Archive for: January, 2015

What are the fundamental outcomes of innovation?

What are the fundamental outcomes of innovation

Innovation is the successful introduction of something new. And fundamentally, it is the direct result of questioning the status quo; that which precedes it. So, when setting out to change the status quo it is useful to ask yourself: what’s the outcome we want?

It’s a basic question, but one that no one seems to think about. Here then, I’ll elaborate on the fundamental outcomes of innovation…

A cheat sheet of 19 different types of business models

To change the game, change the business model. But, what if you can’t find one?

Well, HBR published an article on business models that has the following cheat sheet of 19 different business models that you can brainstorm and adapt to a new venture.

Architecting the Invisible: Creating a Culture of Innovation

For innovation create chaos“Without order, nothing can exist. Without chaos, nothing can evolve”.

Just found this is great talk by Greg Horowitt, Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder of T2 Venture Creation, about what it takes to create a culture of innovation. It’s about belief systems; both a mindset and heart-set.

Therefore, what does it take to solve problems in the world? It’s your imagination, because often the knowledge to solve a new and different challenge doesn’t yet exist. Innovation requires experimentation and iteration; evolution. It is human-centric. New beliefs lead to new behaviors, which lead to better actions and outcomes.

True innovators don’t have a culture that aims to please the boss

for innovation safe is riskyHow many strategic plans look a little bit different from the year before? 99.9% do.

When I say “a little bit different” I mean tighter strategies with incremental goals and objectives and more of the same activities as the year before. Yes, we’ve all seen this before. What’s ridiculous is that you may begin a strategy session thinking differently, but most everyone defaults to safe because “that’s not what the boss expects” when the time comes to decide on a course of action; a lot of good ideas are not considered because of this.

This situation presents itself in most businesses, but the ones who are able to leap ahead have one thing in common: they are ruled by ideas, not hierarchy.

It isn’t business-as-usual to be ruled by ideas

Over the last few months of 2014 I was involved in facilitating a strategic plan for a government created mechanism in charge of coordinating entrepreneurial activities in the city of Tijuana. They brought me in because they wanted to shake things up!

There were many challenges, but the main thing was to be more ambitious. Unfortunately, it’s one thing to say “let’s rethink our approach” and another to actually go forward with it. Well, that’s exactly what happened after the strategy sessions.

The ideas that were presented in the strategic plan were cookie-cutter versions of what happens in other entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world, in this case they are localized to Tijuana. The sad thing about it is that the people in charge of this government mechanism, the boss, vetted all of the ideas; even though they were the same as the year before.

Why did this happen?

Because the group of people that came up with the strategic plan wanted to shake things up, but only just a little bit. The result was almost the same set of activities as the year before, with incremental goals and objectives.

Not the recipe for shaking things up…

The best idea wins

In innovative organizations, there is a unique understanding that to shake things up one has to STOP doing what leads to more of the same and START doing what will lead to new and different. So, if the decision making process in your business is to go through a suit (business as usual) that values safe bets that lead to more of the same; now you know what will counter that: letting the best idea win.

How do you do that?

Easy, ask yourself some business shaking questions:

  • If we make a list of all the projects we are working on, do any of those have the potential to change our business significantly over the next year?
  • What’s the boldest idea we should work on?

Best and bold are subjective terms, so it is best to first develop a criteria for what you want. The criteria I use to describe innovativeness is: new, surprising and radically useful. Secondly, come up with some ideas that fit the criteria you defined. And finally, define a timeframe to see some prototypes and let people try stuff and don’t judge them if their idea fails.

Employee freedom and responsibility go together

The main point is people need freedom, support and challenge to make innovation happen; not to think twice about expressing themselves freely because they fear getting punished. Put simply, if you are afraid to say what you really think in a meeting, you are not free. You are a corporate slave.

True innovators do away with corporate slavery. True innovators trust people to do the right thing, and that starts with defining culture and then hiring for specific values and behaviors. Hiring is hard, it’s the most important job for any business, and there isn’t a cookie-cutter recipe to follow, but if you focus on hiring for brilliance you can be certain that the best ideas will win; not the loudest voice in the room.

Bottom line: A culture that values playing it safe, is a culture that stagnates. A culture that thrives is one where people and ideas that challenge the status quo are valued.

For innovation: More prototypes, less powerpoints

rapid prototyping innovationRadically better products don’t stand on the shoulder of giants, but on the shoulders of lots of iterations. The basis for success then, and for continual product excellence, is speed. – Eric Schmidt

Indeed. Scrappy startups are known for acting with speed and conviction, while established organizations are slow and risk averse. When implemented well, speed and surprise are the ultimate equalizers. To achieve surprise, you need an unexpected idea first. Second, you need to have the ability to execute that idea. Third, you need to decide when and how to execute the idea.

It is at the moment of making the decision where most established organizations fail. Why? Because most large organizations don’t empower their employees to make decisions.

No standard behavior change, no innovation

“After this, the world will never be the same…” Those are the words a true innovator should say with complete conviction about their product or service because a world-changing outcome is what she/he sees in the future. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case on most occasions.

Most entrepreneurs I know aim to make money by taking advantage of a need. This is the most obvious path to “innovation”, but is satisfying an existing need innovative?

Will Chief Innovation Officers still exist in five years?

Will Chief Innovation Officers still exist in five years?

A recent article in Fast Company touched on the topic of CIOs (Chief Innovation Officer) and how they’ve become more ubiquitous inside large organizations. This is an enterprise innovation tactic years in the making. But, do they actually mean anything?

My take is that in the CEOs call for innovation, there is also a jump for innovation by placing the responsibility for innovation on a single person: the Chief Innovation Officer. Frankly, the Chief Innovation Officer is more akin to placing blame on someone for being “disrupted”; other than the CEO. Why? Because it is a reactive move; not a proactive one.

The CIOs job is to maneuver the business around irrelevance. Giving someone a title can have unintended consequences such as ego driven decision making, which usually leads to blown opportunities and ideas that never had the chance to take off.

And that’s the problem.

If your organization is truly committed to innovation, which it should, then the CEO needs to be the CIO (chief Innovation Officer), period. His job is to set the context for innovation to happen anywhere in the organization; not just R&D, marketing, a team from McKinsey or some special forces team.

There are signs that will tell you when you’ve created an innovation primordial soup, one is ideas are valued more than hierarchy; not the other way around. To be clear, I’m not saying Chief Innovation Officers are worthless, I’m saying we shouldn’t see them as a sign that “innovation” is going to happen.

So, will Chief Innovation Officers still exist in five years? Hopefully not. The better question to ask is, “how might we change organizations so in the next 5 years innovation is expected and not mandated?”.

Bottom line: Innovation can’t be owned or mandated, it needs to be allowed. You can’t tell innovative people to be innovative, but you can let them. Unleash the black sheep and get out of their way; rest assured they’ll innovate.