Category Archives: Change

We Must Reinvent Our Organizations for A New Era of Innovation

We Must Reinvent Our Organizations for A New Era of Innovation

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In the first half of the 20th century, Alfred Sloan created the modern corporation at General Motors. In many ways, it was based on the military. Senior leadership at headquarters would make plans, while managers at individual units would be allocated resources and made responsible for for achieving mission objectives.

The rise of digital technology made this kind of structure untenable. By the time strategic information was gathered centrally, it was often too old to be effective. In much the same way, by the time information flowed up from operating units, it was too late to alter the plan. It had already failed.

So in recent years, agility and iteration has become the mantra. Due to pressures from the market and from shareholders, long-term planning is often eschewed for the needs of the moment. Yet today the digital era is ending and organizations will need to shift once again. We’re going to need to learn to combine long-range planning with empowered execution.

Shifting From Iteration To Exploration

When Steve Jobs came up with the idea for a device that would hold “a thousand songs in my pocket,” it wasn’t technically feasible. There was simply no hard drive available that could fit that much storage into that little space. Nevertheless, within a few years a supplier developed the necessary technology and the iPod was born.

Notice how the bulk of the profits went to Apple, which designed the application and very little to the supplier that developed the technology that made it possible. That’s because the technology for developing hard drives was very well understood. If it hadn’t been that supplier, another would have developed what Jobs needed in six months or so.

Yet today, we’re on the brink of a new era of innovation. New technologies, such as revolutionary computing architectures, genomics and artificial intelligence are coming to the fore that aren’t nearly as well understood as digital technology. So we will have to spend years learning about them before we can develop applications safely and effectively.

For example, companies ranging from Daimler and Samsung to JP Morgan Chase and Barclays have joined IBM’s Q Network to explore quantum computing, even though that it will be years before that technology has a commercial impact. Leading tech companies have formed the Partnership on AI to better understand the consequences for artificial intelligence. Hundreds of companies have joined manufacturing hubs to learn about next generation technology.

It’s becoming more important to prepare than adapt. By the time you realize the need to adapt, it may already be too late.

Building A Pipeline Of Problems To Be Solved

While the need to explore technologies long before they become commercially viable is increasing, competitive pressures show no signs of abating. Just because digital technology is not advancing the way it once did doesn’t mean that it will disappear. Many aspects of the digital world, such as the speed at which we communicate, will continue.

So it is crucial to build a continuous pipeline of problems to solve. Most will be fairly incremental, either improving on an existing product or developing new ones based on standard technology. Others will be a bit more aspirational, such as applying existing capabilities to a completely new market or adopting exciting new technology to improve service to existing customers.

However, as the value generated from digital technology continues to level off, much like it did for earlier technologies like internal combustion and electricity, there will be an increasing need to pursue grand challenges to solve fundamental problems. That’s how truly new markets are created.

Clearly, this presents some issues with resource allocation. Senior managers will have to combine the need to move fast and keep up with immediate competitive pressures with the long-term thinking it takes to invest in years of exploration with an uncertain payoff. There’s no magic bullet, but it is generally accepted that the 70/20/10 principle for incremental, adjacent and fundamental innovation is a good rule of thumb.

Empowering Connectivity

When Sloan designed the modern corporation, capacity was a key constraint. The core challenge was to design and build products for the mass market. So long-term planning to effectively organize plant, equipment, distribution and other resources was an important, if not decisive, competitive attribute.

Digitization and globalization, however, flipped this model and vertical integration gave way to radical specialization. Because resources were no longer concentrated in large enterprises, but distributed across global networks, integration within global supply chains became increasingly important.

With the rise of cloud technology, this trend became even more decisive in the digital world. Creating proprietary technology that is closed off to the rest of the world has become unacceptable to customers, who expect you to maintain API’s that integrate with open technologies and those of your competitors.

Over the next decade, it will become increasingly important to build similar connection points for innovation. For example, the US military set up the Rapid Equipping Force that was specifically designed to connect new technologies with soldiers in the field who needed them. Many companies are setting up incubators, accelerators and corporate venture funds for the same reason. Others have set up programs to connect to academic research.

What’s clear is that going it alone is no longer an option and we need to set up specific structures that not only connect to new technology, but ensure that it is understood and adopted throughout the enterprise.

The Leadership Challenge

The shift from one era to another doesn’t mean that old challenges are eliminated. Even today, we need to scale businesses to service mass markets and rapidly iterate new applications. The problems we need to take on in this new era of innovation won’t replace the old ones, they will simply add to them.

Still, we can expect value to shift from agility to exploration as fundamental technologies rise to the fore. Organizations that are able to deliver new computing architectures, revolutionary new materials and miracle cures will have a distinct competitive advantage over those who can merely engineer and design new applications.

It is only senior leaders that can empower these shifts and it won’t be easy. Shareholders will continue to demand quarterly profit performance. Customers will continue to demand product performance and service. Yet it is only those that are able to harness the technologies of this new era — which will not contribute to profits or customer satisfaction for years to come — that will survive the next decade.

The one true constant is that success eventually breeds failure. The skills and strategies of one era do not translate to another. To survive, the key organizational attribute will not be speed, agility or even operational excellence, but leadership that understands that when the game is up, you need to learn how to play a new one.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on Inc.com
— Image credits: Pixabay

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The Surprising Downside of Collaboration in Problem-Solving

The Surprising Downside of Collaboration in Problem-Solving

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You are a natural-born problem solver.  From the moment you were born, you’ve solved problems.  Hungry?  Start crying.  Learning to walk?  Stand up, take a step, fall over, repeat.  Want to grow your business?  Fall in love with a problem, then solve it more delightfully than anyone else.

Did you notice the slight shift in how you solve problems?

Initially, you solved problems on your own.  As communication became easier, you started working with others.  Now, you instinctively collaborate to solve complex problems, assembling teams to tackle challenges together.

But research indicates your instincts are wrong.  In fact, while collaboration can be beneficial for gathering information, it hinders the process of developing innovative solutions. This counterintuitive finding has significant implications for how teams approach problem-solving.

What a Terrorism Study Reveals About Your Team

In a 2015 study, researchers used a simulation developed by the U.S. Department of Defense to examine how collaboration impacts the problem-solving process. 417 undergrads were randomly assigned to 16-person teams with varying levels of “interconnectedness” (clarity in their team structure and information-sharing permissions) and asked to solve aspects of an imaginary terrorist attack scenario, such as identifying the perpetrators and target. Teams had 25 minutes to tackle the problem, with monetary incentives for solving it quickly.

Highly interconnected teams “gathered 5 percent more information than the least-clustered groups because clustering prevented network members from unknowingly conducting duplicative searches. ‘By being in a cluster, individuals tended to contribute more to the collective exploration through information space—not from more search but rather by being more coordinated in their search,’”

The Least Interconnected teams developed 17.5% more theories and solutions and were more likely to develop the correct solution because they were less likely to “copy an incorrect theory from a neighbor.”

How You Can Help Your Team Create More Successful Solutions

You and your team rarely face problems as dire as terrorist attacks, but you can use these results to adapt your problem-solving practices and improve results.

  1. Work together to gather and share information.  This goes beyond emailing around research reports, interview summaries, and meeting notes.  “Working together” requires your team to take action, like conducting interviews or writing surveys, with one another in real-time (not asynchronously through email, text, or “collaboration” platforms).
  2. Start solving the problem alone.  For example, at the start of every ideation session, I ask people to spend 5 minutes privately jotting down their ideas before group brainstorming.  This prevents copying others’ theories and ensures all voices are heard. (not just the loudest or most senior)
  3. Invite the “Unusual Suspects” into the process.  Most executives know that diversity amplifies creativity, so they invite a mix of genders, ages, races, ethnicities, tenures, and industry experiences to brainstorming sessions.  While that’s great, it also results in the same people being invited to every brainstorm and, ultimately, creating a highly interconnected group.  So, mix it up even more. Invite people never before invited to brainstorming into the process.  Instead of spending a day brainstorming, break it up into one-hour bursts at different times of the day. 

Are You Willing to Take the Risk?

For most of your working life, collaboration has been the default approach to problem-solving. However, this research suggests that rethinking when and how to leverage collaboration can lead to greater success.

Making such a change isn’t easy – it invites skepticism and judgment as it deviates from the proven “status quo” process.

Are you willing to take that risk, separating information gathering from solution development, for the potential of achieving better, more innovative outcomes? Or will you remain content with “good enough” solutions from conventional methods?

Image credit: Unsplash

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Learning to Innovate

Learning to Innovate

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

One of my coaching clients shared with me recently how she was feeling insecure in her job role and lacking motivation. The company she works for is acknowledged as an entrepreneurial industry leader. Because it is currently being challenged by poor sales performance, it has hunkered down and frozen any change initiatives, learning programs or new projects until mid-2025. My client is in a substantial Research and Development function, crucial to innovation, so we aimed to explore new ways of helping the company use their existing equipment (capital investments) and resources (people and expertise) to design and deliver low-cost and sustainable innovations to the market. To create a focused, meaningful, purposeful role and a values-based motivating opportunity for my client to be proactive, that impacts the company by adding value to the bottom line by improving productivity and cost efficiency because anyone can learn to innovate.

Learning to innovate

As a result of our short time together, my client felt confident and empowered, motivated and energized, to invest time in learning how to apply her current skills and strengths, focus and attention to connect with key people and resources, explore options globally for identifying new business development opportunities, and in developing her technical skillset.

My client enrolled in an online innovation learning program to learn to innovate by acquiring the fundamentals of mindset and behavior changes to shift their thinking and act differently.  

The innovation imperative has shifted

  • Productivity growth needs to accelerate

According to McKinsey and Co, in the article “Investing in Productivity Growth” it’s not only time to raise investment and catch the next productivity wave; the world needs to and can accelerate productivity growth.

“Productivity growth means getting more from our work and our investments. It is especially needed now as the world faces the many challenges of a new geo-economic era. Productivity growth is the best antidote to the asset price inflation of the past two decades, which has created about $160 trillion in “paper wealth” and even larger amounts of new debt”.

  • Adapting to the new net zero reality

The world is currently not on track to meet net-zero targets, yet many opportunities are available to accelerate efforts and help meet de-carbonization goals. Whilst some progress has been made to reduce global carbon emissions, under the current trajectory, the world won’t achieve net-zero emissions even during this century. Again, according to McKinsey and Co., in an article “Adapting to the new net-zero reality”, mitigation efforts alone are no longer sufficient – the world will need to adapt as well by going green, ramping up technologies and increasing investments.

  • Improving cost efficiencies

According to new BCG research, corporate leaders are making better cost management a priority as a hedge against ongoing economic, financial, and political uncertainties, stating that:

“Wholesale cuts are one way to manage costs. However, drastic measures such as sudden workforce reductions may lead to unintended consequences because they fail to address the root causes of inefficiencies. Nor do they position an organization for future success”.

  • Generative Ai is a critical enabler of innovation

Whether the organization focuses on developing new products, services, processes, or business models, Generative AI (GenAI) can enhance and challenge the work of leaders and teams across all phases of the innovation cycle and process.

By learning to innovate through knowing how to generatively question and listen, reveal and challenge operating beliefs and test assumptions to enable them to emerge, diverge, converge and prioritize high-quality creative ideas for change.

According to BCG in a recent article, “To Drive Innovation with GenAI, Start by Questioning Your Assumptions.”

“GenAI’s most prominent contribution is in idea generation and validation—innovation’s divergence and convergence phases. Yet, it can play an even more critical role in helping leaders confront and update the strategic assumptions at the foundation of their business and innovation strategies: the doubt phase of the cycle. Organizations that regularly question their beliefs are more resilient because they are more likely to see and position themselves to benefit from the shifts on which competitive advantage turns”.

The innovation imperative is paradoxical.

Suppose we combine the contradictory features or qualities of developing productivity growth while adapting to the new net zero reality and improving cost efficiencies. In that case, many organizations have reverted to their conventional, business-as-usual focus, relying on Generative Ai to solve their problems.

This demonstrates a typically faddish response to a revolutionary, transformative new invention whilst being avoidant and resisting the urgent need to change by building the fundamental foundations in learning to innovate.

  • Thinking and acting differently

Anyone can learn to innovate, and it starts with allowing, accepting and acknowledging that a business-as-usual focus, avoiding risk, making the tough decisions and resisting change are no longer effective, profitable, or sustainable because:

  • We all know that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
  • We can no longer afford to keep producing the same results that no one wants.
  • We can’t solve the problem with the same thinking that created it; we have to learn how to be, think and act differently to deliver the sustainable and innovative solution we want to have.

Learning to innovate requires a radical strategic shift

  • Harnessing collective intelligence

Anyone can learn to innovate; it’s simply a matter of knowing, combining, leveraging and scaling people’s multiple and collective intelligence – heads/cognition, hearts/emotions and hands/actions.

  • Revealing and closing knowing-doing gaps

Then, we should align these to close the significant knowing-doing gap or disconnect between what people know and what people do.

Everyone knows that innovation is the most impactful lever to use to scale and leverage change, yet are primarily unwilling to pause, stop and take time to retreat from their short-term focus, pay attention and reflect on how to equip people with the innovation fundamentals by getting people’s:

  1. Heads to make sense of innovation and what innovation means by defining and framing it in their organization’s unique context, setting a strategic focus, determining the level of risk involved in achieving it, and mitigating the roadblocks that may arise.
  2. Hearts aligned to embody and enact what innovation means by setting and sharing a passionately purposeful reason for innovation, building change receptivity and readiness for designing and delivering a range of bespoke deep learning processes and equipping people to activate it.
  3. Hands dirty by creating a safe environment where people are encouraged to emerge and share creative ideas and permission and be allowed to experiment by making small bets and mistakes and learning by doing to know what not to do.

Innovation requires a strategic and systemic focus

Innovation is subjective and contextual, so it must be defined and framed in an organization’s unique context.  It requires a strategic and systemic focus, so an organization needs to agree on whether they will choose an incremental, sustainable or disruptive strategy and the level of risk.

The 21st century requires us to unlearn, learn, and relearn a different set of mindsets, behaviors, and skills, and anyone can learn to innovate.

Commitment and conviction to learn to innovate

It’s only through being committed and having the conviction that my coaching client now has – to explore new ways of helping their organizations use their existing capital investments, collective intelligence, people resources, and expertise, supported by Generative AI and deep learning processes, to design and deliver low-cost and sustainable innovations to the market.

Image Credit: Pexels

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Designing Organizational Change and Transformation

Designing Organizational Change and Transformation

GUEST POST from Stefan Lindegaard

Over 40% of organizations report that change fatigue is their biggest barrier to organizational change. To combat this, we need to approach change processes from another perspective: a human-centered perspective.

It’s not just about adapting to what’s normal and settling into a routine; it’s about constant change. Companies that recognize constant change and embrace it thrive and remain resilient.

Changing the organizational mindset gives the people in your organization a chance to explore change and its opportunities while fostering a culture that embraces the unexpected.

This is the approach of Manyone where I in particular like that they believe change should be desirable, understandable and tangible.

A short breakdown of this:

Desirable change (show a bright future)

An opportunistic yet realistic approach is alpha omega when doing large-scale organizational change. We use design to facilitate the communication of your organization’s future state and vision and make it desirable for people to get onboard – opportunity over optimization.

Understandable change (extend the organizational mind)

Design-driven organizational change strives to create a collective intuition across the organization and highlight the challenges and forces that shape it. This gives the people a platform to understand the why, the how and the what of change. At the same time, preparing and inspiring them to overcome hidden biases and contribute with new ideas and initiatives.

Tangible change (make it concrete)

The approach encourages rapid design of the desired future through new processes, products and structures. Prototypes are created and used in different formats to explore and validate futures in the market and across the organization.

Stefan Lindegaard Manyone Illustration

Having recently joined Manyone, I really enjoy great approaches and great people in the context of transformation and change. Get in touch if you are curious for more.

Image Credit: Pixabay, Stefan Lindegaard

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of May 2024

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of May 2024Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month, we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are May’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Five Lessons from the Apple Car’s Demise — by Robyn Bolton
  2. Six Causes of Employee Burnout — by David Burkus
  3. Learning About Innovation – From a Skateboard? — by John Bessant
  4. Fighting for Innovation in the Trenches — by Geoffrey A. Moore
  5. A Case Study on High Performance Teams — by Stefan Lindegaard
  6. Growth Comes From What You Don’t Have — by Mike Shipulski
  7. Innovation Friction Risks and Pitfalls — by Howard Tiersky
  8. Difference Between Customer Experience Perception and Reality — by Shep Hyken
  9. How Tribalism Can Kill Innovation — by Greg Satell
  10. Preparing the Next Generation for a Post-Digital Age — by Greg Satell

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in April that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last four years:

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The Beginning, Middle, and End of Innovation

And How Moneyball Fits In

The Beginning, Middle, and End of Innovation

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Not long ago, pitchers and catchers reported to MLB Spring Training facilities in Florida and Arizona.  For baseball fans, this is the first sign of Spring, an occasion that heralds months of warmth and sunshine, ballparks filled (hopefully) with cheering fans, dinners of beers and brats, and the undying belief that this year will be the year.

Of course, there’s still a lot of dark, dreary cold between now and Opening Day.  Perfect weather for watching baseball movies – Bull DurhamMajor LeagueThe NaturalField of Dreams, and, of course, Moneyball.

Moneyball is based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis and chronicles the 2002 Oakland Athletics season.  The ’02 Oakland A’s, led by General Manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), forever changed baseball by adopting an approach that valued rigorous statistical analysis over the collective wisdom of baseball insiders (coaches, scouts, front office personnel) when building a team.  This approach, termed “Moneyball,” enabled the A’s to reach the postseason with a team that cost only $44M in salary, compared to the NY Yankees that spent $125M to achieve the same outcome.

While the whole movie (and book) is a testament to the courage and perseverance required to challenge and change the status quo, time and again I come back to three lines that perfectly sum up the journey of every successful intrapreneur I’ve ever met.

The Beginning

I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall…he always gets bloody…always always gets bloody.  This is threatening not just a way of doing business… but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. Really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, their jobs. It’s threatening the way they do things… and every time that happens, whether it’s the government, a way of doing business, whatever, the people who are holding the reins – they have their hands on the switch – they go batshit crazy.”John Henry, Owner of the Boston Red Sox

Context

The 2002 season is over, and the A’s were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.  John Henry, an owner of the Boston Red Sox, has invited Bill Beane to Boston to offer him the Red Sox GM job. 

Lesson

This is what you sign up for when you decide to be an Intrapreneur.  The more you challenge the status quo, the more you question how business is done, the more you ask Why and demand an answer, the closer you get to “tak(ing) it in the teeth.”

This is why courage, perseverance, and an unshakeable belief that things can and should be better are absolutely essential for intrapreneurs.  Your job is to run at the wall over and over until you get through it.

People will follow.  The Red Sox did.  They won the World Series in 2004, breaking an 84-year-old curse.

The Middle

“It’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process” — Bill Beane

Context

Billy has to convince the ballplayers to forget all the habits that made them great and embrace the philosophy of Moneyball.  To stop stealing bases, turning double plays on bunts, and swinging for the fences and to start taking walks, throwing to first for the easy out, and prioritize getting on base over hitting a home run.

The players are confused and frustrated.  Suddenly, everything that they once did right is wrong and what was not valued is deeply prized.

Lesson

Innovation is something new that creates value.  Something new doesn’t just require change, it requires people to stop doing things that work and start doing things that seem strange or even wrong.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s not a switch to be flipped.  It’s a process to be learned.  It takes time, practice, reminders, and patience.

The End

“When you get an answer you’re looking for, hang up.” — Billy Beane

Context

In this scene, Billy has offered one of his players to multiple teams, searching for the best deal.  When the phone rings with a deal he likes, he and the other General Manager (GM) agree to it, Billy hangs up.  Even though the other GM was in the middle of a sentence.  When Peter Brand, the Assistant GM played by Jonah Hill, points out that Billy had just hung up on the other GM, Billy responds with this nugget of wisdom.

Lesson

It’s advice intrapreneurs should take very much to heart.  I often see Innovation teams walk into management presentations with long presentations, full of data and projections, anxious to share their progress, and hoping for continued funding and support.  When the meeting starts, a senior exec will say something like, “We’re excited by the progress we’re hearing about and what it will take to continue.” 

That’s the cue to “hang up.”

Instead of starting the presentation from the beginning, start with “what it will take to continue.”  You got the answer you’re looking for – they’re excited about the progress you’ve made – don’t spend time giving them the info they already have or, worse, could raise questions and dim their enthusiasm.  Hang up on the conversation you want to have and have the conversation they want to have.

In closing

Moneyball was an innovation that fundamentally changed one of the most tradition-bound businesses in sports.  To be successful, it required someone willing to take it in the teeth, to coach people through a process, and to hang up when they got the answer they wanted.  It wasn’t easy but real change rarely is.

The same is true in corporations.  They need their own Bill Beanes.

Are you willing to step up to the plate?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Do You Find Growth By Searching, Seeking, or Stalking?

Do You Find Growth By Searching, Seeking, or Stalking?

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Growth is the lifeblood of any organization, and the quest for growth opportunities is not just a strategic imperative. It is a fundamental necessity because the ability to identify and capitalize on opportunities is a game-changer for companies wanting to achieve sustainable success and stay ahead of the competition. 

The challenge, however, is that not all opportunities are the same – some are head-smackingly obvious, while others are like trying to nail down JELL-O.  Yet companies take a “one size fits all” approach to finding, developing, and capitalizing on them.

SEARCH when need to transform

What do you do when you need information but don’t know precisely what you need and certainly don’t know where to find it? You Google it or, in less-branded terms, you search for it. 

When searching for growth opportunities, you’re looking for something but don’t know exactly what you need or where you’ll find it.  Finding opportunities requires you to go beyond traditional market analysis and adopt a learner’s mindset to see ways to disrupt the status quo, challenge existing paradigms, and create new value propositions for your customers.

Searching is a creative process that entails investing in R&D, fostering a culture of intrapreneurship, and experimenting with new technologies. It requires a culture of creativity, experimentation, and agility to adapt to changing market dynamics.  You have to be willing to be wrong on your way to being right, to move slowly so you can act quickly, and to throw out the timeline to harness the game-changing opportunity.

SEEK when you need to innovate

What do you do when you know what you need and generally where to find it?  You seek it out – you go to where you think it will be, and, on the off-chance it’s not there, you pivot to Option B.

When you’re seeking growth opportunities, you have a target in mind but are not 100% sure how to hit it.  Maybe you know you want to enter a new geography, but you need to figure out how to do it successfully and avoid the mistakes of previous entrants.  Maybe it’s a new industry or category, but you must understand if and how to do it without disrupting your existing business model.

Seeking is both creative and analytical.  You look for data and market intelligence, interview experts and individuals, analyze industry trends and explore untapped segments. It also requires you to stay open to surprises and new possibilities and take calculated risks to capitalize on emerging trends or consumer preferences.  Like searching, it requires patience.  Unlike searching, it respects a deadline.

STALK when you need to improve

Just like a lioness stalking a wildebeest, you do this when you see an opportunity and know exactly how to capture it. Yes, there will be zigs and zags along the way, and an unexpected competitor may pop up. But this is who you are and what you do. 

When stalking opportunities, you bring the full value and power of your experience, expertise, resources, and capabilities to bear on an opportunity.  This may happen when you’re operating and improving your core business.  It may also occur after you’ve searched (and found) an opportunity, sought (and decided on) a strategy, and now you have the confidence to launch and scale.

Do Your Approaches Align with Your Goals?

Most companies say that they want to transform. Still, very few have the patience or intestinal fortitude to search because there is no Google for Transformation that produces the exact plan you need to transform successfully.

Companies also tend to stalk when they want to innovate, leaving opportunities to change the game and build sustainable competitive advantage on the sideline because they’re too uncertain or take too long.

Growth requires all three approaches – search, seek, and stalk – but only happens when your chosen approach aligns with your goals.

Image credit: Pexels

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of April 2024

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of April 2024Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month, we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are April’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Ignite Innovation with These 3 Key Ingredients — by Howard Tiersky
  2. What Have We Learned About Digital Transformation? — by Geoffrey A. Moore
  3. The Collective Growth Mindset — by Stefan Lindegaard
  4. Companies Are Not Families — by David Burkus
  5. 24 Customer Experience Mistakes to Stop in 2024 — by Shep Hyken
  6. Transformation is Human Not Digital — by Greg Satell
  7. Embrace the Art of Getting Started — by Mike Shipulski
  8. Trust as a Competitive Advantage — by Greg Satell
  9. 3 Innovation Lessons from The Departed — by Robyn Bolton
  10. Humans Are Not as Different from AI as We Think — by Geoffrey A. Moore

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in March that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last four years:

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.






Change the World With a Keystone Change

Change the World With a Keystone Change

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

On December 31st, 1929, the Indian National Congress, the foremost nationalist group on the subcontinent, issued a Declaration of Purna Swaraj, or complete independence from British rule. It also announced a campaign of civil disobedience, but no one had any idea what form it should take. That task fell to Mohandas Gandhi.

The Mahatma returned to his ashram to contemplate next steps. After his efforts to organize against the Rowlatt Act a decade earlier ended in disaster, he struggled to find a way forward. As he told a friend at the time, “I am furiously thinking day and night and I do not see a way out of the darkness.”

Finally, he decided he would march for salt, which impressed almost no one. It seemed to be an incredibly inconsequential issue, especially considering what was at stake. Yet what few realized at the time was that he had identified a keystone change that would break the logjam and the British hold on power. Today the Salt March is known as Gandhi’s greatest triumph.

A Tangible And Achievable Goal

One of Gandhi’s biggest challenges was to connect the lofty goals and high-minded rhetoric of the elites who led the Indian National Congress with the concerns of everyday Indians. These destitute masses didn’t much care whether they were ruled by British elites or Indian elites and, to them, abstract concepts like “freedom” and “independence” meant little.

Salt, on the other hand, was something that was tangible for everyone, but especially for the poorest Indians and the British salt laws provided a clear and actionable target. All you had to do to defy them was to boil seawater to produce salt. What at first seemed trivial became a powerful call for mass action.

In my book, Cascades, I found that every successful movement for change, whether it was a corporate turnaround, a social initiative or a political uprising, began with a keystone change like Gandhi’s salt protests. To achieve a grand vision, you always have to start somewhere and the best place to begin is with a clear and achievable goal.

In some cases, as with voting rights in the women’s movement in the 19th century and, more recently, marriage equality for the LGBT movement, identifying a keystone change took decades. In other cases, such as improving worker safety in Paul O’Neil’s turnaround of Alcoa or a campaign to save 100,000 lives in Don Berwick’s quest to improve quality in medical care, the keystone change was part of the initial plan.

Involving Multiple Stakeholders

The concept of Indian independence raised a number of thorny issues, many of which have not been resolved to this day. Tensions between majority Hindus and minority Muslims created suspicions about how power would be structured after British rule. Similarly, coordinating action between caste Hindus and “untouchables” was riddled with difficulty. Christians and Sikhs had their own concerns.

Yet anger about the Salt Laws helped bring all of these disparate groups together. It was clear from the outset that everyone would benefit from a repeal. Also, because participating was easy—again, it was as simple as boiling sea water—little coordination was needed. Most of all, being involved in a collective effort helped to ease tensions somewhat.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals took a similar approach to its quest to reduce costs by 25% through implementing lean manufacturing methods at its factories. Much like Gandhi, the executives understood that transforming the behaviors of 20,000 employees across 16 large facilities, most of whom were skeptical of the change, was no simple task.

So they started with one process — factory changeovers — and reduced the time it took to switch from producing one product to another in half. “That changed assumptions of what was possible,” an advisor that worked on the project told me. “It allowed us to implement metrics, improve collaboration and trained the supervisor to reimagine her perceived role from being a taskmaster that pushed people to work harder to a coach that enables improved performance.”

Breaking Through Higher Thresholds Of Resistance

By now most people are familiar with the diffusion of innovations theory developed by Everett Rogers. A new idea first gains traction among a small group of innovators and early adopters, then later spreads to the mainstream. Some have suggested that early adopters act as “influentials” or “opinion leaders” that spur an idea forward, but that is largely a myth.

What is much closer to the truth is that we all have different thresholds of resistance to a new idea and these thresholds are highly contextual. For example, as a Philadelphia native, I will enthusiastically try out a new cheesesteak place, but have kept the same hairstyle for 30 years. My wife, on the other hand, is much more adventurous with hairstyles than she is with cheesesteaks.

Yet we are all influenced by those around us. So if our friends and neighbors start raving about a cheesesteak, she might give it a try and may even tell people about it. Or, as network theory pioneer Duncan Watts explained to me, an idea propagates through “easily influenced people influencing other easily influenced people.”

That’s how transformative ideas gain momentum and it’s easy to see how a keystone change can help move the process along. By starting out with a tangible goal, such as protesting the salt tax or reducing changeover time at a single factory, you can focus your efforts on people who have lower thresholds of resistance and they, in turn, can help the idea spread to others who are more reticent.

Paving The Way For Future Change

Perhaps most importantly, a keystone change paves the way for larger changes later on. Gandhi’s Salt March showed that the British Raj could be defied. Voting rights for women and, later, blacks, allowed them to leverage their newfound power at the polls. Reducing changeover time showed how similar results could be achieved in other facets of manufacturing. The 100,000 lives campaign helped spur a a quality movement in healthcare.

None of these things happened all at once, but achieving a keystone change showed what was possible, attracted early adopters to the cause and helped give them a basis for convincing others that even more could be achieved. As one of Gandhi’s followers remarked, before the Salt March, the British “were all sahibs and we were obeying. No more after that.”

Another benefit of a keystone change is that it is much less likely to provoke a backlash than a wider, sweeping vision. One of the reasons that the Salt March was successful is that the British didn’t actually gain that much revenue from the tax on salt, so were slow to react to it. The 100,000 lives campaign involved only six relatively easy to implement procedures, rather than pushing hospitals to pursue wholesale change all at once.

So while it’s important to dream big and have lofty goals, the first step is always a keystone change. That’s how you first build a sense of shared purpose and provide a platform from which a movement for change can spread. Before the Salt March, Gandhi was considered by many to be a Hindu nationalist. It was only after that he truly became an inspiration to all Indian people and many others around the world.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on Inc.com
— Image credits: Pexels

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London Calling

London Calling Braden Kelley

by Braden Kelley

I will be in London attending a reunion soon and have some availability May 15-17, 2024 if anyone would like to book a keynote, workshop, or advisory session while I’m there.

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