1. How to make practical innovation sustainable

    May 21, 2017 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Faisal Hoque

    Break through innovation gridlock, regardless of your organizational shape, size, or available resources.When Richard Branson told an audience of media, entertainment, food, fashion, retail, and healthcare startups that “small businesses are nimble and bold and can often teach much larger companies a thing or two about innovations that can change entire industries,” this serial entrepreneur knew what he was talking about. It was 2014, and the group was pulled together to “thrash out” inspiring visions for the next three decades of business.

    Whether they’re coming up with new products that meet their customers’ needs, joining forces with their competition to gain economies of scale and make significant breakthroughs, or approaching uncharted marketplaces, small to midsized firms are the very cornerstones of innovation in today’s business world. Unfortunately, they don’t always know it. In fact, too many of them assume innovation is only for the big-and-rich organizations that have deep pockets and unlimited resources.

    This is a fallacy. In fact, innovation doesn’t have to break the bank nor does it require unlimited human resources to happen. In fact, sometimes it starts with a single employee—a reality that not all organizations fully leverage. With Adobe’s Kickbox program, innovation starts with a shiny red box, $1,000, and everything an individual needs to launch an idea. Working with the innovator, Adobe shows him or her how to come up with the idea, test it with real consumers, and turn it into a new Adobe product.

    “We want more disruptive innovation and less planned innovation. To do this, we had to let go,” said Kickbox Founder Mark Randall. “We thought, what if we removed the obstacles that are stopping people from innovating? What if we gave them the resources? There are no rules or constraints. The approach to innovation in Kickbox is giving people the permission to go do it.”

    In one example of Kickbox in action, a senior software development manager came up with the idea of creating video stories that sync images and music with mood and emotion. Through Kickbox, this new mom and a team came up with an idea that would transform personal memories into digital stories. It would sync photos and audio into videos that can be customized with mood and emotion. She said reception to the idea has been fantastic. “I was surprised at how willing upper management was to give us support, even when the product was in its infancy.”
    The good news is that you don’t have to come up with a revolutionary invention to be innovative. Many innovations coming out of today’s organizations are just small wins that slowly help the company make incremental moves toward achieving its overall mission. In other words, don’t assume you have to spend millions of dollars and allocate hundreds of hours of manpower to creating the “next best thing” that will knock everyone’s socks off, only to watch that dream take a backseat (much like an overly ambitious New Year’s resolution) as everyone refocuses on their day-to-day responsibilities.

    BREAKING THROUGH THE GRIDLOCK

    So how can companies break through this innovation gridlock and come out winners? The key is to leverage your firm’s “nimble and bold” qualities to always be innovating. And don’t assume you have to come up with the next iPhone, medical miracle, or manufacturing breakthrough to be innovative. A fairly nebulous term defined at its simplest as “the introduction of something new,” innovation assumes different shapes depending on the organization, people, and processes involved.

    Clif Bar is a good example of how innovation doesn’t require big-company resources or even a physical location. It does, however, require devoted inventors, a true customer need, and a willingness to put the time and effort into making a product that people will actually like. Starting in their own kitchen back in 1990, the company’s founders began baking their own protein bars because they didn’t like what was on the market at the time. Needing fuel for their long bike rides, they originally marketed their creations to fellow athletes. Fast-forward to 2017 and Clif Bars (and its since-extended product line) graces the shelves of Target, Walmart, and many other mainstream online and offline retailers (not just those targeting athletes).

    So how do you do practical innovation regardless of company shape or size? You can kick off the process with this 3-step exercise:

    1: Start thinking out of the box.

    Start thinking out of the box. Yes, we know you’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s important when you talk about innovation—an area where the words “But we’ve always done it this way and it has worked,” can quickly derail even the most innovative ideas. When you think out of the box you invite new ideas, brainstorming, and collaboration, all of which support innovation. By keeping an open mind and exploring options that you’ve never considered before, you can start the innovation train rolling in the right direction.

    2: Come up with your own definition of innovation

    Come up with your own definition of innovation. Go beyond “the introduction of something new,” and figure out what innovation really means to your organization.

    Is it:

    • Implementing new ideas?
    • Creating dynamic products?
    • Responding to customers’ changing wants and needs?
    • Improving existing services?
    • Finding new avenues for business growth?
    • Adapting in a challenging marketplace (or to changes in your environment)?
    • Changing your current business model?
    • Developing a culture that’s focused on continuous innovation?
    • Finding business partners to collaborate to create new products and/or services?
    • Some other measure?

    These are just a few ways that you can define innovation, but you get the idea. The important point here is to come up with your own picture of what innovation looks like within your organization and then start taking the necessary steps to put it into action.

    3: Putting Innovation into action

    Go beyond lip service and put innovation into action. Talking about innovation doesn’t make it happen. Brainstorming new ideas don’t make them come to life. And hashing out the details of a “future” plan doesn’t mean it’s ever going to come to fruition. To create the greatest impact, you need to actually put the innovation into action by addressing these questions:

    • How do I design my customer interactions?
    • How do I design my new service or product?
    • Who can I work with (both internally and externally) to help make this a reality?
    • What internal and external resources do I have at my avail?
    • Who is going to pioneer this innovation and see it through to the end?
    • And finally, how will I quantify the success of this innovation?

    REMEMBER, INNOVATION HAS NO END POINT

    Innovation isn’t just about coming up with the next, cool product. It has no end point, and it includes everything from how you take your product to market to how you serve your customer to how you come up with effective pricing solutions. All of these activities fall under the broader contexts of innovation and go well beyond the very narrow “cocktail napkin” approach to innovation.

    By adopting this mindset, organizations not only become more competitive and customer-friendly, but they can also become more profitable. The latter is a particularly important point in today’s business world, where thinner and thinner margins—and the need to do more with less—are challenging companies to find more innovative ways to generate revenues.

    Pretty much every business that’s surviving today – and that will survive for the long haul – will have to be competitive and innovative across all segments of their workflows. From hiring and compensation to selling to market strategy, positioning, and branding; all of these elements are part and parcel of innovation. In fact, as I survey the business landscape right now, I can tell you that all companies that are “surviving” are leveraging innovation in some way – whether they know it or not.

    For some companies, of course, the urge to innovate comes quite naturally. A maker of highly-engineered products, for example, is always on the lookout for the next best product introduction and spends much time and money honing its existing offerings. This commitment to continuous innovation can be applied in pretty much any setting. All companies have the same opportunities to innovate, and particularly when they are pushed to do so by forward-thinking personalities, leaders, and/or owners. Those that are succeeding in competitive markets (e.g., those that are commodity-driven, for example, and that have been hit hard by online sellers on both the business-to-consumer and business-to-business segments), tend to follow some basic principles.

    BASIC PRINCIPLES OF SUSTAINABLE, PRACTICAL INNOVATION

    Tight focus on purpose. In other words, why are you here and what purpose does your company serve? The purpose-driven organization has a much better chance of succeeding than the one that’s just selling something to people. Apple and Google are two good examples of firms that are well known for their innovative and creative strategies – not all of which are focused on product development.

    Willingness to go beyond the basics. Think beyond just creating a product to your intrinsic value proposition, be it to serve your customers better, save the planet, or some other core value. Through this exercise you’ll be able to create an identity and a true purpose that, in turn, dictates your firm’s position in its industry.

    Solid value propositions. Having a value proposition in place also helps organizations answer questions like “How am I going to serve my customer?” “How am I going to price my products and services?” and “How can we create a better execution model for success?”

    Vision of a profitable model. Companies must also consider their core competencies, and then turn those advantages into capabilities or differentiations that will be used to build out a platform for innovation. You may have a great vision and terrific partners, but if you can’t create a service platform then you’re not going to be able to develop a profitable model.

    Nurturing ecosystem. Last but definitely not least, innovation requires a support group that includes suppliers, customers, and other business partners. This is particularly important in today’s business environment, where companies rely on suppliers to deliver quality products; their employees to sell, deliver, and support the products being sold; and their customers to put the products to work out in the field. By continually nurturing that ecosystem, companies can innovate effectively on a regular basis.

    This combination of purpose, platform, and ecosystem can be leveraged effectively across all innovation models, and by companies of all shapes and sizes. Build out innovation based on these guiding principles and use it to develop customer-centric innovation that truly differentiates your organization and helps it stand out in the marketplace. You’ll be glad you did.


  2. Call for Papers: The International Journal of Innovation Science

    by ahmed

    ijis cover.indd

    The International Journal of Innovation Science and The International Association of Innovation Professionals are pleased to announce a general Call for Papers.

    Papers can be submitted to https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ijins

    About the International Journal of Innovation Science:
    The International Journal of Innovation Science publishes fundamental and applied research in innovation practices. As the official journal of the International Association of Innovation Professionals (IAOIP), the journal is a forum for the exchange of advanced knowledge in innovation, including emerging technologies and best practices, tools and techniques, metrics, and organization design and culture; as well as the stakeholder engagement, change management, and leadership skills required to ensure innovation succeeds.
    Areas of Coverage

    • Innovation processes, methods, techniques
    • Individual’s role in Innovation
    • Improvements in HR, marketing, finance, or other disciplines that enable innovation
    • Innovation practices in specific industries or countries
    • Innovation centers, incubators, labs…
    • Regional or national economic development/policies related to innovation
    • Innovation competency, skills
    • Innovation conventions, competitions, or training
    • Innovation for entrepreneurs
    • Regional impacts on innovation
    • Growing innovation through university programs
    • Attracting innovative companies and entrepreneurs

    The International Journal of Innovation Science is indexed and abstracted by EBSCO, ProQuest, ReadCube Discover, Scopus
    The Editor-in-Chief is Professor Brett Trusko


  3. Winners of the 1st Organisation-Wide Innovation Award

    April 28, 2017 by ahmed

    OWI_Award_LOGO

    The 1st Organisation-Wide Innovation Award was held at NMIMS University, Mumbai, India, 25/26th April 2017. This award recognises organisations that have embraced best practice learning and combined this learning with their own ideas and creativity to become highly innovative. The award recognises organisations that excel in inculcating an innovation culture throughout all facets of their operation from the leadership to employees and covering all stakeholders leading to innovative processes, products and services. The Organisation-wide Innovation Award has been designed by the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research (COER), the developers of the Business Performance Improvement Resource. Presentation videos will be on the BPIR soon.
    Manin Kaur, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (left) and Siang Hock Kia, National Library Board (right) with judges

    Manin Kaur, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (left) and Siang Hock Kia, National Library Board (right) with judges

    Winner

    • NLB’s Organisation-wide innovation approach, Siang Hock Kia, Deputy Director, National Library Board, Singapore

    Runner-up

    • MPA’s Organisation-wide innovation approach, Manin Kaur, Assistant Director, Organisational Excellence, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore

  4. To invent your organization’s future, experiment, question, sometimes fail

    April 14, 2017 by ahmed

    Blogrige1

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    Create an innovation advantage for your organization by letting go of industrial-age principles, embracing imagination, and experimenting even if you might fail, said Polly LaBarre, co-founder and director of Management Lab (MLab) and co-founder of MIX (Management Innovation eXchange). LaBarre, who delivered the 29th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference keynote presentation, said, “You cannot have some big opportunities without having some big misses. . . . Mistakes should be shared and picked apart for every last tidbit of insight.”LaBarre asked the conference audience, “How do you build the capacity for innovation and the adaptability that keeps your organization growing and thriving?” and “Are you capable of changing as fast as the world is changing? . . . The next game changer probably will come out of nowhere. Your customers, patients, stakeholders have more information, more choice, higher expectations than ever before. . . . In that context, are you constitutionally adaptable?”

    The modern industrial-age organization was not built for adaptability and innovation, she said. Instead, the assembly-line plants from years ago were designed “to maximize standardization, specialization, predictability, and control,” said LaBarre, adding that the business model was to “get flesh and blood human beings to become widget-producing robots.”

    “All of the practices and systems that we have built and embedded in our organizations [including] budgeting, performance review, ROI calculations, inventory. . . . All of those things were invented over a century ago to routinize the nonroutine,” said LaBarre; “When [today’s] challenge is for every organization to become ever-more adaptable, ever-more innovative, ever-more inspiring and engaging, those principles don’t serve us well. There’s no competitive advantage left. . . . We can’t solve the new problems with the old principles.”

    Innovation

    LaBarre said that innovation in today’s organizations tends to get compartmentalized if it is not embedded in every activity, every function. “As a result, the 90% of people who do not have a formal innovation role, think of innovation as someone else’s job. And those companies then end up commercializing and capturing just a tiny potential of their people and their organizations,” she said.

    The efficiency principles of the industrial age are still critical and necessary, LaBarre said, but to “transcend the inevitable tradeoffs of discipline without the cost and the drag on agility . . . and the crushing of human initiatives,” organizations should also consider pro-innovation principles such as aspiration, experimentation, diversity, freedom, and openness. She illustrated several real organizations who have embedded such principles and asked the audience to consider, “What kind of sustaining advantage can innovation bring?”

    The first tip for our organizations, LaBarre said, is to expand autonomy. “Control [of people, information, deviation from the norm] is the wrong design when you want to unleash people’s best imagination, initiative, passion–the human gifts that are in so much demand today but which cannot be commanded or controlled into existence.”

    Freedom

    LaBarre pointed out that we’ve all experience a huge expansion of freedom in our personal lives, especially with our ability to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world. “We can challenge, speak up, have a voice in the world, but the workplace lags so far behind,” she said, adding that in their personal lives, people can buy houses, cars, etc., but in the workplace, they may not have the authority to purchase a desk chair.

    She asked the audience to consider, in their organizations, “Who does the thinking and who does the doing?” She described freedom as giving employees more opportunities and more channels to have meaningful roles.

    She shared with the audience that she has traveled around the world looking for organizations that have reinvented their management models, “swapping out industrial bureaucratic DNA for pro-innovation and pro-adaptability.” In some of these companies, LaBarre said she found employees with total autonomy, which is balanced by extensive accountability, especially by coworkers who, for example, conduct each other’s performance reviews. These organizations are growing their leadership capacity, she said.

    LaBarre spoke of the “latent creative potential” of employees and cultures of collaboration. Invite everyone to be part of the strategic and creative realm, she suggested. In one organization she visited, LaBarre said she found hundreds of “communities of passion” that work on strategic priorities and local problems, and resolve issues must faster than they could under a standard corporate model.

    “Design systems and practices for more headroom and elbow room,” she said, “so people can operate outside of their spheres. . . . People can find natural collaborators, pursue their passions, [find] the slack [they] need for trying new things, for experimenting, and for taking risks.”

    Experimentation

    “If you want to build innovative, adaptive capacity, there is no more powerful leverage than experimentation,” said LaBarre.

    How life itself has flourished is a perfect example of experimentation, according to LaBarre. “Life has become ever more capable and complex in the process without a CEO, SVP, or strategic plan at the helm,” she said. “Evolutionary progress . . . is a product of rampant experimentation. Mutations are mistakes. Let me put it another way, if life was run by Six Sigma, we would all still be slime.”

    LaBarre said experimentation is about cycling through ideas, testing assumptions, getting feedback, discarding what isn’t working, and building on what is. “It’s a strategy for measuring your insights,” she said.

    Organizations should develop the facility to fail in order to learn, because in the words of Pixar Animation Studios, according to LaBarre, “Pain is temporary. Suck is forever.” Or, in other words, she said, Pixar understands that “if you are going to try new things, you’re going to have errors” and that’s how you learn.

    Questions

    To truly build an innovation capability at your organization, “Ask more questions than you give answers,” she said. “If you’re open, curious, you can surface more possibilities. As a leader, craft stretch questions. . . . Invest as much in what could be as what is. . . . Walk in stupid. . . . Practice the innocence of children to gain fresh eyes to innovation.”

    She encouraged the audience to question every orthodoxy in their industries and to hack every process to imbue it with innovation principles. “Questions that no one has asked before spawn innovative answers that no one has sought before,” LaBarre said, adding “invite the subversive in.”

    Innovation Panel

    To further explore innovation, senior leaders from the four 2016 Baldrige Award recipients joined LaBarre on stage. They talked about how they define innovation and how they equip people to handle it.

    Roger Arciniega, CEO of Momentum, said, “Culture is most important. You need a structure for innovations to break through. A big barrier is employees not wanting to be associated with failure,” adding the importance of not having a “gotcha” mentality.

    Blogrige2

    The health care senior leaders on stage, Maryruth Butler, executive director of Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Center – Mountain Valley, and Malisha Patel, vice president of operations at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land, discussed how to stimulate innovation and still ensure patient safety.

    Don Chalmers Ford’s Andy Strebe, director of fixed operations, said innovation sometimes means being open to ideas that make you uncomfortable. The leaders also talked about getting out of the way of employees’ ideas, integrating work processes with action plans, looking for innovation in the supply chain, simplifying innovation, trusting employees, and putting down your “pivot foot” (i.e., practicing values-based innovation).


  5. An exploration of innovation: An organization’s only insurance against irrelevance

    March 17, 2017 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    Prepare for an inspiring journey is the message for audience members of the upcoming 29th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference, as they listen to keynote presenter Polly LaBarre, co-founder and director of Management Lab (MLab) and co-founder of MIX (Management Innovation eXchange).Addressing some probing questions-such as “How do you create a DNA-deep, sustaining capacity for innovation?” “What does it mean to be a leader in a creative, connected, disruptive world?” and “How do you create organizations that unleash rather than squash human potential?”-LaBarre will reveal practical, high-impact ways to innovate, adapt, and succeed, redefining how leadership, change, innovation, collaboration, employee engagement, organizational culture, accountability, and disruptive strategy are done.

    Through a virtual interview, I asked some of my own questions of LaBarre, who is also co-author of Mavericks at Work and founding member of Fast Company.

    Your website says you have a passion for “framing the big questions that will rule the future of business.” Can you provide some of those questions?

    The first big question is How do you create a DNA-deep, sustaining capacity for innovation?

    You’d be hard pressed to meet a CEO or a leader today who doesn’t put innovation at the top of the agenda. And yet, how many organizations have devoted the energy and resources it takes to systematically build innovation into the values, processes, and practices that rule everyday activity and behavior? Not many. According to a recent McKinsey & Co. study, just 6 percent of leaders are satisfied with their company’s innovation performance. What gives?

    That disconnect isn’t due to lack of human ingenuity or resources. It’s a product of organizational DNA. Productivity, predictability, and alignment are embedded in the marrow of our management systems. Experimentation, risk-taking, and variety are the enemy of the efficiency machine that is the “modern” corporation. Of course, it’s variety (and the daring to be different) that produces game-changing innovation. If you want to develop a sustaining capacity for innovation, think about how do we make our management systems and practices enablers and catalysts of innovation (rather than impediments to it)? Put another way, how do we plan and prioritize, define roles and structures, allocate resources, measure and evaluate, equip and reward people, and develop new products to support innovation?

    For instance, you might ask yourself:

    • How might we create more slack and support for the pursuit of new things?
    • Could we re-think how we design work to cultivate more entrepreneurial energy?
    • What could we change in the way we evaluate leaders to cultivate more experimentation?
    • Could we open up our product development process to involve more stakeholders?
    • What market-based approach could we imagine to evaluate and fund new ideas?

    The answer to every one of those questions is what I call a “management hack”—an alternative to conventional management practice designed to uproot bureaucracy and cultivate innovation and adaptability.

    A second big question for the future: What does it mean to be a leader in a creative, connected, disruptive world?

    We live in a world where leadership, power, and influence are less about “where you sit” and more about “what you can do.” The most compelling leaders understand that authority is not bestowed by a title but is rather a currency you earn (and must keep earning) from your peers. The most effective individuals are constantly striving to maximize their ratio of accomplishment over authority.

    In that context, what is the work of leadership today? How do you conduct yourself as a leader day in and day out to keep yourself and your team moving with the times? A short course in 21st century leadership would probe the following:

    • Are you learning as fast as the world is changing? The imperative today is to remain open and hungry when it comes to discovering and experimenting with new ideas and new methods—to cultivate a first-person experience with the future.
    • Do you ask more questions than you give answers? This is a good one for anyone in a position of authority—parents and leaders alike. Questions offer up a powerful advantage in a world of expanding complexity and intense change—they help you attract more possibilities, surface more perspectives, and enlist more support to your cause. It’s not easy to get in the habit of asking questions in a world that values knowledge and mastery. If you’re having trouble, take your lead from a toddler and start asking: Why? Why not? What if?
    • Are you unreasonable enough? Turns out that all change is against the rules. Creativity is fundamentally subversive in nature. It’s the leader’s job to develop a contrarian point of view, invite dissent, and take an activist role in questioning and devising alternatives to the status quo. The most productive rebels aren’t out to make trouble—but to make genuine progress in the world.

    A third big question: How do you create organizations that unleash rather than squash human potential?

    One of the most important question for any leader today is How do we create a work environment that inspires exceptional contribution and merits an outpouring of passion, imagination, and initiative? It doesn’t matter if you are part of a giant, global company or a local chapter of a nonprofit, the most important leverage you can get when it comes to building a vibrant and sustainable organization is the human edge. What are you doing to unleash each person’s human gifts—creativity, zeal, resourcefulness?

    The most effective and inspiring leaders today understand that there is no tradeoff between creativity and discipline, between inventing the future and “turning the crank.” Instead, they are relentlessly clever when it comes to creating mechanisms for individuals to express themselves, to contribute, and to hold each other accountable at the same time.

    A final big question to consider: Are you different enough to make a difference?

    More than ever, the value you create is a function of the values you assert as an organization. Organizations animated by a deeply felt and widely shared sense of purpose are breeding grounds for passion—the ultimate multiplier of human effort.

    At a time when customers are contending with a seemingly limitless universe of urgent and compelling alternatives and demands on their time, how do you stand out? This isn’t an exercise in branding so much as a process of excavating, sharpening, and sharing a powerful sense of purpose. What do you stand for? What are you against? How do you draw that line in the sand? How do you keep sharpening the set of ideas in every interaction with your people and your customers?

    Two helpful questions to keep asking yourselves as leaders and as a larger team: What ideas are you fighting for? And, are you really who you say you are?

    Why is the focus on innovation so important to a business? Is that importance still true for a nonprofit, a health care organization, a school?

    Innovation is the only insurance against irrelevance in a world of unrelenting change. It’s the only antidote to the margin-crushing impact of global competition. It’s the only defense against younger, hungrier industry insurgents. It’s the only guarantee of continued customer loyalty.

    And it’s just as crucial for nonprofits, health care organizations, and even schools. Why? Every organization and every leader today is contending with a rapidly changing reality—wave after wave of disruptive technology, increasing interdependence of our institutions, social and environmental challenges, and the escalating demands of a variety of stakeholders. Organizations operate within the toughest constraints, and most need to tap into the full potential of their people to build a sustaining capacity to innovate and adapt. One of the most cost-effective, risk-bound, and fast ways to start to build your innovation muscles is to experiment with experimentation. How many options can you generate, quickly test, and iterate on? How many people can you involve across the organization in creating its future?