to search for the secret sauce to keep everyone healthy, reduce healthcare costs, and improve outcomes. Social media will be a key driver to move innovations forward…and forward.
Serial CEO and Chairman of Reboot Partners, Innovation Excellence, Entertainment.com and co-author of The Big Moo with Seth Godin
4. Innovators Will Be Answering to Multinational CEOs and Boards
CEOs and boards will be looking to their chief innovation officers, and key leaders, to move beyond incremental innovation and deliver on creative ideas that reboot slow growth sectors and make more significant impacts to their core business. Three key areas will be 1. Impacting the next generation of global growth with new product, service and customer/client programs; 2. Innovative, lower cost, partnerships the move the needle and their brands into new product/service areas or create entire new market categories altogether; and 3. Innovative ways to restructure the way they operate and deliver value, with systemic changes to the cost side of their business and driving smart/significant efficiencies through deeper adoption of technology, the Internet and social media.
Co-founder of Innovation Excellence and the author of Innovation to the Core
5. Innovators Will Be Executing
As the field – the business discipline – of Innovation Management continues to evolve in 2013, the general shift will be from idea generation to idea execution. All those ideation sessions, creative competitions and open innovation efforts have already produced scores of potential new opportunities for the organizations involved. Most of them are now struggling to turn at least the most promising of those opportunities into adequately funded and professionally managed projects with enough momentum and political support to stand a good chance of successful commercialization. That’s the challenge – the bottleneck – that is now keeping a lot of highly committed innovation VPs and managers up at night: “Where can I find the money, the people and the time to put behind all these great ideas?” Solving this challenge will be a major focus for organizations in 2013 as they continue their efforts to embed a deep, sustainable capability for innovation excellence.
CEO, Benchmark Communications, Inc. & Co-founder at Creating WE Institute and author of six books including TRUST At the Moment of Contact to be published in 2013
6. Innovators Will Be Focusing on Co-creating Conversations
…on changing how we communicate with each other – from power-over to power-with conversations which inspires our aspirational thinking about the future. The more we learn to shape conversational spaces, the more we are able to bring our greatest wisdom and insights into the world. Human beings are designed to co-create. The more we learn about how to shape conversational environments for co-creation, the more we will set the stage for deeper musings, for more profound innovations and for more powerful conversations to emerge around the world. We are now poised to learn, grow and nourish each other’s greatness – co-creating conversations will lead the way.
CEO of Green$treets Inc. Just launched a bestselling App for kids 5-8 that teaches financial and ecological responsibility. Greenstreets: Unleash the Loot! Author of 17 books that deal with money, life skills, and value issues.
7. Innovators Will Keep on Creating the Need
Innovators have to not only react to the needs of the populace, innovators have to actually create the need. True innovators will continue to stay in front of the curve. An innovator has to listen, really listen to their market and collaborate to develop meaningful solutions to problems that heretofore, did not have apparent solutions. 2013 will bring that open, honest dialogue of collaboration to make the world a better place, starting with kids and families.
Frequent IX contributor and Innovation Knowledge Consultant who divides his time and Innovation Advisory services between Switzerland and Asia.
8. Innovators Will Be Figuring Out the “Power of the Innovation Bubbling Up” …
And how to harness these insights into winning products quickly. As we grapple with all the value (and pitfalls) of social media, increasing avenues for our customers to connect and the world of innovators all around us in collaborations and through open innovation, the ability to capture all this open bubbling energy will need new ways to capture and interpret all of this into new offerings that can be channel back down into those meaningful products and services wanted. This will require increasingly nimble organizations, agile, responsive and prepared to invest in this more ‘risky’ and fast changing environment, through new business models and innovation practices.
Author, Internet Marketing Guru and Book Marketing Diva at Joan Holman Productions and IX Publishing Editor
9. Innovators Will Harness the Explosion in Self Publishing
Disruptive innovation in the publishing industry has created a profound transformation that is shaking the industry to it’s roots and has forever changed how books are produced, distributed and marketed. The stigma of self-publishing will continue to disappear and the shift to selfpublishing will accelerate in 2013. Entrepreneurs and innovators will join the new Gold Rush in Indie publishing by providing an array of products and services for the needs of Indie authors that helps them publish and market better, smarter and more effectively. Opportunities will lie in making books more appealing and more discoverable to target markets, as well as tapping into the fast-growing markets in 2013 for English-language books outside the United States.
Founder and Chief Catalyst Business Innovation Factory and author of The Business Model Innovation Factory: How to Stay Relevant when the World Is Changing
10. Innovators Will Move from Tweaks to Transformation
2012 was great for innovators. Our voice & collaboration muscle got stronger. The big trend now is self-organizing purposeful networks. In 2013 lets put our networks to work to solve the big social challenges we face including education, healthcare and energy. Lets go from tweaks to transformation in 2013.
Co-Founder of Innovation Excellence, Pull Marketing Strategist and author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire
11. Innovators Will Be Created and ICE Will Become HOT
More organizations in 2013 will realize that innovators are not born, but created, and that they can take tangible actions to create them. These include leveraging the Nine Innovation Roles framework to build more efficient and effective innovation teams, and training their employees, members, or students to increase their ICE skills:
Invention and Insight - Augment your people’s capabilities in the Value Creation component of innovation by focusing on prototyping, ideation tools like SCAMPER, and creative problem solving techniques. Build up your people’s insight capabilities by giving them access to Voice of the Customer data, which is even more plentiful now in this age of social media monitoring, and training them in an insight generation methodology like the Four Lenses of Innovation from Rowan’s book Innovation to the Core.
Collaboration and Communication - Improve your people’s communication skills and encouraging collaboration to improve their success at the Value Access and Value Translation components of innovation.
Entrepreneurship and Execution - Help your people move from having an idea – to changing the world – by teaching them entrepreneurial and execution fundamentals like conducting a market assessment and feasibility study and the basics of crafting a business case or a business plan. Moving from mind to market is the second key to success in the Value Creation component of innovation.
So if you are not already offering ICE education to your employees, members, or students, it is never too late to start. Who knows, the next innovator you create might cure cancer, end world hunger, or at least help your organization survive, thrive, or possibly help to change the world – for the better. To continue my mission of making innovation insights accessible for the greater good, instead of selling them for a profit, in 2013 I will be making the design for my Nine Innovation Roles cards freely available so that everyone can get card decks printed on demand in the USA or wherever you might be – for only the costs of printing (stay tuned).
IX Marketing Editor and Principal Five Mile River Marketing
12. Innovators Will Bridge the Private and Public Sectors
…in finding new solutions to age-old problems. Policymakers facing waves of escalating troubles will reach out to leading innovation practitioners for aggressively fresh approaches to seemingly intractable issues. Innovators new to public policy, those traditionally trained to create solutions within corporations, will respond; launching a new wave of experiment and possibilities at both the city and state levels. Such a new model will at first be dismissed; then accepted; then applauded.
Patrick Meyer Business 3.0 expert/advisor to Fortune 500 leaders and emerging mobile/social start-ups, “The CEO Futurist” speaker and author of the new, future-focused insight and innovation book “Steve Jobs & The World of Mobile”
13. Business/Brands Will Finally Wake Up to Mobile as the #1 Business Driver (not just a media-like vehicle)
Steve Jobs innovation magic finally surfaces in at least 2 new Apple introductions vs Tim Cook conservative upgrades repeatedly! (Jobs reported 4 year pipeline finally is allowed to come to market, totally new iphone, Apple TV, totally new tablet solution, Apple ewallet.)
“Showrooming” becomes a massive phenomena…every day, every place consumers shop “Tap it” becomes a world unlocking behavior via NFC (say good bye to QR, paper based coupons, even many wallet occasions) Big Data becomes the big deal ( shift from reach/frequency media to ROI focused marketing) Life shifting Baby Boomers re-exert their power (based on dissatisfaction with the coming golden years looking tarnished) Facebook check-in exceeds Google search to upset the digital world (billion users checking in hourly on smartphones) Siri becomes the solution to the text-when-driving crisis and more. Strategic Winners (Amazon.com, Apple, Google, Verizon) and Strategic Losers (Best Buy, Microsoft, ATT, Blackberry) become even more apparent to all
Sarah Miller Caldicott
Great grandniece of Thomas Edison and CEO of Power Patterns of Innovation, and author of Midnight Lunch, Innovate Like Edison and Inventing the Future
14. Innovators Will See the Contributions of Artificial Intelligence to the Innovation Process
With the continued global proliferation of smart devices, as well as expanding linkage between the mainstream Internet and the Industrial Internet (the internet of things), collaboration will become a crucial superskill to harness input from both machines and humans.
Principal, Kevin Riley & Associates | Health Model Innovation focusing on helping companies thrive where consumerism and reform-era health care converge
15. Innovators Will Focus on Minimalism
Instead of doing more with less – innovators will do less and make more using techniques like minimum viable product. Healthcare will unfortunately still take the opposite approach. I will wait until my 2014 or 2105 prediction of that day.
Co-Founder and CEO of The Growth Strategy Company and co-author of GrowthThinking: Building the New Growth Enterprise
16. Conventional Innovation Speak Will Become More Precise
We see six types of business innovation – (1) Service Innovation, (2) Strategic Innovation, (3) Business Model Innovation, (4) Customer Innovation, (5) Value Innovation, (6) Design Innovation – offering companies levers that can be deconstructed and reconstructed as part of overall growth strategy. It will be important to distinguish between them and explain them coherently to all of the stakeholders.
President of Buyology Inc., IX Ideas Editor and Author of Eyeballs Out: How to Step into Another World, Discover New Ideas and Make Your Business Thrive
17. Ideas Will Be Evaluated through Non-Conscious Research
Aggressive companies are already doing it. The rationale is compelling– greater differentiation among ideas is revealed by tapping the deeper motivations for choice. Innovators will discover significant new insights when they measure consumers’ non-conscious response to their concepts and executions. Continuing to work the same old ways will not do in 2013, as the pressure for growth continues to rise.
Maria B. Thompson
Director of Innovation Strategy, Motorola Solutions
18. Innovators Will Keep Asking the Question – How Might We Make Everyone in our Corporations Catalysts for Change?
Innovation is just a sexy name for Change Management or Management of Change. We all have creative energies and abilities. We may not know how to unleash or to apply them. In 2013, let’s all make a resolution to embrace change in all its wonder. Let’s not shy away from opportunities or avoid risk-taking. Heck, let’s all take a chance on something new! Like Mahatma Gandhi once said ” Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Steve Todd EMC Fellow and Director of EMC’s Global Innovation Network
19. High-tech Innovators Will Continue to Focus on Cloud and Security
For the cloud, CIOs will begin deploying software-defined data centers as a strategy to keep costs down and devote more IT budget to innovative output. The rise of software-defined data centers will be accompanied by an increased focus on information security. Information will assume increasing economic value; new software security techniques must be created to protect that value.
CEO and Founder, Maga Design
20. Innovators Will Insist on Visual Communications
…as the organizational world becomes increasingly visual in its appetites. CEO’s and their communications’ apparatus will insist on simplified communications for obvious reasons. Pinterest will become a role model. And in a huge stress reliever, when we work and collaborate together, we will also draw together. And we will still depend on maps of all kinds to help us see where we want to go.
Executive Editor, Co-Founder Innovation Excellence, Chief Innovation Officer, Maga Design and co-author of The Big Moo with Seth Godin
21. Innovators will Focus on Developing Authentic Relationships
…between brands and consumers, between the environment and the populace, the haves and the have nots and all the aspiration therein, between buyers and sellers, the CEO and their constituent publics, and especially the potential for relationship expressed in the untapped, unmet needs that get expressed every second in the sphere of social media. Call it conversation, call it opportunity, call it desire, it’s VAST.
We look forward to developing great relationships with all of you this year!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
The Innovation Excellence Team
image credit: photo used with permission of Trey Ratcliff, www.stuckincustoms.com
Mari Anixter is Managing Editor for Innovation Excellence. She is a communications professional living in New Mexico.
How Renaming the C-Suite Can Spark Innovation
Posted on January 2, 2013 by Luis Gallardo
Today’s business leaders need to adjust their way of thinking. The world is changing faster than ever before, and executives must be able to think holistically and act personally to stay ahead of the curve. Making this a reality requires organizations to refocus their approach to the C-Suite. New titles for CXOs such as chief of reason, chief resilience officer, and chief rouser will open the door to innovation like never before.
Problems With the Current C-Suite Model
The conventional structure of our organizations and management teams was well suited to many of the challenges of the 20th century, but not today’s world. For example, a focus was needed on marketing and customer service, so companies appointed a chief marketing officer. Financial skills and management expertise are clearly vital, hence the rise of the chief financial officer. And when it comes to the black art of managing people, the chief people officer (HR Director) takes responsibility.
However, this approach has always had one major flaw, and now another problem has evolved. The perennial problem is that the responsibility for delivering to customers doesn’t rest on one individual or even one department. It has never been solely the responsibility of the CMO. Rather, everyone works in service of current and potential clients.
Similarly, when managing people or finance, having someone with the necessary skills working constantly to improve their area of the company is great, but these advantages are outweighed by the benefits of holding everyone responsible for important issues. Or, to put it another way, the mere presence of a CFO means that some people can choose to neglect their financial responsibilities, safe in the knowledge that the CFO and her team will provide cover.
Another problem with this approach has been present for a while, and has recently become acute. Appointing a CFO, CMO, COO, or any of the conventional C-Suite members is too internally focused and fails to take into account the changes necessary to accomplish the following:
Think holistically and recognize that issues cut across these functions. Act personally and take responsibility for improving the organization and delivering its strategy or goals. Refocus everyone in the organization on six vital issues: the 6Rs or reason, revenue, rousers, reputation, relationships, and resilience. These are complementary to each other and each is part of the framework that helps you create value, competitive advantage, and sustainable growth.
Renaming the C-Suite is vital not only because of the external changes shaping the world in which we live, but also because of the need to understand the big picture and balance this with a practical, execution-oriented approach that reflects the desire for strong, capable leadership.
How Renaming Can Inspire Current Leaders
In most organizations, people wish to leave it better than when they arrived: they aspire to deliver quality as well as achieve recognition and reward. This should come as no surprise — after all, very few successful people are content to simply work on a pointless endeavor for long.
The challenge, therefore, is to help people find meaning in their work: the element that they value and enjoy as well as the recognition of where they fit within the organization’s work. The 6Rs provide a great framework for this: they can help people understand what they do, why they do it, and their wider impact and benefit. They can connect with other people — both inside and outside the organization — and work with a common purpose.
In order to implement the 6Rs, the C-Suite needs to be renamed around them so executives can feel a new sense of purpose and direction in how they manage. Titles are labels that imply responsibility and accountability. If there are new responsibilities, it is important to name them and to appoint somebody to lead them and assign the right resources to make it a success. Revamping titles and organization of top execs like this is an amazing way to breathe new life into your business and pave the way for new ideas.
How Renaming Can Attract the Right Employees
In order to be one step ahead today in business, you must have continuous innovation and a strong sense of purpose. Renaming is a way to ensure that change is embraced and welcome. It sends a signal outward as well as inward. People who get excited and feel challenged with change will acknowledge that signal and want to work for you.
Big changes like this can feel risky, but ultimately you will attract more potential employees who are better suited for your company and who will enjoy contributing to your innovation and growth. Then the more you have to choose from with each job opening, the more selective you can be, and you will gain higher quality employees.
Change is one constant that can be counted upon, and change now needs to be re-evaluated in relation to the way we manage our organizations. Don’t be afraid to make a big statement with a big change and jump ahead of your competition. After all, the only thing harder than predicting the future is trying to ignore it.
image credit: talentmgt.com
Luis Gallardo is a global brand and marketing leader and an expert in strategic brand management, brand engagement, brand expression, marketing, communications, business development, and reputation management. Former managing director of global brand and marketing at Deloitte, Luis provided leadership to Deloitte’s network of 3000 marketing and communications professionals. He is the author of Brands & Rousers.
Igniting Innovators DNA to Flourish in 2013
Posted on January 1, 2013 by Janet Sernack
At ImagineNation™ we acknowledge that innovation is the result of a COLLISION between different perspectives and thought patterns. In our programs we initiate intentional and constructive collisions that disrupt the status quo and cultivate peoples ‘provocative competence’. This enables people to develop, manifest and maximize the ‘creative intelligence’ required to be innovative.
People learn how to challenge and question existing perspectives and thought patterns in deeply disruptive and provocative ways.
Research reveals that all successful innovators take responsibility for facilitating the innovation process, they don’t delegate it, and they do it themselves! They intentionally stimulate, activate and generate new perspectives and thought patterns that lead to the discovery of innovative ideas and solutions. Authors Jeffrey H. Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen, Clayton Christensen, in their recent article “The Innovators DNA” in HBR, outlines the results of their six year study to uncover the origins of creative – and often disruptive – business strategies in particularly innovative companies. Their research led them to identify five “discovery skills” that distinguish the most creative executives:
. Associating . Questioning . Observing . Experimenting . Networking
They found that innovative entrepreneurs (who are also CEO’s) spend 50% more time on these discovery activities than do CEO’s with no track record for innovation.
Underlying these five critical skill sets are the Innovation Be-ing States or Mindsets that drive the Behaviours that result in the development of these skills.
Associating; is the ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas from different fields.
To develop this skill we need to cultivate an open mind and adopt divergent thinking processes; which is able to view questions, problems and ideas from the ‘outside’ or from the ‘whole’.
To understand and deconstruct issues by taking a whole systems perspective, considering global competition, instability and uncertainty, product and market analysis, cost /benefit analysis to expose and/or make the connections.
Questioning; is the willingness and ability to constantly ask questions that challenge the common wisdom, status quo and operating assumptions. It requires us to imagine and synthesize opposites and embrace constraints.
To develop this skill set we need to cultivate an open heart, be detached and curious, seek possibilities and pay deep attention. To learn how be present and deeply attend to one another, to listen and ask questions at the generative level. To challenge the status quo by inquiring and constructively debating to achieve high levels or meta thinking to generate imaginative and creative ideas and unexpected solutions.
Observing; is the ability to pay deep attention by scrutinizing common phenomena to gain insights about new ways of doing things.
To develop this skill set we need to be able to perceive and sense the operating patterns from the whole system perspective. To zoom in to the detail and tactical aspects as well as to zoom up to the conceptual and strategic aspects of the question, problem or idea.
To work with, and not against, what could be wanting to emerge from the whole.
Experimenting; is the ability to actively try our new ideas by creating prototypes and launching pilots. It requires us to construct interactive experiences and to try and provoke unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge.
To develop this skills set we need to create the openings, or ‘right hand turns’ and inflection points that transform questions, problems and ideas into innovative opportunities.
To accept that failure is a natural part of doing business, allowing people to fail small, fast and cheaply to create the safe space for mitigating risk.
To be courageous by creating new opportunities for learning and change through experimentation and prototyping by be-ing adaptive, persistent and resilient.
Networking; is the willingness to devote time and energy to finding and testing ideas through a network of diverse individuals. Going out of their way to meet people with different ideas and perspectives to extend their own knowledge domains.
To develop this skill we need to cultivate an open will, be detached and listen for the possibility in every encounter. To constantly interact with others to create, notice and act upon chance opportunities and make successful decisions by using intuition and gut feelings.
To be willing to be intentionally disruptive & deviant, to dispute the status quo, to shift perceptions & create openings as to ‘what could be’.
To generatively debate, not to ‘win’, or be ‘right’, but to create unconventional and unexpected ideas and solutions.
At ImagineNation™ www.imaginenation.co.il, we have over thirty years of experience in corporate consulting and learning projects with some of Israel’s and Australasia’s top 100 companies. We have integrated and evolved our successes and learning’s to create our own innovative approach and methodologies to bring these mindsets, behavior and skills ‘to life’. We can enable you to learn, practice, practice, practice and apply these skills to be more successful and innovative in 2013. We call them, the “Art of Provocative Competence”; an innovative and
entrepreneurial way of thinking, doing and be-ing that engages harnesses and maximizes the imagination, creativity and potential for innovation from your most costly and valuable resource, your people. We have three learning streams:
1. Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ http://www.imaginenation.co.il/coach-for-innovators/ 2. The Start-Up Game™ http://www.imaginenation.co.il/the-start-up-game/ 3. Team Innovation Labs.
Finally, be courageous and put your own unique “ding in the universe” in 2103 by:
Seeking the connections to seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas from different fields. Constantly asking questions to challenge and disrupt the status quo, conventional wisdom and operating assumptions. Experimenting with new ideas and taking more risks. Testing ideas through networking and debating with deviant and diverse others to extend your knowledge domain. Embracing and crystallizing a powerful vision for innovation and change!
image credit: reorbit.com
Janet Sernack is the Founder & CEO ImagineNation. She is an ICf certified executive coach and experiential learning specialist with expertise in adaptive leadership and team effectiveness. Janet facilitates a weekly business network in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, for English speaking business owners and entrepreneurs.
Think Like Nature to Innovate
Posted on January 1, 2013 by Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber
Nature stores many business success lessons for those smart enough to see them. Companies that prove able to interpret and transfer creation’s learnings to its own culture prosper on an on-going basis.
When it comes to pragmatically producing innovations, businesses and people tasked with a new product or service pipeline would do well to take notes from the chrysalis process.
First, note the fragile eggs. If they are not on the right host, in the right environment, they die. These eggs include new incremental ideas, adjacent products or services, and breakthrough business ideas that change the landscape and create a new category and leadership position. At this stage, they all look the same, have a high mortality rate, and need care and support. They are nurtured by white boarding, customer co-creation workshops, and further discovery.
Second, see the larval caterpillar. Eric Caryle’s famous children’s’ classic The Hungry Caterpillar provides the right image for this stage. Here the hungry concept grows and eats, and molts and grows, and eats more. This stage of development is where the innovation concept is fed benchmarking studies, modeled out in different sizes, played with in workshops, and where financial cases are drafted. The concept is cared for via the imagination, potential, and excitement. Keep away from internal politics and cocoon the concept with access to a humble, separate budget if the prototypes and preliminary numbers look positive and realistic.
Third, the chrysalis: this is where the magic happens. Just as a Vespa could no more imagine itself transmuting into a Lear jet, the humble concept cannot envision itself taking flight. Here, all cells turn into liquid, totally fluid—do not lose sight of the significance of this metaphor: totally fluid. In this creative, primordial soup, they become the alchemical agent, known to science as “imaginal cells.”
These imaginal cells transmute into something much bigger, more beautiful, and with a different nature than the original concept. The process, to extend our overarching analogy, happens when teams come together with a sense of mission and possibility and infuse the concept with radical perspective of what can be.
It is a visionary exercise and those who only criticize or only see limits and hurdle should not be allowed in the room at this stage. They are not fluid enough to learn how to fly.
You know the end of the story: the sublime butterfly, new eggs, the process begins again. But, are you creative and smart enough to apply the age-old story to your business?
Can you access your imaginal cells and defy your original nature? Can your business fly?
Only the brave and the capable and the willing should try.
image credit: worldpublishing.com
Michael Graber and Jocelyn Atkinson run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.
Technologies for the Emerging Digital Universe
Posted on January 2, 2013 by Steve Todd
Recently I published a post describing the enormous amount of data being contributed to the Digital Universe by machines.
Billions of devices will generate petabytes of information. Much of it will land in deep archives that are eventually mined and analyzed using a variety of fast, parallel analytic techniques.
The Digital Universe study posits that by 2020 these machines will not only generate an estimated 40% of all digital content, but the machines will be expecting an immediate (sub-second) response, or instruction, to determine the next robot-like action that they should take. Often times these instructions will need to rely on a variety of other sensor feeds and/or real-time streaming information.
The analytic techniques of 2012 will quite frankly not cut it. What kind of innovation will be required to support this growing reality?
It’s an interesting thought exercise to examine some of the emerging technologies in analytics and consider how they can be combined to achieve near-instantaneous machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and decision making.
In this post I’ll approach the discussion from the angle of a centralized model. I’m assuming, in the short term, that service providers will begin adding these technologies into the plumbing of their existing data centers.
Over time, however, as the device count scales you will likely see these implementations move to the edge in a dispersed cloud model.
Consider the graphic below and the bi-directional M2M needs of devices connected to the cloud infrastructure of the future:
Here are two emerging technologies that will facilitate M2M in coming cloud infrastructures:
1. More and more streaming data will be ingested into in-memory, distributed data grids. A good example is VMware GemFire: “an in memory data grid that enables real-time data distribution data replication, caching and data management using a non-relational key-value store, to allow storage of data for client applications.” In addition, VMware SQLFire is described as folows: “VMware vFabric SQLFire is memory-oriented data management software delivering application data at runtime with horizontal scale and lightning-fast performance while providing developers with the well-known SQL interface and tools“.
The key is the in-memory, horizontal scale provided by these types of technologies. Business logic accepts streaming machine input from sensors and immediately stores them in either key-value (Gemfire) or SQL (SQLFire) format. If a given sensor requires immediate feedback based on the state of other sensors, it can be quickly retrieved via an in-memory query. This approach, depicted below, enables the “subsecond” response times that many sensors will be expecting.
2. More and more streaming machine data will be process in real-time by a technology known as CEP, Complex Event Processing. Wikipedia has a good summary of the technology:
Event processing is a method of tracking and analyzing (processing) streams of information (data) about things that happen (events), and deriving a conclusion from them. Complex event processing, or CEP, is event processing that combines data from multiple sources to infer events or patterns that suggest more complicated circumstances. The goal of complex event processing is to identify meaningful events (such as opportunities or threats) and respond to them as quickly as possible.
These events may be happening across the various layers of an organization as sales leads, orders or customer service calls. Or, they may be news items, text messages, social media posts, stock market feeds, traffic reports, weather reports, or other kinds of data. An event may also be defined as a “change of state,” when a measurement exceeds a predefined threshold of time, temperature, or other value.
Two implementations of CEP getting a lot of buzz are Esper and Storm (Thomas Dudziak has written a good blog
Both of these technologies will become more common in the clouds of the future. Exactly how they fit into a cloud architecture is an area being explored by corporations and academia alike. In a future post I will discuss a research initiative that is starting to investigate analytics of streams at scale.
image credit: e-forex.net; stevetodd.com
Steve Todd is an EMC Fellow, the Director of EMC’s Innovation Network, and a high-tech inventor and book author Innovate With Global Influence. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 200 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground. Twitter: @SteveTodd
January 2nd Kick Off
Posted on January 1, 2013 by Donna Sturgess
The first day of the New Year is haloed in possibilities of who we are and all we wish to be; opportunities for 2013 abound as we start back to work on January 2 nd. And, as the calendar changes, so do we. It may be time to shake off old ways and try some new practices to shift your perspective and fulfill new possibilities.
Here are four suggestions that can jump start you and your business.
1. Get the picture
Over the first couple of weeks start shooting photos of interesting people and things to build an inspiration wall. Take photos that are wide-ranging and earthy. In photos we see new possibilities, new colors, new behaviors and new beginnings. By playing in photography you will have a role in something much larger than ourselves, to be part of the script, to be part of the action.
When people ask me what is the point of this exercise I offer a response that is rooted in the value of play. When doing things that are intrinsically rewarding for there own sake, acting and thinking becomes one and it feels cleansing. There is no better way to clear out the cobwebs and have a fresh adventure, physical or mental. Revisiting the photo board will bring you back to those moments when you need to feel stimulated by the heartbeat of the present.
2. Stay Charged
To maintain a curious and agile mind you have to cut the ties that bind you to your desk chair. We spend most of our business life in our office at arm’s length from the noisy chaos of the customer. It is no wonder that acting outside of the data world terrifies most marketers and business leaders. Business judgment requires understanding the customer beyond the numbers and you are not going to acquire it sitting in your office.
To keep your momentum going, go on a half or full day immersion with your team. Jolt your expectations by discovering adjacencies to your business that may be a wellspring of new thoughts and dreams to generate growth. Brush up against your consumer to find real insights about what motivates them. Talk to people who love your competitor and listen deeply. That will fire you up to compete!
3. Zoom In
It is a popular question to ask people if they actually use the products they are marketing and selling. Of course all those asked vigorously nod in agreement that they do. The better question is, “Do you use the competitor’s products on a regular basis?” Imagine what can be learned from that experience! Take the opportunity in this new year to dive into the competitive
offerings in your category and become an expert on what they are selling and personally experience the relationship they offer.
To inject a competitive spirit into your team conduct an offsite Market Gaming Meeting. Part of the pre-work is for everyone to buy and use the competitive products or services for a few weeks in advance. The meeting begins with a visualization exercise that brings to life the users experience based on your first hand perspective. The priority for the day is to evaluate your products strengths and weaknesses in comparison and identify ways to change the game to your advantage –either through strategy or tactics. Many businesses are faced with growing by taking market share. This approach will make the game you are playing in the marketplace concrete, like a reality game board to identify moves you should take to grow share.
4. Plow the Pipeline
Is your pipeline fertile? Take a good hard look at it and determine whether the pipeline represents a vision of where you are taking the business. If it is just a collection of projects that continue to stuff pipeline charts, then start to prioritize what stays and what goes. Killing projects early is part of the innovation process. Killing projects at a later stage consumes precious resources and is expensive and disruptive to the organization.
It can be invigorating to terminate or suspend projects that people no longer know why the business is pursuing them. It is far better to initiate more creativity and momentum while you have the time to fill the gaps than to sponsor false hope that weak ideas will somehow get better through the product development and launch cycles. Revisit your pipeline early in the year and challenge whether the ideas the operation is spending time and money on are worthy of the investment. Start with a sanity check of how much revenue each idea will really generate. Include sales people in the discussion to infuse objectivity into the evaluation.
I wish you good luck and good business in 2013 !
image credit: new year & realistic zoom image from bigstock
Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive. Follow on Twitter: @donnasturgess
6 Digital Trends to Watch in 2013
Posted on January 3, 2013 by Greg Satell
I’ve long given up the habit of making New Years resolutions. What’s the point? The seeds of the next year are sown in the previous one. So rather than empty vows of change, all that effort can be put to better use by planning for what is to come.
To do so, we need to go beyond simple linear extrapolation. Principles like accelerating returns and hype cycles help point the way and we also need to keep in touch with the technologists and entrepreneurs that drive events.
As I’ve noted before, blindly following trends is for suckers, but putting serious thought into where things are headed is an essential exercise. Mapping out what we can expect helps us prepare for the unexpected, be robust and stay on our toes. With that in mind, here are 6 things we can expect to shape the digital world over the next year and beyond.
1. Watson Meets Siri
Two of the most important things we’ve seen emerge over the past few years are Big Data and machine intelligence. Cheap, low power chips combined with enormous data farms and powerful algorithms are creating an artificial nervous system that has nearly unlimited power to monitor and store information.
A year ago I said that 2012 would be the year of the interface and that’s been true to a large extent. Beyond Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Kinect, Google has launched Project Glass, an interface that’s embedded inside the frames of eyeframes, giving you an instant connection between the real world and all those data centers.
These two trends are about to combine in a major way. IBM is taking its Watson project, which beat human champions at the very intuitive game of Jeopardy! and applying it to real world applications like medicine. Microsoft just unveiled technology that can listen to English and repeat back in fluent Chinese.
And that’s just the start. This trend will accelerate. Systems will get much better, cheaper and more integrated very quickly.
2. Atoms Collide With Bits
I’ve written over the past year about the new industrial revolution. A confluence of various technologies, such as CAD software, 3D printers, CNC routers, laser cutters, and 3D scanners are democratizing manufacturing and dramatically improved industrial robots are completely reshaping the economics of manufacturing.
As Steve Denning notes, the fact that companies like Apple and GE are bringing manufacturing back home points to a larger movement. As automation increases, the proportion of labor costs in manufacturing falls, changing the outsourcing equation dramatically. We could be witnessing the beginning of a vast surge of manufacturing coming back to developed markets.
Yet he also makes a subtler point. As businesses bring factories back home, they are rediscovering information that they lost from outsourcing – the invaluable interactions between designers, marketers and the factory floor. It seems that moving all that production overseas may not ever been a good idea in the first place.
We can expect this trend to deepen. As the informational content of products continues to increase, atoms will become inextricably tied to bits.
3. SoLoMo Makes Way For The Web Of Things
Over the past few years, we’ve seen computing become more social, local and mobile and that is what has driven innovation and user experience. It seems hard to remember a time when we didn’t use those few extra free moments standing around to tweet and surf or stop to check the online recommendations of a cafe before going in.
That will continue, but the new horizon is the Web of Things, where just about everything we interact with becomes a computable entity. Our homes, our cars and even objects on the street will interact with our smartphones and with each other, seamlessly. This will not only change the game, it will change the players as well.
I’ve argued before that the most immediate ramification of this trend is that it gives Microsoft an opportunity to get back in the race. We may very well find that the Xbox will become as central to their ecosystem as the iPhone and the iPad have become to Apple’s.
However, the larger consequence is that all businesses will become a technology businesses. As Ray Kurzweil has noted, in the future “all technologies will essentially become information technologies, including energy.” That, in turn, will transform every organization into a potential competitor and collaborator in just about every industry.
4. Operating Systems Become A Three Way Race
Probably the biggest thing to watch in 2012 will be the battle for operating systems heating up and Windows 8 challenging Google for market share. Apple, strangely enough, will mostly be a bystander. Their consumer base will likely remain loyal and most probably continue to grow roughly in line with the market.
However, Apple’s market share is relatively small, roughly 15%. So the major conflict will be between Google and Microsoft, both vying for the loyalties of handset manufacturers. Samsung, the most coveted partner, has about 30% market share, so they will most probably decide how it ultimately all plays out.
As I’ve written before, I’m pretty optimistic about Microsoft’s chances. Reviews of the Windows phones have largely been positive and if manufacturers decide to split their loyalties, the tie would go to Microsoft. That simple fact, plus their strength in the enterprise market, gives them the advantage.
In the end, how it really all turns out is anybody’s guess. Google is building out its own assets such as the Project Glass initiative I mentioned above and autonomous cars. Plus, you never can tell what they have cooking in Mountain View. In any case, this 3-way race will certainly be a key focal point over the next few years.
5. NFC Heats Up
Everybody who has ever used E-Z Pass (or for that matter, been stuck in the slow cash lane at a tollbooth) knows the power of seamless machine to machine communication. Near Field Communication (NFC) is the latest iteration. The advantage of NFC is that the communication goes is two-way.
So we’ll soon be using our smartphones to communicate, not just with each other, but with the world around us; facilitating payments, picking up promotional opportunities from ads and sharing information with retail displays, just to mention a few of the applications being talked about.
In truth we really don’t know what NFC will bring us, because there are so few phones out there that include the technology. However, now that virtually every handset manufacturer (except, of course, for Apple) offers a variety of NFC capable models, we’re nearing a tipping point.
Expect to see a lot of action in this area over the coming year.
6. SEO For Social
I still remember the first time I heard about search engine optimization (SEO). It was probably in 2005 and an entrepreneur I knew well told me he was starting a new business to optimize search engine marketing. I have to admit, I didn’t quite get what he meant.
Since then, SEO has transformed advertising and media by optimizing the way machines talk to machines. That’s been great for direct marketing, but not so good for content. There’s been a constant tension between making content easy for machines to find while at the same time creating the kind of fantastic user experience that consumers enjoy.
Natural language processing will be the key technology for solving this problem. Companies like OpenAmplify and Networked Insights are creating algorithms that can analyze massive amounts of content in very much the same way a human would, except infinitely faster and with greater accuracy.
This analysis can then be combined with standard engagement metrics to point the way forward. This might take more than a year to play out, but it’s coming fast and it’ll be a real game changer.
The Semantic Economy and Brands as Open API’s
While all of these trends will unfold very differently in terms of detail and impact, there is an underlying theme: Technology is changing the very fabric of enterprise.
For most of the 20th century, businesses focused on developing proprietary value chains. As they became more successful and added scale, their competitive advantage would grow in terms of quality, efficiency and brand equity. Even a relatively small advantage could, over time, compound and be parlayed into a corporate dynasty.
What we’re seeing emerge now is a new semantic economy, where competitive advantages are built not through closed proprietary systems, but through creating effective linkages. As search and transaction costs fall to negligible levels, upstarts can not only compete with larger, incumbent rivals, they can put them out of business seemingly overnight.
The upshot is that we need to recognize that brands have a new architecture. They are no longer mere proprietary assets to be leveraged, but platforms for collaboration and co-creation. Brands have, in effect, become open API’s.
image credit: inmobi.com
Greg Satell is an internationally recognized authority on Digital Strategy and Innovation. He is available for consulting and speaking engagements in the areas of digital innovation, innovation management, digital marketing and publishing, as well as offshore web and app development. Check out his site, Digital Tonto and follow him on twitter.
Why a Common Language Matters for Innovation
Posted on January 3, 2013 by Jeffrey Phillips
As noted in previous posts (here, and here) I’m returning to the idea that executives have a number of important roles to play when sponsoring innovation. Perhaps one of the most important roles is the work of creating a common innovation definition and language, and communicating the importance of innovation consistently and broadly.
The modern tower of Babel
For those of you who don’t know your old testament, complete with the angry, vengeful God, let’s return to the story of Babel. In their hubris, people decide to build a tower that will reach for the heavens. God, in a fit of pique, commands that they all speak a different language. Chaos ensues. Innovation is a lot like the tower of Babel, only in reverse. A godlike leader, typically the CEO, requests, no demands, more innovation. And everyone in the organization runs off to “innovate” interpreting what innovation means and applying to their situation. This means that in any company several “innovative” things happen simultaneously:
Old, tired ideas long in limbo are reframed as “innovative” Any small change to an existing product or service is labelled “innovation” A completely irrational, disruptive idea is justified on the basis that it is “innovative” Soon every thing is “innovative” and nothing is
In these scenarios, when executives don’t create a consistent definition of innovation, and don’t bother to construct a common language about innovation, everyone interprets the needs and goals in their own context. I’ve watched management teams talk about innovation in situations where there are at least three or four operative definitions occurring at the same time. The dissonance is maddening, and completely unnecessary.
Everything is based on language and communication
Scientists believe that humans evolved much more rapidly once they began to use complex communication, and that learning accelerated as language became codified. Why do we constantly need to relearn in business what is obvious in the rest of our lives? As young children we are taught the definition of words, and as middle schoolers and high schoolers we are taught to understand and parse great literature, to understand how to communicate. Yet business communication is terrible (if you doubt this, read Why Business people speak like idiots) and the culmination of terrible language and communication is when we mix regular business communication with the new and unusual practice of innovation, which has its own language and definitions. It doesn’t help that innovation is really a catch-all for a number of methods, activities and tools, and that innovation has a potential range of outcomes, from incremental products to disruptive business models. But we blithely toss around the word “innovation” as if there is a common definition, and as if everyone will interpret the word in the same way. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If innovation is new, unusual and uncertain, fraught with change and risk, shouldn’t an organization do all in its power to reduce the uncertainty, remove the risk through clear definition, consistent language and constant communication? You’d think that would be a likely approach, but most organizations attempting innovation view these actions as unnecessary overhead, rather than understanding how much good communication will impact innovation barriers, like risk, uncertainty, the existing way of doing business and the powerful but intangible corporate culture.
How can you define the indefinable?
Can you create a definition of innovation that provides insight, gives guidance and instructs the organization? We’ve noticed that a number of firms have attempted to create a common definition for innovation. 3M uses the following definition: The use or application of creativity to generate a new or novel output having value for customers. Note that this definition identifies creativity as a central input to creating new or novel products and services. Note also that innovation is focused on creating value for customers, so in this definition 3M doesn’t emphasize internal process improvement as innovation. But simply creating a definition creates scope – what to leave in, and what to leave out.
But go further, because innovation has as many contextual meanings and uses as plastic. Should innovation engage external parties or should it be constricted to internal teams (Open/Closed)? Should we focus on small changes to existing products and services, or aim for entering new markets with new to the world products (Incremental/Disruptive)? What is the intended outcome (Product/Service/Channel/Business Model/Customer experience)? Until these concepts are clarified, every innovator defines and scopes innovation for him or herself.
Even when a definition, goal or language is specified, most organizations do a terrible job of communicating their innovation requirements, definitions and rationale. Communication experiences what I call the “waterfall” effect. That is, a senior leader communicates to the next management level in the hierarchy, and so forth in a series of waterfalls where the message is watered down, tempered and redirected. By the time the messaging reaches the main body of the organization, they have no idea what they are supposed to do, or how they should react. Rather than actively embracing innovation through powerful and consistent communication, most senior leaders demand it on a quarterly basis
and never return to the messaging. These half-hearted messages bounce off the impervious cultural hide of the middle management like a bullet off of Superman. Until executives engage in active communication and assess their reporting structures to understand if the messages are received, heard and acted on at all levels, communication about innovation doesn’t matter, because the overwhelming power of business as usual remains.
Definition, Language and Communication in the Workmat
Paul Hobcraft and I wrote and developed the Innovation Workmat, a guide to what executives need to know, and do, when building a framework for innovation. In the workmat, there are seven domains that must be enriched for innovation to take root in an organization. Definition, language and communication is the central tenet and the “glue” that binds the workmat together. In an effort to get started quickly, most innovation teams never think about defining what innovation is, what the acceptable outcomes are, and how to communicate the purpose, goal and rationale throughout the organization. Without the common frameworks, pretty soon any and every initiative is “innovative” and frustration reigns. This is yet another case where a careful and thoughtful approach to innovation, taking time to think about the definition, language and rationale, without simply plunging in, can make all the difference.
image credit: dialog image from bigstock
Jeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of Relentless Innovation and the blog Innovate on Purpose.
Let Me Speak!
Posted on December 31, 2012 by Drew Boyd
Giving your employees a voice in matters boosts their creativity. New research shows that, over time, procedural fairness (giving people the opportunity to express their views) has a positive maintaining effect on creativity whereas stifling their views decreases creativity.
Bernhard Streicher* and his colleagues assigned twenty three University students randomly to one of two groups: treated fairly (getting a chance to voice their ideas) or treated unfairly (not given a chance to express themselves). Students were given a different creativity task over four successive weeks. They were told that a committee would rate their results. After the completing each of the tasks, the students in the “fair group” were given the opportunity to explain their ideas and that the committee would consider this information in the evaluation. The “unfair group” was not given this opportunity. Ideas from both groups were evaluated and scored (blinded) using standard assessment techniques.
Over the four weeks of the study, students in the fair group maintained their creative output while students in the unfair group declined. Interestingly, there was no difference in creativity between the groups in week one. Over time, however, the effect of fairness kicked in.
For leaders of innovation teams, letting your employees express themselves helps maintain a culture of innovation. But the key is to be consistent over time. Don’t let distractions or a crisis cause you to change the rules. Give them a chance to speak about anything related to the innovation challenges you face: focus, methodology, budget allocation, team formation, and so on. But most importantly, as the study points out, let them speak about the nature and value of their own ideas.
*Berhard Streicher, Eva Jones, Günter W. Maier, Dieter Frey, and Anneliese Spießberger, “Procedural Fairness and Creativity: Does Voice Maintain People’s Creative Vein Over Time?” Creativity Research Journal, 24(4) (2012): 358-363.
image credit: megaphone image from bigstock
Drew Boyd is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MSMarketing program. Follow him at www.innovationinpractice.com and at http://twitter.com/drewboyd
Why Corporate Culture is Important for Innovation
Posted on December 29, 2012 by Jeffrey Phillips
A few days ago I wrote a post about why “environment” matters for innovation. Today, in a continuing series of posts, I want to take a look at why corporate culture is such a vital barrier or accelerator for innovation. I’m writing these posts to continue to expound on the Innovation Workmat series of articles Paul Hobcraft and I published a month or so ago. Those articles suggest that executives have a key role to play in building an overarching framework for innovation in any organization that hopes to succeed at innovation.
Corporate culture exists at the intersection of corporate memory, corporate history, business context and operational effectiveness. Corporate culture is what defines what a company is, why it does what it does, and in many ways sustains a presence and a facade to the outside world. Corporate culture is what directs how people work and think, what creates tangible and intangible restrictions, establishes risk tolerances and sets attitudes and behaviors. There’s probably no more powerful intangible force in any business than corporate culture.
Corporate culture can be a positive, when it reinforces activities and thinking that matter. 3M survived a CEO who attempted to introduce GE style thinking, and remained fairly innovative in the face of stack ranking and Six Sigma efficiency focus, mostly due to a long organizational memory and a strong innovative culture. They don’t say “culture eats strategy for breakfast” in jest.
The challenge in many firms, though, is that the culture is not based on an organizational memory of successful innovation, but on an organizational memory of tooth and nail survival. When the culture adopts and sustains short term thinking, incremental improvements and an aversion to risk and uncertainty, it can be difficult to introduce even modest incremental innovation concepts, never mind larger disruptive innovation or the risks associated with “open” innovation. And, since corporate culture is largely intangible and made up of attitudes, behaviors and past experiences, it is exceptionally difficult to change. That means that the firms that often need innovation the most face corporate cultures that are the least open to change. Firms that have viable corporate cultures that help them sustain operations in a competitive space often find those cultures are resistant, or even worse, toxic when it comes to making the significant changes necessary to embrace innovation.
What is an “innovation” culture
A culture that sustains and supports innovation is one that encourages reasonable risk and uncertainty in the goal of larger, more profitable products and services. It is a culture that is based on experimentation and discovery, because many good ideas or insights exist outside the corporate boundaries. That suggests as well that innovative cultures have porous boundaries – people, ideas and concepts flow into, and out of, the organization constantly. Innovative cultures understand that generating and developing new ideas is an iterative discovery process,
which isn’t perfect and certainly doesn’t always create the product or service that customers want. Innovative cultures also understand that when failure occurs, rather than sweep the failure under the rug, the firm attempts to extract learning and new insights so that the “failure” leads eventually to a new success. Innovative cultures understand intrinsic reward systems, encouraging innovators to work on their ideas and to stay involved and engaged. They don’t “pay people for ideas” but recognize involvement is its own reward. Innovative cultures sustain innovation as a way of operations, rather than thinking of innovation as an occasional, sporadic process. Innovation cultures welcome different points of view, different perspectives and seek to association disparate ideas and technologies into new products and services. It will be rare to hear someone in an innovative culture say “we’ve never done that before” as a way to shut down ideas – rather, it will be considered a challenge worth pursuing.
How do we shift an existing culture
Corporate cultures respect Newton’s laws. They like to remain at rest, comfortable in their inertia, and will remain that way until acted on by a powerful force. Likewise, culture will resist the change force as a matter of course. That means that to change a culture you need constant force in a positive direction for a long period of time. This means that change to a corporate culture must be slow and steady, and the best change is change the culture wants to make, not feels forced to make. This means change begins by creating a vision about the future and telling a story that the culture can adopt. Once the culture and those individuals who keep and shape the culture believe the story, they will work to weave the new story into the fabric of the existing culture. Factors like what is recognized and rewarded, what executives say, and well as what they do, matter. Early in the shift, the culture will examine early successes and especially early failures to see what is rewarded and what is buried. Actions speak louder than words. Saint Anthony of Padua said it best: Let your words teach and your actions speak. Shifting a culture requires a significant commitment from senior leadership, but also buy-in from the people who are keepers of the culture. These are the people who collect and tell stories about the culture and reinforce the culture through their decisions, commitments and investments.
The three “R”s
We often talk about the three “R”s when shifting a culture: reward/recognition, recruiting and retraining. If we want people, and therefore the culture, to do new things, we need to improve the skills and capabilities of the people who are on board (training) and recruit new skills and perspectives to help the company and the culture think in new ways (recruiting). Which is why your human resources or talent management team must be a vital contributor to the work of changing the culture. Recognition, rewards, evaluation, training and recruiting are all activities they are actively involved in, and which influence the corporate team and the culture.
How long does this take?
We are constantly asked by clients – how long will it take to change the focus and intent of our culture, to make it more innovative? This is not a change you can force in six months. After all, your corporate culture has been constructed and reinforced since the business began. You can’t simply whipsaw a culture in a new direction and new focus in a few months. GE famously attempted to shift from Jack Welch’s priorities (Number one or two in an industry or out) to Jeff Immelt’s (more innovation) by establishing corporate innovation funds to the tune of several hundred million dollars. In the first year of funding, not one business unit accepted the innovation funds, because the existing culture that Welch left was so predominant.
The answer is: it depends. It depends on the continuity and focus of the executive team. It depends on the vision you create and how the story associated with that vision is reinforced and propagated throughout the organization. It depends on how the people who are the keepers and reinforcers of the culture are willing to change and adapt. It depends on how risk and uncertainty is tolerated, on how open the organization is to change. It depends on introducing new perspectives, new skills and new techniques. It won’t be fast, but it can be effective.
Corporate culture is the most powerful and most intangible barrier to innovation. Place Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein in a corporate culture that resists innovation and we wait another decade for electric lights or special relativity. A good idea in a resistant culture is a scream in a vacuum. It simply won’t be heard. As an executive, a leader, a manager who wants more innovation, there’s no more important aspect to focus on, and none more difficult to influence. Nailing jello to a wall is probably an adequate metaphor. But it must be done. You can’t sustain innovation without changing the culture, and your business can’t thrive without sustained innovation.
image credit: happy team image from bigstock
Jeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of “Make us more Innovative”, and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.
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