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Issue 30 – April 26, 2013
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Business Model Innovation & BIF...................................................………….. Saul Kaplan GE Takes a Quirky Approach to Innovation ……………………………….... Braden Kelley 20 Things Good Managers Know About Innovation …………..……...……… Tim Kastelle Forget the Elevator Pitch – it’s so 20th century!………………….…...... Jerome Provensal All I Need to Innovate Is .………………………………………………...……… Jeffrey Phillips Innovation Demands Discipline, Patience ………………………...………. Matthew E May Implement Big Ideas with Baby Steps ……….…….......................…. Jeffrey Baumgartner The Fog Surrounding Innovation …………………….…….……..……..…….. Paul Hobcraft Peacekeeping and Innovation ……………………………..…………….....….. Scott Bowden The Portfolio is the Pivotal Tool for Innovation Success …………..…. Kevin McFarthing
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: Asteroid Impact from Bigstock
Business Model Innovation & BIF
Posted on April 21, 2013 by Saul Kaplan
Editor’s note: You can register for our Books as Tools May 1 Web Chat -Q & A with Saul Kaplan on the ‘hands on’ work of Business Model Innovation and his book “The Business Model Innovation Factory – How to Stay Relevant when the World is Changing”.
The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is pleased to announce our partnership with Innovation Excellence in presenting the following BIF curated series. The first video introduces BIF’s Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan, The Business Model Innovation Factory book and BIF’s mission: helping leaders design and test new business models in areas of high social impact.
BIF is a platform for innovation junkies to design, prototype and test new business models and social systems in the real world. But, we know how hard this kind of transformation is. That’s why BIF is also a community committed to inspiring one another through storytelling. At the internationally renowned the #BIF9 Summit we connect through stories of personal reinvention and systemic transformation.
As we gear up for #BIF9 on September 18 and 19 of 2013, we would like to share some of our favorite stories and storytellers with you. Some of these stories are live-recorded videos from past Summits and others are derived from BIF’s programmatic work. Through the BIF Experience Labs we continue up the business model innovation learning curve by working with partners and sponsors — public and private – to transform systems including education, health care, energy and entrepreneurship. Our objective is to develop a rich understanding of the real people from within these systems using human-centered research, design and storytelling. The result is a smattering of insights, successes, failures and deeply moving stories.
We don’t have all the answers, but we know that when we experiment and learn together we can go further than we can go alone. In addition to videos, Innovation Excellence will host Saul Kaplan in a webinar where we will tap into the wisdom of this audacious innovation community and unleash its transformative power. We look forward connecting with you.
Watch the Video
image credit: businessinnovationfactory.com
Saul Kaplan is the author of The Business Model Innovation Factory. He is the founder and chief catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence, RI, and blogs regularly at It’s Saul Connected. Follow him on Twitter at @skap5.
GE Takes a Quirky Approach to Innovation
Posted on April 21, 2013 by Braden Kelley
Last week GE and Quirky announced a new partnership where GE will make some of its library of patents available as part of Quirky’s new inspiration platform, allowing inventors to use some of its patents in their potentially novel consumer product invention ideas. This on its surface is a very interesting and logical open innovation partnership (no, not crowdsourcing). It isn’t really crowdsourcing because the work product is not well-defined and being sourced from multiple competing providers. No, this is an open innovation partnership, and so the key question in my mind is. Will it work?
If you’re new to open innovation, be sure and check out A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing edited by Paul Sloane (free sample chapter), to get a good grounding in the open innovation and crowdsourcing elements of social business.
Will the public collaboration with Quirky achieve the goals that GE has in mind for the open innovation partnership?
The premise of the partnership is that GE is making a portion of its patent portfolio available for the inventor community on Quirky to use in the creation of new inventions. Quirky is calling the place where the GE patents will be shared, their inspiration platform, but will looking at patents inspire inventors? Is looking at patents enough to inspire people, to truly create an inspiration platform?
Here is the Quirky and GE partnership announcement video:
Watch the Video
It is an interesting development in the open innovation ecosystem to see GE choose Quirky as a partner for this effort and not someone like Innocentive, NineSigma, or Idea Connection. Personally, I think that this is something that Quirky is better equipped to make happen than these
other firms, but Innocentive and the others mentioned above still fill a very important need using their completely different challenge-driven innovation approach.
One of the biggest challenges I see to a patent-driven, intellectual property driven approach to inspiration like this is that patents are written in a very technical, very structured way that unless you are well versed in their structure and how to extract the key pieces of instruction from them, that they can actually be a barrier to inspiration for many people, not an inspiration. It seems to achieve the intended purpose that some kind of information transformation to truly make them accessible for inspiration. Will GE and Quirky take the time to do this?
Do you agree that it will be necessary to encourage successful inspiration?
Whether or not GE creates any sizable new businesses from their participation in this partnership, I still think this is a brilliant marketing move by Beth Comstock and her team and it will be interesting to see whether any impactful inventions come from people leveraging GE’s patent portfolio.
Here is Quirky’s video announcing their inspiration platform (which they raised $68 million to help build):
Watch the Video
But, there is an idea trapped in this announcement that is very important to me that I’d like to highlight and set free, a nd that is the idea that innovation is not just about ideas, but that other factors are equally important – including inspiration, investigation, and iteration. These are captured in my Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation framework.
Be sure to follow this article link to the Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation if you missed the link above, or if you’re not clicking away to learn more, here is a quick list of the eight circular stages:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
Inspiration Investigation Ideation Iteration Identification Implementation Illumination Installation
Personally I don’t think Quirky’s platform appears to go far enough to deliver inspiration or to empower Investigation, which is all about digging deeper to connect the various pieces of Inspiration that you’ve gathered (ideally in a collaborative way) and extract the ins ights that you will use to drive the Ideation that occurs in the next phase. As an internet and innovation guy I would be happy to help Quirky and GE strengthen the solution if they’re interested in making this inspiration platform more successful. (wink)
Will any successful innovations come out of this GE and Quirky partnership?
I’d love to hear what you think.
Image credits: GE, Quirky
Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.
20 Things Good Managers Know About Innovation
Posted on April 22, 2013 by Tim Kastelle
Everyone wants to innovate more, and many people don’t know where to start. Which is weird, since we actually know quite a bit about how innovation works.
Here is a list of some of things that we know are true:
1. Solutions come from empowered people. Delegate decision making as far towards the front line as you can to increase your innovation.
2. You can’t legislate innovation. It doesn’t work to just say to people “go innovate” – your business model needs to support it.
3. It’s not just about ideas. It’s the process of idea management.
4. Innovation is the best way to bridge a gap between where you are and where you want to be.
5. Getting the great idea to spread is just as important as having it and making it work.
6. If every idea you try works you’re not trying enough new ideas.
7. Make lots of little bets.
8. People are way more important than tools.
9. Innovations can be good or bad – make sure you’re creating real value.
10. You need a deep understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve.
11. Ask new questions. Make new mistakes. Learn.
12. A problem in need of a solution is worth lots more than a solution looking for a problem.
13. Anyone can innovate.
14. Connecting ideas is the fundamental creative act in innovation.
15. You need top-down commitment to create a culture of innovation.
16. If you don’t have the support of your manager, you need to i nnovate by stealth – how much can you get away with?
17. Efficiency is often the enemy of innovation – you need slack!
18. Failing is good – try to fail as small as possible, and make sure you learn from it.
19. Innovation needs to support strategy, but every once in a while it can create it.
20. Innovation works best when you pursue a portfolio of innovative projects.
Innovation is not a black box. If you apply some of these ideas, you can make your organisation more effective at innovating.
image credit: businessman adjusting image from bigstock
Tim Kastelle is a Lecturer in Innovation Management in the University of Queensland Business School. He blogs about innovation at the Innovation Leadership Network.
Forget the Elevator Pitch – it’s so 20th century!
Posted on April 18, 2013 by Jerome Provensal
Need to convince? 6 novel ways to pitch your ideas
Everybody has heard of the elevator pitch. Dale Carnegie advised us to be ever ready with our “elevator speech” in case we encountered the big boss. Thankfully, companies have become much more democratic and you often have more opportunities to present your ideas to the “suits”.
In his new book, To Sell Is Human, author Daniel Pink introduces us to what he calls: the six successors to the elevator pitch. The overall claim of the book is that “selling” is no longer a dirty word or is no longer associated to the repulsive image of a sleazy, shady, slimy used-car salesman. According to Pink, everyone is now in the business of selling or rather living in a world where the skills of convincing or persuading are becoming essential, to everyone.
The book’s chapter called “pitch” is particularly compelling and I would like to share with you what resonated with me.
6 compelling ways to pitch your ideas
1) the one-word pitch. Inspired by the advertizing agency Saatchi & Saatchi’s “ one-word equity“, its claim is that in the 21st century, the attention span is so short that we need the “brutal simplicity of thought”. Think “search” for Google, or Obama’s “forward”. If you can find that one (positive!) word and the world starts associating that word with you or your company, you have it made.
2) the question pitch. Asking your audience a question often packs more punch than your typical declarative statement. Example: Reagan didn’t say “your economic situation has deteriorated over the last 48 months”. Instead he asked the famous question: “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?”. Asking a question compels to respond and that in turn provokes a deeper, more intensive processi ng of the message content.
3) the rhyming pitch. This pitch relies on rhymes which boost what linguists and cognitive scientists call processing fluency. Rhymes “taste good” to our minds and make the content of the message more palatable and more memorable. If you were around during the O.J. Simpson’s trail, I’m sure you’ll remember Johnnie Cochran’s (in?)famous pitch about a certain glove: “if it doesn’t fit… you must acquit!”. So if you want your message to stick, use rhymes.
4) the subject-line pitch. When you think about it, every email message is some kind of pitch, with every subject-lines in your mailbox vying for your attention… “click me!”. According to a study conducted at CMU, email readers based their decision whether to open an ema il on 2 main factors: utility (it affects your work) or curiosity (curious about what the email is about), where utility taps into extrinsic motivation and curiosity taps into intrinsic motivation. Pink provided 2 examples: the useful “Found the best & cheapest photocopier” and the intriguing “A photocopy breakthrough”.
5) the twitter pitch. Pink uses the example of the investor Stowe Boyd who, while heading to a conference to meet start-up companies, asked the eager entrepreneurs seeking a meeting with him to pitch their idea via Twitter, i.e. in 140 characters or less. Scientists studying the Twitter medium found that the tweets that were the most attention-grabbing asked questions to the followers, proving again the potent nature of the interrogative form (see 2) above) to engage and persuade.
6) the Pixar pitch. No need to introduce the animation studio behind so many animated movies, Pixar. One of the reasons for Pixar’s success is attributed to the way movie ideas are pitched, using the following 6 sequential sentences:
Once upon a time, ____________________________________________________________. Every day, _________________________________. One day _________________________ ____________________________. Because of that, ________________________________. Because of that, _____________________________________________________________. Until finally, ________________________________________________________________.
The book then goes on about advice on how to pitch but you will have to buy the book, or ask me to summarize that part in an upcoming post.
I will just leave you with the most important of his advice: after someone hears your pitch…
1. 2. 3.
what do you want them to know? what do you want them to feel? what do you want them to do?
You now have 6 new ways of pitching. How will you pitch your next idea?
image credit: corcodilos.com
Jérôme Provensal is a Software Engineer by training and passion, with a MS in Computer Science and IT Systems from Université Pierre et Marie Curie. Born, raised and educated in France, he’s resided in the US (Los Angeles) for 20+ years where he is Director of Software Development for a leading FinTech company and blogs from LightBulbBites.
All I need to innovate is…
Posted on April 18, 2013 by Jeffrey Phillips
Growing up, one of my favorite movies was the Steve Martin vehicle The Jerk. There are lots of reasons to enjoy The Jerk, but perhaps my favorite part was the scene where he loses his fortune, and is being kicked out of his house. He tells the people around him he doesn’t need anything. Anything that is, other than:
“Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.”
After a week of working with several clients who are focused on developing and extending innovation capabilities and disciplines, I found myself thinking about this movie, but in this case I’m the one who is quoting the line. I find myself saying “All you need to innovate is a solid team, a defined process, a supportive culture, a clear strategy..”
Examples from our work
In one instance, we were working with the CEO to understand just how much of his time and attention were necessary to make sustained innovation successful in his organization. We recognized that we needed to use a concrete example, so we referred to a managing philosophy he introduced, implemented and reinforced throughout the business over a two year period. When we quizzed him about what we necessary for success of a significant corporate change like the one he implemented, he suggested three criteria:
1. 2. 3.
A “burning platform” that requires change Clear goals and rationale for change A trusted tool or methodology to achieve the desired outcome.
That’s just what we need for innovation success. A dedicated senior leadership, identifying the reasons for innovation change, who implement trusted tools and encourage an organization to believe in the possibilities a new approach will create.
In other words, all you need for innovation success is a committed executive team who are as energetic and committed to implementing innovation capabilities as they were implementing some other methodology – like balanced scorecard or Lean, for example.
With a different client, it became clear that the executives are “behind” innovation as a growth strategy, but they want their teams to have clear methods, carefully defined tools and the skills and training necessary to implement them. That’s because while innovation is desirable, and sustained innovation is preferable, few organizations have the skills and tools in place to innovate.
So, in this case all you need for innovation is a carefully defined “cookbook” of tools and processes that the product teams can understand, follow and implement successfully. Along with, of course, the engaged commitment of the senior team, which they have promised.
The fact is that it takes a lot of people, culture, processes, leadership, commitment and resources to innovate. The sooner you start your mantra “All I need to innovate is…” the better off you’ll be. Setting the right expectations early, even though you won’t get everything you want, is better than going it alone. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a lot of commitment, resources, culture change and luck to innovate.
Picking and choosing
What’s different about corporate innovation from Steve’s list of his favorite items is that there’s not a lot of picking and choosing allowed. There are some factors that are absolute “musts” when innovating, and executives can’t ignore them or substitute other ingredients. Some of these factors have been discussed previous in this post: clear strategy, ongoing commitment from executives, the right resources, a culture that sustains innovation. You can’t pick one or two of these and hope to i nnovate sustainably over time. Each of the features has its place for innovation, and ignoring it or simply skipping over the attribute means innovation will be less than successful. A half-hearted commitment to innovation doesn’t result in half-hearted innovation.
Innovation is relatively binary – so it either works, or it doesn’t, and half -hearted attempts are rarely successful. Ask yourself – what do we really need in order to innovate? Are we ready and willing to commit those?
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.
Innovation Demands Discipline, Patience
Posted on April 20, 2013 by Matthew E May
Innovation is at or near the center of nearly everyone’s radar screen. If you’re not looking for it in your work, you’re lookin g for it in your personal life, because stirring in each of us is the desire to employ our ingenuity. Thus, the potential to innovate is alive and well in everyone.
Actually doing it with any acumen and consistency is another matter entirely.
A study of the great accomplishments in art, industry and science reveals a story of constant study and hard work. Mozart, Galileo, Rockefeller, Renoir, Plato, Einstein, Shakespeare, Newton —all were innovative geniuses, and all believed in the constant and purposeful application of their abilities. Investigation into their magnificent achievements reveals a lifelong process of deep reflection, keen observation and constant betterment. The ancient Greeks also believed that to become able in any profession, three things were necessary—nature, study, and practice. And for over 30 years the U.S. Army has employed a leadership model of Be-Know-Do. In their view, while acquired knowledge and skill (Know and Do) is necessary and valuable, it is perishable because it can quickly become obsolete in today’s competitive environment. It is the first element, Be—drive, dedication, determination—that remains the enduring differentiator.
Innovation is all about discipline. Therein lies the rub, for all the same reasons that losing weight and maintaining physical fitness seems so elusive for so many. It requires lifelong vigilance and perseverance. And patience, because it takes time. Innovation demands patience, but patience is something in short supply.
In general, Western cultures are relatively impatient and near-sighted. We’re not that willing and eager to trade immediate gratification and short-term gains for the long-range possibilities that seem too distant. And we begrudgingly respond to change, usually waiting for the fabled burning platform to suddenly and mysteriously appear and move us to action.
As a result, the as is prevails over the could be for far too long…so-called innovation efforts are in reality initiatives centered on optimizing the status quo, rather than creatively destroying it.
The journey to building a companywide culture of innovation –one in which every soul on board is contributing ideas daily, converting them to reality regularly…and in which performance is measured in terms of the quantity and quality of ideas tested rather than solely on business outcomes–is one most don’t commit to making. The reasons? It’s not easy, and it’s not quick, and it doesn’t necessarily show up on a p lan, budget, or balance sheet.
You may be wondering where all this is coming from.
I walked out of a recent meeting convinced that people in the room truly believed they would become the modern day Archimedes, that they were just moments away from the Eureka! moment to hit them in the bathtub. I’m fairly certain the killer app they (and so many others) are hoping for won’t magically come to them through the mythical happy accident. At least not without engaging in the hard and un glamorous work of immersing themselves fully in the probl em first (which they had not done), struggling through endless but enlightened trial and error. There’s simply nothing accidental about true innovation.
All change demands learning. Meaningful change—aka innovation—demands profound learning. Learning and innovation go hand in hand, but learning comes first. Again, that takes time. There are no overnight sensations—great careers and great companies are built painstakingly over time.
Corporate obituaries are haunted with the ghosts of those who let impatience with (and distaste for) gradual change and continuous incremental innovation become an excuse for not taking any action at all, memorialized with a collective tombstone inscribed with “No singles allowed–homeruns only” and buried in the same plot as peopl e who say they only play the lottery when the jackpot is over $25 million.
Instinctive, but illogical.
And while I’m on the topic of excuses, true innovators resist them at all costs. Excuses are all too easy. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard people tell me “We just don’t have the time,” I’d be permanently camped under a Caribbean cabana with a Cuban cigar, clipping coupons.
The excuses usually come just when all the low hanging fruit has been picked clean, creativity wanes, things get a little hard, and the daily fires are allowed to rule the day. Look, everyone’s busy. But the question is, what are you busy about? Spend all your time in a de fensive and reactive posture, and you’ll find yourself getting slower and slower. You’ll be playing catch -up. When change gaps you like that, you’re done.
Excuses amount to preemptive surrender. To the authentic innovator, that’s wholly unacceptable. And it sure doesn’t sound muc h like leadership. If you give up before you even start, not only will you never progress, you’ll lose whatever advantage you do have now to your competitor who views it as a challenge and so offers up something the media will likely label “disruptive.” (A word, mind you , that is quickly losing its meaning, thanks mostly to the labeler s.) Your customers won’t open their wallets to the wafflers and “we -can’t-do-its,” they’ll spend their money with the problem-solvers.
So, my note to all would-be innovators leaning in to hear more about discipline and patience is this: understand that the process is long and messy. There is one and only one solution…
Keep at it.
Matthew E. May is the author of “IN PURSUIT OF ELEGANCE: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing.” He is constantly searching for creative ideas and innovative solutions that are ‘elegant’ – a unique and elusive combination of unusual simplicity and surprising power.
Implement Big Ideas with Baby Steps
Posted on April 17, 2013 by Jeffrey Baumgartner
So your creative, collaborative team has come up with the stunning, incredible idea to power all of your factories with wind and solar power.
It’s an idea that is sexy, green and sure to garner good publicity for your company. At least it seemed an awfully good idea when your team dreamed up the idea over beer at the pub around the corner from the office last night. But now that you are back at your desk, it seems a rather overwhelming change to inflict upon your company. Worse, everyone whom you’ve shared the idea with thinks you are “out of your mind!” And, indeed, you are beginning to wonder how many beers you and your teammates had last night.
This kind of thing often happens following the birth of a great idea, whether it is over drinks after work, the result of a brainstorm or a suggestion submitted to your idea management software. Big, crazy, breakthrough ideas seem wonderful when you are dreaming them up, but frightening when it comes time to implement them. Fortunately, the field personal development has a technique that you can apply: personal development planning (PDP). Indeed, this approach is so simple and effective, I have included it in as the fourth and final step of the anticonventional thinking process.
Personal Development Planning (PDP)
PDP is about achieving personal goals. Just like creative ideas, personal goals can seem desirable when you dream about them but overwhelming to implement. The 50 year old accountant, who is bored with her job and dreams of travelling around the world on her bicycle, finds it easier to dream about her big goal than to take the steps necessary to achieving it. Why? Because the dream involves a lot of frightening change: giving up her job and reliable income; travelling to strange and possibly dangerous places; funding the trip; and returning to the world of work after a year or more cycling the world.
PDP says you should break the goal down into smaller, achievable steps and envisioning each step. In the case of the accountant, the first steps might include: joining a bicycling club to gain more experience and talk to others with the shared interest; planning relatively short bicycle trips during her holidays, calculating costs and putting aside some money each month; and so on. Small steps such as these are sometimes called “baby steps. Baby steps are less intimidating and eminently more doable than running blindly into your goal. PDP says that when you take such a baby-steps approach you are much, much more likely to achieve it than if you just dream it.
PDP also says you should focus your thinking on each step, what needs to be done in order to achieve it and how you will feel about. This will make it easy to tackle each step towards your goal. Importantly, with each completed step, you will achieve some of the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal.
Applying It to Innovation
In business, a creative idea is essentially an original way of achieving a goal. In our example, you and your team came up with a great way to substantially reduce your business’s carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. However, im plementing it in one fell swoop would be a massive undertaking. No wonder it seems scary when you get to your desk. No wonder your boss won’t approve it. The end point of the implemented idea — or goal — may be desirable, but the necessary change is intimidating! But, just like our 50 year old accountant who dreams of cycling round the world, you can break your big idea into baby steps. These will make the idea more doable, easier to sell to your boss and much more likely to happen.
In our example, your first steps might include: identifying factories suitable for a pilot test; getting sunshine and wind information for each of those locations; selecting a factory to serve for the pilot test; installing a small wind turbine; installing solar panels; compiling results; extrapolating requirements for a powering an entire factory with renewable energy; and so on. Each of these steps is relatively small, will cost little and poses minimal risk to you or your company. If you see failure early on, you can re-evaluate the project and make changes or even cancel it before any substantial investment or change has taken place.
However, there is one more thing you need to do. In personal development, the person who is developing herself needs to take charge off each step in her path to achieving her goal. In team led innovation in an organisation, you need to ensure that there is a person responsible for each and every baby step. And, in the very first steps, the people in charge need to be members of your team. If you do not do this, you can be sure even the baby steps will never be taken! (In a recent anticonventional thinking workshop in which participants were breaking their ideas into
baby steps, I saw a small team enthusiastically preparing a list off steps. Indeed, I thought they were a little too enthusiastic. When I spoke with them, I found that they were happily assigning steps to their colleagues and none to themselves! I pointed out that while this would make the tasks easier from their perspective, it substantially reduced the likelihood of their idea being implemented. At minimum, their first steps would have to be to convince their selected colleagues to take charge of their assigned steps. I am sorry to say that the team’s en thusiasm was reduced substantially by this insight –but their planning improved dramatically!)
This approach is remarkably effective1, whether you want to implement changeS across your company or within a team or division. Moreover, it empowers the owners of an idea to take steps towards implementing it. For this reason, it has been included as the fourth step of the anticonventional thinking (ACT) process. But it can also be used with ideas selected from idea management tools, brainstorming and elsewhere.
Reference 1) Fernando Cardoso de Sousa (2102) “What if you change IWWMI into WASNT?”; Report 103 – jpb.com image credit: climbing steps image from bigstock
Jeffrey Baumgartner is the author of the book, The Way of the Innovation Master; the author/editor of Report 103, a popular newsletter on creativity and innovation in business. He is currently developing and running workshops around the world on Anticonventional Thinking, a radical new approach to achieving goals through creativity — and an alternative to brainstorming.
The Fog Surrounding Innovation
Posted on April 19, 2013 by Paul Hobcraft
I’ve been in a little bit of an innovation fog recently, I’m possibly losing orientation. I hear so much sound around me but it is becoming disorientating, I’m not sure where to tread. Am I heading in the right direction, or going off on a tangent, away from much that is the place to be? Is it there is so much noise and frantic suggestions, that it is simply cluttering the mind?
The more I read, the less I understand. Yet the more I read, the greater my awareness of innovation and all the mountains we have yet still to climb. It is a never-ending journey, it seems, yet I’ve found I have once in a while this real need to simply press the ‘pause’ button. I need some time to allow the fog to lift but can I afford too? Cutting through the clutter is really hard and deciding what is valuable and what is simply an easy read or is simply junk, is not easy, it takes time and effort, we can all ill-afford this. Something needs to change.
There is this increasing intensity of innovation ‘wisdom’ being produced daily, you can just get utterly and totally all -absorbed in all the nuances, all that advice. So much that is written is offering the ways forward, highlighting where we are going wrong on past experiences, and in some cases providing the “cure all” simply all within one article based on a narrow view of the solution, set in a specific contex t. It can bring you to a utter stand-still but much more than this, it can all be highly dangerous if you act on this ‘constrained’ advice.
Funnily enough, if you do stop and listen, even when there is so much swirling on around you, you begin to hear different voices; you begin to discern new sounds. Often those people who are alert to these faint sounds like to group these under the term “weak signals” or “future plausible directions”.
How do we amplify to get the best sounds?
“Futures studies (or plausible direction) is the study of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. What is likely to continue and what could plausibly change.” (Wikipedia)
The real issue for me, as we continue to simply “chatter” away, is we are actually discouraging serious investment in all tha t makes up innovation for our future. By having continuous and often highly conflicting opinions it becomes impossible to get our ‘heads around’ yet we do really need to do, but these conflicts cause us to freeze, we don’t really move forward, we just keep moving, often around an d around in a circle.
I really think we need a seismic shift in our thinking on innovation- forget the sound bites, the handy tips and lists, we need to get a little more serious on innovation, otherwise we will not advance it, we will numb it, innovation will really mean everything and nothing .
The weak signals I seem to be hearing
I hear new sounds that give me hope on innovation emerging out of its “dark age” of our crude attempts to fit innovation into existing structures that are no more “fit for purpose” to resolve the growing societal challenges we face in this century. There are views and recommendations emerging on better ways forward. We certainly need perhaps an age of innovation enlightenment through the evolution of innova tion’s management and all of what it means.
Possibly I do hear the growing sounds of a new age of enlightenment better than I thought concerning innovation. It is being mixed in with much that is old, of past value and that is where it has been confusing.
Where do we start?
Perhaps we all need to become a little more discerning. We need to “push” far more the discussions, the ideas and concepts by advancing new theories, experiment more to learn new ways, because the way innovation is presently structured in organizations is simply not working, as we all well know but care not to admit. Let’s just keep our heads down, it’s easier!
Maybe if we can gain a new momentum for the management of innovation, a new forum for debate, this can lift the fog, mine, and I bet yours. That is if you pause long enough. Until then I think this fog will drift in and out until there is enough momentum behind the reforming wind to allow us to ‘advance’ again.
Stop holding us back in old innovation thinking please
So I have to cut out all the extraneous noise and begin to strive even more for the way out of this current fog. Where is that compass of mine? It points towards the future of innovation, which is so very different from the past, where so many still seem intent to trap us in by continuing to repeat the same solutions, just simply wrapped up in different words- just being regurgitated- old wine in newer bottles.
How wrong they are, I for one must follow those ‘future orientated weak signals’ to lead me out of this current fog where mos t of what I read is simply that repeating message, “innovation is stuck”.
Perhaps each of us needs to find that future before we get lost in this current innovation fog, as we have this real danger that it swallows us up completely up because we had lost all our orientation, all our true understanding of what innovation should provide, in what we should be trying to achieve, transforming innovation, that offers us the future. Past innovation is yesterday’s story. The future of innovation is where we should focus upon and go, so we can leave all this ‘clinging fog’ behind us.
image credit: thejourneyleadshome.com; ipadwallpapergallery.com/morning-depression-by-piotr-zurek; creativecommons.com
Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.
Peacekeeping and Innovation
Posted on April 20, 2013 by Scott Bowden
One exercise in creativity for an innovation practitioner consists of the crossfertilization of ideas from one area of academic research to another. Given my past studies in the field of international relations, I often stumble across interesting alignments between world politics and my current field of endeavor, innovation (for example, see my recent post “Streetcar Innovation”).
My peripatetic reading list revealed another parallel between the two fields in the form of Lord Paddy Ashdown’s Eight Principles of Peacekeeping for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ashdown, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament from the United Kingdom who served as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2007 and is currently the head of UNICEF UK, spoke to the International Rescue Committee in London in 2003 concerning the lessons learned from the transition from conflict to nation-building and peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia. At the time he hoped to impress these lessons upon the endeavor in nation-building in Iraq by the United States. From an innovation standpoint, Ashdown’s eight principles provide valuable insights into the way an innovation leader should approach his or her efforts to drive innovation across an enterprise.
Principle 1 – “[Have] a good plan and stick to it. This plan needs to be drawn up, not as an after -thought, but well in advance, as an integral part of the planning for the military campaign.”
In this principle, Ashdown is highlighting the propensity of leaders to lay out high level plans for an overall campaign but to spend too much time on the military phase of a campaign and not enough on planning for the post-war transition, as observers often state was the case for the war in Iraq. When we launch an innovation initiative, typically starting with an innovation workshop, our best intentions usually incline us to follow Ashdown’s maxim of intensively focusing on preparation. Often times, though, we find ourselves wishing that we had been able to spend more time on detailed planning not only on the workshop itself but our plans for follow-up work resulting from the session. In a world of limited cycles available for preparation, we tend to focus on the workshop session itself, possibly at the expense of the follow-on work.
The question for innovation leaders is whether there is value in spending more time thinking about what happens after the workshop so we can inject that into the workshop discussions. In the peacekeeping example, there are clearly significant post-war ramifications to in-war decisions. For instance, for a military force trying to impact the command and control capabilities of an enemy, destroying a power transmission tower has a much different post-war effect than destroying an entire power generation facility, which will require significant resources to rebuild. The military commander making the targeting decisions is tasked to win the war as quickly as possible, though the larger campaign must take into account the post-war period. Although this is an extreme example, it might be worthwhile for innovation leaders to invest more time upfront in thinking through the post-workshop steps of their innovation process, as those steps could influence the approach to the workshop itself. The specific process that a certain innovation concept might have to follow after the workshop (such as a specific product development cycle) could influence the way that the workshop team discusses the concept in the session, such as spending more time on a particular product detail,
knowing how critical that detail will be to the ultimate manufacture of the product. For instance, a part for an aircraft that must meet very specific weight requirements as opposed to the core function of the part, like the lithium batteries on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Principle 2 – “[E]stablish the rule of law – and do so as quickly as possible. […] It is much more impor tant to establish the rule of law quickly than to establish democracy quickly. Because without the former, the latter is soon undermined.”
This principle, yet again, rings particularly true for observers of the post-Iraq war and post-Arab Spring chaos in Egypt. Although the establishment of democracy is an eventual goal of the effort at regime change, the rule of law is a foundational element required for democracy to succeed. The alternative, unfortunately, is chaos, sometimes echoing Thomas Hobbes’s anarc hy in Leviathan. Although I have yet to lead or participate in an innovation workshop that results in a war of “all against all,” I usually do not spend much time contemplat ing importance of the operational structure of workshop. By operational structure, I mean the way the innovation workshop leader manages the interactions among participants in the session.
We often think of innovation sessions as necessarily “free -wheeling” or “wide-open” because we are trying to encourage creativity and new thinking to solve problems or generate novel ideas. However, just as democracy requires the rule of law as a foundation, so too does the structure that drives discussion in an innovation session play an important role in determining the success of the session. This could be something as simple as organizing set times for breaks to maximize the productivity of the team members, or something as complex as scripting time to focus on different workshop themes to make sure that all of the ideas are covered. New idea generation and free-association is great, but there has to be some structure to keep the session on track.
Principle 3 – “[E]stablish your credibility straight away. The more robustly a peacekeeping force deals with any initial challenges to its authority, the fewer challenges there will be in the future.”
The Iraq example proves instructive here, as many observers recall the looting that took place after the fall of the regime which contributed to a sense of disorder (trampling the rule of law mentioned in principle 2) and demonstrating the weakness of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Though the stakes are significantly lower, the innovation leader faces a similar need to establish authority at the outset of a workshop session
or innovation initiative. In the case of innovation, credibility comes not in the form of demonstration of the use of force (thank goodness) but, rather, from demonstrating an understanding of what it takes to deliver successful innovation outcomes.
Expert public speakers often note that a presenter has to grab the attention of an audience in the first few minutes or even seconds of a presentation to be successful, likewise the innovation workshop leader faces the same challenge in starting a session, even if in the end most of the input for the session will come from the participants. My preferred method involves focusing the attention of the audience on an innovation that was successful but in a counter-intuitive way, such as the Nest thermostat (fewer buttons – thus bucking the trend of more and more complexity in programmable thermostats – but more capabilities). This forces the participants to start thinking differently about the challenges they are facing in the workshop.
Principle 4 – “[S]tart as quickly as possible on the major structural reforms – from putting in place a customs service or a reliable tax base, to reforming the police and the civil service, to restructuring and screening the judiciary, to transforming the armed forces.”
In this principle, Ashdown calls on the peacekeeper to dive quickly into areas of reform that can be seen by some as the most challenging because they are so sweeping in nature, such as a significant modification of a country’s armed forces or police. This is in some ways counter intuitive, as we often opt to invest time and energy studying the more challenging problems to devise the “perfect” solution as opposed to diving directly into the problem knowing that the problem will only get worse with time and become even more intractable. In the case of corporate innovation, we tend to adhere to the same philosophy in which we see large-scale challenges as being worthy of genuine, lengthy investigation before we are willing to take action. We want to build complete and thorough business cases and operational models before we are willing to take a chance on implementing a transformative change.
In the meantime, the business problem we are trying to solve continues to fester and, moreover, from an innovation standpoint, the team working on identifying creative solutions to business challenges sees a large time gap between the identification of their new ideas and the actual implementation of those ideas. This gap leads to turnover among the team and a lack of institutional knowledge about the innovation time since the workshop grows and grows.
While I am not advocating blindly throwing changes into critical business processes as a resu lt of innovation discussions, I do think Ashdown’s principle can help innovators think about the value of making immediate changes to complex processes to drive transformation. My favorite example of this adding a Customs stoplight to a process. Years ago on a trip to a Central American country, I was fascinated by a Customs stoplight that greeting arriving passengers. After clearing passport control, each group of passengers (or individual passenger traveling alone) would press a button and get a green or red light (presumably assigned on a random basis) to determine if the passenger group or individual warranted additional luggage screening or was free to proceed to ground transportation. In the case of a business process with a number of control points that an innovation team identifies as unnecessary, a quick change could entail adding a stoplight to the process to start reducing the number of users of the process who have to go through that control point. Thus immediate results can be observed (and presumably benefits can be derived by those who get to skip the control point) while still assuaging the fears of those who would prefer to maintain the control point. Over time, as the process continues to function and is successful, the frequency of green lights can be increased until the point where it is removed completely as a step.
Principle 5 – “[E]nsure that the international community organizes itself in theatre in a manner that can work and take decisions.”
This Ashdown principle focuses on the importance of having onsite, organized involvement by the international community in the post-war theatre. In the case of Bosnia, the international community would include the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as numerous Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the Red Cross. Ashdown notes that not only does the international community need to be onsite, but it also needs to be well-organized and ready to work and make decisions. A peacekeeper cannot afford to have extended delays for making decisions while waiting on word to come back from a chain of command that stretches across oceans and continents. Another gem of wisdom in this principle lies in the realization that a group that is by definition not formally organized (the international community, consisting of dozens of sovereign countries with varying interests in the region as well as dozens of NGOs) must organize themselves and operate as conjoined entities to be able to perform key tasks and make critical decisions.
In the case of the innovator, the equivalent of the unorganized international community is the network of change agents across an enterprise that must be relied on to make sure an innovative idea is implemented successfully. Typically we try to find a single sponsor of an innovation who we hope can push that change forward and overcome the obstacles that inevitably arise for visionaries. Our ultimate success, however, lies in our ability to leverage a larger team with change agents spread throughout the enterprise who can help see our initiative through to success. Because this larger team will consist of individuals who are not organizationally connected to each other, it will function similar to the way that the international community functions in peacekeeping, with each member having a different stake in the ultimate outcome.
Principle 6 – “[E]stablish an exceptionally close relationship between the military and civilian aspects of peace implementation.”
This principle is best exemplified by the organizational structure of the United States, where military aspects of peace implementation are handled by the Department of Defense whereas civilian aspects are managed by the Department of State. The gulf between these two massive bureaucracies is much wider than the short distance between the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C. In this case, Ashdown is citing the importance of ensuring that the mechanism that focuses on the use of force (in peacekeeping, this would be the military) remains closely aligned with the groups that define the civil society and governance for a country (civil servants). The critical moment for this
collaboration occurs with the handoff from military to civilian control, though this handoff is typically a long process more so than a single event. Nonetheless, the smoothness of this transition from military control to civilian-led rebuilding, is of great importance in the success of a peacekeeping and nation-building effort. This transition is the most relevant to the innovator, as the transition from military to civilian leadership is similar to the transition that occurs when a new idea moves from the innovation workshop to actual implementation.
The innovator must be in close coordination and communication with the individuals who will implement the new idea or develop the new product, and ideally the innovation team would include some of those individuals from the outset so they are intimately familiar with the innovation and have followed it throughout the ideation process. For some innovators, the tendency may be to believe that their time is better spent on the front end of the ideation process working on new ideas rather than following previous ideas through to delivery. The seamlessness of this handoff, and the continued involvement of the innovator in the entire process from start to finish, can help improve the success rate of an innovation.
Principle 7 – “[A]void setting deadlines, and settle in for the long haul. […]Installing the software of a free and open society is a slow business. It cannot be done [...] in a year or so. […] Peacekeeping needs to be measured not in months but decades. What we need here […] is the sheer stamina as an international community to see the job through to lasting success. That means staying on, and sticking at it, long after the CNN effect has passed.”
The CNN effect is the concept that modern societies tend to focus intensively on a problem when they see televised images of suffering. This external focus on a part of the world suffering from a catastrophe is interesting in that it can dissipate almost as quickly as it arises given the short attention span of the modern television audience. For this principle, Ashdown notes that the work of the peacekeeper is slow and steady and although there will sometimes be quick wins, for the most part the process of transforming a country and installing, as Ashdown puts it, “ the software of a free and open society” is not something that happens overnight. For the innovator, the same challenge exists de pending on the significance of the transformation the innovator is attempting to implement.
Innovators can sometimes find quick wins and small successes in building up to a more substantial transformation, but their larger work of truly changing the nature of an organization or enterprise is a much slow process. The CNN effect in innovation is the immense attention paid to ideation during a workshop and the quick drop-off in focus that occurs when the participants walk out the door and resume their normal daily routines. While few business leaders would be willing to measure innovation success in decades, Ashdown’s principle suggests that we should spend less time trying to measure innovation in months or quarters. Like the peacekeeper, the innovator needs Ash down’s “sheer stamina” to “see the job through to lasting success.”
Principle 8 – “[G]ive peace-building […] a political destination. For Iraq, that may be a democratic and prosperous state in a peaceful and secure Middle East. For Bosnia, it is Europe.”
Ashdown’s final principle is the most concise yet also the most powerful. Peacekeepers and nation -builders should have a destination in mind for their efforts that can be described in a succinct manner to ease the communication of the idea to an entire country of individuals. The Iraq example in his principle is less instructive given what we know about the Middle East in 2013 (Ashdown’s speech was given in 2003), but the
Bosnia example speaks to the principle by establishing the very simply-stated target destination of “Europe,” with all of the attributes that such a destination would entail (free society, rule of law, international cooperation, common currency, etc.). One word can contain many positive messages to many different people. Although it is much more difficult for the innovator to encapsulate an innovation program into a single word, the concept itself should be instructive as a general goal.
The very nature of innovation suggests that we may not always know the destination before we start, otherwise the destination would be something we already know about and thus not necessarily innovative. Nonetheless, we should consider painting a picture of our vision as to where an innovation effort should end up so that the participants in our workshop sessions or on our innovation teams share a common purpose and set of shared goals and objectives. Ashdown’s principle points to the power of simplicity in defining that destin ation.
Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), pp. 225-226.
Paddy Ashdown, “Broken Communities, Shattered Lives: Winning the Savage War of Peace,” Speech by the Rt. Hon. Lord Ashdown, H igh Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the International Rescue Committee, London (June 19, 2003).
http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/paddyashdown image credit: geography.howstuffworks.com
Scott Bowden works on Innovation Programs for IBM Global Services.
The Portfolio is the Pivotal Tool for Innovation Success
Posted on April 20, 2013 by Kevin McFarthing
In a previous corporate life, I was on the board of trustees of a very large pension fund. Our role was to ensure income in retirement for thousands of current and former company employees. The key lesson I learned was that the most important decision we had to make was on the mix of investments in the portfolio. The return had to link to the objectives and requirements of the fund, now and in the future. Portfolio management was the pivotal tool for success.
It’s the same with innovation. Having the right mix of projects to support today’s business and to grow tomorrow’s is critical for success. While there are some companies where a small number of projects can make a massive difference; you can bet there are backups, alternative routes, and sub-project domains that effectively constitute a portfolio. Innovation needs creativity for great ideas, excellent execution in product and service development, strong external and internal communication, committed and capable people – the portfolio is the tool that holds it all together.
The portfolio ensures the growth required by objectives and strategy can be delivered. If the company is pursuing the Three Horizons approach or something similar, then managing the portfolio correctly will help you to do what’s needed to execute on the plan. While stage and gate, project management, and other processes keep projects on track, they are a level below the portfolio.
Good portfolio management, in essence, enables companies to direct limited resources where they will have the biggest impact. It clarifies the bets you’re making, the associated uncertainties and some of the related contingencies. It enables you to cull the least attr active projects and to kill the zombies.
So from my other corporate experience of leading innovation, here are some suggestions to make portfolio management both effective and efficient:
Don’t be bureaucratic. The more laborious you make it, the more people will see it as a task and not an enabling tool. Use it to guide decisions. This has implications for the criteria used to prioritize; the data input; the associated metrics; and the complexity of the portfolio. Be prepared to be pretty brutal with information that adds little or no value to the decisions you need to make.
Aim more for accuracy and less for precision. As an example, it’s better to have a “Top Ten” list of projects if all ten are funded, than to waste time ranking them from one through ten.
Use it to engage different parts of the company in planning. If the plan is handed down from on high in tablets of stone, there will be less commitment to implementation than if the planning takes account of each department’s capabilitie s and constraints. As the old cliché says – it’s the planning, not the plan.
Be wary of “portfolio creep”. When different groups have their own portfolios based on how each project affects them – without a clear hierarchy – inefficiency and chaos can result. It isn’t rocket science for e.g. sales to take the portfolio information and work out how they need to spend their time.
Create a flexible, up-to-date, and dynamic system. As Greg Satell noted recently, even strategic planning is being challenged by the dramatic shortening of technology cycles, so portfolio management needs to be proactive to anticipate change and opportunity.
Have a “go to” person. This person owns the admin side of the portfolio, and ensures regular input, review, updating and reporting. Get an IT system to support all of the above. The system should be appropriate and proportional to your needs, and should take into account the other points outlined here
Finally, don’t forget the portfolio is there to help you, not the other way round. And if you want to learn more about how portfol io management helps ensure successful innovation, there’s a really good free online conference next month.
And by the way, the pension fund is still doing really well…
image credit: stc
Kevin McFarthing runs the Innovation Fixer consultancy, helping companies to improve the output and efficiency of their innovation, and to implement Open Innovation. He spent 17 years with Reckitt Benckiser in innovation leadership positions, and also has experience in life sciences.
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