Category Archives: Innovation

We Must Reinvent Our Organizations for A New Era of Innovation

We Must Reinvent Our Organizations for A New Era of Innovation

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

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

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

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

Shifting From Iteration To Exploration

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

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

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

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

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

Building A Pipeline Of Problems To Be Solved

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

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

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

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

Empowering Connectivity

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

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

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

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

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

The Leadership Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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The Surprising Downside of Collaboration in Problem-Solving

The Surprising Downside of Collaboration in Problem-Solving

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

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

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

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

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

What a Terrorism Study Reveals About Your Team

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

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

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

How You Can Help Your Team Create More Successful Solutions

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

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

Are You Willing to Take the Risk?

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

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

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

Image credit: Unsplash

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Department Of Energy Programs Helping to Create an American Manufacturing Future

Department Of Energy Programs Helping to Create an American Manufacturing Future

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In the recession that followed the dotcom crash in 2000, the United States lost five million manufacturing jobs and, while there has been an uptick in recent years, all indications are that they may never be coming back. Manufacturing, perhaps more than any other sector, relies on deep networks of skills and assets that tend to be highly regional.

The consequences of this loss are deep and pervasive. Losing a significant portion of our manufacturing base has led not only to economic vulnerability, but to political polarization. Clearly, it is important to rebuild our manufacturing base. But to do that, we need to focus on new, more advanced, technologies

That’s the mission of the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) at the Department of Energy. By providing a crucial link between the cutting edge science done at the National Labs and private industry, it has been able to make considerable progress. As the collaboration between government scientists widen and deepens over time, US manufacturing may well be revived.

Linking Advanced Research To Private Industry

The origins of the Department of Energy date back to the Manhattan Project during World War II. The immense project was, in many respects, the start of “big science.” Hundreds of top researchers, used to working in small labs, traveled to newly established outposts to collaborate at places like Los Alamos, New Mexico and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

After the war was over, the facilities continued their work and similar research centers were established to expand the effort. These National Labs became the backbone of the US government’s internal research efforts. In 1977, the National Labs, along with a number of other programs, were combined to form the Department of Energy.

One of the core missions of the AMO is to link the research done at the National Labs to private industry and the Lab Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs (LEEP) have been particularly successful in this regard. Currently, there are four such programs, Cyclotron Road, Chain Reaction Innovations, West Gate and Innovation Crossroads.

I was able to visit Innovation Crossroads at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and meet the entrepreneurs in its current cohort. Each is working to transform a breakthrough discovery into a market changing application, yet due to technical risk, would not be able to attract funding in the private sector. The LEEP program offers a small amount of seed money, access to lab facilities and scientific and entrepreneurial mentorship to help them get off the ground.

That’s just one of the ways that the AMO opens up the resources of the National Labs. It also helps business get access to supercomputing resources (5 out of the 10 fastest computers in the world are located in the United States, most of them at the National Labs) and conducts early stage research to benefit private industry.

Leading Public-Private Consortia

Another area in which the AMO supports private industry is through taking a leading role in consortia, such as the Manufacturing Institutes that were set up to to give American companies a leg up in advanced areas such as clean energy, composite materials and chemical process intensification.

The idea behind these consortia is to create hubs that provide a critical link with government labs, top scientists at academic universities and private companies looking to solve real-world problems. It both helps firms advance in key areas and allows researchers to focus their work on where they will have the greatest possible impact.

For example, the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) was set up to develop alternatives to materials that are subject to supply disruptions, such as the rare earth elements that are critical to many high tech products and are largely produced in China. A few years ago it developed, along with several National Labs and Eck Industries, an advanced alloy that can replace more costly materials in components of advanced vehicles and aircraft.

“We went from an idea on a whiteboard to a profitable product in less than two years and turned what was a waste product into a valuable asset,” Robert Ivester, Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office told me.

Technology Assistance Partnerships

In 2011, the International Organization for Standardization released its ISO 50001 guidelines. Like previous guidelines that focused on quality management and environmental impact, ISO 50001 recommends best practices to reduce energy use. These can benefit businesses through lower costs and result in higher margins.

Still, for harried executives facing cutthroat competition and demanding customers, figuring out how to implement new standards can easily get lost in the mix. So a third key role that the AMO plays is to assist companies who wish to implement new standards by providing tools, guides and access to professional expertise.

The AMO offers similar support for a number of critical areas, such as prototype development and also provides energy assessment centers for firms that want to reduce costs. “Helping American companies adopt new technology and standards helps keep American manufacturers on the cutting edge,” Ivester says.

“Spinning In” Rather Than Spinning Out

Traditionally we think of the role of government in business largely in terms of regulation. Legislatures pass laws and watchdog agencies enforce them so that we can have confidence in the the food we eat, the products we buy and the medicines that are supposed to cure us. While that is clearly important, we often overlook how government can help drive innovation.

Inventions spun out of government labs include the Internet, GPS and laser scanners, just to name a few. Many of our most important drugs were also originally developed with government funding. Still, traditionally the work has mostly been done in isolation and only later offered to private companies through licensing agreements.

What makes the Advanced Manufacturing Office different than most scientific programs is that it is more focused on “spinning in” private industry rather than spinning out technologies. That enables executives and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to power them with some of the best minds and advanced equipment in the world.

As Ivester put it to me, “Spinning out technologies is something that the Department of Energy has traditionally done. Increasingly, we want to spin ideas from industry into our labs, so that companies and entrepreneurs can benefit from the resources we have here. It also helps keep our scientists in touch with market needs and helps guide their research.”

Make no mistake, innovation needs collaboration. Combining the ideas from the private sector with the cutting edge science from government labs can help American manufacturing compete for the 21st century.

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

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Learning to Innovate

Learning to Innovate

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

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

Learning to innovate

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

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

The innovation imperative has shifted

  • Productivity growth needs to accelerate

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

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

  • Adapting to the new net zero reality

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

  • Improving cost efficiencies

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

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

  • Generative Ai is a critical enabler of innovation

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

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

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

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

The innovation imperative is paradoxical.

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

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

  • Thinking and acting differently

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

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

Learning to innovate requires a radical strategic shift

  • Harnessing collective intelligence

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

  • Revealing and closing knowing-doing gaps

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

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

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

Innovation requires a strategic and systemic focus

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

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

Commitment and conviction to learn to innovate

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

Image Credit: Pexels

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Nike Should Stop Blaming Working from Home for Their Innovation Struggles

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“But even more importantly, our employees were working from home for two and a half years.  And in hindsight, it turns out, it’s really hard to do bold, disruptive innovation, to develop a boldly disruptive shoe on Zoom.” – John Donahoe, Nike CEO

I am so glad CNBC’s interview with Nike’s CEO didn’t hit my feed until Friday afternoon. It sent me into a rage spiral that I am just barely emerging from. Seriously, I think my neighbors heard the string of expletives I unleashed after reading that quote, and it wasn’t because it was a lovely day and the windows were open.

Blaming remote work for lack of innovation is cowardly. And factually wrong.

I’m not the only one giving Mr. Donahoe some side-eye for this comment.  “There were a whole bunch of brands who really thrived during and post-pandemic even though they were working remotely,” Matt Powell, advisor for Spurwink River and a senior advisor at BCE Consulting, told Footwear News.  “So I’m not sure that we that we can blame remote work here on Nike’s issues.”

There’s data to back that up.

In 2023, Mark (Shuai) Ma, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and Yuye Ding, a PhD student at the university’s Katz Graduate School of Business, set out to empirically determine the causes and effects of a firm’s decision to mandate a return to work (RTO).  They collected RTO mandate data from over 100 firms in the S&P 500, worked backward to identify what drove the decision, and monitored and measured the firm’s results after employees returned to work.

Their findings are stark: no significant changes in financial performance for firm value after RTO mandates and significant declines in employee job satisfaction.  As Ma told Fortune, “Overall, our results do not support these mandates to increase firm values.  Instead, these findings are consistent with managers using RTO mandates to reassert control over employees and blame employees as a scapegoat for firm bad performance.”

Or to justify spending more than $1B to double the size of its Beaverton, OR campus.

When you start blaming employees, you stop being a leader.

CEOs make and approve big, impactful, complex, high-stakes decisions.  That’s why they get paid the big bucks.  It’s also why, as Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” 

Let’s examine some of the decisions Mr. Donahue made or supported that maybe (definitely) had a more significant impact on innovation than working from home two days a week.

Ignoring customers, consumers, and the market: Nike has a swagger that occasionally strays into arrogance.  They set trends, steer culture, and dictate the rules of the game. They also think that gives them the right to stop listening to athletes, retailers, and consumers, as evidenced by the recently revealed Team USA Track & Field uniforms, the decision to stop selling through major retailers like Macy’s and Olympia Sports, and invest more in “hype, limited releases, and old school retro drops” than the technology and community that has consumers flocking to smaller brands like Hoka and Brooks.

Laying off 2% of its workforce: Anyone who has ever been through a layoff senses it’s coming months before the announcement and the verdicts are rendered.  Psychological safety, feeling safe in your environment, is a required element for risk-taking and innovation.  It’s hard to feel safe when saying goodbye to 1500 colleagues (and wondering if/when you’ll join them).

Investing too much in the core: Speaking of safety, in uncertain times, it’s tempting to pour every resource into the core business because the ROI is “known.” Nike gave in to that temptation, and consumers and analysts noticed.  Despite recent new product announcements like the Air Max DN, Pegasus Premium, and Pegasus 41, “analysts point out these ‘new’ innovations rely too much on existing franchises.”

Innovation is a leadership problem that only leaders can solve

Being a CEO or any other senior executive is hard. The past four years have been anything but ordinary, and running a business while navigating a global pandemic, multiple societal upheavals, two wars, and an uncertain economy is almost impossible.

Bosses blame.  Leaders inspire. 

Mr. Donohue just showed us which one he is.  Which one are you?

One MORE thing

This is a losing battle, but STOP USING “DISRUPTIVE” INCORRECTLY!!!!  “Disruptive Innovation,” as defined by Clayton Christensen, who literally coined the phrase, is an innovation that appeals to non-consumers and is cheaper and often lower quality than existing competitors.

Nike is a premium brand that makes premium shoes for premium athletes.  Employees could spend 24/7/365 in the office, and Nike would never develop and launch a “boldly disruptive shoe.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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Innovation the Amazon Way

Innovation the Amazon Way

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In 2014, Stephenie Landry was finishing up her one-year stint as Technical Advisor to Jeff Wilke, who oversees Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, which is a mentor program that allows high potential executives to shadow a senior leader and learn first-hand. Her next assignment would define her career.

At most companies, an up-and-comer like Stephenie might be given a division to run or work on a big acquisition deal. Amazon, however, is a different kind of place. Landry wrote a memo outlining plans for a new service she’d been thinking about, Prime Now, which today offers one-hour delivery to customers in over 50 cities across 9 countries.

It’s no secret that Amazon is one of the world’s most innovative companies. Starting out as a niche service selling books online, it’s now not only a dominant retailer, but has pioneered new categories such as cloud computing and smart speakers. The key to its success is not any one process, but how it integrates a customer obsession deep within its culture and practice.

Starting With The Customer And Working Back

At the heart of how Amazon innovates is its six-page memo, which is required at the start of every new initiative. What makes it effective isn’t so much the structure of the document itself, but how it is used to embed a fanatical focus on the customer from the day one. It’s something that Amazon employees have impressed upon them early in their careers.

So the first step in developing Prime Now was to write a press release. Landry’s document was not only a description of the service, but how hypothetical customers would react to it. How did the service affect them? What surprised them about it? What concerns did they want addressed? The exercise forced her to internalize how Amazon customers would think and feel about Prime Now from the very start.

Next she wrote a series of FAQ’s anticipating concerns for both customers and for various stakeholders within the firm, like the CFO, operations people and the leadership of the Prime program. So Landry had to imagine what questions each would have, how any issues would be resolved and then explain things in clear, concise language.

All of this happens before the first meeting is held, a single line of code is written or an early prototype is built, because the company strongly believes that until you internalize the customer’s perspective, nothing else really matters. That’s key to how the company operates.

A Deeply Embedded Writing Culture

It’s no accident that the first step to develop a new product at Amazon is a memo rather than, say, a PowerPoint deck or a kickoff meeting. As Fareed Zakaria once put it, “Thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. When I begin to write, I realize that my ‘thoughts’ are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them”.

So the company focuses on building writing skills early in an executive’s career. “Writing is a key part of our culture,” Landry told me. “I started writing press releases for smaller features and projects. One of my first was actually about packaging for diamond rings. Over years of practice and coaching, I got better at it.” Being able to write a good memo is also a key factor in advancement at Amazon. If you want to rise, you need to write and write well.

She also stressed to me the importance of brevity. “Keeping things concise and to the point forces you to think things through in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise. You can’t hide behind complexity, you actually have to work through it,” Landry said. Or, as another Amazon leader put it, “Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to remove.”

Moreover, writing a memo isn’t a solo effort, but a collaborative process. Typically, executives spend a week or more and sharing the document with colleagues, getting feedback, honing and tweaking it until every conceivable facet is deeply thought through.

Reinventing The Office Meeting

Another unique facet of Amazon’s culture is how meetings are run. In recent years, a common complaint throughout the corporate world is how the number of meetings has become so oppressive that it’s hard to get any work done. Research from MIT shows that executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in meetings, up from less than 10 hours in 1960

At Amazon, however, the six-page memo cuts down on the number of meetings that are called. If you have to spend a week writing a memo, you don’t just start sending out invites whenever the fancy strikes you. Similarly, the company’s practice of limiting attendance to roughly the number of people that can share two pizzas also promotes restraint.

Each meeting starts out with a 30-60 minute reading period in which everybody digests the memo. From there, all attendees are asked to share gut reactions — senior leaders typically speak last — and then delve into what might be missing, ask probing questions and drill down into any potential issues that may arise.

Subsequent meetings follow the same pattern to review the financials, hone the concept and review mockups as the team further refines ideas and assumptions. “It’s usually not one big piece of feedback that you get,” Landry stressed. “It is really all about the smaller questions, they help you get to a level of detail that really brings the idea to life.”

All of this may seem terribly cumbersome to fast moving executives accustomed to zinging in and out of meetings all day, but you often need to go slow to move fast. In the case of Prime Now, the service took just 111 days to go from an idea on a piece of paper to a product launch in one zip code in Manhattan and expanded quickly from there.

Co-evolving Culture And Practice

Every company innovates differently. Apple has a fanatical focus on design. IBM’s commitment to deep scientific research has enabled it to stay on the cutting edge and compete long after most of its competitors have fallen by the wayside. Google integrates a number of innovation strategies into a seamless whole

What works for one company would likely not work for another, a fact that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos highlighted in a recent letter to shareholders. “We never claim that our approach is the right one – just that it’s ours – and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people. Folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful,” he wrote.

The truth is that there is no one “true” path to innovation because innovation, at its core, is about solving problems and every enterprise chooses different problems to solve. While IBM might be happy to have its scientists work for decades on some arcane technology and Google gladly allows its employees to pursue pet projects, those things probably wouldn’t fly at Amazon.

However, the one thing that all great innovators have in common is that culture and practice are deeply intertwined. That’s what makes them so hard to copy. Anybody can write a six-page memo or start meetings with a reading period. It’s not those specific practices, but the commitment to the values they reflect, that has driven Amazon’s incredible success.

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

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Think Outside Which Box?

Think Outside Which Box?

GUEST POST from Howard Tiersky

We’ve all said it. We need to think “outside the box.”

But what is this box-like barrier that would otherwise constrain our thinking, and how do we move beyond it?

At FROM, we use our custom-built workshop space, Innovation Loft, to help teams from some of the largest brands in the world move beyond that metaphorical box to create new products, processes or entire businesses. We’ve spent a lot of time studying the barriers that limit individual or team thinking, and testing methods to break free of those barriers.

Through our work, we’ve discovered there isn’t just a single box. Instead, there are four nested barriers that can limit thinking.

  1. HABIT
  2. BELIEF
  3. IDENTITY
  4. IMAGINATION

You can use a variety of different techniques that you can apply to help get past each box, but they differ, depending on which box you’re focused on.

BOX ONE: HABIT

People constrained by habit are best described by the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” This box exists because it’s our comfort zone – where we know what works. But the uncharted territory is where much of the treasure lies!

Overcoming the Limits of Habit

How do you move teams beyond habit? One way is to explore ‘stretch-goals,’ or goals well beyond what’s possible with your current method of doing business. For example, if your manufacturing process takes 90 minutes to produce a carton of ice cream, conduct an exercise to brainstorm how you could produce that same carton in only 5 minutes. This type of exercise requires completely different thinking about the entire manufacturing process. It might not actually be practical or cost-effective to make the cartons in 5 minutes, but the process of thinking about how it could be done is one way to explore what lies beyond the box of habit.

BOX TWO: BELIEF

Even when we’re ready to move past habit and try something new, there’s another box that constrains what we believe will work or are capable of accomplishing. In corporate environments, the box of belief is epitomized by statements like, “We tried that before and it didn’t work,” or “We can’t compete in that space.”
Whether these beliefs are true or not, they’re often over-generalized or stated in absolute terms. Take, “We can’t compete in that space.” It may not be wise to compete in that space, but is it really impossible? By staying in the box of belief, you could be dismissing possible opportunities.

Overcoming the Limits of Belief

To tackle the barrier of belief, use an exercise that sorts beliefs from facts. Underlying facts are helpful, but the beliefs associated with them can be limiting. If you chose to pursue a certain goal, how would you move past the facts? If it’s not that you can’t compete, but that there are barriers to doing so, what are they and how might you get past them? Ultimately, you want ideas for clearing each obstacle, so you can evaluate if it makes sense to proceed.

BOX THREE: IDENTITY

Even when we’re willing to change and believe certain things are possible, we can remain stuck inside of a box of our own identity. This box is best characterized by statements like, ‘We don’t do that at this company,” or “That wouldn’t be consistent with our brand.”

Overcoming the Limits of Identity

First things first: It’s valuable to have an identity, and to have a brand that customers know stands for something. However, getting past a belief barrier doesn’t necessarily mean acting outside the box, but just to think outside the box. Identities need to grow and change over time, and can’t do that if you never consider possibilities beyond your current identity. (e.g., Apple used to be called ‘Apple Computer,’ but now they make more money from phones and are known as simply ‘Apple.’)

To temporarily think outside your current identity, play the ‘What Would Company X Do?” game. Give separate teams one company or entity, and have them look at the problem at hand in the way that organization might. Apple, the Marines, Starbucks, and Disney are good companies to use as models, as they’re all successful entities with very different identities and ways of solving problems. Viewing your company’s problems or opportunities through the lens of another company can yield interesting, new ideas. If some of the ideas aren’t a good fit, that’s ok! In ideation, we’re mining for gold, so a large quantity of sand and pebbles in the pan is not an indicator of failure – it’s the number of gold nuggets that indicate success.

BOX FOUR: IMAGINATION

Ideas beyond the box of imagination aren’t even a blip on the radar, or even in the realm of our thinking. We don’t consider them outside our beliefs, or inconsistent with our identity because we don’t consider them at all.

Overcoming the Limits of Imagination

What we can imagine comes from a combination of our experiences, plus an ability to take those experiences and combine them in novel ways. To stimulate imagination, it’s important to define a clear goal for your team, and encourage them to share and explore past experiences that may be relevant to that goal. If you want to increase customer loyalty, have your team review experiences that have affected their loyalty to other products and services. Then, expose them to new ideas and knowledge – things like competitive case studies, trends or technologies that might be part of a solution to the problem. When teams have a greater range of experiences to draw from, they can start to imagine possibilities that they didn’t previously have the “raw materials” to form.

It’s fantastic to have an identity, beliefs, and habits. All these aspects of our personality serve us in various situations. But it’s also valuable to be able to temporarily turn these psychological limits off in the context of exploratory ideation. You never know what’s out there, and you can enrich your value proposition, your brand and even yourself by embracing the freedom to explore what lies beyond. Then, you can decide for yourself whether or not to expand the box!

This article originally appeared on the Howard Tiersky blog
Image Credits: Pexels

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Time is a Flat Circle

Jamie Dimon’s Comments on AI Just Proved It

Time is a Flat Circle

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton


“Time is a flat circle.  Everything we have done or will do we will do over and over and over and over again – forever.” –- Rusty Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey, in True Detective

For the whole of human existence, we have created new things with no idea if, when, or how they will affect humanity, society, or business.  New things can be a distraction, sucking up time and money and offering nothing in return.  Or they can be a bridge to a better future.

As a leader, it’s your job to figure out which things are a bridge (i.e., innovation) and which things suck (i.e., shiny objects).

Innovation is a flat circle

The concept of eternal recurrence, that time repeats itself in an infinite loop, was first taught by Pythagoras (of Pythagorean theorem fame) in the 6th century BC. It remerged (thereby proving its own truth) in Friedreich Nietzsche’s writings in the 19th century, then again in 2014’s first season of True Detective, and then again on Monday in Jamie Dimon’s Annual Letter to Shareholders.

Mr. Dimon, the CEO and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co, first mentioned AI in his 2017 Letter to Shareholders.  So, it wasn’t the mention of AI that was newsworthy. It was how it was mentioned.  Before mentioning geopolitical risks, regulatory issues, or the recent acquisition of First Republic, Mr. Dimon spends nine paragraphs talking about AI, its impact on banking, and how JPMorgan Chase is responding.

Here’s a screenshot of the first two paragraphs:

JP Morgan Annual Letter 2017

He’s right. We don’t know “the full effect or the precise rate at which AI will change our business—or how it will affect society at large.” We were similarly clueless in 1436 (when the printing press was invented), 1712 (when the first commercially successful steam engine was invented), 1882 (when electricity was first commercially distributed), and 1993 (when the World Wide Web was released to the public).

Innovation, it seems, is also a flat circle.

Our response doesn’t have to be.

Historically, people responded to innovation in one of two ways: panic because it’s a sign of the apocalypse or rejoice because it will be our salvation. And those reactions aren’t confined to just “transformational” innovations.  In 2015, a visiting professor at Kings College London declared that the humble eraser (1770) was “an instrument of the devil” because it creates “a culture of shame about error.  It’s a way of lying to the world, which says, ‘I didn’t make a mistake.  I got it right the first time.’”

Neither reaction is true. Fortunately, as time passes, more people recognize that the truth is somewhere between the apocalypse and salvation and that we can influence what that “between” place is through intentional experimentation and learning.

JPMorgan started experimenting with AI over a decade ago, well before most of its competitors.  As a result, they “now have over 400 use cases in production in areas such as marketing, fraud, and risk” that are producing quantifiable financial value for the company. 

It’s not just JPMorgan.  Organizations as varied as John Deere, BMW, Amazon, the US Department of Energy, Vanguard, and Johns Hopkins Hospital have been experimenting with AI for years, trying to understand if and how it could improve their operations and enable them to serve customers better.  Some experiments worked.  Some didn’t.  But every company brave enough to try learned something and, as a result, got smarter and more confident about “the full effect or the precise rate at which AI will change our business.”

You have free will.  Use it to learn.

Cynics believe that time is a flat circle.  Leaders believe it is an ever-ascending spiral, one in which we can learn, evolve, and influence what’s next.  They also have the courage to act on (and invest in) that belief.

What do you believe?  More importantly, what are you doing about it?

Image credit: Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have something to contribute?

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

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

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Irrelevant Innovation

Irrelevant Innovation

GUEST POST from John Bessant

Why change is not always a good thing….

Forget about the ice truckers who haul their precious cargoes across frozen lakes and tundra in the Arctic Circle. Or those heroes who service remote islands in the Pacific or who fly into inaccessible airstrips in the rainforests. They are doing a tough job, undoubtedly — but we should accept that perhaps the hardest haulage challenge in the world has to be that of getting a seven-year-old back to school after the spring break. Motivating muscles to power little legs school-ward (even if the journey is downhill) and placing a smile of anticipation on her face at the prospect of six hours experiencing the joys of learning is not an easy task.

So in one of my many desperate attempts to put a spring back in her step (if not the broader British climate) was to suggest we invent some crazy new things as we trudged our way. Come up with some ideas for wild inventions, the less practical and the more outlandish, the better.

The exercise worked in terms of smoothing the school journey and distracting a daughter. But it also got me thinking — we spend so much of our time thinking about important innovation but maybe we should spare a thought for what might be called ‘irrelevant innovation’? And explore round the edges of this phenomenon — is it all wacky stuff or are there circumstances where it has more to offer? Is it a matter of framing, are we missing an innovation trick or two by dismissing such ideas too early?

Innovation Typology

So here’s a suggested outline typology, a first shot at mapping the territory — feel free to add your own examples and categories….

1. WTF?!!!

These are the ideas that leap out at you from the screen or jump up from the page with a fistful of questions. Like what were they thinking of, who dreamed this up (and what were they on when they did so), who on earth would want this or maybe just a pure, simple and very large why? For example patenting the cheese flavoured cigarette? Or the musical flame-thrower? Sometimes a closer look might reveal the originator’s tongue firmly wedged in their cheek, these are elaborate jokes and nudges to remind us not to take innovation life too seriously. But all too often they have the stamp of sincerity about them — someone really believes that what the world needs now is their invention. Like, for example, the urban window baby cage, in which (for high rise apartment dwellers) your child can get plenty of fresh air by being suspended outside the window, hundreds of feet off the ground…..

These are easy to spot and throw into the rubbish bin — but maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to apply our BS filters and dismiss them. After all history reminds us that sometimes we need visionaries, those who can see into the future and bring back wild ideas which become part of that future. Apple’s famous ad campaign around ‘Think different’ had Richard Dreyfus turning our collective heads towards ‘the crazy ones….the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers — the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…..” Which echoes the great playwright George Bernard Shaw’s observation that ‘ all progress depends on unreasonable men…’. Trouble is that the line between crazy and visionary is often vanishingly thin.

Think about Nikoloai Tesla who did a lot more than lend his name to a car brand; without his insights we wouldn’t have much of the electricity generation technology we rely on today, not to mention valuable innovations around radio, lighting, transportation, etc. But we didn’t get earthquake generating machines, thought cameras, supersonic airships, ‘death-beams’ or artificial tidal waves — which may be a good thing. Melissa Schilling in her excellent book of the same name classes people like Tesla as ‘quirky’ and that word captures their character traits well. It’s also worth noting that we tend to label ordinary folk who come up with oddball stuff as variations on crazy — but if the ideas originate from billionaires who’ve built their fortune on innovation we use the more forgiving ‘eccentric’ descriptor….

2. Bouncing back off the wall.

You can almost see the creative moment, late night, fuelled by questionable alcohol or other stimulants, that point where the conversation explodes around a key wild thought. Like ‘let’s convince people that what they really need is a …pet rock!’. Innovations of this kind start life as a crazy idea but somehow along the way they acquire a momentum of their own. A community of users — or perhaps co-conspirators — emerges which brings the thing to life and creates its own use case. Gary Dahl’s madcap thought about pet rocks led to him selling over 10,000 of them every day; at the height of the craze several tons of nearly 2 million of them were being adopted. (You can still buy them today if you’re wanting a low maintenance companion). Or how about changing your eating habits and improving your digestion by using a ‘slow fork’ next time you sit down to a meal? Or pick up a ‘no-phone’, looks like the real thing but actually has zero functionality inside? Or the ‘selfie toaster which produces toast with your image on it?

3. Following the Yellow Brick Road — sometimes innovations build on well-established trajectories but lead us to unexpected and irrelevant places. Packaging offers plenty of examples — it’s become a huge industry and of central importance in food retailing and distribution, to help preserve integrity, freshness and safety. But take a closer look at the contents of your supermarket trolley (or your home delivery order). Do we really need our bananas shrink wrapped and encased in plastic trays? Or whole nuts inside plastic cartons? It took Nature several million years to evolve some useful natural protection — do we really need to update it? Do we need a personal pocket water spray when we could splash ourselves at the sink? Or leaf blowers that serve to create miniature sandstorms?

4. On second thoughts…..

Confession time — in my research on ‘wacky inventions’ I came across several Japanese sites which feature oddball innovations including a miniature umbrella which you could wear as a hat. Who would ever really want something like that and why? Some rapid reframing was in order when my wife not only bought one enthusiastically but then proceeded to deploy it in the garden, demonstrating its considerable advantages over hats (which fall off) or hooded jackets (which lock your arms up like a straitjacket and obscure your vision). This device keeps her dry enough for enough the most delicate gardening tasks — and made me rapidly revise my estimate of it!

Innovations like these might appear unnecessary but sometimes there’s more to them — beauty (or at least value) really is in the eye of the beholder and maybe we need to practise a little reframing? Maybe the ‘floor cleaning onesie’ (a baby outfit which polishes your floors while your offspring are crawling around) isn’t such a bad idea after all?

5. String and sealing wax creations.

Necessity or sometimes frustration is a very fecund mother of invention and this plays out big-time in the world of user innovation. As extensive research has shown users are responsible for a significant amount of product and process innovation. Studies suggest over 20% of new products and an even higher proportion of process innovations originate in the hands of users — because they are actively seeking a solution to a problem which bothers them. Couple this with a tolerance for imperfection — they will experiment with prototypes which work even if they look a bit odd and lack design elegance. So many of those early hacks and minimum viable workarounds might look crazy but could be the start of something which becomes a mainstream innovation. Think of where many new sports (like skateboarding) originate or where childcare innovations (like collapsible buggies or disposable diapers) began and the oddball user is often clearly in view……

6. Seemed like a good idea at the time…

Sometimes (back to trajectories) we can extrapolate trends to create apparently interesting opportunities and then go on to innovate something irrelevant. The wonderful Museum of Failure in Sweden (and online) has plenty of examples including a sizeable number from big companies. Anticipating the time poor commuters across big cities like New York and recognising the nutritional challenges in a diet consisting of snatched snacks the food giant Gerber came up with a line of quality adult foods which could be consumed quickly from a jar. Sort of spooning up adult baby food in grown up flavours like ‘Mediterranean vegetables’ …… Perhaps not surprisingly it didn’t take off.

And despite having proved his innovation skills in the field of home computers where his ZX80 range opened up the mass market for the product in Europe Clive Sinclair’s venture into electromobility — the C5 — became a byword for how not to do innovation. At some point some kind of ‘reality distortion field’ seems to come into play for the innovators — an experience well documented in the excellent history of the Segway personal transportation revolution that never quite happened….

Clive Sinclair C5 Wikipedia

7. Wrong place, wrong time

Timing in innovation as much as in stand-up comedy, is everything. And sometimes the great idea on which many people have worked arrives perfectly formed and well-thought out but at totally the wrong moment. Take the Bristol Brabazon — originally conceived as a breakthrough aeroplane design to exploit the anticipated huge market growth in long-haul international air travel in the post-war period. Based on a design for a giant long-range bomber, which was approved by the Ministry of Aviation for development in 1943 it took shape in consultation with the UK national airline, BOAC. Like many projects it took on a life of its own; the budget rapidly escalated, with the construction of new facilities to accommodate such a large plane and, at one stage, the demolition of an entire village in order to extend the runway at Filton, near Bristol. Many unnecessary features were included — for example, the mock-up contained ‘a most magnificent ladies’ powder room with wooden aluminium-painted mirrors and even receptacles for the various lotions and powders used by the modern young lady’. The prototype took six-and-a half years to build and involved major technical crises with wings and engine design but eventually it flew, and very well. The only problem was that the character of the postwar aircraft market was very different from that envisaged by the technologists and in 1952, after flying less than 1000 miles, the project was abandoned at considerable cost to the taxpayer.

8. Coming too early to the party

Sometimes it’s the other way around, innovations arriving ahead of, rather than behind their time and looking around in embarrassment at the handful of other early bird party guests, trying to interest them. Markets that have yet to materialise or, very often, technologies that have yet to mature. Step forward Apple and the Newton or Google’s Glasses? These are examples where the particular embodiment of the innovation didn’t quite make it and appeared unnecessary or irrelevant — but where the learning acquired through such failure has proved invaluable in terms of shaping future successful direction (s).

9. Blind spots

And of course we should spare a thought for otherwise great ideas which suffer from a lack of insight into the context in which they might find themselves. For example there are plenty of cases where a simple and apparently useful name can turn out to have unfortunate consequences when placed in a different linguistic or cultural zone. Think of French kids growing up happily drinking bottles of a fizzy drink with the unfortunate (in English-speaking contexts) name of ‘Psschitt’ or their Ghanaian counterparts who enjoy a draught of Pee Cola (not so popular with tourists).

Everett Rogers spent his lifetime researching adoption and diffusion of innovations and one of the cardinal lessons he drew out of thousands of studies was the need to think carefully about compatibility — how well does your innovation fit into the context in which you’re planning to place it?

The moral of this story? First, creativity is a powerful motivator, not least when your primary aim is getting recalcitrant children to school. We’re (fortunately) hard-wired for it and our imaginations sometimes lead us to come up with end even try crazy stuff out. (And, as the Darwin awards regularly demonstrate, there is an element of natural selection involved which helps us avoid the really bad ideas!)

But not every wild idea is worthless; one of the early lessons I learned about creativity was the importance of what Tudor Rickards called ‘stepping stones’ — oddball ideas in themselves which serve to take our minds down different pathways and may lead to somewhere useful.

And framing matters — in two directions. First we need to hammer home the compatibility lesson taught us by Everett Rogers — innovations don’t exist in a vacuum and we need to think about compatibility with the context into which we’re placing them.

But second, how far can we adapt the frame we place around an innovation, how far are we willing to stretch our own thinking and behaviour to accommodate it? Think of the science-fiction images of ideas like a smart wristwatch which wakes you, talks to you, enables communication, acts as a map and compass combined — and also tells you the time. Literally incredible, unbelievable — until we all started to buy and wear smart watches….

But perhaps we should also think of those innovations which started out as important, relevant and useful things which offered to make significant positive impact. But which — like DDT and many others — later turned out to have negative consequences. ‘Responsible innovation’ is the term used to describe an approach which involves carefully considering what innovations might do and trying to anticipate their possible unwanted side effects and making sure we have the capacity to shape (and, if necessary, reshape) them for good. In the exploding world of innovation possibilities which AI is bringing this looks like an essential rather than optional approach to take.

You can find my podcast here and my videos here

And if you’d like to learn with me take a look at my online course here

Image credits: Dall-E via Microsoft CoPilot, Wikipedia

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