Tag: innovation

Innovation + Reinvention = ReThinking

innovation, reinvention, rethinkingLet’s face it, the biggest problem that we have in the exciting world of creativeinnovationreinventiveness is the English language. Yes, I made that horrible big word up but I might as well use it because everyone else has their own definition of creativity, innovation, invention, etc.

You hire a consultant or adviser to give you some of the aforementioned and what do you get? I’m sure it is not when you thought you would get! So what is the point of this article?

Well, many think that you should be in one camp or another. Well, I believe there is a camp that we can all belong to. The idea that I believe that we can all buy into is what I call ReThinking.

The sceptical will be thinking that I am inventing another term to try and make money out of. Bear with me and I will explain.

Have you seen the innovation curve that for any technology give the number of innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%). It would seem that a very small percentage of us are actually innovators.

There is another term that has been used by others, reinvention. Here people take a look at what they are currently doing and rework or reinvent either their products or their company. Some might call this incremental innovation.

ReThinking incorporates both Innovation and Reinvention. This seems sensible to me as all of the skills and behaviours that need to be used are common. What is very different is the degree to which they are used and possibly the radical nature of the purpose to which they are put.

What is important here is the type of thinking that is used. If an external event occurs (say a stock market crash or a supplier shortage of bananas) how do we react appropriately? To fully understand, think of the Chameleon. It detects its surroundings and then blends in with the environment. It reacts appropriately.

What the Chameleon does not do is cycle through all of the psychedelic colour combinations it can until it settles upon the right one!

But your business is not a Chameleon, right? But it can be! First of all, you need to think of your business as being organic and not having a hard and fast structure. Whether you go to town on this is up to you, just don’t put up barriers where there do not need to be any.

Although employees might work in a particular department, such as production or finance they can all contribute to change processes that must exist.

A small but powerful example of this are the lorry drivers that transport goods around the country. They don’t just drive lorries though, do they? A driver often waits outside a factory or depot. They are sources of intelligence (or if you are mischievous, sources of misinformation!). How full are the lorries, where do they come from, which haulage companies are being used?

Knowledge can be acquired from the environment by anyone and ideas can be generated by anyone. The next question is how do you gather them, how do you evaluate and then act on them? This is the essence of ReThinking, constantly thinking about what you do and whether you need to tweak things or react in a more drastic fashion.

As the recent outbreak of coronavirus has shown us, waiting until and infection is on our doorstep is far too late to take action in many cases. For businesses, it might just be a case of reacting to a future that is not here yet!

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?

Why You Should Love Opening Doors

Do you open the door

Have I gone mad? Last month it was paradoxes and now we have opening doors! Is it a real door or a metaphor?

This is all seems a bit deep. Here is a door, just an ordinary one apart from the fact that we know it will soon be opened. You can’t yet see what is on the other side (but you might already be making assumptions).

So whether you have your personal or business hat on, just imagine that you are seeing this door for the first time. In fact, there could be many such doors in a line or even behind these doors. You don’t really know, but you/your business are in a hurry and you think you know what is behind the door so why even bother with it?

What do you do, stop by each door that you come across, survey its surroundings and continue your journey perhaps wondering where all these doors have come from?

Are you not in the slightest bit curious as to how an ‘above average’ number of doors came to be here? This alone should spark interest. What did you do though? Did you have a brief look, compare this situation with others you have come across and conclude that there was nothing of importance or value here?

What if there is some sleight of hand, what if special effects and camouflage are creating an illusion? There could be a real door (or maybe even several) into a real room. Maybe there is just a door hanging in the wind, but since you did not even take the opportunity to walk around the other side you would not know that there was a map showing the location of lost treasure, or next week’s winning lottery numbers?

What if we get a different experience by going through the door rather than round it (it might damage the door though)?

I will not labour the point too much but one of the key principles of Innovation is curiosity. If something does not look right, what does it mean? Do you not get curious? Does it present an opportunity or a tool that we can use?

If an opportunity does present itself, do we dismiss it because we think we understand it even though we have not had a really good look at it?

Life is full of doors. We cannot look behind every single one but there is value in being curious.

Enjoy exploring! If you need some help cultivating your curiosity and opening doors then please do get in touch.

Innovation Constipation – Are You Suffering?

innovation constipationInnovation Constipation? It sounds painful, is it?

The answer to this question really does depend on your definition of pain. We are not dealing with a medical condition here, just using it as a metaphor.

The employees of a business will not experience pain although stress and discomfort might feature if they have to forgo pay rises or worse, experience redundancy.

The most important thing is to think of what a lack of innovation might do to your business. Will it stop it growing (or growing as intended)? Will it lose out to competition and shrink? Will you lose out to competitors when tendering for opportunities?

A business can embrace innovation to varying degrees. See my previous post about creating a super chameleon.

At the very least, Innovation could lead you to:

  • New products, services or processes
  • Greater advantage over competitors (knowledge cannot be easily copied)
  • First mover advantage (you will be looking externally)
  • Leveraging your most precious assets (employees)

There are many more things that Innovation could do for you but this is sufficient for now.

So, without doing an in-depth diagnosis of your Constipation (the Innovation variety of course), can you see if you have a problem?

The answer is yes, and it is surprisingly easy. Innovation depends on a supply of existing knowledge and new shiny ideas. Somehow, they must meet and be investigated, prototyped or captured for future use if not useable right now.

It is possible to do a full-blown analysis of Innovation potential, knowledge usage and creativity climate for really serious businesses but a simple analysis can be done by simply answering the following questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

  • Do you have an effective way of capturing and evaluating ideas (a suggestion box ranks as a ‘no’ I’m afraid)?
  • Does every employee have an opportunity to contribute ideas (be honest here, asking ‘have you got any ideas’? at a weekly meeting or performance review counts as a ‘no’)?
  • When evaluating ideas do you ensure that all employees can provide an opinion/evidence (senior managers gating ideas is a ‘no’ here)?
  • When initially evaluating an idea do you ignore cost?
  • When initially evaluating an idea do you ignore risk?
  • Do you have a method of assessing the value of the knowledge of employees?

Really you should be able to answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions. One ‘no’ might not be serious but the more you have, the more problems you are likely to have.

Reading through the list of questions, it might seem that I have a thing about letting everyone have a say or perhaps a downer on senior management. This is not so. These indicators are themselves indicative of many other things that might not be going quite right within your business.

If you are alarmed by the state of your Innovation Constipation or want to measure the potential of your business or organisation to innovate then please get in touch.

No More Change Programs – Meet The Super Chameleon

super chameleon, no more change programsNo more change programs? Really?

You are thinking that I must be out of my mind. Of course, a business needs to change according to the various market and competitive conditions that it faces.

A business does have to change but I believe that it is perfectly possible for it to change itself. Why is this not a popular point of view? Well, many businesses do not believe that they can stand on their own two feet or have not yet acquired the know-how to do this.

Secondly, there are a number of very large consultancy companies that stand to lose a lot of revenue from managing change programs.

So how can this be done? Well, it is a process that I call ‘Creating The Super-Chameleon’. Everyone knows the classic trait of a Chameleon, which is to adapt to its surroundings, to blend in. Well, I advocate creating a super chameleon, one which adapts automatically, but also one which stands out.

Such a business will adapt to market and regulatory conditions, create new products, services and processes as necessary and also change its structure when it no longer is appropriate for the business that it is in.

So far so good but how on earth can this be? The answer is (conceptually at least) very simple. The answer is ….. Innovation.

I don’t mean new shiny gadgets or electronic wizardry, but a change to behaviours and organisational culture. Such behaviours exist in many social enterprises or businesses where employees have a stake in the company. Sadly most of our larger enterprises have yet to see the light.

One of the initial issues is that this idea appears to clash with the concept of Lean which is popular just now. Many bosses, in an attempt to please shareholders are cutting costs. The more flexible organisation will, of course, have a certain amount of overhead costs.

It is also true that the workers at the ‘coal face’ often have a better idea of how to remove cost or improve performance than those seated around the boardroom table. Senior managers will say that workers do not have sight of company strategy and so do not fully understand what has to be done.

So, get some of your workforce involved!! For a good example of this, I suggest reading ‘Maverick’ by Ricardo Semler. This is just part of the story.

This is too small an article to provide a complete blueprint but below is a list of things that you need to consider. Break them down into their constituent parts and they are all possible to achieve.

Your list of things to ponder should contain:

  1. Removing as many of your hierarchies as possible. By all means, employ skillful Leaders and Managers but do not add layers simply because your managers need managing. Your Chameleon works on lines of communication not lines of control, so the flatter and more open your business is, the better it will work.
  2. A method of scanning the external environment and feeding the data directly into the decision-making process.
  3. Some idea of the skills and knowledge within the company that is currently not used  (e.g. someone with an HGV licence, skills in mechanics or welding).
  4. A method of identifying and diagnosing ‘problems’
  5. A method of gathering ideas and know-how and generating new ideas and know-how and storing it for future use
  6. A mechanism for disseminating and gathering information (a bit like the ripples on a pond but going backward too)
  7. A mechanism for allowing play/prototyping so that any new ideas can be tried quickly without the need for committees etc.
  8. A method of spreading this new way of working (linked to number 6 above) according to your business sector and company size.

There are many more things but the thing to remember is that each of these will be different according to the type of business that you have.

Beware of blindly copying what most call ‘best practice’. I know of many successful companies that are visited by those wishing to achieve the same success. They copy the open-plan offices, cool meeting rooms and expensive technology but miss out the unseen and most important aspects (culture, behaviour, etc) as well as not understanding the context in which all of these factors operate.

If you like the sound of this way of working or want to measure the potential of your business or organisation to innovate then please get in touch.