Tag: flexible

How Innovative And Flexible Is Your Business?

how innovatve and flexible is your business

To be innovative we must be flexible and embrace change. Innovation is a special type of change program. It has many other attributes that make it deeply fascinating and sometimes difficult or impossible to grasp, but change is what it is.

Sometimes this change is fast and sometimes slow, but change is a competence and managing change can be learned, developed and practised.

The thing that trips us up most often is that we get no practice, we have to improvise. Most of us would not stand up at a comedy club and improvise a 10 minute set. But our bosses expect us to do this and we gladly assume the role.

Of course, we can never practice the stages of change without actually changing. But in our businesses, we crave stability. We either change once in a lifetime or we keep doing so in a way that we don’t have time to bed in the changes that have been made.

Worse still, we invent an innovation program that changes rapidly. This results in bewildered staff, unhappy sponsors and management shaking their heads at the hastily drawn up Key Performance Indicators.

Even in changing business environments businesses make the assumption that volatility will be low.

For obvious reasons, the least volatile part of a business is related to finance. For example, consider the process of budgeting. The budget is usually set once a year and tinkered with occasionally. Often budgets are reused. It might not be efficient to use zero-based budgeting (budgeting from scratch) but how often are the inputs to a budget reexamined?

But what happens when there is volatility in the marketplace? Commodity prices can rise and fall quickly. Recently we have seen fuel prices affect the costs of all goods that need to be transported. Crop failures can push up food prices and regulatory changes can force huge burdens upon us all.

What would you do regarding your finances if the cost of fuel rose by 50% due to events in the Middle East? What would you need to do and how fast could you do it? Would it spell the end anyway?

Some businesses do conduct some scenario planning or create a series of ‘What if?’ statements so that they have some idea what to do. This is a little like leaving instructions for a simple board game. What happens when the board game is different from the one mentioned in the instructions?

To be truly agile (nimble, flexible, innovative or whatever adjective you favour), a business must create a system that reacts automatically to its surroundings rather as a chameleon does in nature. You might find it useful to take a look at the following two posts No More Change Programs – Meet The Super Chameleon and Innovation Constipation – Are You Suffering?

How do we create this elusive flexible or innovative business? Well if you are starting a new business you can start as you mean to go on. Although whoever is providing startup funding might take in interest in why you are doing something that does not obviously have a ROI (Return On Investment).

If you are a larger business then they are ways of making the necessary structural and cultural changes. The businesses that have been doing this for years make it look easy. It is not! However, once you have mastered this (a bit like riding a bicycle) then things get easier.

If you want to know more or would like some case study material then please get in touch.

So your homework for today is to answer the following:

How does your company cultivate change and reinvention capacity in its people and managerial processes? What currently works? What can be improved or replaced?

Outcome Driven Innovation – problem or not?

Outcome Driven Innovation (ODI) clearly works for a number of organisations (usually larger organisations) and not for others. Why could this be? Personally I also have a number of issues with the methodology but this is not an attempt to pull ODI apart, rather to simply point out some issues and let others make up their minds as to what is best for them.

Innovation is, or should be, a hugely flexible process that works within a comprehensive framework but which is not overly specified. It may be further complicated by the (necessary) requirement that all areas of a business (and hence all of the people) become involved. If this does not happen then all we have is a glorified R&D department.

The specification of ODI seems to me at first sight to be very prescriptive but that is just an opinion. There is however, a danger that any business embracing ODI which has not fully bought into the philosophy of Innovation, could still be governed by left brained groupthink and could embark on a process of specifying and documenting everything. This could result in a) no action at all and the incorrect conclusion that Innovation does not work b) a rigid process that is in fact more akin to something resulting from Business Process Reengineering (BPR).

Another possible issue is the fact that one of the initial steps if to formulate an Innovation strategy when in fact the process will normally help create the strategy. Also, capturing customer inputs and looking at the broader marketplace will also help formulate the Innovation strategy.

From the outside, ODI looks like a tool driven methodology where you simply turn the handle on the sausage machine and things pop out. This is not Innovation, it is more like Taylor’s scientific management. And another claim is that it has been developed over time, not a crime in itself but where is the (double loop) learning that means the methodology itself can be updated and grow as needs (and the market) change.

Finally, everything appears Marketing driven which is why many of us embraced Innovation in the first place. As they say, the devil is in the detail so readers should research ODI and then draw their own conclusions. After all, you should use the methodology/framework that is right for you, not just use something that is popular or recommended by a friend because it uses the word ‘Innovation’.

Working With Generation Why?

History has defined a series of generations such as the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and now Generation Z (or Generation Why?). Generation Y are the children of Generation X and are now in their late teens to early twenties, the University and College students of today. As far as technology was concerned they went from geek to chic. Generation X grew up as technology and the internet was mushrooming and Generation Y simply went gadget mad. They grew up in times of economic prosperity and so created a different outlook on life. Don’t like your job, then go and get another? Want to work from home, no problem?

Generation Y is more brand and image conscious, they are more likely to have addictions and undesirable habits, they exhibit less loyalty to employers and their family units are prone to breaking down.

Next comes Generation Z, or ‘Generation Why?’ as I like to call it. The world has changed very rapidly of late. We have seen the power of developing countries such as India, China and Brazil as well as global warming, famine, the collapse of financial systems and now the election of a black American president. We are entering an age where things are less certain (and hence anything is possible) and which will breed a new classification of human being. They will be innovators in the true sense of the word, choosing to be adaptable and flexible in their home lives as well as at work.

Unlike their predecessors, Generation Why? Will be asking tough questions such as ‘Why must we do things in this way?’, ‘Why do we have to make a mess of the planet?’, ‘Why won’t you listen to me?’. They will be like constantly inquisitive teenagers and using their skills and imagination to get what they want. Being slightly less materialistic than Generation X they will be willing to put in more effort at work, but only if it matches their own goals and aspirations.

Sounds like a nightmare? Not at all. There is a generation who are able and willing to look at things differently and get off their backsides. Great things can be achieved but only if these people are ‘managed’ in the right way i.e. given the right resources, intrinsically motivated and contained within ‘light touch’ management systems. This will be a challenge for Managers and Human Resources specialists but the results will be worth waiting for and help is already at hand to start the process.

What Recession – reasons to be cheerful

The recession may have touched us all but it is not nearly as bad as the pundits and commentators would have us believe. One or two businesses have gone under but I am here and you are still here reading this. We are all still ‘in the game’ so we have some of the skills and resources necessary to survive. We must at the very least be capable of examining our external environment and reacting to it in a positive manner. We are flexible, adaptable, resourceful and understand our own competencies.

A downturn is a good time to plan and watch what others are doing. Take a look at your competitors, visit their shops and trade stands or use their services. See how your competitors are handling the bad times, take on board their good ideas and learn from the bad ones. In short be ready to beat them when the time is right. Use this slack time to review your own business, something you will not have time to do in the busier times ahead. Now is also a good time to woo new clients even if they are not going to buy from you right now. Understand them and listen to their woes. We are experts in our field.

We know that things are cyclical and so we can safely assume that after the crash will come a period of growth once more. We cannot say for sure what the timescales will be but we know that it will happen. We have demonstrated our flexibility in surviving initially and then been cunning in our approach to observing our competitors, creating a plan and acquiring resources. We have a business that will thrive when the time is right. In the meantime, leverage your expertise and assist your customers to save money or add value for existing customers (without charging them extra). We thoroughly understand our customers and our marketplace.

So you:

  • are flexible, adaptable, resourceful and self aware
  • experts in your field
  • thoroughly understand your customers and your marketplace

Congratulations, you are now innovating!