Category Archives: Change

Making Innovation the Way We Do Business (easy as ABC)

Making Innovation the Way We Do Business (easy as ABC)

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“We need to be more innovative.”

How many times have you said or heard that? It’s how most innovation efforts start. It’s a statement that reflects leaders’ genuine desire to return to the “good ol’ days” when the company routinely created and launched new products and enjoyed the publicity and growth that followed.

But what does it mean to be more innovative?

Innovation’s ABCs

A is for Architecture

Architecture includes most of the elements people think of when they start the work to become more innovative – strategy, structure, processes, metrics, governance, and incentives.

Each of these elements answers fundamental questions:

  • Strategy: Why is innovation important? How does it contribute to our overall strategy?
  • Structure: Who does the work of innovation?
  • Process: How is the work done?
  • Metrics: How will we know when we’re successful? How will we measure progress?
  • Governance: Who makes decisions? How and when are decisions made?
  • Incentives: Why should people invest their time, money, and political capital? How will they be rewarded?

When it comes to your business, you can answer all these questions. The same is true if you’re serious about innovation. If you can’t answer the questions, you have work to do. If you don’t want to do the work, then you don’t want to be innovative. You want to look innovative*.

B is for Behavior

Innovation isn’t an idea problem. It’s a leadership problem.

Leaders that talk about innovation, delegate it to subordinates and routinely pull resources from innovation to “shore up” current operations don’t want to be innovative. They want to look innovative.

Leaders who roll up their sleeves and work alongside innovation teams, ask questions and listen with open minds, and invest and protect innovation resources want to be innovative.

To be fair, it’s incredibly challenging to be a great leader of both innovation and operations. It’s the equivalent of writing equally well with your right and left hands. But it is possible. More importantly, it’s essential.

C is for Culture

Culture is invisible, pervasive, and personal. It is also the make-or-break factor for innovation because it surrounds innovation architecture, teams, and leaders.

Culture can expand to encourage and support exploration, creativity, and risk-taking. Or it can constrict, unleashing antibodies that swarm, suffocate, and kill anything that threatens the status quo.

Trying to control or change culture is like trying to hold water in your fist. But if you let go just a bit, create the right conditions, and wait patiently, change is possible.

Easy as 123

The most common mistake executives make in the pursuit of being “more innovative” is that they focus on only A or only B or only C.  But, as I always tell my clients, the answer is “and, not or.”

  1. Start with Architecture because it’s logical, rational, and produces tangible outputs like org charts, process flows, and instruction manuals filled with templates and tools. Architecture is comforting because it helps us know what to do and how.
  2. Use Architecture to encourage Behavior because the best way to learn something is to do it. With Architecture in place (but well before it’s finished), bring leaders into the work – talking to customers, sharing their ideas, and creating prototypes. When leaders do the work of innovation, they quickly realize what’s possible (and what’s not) and are open to learning how to engage (behave) in a way that supports innovation.
  3. Leverage Architecture and Behavior to engage Culture by creating the artifacts, rituals, and evidence that innovation can happen in your company, is happening and will continue to happen. As people see “innovation” evolve from a buzzword to a small investment to “the way we do business,” their skepticism will fade, and their support will grow.

Just like the Jackson 5 said

ABC, It’s easy a 123

Architecture, behavior, culture – they’re all essential to enabling an innovation capability that repeatedly creates new revenue.

And while starting with architecture, building new leadership behaviors, and investing until the culture changes isn’t easy, it’s the 123 steps required to “be more innovative.”

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

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The Ways Inflection Points Define Our Future

The Ways Inflection Points Define Our Future

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

Humans tend to think in a linear fashion. If something is growing, we expect it to keep growing. If it is decreasing, we expect it to continue to decrease. We are natural trend watchers and instinctively look for patterns. Yet it is often the discontinuities, rather than the continuities, that have the biggest impact.

The mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot referred to this cycle of continuity punctuated by discontinuity as “Noah effects and Joseph effects.” Joseph effects, as in the biblical story, support long periods of continuity. Noah effects, on the other hand, are like a big storm creating a massive flood of discontinuity, washing away the previous order.

Throughout history, inflection points have defined the future. Business models, built on top of Joseph effects, are disrupted by Noah effects, creating new opportunities for those who are able to identify and adapt. Today, we’re in the midst of a series of inflection points in what was already a time of enormous flux. We can’t predict the future but we can prepare for it.

1920s: A Second Industrial Revolution

By 1920, electricity was already nearly a 40-year old technology. In 1882, just three years after he had almost literally shocked the world with his revolutionary electric light bulb, Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street Station, the first commercial electrical distribution plant in the United States. By 1884 it was already servicing over 500 homes.

Yet although electricity and electric lighting were already widespread in 1919, they didn’t have a measurable effect on productivity and a paper by the economist Paul David helps explain why. It took time for manufacturers to adapt their factories to electricity and learn to design workflow to leverage the flexibility that the new technology offered. It was the improved workflow, more than the technology itself, that drove productivity forward.

Automobiles saw a similar evolution. It took time for infrastructure, such as roads and gas stations, to be built. Improved logistics reshaped supply chains and factories moved from cities in the north — close to customers — to small towns in the south, where labor and land were cheaper. That improved the economics of manufacturing further.

It was the confluence of electricity and internal combustion, along with the secondary innovations they spawned, that led to mass manufacturing and mass marketing. Enterprises scaled up into huge bureaucracies exemplified by the organization Alfred Sloan built at General Motors. Firms were designed to move large numbers of men and materiel efficiently. Information flowed up, orders went down and your rank determined your responsibility.

1990s – Globalization and Digitization

In November 1989, there were two watershed events that would change the course of world history. The fall of the Berlin Wall would end the Cold War and open up markets across the world. That very same month, Tim Berners-Lee would create the World Wide Web and usher in a new technological era of networked computing.

Much like in the 1920s, these forces had been building for some time. Commercial computers had been around since the 1950s and global trade as a percentage of GDP began to sharply increase in the 1970s. Yet 1989 marked an inflection point and the world would never be the same after that.

The combined forces of globalization and digitization favored the quick and agile over the large and powerful. Rather than spending months or years to develop products, startup firms could rapidly prototype and iterate their way to launching a product in months or weeks. So called “unicorns”, startup companies valued at over a billion dollars, began to emerge and disrupt incumbent industry giants.

Perhaps the biggest shift of the globalized, digital world was from hierarchies to networks. While in the industrial era strategy was focused on linear value chains and the sum of all efficiencies, in the networked world strategy increasingly focused on the sum of all connections. A leader’s role was no longer simply to plan and direct action, but to inspire and empower belief.

Yet much like technologies that came of age in the 1920s, the second and third order effects of globalization and digitization were very different than anyone had predicted. Instead of the triumph of democracy we got a rise in authoritarian populism. Instead of a new era of prosperity, we got stagnant wages, reduced productivity growth and weaker competitive markets.

2020s – A New Era of Innovation

Today, as Moore’s law nears its theoretical limits, the digital revolution is coming to a close and we’re about to embark on a new era of innovation. Much like in the 1920s and the 1990s, the future is likely to surprise us, but the rough outlines of new inflection points are already beginning to take shape.

The first is in energy. The World Economic Forum reports that wind and solar now produce energy cheaper than coal and gas in North America. In fact, in some sunny parts of the world, solar costs less than half as much as coal. Costs for energy storage are still too high, but here too there is significant progress and we’re likely to see a scaled solution within a decade.

Another is the rise of synthetic biology. Driven by new technologies such as CRISPR, we’re beginning to go beyond merely reading genomes and starting to write them. Andrew Hessel, CEO of Humane Genomics, told me that we’re nearing the point that the value of a genome exceeds the cost to produce one. That will unleash a new wave of biologically driven business models. A similar revolution is underway in materials science.

Over the next decade we will also see the emergence of post-digital computing architectures such as quantum and neuromorphic computing, which are potentially thousands, if not millions of times more powerful than today’s technology. Although we don’t expect much of an impact from either of these for at least a decade, they will accelerate advancements in biology, materials and artificial intelligence.

Clearly these new technologies will open up new possibilities, but right now it’s impossible to see beyond first order effects. Nobody looked at a light bulb and saw household appliances empowering women to enter the workplace, or looked at a Model T and saw suburbs and the transformation of retail, or came across an IBM mainframe and said, “Gee, this thing will put journalists out of work one day.”

Preparing For the Future

Six years ago, I wrote how 2020 was shaping up to be a pivotal year. Boy, I had no idea! In addition. In addition to the convergence of longstanding trends in technology, energy and transportation, Covid-19 and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement burst onto the global consciousness.

Two things stick out about these new inflection points. First, they were not only predictable, but were, in fact, predicted by a number of people. Second, both will accelerate already existing trends. Covid-19 has shifted digital transformation and synthetic biology into high gear. Black Lives Matter will likely expedite the shift in political power from Boomers to Millennials.

We can think of various scenarios that can play out. Covid may catalyze nascent trends, such as telemedicine and genomic medicine to greatly improve healthcare in the US. Black Lives Matter may cause a shift in hiring patterns that may help to accelerate productivity. On the other hand, the tensions both inflection points create may exacerbate underlying divisions and make things worse.

Those are just two possible scenarios. There are many more, each of which will create their sets of Noah and Joseph effects and then combine secondary and tertiary changes in ways that are unknowable today. What we can do, however, is explore new possibilities and prepare for them. The most important inflection points are often the ones that we create ourselves through the choices we make. No future is inevitable.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Unsplash

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of September 2022

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of September 2022Drum 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. We also publish a weekly Top 5 as part of our FREE email newsletter. Did your favorite make the cut?

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

  1. You Can’t Innovate Without This One Thing — by Robyn Bolton
  2. Importance of Measuring Your Organization’s Innovation Maturity — by Braden Kelley
  3. 3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers
    — by Robyn Bolton
  4. Four Lessons Learned from the Digital Revolution — by Greg Satell
  5. Are You Hanging Your Chief Innovation Officer Out to Dry? — by Teresa Spangler
  6. Why Good Job Interviews Don’t Lead to Good Job Performance — by Arlen Meyers, M.D.
  7. Six Simple Growth Hacks for Startups — by Soren Kaplan
  8. Why Diversity and Inclusion Are Entrepreneurial Competencies
    — by Arlen Meyers, M.D.
  9. The Seven P’s of Raising Money from Investors — by Arlen Meyers, M.D.
  10. What’s Next – The Only Way Forward is Through — by Braden Kelley

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in August 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 two years:

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Four Things You Need to Succeed in The Good Place

Four Things You Need to Succeed in The Good Place

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You have, no doubt, seen the design squiggle. The ubiquitous scribble is all loopy and knotty in the beginning until it finally sorts itself into a straight line by the end.

It illustrates the design process – “the journey of researching, uncovering insights, generating creative concepts, iteration of prototypes and eventually concluding in one single designed solution” – and its elegant simplicity has led it to be adopted by all sorts of other disciplines, including innovation.

But when I showed it to a client, her immediate response was, “It’s Jeremy Bearimy!”*

Wha????

And that is how I discovered The Good Place, a sitcom about four humans who die, go to The Good Place, and struggle to learn what it means to be good.

The show, created by Michael Schur of The Office and Parks and Recreation fame, is a brilliant treatise on ethics and moral philosophy. It also contains valuable wisdom about what innovators need to succeed.

Questions

With all due respect, “It’s the way it’s always been done” is an excuse that’s been used for hundreds of years to justify racism, misogyny…

Tahani Al-Jamil

This quote was a gut punch from the show’s fourth and final season. As innovators, we often hear people ask why change is needed. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” they proclaim.

But sometimes it is broke, and we don’t know it. At the very least, it can always be better.

So, while “it’s the way it’s always been done” at your company probably (hopefully) doesn’t include racism, misogyny, sexism, and other genuinely horrible things, framing the status quo as an enabler of those horrors is a harsh wake-up call to the dangers of an unquestioning commitment to continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done.

Decisions (not just Ideas)

If you’re always frozen in fear and taking too long to figure out what to do, you’ll miss your opportunity, and maybe get sucked into the propeller of a swamp boat.

Jason Mendoza

Even though Jason Mendoza is the resident idiot of The Good Place, he occasionally (and very accidentally) has moments of profound insight. This one to a situation that innovators are all too familiar with – analysis paralysis.

How often do requests for more data, more (or more relevant) benchmarks, or input from more people slow down decisions and progress? These requests are rarely rooted in doubt about the data, benchmarks, or information you presented. They are rooted in fear – the fear of making the wrong decision, being blamed or shamed, and losing a reputation or even a job.

But worse than being wrong, blamed, shamed, or unemployed is missing an opportunity to radically improve your business, team, or even the world. It’s the business equivalent of getting sucked into the propeller of a swamp boat.

Actions (not just decisions)

In football, trying to run out the clock and hoping for the best never works. It’s called “prevent defense.” You don’t take any chances and just try and hold on to your lead. But prevent defense just PREVENTS you from winning! It’s always better to try something.

Jason Mendoza

Jason does it again, this time invoking a lesson learned from his beloved Jacksonville Jaguars.

Few companies publicly admit to adopting a prevent defense, even though most companies engage in it. They play prevent defense when they don’t invest in innovation, focus exclusively on maintaining or incrementally improving what they currently do, or confine their innovation efforts to events like hackathons and shark tanks.

Incremental improvements and innovation theater keep you competitive. But they won’t get you ahead of the competition or make you a leader in your industry. In fact, they prevent it by making you feel good and safe when you’re really just running out the clock.

Perseverance

Come on, you know how this works. You fail and then you try something else. And you fail again and again, and you fail a thousand times, and you keep trying because maybe the 1,001st idea might work. Now, I’m gonna and try to find our 1,001st idea.

Michael

It’s hard to explain this quote without sharing massive spoilers, so let’s just say that The Good Place is an experiment that fails. A lot.

But it’s also an experiment that generates profound learning and universe-altering changes, things that would not have been possible without the failures.

Yes, smart innovators know when to kill a project. They also know when to try one more time. Wise innovators know the difference.

One final bit of wisdom

Innovation is hard. You will run into more resistance than expected, and things will rarely work out as planned. As long as you keep trying and learning, you won’t fail.

To paraphrase Jason Mendoza (again), you’re not a failed innovator, you’re pre-successful.

*For those of you who are, like I was, unfamiliar with Jeremy Bearimy, here’s a clip explaining it (WARNING: SPOILERS)

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

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Leveraging Opposition to Drive Change Forward

Leveraging Opposition to Drive Change Forward

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

Clearly, we live in a time of great flux. First, #MeToo, then Covid-19 and now a new racial consciousness in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The most important task for leaders over the coming years will be to guide their organizations through change. Make no mistake, it won’t be easy. Important changes always encounter staunch resistance.

In Cascades, I researched dozens of change efforts ranging from historic turnarounds at major corporations like IBM and Alcoa, to political revolutions like the color revolutions in Eastern Europe and social movements like the struggle for civil and LGBT rights in America. Every one had to overcome entrenched opposition to succeed.

Yet probably the most impressive strategy for overcoming opposition I came across was how the Serbian movement called Otpor devised a plan to turn arrests to their advantage. The key to their strategy was to study their opposition, anticipate its actions and leverage them for their own benefit. Business leaders can use similar strategies to drive change forward.

Forming a Sense of Identity

Clearly, the threat of arrests poses a significant obstacle to any protest movement. In the case of Otpor, which was working to bring down the brutal Milošević regime, there was not only the threat of incarceration and embarrassment, but serious physical harm. The authorities depended on this fear to keep people in line.

So Otpor set out to make arrests a source of pride rather than fear. Anyone who was arrested got a t-shirt and the more times you were arrested, the better t-shirt you got. Once you were arrested five times, you received the coveted black Otpor t-shirt that you could wear to school the next day and impress all your friends.

Many of the transformational change efforts I researched used similar strategies. In his quest to reform the Pentagon from within, Colonel John Boyd gathered around him a passionate group of “Acolytes” which would support each other, help check facts, streamline logical arguments and hone the message of a particular reform plan.

Those who are working to undermine your efforts want to make you feel isolated and alone. Even a seemingly powerful CEO can face a skeptical board, investor community and media. So, the first step is to build a strong sense of identity, which is why even massive transformations tend to start with small groups and build out from there.

Devising an Infiltration Strategy

Whenever you set out to make a significant change, there are going to be some people who aren’t going to like it. Change of any kind threatens the status quo, which has inertia on its side and never yields its power gracefully.

Yet one of the biggest mistakes a change effort can make is to see the opposition as monolithic. While it’s easy to think that anyone who isn’t with you to be against you, the truth is that there are always shades of belief. Some really are dead set against the change you want to bring about, but others are only passively opposed, and most are probably fairly neutral.

One of the Otpor activists’ most brilliant strokes was to see arrests as an opportunity for infiltration because it gave them the opportunity to make friends with the individual police officers, most of whom didn’t particularly like arresting peaceful student protestors. Later, when many of these same officers had to decide whether to shoot into the crowd or join the movement, they chose the latter.

Make no mistake. To drive any kind of change forward you need to bring people in who don’t immediately agree with you. Transformation is never really top down or bottom up, but moves side to side. You don’t create change just by rallying your supporters, but by breaking through higher thresholds of resistance to bring in others.

Let Your Opponents Overreach and Send People Your Way

While Otpor’s infiltration strategy was highly effective, it didn’t solve the problem of arrests. Peaceful activists were still being taken in and, in many cases, abused. No amount of respectful behavior and playful banter could fully inoculate the activists from the reality that at least some of the police officers enjoyed terrorizing them.

Yet here too, Otpor found ways to use the situation to their advantage. First, every activist had the local Otpor office on speed dial. When someone got arrested, they pressed the button on their phones and their colleagues immediately knew that an arrest was under way. Which set into motion a number of actions.

First, lawyers were called to ensure that the rights of the activists would be protected. Then, a protest would be organized outside the police station and the media would be notified. An affiliate group, “Mothers of Otpor,” would show up and demand to know why their sons and daughters were being persecuted and abused.

So instead of arrests embarrassing the protestors, they embarrassed the regime. Every time it arrested an Otpor activist, it was subjected to a media barrage that showed peaceful protests outside police stations including not only well-behaved activists, but their mothers demanding to know why the regime was terrorizing their children.

Once your opposition senses that you are gaining traction, they will tend to lash out and send people your way. In my research, I’ve been truly amazed at how consistent this behavior is. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an activist executing peaceful protests, a change agent trying to scale an important program or simply someone trying to win a consensus in a meeting. Getting your opponents to overreach will often be the thing that breaks the logjam and brings change about.

Learning To Love Your Haters

Every transformational change starts with a heartfelt sense of grievance, and it doesn’t take a brutal regime to arouse passions. The need to adopt a new technology, transform a business model or shift an organizational culture, can be just as emotional as a political movement like Otpor. So it can be incredibly frustrating when people stand in the way of change.

Yet in my research, I found that successful change efforts didn’t demonize their opposition, they learned from them. In some cases, those that resisted change had good reasons and helped point out flaws in the plan. In other cases, by engaging in dialogue, they helped identify shared values and a common purpose.

The genius behind Otpor’s arrest strategy is that it made a distinction between the institution of the regime and the humanity of the police officers who were just trying to do their job and go home to their families at night. It was that insight that led them to engage with the individual officers, joke with them and get to know them on a personal basis.

And that’s the lesson we can learn, whether we are working to transform an organization, an industry, a community or society as a whole. Those that oppose us often feel just as passionately about their cause as we do ours. We overcome opposition not by overpowering it, but through identifying shared values and attracting others to our side.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Unsplash

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

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Driving Change Forward Requires a Shared Purpose

Driving Change Forward Requires a Shared Purpose

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy addressed the nation from Rice University. “We choose to go to the moon,” he said. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

The speech galvanized the country into one of the most vast collective efforts in history, involving politicians, scientists, engineers and the general public to achieve that goal. Perhaps even more importantly, it imbued the country with a sense of shared purpose that carried over into our business, personal and community life.

Today, that sense of shared purpose is much harder to achieve. Our societies are more diverse and we no longer expect to spend an entire career at a single company, or even a single industry. That’s why the most essential element of a leader’s job today isn’t so much to plan and direct action, but to inspire and empower belief in a common mission.

Start with Shared Identity

When Lou Gerstner first arrived at IBM, the company was going bankrupt. He quickly identified the root of the problem: Infighting. “Units competed with each other, hid things from each other,” he would later write. Huge staffs spent countless hours debating and managing transfer pricing terms between IBM units instead of facilitating a seamless transfer of products to customers.”

The problem is a common one. General Stanley McChrystal experienced something similar in Iraq. As he described in Team of Teams, his forces were split into competing tribes, such as Navy SEALS, Army Special Forces, Night Stalker helicopter pilots, and others, each competing with everyone else for resources.

We naturally tend to form groups based on identity. For example, in a study of adults that were randomly assigned to “leopards” and “tigers,” fMRI studies noted hostility to outgroup members. Similar results were found in a study involving five-year-old children and even in infants. So, to a certain extent, tribalism is unavoidable.

It can also be positive. Under Gerstner, his employees continued to take pride in their unit, just as under McChrystal commando teams continued to build an esprit de corps. Yet those leaders, and President Kennedy as well, expanded those tribes to include a second, larger identity as IBMers, warriors in the fight against terrorism and as Americans, respectively.

Anchor Shared Identity with Shared Values

Shared identity is the first step to building a true sense of shared purpose, but without shared values shared identity is meaningless. We can, as in the study mentioned above, designate ourselves “leopards” or “tigers,” but that is a fairly meaningless distinction. It may be enough to generate hostility to outsiders, but not enough to create a genuine team dynamic.

In the 1950s there were a number of groups opposed to Apartheid in South Africa. Even though they shared common goals, they were unable to work together effectively. That began to change with the Congress of the People, a multi-racial gathering which produced a statement of shared values that came to be known as the Freedom Charter.

Nelson Mandela would later say that the Freedom Charter would have been very different if his organization, the African National Congress (ANC) had written it by themselves, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful. It not only gave anti-Apartheid groups a basis for collective action, by being explicit values, it formed a foundation for those outside of South Africa, who shared the same values, to share the anti-Apartheid purpose.

Perhaps most importantly, the Freedom Charter imposed costs and constraints on the anti-Apartheid movement. By committing itself to a multi-racial movement the African National Congress lost some freedom of action. However, constraining itself in that way was in itself a powerful argument for the viability of a multi-racial society in South Africa.

One of the most powerful moments in our Transformation and Change Workshops is when people make the shift from differentiating values, such as the black nationalism that Mandela favored as a young man, to shared values, such as equal rights under the law that the Freedom Charter called for. Of course, you can be a black nationalist and also support equal rights, but it is through shared values that your change effort will grow.

Engaging in Shared Action

Shared identity and shared values are both essential elements of shared purpose, but they are still not sufficient. To create a true sense of a common mission, you need to instill bonds of trust and that can only be done through engaging in shared action. Consider a study done in the 1960s, called the Robbers Cave Experiment, which involved 22 boys of similar religious, racial and economic backgrounds invited to spend a few weeks at a summer camp.

In the first phase, they were separated into two groups of “Rattlers” and “Eagles” that had little contact with each other. As each group formed its own identity, they began to display hostility on the rare occasions when they were together. During the second phase, the two groups were given competitive tasks and tensions boiled over, with each group name calling, sabotaging each other’s efforts and violently attacking one another.

In the third phase, the researchers attempted to reduce tensions. At first, they merely brought them into friendly contact, with little effect. The boys just sneered at each other. However, when they were tricked into challenging tasks where they were forced to work together in order to be successful, the tenor changed quickly. By end of the camp the two groups had fallen into a friendly camaraderie.

In much the same way, President Kennedy’s Moonshot wasn’t some obscure project undertaken in a secret lab, but involved 400,000 people and was followed on TV by millions more. The Congress of the People wasn’t important just for the document that it produced, but because of the bonds forged in the process. General McChrystal didn’t just preach collaboration, but made it necessary by embedding his personnel in each other’s units.

Becoming a Transformational Leader

Times like these strain any organization. The Covid-19 crisis alone forces enterprises to change. Put racial and political tensions on top and you can quickly have a powder keg waiting to explode. On the other hand, much like the boys in the “Robbers Cave” experiment, common struggle can serve to build common bonds.

When President Kennedy gave his famous speech in 1962, the outlook didn’t look very bright. The launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik in 1957 had put America on its heels. Kennedy’s disastrously failed Bay of Pigs invasion was only compounded by his humiliation at the hands of Khrushchev in Vienna.

Yet instead of buckling under the pressure, Kennedy had the grit and imagination to conceive a new project that would “serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” He pledged that we would go to the moon before the decade was out and we did, putting America back on top of the world and imbuing the country with a sense of pride and ambition.

We can do the same. The Covid pandemic, while tragic, gives us the opportunity to reimagine healthcare and fix a broken system. The racial tensions that George Floyd’s murder exposed have the potential to help us build a new racial consciousness. Revolutions do not begin with a slogan, they begin with a cause.

That’s what makes transformational leaders different. Where others see calamity, they see potential for change.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Unsplash

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Your Next Best Action is Up to You

Your Next Best Action is Up to You

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you can try to remember why you started the whole thing or you can do something else. Either can remedy things, but how do you choose between them? If you’ve forgotten your “why”, maybe it’s worth forgetting or maybe something else temporarily came up that pushed your still-important why underground for a short time. If it’s worth forgetting, maybe it’s time for something else. And if it’s worth remembering, maybe it’s time to double down. Only you can choose.

If you still remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, you can ask yourself if your why is still worth its salt or if something changed, either inside you or in your circumstances, that has twisted your why to something beyond salvage. If your why is still as salty as ever, maybe it’s right to stay the course. But if it’s still as salty as ever but you now think it’s distasteful, maybe it’s time for a change.

When you do what you did last time, are you more efficient or more dissatisfied, or both? And if you imagine yourself doing it again, do you look forward to more efficiency or predict more dissatisfaction? These questions can help you decide whether to keep things as they are or change them.

What have you learned over the last year? Whether your list is long or if it’s short, it’s a good barometer to inform your next chapter.

What new skills have you mastered over the last year? Is the list long or short? If you don’t want to grow your mastery, keep things as they are.

Do the people you work with inspire you or bring you down? Are you energized or depleted by them? If you’re into depletion, there’s no need to change anything.

Do you have more autonomy than last year? And how do you feel about that? Let your answers guide your future.

What is the purpose behind what you do? Is it aligned with your internal compass? These two questions can bring clarity.

You’re the only one who can ask yourself these questions; you’re the only one who can decide if you like the answers; and you’re the only one who is responsible for what you do next. What you do next is up to you.

Fork in the road” by Kai Hendry is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022Drum 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. We also publish a weekly Top 5 as part of our FREE email newsletter. Did your favorite make the cut?

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

  1. Why Amazon Wants to Sell You Robots — by Shep Hyken
  2. Now is the Time to Design Cost Out of Our Products — by Mike Shipulski
  3. How Consensus Kills Innovation — by Greg Satell
  4. The Four Secrets of Innovation Implementation — by Shilpi Kumar
  5. Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World — by Janet Sernack
  6. This 9-Box Grid Can Help Grow Your Best Future Talent — by Soren Kaplan
  7. ‘Fail Fast’ is BS. Do This Instead — by Robyn Bolton
  8. The Power of Stopping — by Mike Shipulski
  9. The Battle Against the Half-Life of Learning — by Douglas Ferguson
  10. The Phoenix Checklist – Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration — by Teresa Spangler

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in July 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 two years:

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Unlocking the Power of Cause and Effect

Unlocking the Power of Cause and Effect

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In 2011, IBM’s Watson system beat the best human players in the game show, Jeopardy! Since then, machines have shown that they can outperform skilled professionals in everything from basic legal work to diagnosing breast cancer. It seems that machines just get smarter and smarter all the time.

Yet that is largely an illusion. While even a very young human child understands the basic concept of cause and effect, computers rely on correlations. In effect, while a computer can associate the sun rising with the day breaking, it doesn’t understand that one causes the other, which limits how helpful computers can be.

That’s beginning to change. A group of researchers, led by artificial intelligence pioneer Judea Pearl, are working to help computers understand cause and effect based on a new causal calculus. The effort is still in its nascent stages, but if they’re successful we could be entering a new era in which machines not only answer questions, but help us pose new ones.

Observation and Association

Most of what we know comes from inductive reasoning. We make some observations and associate those observations with specific outcomes. For example, if we see animals going to a drink at a watering hole every morning, we would expect to see them at the same watering hole in the future. Many animals share this type of low-level reasoning and use it for hunting.

Over time, humans learned how to store these observations as data and that’s helped us make associations on a much larger scale. In the early years of data mining, data was used to make very basic types of predictions, such as the likelihood that somebody buying beer at a grocery store will also want to buy something else, like potato chips or diapers.

The achievement over the last decade or so is that advancements in algorithms, such as neural networks, have allowed us to make much more complex associations. To take one example, systems that have observed thousands of mammograms have learned to associate the ones that show a tumor with a very high degree of accuracy.

However, and this is a crucial point, the system that detects cancer doesn’t “know” it’s cancer. It doesn’t associate the mammogram with an underlying cause, such as a gene mutation or lifestyle choice, nor can it suggest a specific intervention, such as chemotherapy. Perhaps most importantly, it can’t imagine other possibilities and suggest alternative tests.

Confounding Intervention

The reason that correlation is often very different from causality is the presence of something called a confounding factor. For example, we might find a correlation between high readings on a thermometer and ice cream sales and conclude that if we put the thermometer next to a heater, we can raise sales of ice cream.

I know that seems silly, but problems with confounding factors arise in the real world all the time. Data bias is especially problematic. If we find a correlation between certain teachers and low test scores, we might assume that those teachers are causing the low test scores when, in actuality, they may be great teachers who work with problematic students.

Another example is the high degree of correlation between criminal activity and certain geographical areas, where poverty is a confounding factor. If we use zip codes to predict recidivism rates, we are likely to give longer sentences and deny parole to people because they are poor, while those with more privileged backgrounds get off easy.

These are not at all theoretical examples. In fact, they happen all the time, which is why caring, competent teachers can, and do, get fired for those particular qualities and people from disadvantaged backgrounds get mistreated by the justice system. Even worse, as we automate our systems, these mistaken interventions become embedded in our algorithms, which is why it’s so important that we design our systems to be auditable, explainable and transparent.

Imagining A Counterfactual

Another confusing thing about causation is that not all causes are the same. Some causes are sufficient in themselves to produce an effect, while others are necessary, but not sufficient. Obviously, if we intend to make some progress we need to figure out what type of cause we’re dealing with. The way to do that is by imagining a different set of facts.

Let’s return to the example of teachers and test scores. Once we have controlled for problematic students, we can begin to ask if lousy teachers are enough to produce poor test scores or if there are other necessary causes, such as poor materials, decrepit facilities, incompetent administrators and so on. We do this by imagining counterfactual, such as “What if there were better materials, facilities and administrators?”

Humans naturally imagine counterfactuals all the time. We wonder what would be different if we took another job, moved to a better neighborhood or ordered something else for lunch. Machines, however, have great difficulty with things like counterfactuals, confounders and other elements of causality because there’s been no standard way to express them mathematically.

That, in a nutshell, is what Judea Pearl and his colleagues have been working on over the past 25 years and many believe that the project is finally ready to bear fruit. Combining humans innate ability to imagine counterfactuals with machines’ ability to crunch almost limitless amounts of data can really be a game changer.

Moving Towards Smarter Machines

Make no mistake, AI systems’ ability to detect patterns has proven to be amazingly useful. In fields ranging from genomics to materials science, researchers can scour massive databases and identify associations that a human would be unlikely to detect manually. Those associations can then be studied further to validate whether they are useful or not.

Still, the fact that our machines don’t understand concepts like the fact that thermometers don’t increase ice cream sales limits their effectiveness. As we learn how to design our systems to detect confounders and imagine counterfactuals, we’ll be able to evaluate not only the effectiveness of interventions that have been tried, but also those that haven’t, which will help us come up with better solutions to important problems.

For example, in a 2019 study the Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour would result in a decrease in employment from zero to four million workers, based on a number of observational studies. That’s an enormous range. However, if we were able to identify and mitigate confounders, we could narrow down the possibilities and make better decisions.

While still nascent, the causal revolution in AI is already underway. McKinsey recently announced the launch of CausalNex, an open source library designed to identify cause and effect relationships in organizations, such as what makes salespeople more productive. Causal approaches to AI are also being deployed in healthcare to understand the causes of complex diseases such as cancer and evaluate which interventions may be the most effective.

Some look at the growing excitement around causal AI and scoff that it is just common sense. But that is exactly the point. Our historic inability to encode a basic understanding of cause and effect relationships into our algorithms has been a serious impediment to making machines truly smart. Clearly, we need to do better than merely fitting curves to data.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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Laddering Up Your Career Portfolio

Laddering Up Your Career Portfolio

GUEST POST from Arlen Meyers, M.D.

A career used to describe your roles in one company throughout your working life, like a career at Monsanto, Deloitte, a university or IBM. But, the workplace and generational attitudes have changed, along with a prolonged life expectancy, so careers now mean something different. Now, a career includes all the roles you undertake throughout your life – education, training, paid and unpaid work, family, volunteer work, leisure activities and more.

In today’s world the term career is seen as a continuous process of learning and development. For physicians, those activities that contribute to a career can include:

  • training
  • education
  • employment
  • work experience
  • community activities
  • enterprise activities
  • employment
  • different life roles
  • volunteer work
  • leisure activities

The traditional career ladder for doctors meant 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school and then 4-6 years of residency or fellowship followed by 30-40 years of practice, if not more. The contemporary career trajectory is much different. Exit ramps exist and clinical practice half-lives are shorter.

Investment advisers often suggest bond laddering as an investment risk management strategy. A bond ladder is the name given to a portfolio of bonds with different maturities. For example, you buy bonds with maturation dates that are 1 year, 3 years,5 years and 10 years with variable returns. When one matures, you retire it and buy another on the ladder. Physician entrepreneurs should consider doing the same with their careers as a way to hedge career risk. Doctors, like most everyone, need some side gigs. But, you don’t want to quit your day job until the time is right.

Career laddering is a also a way to leverage your impact. As you move how you spend your time on one thing to another, the results of your efforts should be more meaningful and impactful, whether it be helping more people, helping to solidify your personal brand or creating a higher return the investement of your time. Think about your position, authority, and influence. How are you using them to positively impact the lives of your sphere?

Instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket, diversify your interests and job roles, gradually retiring one to assume another. For example, while clinical practice is the focus of most doctors, take time to build your interest portfolio and dedicate the requisite time and attention to those roles to build value in them. Such roles can be teaching, volunteering, advising, writing, consulting,entrepreneurship or many others. Then, when it’s time, prune or retire one of the roles to assume another on the ladder.

The strategy also applies to advising or consulting. At some point, if you have done things right, people will be coming to you to ask for help. Here are some tips on how to navigate the gig economy.

For example, you might want to apply these criteria to whether you accept your next gig based on fit:

  1. Does it meet your personal and professional needs?
  2. Do you trust the people ?
  3. Do you think the business is viable and how long will it take?
  4. What are the next critical success factors and do you have the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies to deliver them?
  5. Are you satisfied with the compensation being offered?
  6. Is there a conflict of interest with other projects?
  7. How much will this intrude into your non-work life and other commitments?
  8. Is the problem the company wants to solve important to you?
  9. How much time, effort and travel is expected?
  10. How much liability is there?

Don’t get stuck in the three boxes of life. Laddering jobs during your career, including after traditional retirement age as an encore career, is a great way to keep you engaged and satisfied.

Here is the case against early retirement. Many of these studies clearly show that health problems intensify after workers qualify for retirement benefits and abate after policies encouraging work are introduced. In addition, there are financial and social consequences.

The word is out. For the first time in 57 years, the participation rate in the labor force of retirement-age workers has cracked the 20 percent mark, according to a new report from money manager United Income (PDF). Some work longer because they want to. Most do it because they think they have to.

What’s more, since social security costs will exceed income in 2020, by delaying retirement ,you will be doing your part for your country’s budget.

You don’t have to do all this full time. Instead you can be a digital nomad or follow the 10/20/30 plan.

Some cities or towns will pay you to move there. Job switching for higher pay is common.

Create a career portfolio and rethink your encore career: You lower your risk, increase your return and can wake up with a smile on your face having made a wise investment.

Image credit: Pixabay

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