Tag Archives: change management

Engaging Consciousness in the Emotional Work of Organizational Transformation

Engaging Consciousness in the Emotional Work of Organizational Transformation

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Organizational transformation is a uniquely human endeavor. Navigating the journey to change starts with understanding the employee experience and creating space for emotional safety in the workplace.

According to organizational behavior expert Sigal Barsade, emotions are the key to encouraging higher performance and achievement. Her research shows that emotions influence employees’ wellness in addition to driving productivity. Thus, to influence organizational transformation, leaders need to take a closer look at how emotions factor into the employee experience.

In this article, we’ll discuss emotions and their role to change management in the following topics:

  • The Employee Experience
  • The Transformation Timeline
  • Emotions at Work
  • An Engagement of Consciousness

The Employee Experience

Without a keen understanding of the employee experience and your team’s emotional state, sustainable change is more fantasy than reality. In your efforts to initiate organizational transformation, consider first transforming employees’ work experience to promote a sense of emotional well-being.

In shaping the employee experience, it’s critical to understand employees’ expectations for emotional safety in the workplace. As most employees value their mental health above all else, they expect their working environment to promote trust, purpose, and social cohesion. Moreover, they want to know that leadership recognizes their contributions and that there is room and opportunity for sustainable growth and development. Similarly, team members want their personal sense of purpose to be in alignment with the organization.

With increased emotional wellness comes higher employee engagement and a more motivated workforce. With a stronger sense of emotional safety in the employee experience, leaders will find that their team is prepared to engage in organizational transformation.

The Transformation Timeline

 “You have to attract people… you can’t bribe or coerce transformation.”
Greg Satell

Once you prioritize the employee experience in your change strategy, you can begin the organizational transformation timeline. Organizational transformation is a process that happens through gradual change, resulting in sustainable behavioral transformation. This type of comprehensive change can only occur through a series of repeatable actions and innovative systems, not one-time initiatives.

Take steps towards sustainable change with the following phases of organizational transformation:

Phase One: Fight Resistance

To sustain organizational transformation, leaders and team members need a solid strategy for managing resistance. Resistance often stems from the discomfort that change brings.

To move beyond this fear, leaders should explain that while transformation involves many unknown factors, the forthcoming change will bring overall positive results. By showing team members how they will benefit from a change, leaders can overcome resistance and encourage their employees to support the initiative.

  • Freezing of Behaviors
    In Lewis’ Change management model, change is broken into three steps: freezing, changing, and refreezing.

    In the first phase of organizational transformation, the “unfreezing” process will occur. This involves recognizing one’s need for change and defining new behaviors that replace the former methods and practices. During this very fluid phase, team members and leaders identify and share data that supports a need for change.

Phase Two: Facilitate Adjustment

After strategically managing resistance to change, the next phase in achieving organizational transformation is facilitating the adjustment period. During this phase, team members are no longer actively resisting transformation but still need time to adjust to the changes the new initiative brings.

In the adjustment period, changes are discussed in detail, and team members are invited to provide criticism and feedback. This phase allows team members to personalize the change as they recognize their individual roles in achieving organizational transformation. In a successful adjustment phase, every team member is aligned with the necessary actions for the next phase: acceptance.

  • Changing

Within the adjustment phase of organizational transformation, team leaders will actively change their old habits. At this time, all stakeholders work to replace undesired behaviors with desired ones.

Phase Three: Foster Acceptance

In phase three of the organizational transformation timeline, you’ll lead your team into the acceptance phase with a solid vision and strategy for sustaining the changes over time.

  • Refreezing

In the foster acceptance phase, refreezing occurs when changes are stabilized and become the new normal. As the organizational transformation nears completion, team members are in the best position to cement these changes by ensuring a legacy of growth.

Phase Four: Ensure Consistency

The fourth phase of organizational transformation establishes consistent and sustainable growth. Consistency is a direct result of repeatable actions from strategic processes, intentional routines, and innovative practices that allow each team member to enact changes that carry into the future continuously.

Emotions at Work

A clear strategy for long-term change is only a roadmap to organizational transformation. After setting the stage for change to take place, leaders must engage in the emotional work of transformation.

Change takes emotional labor, requiring an environment that is uniquely attuned to address employees’ emotional needs. In the workplace, emotions can be an accelerator for transformation. To engage emotions in the most effective way, leaders can create conditions that ensure psychological safety.

Research shows that to solidify organizational transformation, we must mitigate emotional harm and, in doing so, foster emotional commitment from team members. While emotional harm isn’t tangible, it presents itself in certain ways that can create anxiety, fear, and similar negative responses in employees. Essentially, working to facilitate positive experiences alongside potentially negative emotions is the key to harnessing a safe space for transformation. Leaders that are able to manage the effects of stress successfully can transform a high-pressure environment into a space for high performance.

Sonja Kresojevic, the founder of Spinnaker Co. and a proponent of using agile principles for organizational change, firmly believes that true transformation is a product of an empowered organization. According to  Kresojevic, the more we humanize change through emotional labor and healing initiatives, the more we are able to influence others and start shifting organizations in the direction of transformation.

Leaders can promote healing and psychological safety by allowing employees to share their thoughts and criticisms freely and without retribution. With an increase in support and emotional safety, your team will be ripe for organizational transformation.

An Engagement of Consciousness

An organization’s penchant for the unknown is essential in driving organizational transformation. In your efforts to humanize change management, it’s crucial to understand and accept human nature’s role in experiencing change. In understanding our natural inclinations toward risk aversion in the face of change, we can work to replace this avoidance of uncertainty with curiosity, vulnerability, and authenticity in the workplace. This approach to change management will transform the way we work, the risks we take, and our willingness to accept change.

Much of organizational transformation is dependent on accepting uncertainty: that the future is unclear and we don’t have all the answers. The real secret to driving organizational transformation is empowering people to develop and accept new ideas on their own. Managing the uncertainty of organizational transformation takes time, allowing for the unfreezing, changing, and refreezing process to take place as stakeholders consider their options.

Rob Evans, Master Coach of Collaboration and Transformation Designer, shares that giving people a chance to court the unknown, is essential for change acceptance as it allows new ideas to seep in and take hold.

Practicing patience during the change management process allows for “engagement in the full consciousness,” in which leaders can kickstart the organizational transformation timeline and encourage employees to buy into the change. By pairing deliberate strategy with time for authentic employee engagement, radical transformation is an inevitability.

Ready to start the journey to organizational transformation? Consider a new approach to the employee experience. Voltage Control can help you and your team define the best path for your organization’s transformation. 

This article originally appeared at VoltageControl.com

Image credit: Pixabay

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3 Steps to a Truly Terrific Innovation Team

3 Steps to a Truly Terrific Innovation Team

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“What had a bigger impact on the project? The process you introduced or the people on the team?”

As much as I wanted to give all the credit to my brilliant process, I had to tell the truth.

“People. It’s always people.”

The right people doing the right work in the right way at the right time can do incredible, even impossible, things. But replace any “right” in the previous sentence, and even the smallest things can feel impossible. A process can increase the odds of doing the right work in the right way, but it’s no guarantee. It’s powerless in the hands of the wrong people.

But how do you assemble the right group of people?  Start with the 3 Ts.

Type of Innovation

We’re all guilty of using ‘innovation’ to describe anything that is even a little bit new and different. And we’ve probably all been punished for it.

Finding the right people for innovation start with defining what type of innovation they will work on:

  • Incremental: updating/modifying existing offerings that serve existing customers
  • Adjacent: creating new offerings for existing customers OR re-positioning existing offerings to serve new customers
  • Radical: new offerings or business models for new customers

Different innovation types require teams to grapple with different levels of ambiguity and uncertainty.  Teams working on incremental innovations face low levels of ambiguity because they are modifying something that already exists, and they have relative certainty around cause and effect.  However, teams working on radical innovations spend months grappling with ambiguity, certain only that they don’t know what they don’t know.

Time to launch

Regardless of the type of innovation, each innovation goes through roughly the same four steps:

  1. Discover a problem to be solved
  2. Design solutions
  3. Develop and test prototypes
  4. Launch and measure

The time allotted to work through all four steps determines the pace of the team’s work and, more importantly, how stakeholders make decisions. For example, the more time you have between the project start and the expected launch, the more time you have to explore, play, create, experiment, and gather robust data to inform decisions.  But if you’re expected to go from project start to project launch in a year or less, you need to work quickly and make decisions based on available (rather than ideal) data.

Tasks to accomplish

Within each step of the innovation process are different tasks, and different people have different abilities and comfort levels with each.  This is why there is growing evidence that experience in the phase of work is more important than industry or functional expertise for startups.

There are similar data for corporate innovators. In a study of over 100,000 people, researchers identified the type and prevalence of four types of innovators every organization needs:

  1. Generators (17% of the sample): Find new problems and ideate based on their own experience.
  2. Conceptualizers (19%): Define the problem and understand it through abstract analysis, most comfortable in early phases of innovation (e.g., Discover and Design)
  3. Implementers (41%): Put solutions to work through experiments and adjustments, most comfortable in later stages of innovation (Develop and Launch)
  4. Optimizers (23%):  Systematically examine all alternatives to implement the best possible solution

Generators and Conceptualizers are most comfortable in the early stages of innovation (i.e., Discover and Design).  Implementers and Optimizers are most comfortable in the later stages (e.g., Develop and Launch).  The challenge for companies is that only 36% of employees fall into one of those two categories, and most tend to be senior managers and executives.

Taking Action

Putting high performers on innovation teams is tempting, and top talent often perceives such assignments as essential to promotion.  But no one enjoys or benefits when the work they’re doing isn’t the work they’re good at.  Instead, take time to work through the 3Ts, and you’ll assemble a truly terrific innovation team.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Why is it important to innovate in 2023?

Why is it important to innovate in 2023?

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

At ImagineNation™ we have just celebrated 10 years as a global innovation consultancy, learning, and coaching company. During this time, we’ve identified some of the common patterns that people demonstrate as a result of feeling uncomfortable, frozen, inert, stubborn, and confused and as a result, are resistant to innovation. Where many organizations, teams, and leaders appear to walk backward as if they are sleepwalking through this time in their lives.

At the same time, we know that innovation is transformational, and why, at this moment in time, it is more important than ever to create, invent and innovate. We also know that is crucial to be better balanced, resilient, and adaptive to grow and flow, survive and thrive, in today’s chaotic BANI environment. We also know exactly what transformative innovation involves, and how to enable and equip people to connect and collaborate in new ways to effect constructive and sustainable change in a world of unknowns.

Innovation is, in fact, the water of life!

Shaping the next normal

According to a recent article by McKinsey and Co “The future is not what it used to be: Thoughts on the shape of the next normal” the coronavirus crisis is a “world-changing event” which is forcing both the pace and scale of workplace innovation.

Stating that businesses are forced to do more with less and that many are finding better, simpler, less expensive, and faster ways to operate.  Describing how innovative health systems, through necessity, constraints, and adversity have exploited this moment in time, to innovate:

“The urgency of addressing COVID-19 has also led to innovations in biotech, vaccine development, and the regulatory regimes that govern drug development so that treatments can be approved and tried faster. In many countries, health systems have been hard to reform; this crisis has made the difficulty much easier to achieve. The result should be a more resilient, responsive, and effective health system”.

We all know that it is impossible to know what will happen in the future and yet, that it is possible to consider and learn from the lessons of the past, both distant and recent.  On that basis, it’s crucial to take time out, be hopeful, and positive, and think optimistically about the future. To be proactive and innovate to shape the kind of future we all wish to have, through making constructive and sustainable changes, that ultimately contribute to the common good.

Strategically deciding to innovate

Strategically deciding to innovate, is the first, mandatory, powerful, and impactful lever organizations, teams, leaders, and individuals can pull to effect constructive and sustainable change that enables people to execute and deliver real benefits:

  • Deal with, and find solutions to a world full of complex and competing social, civic, and political problems that are hard to solve and aren’t going away.
  • Better adapt, respond to, and be agile in fast-changing circumstances, uncertainty, instability, and to random and unexpected Black Swan events, like the global Covid-19 Pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine war.
  • Become human-centric to help people recover and manage their transition through the challenges of the global pandemic and enable them to exploit the range of accelerating technological advances in the digital age.
  • Develop corporate responsibility, sustainability, diversity, and inclusion strategies that are practical and can work and really deliver on their promises.
  • Compete by applying and experimenting with lean and agile start-up methodologies and take advantage of the opportunities and possibilities of the global entrepreneurship movement’s new models for leadership, collaboration, and experimentation.
  • Align to the range of changing workplace dynamics and trends, resulting from the pandemic, including WFH, the “soft resignation” and the demands of a hybrid workplace.
  • Shift individual, group, and collective consciousness towards collaboration and experimentation in ways that rebuild the trust that has been lost through incompetence, corruption, greed, and dishonesty.
  • Respond creatively to meet the increasingly diverse range of customer expectations and choices being made around value.

Important to innovate – three elements

To take advantage of living in a globalized world, where we are interconnected through technologies and values and where we have an interrelated structure of reality, we can:

  • Accept that innovation-led adaptation and growth are absolutely critical and develop targets and a willingness to invest in new scalable business models, achieve fast and effective developments, and launch processes to reflect these.
  • Invest in a coherent, time-risk balanced portfolio of initiatives and provide the resources to deliver them, at scale, strategically, to innovate to the right market, at the right price, at the right time, and through the most effective channels.
  • Adopt an ecosystem approach to adapt and grow by creating and capitalizing on both internal and external networks, and stakeholder management through developing workforce ecosystems – a structure that consists of interdependent actors, from within the organization and beyond, working to pursue both individual and collective goals.

Problem-solving, cultural change, and improving people’s lives

It is more important than ever to make innovation transformational, so that it delivers constructive, ethical, and sustainable change, by building on three critical successful abilities:

  1. Seeing and sensing the real systemic problem or breakthrough opportunity:
  • What problem are we solving? And is there a customer who wants to pay to have that problem solved?
  • What problem are we solving for the customer? Who needs this?
  • What are the possibilities and opportunities available to us? And is there a customer who wants to pay to have this opportunity realized?
  • What are some of our strengths? What are some of the things we are doing well that we can build upon or exploit?
  1. Shifting the culture:
  • Where are we today? Where do we want to be in the future?
  • What are our prevailing mindsets? How can we measure and contextualize their impact? What mindsets might we embrace to adapt and grow in an uncertain world?
  • How ready and receptive are we to really embrace change?
  • What do we need to unlearn and relearn to ensure our people are open-minded, hearted, and willed to embody and enact the desired change?
  • How engaged and passionate are our people in problem-solving?
  • How might we harness our people’s collective intelligence to solve problems and realize opportunities?
  1. Aligning technologies, processes, artifacts, and behaviors as a holistic system:
  • What is our appetite for risk? How do we define risk in our context?
  • What type of innovation do we strategically want to plan for and engage in?
  • What old legacy technologies no longer serve your needs? What new technologies might you be willing to invest in for the future?
  • What disciplines are in place to ensure that people have a common understanding of the key processes and comply with managing them?
  • How are we ensuring that everyone is motivated and skilled to innovate?
  • How are we ensuring that people are acknowledged, rewarded, and organized to repeatedly innovate?
  • What are the key mindsets and behaviours that enable and equip people to embody and embrace repeatedly innovate and design solutions with the end customer in mind?

Become an adaptive and resilient difference maker

As many of us are aware, Toys R Us and Blockbuster were huge companies, that enjoyed massive success; however, this was all brought to an end due to their failure to innovate.

We can all avoid this fate by choosing to innovate and create constructive and sustainable change through:

  • Accepting and acknowledging that to survive and thrive in a BANI world, where necessity is still the mother of all invention, and the urgency to do this is more important than ever.
  • Identifying, understanding, and dealing with our own resistance to innovation, safely and proactively, and transforming resistance into resilience, to be adaptive and safely innovate.
  • Understanding where we are today and then assessing the gap to what we want to be in the future, and mitigating the risks of both closing the gap and leaving the gap wide open.
  • Enabling leaders, teams, and individuals to connect, explore, discover and navigate new ways of approaching and delivering commercially viable, value-adding, constructive and sustainable change, and outcomes.
  • Leveraging innovation to transform an organization, a business, the way people lead and team, to improve the quality of people’s lives in ways they appreciate and cherish.

“In order to transcend mere adequacy and make a mark of creative transcendence on the world, organizations need to stop walking backward, following a trail that has already been blazed. The motto of the British Special Air Service is, “Who dares, wins.” It is time for businesses to be bold, inspired, and look to the horizon. The next great innovation is out there. Will you have the guts to create it?”

Will you make a fundamental choice to innovate?

According to McKinsey and Co “The point is that where the world lands is a matter of choice – of countless decisions to be made by individuals, companies, governments, and institutions”.

Will you make a fundamental choice to use the current crisis to lead to a burst of innovation, productivity, resilience, and exploration in 2023, to take advantage of our connected world to create the constructive and sustainable changes we all want to have?

Or will you continue walking backward and sleepwalking through life, and fail to take advantage of this moment in time, to innovate, and continue life with the same thinking that is causing the current range of results, that many of us don’t want to have?

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique innovation context. Find out more about our products and tools

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Forbidden Truth About Innovation

Forbidden Truth About Innovation

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

If you heard it once, you heard it a thousand times:

  • Big companies can’t innovate
  • We need to innovate before we get too big and slow
  • Startups are innovative. Big companies are dinosaurs. They can’t innovate.

And yet you persevere because you know the truth:

Big companies CAN innovate.

They CHOOSE not to.

Using Innovation to drive growth is a choice.

Just like choosing to grow through acquisition or expansion into new markets is a choice.

All those choices are complex, uncertain, and risky. In fact:

Hold on. The odds of failure are the same!

All three growth drivers have similar failure rates, but no one says, “Big companies can’t acquire things” or “Big companies can’t expand into new markets.”

We expect big companies to engage in acquisitions and market expansion.

Failed acquisitions and market expansions prove us (or at least our expectations) wrong. Because we don’t like being wrong, we study our failures so that we can change, improve, and increase our odds of success next time.

We expect big companies to fail at innovation.

In this case, failure proves us right. We love being right, so we shrug and say, “Big companies can’t innovate.”

We let big companies off the hook.

Why are our expectations so different?

Since the dawn of commerce, businesses engaged in innovation, acquisitions, and market expansion. But innovation is different from M&A and market expansion in three fundamental ways:

  1. Innovation is “new” – Even though businesses have engaged in innovation, acquisitions, and market expansion since the very earliest days of commerce, innovation only recently became a topic worthy of discussion, study, and investment. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1960s that Innovation was recognized as worthy of research and deliberate investment.
  2. Innovation starts small – Unlike acquisitions and new markets that can be easily sized and forecasted, in the early days of an innovation, it’s hard to know how big it could be.
  3. Innovation takes time – Innovation doesn’t come with a predictable launch date. Even its possible launch date is usually 3 to 5 years away, unlike acquisition closing dates that are often within a year.

What can we do about this?

We can’t change what innovation is (new, small, and slow at the start), but we can change our expectations.

  • Finish the sentence – “Big companies can’t innovate” absolves companies of the responsibility to make a good-faith effort to try to innovate by making their struggles an unavoidable consequence of their size. But it’s not inevitable, and continuing the sentence proves it. Saying “Big companies can’t innovate because…”  forces people to acknowledge the root causes of companies’ innovation struggles. In many ways, this was the great A-HA! of The Innovator’s Dilemma: Big companies can’t innovate because their focus on providing better (and more expensive) solutions to their best customers results in them ceding the low-end of the market and non-consumers to other companies.
  • Be honest – Once you’ve identified the root cause, you can choose to do something different (and get different results) or do everything the same (and get the same results). If you choose to keep doing the same things in the same ways, that’s fine. Own the decision.
  • Change your choice. Change your expectations – If you do choose to do things differently, address the root causes, and resolve the barriers, then walk the talk. Stop expecting innovation to fail and start expecting it to be as successful as your acquisition and market expansion efforts. Stop investing two people and $10 in innovation and start investing the same quantity and quality of resources as you invest and other growth efforts.
  • The first step in change is admitting that change is needed. When we accept that “big companies can’t innovate” simply because they’re big, we absolve them of their responsibility to follow through on proclamations and strategies about the importance of innovation as a strategic driver of growth.

It’s time to acknowledge that innovation (or lack thereof) is a choice and expect companies to own that choice and act and invest accordingly.

After all, would it be great to stop persevering and start innovating?

Image credit: Pixabay

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3 Steps to Find the Horse’s A** In Your Company (and Create Space for Innovation)

3 Steps to Find the Horse's A** In Your Company (and Create Space for Innovation)

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Innovation thrives within constraints.

Constraints create the need for questions, creative thinking, and experiments.

But as real as constraints are and as helpful as they can be, don’t simply accept them. Instead, question them, push on them, and explore around them.

But first, find the horse’s a**

How Ancient Rome influenced the design of the Space Shuttle

In 1974, Thiokol, an aerospace and chemical manufacturing company, won the contract to build the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) for the Space Shuttle. The SRBs were to be built in a factory in Utah and transported to the launch site via train.

The train route ran through a mountain tunnel that was just barely wider than the tracks.

The standard width of railroad tracks (distance between the rails or the railroad gauge) in the US is 4 feet, 8.5 inches which means that Thiokol’s engineers needed to design SRBs that could fit through a tunnel that was slightly wider than 4 feet 8.5 inches.

4 feet 8.5 inches wide is a constraint. But where did such an oddly specific constraint come from?

The designers and builders of America’s first railroads were the same people and companies that built England’s tramways. Using the existing tramways tools and equipment to build railroads was more efficient and cost-effective, so railroads ended up with the same gauge as tramways – 4 feet 8.5 inches.

The designers and builders of England’s tramways were the same businesses that, for centuries, built wagons. Wanting to use their existing tools and equipment (it was more efficient and cost-effective, after all), the wagon builders built tramways with the exact distance between the rails as wagons had between wheels – 4 feet 8.5 inches.

Wagon wheels were 4 feet 8.5 inches apart to fit into the well-worn grooves in most old European roads. The Romans built those roads, and Roman chariots made those grooves, and a horses pulled those chariots, and the width of a horses was, you guessed it, 4 feet 8.5 inches.

To recap – the width of a horses’ a** (approximately 4 feet 8.5 inches) determined the distance between wheels on the Roman chariots that wore grooves into ancient roads. Those grooves ultimately dictated the width of wagon wheels, tramways, railroad ties, a mountain tunnel, and the Space Shuttle’s SRBs.

How to find the horse’s a**

When you understand the origin of a constraint, aka find the horse’s a**, it’s easier to find ways around it or to accept and work with it. You can also suddenly understand and even anticipate people’s reactions when you challenge the constraints.

Here’s how you do it – when someone offers a constraint:

  1. Thank them for being honest with you and for helping you work more efficiently
  2. Find the horse’s a** by asking questions to understand the constraint – why it exists, what it protects, the risk of ignoring it, who enforces it, and what happened to the last person who challenged it.
  3. Find your degrees of freedom by paying attention to their answers and how they give them. Do they roll their eyes in knowing exasperation? Shrug their shoulders in resignation? Become animated and dogmatic, agitated that someone would question something so obvious?

How to use the horse’s a** to innovate

You must do all three steps because stopping short of step 3 stops creativity in its tracks.

If you stop after Step 1 (which most people do), you only know the constraint, and you’ll probably be tempted to take it as fixed. But maybe it’s not. Perhaps it’s just a habit or heuristic waiting to be challenged.

If you do all three steps, however, you learn tons of information about the constraint, how people feel about it, and the data and evidence that could nudge or even eliminate it.

At the very least, you’ll understand the horse’s a** driving your company’s decisions.

Image credit: Pixabay

Endnotes:

  1. To be very clear, the origin of the constraint is the horse’s a**. The person telling you about the constraint is NOT the horse’s a**.
  2. The truth is never as simple as the story and railroads used to come in different gauges. For a deeper dive into this “more true than not” story (and an alternative theory that it was the North’s triumph in the Civil War that influenced the design of the SRBs, click here

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Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers

Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Being the smart innovator (and businessperson) you are, you know it’s important to talk to customers. You also know it’s important to listen to them.

It’s also important to ignore your customers.

(Sometimes)

Customers will tell you what the problem is. If you stay curious and ask follow-up questions (Why? and Tell me more), they’ll tell you why it’s a problem and the root cause. You should definitely listen to this information.

Customers will also tell you how to fix the problem. You should definitely ignore this information.

To understand why, let me tell you a story.

Eye Contact is a Problem

Years ago, two friends and I took a day trip to Maine. It was late in Fall, and many lobster shacks dotting the coast were closed for the season. We found one still open and settled in for lunch.

Now, I’m a reasonably adventurous eater. I’ll try almost anything once (but not try fried tarantulas). However, I have one rule – I do not want to make eye contact with my food.

Knowing that lobsters are traditionally served with their heads still attached, I braced for the inevitable. As the waitress turned to me, I placed the same order as my friends but with a tiny special request. “I’ll have the lobster, but please remove its head.”

You know that scene in movies when the record scratches, the room falls silent, and everyone stops everything they’re doing to stare at the person who made an offending comment? Yeah, that’s precisely what happened when I asked for the head to be removed.

The waitress was horrified, “Why? That’s where all the best stuff is!”

“I don’t like making eye contact with my food,” I replied.

She pursed her lips, jotted down my request, and walked away.

A short time later, our lunch was served. My friends received their lobsters as God (or the chef) intended, head still attached. Then, with great fanfare, my lobster arrived.

Its head was still attached.

But we did not make eye contact.

Placed over the lobster’s eyes were two olives, connected by a broken toothpick and attached to the lobster’s “ears” by two more toothpicks.

The chef was offended by my request to remove the lobster’s head. But, because he understood why I wanted the head removed, he created a solution that would work for both of us – lobster-sized olive sunglasses.

Are you removing the head or making sunglasses?

Customers, like me, are experts in problems. We know what the problems are, why they’re problems, and what solutions work and what don’t. So, if you ask us what we want, we’ll give you the solution we know – remove the head.

Innovators, like you and the chef, are experts in solutions. You know what’s possible, see the trade-offs, and anticipate the consequences of various choices. You also take great pride in your work and expertise, so you’re not going to give someone a sub-par solution simply because they asked for it. You’re going to provide them with olive sunglasses.

Next time you talk to customers, stay curious, ask open-ended questions, ask follow-up questions, and build a deep understanding of their problems. Then ignore their ideas and suggestions. They’ll only stand in the way of your olive sunglasses.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Reset and Reconnect to Increase our Connectedness

Reset and Reconnect to Increase our Connectedness

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our second blog in the Reconnect and Reset series of three blogs, we stated that now is not the time to panic. Nor is it a time to languish from change fatigue, pain, and emotional lethargy. It is a significant moment in time to focus, rehabilitate, rebuild, repair, regrow and reset to increase our connectedness through linking human touchpoints that increase people-power in the fourth industrial revolution.

In the current environment, where chaos and order are constantly polarizing, it’s crucial to touch people with empathy, reignite their social skills, and enable them to become healthily self-compassionate and more self-caring to:

  • Patiently support, lead, manage, mentor, and coach them towards finding their own balance to flow with mitigating the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.
  • Take advantage of new technologies, networks, and ecosystems to re-engage and collaborate with others and with civil society in positive ways that contribute to the whole.
  • Do the good work that creates a more compelling, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future, that serves the common good.

The Landscape Has Changed and So Have the Solutions

As the fourth industrial revolution continues to implode, we need to zoom out and consider the bigger picture. Where a recent Harvard Review article What Will Management Look Like in the Next 100 Years?” states that we are entering an era, which is fundamentally transforming the way we operate. Which is defined by the disruptive growth in blockchain technology, robotics, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and other core digital capabilities.

All of which, in some way, is dependent on linking the key human touchpoints that increase people’s power and our connectedness.

  • An era of empathy

In the same article, management scholar Rita Gunther McGrath argued that management practices based on command and control, and expertise would ultimately make way for empathy.

Where work is centred around value creation conducted through networks and collaboration, that rely on increasing the connectedness between machines and humans rather than through rigid structures and relationships to thrive through increasing people-power in the fourth industrial revolution.

  • Capable of better

The Qualtrics 2022 Employee Experience Trends Report also states that the landscape has changed.  Where people are choosing to work flexibly, to work in the places that work best for them, and to take time for their own well-being, families, and friends.

Where people are demanding change because they care, about their leaders and their organizations, and want to be capable of developing better ideas; better innovations; and delivering better performances.

The report outlines the four things your people need you to know:

  1. There will be an exodus of leaders – and women will be the first out the door.
  2. People will demand better physical and digital workspaces.
  3. The lack of progress in diversity, inclusion, and belonging won’t be accepted.

People don’t want to become irrelevant, nor do they want their managers, leaders, and organizations to become irrelevant. People know that they can’t, and won’t go back to the old ways of doing things. People also know that they are already living in the new normal and that they need to start working there, too and to do that, we need to increase our connectedness.

Which is especially important for building people’s power and mitigating the challenges emerging in the fourth industrial revolution.

  • A transformative moment for employees and employers

Businessolver’s Eighth Annual Report on the State of Workplace Empathy describes how the pandemic has impacted on employees’ personal lives, the labor market, and the economy, and states that “we are living through a renegotiation of the social contract between employees and employers”.

Their data shows that amid the return to the office, fewer employees view their organizations as empathetic, and that workplace empathy has clear implications for employee well-being, talent retention, business results, and increases people-power:

  • About 70% of employees and HR professionals believe that empathetic organizations drive higher employee motivation.
  • While 94% of employees value flexible work hours as empathetic, the option is only offered in 38% of organizations.
  • 92% of CEOs say their response to returning to in-person work is satisfactory, compared to 78% of employees.
  • 82% of employees say their managers are empathetic, compared to 69% who say the same about their organization’s chief executive.

Yet, there seems to be a true lack of understanding, especially in the corporate sector, of what it means to be empathetic, and a shortage of time and energy to develop the mindsets, behaviors, and skills to practice it and make it a habit.

It is also a fundamental way of being to increase our connectedness and building peoples-power.

Make a Fundamental Choice to Increase our Connectedness

Even though each person is a distinct physical being, we are all connected to each other and to nature, not only through our language but also by having a deeper sense of being.

Human connectedness is a powerful human need that occurs when an individual is aware and actively engaged with another person, activity, object or environment, group, team, organization, or natural environment.

It results in a sense of well-being.

The concept is applied in psychology as a sensation or perception where a person does not operate as a single entity – we are all formed together to make another, individual unit, which is often described as wholeness.

Which is especially important for our well-being and people power in the face of the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.

Strategies for Developing Quality Connections

  • Be grounded, mindful and conscious

Being grounded and mindful enables people to become fully present to both themselves and to others. It is a generous gift to unconditionally bestow on others. Especially at this moment in time, where the pandemic-induced social isolation, has caused many people to become unconsciously and unintentionally self-absorbed.

There is an opening to become aware of, and to cultivate our attending and observing skillsets, to sense and see the signals people are sending, at the moment they are sending them. To help people identify the source of their issues to re-establish a sense of influence and control that reduces their autonomic nervous system reactions and help them restore their calmness.

This is the basis to increase our connectedness, by attuning and becoming empathetic as to what thoughts and feelings lay behind their behaviours and actions, with detachment, allowing and acceptance.

  • Be open-hearted and open-minded 

Being curious about what others are feeling and thinking, without evaluating, judging, and opposing what they are saying. By knowing how to listen deeply for openings and doorways that allow possibilities and opportunities to emerge, to generate great questions that clarify and confirm what is being both said and unsaid.

To support people by creating a safe and collective holding space, that reduces their automatic unconscious defensive responses.  To defuse situations by being empathic and humble and increase our connectedness by asking how you might help or support them, and gaining their permission and trust to do so.

Increase our connectedness through being vulnerable in offering options so they make the best choice for themselves, to reduce their dependence, help them identify and activate their circles of influence and control and sustain their autonomy.

  • Help people regenerate

Now is the moment in time to focus on building workforce capabilities and shifting mindsets for generating a successful culture or digital transformation initiative by harnessing, igniting, and mobilizing people’s motivation and collective intelligence and building people power.

It is crucial to acknowledge and leverage the impact of technology through increasing people-power by developing new mindsets, behaviors, skills, and new roles, which are already emerging as fast as other roles change.

Be willing to invest in the deep learning challenges that build people’s readiness and receptivity to change, so they can embrace rather than resist it, and be willing to unlearn, and relearn, differently, by collaborating with other people, leaders, teams, and organizations across the world.

Ultimately, it all depends on being daring and willing to increase our connectedness, through adapting, innovating, and collectively co-creating strategies, systems, structures that serve the common good, and contribute to the well-being of people, deliver profits and nurture a sustainable planet.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and increase people-power, upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context. Find out more about our products and tools.

This is the final 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 check out the recording of our 45-minute masterclass, 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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3 Mind-Blowing Things I Learned in Nebraska

3 Mind-Blowing Things I Learned in Nebraska

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

In the Before Times, we attended conferences to learn, make connections, and promote ourselves and our businesses. Then COVID hit, and conferences became virtual.   Although that made them easier to attend, it also made them easier to skip. Because, if we’re honest, most conferences were more about connecting and promoting than learning.

Last week, I went to one of those rare, almost mythical, conferences more focused on learning and connecting than promoting. It was fantastic! It was also in Nebraska (which is a pretty interesting place, btw).

Here are my three biggest mind-blowing takeaways from Inside Outside’s IO2022 Summit:

“Strategy is the direction you take to win in the future”

Kareen Proudian, Managing Partner at Faculty of Change

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but if you asked me to define “Strategy,” I’d respond with a long and rambling answer. Which means I can’t define “strategy.”  This admission is especially embarrassing because I have a resume littered with places where I developed, drafted, and implemented strategies, so I should have learned what the word means. But nope, I didn’t.

I suspect I’m not alone.

Asking for the definition of strategy is like asking if you must wear clothes to the office. You should know the answer. But unlike whether or not clothing is mandatory, most of us don’t know the answer, AND it’s easy to get away with never knowing the answer.

The elegant simplicity of Kareen’s definition of strategy blew my mind. It’s short, memorable, and something that most people can understand. Maybe I should share the definition with my alma maters and past employers.

“When we feel threatened, our IQ drops 50 to 70 points”

Alla Weinberg, CEO at Spoke & Wheel

When I first heard talk about Psychological Safety and Safe Spaces in today’s business world, I rolled my eyes. Hard. As a Gen X-er, I grumbled about how we didn’t need “safe spaces” when I grew up because we were tough and self-reliant, and I lamented the inevitable downfall of society caused by weak and coddled Millennials.

I was wrong.

Psychological Safety is absolutely and unquestionably essential for individuals to grow, teams to work, companies to operate and innovate, and societies to function and evolve. I’ve seen teams and businesses transform and achieve unbelievable success by discussing and living the elements they require for Psychological Safety. I’ve also seen teams and businesses fail in its absence.

These results aren’t surprising when you realize that you feel threatened when you are in a complex situation in which you cannot accurately predict the outcomes. And when you feel threatened, you are half as intelligent, effective, and creative as you are when you’re calm.

So, if you’re a manager and you’re upset that your people aren’t as intelligent, effective, or creative as they should be, it may not be their fault. It may be yours.

“Stage expertise, not industry expertise, is key to innovation success”

Sean Sheppard, Managing Partner at U+

There is deep comfort in the known. It’s why we gravitate to people like us. It’s also why companies ask job candidates and consultants about their experience in the industry and choose those with deep experience and impressive expertise. Often, there’s nothing with this question or the resulting decision.

Sometimes, it’s precisely the wrong question.

Sometimes, functional expertise is significantly more important than industry experience. After all, if you’re the hiring manager at a healthcare company looking for a Director of Finance, who would you hire – a Marketing Director from a competitor or a Finance Director from a CPG company?

That’s the case with innovation.

Decades of real-world experience (not to mention the successful launch of 100+ startups) show that successful corporate startup teams had expertise (mindsets, skillsets, executional drive) in the startup’s phase and a working knowledge of the industry rather extensive industry expertise and little to no innovation experience.

Questions are good. The right questions are better. So, the next time you’re staffing up an innovation team (or hiring a consultant), choose based on their innovation experience and willingness to learn about your industry.

Innovation happens everywhere

That’s why people from San Francisco, Austin, Washington DC, NYC, Toronto, Boston, and dozens of other places converged on Lincoln, Nebraska.

We went to see innovation in action and learn about the thriving startup community in the middle of the country. We also went to learn and connect with others committed to creating new things that create value.

Getting our minds blown was a bonus.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Reset and Reconnect to Transform your World

Reset and Reconnect to Transform your World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Our blog, Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World was the first in a series of three, on the theme of reconnecting and resetting, to create, invent and innovate in an increasingly chaotic world. In this blog, we described how we have opportunities, to focus on being kinder to both ourselves and to others we interact with. To help us shift our mental states to transition effectively through the shock and pain of the pandemic, and rehabilitate in ways that transform our worlds.

We also outlined the range of key reasons as to why it is critical to take personal responsibility for understanding, helping, and supporting those we depend upon, and who depend upon us, to respond in ways that are respectful and compassionate, creative and courageous.

That enables and empowers people to recover and rehabilitate from the shock and pain they are experiencing from their elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety, occurring in our relentlessly uncertain and chaotic environments, through allowing, accepting, and acknowledging where people are at – and that it’s OK to not be OK!

Neither a time to panic nor languish

Right now, it is neither a time to panic, stall nor to languish in the face of change fatigue and mental lethargy.

It is a time to shift from making binary (either/or) judgements towards making linear (both/and) judgements to re-think and create a mental state, that is open and receptive to emerging possibilities and embraces change in ways that are fair and inclusive.

To transform your world through:

  • Choosing a range of constructive and positive responses to the rising levels of global economic, civic, and social uncertainty and unrest in our own local environments.
  • Generously and kindly demonstrating care, respect, and appreciation for the value everyone brings, and by being collaborative, appreciative, helpful, and supportive.
  • Being unconditionally willing to take the “sacred pause” that allows ourselves, teams, organizations, and to reconnect and reset, through intentionally using constraints and developing a mental state that supports them to become adaptive, creative, inventive, and innovative.

Transforming your world involves co-creating a deeper sense of belonging and a more optimistic outlook, to enhance our collective intelligence toward discovering and navigating new ways of thriving, flourishing, and flowing in the face of ongoing disruption.

Integrating and balancing chaos and rigidity

Dr. Dan Siegal, in Mindsight, applies the emerging principles of interpersonal neurobiology to promote compassion, kindness, resilience, and well-being in our personal lives, our relationships, and our communities.

In our global coaching practice at ImagineNation™ we have observed that many of our clients are experiencing mental states that embody varying levels of discord, dissonance, and dis-order, which are deeply unconscious and are impacting them neurologically.

Dr. Dan Siegal states:

“At the heart of both interpersonal neurobiology and the mindsight approach is the concept of ‘integration’ which entails the linkage of different aspects of a system – whether they exist within a single person or a collection of individuals. Integration is seen as the essential mechanism of health as it promotes a flexible and adaptive way of being that is filled with vitality and creativity.

The ultimate outcome of integration is harmony. The absence of integration leads to chaos and rigidity—a finding that enables us to re-envision our understanding of mental disorders and how we can work together in the fields of mental health, education, and other disciplines, to create a healthier, more integrated world.”

We have seen a vast range of evidence of peoples’ internal and external, mental chaos, and self-imposed internal rigidity in many of our clients’ coaching sessions.

Knowing that when chaos and rigidity are prolonged – it creates unproductive or dysfunctional mental states and inflexible thought processing.

This makes people non-adaptive and mostly inflexible because their natural well-being is impaired (dis-order).

Our approach is to partner with clients to co-create a relationship, that supports and helps facilitate a set of more integrated mental states. This entails each person’s being respected for his or her autonomy and differentiated self through deep empathic communication, which creates the space and an opening for shifting mindsets and behaviors, to ultimately pull them towards a new possibility that may transform their world.

Allowing, accepting, and acknowledging

When we allow, accept, acknowledge and support people to recover and rehabilitate from the shock and pain they are experiencing as a result of recent global events and conflicts, including feelings of overwhelm, isolation, loneliness, and disconnection, we can enable them to initiate making these shifts.

According to Gallops Global Emotions 2022 Report – these are considered “negative emotions – the aggregate of the stress, sadness, anger, worry and physical pain that people feel every day” and have reached a new record in the history of their tracking.

Jon Clifton, CEO of Gallop stated in the report that their data reveals that unhappiness has been rising for more than a decade and that the world is also struggling from a silent pandemic – loneliness.

“Gallup finds that 330 million adults go at least two weeks without talking to a single friend or family member. And just because some people have friends, it doesn’t mean they have good friends. One‑fifth of all adults do not have a single person they can count on for help.”

No emotion or mental state is permanent!

It’s time to focus on exploring how to better help ourselves, our clients, people, and teams by paying deep attention and being intentional as to how we might experiment and collaborate, with three key steps, to make these shifts:

  1. Co-create relationships focused on supporting integration, by being respectful and empathic in all communications, to open space of possibility, and pull people towards what creative ideas and breakthroughs might transform their world.
  2. Artfully and masterfully generatively listen, inquire, question, and disagree, to evoke, provoke and create ideas for thinking and acting differently both today and in the future.
  3. Maximize people’s strengths, differences, and diversity, to sense, see and solve problems and be creative and inventive in delivering breakthrough ideas and innovative solutions that add value to the quality of people’s lives, in ways they appreciate and cherish.

Rehabilitate with intention

At the same time, paradoxically, extending options and choices that help them shift and transition through the shock and pain of the past two and half years.

Enabling and empowering people to rehabilitate, with intention rather than regret, adopting a systemic lens through:

  • Creating safe collective holding spaces, that embrace presence, empathy, and compassion.
  • Helping people get grounded, become mindful, and fully present, enables them to make quality connections, rebuild their confidence and recreate a sense of belonging.
  • Enabling, equipping, and empowering people with new mindsets, behaviors, and skills through unlearning, learning, and relearning so they can adapt, grow and be resourceful and resilient in the face of the range of emerging problems, opportunities, and challenges.
  • Amplifying people’s strengths, reinforcing positive emotions, mitigating and reducing the way they filter information to re-ignite their intrinsic motivation and re-engage them in what they can control, what care deeply about value, or need, to survive and thrive.

A decade of both transformation and disruption

As most of us are aware, we are currently experiencing a decade of both transformation and disruption, where chaos and order are constantly polarizing, making it imperative to support, mentor, and coach people to integrate and find their balance.

To help them become more flexible and open to being adaptive, and effectively “dance in dis-equilibrium” between the constant and consistent states of chaos and order.

To enable people to see themselves as the cause in actively unlearning and letting go of old mental models, unresourceful mental states, and thinking patterns, to reimagine and redesign how they work to transform their world and create a more compelling, inclusive, and sustainable future.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context. Find out more about our products and tools.

This is the second 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 check out the recording of our 45-minute masterclass, to discover new ways of re-connecting through the complexity and chaos of dis-connection to create, invent and innovate in the future!

Image credit: Unsplash

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How Do You Judge Innovation: Guilty or Innocent?

How Do You Judge Innovation: Guilty or Innocent?

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Several months ago, a colleague sent me a link to Roger Martin’s latest article, “The Presumption of Guilt: The Hidden Logical Barrier to Innovation.”  Even though the article was authored by one of the preeminent thinkers in the field of innovation and strategy (in 2017, Thinkers50 voted him the #1 most influential management thinker in the world), I didn’t have too much hope that I would read something new or interesting. After all, I read A LOT of articles, and 99 times out of 100, I’m disappointed (80 times out of 100, I roll my eyes so hard I give myself a headache).

This one blew my mind.

With just a few sentences and applying a well-known analogy, Martin explained a phenomenon that plagues every organization and kills most innovation.

Presumed Innocence is a fundamental human right

Martin begins by pointing out that in the legal systems of modern democracies, all citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In 1948, the United Nations extended this concept to all nations (not just democracies) in Article 11.1 of their Declaration of Human Rights.

The presumption of innocence is so important because “the presumption of guilt (or even neutrality) puts an almost impossible burden on the defendant. The State is strong and has resources far beyond that of the individual.”

Presumed Innocence is not a fundamental innovation right

Now let’s apply this analogy and the lens of presumption of innocence or guilt to business, arguably a field where we spend much more time and make far more judgments.

You, and your fellow decision-makers, are judges and jury.

It is up to you to determine whether the projects in front of you are innocent (worthy of additional investment) or guilty (not worthy).

If you presume all defendants are guilty, you place the burden of proof on them. They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they will succeed and are, therefore, worthy of investment.

If you presume all defendants are innocent, you place the burden of proof on yourself (or the business as a whole). You must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they will fail.

What type of judge are you? What kind of decision-making system do you preside over? Do you presume guilt or innocence?

In most boardrooms, projects are presumed guilty.

Presumptions in practice

Let’s consider the two “defendants” (types of projects) that appear before you – core business projects and innovation projects.

Each defendant has a team of advocates. The core business typically has a large team with ample resources and a history of success. Innovation has a much smaller team with far fewer resources and few, if any, “in-market” successes.

To be fair, you ask the same questions of both defendants – questions about market growth, performance versus competitors, and what the P&L looks like.

The team advocating for the core business produces data-filled slides, reports from reputable third parties, and financials blessed by Finance. In the deluge of facts, you forget that all the data is about the past, and you’re making decisions about the future. You find the evidence compelling (or at least reassuring), determine that the team met their burden of proof, declare the Core Business innocent, and allocate additional funds and people.

Innovation’s team also comes with slides, reports, and financials, but it’s not nearly as compelling as what you just saw from the current business team. But you are a fair judge, so you ask most questions like

  • We believe we can get X% of a Total Addressable Market estimated to be Y
  • There are no direct competitors, but consumers rated this better than current solutions
  • We don’t have a 5-year NPV or P&L for this business at scale because we’re not asking for permission to launch. We’re asking for $100,000 to continue testing.

Believe? We need to know!

No direct competitors? Perhaps there’s a reason for that!

No P&L? I’m not going to throw scarce money away!

“Guilty!” you declare, “no more resources for you! Try again!”

This example illustrates what Roger Martin considers corporate innovation’s fatal flaw. In his article, he argues,

“the status quo must play the role of the prosecutor and prove that the innovation is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The innovation asserts its case, laying out the future that it imagines is plausible and explains the logic that buttresses the plausibility. The onus is on the status quo to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the innovation’s logic is flawed — e.g., the proposed economics are unrealistic, customers haven’t shown a hint of caring about the unique selling features of the innovation, competitors already have a lead on us in the proposed area, etc.

If the status quo can do so, then the innovation is guilty. If it can’t, then the innovation is not guilty, and the organization should invest.”

As much as I love the idea of requiring the status quo (managers? Executives? Stockholders?) to prove that investments should not be made (i.e., the default answer is “Yes” to all requests), it’s just not a practical solution.

Burden of proof as barrier

There’s another fundamental principle in our legal system that Martin doesn’t touch on: the burden of proof shifts as the stakes increase.

Specifically, the State’s burden of proof increases from warrant to arraignment to grand jury to trial. For example, the State must provide probable cause based on direct or other reliable information to get a warrant. But the State must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt when the defendant goes to trial and risks losing their freedom or even their life.

But in the example above, the questions (proof required) remained the same.

The questions were appropriate for the Current Business because it’s already in the market, consuming massive resources, and its failure would have a catastrophic impact on the company.

But the questions aren’t appropriate for innovation in its early days. In fact, they were the business equivalent of demanding proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to get a search warrant. Instead, a judge evaluating a project in the early Design phase should ask for probable cause based on direct or other reliable information – observed consumer behavior, small-scale research findings, or simple prototypes.

The Verdict is In

I love the concept of Presumed Guilty vs. Presumed Innocent. I see it all the time in my work, and it is painfully prevalent in Innovation Council meetings and other boardrooms where managers sit as judge and jury over a project’s (ad a team’s) fate.

I want to flip the paradigm – To make “yes” the default instead of “No” and to require managers, the keepers of the status quo, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a project will fail.

But I don’t think it’s possible (if I’m wrong, PLEASE tell me!).

Instead, our best bet for true innovation justice is not to shift who bears the burden of proof but rather how heavy that burden is at various points. From probable cause when the stakes are low to beyond a reasonable doubt when they’re high. And certainly more than a ham sandwich at any point

Image credit: Pexels

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