Category: Blog

Organic Innovation, The Best Way Forward

organic innovation

Organic Innovation is NOT about innovation within agricultural industries although they are not excluded. I am suggesting that Organic Innovation closely follows principles that are derived from agroecology.

At the very centre of this is Diversity. Diversity is important in all aspects of Systems Thinking. In agriculture we mix crops together, employ rotational grazing etc to improve the environment, making it more productive and prevent resources from being exhausted.

Diversified agricultural businesses are more resilient to economic shocks, ensuring survival.

Businesses employing Organic Innovation in the manner that I describe here are employing diverse people with wide-ranging areas of expertise and ways of working. Not only will the workforce be able to withstand economic shocks but if properly managed it will provide new and exciting solutions, giving it competitive advantage.

Co-creation is a bit of a buzzword right now but we will collaborate on a deep and very grand scale. We will be working not just across companies but across the world. There will be globalisation but in a very different way and Design Thinking will be at the heart of everything.

No longer will we consume what large companies make for us, we will demand that large companies make the things that we want and deliver the services that we need. We will also help in creating these.

Synergy will also be key. Anything we do will have to have multiple benefits, not just generate cash for shareholders. Companies will need to have multiple strings to their bow, not just do one thing.

Efficiency is also key although lean Thinking will take a back seat. If organisations are to be able to change within a somewhat ambiguous world then there must be a small amount of excess capacity or else, they will be reliant on external change agents and not be masters of their own destiny.

Just as an ecological business will try to eliminate waste, Organic Innovation will try to ensure that ideas, knowledge, and skills are used efficiently. Where unexpected benefits, products or services are generated then these will be explored, possibly spinning off other organic businesses.

Resilience will be critical in the future so the emphasis will be on using local resources (buildings, talent) and not ‘forcing’ production by importing from elsewhere. Just as farmers collaborate with the sharing of equipment, swapping goods, and attending markets, so businesses will come together. This can happen either through the use of technology such as the internet or by co-locating complementary businesses together (going one step further than the somewhat tired science park concept).

The workforce of the future will depend heavily on human and social values since we are talking about the value that is created as a result of social interactions. The alignment of values will be key both within the workforce and with our customers. There must also be a reflection of what is happening within society as a whole.

Consider a company in the current climate (COVID-19) which soldiers on relentlessly with little concern for the wellbeing of staff or customers. Many companies right now are considering others, but only because they have no choice to do so. Businesses that respond positively are thriving.

Within Organic Innovation, surprisingly we find that tradition has a part to play. Most innovative businesses are relatively new but there does need to be a hint of the past whether it is company history or local culture. This tends to help with a sense of belonging but with room to grow an organisational culture. Start with nothing and you have a very sterile (i.e. both stark and infertile) environment.

Governance will also have a large part to play. Stakeholders will be ethically aware and employees might be keen to have a stake in the business that they work within. It may also be the case that a number of individuals with in-demand skills might have portfolio careers (what we might consider to be zero-hours contracts) and so relationships with these key workers must be maintained.

The parallels between Innovation and Agroecology are strong. Diversity, co-creation, synergy, efficiency, re-purposing, resilience, values, culture, and governance all have key parts to play if we want to be both useful and have staying power in the future.

 

Thought Leadership – A Way Forward?

thought leadership

The fast pace in the current digital age means that businesses and business models are changing more rapidly than ever. Combine that with the current coronavirus pandemic and the need for rapid change and swift decision making and you have a recipe for ‘excitement’. Thought Leadership is most definitely required.

New technologies and innovations will quickly sweep away well established and seemingly solid business models within just a few months. There are plenty of examples, Blockbusters, and Kodak to name just two.

In the latter case, Kodak failed to adapt to the growth of digital photography and the decline of photographic film, and a company that had traded for more than 100 years was forced to file for bankruptcy.

Blockbuster, which had itself been a disruptive company that saw the growth in home video and DVD during the 1980s, failed to see the decline of video and DVD and the potential for streaming.  It failed to adapt to change and fell by the wayside while players like Netflix dominate the same space today. In a cruel twist of fate, Blockbuster passed on the chance to buy Netflix in its early days.

To further underline the pace of disruption,  just 12% of the Forbes 500 from 1955 still existed in 2015.

So how can businesses remain relevant to their customers in these circumstances? The answer is to do what Blockbuster and others failed to do and adopt innovation in order to survive.

The impetus and thought leadership behind this needs to come from the top.  Senior staff must lead from the front, and encourage their teams to think progressively and kick start innovative thinking within the business.

This isn’t thought leadership as it’s often portrayed: featuring in guest blogs and conferences, but rather actually inspiring people within a business with innovative ideas and practical steps to turn these ideas into reality.

Thought leadership is a powerful way to inspire people both inside and outside of your company. Telling a credible story around a shift in your industry using real-life disruptive examples or builds authority and a consistent view across your organisation – driving innovative thinking and alignment.

The challenge for executives, CEOs, Marketing Directors, Directors of Strategy, etc is to remain up to date with trends in fast-moving industries when they already huge demands on their time, tight budgets, and competing priorities.

This has to be overcome for businesses and their executive teams though, as the ability to remain on top of events and how innovation and technological changes have the potential to affect their markets and clients is increasingly important.

The next stage is how executives can embrace thought leadership within their organisations and find and disseminate key information to help them stay on top of events.

1. Set a goal. Educate others.

Like any initiative, the first question to ask yourself is “why.” Why do you want to be a thought leader? Is it to get promoted, change careers, raise funds or boost brand awareness for the company?

2. Position yourself.

Personal positioning is very similar to corporate positioning. How do you want to describe yourself so that people know what you do? Ask yourself what you’d want to be known for and how you can support that image. This is actually branding as opposed to simply just advertising your position within the organisation.

3. Demonstrate credibility. 

Similar to the corporate or product messaging process, ask yourself the tough questions. What makes you an expert and why should others care? Once you’ve identified your area of expertise and the value that you bring, the next step is to prove your expertise to build credibility.

Use examples and stories to support your claims and highlight your aims.

4. Build a story to humanise your brand. 

Having a personal story will give your company a face and a human touch. People often love personal stories, which allow them to relate to your journey, challenges, and successes versus just hearing about a product and its features or functions. The stories you tell could be about you but they are more likely to relate to other businesses in your market niche. like the Blockbuster and Netflix examples above.

5. Be a resource.

Now that you know how you want to be perceived and have a narrative, think about how you are going to leverage tools to share tips, tricks, and best practices. Perhaps there is new research in your industry. Leverage that and use your know-how to add insight to the report. Always provide insights not just reports. Remember you are a thought leader not a follower.

Boosting Your Creativity

boosting your creativityThere are loads of different ways you can consider boosting your creativity – from small changes you can implement in your daily life to exercises that can help you develop your creative mindset.

Here are 5 very simple things that you can do to start off:

1. Change your workspace. There are many small changes you can implement in your office and daily life, to encourage creativity. Did you know that 60 % of the creative people operate in 2 or 3 different workspaces? Occasionally changing your environment allows your mind to see ideas from a different perspective and even formulate new solutions. Try to change your office workspace, or, if that’s not an option – maybe try working from a local coffee shop, library or even your home office just for a day.

2. Get inspiration from external stimuli. A simple way of encouraging inspiration and creativity is filling your office with various visual stimuli, especially if they aren’t related to your industry – interesting furniture, plants, paintings, photographs, different magazines.

3. Wellbeing and creativity. Our health and wellbeing can significantly influence our creativity. The healthier we feel, the more creative we tend to be. Consider standing desks, sleep-in policies, a corporate gym membership, fruit deliveries, add indoor plants or organise walk-meetings. According to studies, compared to sitting, walking while brainstorming can demonstrate a 60 % increase in the creative output. So, next time you need to come up with new ideas, consider taking a brief walk around the neighbourhood.

4. An office that supports creativity. Many hours are spent in our workplace, so naturally, it has a significant impact on our creative thinking. Even the layout of your office can contribute to everyday creativity. If you can arrange the office in a way that constantly makes people run into each other, it will encourage more interactions and conversations. The more people interact with each other, the bigger the chance for new, creative discoveries. Try and engineer those coffee machine and watercooler moments.

You can also set up different workspaces that support creative thinking: quiet rooms, chill out zones, rooms for large teams, or one on-one-discussions. Of course, not everyone can afford a major revamp of office space – you can start with simply moving the fruit bowl or a coffee maker to a new location or rename the meeting rooms to encourage a different type of thinking.

5. Let ideas brew. Interestingly, researchers discovered that allowing your ideas to “brew” for a while or go through an “incubation period” is important when it comes to our creative success. Even taking a break and stepping away from your project for just 20 minutes can significantly enhance your performance.

No wonder it is said that the best ideas come to us while in a shower. It so happens that the relaxing setting and absolute isolation of a warm shower makes an excellent incubator for new ideas. In fact, any other activities that make us feel good and relaxed, like exercising, taking a walk or cooking,  increase our dopamine flow, and fuel our subconscious “idea generation machine”.

What Comes Next?

What comes next?

We are currently in the throes of what can only be described as a catastrophe, both on a human level and also from a business point of view. It is the latter I am concerned with now, as it seems to be the thing that is most puzzling for us all. What comes next?

First of all, many people seem to think that we are having some sort of blip and then things will go back to being as they were. Well, this is definitely wrong. We have a virus that is killing people and for which there is no known cure.

Whether lockdown continues or social distancing stays with us for another year, things will not go back to being as they were towards the end of 2019.

Then we come to that awful phrase ‘new normal’. What is it exactly? The term implies that the old normal was not quite right and that a newer version will be more useful somehow. It also infers that a new state will be constant as though there has just been a change, a slight shift in our day to day lives.

The reality is that the post COVID-19 era will be characterised by change, constantly shifting environments, and also the need for rapid decision making.

So, you are thinking, how on earth do I create plans for my business? Ditch the plans (well the boring linear sort anyway) and create yourself a storyboard. Your endpoint is probably just past the end of the current wave of coronavirus and the intermediate points are wherever you want them to be (significant milestones).

So, at this endpoint, you need to ask yourself a lot of questions about how things will work because we will not know what things look like. Forget the products and services that you currently sell and think about your customers.

Will customers still want the things that you have traditionally provided, will they want something else, will they want more (or less), will they prefer it if you bundle more things together to save them going to many suppliers (a bit like going to local shops or getting supermarket deliveries during lockdown)?

Next, take a look to see if the competitive landscape is changing. Will any of your competitors be weakened or perhaps not be there at all? Will this leave gaps in the marketplace for you to fill?

And finally, you are always going to be able to make money is you have a solution to someone’s problem(s). So, try to think about potential customers who are just popping out of the other side of the pandemic. What extra things might they need, what things might they not be able to do, or what might they be afraid of?

At this point you might be thinking that there are a lot of questions to answer. Things do get harder though. Remember I suggested that our new world will be characterised by change and the need to make decisions quickly. Imagine that your business has to adapt in the same way a chameleon adapts to its surroundings.

You cannot wait to be told what to do, your business must be constantly scanning the environment around it and make decisions accordingly.

In the future, you will need to be nimble. Where you work will be immaterial, especially as technological advances will make remote working seem like we are all together. Factories will still exist but may be staffed by relatively few people.

Organisational structures will change and become flatter and more fluid with greater value placed on knowledge than job title.

For more ideas on structure and infrastructure please also read Soft Infrastructure Post Coronavirus to get a better idea of what comes next.

How Will Coronavirus Change The World?

how will coronavirus change the world
The events which are unfolding across the world mean that post coronavirus, the world will never be the same again. Is this a good or a bad thing?

At a superficial level we have shown that if we stop driving, taking planes and in some cases manufacturing, we can actually reduce the number of toxic emissions in the air. It still leaves us with a whole load of problems to solve but it demonstrates that it CAN be done.

The coronavirus is affecting just about everyone on the planet, it is a major disruption. So will things return to normal after this?

The answer is most definitely not, but why? Well a number of things have been observed such as:

  • People being more caring towards those around them (mostly)
  • The mood of the people is playing a big part – do they want more restrictions or are they happy with what governments are doing
  • Some companies have shown that it is possible to be incredibly flexible
  • There are vast untapped resources of knowledge and expertise in our communities
  • Forced remote working can have huge benefits
  • The media can have a huge effect on the people

By and large, there have been plentiful supplies of food despite panic buying and some holdups in the supply chain. When it became obvious that there WAS enough to go round, we (in the UK at least) became British once more and queued peacefully.

Some questioned what the government and the police were doing but by and large, the people gave them a smack over the head!

So collectively we entered survival mode, realising that we had to get on in order to survive. Ignoring neighbours and panic buying food was not going to work long term.

So many of us would like to be able to work from home more (if not permanently). Just think if online shopping was cheaper and easier, we could create more leisure time for ourselves. What our UK government described as non-essential shopping would probably form the bulk of our shopping in the future.

Well, that is people taken care of but what about businesses? All businesses are in trouble right now but it should be survival of the fittest. Let us not subsidise poor businesses. For instance, airlines that treat customers badly and have poor service offerings might find themselves at the mercy of those who treat people better.

In the case of our own domestic supermarkets, those that took action early to adapt and look after vulnerable people will have a much-enhanced reputation when all this is over.

I have heard it said that the coronavirus spells the end of globalisation. I do not believe that this is so. The current globalisation is ‘globalisation of greed’, making profits anywhere and exploiting countries and their populations.

It is impossible for any country to be self-sufficient in everything so we will all have to ‘play nicely’ and there will be ‘globalisation of cooperation’ with know-how (rather than toilet rolls) being valued as a commodity.

Many businesses will be able to carry on, maybe with changes to their products and services. After all, we still require food and clothing. But the major shock to our world will also present opportunities for those that are ready and looking for them.

Nobody knows for sure where these sectors are but think of the following:

  • If people were happier to be at home, what sort of leisure activities would they favour?
  • Social distancing might mean that we don’t want to get too close but it might also force a drastic change in public transport systems
  • Companies would mainly be identified by groups of people and their values, not by buildings and equipment
  • There could be a huge demand upon the internet
  • If knowledge is a global currency will be tempted to travel more for work? If so, how can we reduce this?

Try asking yourself what has changed in your life and also look at the world from the point of view of a consumer. What would you like to see or not like to see?