Category Archives: Government

3 Things Politicians Can Do to Create Innovation

3 Things Politicians Can Do to Create Innovation

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In the 1960s, the federal government accounted for more than 60% of all research funding, yet by 2016 that had fallen to just over 20%. During the same time, businesses’ share of R&D investment more than doubled from about 30% to almost 70%. Government’s role in US innovation, it seems, has greatly diminished.

Yet new research suggests that the opposite is actually true. Analyzing all patents since 1926, researchers found that the number of patents that relied on government support has risen from 12% in the 1980s to almost 30% today. Interestingly, the same research found that startups benefitted the most from government research.

As we struggle to improve productivity from historical lows, we need the public sector to play a part. The truth is that the government has a unique role to play in driving innovation and research is only part of it. In addition to funding labs and scientists, it can help bring new ideas to market, act as a convening force and offer crucial expertise to private businesses.

1. Treat Knowledge As A Public Good

By 1941, it had become clear that the war raging in Europe would soon envelop the US. With this in mind, Vannevar Bush went to President Roosevelt with a visionary idea — to mobilize the nation’s growing scientific prowess for the war effort. Roosevelt agreed and signed an executive order that would create the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD).

With little time to build labs, the OSRD focused on awarding grants to private organizations such as universities. It was, by all accounts, an enormous success and lead to important breakthroughs such as the atomic bomb, proximity fuze and radar. As the war was winding down, Roosevelt asked Bush to write a report to continue OSRD’s success peacetime.

That report, titled Science, The Endless Frontier, was delivered to President Truman and would set the stage for America’s lasting technological dominance. It set forth a new vision in which scientific advancement would be treated as a public good, financed by the government, but made available for private industry. As Bush explained:

Basic research leads to new knowledge. It provides scientific capital. It creates the fund from which the practical applications of knowledge must be drawn. New products and new processes do not appear full-grown. They are founded on new principles and new conceptions, which in turn are painstakingly developed by research in the purest realms of science.

The influence of Bush’s idea cannot be overstated. It led to the creation of new government agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and, later, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). These helped to create a scientific infrastructure that has no equal anywhere in the world.

2. Help to Overcome the Valley of Death

Government has a unique role to play in basic research. Because fundamental discoveries are, almost by definition, widely applicable, they are much more valuable if they are published openly. At the same time, because private firms have relatively narrow interests, they are less able to fully leverage basic discoveries.

However, many assume that because basic research is a primary role for public investment that it is its only relevant function. Clearly, that’s not the case. Another important role government has to play is helping to overcome the gap between the discovery of a new technology and its commercialization, which is so fraught with peril that it’s often called the “Valley of Death.”

The oldest and best known of initiative is SBIR/STTR program, which is designed to help startups commercialize cutting-edge research. Grants are given in two phases. In the first, a proof-of-concept phase, grants are capped at $150,000. If that’s successful, up to $1 million more can be awarded. Some SBIR/STTR companies, such as Qualcomm, iRobot and Symantec, have become industry leaders.

Other more focused programs have also been established. ARPA-e focuses exclusively on advanced energy technologies. Lab Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs (LEEP) give entrepreneurs access to the facilities and expertise of the National Labs in addition to a small grant. The Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) helps smaller companies build the skills they need to be globally competitive.

3. Act As a Convening Force

A third role government can play is that of a convening force. For example, in 1987 a non-profit consortium made up of government labs, research universities and private sector companies, called SEMATECH, was created to regain competitiveness in the semiconductor industry. America soon regained its lead, which continues even today.

The reason that SEMATECH was so successful was that it combined the scientific expertise of the country’s top labs with the private sector’s experience in solving real world problems. It also sent a strong signal that the federal government saw the technology as important, which encouraged private companies to step up their investment as well.

Today, a number of new initiatives have been launched that follow a similar model. The most wide-ranging is the Manufacturing USA Institutes, which are helping drive advancement in everything from robotics and photonics to biofabrication and composite materials. Others, such as JCESR and the Critical Materials Institute, are more narrowly focused.

Much like its role in supporting basic science and helping new technologies get through the “Valley of Death,” acting as a convening force is something that, for the most part, only the federal government can do.

Make No Mistake: This Is Our New Sputnik Moment

In the 20th century three key technologies, electricity, internal combustion and computing drove economic advancement and the United States led each one. That is why it is often called the “American Century.” No country, perhaps since the Roman Empire, has ever so thoroughly dominated the known world.

Yet the 21st century will be different. The most important technologies will be things like synthetic biology, materials science and artificial intelligence. These are largely nascent and it’s still not clear who, if anybody, will emerge as a clear leader. It is very possible that we will compete economically and technologically with China, much like we used to compete politically and militarily with the Soviet Union.

Yet back in the Cold War, it was obvious that the public sector had an important role to play. When Kennedy vowed to go to the moon, nobody argued that the effort should be privatized. It was clear that such an enormous undertaking needed government leadership at the highest levels. We pulled together and we won.

Today, by all indications, we are at a new Sputnik moment in which our global scientific and technological leadership is being seriously challenged. We can respond with imagination, creating novel ways to, as Bush put it, “turn the wheels of private and public enterprise,” or we can let the moment pass us by and let the next generation face the consequences.

One thing is clear. We will be remembered for what we chose to do.

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

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We Must Prepare for Future Crises Like We Prepare for War

We Must Prepare for Future Crises Like We Prepare for War

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In a 2015 TED talk, Bill Gates warned that “if anything kills ten million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes.” He went on to point out that we have invested enormous amounts of money in nuclear deterrents, but relatively little to battle epidemics.

It’s an apt point. In the US, we enthusiastically spend nearly $700 billion on our military, but cut corners on nearly everything else. Major breakthroughs, such as GPS satellites, the Internet and transistors, are merely offshoots of budgets intended to help us fight wars more effectively. At the same time, politicians gleefully propose budget cuts to the NIH.

A crisis, in one sense, is like anything else. It eventually ends and, when it does, we hope to be wiser for it. No one knows how long this epidemic will last or what the impact will be, but one thing is for sure — it will not be our last crisis. We should treat this as a new Sputnik moment and prepare for the next crisis with the same vigor with which we prepare for war.

Getting Artificial Intelligence Under Control

In the Terminator series, an automated defense system called Skynet becomes “self aware” and launches a nuclear attack to end humanity. Machines called “cyborgs” are created to hunt down the survivors that remain. Clearly it is an apocalyptic vision. Not completely out of the realm of possibility, but very unlikely.

The dangers of artificial intelligence, however, are very real, although not nearly so dramatic. Four years ago, in 2016, I published an article in Harvard Business Review outlining the ethical issues we need to address, ranging from long standing thought experiments like the trolley problem to issues surrounding accountability for automated decisions.

Unlike the Terminator scenario, these issues are clear and present. Consider the problem of data bias. Increasingly, algorithms determine what college we attend, if we get hired for a job and even who goes to prison and for how long. Unlike human decisions, these mathematical models are rarely questioned, but affect materially people’s lives.

The truth is that we need our algorithms to be explainable, auditable and transparent. Just because the possibility of our machines turning on us is fairly remote, doesn’t mean we don’t need too address more subtle, but all to real, dangers. We should build our systems to serve humanity, not the other way around.

The Slow-Moving Climate Crisis

Climate change is an issue that seems distant and political. To most people, basic needs like driving to work, heating their homes and doing basic household chores are much more top of mind than the abstract dangers of a warming planet. Yet the perils of climate change are, in fact, very clear and present.

Consider that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that, since 1980, there have been at least 258 weather and climate disasters where overall damages reached or exceeded $1 billion and that the total cost of these events has been more than $1.7 trillion. That’s an enormous amount of money.

Yet it pales in comparison to what we can expect in the future. A 2018 climate assessment published by the US government warned that we can expect climate change to “increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains,” and had similar concerns with regard to our health, safety and quality of life.

There have been, of course, some efforts to slow the increase of carbon in our atmosphere that causes climate change such as the Paris Climate Agreement. However, these efforts are merely down payments to stem the crisis and, in any case, few countries are actually meeting their Paris targets. The US pulled out of the accord entirely.

The Debt Time Bomb

The US national debt today stands at about 23.5 trillion dollars or roughly 110% of GDP. That’s a very large, but not catastrophic number. The deficit in 2020 was expected to be roughly $1 trillion, or about four percent of GDP, but with the impact of the Coronavirus, we can expect it to be at least two to three times that now.

Considering that the economy of the United States grows at about two percent a year on average, any deficit above that level is unsustainable. Clearly, we are far beyond that now and, with baby boomers beginning to retire in massive numbers, Medicare spending is set to explode. At some point, these bills will have to be paid.

Yet focusing solely on financial debt misses a big part of the picture. Not only have we been overspending and under-taxing, we’ve also been massively under investing. Consider that the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that we need to spend $4.5 trillion to repair our broken infrastructure. Add that infrastructure debt to our financial and environmental debt it likely adds up to $30-$40 trillion, or roughly 150%-200% of GDP.

Much like the dangers of artificial intelligence and the climate crisis, not to mention the other inevitable crises like the new pandemics that are sure to come, we will eventually have to pay our debts. The only question is how long we want to allow the interest to pile up.

The Visceral Abstract

Some years ago, I wrote about a concept I called the visceral abstract. We often fail to realize how obscure concepts affect our daily lives. The strange theories of quantum mechanics, for example, make modern electronics possible. Einstein’s relativity helps calibrate our GPS satellites. Darwin’s natural selection helps us understand diseases like the Coronavirus.

In much the same way, we find it easy to ignore dangers that don’t seem clear and present. Terminator machines hunting us down in the streets is terrifying, but the very real dangers of data bias in our artificial intelligence systems is easy to dismiss. We worry how to pay the mortgage next month, but the other debts mounting fade into the background.

The news isn’t all bad, of course. Clearly, the Internet has made it far easier to cope with social distancing. Technologies such as gene sequencing and supercomputing simulations make it more likely that we will find a cure or a vaccine. We have the capacity for both petty foolishness and extreme brilliance.

The future is not inevitable. It is what we make it. We can choose, as we have in the past, to invest in our ability to withstand crises and mitigate their effects, or we can choose to sit idly by and give ourselves up to the whims of fate. We pay the price either way. How we pay it is up to us.

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

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How COVID-19 Has Exposed Us

How COVID-19 Has Exposed Us

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

The moon landing in 1969 was, in many ways, the high point of the American century. Since then, we’ve been beset by scandals like Watergate, Iran-Contra and two presidential impeachments, mired in never-ending wars that we don’t win, while increasingly encumbered by rising debts and income inequality amid falling productivity growth. Incomes have stagnated while education and healthcare costs have soared.

Yet in an essay written back in February, just before the Covid-19 crisis, Ross Douthat wrote that these apparent woes are actually signs of success. In effect, he argued that we lack major technological breakthroughs because we become so technologically advanced, and we lack economic progress because we’ve become so prosperous.

Even then, it was a strange and somewhat maddening position to take. Why would Douthat, an intelligent and insightful man, write such things? Because he so wanted to believe them that he went in search for facts to support them. Many of us have been doing the same. Yet the Covid-19 crisis has unmasked us and it’s time to start facing up to the truth.

A Failed Market Revolution

In 1954, the eminent economist Paul Samuelson, came across an obscure dissertation written by a French graduate student named Louis Bachelier around the turn of the century. The paper, which anticipated Einstein’s later breakthrough on Brownian motion, declared somewhat innocently that “the mathematical expectation of the speculator is zero.”

Samuelson’s discovery launched a revolution in mathematical finance models based on on Bachelier’s assumption, including the Efficient Market Hypothesis, portfolio theory, the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) and the Black-Scholes model. The underlying assumption was that markets were rational, and risk could be quantified and managed effectively.

The flaws in these models should have been obvious even at the time and some, including the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, pointed out that markets were far more volatile than the financial engineering models predicted. Nevertheless, policymakers chose to ignore the warnings and put their faith in the “magic of the market.”

Probably the biggest failure of market fundamentalism is that, as economist Thomas Philippon points out in his book The Great Reversal, over the past 40 years markets in the United States have become significantly weaker. In a similar vein, a study published in Harvard Business Review that examined 893 industries found that two thirds had become more concentrated.

The truth is that we’ve chosen weaker markets and less competition, which has led to less dynamism and innovation. That’s no accident.

Digital Disruption

In Regional Advantage, AnnaLee Saxenian describes how Silicon Valley replaced Boston’s “Technology Highway” as the center of the digital universe. While Boston was corporate and hierarchical, Silicon Valley was freewheeling and networked. The Silicon Valley ethos was very much the counterculture.

So, it was no accident that when Steve Jobs flew to New York to recruit John Sculley, who was at the time President of Pepsi, to lead Apple he asked him,”Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” The implication being that selling computers was a higher calling than selling soft drinks.

That was nearly 40 years ago and while the Covid-19 crisis has certainly highlighted some benefits of digital technology, such as cheap and effective teleconferencing, it’s also become clear that the digital revolution has largely been a disappointment. Productivity growth, except for a relatively brief period in the late nineties and early aughts, has been depressed since the 1970s.

Compare the iPhone to the breakthroughs of the mid-twentieth century, such as Bell Lab’s transistor, Boeing’s 707 and IBM’s 360 and it becomes clear that while digital technology has done much to disrupt industries, it’s done relatively little to create significant new value, at least in comparison to earlier technologies.

The Uncertain Promise of Globalization

The aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall was a time of great optimism. With the Cold War over, books like Francis Fukayama’s The End of History predicted a capitalist, democratic utopia in which free markets would conquer the world making everyone more prosperous. Those that refused to reform would be unable to compete.

While there were genuine achievements, especially in lifting up the world’s poorest, it’s hard to see how globalization has made us significantly better off. In fact, rather than the triumph of freedom, we’ve seen a global rise in populist authoritarian movements, the polar opposite of what intellectuals like Fukayama predicted.

In the United States, the situation has become especially dire. Social mobility and life expectancy in the white working class are declining, while anxiety and depression are rising to epidemic levels. While wages have stagnated, the cost of healthcare and education has soared, squeezing the middle class. Income inequality is at its highest level in 50 years.

So, while it’s true that there have been real benefits from globalization, such as curbing inflation, we’ve done little to mitigate the costs to the average citizen. That didn’t just happen but was the result of choices that we made.

We Need to Choose Resilience and Grand Challenges Over Output and Disruption

The Covid-19 crisis has unmasked us. We thought that markets, technology and globalization would save us, that we could just set up some sensible rules of the road and everything would run on autopilot. That’s clearly untrue. We took short-term profits while ignoring long-term costs, loaded up on debt and hoped for the best.

The current crisis has followed the same pattern. We simply failed to prepare for known risks because it seemed expedient not to. George Bush warned about the possibility of a pandemic as did his Health and Human Services Secretary. Jay Leno mocked them. The Obama administration set up a step-by-step playbook and it was ignored. The long list of failures goes on.

Yet we don’t have to be victims of our failed choices. We can learn to make better ones. After the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, we embarked on a 70-year productivity boom. Out of the ashes of World War II, we built a new era of peace and prosperity that was unprecedented in world history. We can do so again. We have that power.

New technologies, under development as we speak, will likely give us the power to cure cancer, create clean energy, save the environment and colonize space. We can rebuild the middle class, usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, increase life expectancy while improving quality of life. These are all things we may be able to achieve in the next decade or two.

Yet those possibilities are merely potential that we can succeed or fail to actualize. We can, as we did after World War II, choose to invest in the future and tackle grand challenges. We can build new infrastructure, spawn new industries and create an educated workforce. Or we can, as we did after the end of the Cold War, choose disruption over construction.

What’s clear is that nothing is inevitable. The digital revolution didn’t have to be a dud. The Great Recession didn’t have to happen. The Covid-19 Pandemic could have been, at the very least, greatly mitigated. We are responsible for the choices we make. Now is the time to shoot for the moon (and Mars), not to grade ourselves on a curve.

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

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Why Revolutions Fail

Why Revolutions Fail

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

I still remember the feeling of triumph I felt in the winter of 2005, in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. During the fall, we readied ourselves for what proved to be a falsified election. In November, when the fraudulent results were announced, we took to the streets and the demonstrations lasted until new elections were called in January.

We had won, or so we thought. Our preferred candidate was elected and it seemed like a new era had dawned. Yet soon it became clear that things were not going well. Planned reforms stalled in a morass of corruption and incompetence. In 2010, Victor Yanukovych, the same man we marched against, rose to the presidency.

The pattern repeats with almost metronomic regularity. Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted in the Arab Spring, only to be replaced by the equally authoritarian Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. George W. Bush gave way to Barack Obama, who set the stage for Donald Trump. Revolutions sow the seeds for their own demise. We need to learn to break the cycle.

The Physics Of Change And The Power Of Shared Values

In Rules for Radicals, the legendary activist Saul Alinsky observed that every revolution inspires a counterrevolution. That is the physics of change. Every action provokes a reaction because, if an idea is important, it threatens the status quo, which never yields its power gracefully. If you seek to make change in the world, you can be sure that some people aren’t going to like it and will fight against it.

For example, President Bush’s support for a “Defense of Marriage Act” inspired then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to unilaterally begin performing weddings for gay and lesbian couples at City Hall, in what was termed the Winter of Love. 4,027 couples were married before their nuptials were annulled by the California Supreme Court a month later.

The backlash was fierce. Conservative groups swung into action to defend the “sanctity of marriage” and in 2008 were successful in placing Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution that prohibited gay marriage, on the ballot. It was passed with a narrow majority of 52% of the electorate which, only further galvanized LGBTQ activists and led, eventually, to legalized gay marriage.

In our work helping organizations drive transformation, we find similar dynamics at play. Corporate revolutionaries tend to assume that once they get their budget approved or receive executive sponsorship, everything will go smoothly. The reality is that’s the point when things often get bogged down, because those who oppose change see that it has actually become possible and redouble their efforts to undermine it.

The Differentiation Trap

Many revolutionaries, corporate and otherwise, are frustrated marketers. They want to differentiate themselves in the marketplace of ideas through catchy slogans that “cut through.” It is by emphasizing difference that they seek to gin up enthusiasm among their most loyal supporters.

That was certainly true of LGBTQ activists, who marched through city streets shouting slogans like “We’re here, we’re queer and we’d like to say hello.” They led a different lifestyle and wanted to demand that their dignity be recognized. More recently, Black Lives Matter activists made calls to “defund the police,” which many found to be shocking and anarchistic.

Corporate change agents tend to fall into a similar trap. They rant on about “radical” innovation and “disruption,” ignoring the fact that few like to be radicalized or disrupted. Proponents of agile development methods often tout their manifesto, ignoring the fact many outside the agile community find the whole thing a bit weird and unsettling.

While emphasizing difference may excite people who are already on board, it is through shared values that you bring people in. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the fight for LGBTQ rights began to gain traction when activists started focusing on family values. Innovation doesn’t succeed because it’s “radical,” but when it solves a meaningful problem. The value of Agile methods isn’t a manifesto, but the fact that they can improve performance.

Learning To Love Your Haters

Once you understand that shared values are key to driving change forward, it becomes clear that those who oppose the change you seek can help break the cycle of revolution and counter-revolution and beginning to drive change forward. That’s why you need to learn to love your haters.

By listening to people who hate your idea you can identify early flaws and fix them before it’s too late. Yet even more importantly they can help you identify shared values because they are trying to persuade many of the same people you are. Often, if not always, you can use their own arguments against them.

That’s exactly what happened in the fight for LGBTQ rights. The central argument against the movement was that the gay lifestyle was a threat to family values. So it was no accident that it prevailed on the basis of living in committed relationships and raising happy families. In a similar way, Black Lives Matter activists would do much better focusing on the shared value of safe neighborhoods that in a crusade against police officers.

To be clear, listening to your opposition doesn’t mean engaging directly with them. That’s a mistake Barack Obama made far too often. He would appear on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, only to be ridiculed as soon as he was off camera. He would have been much better off watching at home and using the bombastic TV host’s remarks for his own purposes.

Achieving Schwerpunkt

In the final analysis, the reason that most would-be revolutionaries fail is that they assume that the righteousness of their cause will save them. It will not. Injustice, inequity and ineffectiveness can thrive for decades and even centuries, far longer than a human lifespan. If you think that your idea will prevail simply because you believe in it you will be sorely disappointed.

Tough, important battles can only be won with good tactics, which is why successful change agents learn how to adopt the principle of Schwerpunkt. The idea is that instead of trying to defeat your enemy with overwhelming force generally, you want to deliver overwhelming force and win a decisive victory at a particular point of attack.

Thurgood Marshall did not seek to integrate all schools, at least not at first. He started with graduate schools, where the “separate but equal” argument was most vulnerable. More recently, Stop Hate For Profit attacked Facebook not by asking users to boycott, but focused on advertisers, who themselves were vulnerable to activist action.

Yet Schwerpunkt is a dynamic, not a static concept. You have to constantly innovate your approach as your opposition adapts to whatever success you may achieve. For example, the civil rights movement had its first successes with boycotts, but eventually moved on to sit-ins, “Freedom Rides,” community actions and eventually, mass marches.

The key to success wasn’t any particular tactic, leader or slogan but strategic flexibility. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what most movements lack. All too often they get caught up in a strategy and double down, because it feels good to believe in something, even if it’s a failure. They would rather make a point than make a real difference.

Successful revolutionaries, on the other hand, understand that power will not fall simply because you oppose it, but it will crumble if you bring those who support it over to your side. That’s why lasting change is always built on the common ground of shared values.

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

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Building a Learn It All Culture

Don’t Be a Know It All

Building a Learn It All Culture

by Braden Kelley

Trying to be a “know-it-all” is a flawed goal.

It is impossible to know everything.

This is by design.

This is by intention.

In much the same way that programming languages have garbage collection built in, the human brain is built to prune. The human brain is built to forget more than it remembers. Instead of trying to override our natural tendencies, we must embrace them and see instead see how they empower us to be continuous learners.

“Garbage collection is the process in which programs try to free up memory space that is no longer used by objects.” — FreeCodeCamp

Where Insights Come From by Braden Kelley

And while knowledge is important, it is perishable, it is transitory, and it is not the highest aspiration.

  1. An understanding of data allows the creation of information
  2. The consumption of information allows the creation of knowledge
  3. The exploration of knowledge allows the creation of insight
  4. The connections between insights allow the creation of wisdom

Curiosity fuels the transformation of data and information into insights and wisdom, while knowledge funnel progression is driven by a quest for efficiency.

Knowledge Funnel

Knowledge FunnelThe knowledge funnel is a useful concept learned from Roger Martin in the Design of Business. The concept highlights how any new area creating information (and hopefully knowledge) starts very much as a mystery, but as our understanding of the topic area increases, we begin to identify heuristics and make sense of it. For me, this is where we begin to move from data and information to knowledge, and then as our knowledge increases we are able to codify this knowledge into algorithms.

Importance of Curiosity to a Learn It All Culture

If you want to build a learn-it-all culture, it all starts with curiosity. Curiosity leads to inquiry, and inquiry leads to learning. The achievement of insights is the ideal outcome for learning pursuits, and insights power innovation.

I’ve been writing about the importance of curiosity and its role in innovation since 2011 or before.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

At an event I attended in New York City in 2011, Peter Diamandis of the XPRIZE Foundation talked about how for him the link between curiosity and innovation is the following:

“What should be possible that doesn’t yet exist?”

In my article Key to Innovation Success Revealed!, on the topic of curiosity I wrote:

The reason that curiosity is the secret to innovation success is that the absence of curiosity leads to acceptance and comfort in the status quo. The absence of curiosity leads to complacency (one of the enemies of innovation) and when organizations (or societies) become complacent or comfortable, they usually get run over from behind. When organizations or societies lack curiosity, they struggle to innovate. Curiosity causes people to ask ‘Why’ questions and ‘What if’ questions. Curiosity leads to inspiration. Inspiration leads to insight. Insights lead to ideas. And in a company or society where invention, collaboration and entrepreneurship knowledge, skills, abilities and practice are encouraged, ideas lead to action.

Five Keys to Building a Learn It All Culture

Change is the one constant, and it is continuous. If it wasn’t, all of us would still be hunting animals and collecting berries. Embracing continuous change and transformation allows us to accelerate our understanding of the universe and how our organizations can serve their missions more effectively and efficiently. Continuous change requires continuous learning. To prepare our people and our organization to succeed at continuous learning we need to do these five things:

1. Develop Good Learning Hygiene

Learning is a skill. To build an organization of continuous or lifelong learners, we must first help people learn how to learn. Two of the most important learning skills that we are not taught how to do in school, but that are crucial for success at innovation and other modern pursuits are the following:

  • Deep Thinking — Few of us are good at deep thinking and as a result, deep learning. Getting people to put all of their devices away is the initial challenge. Feeling comfortable not knowing the answer and sitting at a table with nothing more than a blank piece of paper is really hard. Teaching people how to meditate beforehand can be quite helpful. The goal of course is to get people into the state of mind that allows them to think deeply and capture their idea fragments, nuggets of inquiry and micro-inspirations. This will provide the fuel for collaboration and co-creation and the next key learning skill.
  • Augmented Learning — We live during amazing times, where if we don’t know something we can Google it or ask Siri, Cortana or Alexa. All of the assistants and search engines available to us, serve to quickly augment our human knowledge, skills and abilities. Knowing how to build good search queries is an incredibly powerful life skill. Teach it.

2. Reinforce Growth Mindset Behaviors

There has been much chatter about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. It’s not really a new concept, but instead modern packaging for the level of maturity shown by those successful professionals who are willing to say:

“I don’t know.” and “Let me find out.” and “Failure is an opportunity to learn.”

Two ways organizations can demonstrate their commitment to a growth mindset are to:

  • Celebrate Failure — Create events or other ways to share some of the most important failures of the month or quarter, and what was learned from each.
  • Fund Curiosity — If you’re hiring curious people with a growth mindset, then every employee will be curious about something. Find a way to fund their investigation and exploration of what they’re curious about – even if it is not work-related. This is a great way of demonstrating the importance of curiosity to innovation and your commitment to it.

3. Make Unlearning Socially Acceptable

We all want to be the expert, and we work hard to achieve mastery. Meaning, often we hold on too tightly as new solutions emerge. And, to adopt new ways of solving old problems, often we have to unlearn what we think we know before we can learn the new ways. Smart organizations constantly challenge what they think they know about their customers, potential partners, product-market-fit, and even where future competition might come from.

4. Flex Your Reskilling and Retraining Muscles

With the accelerating pace of change, the organizations and even the countries that invest in reskilling and retaining their employees (or citizens) are the organizations and economies that stand the best chance of continued success. As more organizations commit to being purpose-driven organizations, the costs of recruitment actually increase, making it even more important to keep the employees you attract and to reskill and retrain them as your needs change. Especially as the pace of automation also increases…

5. Create Portable Not Proprietary Knowledge

If you gave an employee ten hours to spend to either:

  • Earn a professional certification
  • Complete company-created employee training

Which do you think most employees would choose?

Sorry, but most employees view company-created trainings somewhat like the dentist. They do it because they have to.

Work with professional associations to influence certification curriculums towards the knowledge, skills and abilities you need.

Find more and better ways of encouraging mentorship.

Invest in internal internship and innovation programs that allow employees to explore the ideas and the other areas of the business they’re passionate about.

Conclusion

Transitioning from a know-it-all to a learn-it-all culture is no small feat and requires commitment and investment at a number of different levels inside the organization. I’ve highlighted the five keys to building a learn-it-all culture inside your organization, but only you can take the keys and unlock these capabilities inside your organization. Now is the time to invest in your learning transformation.

But smart countries will be thinking bigger. Smart countries will be thinking about how they can transform their educational systems to create a continuous learning mindset in their next generation, finance a move from STEM to STEAM, and commit to ongoing worker reskilling and retraining programs to support displaced workers.

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Bureaucracy and Politics versus Innovation

Bureaucracy and Politics versus Innovation

Innovation in military hardware is really hard.

I wanted to call this article “Corruption versus Innovation” but I sailed back from the precipice to a more forgiving title to give the government and military contractors the benefit of the doubt that the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program – aka Little Crappy Ships – was not corporate welfare but merely a poorly executed military contract.

Back in 2004 the Bush administration decided it wanted to increase military spending.

One of the ways they decided to do this was to initiate a new shipbuilding program that benefited Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. The initial phase of the project called for two ships of each design to be built at an estimated cost of $220 million each. The initial phase of this suspect shipbuilding program went so poorly that congress canceled the second ship each company was scheduled to build and re-opened bidding.

The government pushed for fixed price contracting, and despite agreeing to a fixed price of $432-437 million each, the first ship set sail at a price of $637 million and the second at a whopping $704 million. This for a ship that was initially envisioned to only need a crew of forty sailors (eight officers and 32 enlisted) to operate. This was later changed to a crew of 73 sailors and 20 airmen to operate helicopters, UAV’s or other special equipment.

After beginning the LCS program in 2004, it wasn’t until 2013 that the initial LCS achieved its first deployment – to Singapore. That’s nine years from initiation to product launch. Think about how much has changed in the last nine years – we’ll come back to this point later.

The continuing poor performance of both the program (never-ending cost overruns), and the ship itself, forced the US Navy to reduce its orders from 55 of the ships to 32. Despite this reduction in the number of ships, the Navy chose to still take delivery of all 120 of the helicopters designed to pair with the ships, deeming it more expensive to cancel the contract for the excess helicopters than to go ahead and take delivery.

You can probably see now why I was going to call this article “Corruption versus Innovation” as the billions of dollars siphoned from the taxpayers to the military contractors and their shareholders pile up.

What’s worse, not only have the ships proven to be THREE TIMES more expensive to acquire than advertised, but they break down all the time and cost nearly as much to operate annually as an Arleigh-Burke Destroyer AND they have still yet to deploy their mine countermeasure and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

The situation is so bad that the Navy is abandoning the program and looking to replace its little crappy ships (LCS) with a new Frigate program – the FFG (X) to be constructed by an Italian shipbuilding firm.

So, what went wrong?

Through the eyes of both a U.S. Navy Veteran, and as an innovation professional, here are my thoughts about how the U.S. Government can require its contractors to leverage more innovation best practices in their provision of services on behalf of the American people. Here are five places to start:

1. Pick the Right Time Horizon for Your Design Challenge

One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make is not consider how long it takes to develop, launch and market a new product or service without considering how an identified customer insight might change over that timeframe. For example, if it takes you two years to launch a new product and you’re developing that product based on a customer insight identified today, there is a chance that two years from now the customer may no longer value the key elements of the solution you’re designing. So, you must make sure that you’re designing against a customer insight that will still be relevant at the end of your product development and launch timeline.

Innovating for the Future Present

For more, see my article Are You Innovating for the Past or the Future?

2. Make Sure You’re Solving a Problem Worth Solving

It is really easy to latch on to a single problem and decide to solve it. But is it the right problem to solve?

Smart organizations don’t jump to problem solving too soon, but instead start with problem finding in a divergent manner before converging via problem prioritization, then diverge again in a problem deep dive and finally converge into a problem summary and a research brief focused on a carefully chosen problem worth solving.

Preparing to Solve the Right Problem

For more, see my article Picking a Problem Worth Solving From a Sea of Problems

3. Identify Potential Fatal Flaws

No idea is perfect, and so when you can identify the potential fatal flaws or the high hurdles that have to be overcome, you can challenge them, you can solve for them, you can unleash the passion of your team on trying to find a way around them.

The fatal flaws are always there, and the wise innovator doesn’t ignore them or assume that they will overcome them at some point in the future, but instead invests energy upfront into both trying to identify the fatal flaws of their idea and into identifying whether they can isolate the solutions before moving the idea forward.

For more, see my article Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fatal Flaws

4. Create an Experimentation Strategy and a Plan for Learning Fast

When it comes to innovation, it is not as important whether you fail fast or fail slow or whether you fail at all, but how fast you learn. And make no mistake, you don’t have to fail to innovate (although there are always some obstacles along the way). With the right approach to innovation you can learn quickly from failures AND successes.

The key is to pursue your innovation efforts as a discrete set of experiments designed to learn certain things and instrumenting each project phase in such a way that the desired learning is achieved.

The central question should always be:

“What do we hope to learn from this effort?”

The Experiment Canvas

My Experiment Canvas is a great free tool you can download from this web site to help you design and execute a series of carefully selected experiments to help you get the right learning and to help identify early on whether or not you can realistically solve for the potential fatal flaws – as early as possible – while investments are low.

For more, see my article Don’t Fail Fast – Learn Fast and download your free Experiment Canvas poster to print or to use as a background to lock down and put virtual sticky notes on top of in online whiteboarding tools like Miro, Mural, LucidSpark or Microsoft Whiteboard.

5. Design for Modularity to Reduce Obsolescence

The LCS was promised to be a modular warship capable of performing multiple missions, but the contractors have failed to deliver on this promise.

It takes a really long time to put a new ship design to sea and into service. So, if you get it wrong, like with the LCS program, it will be many more years before you can replace a faulty design with a new design.

We rarely successfully predict the future, so it is important to design in the capability to adapt solutions as they are developed to match emerging realities. Otherwise, you can end up designing a solution for a problem that goes away.

To reduce the chances of designing a new ship for a mission that may no longer be needed by the time it is put to sea, it is imperative that each ship is designed to be intentionally modular. It is imperative that each ship is designed as a platform of platforms.

The automobile industry has gotten really good at designing in this way. Different trim levels have different stereo options, for example, or a dealer can install a spoiler or a luggage rack pretty easily if a customer desires it.

Designing with modularity and upgradeability in mind to change out key components to different mission needs that may emerge over time or new technologies that may create new or enhanced capabilities, is an incredibly powerful way to extend the usefulness and lifespan of each new maritime defense hull.

Conclusion

The U.S. Navy is in a quandary about what to do with the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) it already has.

So much so that it has reached out to fleet commanders to inquire what missions the ships should be deployed against – according to Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener.

The Navy should consider opening up their queries for help even wider, perhaps to the global innovation community.

But, with that said, as a U.S. Navy veteran I think the perception of the success or failure of this program would be seen much differently if they had successfully deployed the Anti-Mine Countermeasure and Anti-Submarine Warfare capabilities BEFORE the Surface Warfare capabilities.

Frigates and Destroyers are much more capable surface warfare platforms, and in hindsight the billions of dollars wasted on this program could have been much better spent for the benefit of the American people.

So, I hope that military contractors and the U.S. Government will improve their ability to deliver increased value at a decreased price as they pursue future shipbuilding programs and leverage some of the innovation best practices above.

Grabbing a copy of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire would also be a great place to start.

Go Navy!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (ship photo)
All other images: Braden Kelley (All Rights Reserved)

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America Drops Out of the Ten Most Innovative Countries

America Drops Out of Top 10 Most Innovative Countries

The latest Bloomberg Innovation Index is out (2021 edition), and South Korea has risen to first place, taking the title back from Germany, while the U.S. fell out of the Top 10 completely.

Seven of the top 10 places went to European countries while the USA and China slipped.

“Intensifying competition between the U.S. and China is reshaping the innovation landscape. For the U.S., fears about losing intellectual property to a geopolitical rival are undermining support for the open innovation system. For China, fear of being cut off from foreign technology is accelerating investment in R&D capacity at home.” — Bloomberg Chief Economist Tom Orlik

The rankings are based on dozens of criteria centered around seven metrics:

  • For patent activity
  • For research personnel concentration
  • For tertiary education
  • For technology company density
  • For productivity
  • For manufacturing value added
  • For research and development expenditures

Bloomberg Innovation Index 2021 Chart Part 1
Bloomberg Innovation Index 2021 Chart Part 2
Bloomberg Innovation Index 2021 Chart Part 3

The Bloomberg Innovation Index tries to measure and rank countries on the ability of their economies to innovate, which will be a key theme at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland taking place Jan. 26-29.

While spending on research and development continues to be important, shifts in productivity and education effectiveness (among other factors) will continue to encourage significant changes in the index from year to year.

“In the year of Covid and facing the urgency of climate change, the importance of innovation fundamentals only increases. Innovation is often measured by new ideas, new products and new services, but its their diffusion and adoption that is the real metric of success.” — Catherine Mann, Global Chief Economist at Citigroup Inc.

What do you think?

Does Bloomberg get it right or are there other innovation rankings or indexes that do a better job?

Which is more important to the relative innovativeness of a country, efforts by the government or by industry?

Which countries do the best job of achieving successful public/private partnerships to encourage innovation?

Click here to see the full 2021 Bloomberg Innovation Index rankings

 
Build a Common Language of Innovation

Image credits: Bloomberg

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The Leading Country for Innovation for 2020 is…

The Leading Country for Innovation for 2020 is...

The latest Bloomberg Innovation Index is out (2020 edition), and Germany has risen to first place, breaking South Korea’s six-year winning streak, while the U.S. fell one notch to No. 9.

“Innovation is a critical driver of growth and prosperity. China’s move up the rankings, and the U.S. drop, is a reminder that without investment in education and research, trade tariffs aren’t going to maintain America’s economic edge.” –Tom Orlik, Bloomberg Economics chief economist

The rankings are based on dozens of criteria centered around seven metrics:

  • For patent activity
  • For research personnel concentration
  • For tertiary education
  • For technology company density
  • For productivity
  • For manufacturing value added
  • For research and development expenditures

2020 Bloomberg Innovation Index

The Bloomberg Innovation Index tries to measure and rank countries on the ability of their economies to innovate, which will be a key theme at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland taking place Jan. 21-24.

While spending on research and development continues to be important, shifts in productivity and education effectiveness (among other factors) will continue to encourage significant changes in the index from year to year.

What do you think?

Does Bloomberg get it right or are there other innovation rankings or indexes that do a better job?

Which is more important to the relative innovativeness of a country, efforts by the government or by industry?

Which countries do the best job of achieving successful public/private partnerships to encourage innovation?

Click here to see the full 2020 Bloomberg Innovation Index rankings

Image credits: Bloomberg


Accelerate your change and transformation success

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Empowering Every Resident with Tools for Change and Innovation

Empowering Every Resident with Tools for ChangeWhat if you could empower every citizen with tools that will help your city, state or country innovate and change faster than the competition for a penny a person?

Well, now it’s possible…

A revolution is beginning, and the smart cities, states, countries, and even organizations, are arming themselves with the tools they need to win…

The Change Planning Toolkit™ has been designed to create a more visual, collaborative and agile method for getting everyone literally all on the same page for change. The Change Planning Toolkit™’s collection of tools, frameworks, and worksheets and the approach outlined in the book Charting Change operate together in a spirit built upon the standards created by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) and the interactive approaches that the Lean Canvas and Business Model Canvas have made comfortable for people.

ACMP Standard Visualization

The Change Planning Toolkit™ is anchored in the best practices of organizational change and project management. At its center is the Change Planning Canvas™, a powerful tool that will help you beat the 70% change failure rate by enabling you to quickly visualize, plan, and execute projects and change initiatives alike. The more than fifty (50) tools in the Change Planning Toolkit™ will help you deliver projects and change efforts on time, while simultaneously accelerating implementation and adoption.

Change Planning Wall

If the benefits are not clear, be sure and get your 10 Free Change Planning Tools and you’ll get a better sense of the power of the Change Planning Toolkit™ (it is visual after all) and check out the additional benefits in the image below:

Change Planning Toolkit Benefits

The Change Planning Toolkit™ is breaking away from the business model where people traditionally license intellectual property in the innovation and management information space by the named user, where fees for example are:

1. Gartner — $20,000-30,000 per year for a single user
2. Forrester — ~$20,000 per year for a single user
3. BeingFirst — $975 per year for a single user
4. ProSci — $350-400 per download (for a single user) or $4,000+ per user for training
5. MarketingProfs.com — $279 per year for a single user
6. Skillsoft — $150 per year for business skills training for a single user

… or you can hire a top consultant to do some knowledge transfer to your organization for $400-$1,000 per hour (or more).

Change Planning Toolkit Valuable Tools

Now, what is Change Planning Toolkit™ offering that is different?

First, the Change Planning Toolkit™ provides an integrated system of tools far more powerful and far more capable of increasing organizational agility than any other.

Second, the Change Planning Toolkit™ is now available using two business model variations not usually offered in the intellectual property space, which include:

1. Access for Every Employee (aka the Site License option)

  • Access for EVERY employee in your organization, priced at a very affordable $2/yr per employee plus a $299.99 annual fee
  • Includes access to a QuickStart Guide to get you up and running quickly
  • Includes access to POSTER SIZE versions of key tools, including the Change Planning Canvas™ and Visual Project Charter™
  • SPECIAL OFFER – The next three (3) firms to purchase a full-day training session (which includes train-the-trainer) will receive a free* Change Planning Toolkit™ site license

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Book a Training Session and get a free* site license
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2. Access for Every Resident (aka the City/State/Country License option)

  • Access for EVERY resident of your city, state, or country. Priced at a very affordable $0.01/yr per resident ($1,000/yr minimum)
  • Yes, that is right. Cities, states and countries are all eligible for a license that makes these tools available to all residents for just a PENNY per year per resident!
  • SPECIAL OFFER #1 – Purchase a city, state, or country license worth more than $25,000 and get up to 50 people trained to use the toolkit and how to train others to use it (training fees waived for one session, expenses still to be reimbursed)
  • SPECIAL OFFER #2 – Purchase a city, state, or country license worth more than $100,000 and get up to 200 people trained to use the toolkit and how to train others to use it (training fees waived for four (4) sessions in up to two (2) locations with two adjacent days per location, expenses still to be reimbursed)
  • SPECIAL OFFER #3 – Purchase a city, state, or country license worth more than $1,000,000 and get up to 1,000 people trained to use the toolkit and how to train others to use it (training fees waived for twenty (20) sessions in up to ten (10) locations with two adjacent days per location, expenses still to be reimbursed)

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CONTACT ME to get access for all of your residents
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Some educational institutions may be able to apply for grants from the government to cover the cost of the license and training as part of their efforts to raise the skills of their local residents. Central Wyoming College is an example of an educational institution that won a Federal grant to do just that. It’s possible.

And these licenses are available for both the:

  1. Change Planning Toolkit™
  2. Human-Centered Innovation Toolkit™ (coming soon)

Become a Human-Centered Innovation Toolkit™ Patron

The Human-Centered Innovation Toolkit™ will be coming soon, and you can become a Patron by helping to fund its completion through a site license or a city/state/country license and as a reward get instant access to the POSTER SIZE version of The Experiment Canvas™ and the many other tools I’ve already completed. You’ll then of course get access to the rest of the toolkit as I complete it. You’ll get this instant access at a permanent 50% discount off the normal $2/yr per employee or $0.01/yr per resident, meaning your cost will be a paltry $1/yr per employee or $0.005/yr per resident for the lifetime of the license.

SPECIAL BUNDLE DISCOUNT:

— Get instant access for both the Change Planning Toolkit™ and the Human-Centered Innovation Toolkit™ (coming soon) for all of your residents for a low bundle price of $0.014/yr per resident ($1,000/yr minimum) – that’s less than a penny-and-a-half per resident (a full 60% discount off the second license).

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CONTACT ME to get a jump on the competition
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Empower Your Residents and Employees to Cope with the Accelerating Pace of Change

So don’t wait, act today and get access for all of your employees or all of your residents to these powerful, intuitive and beautifully visual and collaborative tools that will help increase the speed of innovation and change in your organizations to cope with the accelerating pace of change in the world all around us. Countries all around the world are fighting to be the destination of choice of aspiring entrepreneurs and bold innovators and to rise in comparative rankings like the:

World’s 50 Most Innovative Countries (license cost based on population)

  1. Switzerland ($84,541)
  2. Sweden ($99,206)
  3. Netherlands ($170,328)
  4. United States ($3,264,740)
  5. United Kingdom ($655,111)
  6. Denmark ($57,118)
  7. Singapore ($57,845)
  8. Finland ($55,413)
  9. Germany ($806,361)
  10. Ireland ($47,492)
  11. ————————————–
    State of California ($392,500)
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  12. South Korea ($507,050)
  13. Luxembourg ($5,841)
  14. Iceland ($3,343)
  15. Japan ($1,260,452)
  16. France ($649,387)
  17. Hong Kong ($74,019)
  18. Israel ($83,232)
  19. Canada ($366,261)
  20. Norway ($53,308)
  21. Austria ($85,924)
  22. ————————————–
    State of Texas ($278,625)
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  23. New Zealand ($46,049)
  24. China ($13,882,327)
  25. Australia ($246,417)
  26. Czech Republic ($105,551)
  27. Estonia ($13,058)
  28. Malta ($4,205)
  29. Belgium ($114,438)
  30. Spain ($460,701)
  31. Italy ($597,980)
  32. Cyprus ($11,876)
  33. ————————————–
    New York City ($85,504)
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  34. Portugal ($102,648)
  35. Slovenia ($20,713)
  36. Latvia ($19,446)
  37. Slovakia ($54,322)
  38. UAE ($93,976)
  39. Bulgaria ($70,453)
  40. Malaysia ($311,642)
  41. Poland ($385,636)
  42. Hungary ($97,879)
  43. Lithuania ($28,306)
  44. —————————————
    Chicago ($27,205)
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  45. Croatia ($42,098)
  46. Romania ($192,375)
  47. Turkey ($804,175)
  48. Greece ($108,929)
  49. Russia ($1,433,750)
  50. Chile ($183,135)
  51. Vietnam ($954,146)
  52. Montenegro ($6,263)
  53. Qatar ($23,381)
  54. Ukraine ($444,051)

Are you happy with your country’s position on the World’s 50 Most Innovative Countries list?

Are you happy with your company’s level of organizational agility or level of innovation success?

Is your organization or country keeping up with the accelerating pace of change?

If not, then you need these tools. And if you are satisfied with your competitive position, then you need these tools to maintain your current position…

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CONTACT ME to get access for all of your residents or employees
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Accelerate your change and transformation success

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Confessions of a Business Artist

Confessions of a Business Artist

I am an artist.

There, I’ve said it. This statement may confuse some people who know me, and come as a shock to others.

Braden, what do you mean you’re an artist? You’ve got an MBA from London Business School, you’ve led change programs for global organizations, helped companies build their innovation capabilities and cultures, are an expert in digital transformation, and you can’t even draw a straight line without a ruler. What makes you think you’re an artist?

Well, okay, that may all be true, but there are lots of different kinds of artists. I may not be a painter, a sculptor, a musician, an illustrator, or even a singer, but I am an artist, a business artist.

What is a business artist you ask?

A business artist sees through complexity to what matters most. A business artist loves working with PowerPoint and telling stories, often through keynote speeches and training facilitation, or through writing. A business artist loves to share, often doing so for the greater good, sometimes to their own financial detriment, in an effort to accelerate the knowledge, learning, and creating new capabilities in others. A business artist is a builder, often creating new businesses, new web sites, and new thinking. A business artist is comfortable stepping into a number of different business contexts and bringing a different energy and a different approach to creating solutions to complex requirements. Part of the reason a business artist can do this is because a business artist values their intuitive skills just as much as they value their intellectual skills, and may also consciously invest in getting in touch with higher levels of intuitive capabilities, enabling them to excel in roles that involve a great deal of what might be termed ‘organizational psychology’.

A business artist often appears to be a jack of all trades, sometimes bordering on what was portrayed in the television show The Pretender, and can be an incredibly powerful addition to any team tackling a big challenge, but a business artist’s incredible ability to contribute to the success of an organization is often discounted by the traditional recruiting processes of most human resource organizations because of its emphasis on skill matching and experience, skewing hiring in favor of someone with a lot of experience at being mediocre at a certain skillset over someone with limited experience but greater capability. A business artist often appears to be ahead of the curve, often to their own detriment, arriving too early to the party by grasping where organizations need to go before the rest of the organization is willing to accept the new reality. This is a real problem for business artists.

Now is the time for a change. Given human’s increasing access to knowledge, and the shorter time now required to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills required to perform a task, people who are comfortable with complexity, ambiguity, and capable of learning quickly are incredibly valuable to organizations as continual change becomes the new normal. Because experience is increasingly detrimental to success instead of a long-lived asset, given the accelerating pace of innovation and change, we need business artists now more than ever.

So how do we create more business artists?

Unfortunately our public schools are far too focused on indoctrination than education, on repetition over discovery. Our educational system specializes in creating trivia masters and kids that hate school, instead of building a new generation of creative problem solvers that love to learn and explore new approaches instead of defending status conferred based on mastery of current truths (which may be tomorrow’s fallacies). We are far too obsessed with STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) when we should be focused on STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Music). Music is creative math after all. My daughter’s school has a limited music program and NO ART. How is this possible?

To create more business artists we need to shift our focus towards art, creative problem solving and demonstrated learning, and away from memorization, metrics, and repetition. Can we do this?

Can we create an environment where the status quo is seen not as a source of power through current mastery and instead towards a system where improvements to the status quo are seen as the new source of power?

Organizations that want to survive will do so. Countries that want to stay at the top of the economic pyramid will do so. So what kind of country do you want to live in? What kind of company do you want to be part of?

Do you have the courage to join me as a business artist or to help create a new generation of them?

Image credit: blogs.nd.edu

This article originally appeared on Linkedin


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