Category Archives: Innovation

People Drive the World-Technology as a Co-Pilot via Center of Human Compassion

People Drive the World-Technology as a Co-Pilot via Center of Human Compassion

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

People at the Center – Technology as a Co-Pilot

Are people at the center of your innovation and new product plans? Have we made people the center of all things digital? Are human’s and our environment the center of the new world entering the 4th Industrial Revolution? When innovation is during groundbreaking disruptive inventions or whether innovation is iterating into new products… what is placed at the center of your strategies? What are the reasons for these new inventions?

So much is at stake, as the world turns to being driven by AI, humanoids, rockets’ red glare searching for new lands to inhabit, games and more games feeding our brains with virtual excitement and stimulation, devices galore on our bodies, in our hands, in our homes helping us navigate our every move and in many ways directing us on how to think. The acceleration of digital permeating our lives is mind boggling. The news we are fed, seemingly unbiased, the product advertisements that sneak into our feeds, the connections via too many social and work-related networks that appear all too promising and friendly too is overwhelming. Technology is encompassing our lives!

The Power of Technology

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology for all the positive it contributes to the world. Technology is allowing individuals to create! To create and earn! To take control of their lives and build meaningful endeavors. The creation of TIME and SPACE to live how we to live has been a major outcome of

1. technology but also 2. the pandemic.

Let’s explore the creator economy which has experienced an explosion of late. As referenced in the Forbes articleThe Biggest Trends For 2022 In Creator Economy And Web3, by Maren Thomas Bannon, Today, the total size of the creator economy is estimated to be over $100 billion and 50 million people worldwide consider themselves creators. Creators will continue to bulge out of the global fabric as individuals seek to augment their incomes or escape the confines or rigged corporate cultures. Technology is enabling creators no doubt!

Technology is also allowing forward acting organizations to scale growth at unprecedented speeds. Let’s look at a recent survey conducted by Accenture

Curious about the effects of the pandemic, we completed a second round of research in early 2021 and discovered the following:

  1. Technology Leaders have moved even further ahead of the pack and have been growing at 5x the rate of Laggards on average in the past three years.
  2. Among the “Others” there is a group of organizations—18% of the entire sample—that has been able to break previous performance barriers—the Leapfroggers.

Let’s look at a recent survey conducted by Accenture

Curious about the effects of the pandemic, we completed a second round of research in early 2021 and discovered the following:

  1. Technology Leaders have moved even further ahead of the pack and have been growing at 5x the rate of Laggards on average in the past three years.
  2. Among the “Others” there is a group of organizations—18% of the entire sample—that has been able to break previous performance barriers—the Leapfroggers.

Of course, so much technology is doing good things for the world. 3-D printing is emerging at the center of homelessness. As reported in the #NYTIMES, this tiny village in Mexico is housing homeless people. The homes were built using an oversized 3-D printer.

Another example positive outcomes of technology is the emergence of over-the-counter hearing devices. Fortune Business Insights estimates the global hearing aids market is projected to grow from $6.67 billion in 2021 to $11.02 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 7.4% in forecast period, 2021-2028.

These devices, until this year, were regulated to being sold by medical professionals at, for the majority of population in need, very high prices $2000 to $5000+ per hearing aid. Yes typically you need two. But recent innovations in ear buds and bluetooth are allowing other technology companies into the game! Take Bose for example, the FDA recently approved Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids to be purchased on their website for $895/pair. No need for a hearing professional. This significantly changes the playing field and opens the doors for so many that have put off purchases (of these not covered by insurance by the way) devices.

Entertainment & leisure travel is going to a whole new level with the help of technology. It’s wonderful that anyone with connectivity and travel the world and explore via Virtual Reality. Here are 52 places you can explore in the comfort of your home shared by NY Times. Many of us attended conferences and events over the past two years virtually. We’ll see an exponential growth in virtual reality experiences in the coming year.

So why am I talking about creating a Center for Human Compassion if so much good is really coming out of technology? Because many of the outcomes are also unrealized and not anticipated or at least publicized to prepare people. It is essential for companies, technologists, and product teams to consider the consequences of new technologies. Not as an afterthought but at the forethought, from inception of ideas we must ask what are the downsides? How will people be affected? What could happen?

The quote below is taken from the World Economic Forum report, Positive AI Economic Futures

machines will be able to do most tasks better than humans. Given these sorts of predictions, it is important to think about the possible consequences of AI for the future of work and to prepare for different scenarios. Continued progress in these technologies could have disruptive effects: from further exacerbating recent trends in inequality to denying more and more people their sense of purpose and fulfillment in life, given that work is much more than just a source of income.

WeForum brings 150 thought leaders together to share thoughts on how we create an AI world we want. For all of AI’s good, there are potentials for negative outcomes.

Let’s take the military’s fight again hobbyists and drones. In the recent article from WSJ, The Military’s New Challenge: Defeating Cheap Hobbyist Drones, how much energy was placed on Human Compassion if drone technologies, IoT and AI got in the wrong hands?

The U.S. is racing to combat an ostensibly modest foe: hobbyist drones that cost a few hundred dollars and can be rigged with explosives. @WSJ

I feel certain there was some consideration but not enough to draw out possible negative impacts and how to mitigate them before they could even start. Did we really put people at the center of what is possible with drone technologies? What do you think?

This is no easy task. We know what is good for us can turn to bad for us when in the wrong hands, or if it’s not moderated to healthy limits. How do we help facilitate a more compassionate relationship with technology and put people at the center?

Here are four strategies to ensure you are keeping people at the center of your innovation, new products and technology development efforts.

  1. Create a Center of Human Compassion, or People Centered Technology Consortium, or what ever you wish to brand your initiative. Select trusted advisors from external (customers, partners…) and a select group of internal stake holders to join your collaborative to gather input, feedback and push back!
  2. Discuss with your trusted group very early on. Gamify initiatives around gathering what ifs! Anticipating the worst you will plan better for the best! (leaving the hope out)
  3. Build a continuous feedback loop. It is important that insights and scenarios are revisited and rehashed over and over again.
  4. Join other consortiums and get involved with AI and tech for good initiatives. If you can’t find ones you feel are of value to you and your company, start one!

Mantra for the year: #lucky2022 but not without work and placing people front and center of plans will good fortune and luck come for the masses.

As always, reach out if you have ideas you’d like to share or questions you’d like to discuss!

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Reaching Beyond the Limits of Innovation and Transformation

Reaching Beyond the Limits of Innovation and TransformationRecently on Episode #873 of the Marketer of the Day podcast, I had the opportunity to sit down with Robert Plank, have a great conversation, and chat about a number of different topics. Here is a quick excerpt:

“When it comes to innovation, timing is a huge factor. Going in too soon or too late can both cost you lots of money. Innovation isn’t all about creativity and value-creation, it is also about the services that you provide around your new idea and helping people understand how your idea can be of value to their lives. But how can we know if our innovative ideas can really affect people’s lives?”


Click the play button to listen to the podcast right here, right now:

Here is Robert Plank in his own words describing what the Marketer of the Day podcast is all about:

The Marketer of the Day Podcast interviews entrepreneurs who have been through “the struggle.”

They’ve experienced the headaches of repeat failure, trial-and-error, scaling, delegating, course-correcting, and getting their online businesses to succeed beyond their wildest dreams… and want to help you get to where you need to go.

Or visit Robert’s site here for additional information and all of the ways to subscribe to his podcast:

https://www.robertplank.com/873-innovation-change-customer-braden-kelley/

Time for Innovation Excellence

Time for Innovation Excellence

GUEST POST from Norbert Majerus and George Taninecz

Lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System started an industrial revolution (at least for those who adopted it). Transformative events that began in the automotive industry spread into many other sectors (including healthcare, finance, even innovation). However, the term “lean” may not have been the best description for what was occurring then or now.

Lean implies removing things, such as waste, which is an accurate description of a key lean tool. But lean but fails to address many other aspects of what we now know about this improvement method. Today the scope of most improvement transformations goes far beyond what was originally defined as “lean” and/or “continuous improvement.”

So, what should we call the current and future states of businesses that develop superior processes and a continuous improvement culture to become the best companies possible? I don’t know exactly who first introduced the term “excellence” but it’s all-encompassing nature of superiority certainly applies to what is going on in some — but not many — organizations.

For example, very few companies have attempted to apply excellence to innovation. Yet I started this transformation in the three Goodyear Innovation centers in 2006. In 2016, the Innovation Center in Akron, Ohio, received the AME Excellence Award, proving that innovation excellence works and that Goodyear got the right results from the transformation. The application of excellence to an innovation process delivers corporate results that go far beyond the cost savings traditionally achieved by focusing improvements on manufacturing. Innovation excellence moves both the top and bottom lines of companies as a larger number of new products and services are more quickly and efficiently delivered to customers, creating market advantages that are difficult for competitors to replicate.

So, what is “innovation excellence”? It is the implementation of a superior innovation system and the simultaneous creation of an innovation culture. The cultural part assures the continuous improvement of the system and its sustainability.

The innovation system includes processes and features like:

  • An agile risk management system that allows rigorous review of an abundance of new ideas at high speed and low cost
  • A superior knowledge management and technology development process
  • A cost-efficient mass design process
  • Lean principles to achieve perfect delivery, with much higher speed and lower costs

The characteristics of a culture of innovation are based on some well-known, lean people principles as well as change-management concepts that allow an organization to foster creativity and risk-taking:

  • Respect and care for people
  • Engagement and empowerment of all associates and stakeholders
  • Humble leadership
  • Change behaviors to change beliefs
  • The removal of fear at all levels
  • Allowing people to experiment effectively and efficiently
  • The right strategy and reward system

Although it is relatively easy to describe processes and systems, it’s hard to describe behaviors and cultural needs. Text definitions and bulleted lists often fail to describe the challenges of this type of work. I found that the most effective way to do that is by observation. Many executives think you must observe perfect behaviors at other companies and then try to apply them in their own; they forget that you can observe them (or the lack thereof) during gemba walks at their own company. First, you gain a technical understanding about your operations that isn’t possible from behind an office desk. By humbly watching and talking with the workforce, you also impart a sense of genuine interest and a willingness to support. Earnestly engaging individuals, asking sincere questions, and really listening to what’s said offers tremendous insight into a company’s culture and why — or why not — actions necessary to achieve excellence are being pursued.

I always devote significant time to “people transformation” in every presentation and workshop I teach on innovation excellence. I do this with stories and descriptions of real or invented characters, which I’ve learned are very popular with my audiences and tend to get the message across. They also give people enough of an understanding and motivation to change on their own.

Over the years I also learned to supplement the stories and descriptions with genuine emotions and feelings because they are at the core of change management. I’ve lived through all of this — the good and bad of cultural transformations — and I’ve felt the highs and lows that inevitably occur. That’s one of the reasons why George Taninecz and I wrote Winning Innovation as a business novel. The format has allowed us to show a cultural change coming alive and how the emotions, feelings, and actions of characters evolve along the way — eventually helping a company achieve innovation excellence.

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How to Solve Transparent Problems

How to Solve Transparent Problems

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

One of the best problems to solve for your customers is the problem they don’t know they have. If you can pull it off, you will create an entirely new value proposition for them and enable them to do things they cannot do today. But the problem is they can’t ask you to solve it because they don’t know they have it.

To identify problems customs can’t see, you’ve got to watch them go about their business. You’ve got to watch all aspects of their work and understand what they do and why they do it that way. And it’s their why that helps you find the transparent problems. When they tell you their why, they tell you the things they think cannot change and the things they consider fundamental constraints. Their whys tell you what they think is unchangeable. And from their perspective, they’re right. These things are unchangeable because they don’t know what’s possible with new technologies.

Once you know their unchangeable constraints, choose one to work on and turn it into a tight problem statement. Then use your best tools and methods to solve it. Once solved, you’ve got to make a functional prototype and show them in person. Without going back to them with a demonstration of a functional prototype, they won’t believe you. Remember, you did something they didn’t think was possible and changed the unchangeable.

When demonstrating the prototype to the customer, just show it in action. Don’t describe it, just show them and let them ask questions. Listen to their questions so you can see the prototype through their eyes. And to avoid leading the witness, limit yourself to questions that help you understand why they see the prototype as they do. The way they see the prototype will be different than your expectations, and that difference is called learning. And if you find yourself disagreeing with them, you’re doing it wrong.

This first prototype won’t hit the mark exactly, but it will impress the customer and it will build trust with them. And because they watched the prototype in action, they will be able to tell you how to improve it. Or better yet, with their newfound understanding of what’s possible, they might be able to see a more meaningful transparent problem that, once solved, could revolutionize their industry.

Customers know their work and you know what’s possible. And prototypes are a great way to create the future together.

Transparent” by Rene Mensen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. We also publish a weekly Top 5 as part of our FREE email newsletter. Did your favorite make the cut?

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

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

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

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

Have something to contribute?

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

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

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3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Most of my advice to leaders who want to use innovation to grow their businesses boils down to two things*:

  1. Talk (and listen) to customers
  2. Do something

But what if you don’t want to talk to customers?

After all, talking to customers can be scary because you don’t know what they’ll say. It can be triggering if they say something mean about your product, your business, or even you as a person. It can be draining, especially if you’re an introvert.

Plus, there are so many ways to avoid talking to customers – Send a survey, hire a research firm to write a report, invoke the famous Steve Jobs quote about never doing customer research.

Isn’t it just better to stay tucked away in the office, read reports, state opinions as if they are facts (those opinions are based on experience, after all), and make decisions?

Nope.

It is not better. It is also not safer, easier, or more efficient.

To make the best decisions, you need the best data, which comes from your customers.

But that doesn’t mean you need to talk to them to get it.

The best data

The best data helps you understand why your customers do what they do. This is why Jobs to be Done is such a powerful tool – it uncovers the emotional and social Jobs to be Done that drive our behavior and choices (functional Jobs to be Done are usually used to justify our choices).

But discovering Jobs to be Done typically requires you to talk to people, build rapport and trust in a one-on-one conversation, and ask Why? dozens of times so surface emotional and social JTBD.

Luckily, there are other ways to find Jobs to be Done that don’t require you to become an unlicensed therapist.

Observe your customers

Go where your customers are (or could be) experiencing the problem you hope to solve and try to blend in. Watch what people are doing and what they’re not doing. Notice whether people are alone or with others (and who those others are – kids, partners, colleagues, etc.). Listen to the environment (is it loud or quiet? If there’s noise, what kind of noise?) and to what people are saying to each other.

Be curious. Write down everything you’re observing. Wonder why and write down your hypotheses. Share your observations with your colleagues. Ask them to go out, observe, wonder, and share. Together you may discover answers or work up the courage to have a conversation.

Quick note – Don’t be creepy about this. Don’t lurk behind clothing racks, follow people through stores, peep through windows, linger too long, or wear sunglasses, a trench coat, and a fedora on a 90-degree day, so you look inconspicuous. If people start giving you weird looks, find a new place to people-watch.

Observe yourself

Humans are fascinating, and because you are a human, you are fascinating. So, observe yourself when you’re experiencing the problem you’re hoping to solve. Notice where you are, who is with you, the environment, and how you feel. Watch what you do and don’t do. Wonder why you chose one solution over another (or none).

Be curious. Write down everything you did, saw, and felt and why. Ask your colleagues to do the same. Share your observations with your colleagues and find points of commonality and divergence, then get curious all over again.

Quick note – This only works if you have approximately the same demographic and psychographic profiles and important and unsatisfied Jobs to be Done of your target customers.

Be your customer

What if your business solves a problem that can’t be easily observed? What if you don’t have the problem that your business is trying to solve?

Become your customer (and observe yourself).

Several years ago, I worked with a client that made adult incontinence products. I couldn’t observe people using their products, and I do not have important (or unsatisfied) Jobs to be Done that the products can solve.

So, for one day, I became a customer. I went to Target and purchased their product. I went home, wore, and used the product. I developed a deep empathy for the customer and wrote down roughly 1 million ways to innovate the product and experience.

Quick note – Depending on what’s required to “be your customer,” you may need to give people a heads up. My husband was incredibly patient and understanding but also a little concerned on the day of the experiment.

It’s about what you learn, not how you learn it

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is one best way to get insights. I’m 100% guilty (one-on-one conversations are a hill I have died on multiple times).

Ultimately, when it comes to innovation and decision-making, the more important thing is having, believing, and using insights into why customers do what they do and want what they want. How you get those insights is an important but secondary consideration.

* Each of those two things contains A TON of essential stuff that must be done the right way at the right time otherwise, they won’t work, but we’ll get into those things in another article

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Driving the Next Era of Growth: Leveraging Data to Innovate

Driving the Next Era of Growth: Leveraging Data to Innovate

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

“50% of US executives and 39% of European executives said budget constraints were the primary hurdle in turning Big Data into a profitable business asset. Rounding out the top 5 challenges were data security concerns, integration challenges, lack of technical expertise, and proliferation of data silos.” (Capgemini)

“The biggest challenges companies face when implementing Big Data are budget constraints” (Capgemini)

Data analytics is continuously evolving as AI and machine learning applications get faster and smarter. The benefits that may be gained by analyzing massive data sets identifying in seconds patterns, signals, and relationships between nonaligned and aligned areas is intoxicating for savvy companies seeking to innovate. We recognize that companies can make faster and better decisions with strong analytic teams interpreting the findings. Look at what information-driven analytics has done already in cool improvements around us. There are so many good examples of this. Take transportation systems, the use of information analytics to course vehicles round congested areas in actual time is one simple example. Another, that literally may have saved the restaurant industry during the pandemic, is meals delivery services which depend on data collected to forecast demand on menu items, key order times, navigation around cities and streets not to mentioned detailed knowledge individual’s meal preferences. Data helped to optimize driving routes for more efficient delivers.

As data analytics becomes more sophisticated, we might anticipate revolutionary disruptions. However, economists report spending greater funds per capita on research, yet there is a significant decline in rate of successful innovation output. One motive for this could be that we are mistakenly focusing an excessive amount of on R&D instead of on innovation output which takes exceptional justification, funding, and resources. What does data analytics have to do with innovation? Everything! Research is crucial but just one part of a puzzle for developing new products and services. Today, innovation requires a sophistication in data analytics interpretation. There’s also a need for the curiosity, for human evaluation and a bit of intuition and intelligence. Companies need an astute cleverness like no other time in history and an ingenious approach to taking research and turning it into something new and worthwhile.  The process must be diligent, but it must also be agile. Too frequently, organizations get bogged down within the details of research and improvement, without truly questioning outside the boundaries of a container process. As a result, we have delays in the process often stalling out for lack of resource allocations. Even worse, companies not focusing on deep understanding of their data may misinterpret the analytics leaving more to chance that to solid pathways.

It’s worth saying, placing a greater emphasis on creativity and innovation is imperative vs. traditional research and improvement methods. As is deeply dissecting the data in your business. Where does all that data live? What are the hidden signals of the data, what types of converging uses (products/solutions) could you turn that data into?

We are in an era of new growth. Poll your customers! They are changing rapidly and challenged with keeping up with the speed of change but know they must. Where are they doubling down their efforts? How well do they understand their own data? What products and services are they developing, who are they collaborating with and a better question, why are you collaborating with them to innovate around their future needs? Are they investing in developing a more tech and analytic savvy organization? Better question, is your company?

As cliché as it is data is the new oil. Data will be producing its own data (it’s happening today) known as synthetic data. According to Gartner, “By 2025, synthetic data will reduce personal customer data collection, avoiding 70% of privacy violation sanctions.” This begs to question the emphasis companies are placing on developing the skills sets of the organization around analytics and data. And simply put, as oil has an expansive array of products and uses, we’re now in an era of inventing new energy sources to reduce even eliminate dependencies on oil. How might data fit into the effort to transform these dependencies? Data is essential for electric and autonomous vehicle development. Innovative companies are undertaking long tail efforts to drive the next generation of IoE (Internet of everything). Data is the fuel. Let’s explore four ways that organizations can use records analytics to power innovation and stay ahead of the competition.

  1. Design new products that think for themselves: understanding data from a variety of sources may trigger new types of needs and possible new products that could be developed. For example: understanding water needs for new smart and innovative cities being designed takes enormous planning. A partner to Plazabridge Group, designs digital twin environments for the water sector. Cites like Singapore, Houston, Dubai, must anticipate the growing needs for water and plan design and building based on anticipated needs but also, they must plan for worst- and best-case scenarios. They must plan for leakage, or contamination or other possible scenarios that may impact water supplies. Digital twinning these environments is the most cost-effective way to simulate new innovative methods. Leveraging as much data as possible as well as generating newly created synthetic data cities can plan more economically, they can execute faster and prepare for events that may occur. Understanding these models around water, suppliers may produce products that help cities build these digital environments. Not just for water systems but for any part of businesses today; manufacturing, facilities management, construction…
  2. Not all innovation has to be moonshot inventions. Simply identify unmet wishes of customers, consumers or the market creating engaging products and services. UBER goes from just carting us around leveraging an incredible inventive back in logistics infrastructure to launch UBER eats! Why not, the drivers are already out and about, the data collected indicates the most popular spots riders go to for coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks… UBER analysts have vast information on customer interests in turn turned from few riders during a pandemic to delivering food as an essential business during the pandemic. A pivot turns into a scalable source of augmented revenue as the shelter lifts and people get back to riding.
  3. So much opportunity exists to improve customer engagement: records analytics can assist businesses to better understand their clients and their wishes. This expertise can then be used to improve customer service and support future-proofing your business.
  4. Extend efficiency: data crunching algorithms, digital twinning, AR/VR simulations and access to remote experts will help corporations to streamline their operations, digitally transforming themselves for greater efficiency. This increased efficiency can lead to price savings, which can be reinvested in innovation.“90% of CEOs believe the digital economy will impact their industry, but less than 15% are executing on a digital strategy.”

— MIT Sloan and Capgemini. Seek out experts and industry mentors to help your organization make these shifts. We often fear what we cannot see, the beautiful thing about the digital world is you can build a virtual environment visualizing the unseen, and plan for all types of scenarios. A model we developed (not dependent on virtual or digital anything in fact) at Plazabridge Group is around the CIA’s The Phoenix Checklist. Strategies for Regenerating is our formula for going deep into understanding problems, future opportunities, needs, anticipating deeply the “What ifs” of every possible scenario.  When done leveraging data and analytics the possibilities become endless.

Original Article

Image credits: Pixabay

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6 Ways to Leverage Virtual Tools to Create an Innovation Culture

6 Ways to Leverage Virtual Tools to Create an Innovation Culture

GUEST POST from Soren Kaplan

Culture is a key success factor for every team and organization. Shape it to get more innovation, even from your remote workforce.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Box, Slack, and Salesforce all say that employees can keep working remotely well into next year or even forever. We’re seeing a sea change toward remote work and how to make it more fun and effective. But what happens to the culture of teams and organizations in a virtual world?

In my book, The Invisible Advantage: How to Create a Culture of Innovation, I define culture as “the norms and values that shape behavior.” If you want to change culture to get more innovation, for example, you need to change norms and values toward things that inspire people to generate ideas, prioritize the best ones, test them out, and implement them using customer input. So how do you do that when you’re working remotely and it’s impossible to gather around the water cooler?

To change norms and values, you need to first change your own behavior, since our behavior is what ultimately communicates and reinforces what’s important. If you want more innovation, you need to do things that demonstrate you’re serious about soliciting ideas and doing something with them.

Here are six things you can do to get more innovation from your remote team in today’s virtual world:

1. Find Problems to Fuel Ideas

Innovation starts with problems. Ineffective leaders ignore problems and sweep them under the carpet. Innovative leaders love problems because they’re the basis for new ideas. Every month, ask your team to share the toughest problems they’re facing due to working remotely or in their work serving customers. Keep a running list that you can continually prioritize. The result: People see you’re serious about addressing real issues and they don’t hold back sharing problems that, if solved, will make a big different for the business.

2. Bring on Virtual Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a simple process that includes generating lots of ideas, prioritizing them, and the selection the best of the best to pursue. Get a tool specifically designed for online brainstorming, like Mural, Lucidchart, or Ideaboardz. The result: People learn the brainstorming process and your team will have online tools that are just as effective as stickies on a white board.

3. Tell Symbolic Stories

People remember stories. And stories contain messages about what’s important and why. Look for current or past examples of “innovation” from your team, other teams in your organization, or even outside your company. Find stories about how people overcame physical distance or used technology to innovate. Discuss what led to success and how you can do similar things as a team working remotely. The result: People internalize what’s important and why and will re-tell the same stories to others as part of reinforcing culture.

4. Pair Up to Show Up

Working remotely can feel isolating. Pair people to tackle a tough idea or problem. Give pairs time to work together and then report back progress. Use the larger team to provide feedback and support each pair’s efforts. Run virtual “innovation synch-ups,” where pairs share their ideas with the larger team and get feedback. The result: Pairing people up builds relationships infused with the values of innovation while ensuring more robust results.

5. Count It to Make It Count

You get what you measure. Set a target to collect some number of new ideas per month (like 15-20) and successfully implement 1-2 as a team. Track and report on progress regularly so everyone knows the targets are serious success measures. Create an online dashboard that you that you use to track progress from meeting to meeting. The result: People see the importance of quantifiable results and feel accountable to them.

6. Celebrate Wins to Create a Winning Team

Recognition of achievements and team celebrations are as important as ever. When someone delivers an innovation–whether creating a new product, service, process, or anything else–recognize them publicly. During virtual team meetings, set aside time for “virtual awards” to recognize those who have made valuable contributions. Email or snail mail a certificate or gift card in advance so recipients have real-world awards in their possession during the ceremony. The result: People understand the innovative behavior and results that are valued and will do what they can to deliver more of it themselves.

As I wrote in my last article, business should ideally keep going and growing, even in a pandemic or economic downturn. Innovation shouldn’t stop either. If you’re not innovating, it’s likely someone else is. And it’s likely your competition. In today’s world, everything eventually gets disrupted. Your culture is ultimately your only sustainable competitive advantage-even in a virtual world. Shape yours today.

If you want to see how you can build tools & resources to support your remote team, visit Praxie.com.

Image credits: Getty Images (acquired by Soren Kaplan)

This article was originally published on Inc.com and has been syndicated for this blog.

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Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Meeting face to face, for a lovely lunch recently, with a coaching colleague, we were both shocked to discover how stressed and anxious we were feeling about being asked to deliver live workshops and face-to-face coaching to clients once again.

We shared how emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelmed we felt, despite having decades of knowledge, experience, and skills in being able to deliver deep learning programs and face-to-face coaching sessions, about doing live gigs again! We also agreed, that despite the range of largely effective emotionally intelligent coping strategies we developed to help ourselves and our clients self-regulate, self-manage, to better adapt to the pandemic-imposed work-from-home restrictions that the past two and half years of working, alone, and in isolation, online, had taken its toll.

We acknowledged and accepted that we along with many of our clients were all suffering from elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety. We then agreed that it was time to focus on exploring how to better help ourselves and our clients reconnect and reset by enabling them to create states of well-being, emotional agility, and mental fitness, where they can feel good, can function well, and be effective and innovative in an increasingly chaotic world.

To seek new ways of enabling ourselves and our clients to deal effectively with a range of unresourceful feelings including helplessness, powerlessness, and fearfulness about an uncertain future. 

We noticed that these feelings often caused many of our clients to contract and freeze, and become immobilised as a result of what we describe as a “bubble” of self-induced silo-based behaviours. That often evolved into extreme self-centeredness, and unconscious selfishness, which ultimately increased their feelings of isolation and loneliness, and lack of belonging, resulting in defensive and avoidant behaviours, in what is becoming an increasingly chaotic world.

How are these ways of being and acting impacting organisations?

Partnering in a wide range of online global coaching sessions, we noticed that a number of common trends emerged as to how our client’s teams and organisations, are being impacted at the cultural level:

  • Immobilization – many people are unable to self-manage their work from home workloads and are quietly burning out, through being overly task-focused and busy, whilst others are preferring to work autonomously, and not waste hours commuting.
  • Lacking safety and trust – many organisations are freezing all of their change initiatives, learning programs, and projects, causing people to fear loss and overall job insecurity, where many people are contracting more deeply within their “bubbles” and become even more distrustful of leadership and even more passively defensive and avoidant.
  • Lacking clarity and foresight – many organisations have slipped into being so reactive, focussing only on delivering short-term results, and are not communicating a clear strategy for leading the way forwards.

Resulting in:

  • Increased resistance to change and going back to the office adds to people’s inertia, and to their sense of disconnection and lack of belonging.
  • Increased risk adversity and conventional (cost cutting), tactical and short-term focus, inhibits any investment in Research and Development or the skills development required in developing and executing a future innovation strategy.
  • People have become even more fearful of failure, and are not stretching themselves to adapt, grow, learn and innovate with disruption, and often choosing to merely change jobs, in a competitive job marketplace, driven by scarcity, as a perceived short term solution.

A unique moment in time

This has created an opportunity, in this unique moment in time, to focus on being kinder to ourselves and to others by helping and supporting each other, respectfully and compassionately, creatively and courageously, to reconnect and reset. Despite rising levels of economic, civic, and social uncertainty and unrest.

What made sense yesterday may not make so much sense today.

Many of the mental models we applied yesterday may not be relevant for tomorrow because corporate culture, civic and social structures have drastically changed and digitalization has become commonplace, noting that we are shifting from a VUCA to BANI world where:

  • Brittle has replaced Volatility.
  • Anxiety reflects Uncertainty.
  • Non-linearity is an addition to Complexity.
  • Incomprehensibility is ultimately the consequence of our non-linear world and goes one step further than Ambiguity.

Paradoxically, this has created new openings to genuinely explore and discover new thresholds to adapt, generate new mindsets, develop skill sets, and power up our toolkits to keep pace with the effects of the emerging BANI world and capture complex systems by asking a  key generative or catalytic question:

How might you support and enable others to think and act differently in such a world, where old patterns seem to crumble while new ideas and systems still need to be created, invented, innovated, and established?

As the world of work changes, so does the need for everyone to consider how to be more open-hearted, minded, and willed with one another.

A final word from Gallop CEO Jon Preston in the Gallop Global Emotions Report:

“All over the world, people are trying to understand the rise of violence, hatred, and increased radicalization. They will continue to argue over what the best policy responses should be and what role social media plays in fueling negative emotions.

However, policymakers must understand why so many more people are experiencing unprecedented negative emotions and focus on the drivers of a great life.

Our shared humanity and wellbeing depend on it”.

When we generously and kindly demonstrate care, respect, and appreciation for the value everyone brings, we can also demonstrate helpfulness and support, through our unconditional willingness to reconnect and reset.

Resulting in an ability to co-create a better sense of belonging and a more optimistic outlook, through enhancing our emotional intelligence.  To effectively self-regulation and self-manage the superpowers and strategies required to thrive, flourish and flow, and make transformational changes in the face of relentless uncertainty, disruption, and a chaotic world.

This is the first in a series of three blogs on the theme of reconnecting and resetting, to create, invent and innovate in an increasingly chaotic world. You can also register for our free 45-minute masterclass on Thursday, 25th August, to discover new ways of re-connecting through the complexity and chaos of dis-connection to create, invent and innovate in the future! Find out more.

Image credit: Pixabay

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The Battle Against the Half-Life of Learning

The Battle Against the Half-Life of Learning

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Leading with learning in mind is a necessary skill to consistently innovate as a team. Continually learning and revisiting skill sets is crucial to combating the half-life of learning.

As leaders, it’s important to make time available to our employees to freshen up their skills and knowledge through programs and tools. It’s equally important to ask ourselves, “how am I helping to provide the right resources?”.

Below, we’ll discuss the following:

  • What is the half-life of learning?
  • How can we contribute as leaders?
  • Why should individual growth be the focus?

What is the half-life of learning?

Now, what is the half-life of learning? For one, it’s something that is not talked about frequently enough. It affects all of us, no matter what we specialize in and touch day-to-day. It lives within marketing campaigns, our bodies, the living things around us, our skill sets, and more.

Put succinctly, it’s the halfway point of one’s strength becoming ineffective. Regarding learning or knowledge, the half-life is the halfway point for a current skill set or facts to no longer be true or effective. 

Ernest Rutherford discovered the concept of a half-life within the context of science. He deduced that it takes a certain period of time for an element to decay halfway.

For example, we can ask, “what’s the half-life of caffeine in a group of 100 people?“ Caffeine’s half-life is about five fours. By the fifth hour, the caffeine’s effects have fully diminished within half (50/100) of the people. Within the half-life period of the next five hours, the effects expire on half of the remaining 50 people (25/100), and so on. Like any other element, its effects vary per person, but the half-life serves as a comprehensible range for its lifespan.

We can also practically apply this to work. Within marketing, how long can a campaign represent relevant and effective information? Within learning, how long are someone’s learned skills still relevant?

Say that you’ve been operating with skills you learned years ago. Since then, your competitive advantage with those learned skills has diminished. The World Economic Forum claims that “the half-life of a job skill is about five years (meaning that every five years, that skill is about half as valuable as it was before).”

How can we contribute as leaders?

Suppose you consciously support your employees in real learning, educating themselves, participating in important programs within their specialty, etc… In that case, they remain relevant in their field and are significantly more valuable in their role. It’s a no-brainer when spelled out. As leaders, we need to make this a priority and hold ourselves and others accountable for staying ahead rather than playing catch-up.

We lose information without practice and reinforcement. Putting this concept into practice is critical to working against the half-life of learning.

How are we approaching accountability in this realm? These organizations offer structuring opportunities for learning and upkeep accountability. At Voltage Control, we have programs designed to keep organizations on track and sustain change.

Maintaining a competitive advantage requires this continual learning. An environment for innovation can only be cultivated by staying ahead of the curve with knowledge and skills.

What are the best resources for knowledge? Knowledge can be taught with content. Find the relevant educational content, and commit to time with it regularly. Are there education programs that employees can attend? Who in the space is in the business of educating others? We should be absorbing information that’s new to us.

It’s also key to observe trends within certain fields. What is changing within their expertise in the next ten years, and is knowledge or experience required?

What are the best resources for skills? They’ve learned through experience with others. The more we can encourage collaboration amongst individuals, the better our team. We develop skills by learning from those with more or different experiences, so it’s important to have confidence in your team’s structure and provide room for growth within the company, as well as to educate individuals about the half-life of learning so that they’re invested in their growth.

Setting aside time specifically for continuing education in both knowledge and skills is vital.

Where are we headed?

As innovators, not only do we need to be ready to address change. We need to expect it and get well ahead of it.

Within the workplace, demand does not match supply long-term. In 2020, the World Economic Forum claimed, “This lack of attention to upscaling will lead to an urgent disparity between workers and jobs. In the future, nine out of 10 jobs will require digital skills, yet today 44% of Europeans age 16 to 43 lack even basic digital abilities. In Europe, the impending skills gap will lead to 1.67 million unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals by 2025.”

The world around us is constantly evolving.

The half-life of learning is something to be embraced. It’s an opportunity to recognize that everyone’s skills fade and that innovation will always play a role in our lives. It’s a matter of whether we choose to continue learning or accept our past experience as the extent of it. Learning and management play equal roles in the workplace. To impact our work, leaders need to allow employees the time and resources to develop and learn information relevant to business goals.

Why should individual growth be the focus?

Keeping this half-life of learning in mind is crucial from a hiring perspective. Degrees from decades ago have little to nothing to do with the knowledge that’s relevant now. Thinking long-term, it’s also important to consider how roles need to evolve with time. Automation is likely to greatly impact needed skill sets in the current decade. For example, McKinsey claims, “6 of 10 current occupations have more than 30% of technically automatable activities.” They claim that while job opportunities will still exist, a significant portion of the population will need to learn new skill sets to remain relevant.

People need to feel that there’s room for groove within their rules and that their responsibilities can develop as they do. How are we allowing employees to explore their interests and strengths? Are we using them to our advantage within the organization? Are we allowing them the flexibility to understand their strengths and value?

Article originally published on VoltageControl.com

Image Credit: Pixabay

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