Tag: ambuguity

Harnessing The Power Of Rebels

The Royal Society is known the world over for the contribution of its members in the field of Science. The Royal Society is celebrating 350 years since its founding to promote science, technology and engineering and it numbers many famous names amongst its fellows including Christopher Wren, Stephen Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners Lee. This small band is well known for their achievements and perhaps not so well known for being cantankerous, awkward and in some cases downright dangerous. It demonstrates the power of rebels.

Back in 1752 a man flew a kite into a thunderstorm in an attempt to harness the electricity present within the clouds. Luckily he succeeded and his efforts led to the lightning conductors that we see on tall buildings today. The gentleman’s name was Benjamin Franklin, a name well known in the USA today.

At the same time as he was working within the bosom of the scientific community and harnessing the power of lightning he was also a thorn in the side of the British government, trying to gain independence for the colony and developing relations with France. So what, I hear many ask?

Many of our advances have come from such ‘pressure cookers’ where questioning and sometimes rebellion are tolerated and even sometimes encouraged. In order to capture this genius we need to learn to recognise and then manage these situations In particular, being able to live with ambiguity, tolerate high degrees of risk and practise hands-off management are high on the agenda for those wishing to make use of such talents within their businesses.

See also Making Use Of Oddballs.

Innovation or Lean?

Innovation or Lean? A recent article published on the Knowledge@Wharton website suggested that the philosophy of Lean could exist along with Innovation. After reading the article I have two questions:

  1. Why would you want them to?
  2. Why put Innovation into a box (like Lean or BPR) when an Innovation system has the ability to change and respond to its surroundings?

The article states “Lean has come to mean an integrated, end-to-end process viewpoint that combines the concepts of waste elimination, just-in time inventory management, built-in quality, and worker involvement — supported by a cultural focus on problem solving. Can such practical principles be applied to innovation, or would lean’s structure and discipline snuff out the creative spark that underlies the birth and development of great ideas? Can lean co-exist with innovation?”

The article suggests that Lean brings structure and predictability to Innovation without sufficiently defining Innovation. Innovation requires a framework within which we generate ideas, experiment and develop new products, services and processes. Such frameworks exist and also provide ways of measuring and monitoring Innovation. In that sense we have structure and predictability within Innovation so we do not need Lean also. The very definition of Lean also implies that the flexibility and adaptability required to change, either in times of crisis or to seize opportunities, may have been engineered out of an organisation.

Those who fully embrace Innovation will understand that Innovation systems evolve and fully embrace such aspects as new ideas of collaborative working, new leadership and organisational models, empowerment and customer engagement. These attributes are not specific to Innovation systems nor are they specific characteristics of Lean.

An Innovation system can exhibit Lean characteristics if necessary, but a Lean system cannot be truly Innovative since there is always be an intellectual overhead in an Innovation system and so the Lean system will become ‘non Lean’.

Another contentious topic is that of separating idea from development. It is true that the mix of people that are required during the many phases of Innovation may change, but once more this is a characteristic of Innovation, that things change. In fact, idea and development must be connected. What if the technology to implement an idea does not exist and ideas must be generated in order to put an idea into production? Imagine the first time Silicon wafers were used to produce chips in large numbers. I cannot imagine that those who developed the chips were completely separated from those who developed production processes.

So if Innovation is an end to end process which provides a framework, is adaptable to changing conditions and which can be measured, why would we wish to consider Lean? One possible (and perhaps cynical) answer is that those who promote Lean would lose a possible source of revenue or that they simply do not understand Innovation – after all, it does have ambiguity built in!

Can Creativity flourish in your working environment?

Here are some golden rules that you can use as a checklist to see if a) creativity could flourish if you are looking to embrace it or b) to find out why your best efforts at being creative are failing dismally.

Here are some rules for dealing with things on a personal level:

  • Mindsets must change, even if the changes are small
  • Explore the ‘givens’, the problem boundaries
  • Look at the broad picture AND details
  • Value play
  • Build up, say ‘yes and’ not ‘yes but’
  • Learn to live with ambiguity
  • Don’t force creativity on people, nurture what is there
  • Involve other people
  • Be receptive, watch and listen
  • Know what your objectives are
  • Cycle often, close late – don’t just plump for the quickest option
  • Manage the process, if you don’t it will be a playground

… and here are some things from the wider environment:

  • Whatever you do must be fun!
  • Manage interpersonal differences, they will come to the fore
  • Manage status differences, these will appear too
  • Manage expectations, be realistic but have goals
  • Inhibition and risk need to minimised, people need to feel comfortable
  • Minimise group and critical pressure, use the first checklist to help here
  • Ban distractions, ban laptops and mobile phones for a day if necessary
  • Logistics, pay attention to small things such as decor, refreshments etc

Pay attention to the above and you have a good chance of succeeding. Now all you need to know is WHAT to do!