Tag: metaphor

Innovation Constipation – Are You Sufferng?

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.

10 Strategies For Boosting Creativity

Creative strategiesNot just Creativity, Innovation too! Here are my top ten strategies for boosting creativity. This will help your business get along in challenging times.

  1. Knowledge is a key Innovation component. Use what you already have and try to learn from as many different sources as you can. Read things you might not normally read or do things that you might not normally do.
  2. Many of the rules of creativity touch on judging. Build up rather than say ‘yes but’ and try to see things through the eyes of others.
  3. Many business people only ‘see’ things that are written in documents. To get different views why not model in some way (play doh, Lego, rich pictures) or perform some sort of visualisation for which many scripts are available.
  4. Allow time for things to grow. When experimenting, keep going around the loop if no final decisions need to be made. Try also to take some time out to reflect on what you are doing or to let your creative ‘right brain’ continue to work.
  5. Use all of the methods at your disposal to see what is going on around you. This means your physical senses as well as any ‘information gatherers’ that you employ.
  6. Doing is better than thinking so do lots! If you are managing an innovation project get your hands dirty. Don’t be afraid to go off a a tangent if you feel like it. Innovation only fails if you do nothing.
  7. Save yourself time. Don’t wander all over your marketplace looking for niches, simply look at your competitors and look in the places that they are not.
  8. If you work in a company that deals with one or more strands of continuous innovation then ignore this suggestion! If you are involved in an innovation programme then beware of creating too many ideas! Once you have got as many as you need, stop generating ideas and get on with evaluating them and put them into action.
  9. Be careful of ‘givens’, the rules that everyone accepts as true for no good reason. Patterns are good though as they help us deal with lots of thoughts at once, stopping our heads from exploding.
  10. If you are stuck, try redefining or reframing your issue in some way. You might like to just look from a different perspective or maybe use metaphor

Entropreneurship – Leadership for Today

live with ambiguity

Today NOT Tomorrow

Entropreneurship is a term that I have invented to describe the qualities and behaviours required for the type of leader that all organisations need NOW. This is why I strongly believe that in calling it Leadership for TODAY not tomorrow. Who wants to wait for something that is going to improve the fortunes of their organisation?

So what are we talking about? Borrowing Entropy from the second law of thermodynamics we have the concept of chaos or randomness which always increases. I am not suggesting that we make our organisations become ever more chaotic. I would like to give you two ideas to think about for now.

Increase The Temperature

Firstly, you may remember a science experiment at school that introduced you to Brownian motion. Particles within smoke were shown to dart around like the lottery balls on a Saturday night Lotto draw. We also know that when people are allowed to interact then ideas tend to be created, modified and come to life. By increasing the ‘organisational temperature’ we can increase the likelihood of of people interacting (rather like our smoke particles). This means more ideas (and also an improved culture).

Create A Rocket

Secondly, we cannot let chaos or ambiguity increase indefinitely, nor should we waste our time trying to control it completely. Let us use another metaphor here. Imagine we have a flammable material in a barrel with no openings in the barrel. Once ignited, the barrel will explode unless we spend more and more energy trying to contain the fire/explosion. What if we do try and contain the flammable material but leave an opening for combustible gases. We are not now expending so much energy but we have now built a rocket!!

Metaphor is the best way to express the ideas but they do translate readily into business. We do not want traditional constraints (managers) but want visionary leaders who will allow a certain degree of organised, focused and healthy chaos. The leaders will set the direction but the organisation will actually be run by those at the sharp end.

Getting To Grips With Metaphor

understanding metaphorWhat use is metaphor?

Keen followers of Agatha Christie’s fictional character Miss Marple will be familiar with her technique of mapping happenings of the wider world with things she could understand that occurred in her own village of St Mary Mead. So already we have a list of things that metaphor can help us with:

  • Giving explanations to those unfamiliar with a concept
  • Examining problem situations from an alternative perspective
  • Reframing situations
  • Communicating concepts to a wider audience
  • Learning or making sense of a concept that we are not currently familiar with

Another interesting use for metaphor is within stories and for use as a more sophisticated business tool but that is an article all of its own. But how about the application of metaphor, will it work for everyone and will it work everywhere?

Where can we use metaphor?

We can use metaphor directly in:

  • Business
  • Politics
  • Creative Industries and the media
  • Any other areas that rely on human interaction

Metaphor works best when individuals can ‘connect’ easily with metaphors. For example they are used to metaphor or storytelling and their lives are not littered with distractions. In developed countries we are buried underneath mountains of gadgets which we either rely on to automate our lives or which we take great delight in exploring in detail. We either want it to work or we want to read the instructions in detail. We do not wish to know that our new MP3 player is like a pepperoni pizza (or perhaps a more appropriate metaphor). I am speaking generally here, those who are emotionally intelligent will be using metaphor regularly.

In developing countries there is less technology and less complexity in life generally (but life is often very hard). People are often closer to their emotions. Storytelling and metaphors will work well here and have a very powerful effect.

What makes a good metaphor?

During a recent debate it was suggested that a good metaphor for a modern organisation was a jigsaw  puzzle. I was not sure about this as it suggested to me that everyone has their place. I believe that people can contribute in many different ways. The originator of the metaphor then proceeded to explain it to me. When I suggested that a good metaphor should not require explanation they got a little upset!

A good metaphor should not require explanation. When someone suggests that a task or project is like ‘wading through treacle’ we instantly understand. This is of course unless we do not know what treacle is. Good metaphors should work for those who respond to different types of stimuli (audio, visual, kinaesthetic …). They must be easily modified and shared. Imagine the details of a house given to you by an agent. You like the garage, your partner likes the bathroom and the kids like the garden. You all know that you are sharing the same idea but have different perspectives. Others can also share and modify different aspects (the dog loves the garden!!).

The Power of Innovation Language

innovation languageInnovation Language

We are all aware that innovation has its own language conventions rich in buzz words. At first glance this may seem like a harmless dialect that simply reflects the nature of the work we are undertaking.

Innovators, after all, are trying to communicate the promise of something that may not exist yet. Sometimes that requires some (over) optimistic decoration. Innovation is about extrapolation not interpolation. So we do have to rely on ambiguous statements.

The metaphors and other language used could signal something more important. Maybe you use such language because of a lack of hard data, or you have not properly formed your ideas.  If you recognised this fact then perhaps you could use these communication tools only when they’re effective (or, more importantly, not when they are ineffective). A more effective use of language might allow you to gain get buy-in on important projects.

3 Tyes Of Language

Research has shown that where people lack hard data/information, they tend to use three types of language to describe innovation concepts.

  • Metaphor is the substitution of figurative language for literal language.
  • Hyperbole is exaggerated language used for emphasis or effect.
  • Revisionist rhetoric is the simplistic, inaccurate, or self-serving characterisation of events to create or support an argument.

Some Suggestions

You can see in the wordle above some of the most common words or phrases that are used. Are you using these in your own communications? Below are some suggestions to anyone interested in communicating the potential of an idea:

Recognize how you are using metaphor. Metaphor can help focus attention or highlight key aspects of an idea in a universal way. Be careful though, a metaphor can also signal to others that you haven’t thought through your idea. Some people do find that businesses that consistently use descriptive approaches report a degree of frustration and lack of buy-in for their ideas. You should use metaphor to supplement, not replace, for hard facts.

When you have a potentially good idea but lack evidence, begin with experimentation or prototyping. People are often likely to begin their pitches by putting their energy into speculative communications (using descriptive language rather than hard data), and fail to gain the personal or organisational support that they need to take their idea forwards. It is more likely that people gain support by investing in models or prototypes to demonstrate their ideas and then follow it up with descriptive communications.

Learn when to use metaphor effectively.  In many large organisations, people tend to bounce ideas off one another and gain feedback from colleagues. Where there is a lack of data, it is possible for ideas to travel far and wide as metaphor or stories.

Put hyperbole and revisionist rhetoric in their place. When communicating why an idea has potential, it might seem obvious why you should avoid hyperbole or rhetoric. Surprisingly, there are important situations where such language can be constructive. These are informal meetings or briefings where people understand that language is not intended to be taken literally. These are mostly high trust environments where you can use language and ideas as springboards for creative thinking.

Language is an important of the management of innovation, but it must be used wisely.

Business Creativity and Innovation
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