Tag Archives: digital transformation

Kickstarting Change and Innovation in Uncertain Times

Kickstarting Change and Innovation in Uncertain Times

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last article, we described why innovation is transformational, and why, at this moment in time, it is more important than ever to innovate. We stated that innovation-led growth is absolutely critical and that people need to be enabled and equipped to adapt, connect and collaborate in new ways to kickstart change in agile, constructive, equitable, and sustainable ways to innovate in uncertain times. Yet, our research and experience at ImagineNation™ over the past 10 years has revealed that many governments, communities, organizations, teams, and leaders, feel somewhat – but not very – confident in their readiness, competence, and capacity to change and innovate in a world of unknowns.

Six Strategies to Kickstart Change and Innovate in Uncertain Times

To help build this confidence we have identified six key strategies and the key first steps to help you focus your attention, kickstart change, and drive and execute your change and innovation initiatives, to survive, thrive, and flourish in uncertain times.

Strategy #1

Build change readiness and receptivity to survive and thrive in an uncertain world by:

  • Giving people permission and safety that allows them to accept and acknowledge the range of emotional reactions (fears), physical consequences (exhaustion), and work-life imbalances as a result of the imposed WFH environment.
  • Acknowledging how people are feeling helps them better re-balance, adapt, and become resilient by supporting them to develop a work-life balance to better connect with others, tolerate uncertainty to change, and innovate in uncertain times.
  • Challenging people’s habitual default patterns of remaining in the safety of their comfort zones, breaking habitual “business as usual” habits, inertia, and complacency.
  • Being empathic and compassionate with people’s anxieties, confusion, insecurity, and uncertainties about their futures at work, and supporting them through their personal conflicts.

Strategy #2

Allow, accept and ack knowledge people’s fears and struggles about change, help manage their anxiety, improve their productivity and attune them to the possibilities and potential opportunities in the current business environment by:

  • Providing individual and collective support to enable people to take back and refocus their attention, self-manage anxiety, and become grounded, mindful, and fully present, with self and with others.
  • Investing in time and money to enable people to unlearn, learn and relearn how to be change ready and change-receptive, and become adaptive to effectively facilitate successful business and digital transformation initiatives.
  • Helping people get familiar with the brain’s basic cognitive functions, and build the foundations to help get work done by regulating emotions, suppressing biases, switching tasks, solving complex problems, and thinking creatively.
  • Developing 21st-century skills to shift old mindsets, develop new behaviors and the reasoning, problem-solving, planning, and execution skills to initiate and sustain business, cultural and digital transformation initiatives to embed the changes and to innovate in uncertain times.
  • Developing the fundamental foresight and energizing vision to perceive innovation strategically and systemically, adopting an approach that is holistic, human, and technology-centered, to align, enable, and equip people to adapt and grow and to change and innovate in uncertain times.

Strategy #3

Make sense of innovation, and develop a common understanding and language as to what innovation means in a unique context by:

  • Developing an awareness that innovation is, in itself, a change process, and paradoxically requires rigorous and disciplined change management processes and a chaotic creative and collaborative interchange of ideas.
  • Clarifying an energizing and compelling “why” innovation is important to an overall “cause” developing a passionate purpose and a sense of urgency towards leveraging innovation to achieve long-term success, competitiveness, and growth.
  • Knowing how to both make connections and distinguish and leverage the differences between creativity, invention, and innovation.
  • Building the safety, permission, and trust that helps facilitate, educate and coach people to deal with the emotional consequences of failure, to reframe it as opportunities to encourage a culture of taking small bets to learn quickly.
  • Taking a disciplined and methodical approach to risk planning and management, that allows and encourages a culture of smart risk-taking to reduce risk adversity.
  • Creating a consistent and common understanding as to what innovation means in their unique government, community, social, organizational, leadership, or team context and creating an engaging and compelling narrative around it.

Strategy #4

Optimize the notion that innovation is transformational and leverage it as an overall energizing strategic and systemic alignment mechanism and set of processes to kickstart change by:

  • Improving engagement, energizing and maximizing people’s potential and intentionally cultivating their collective genius to learn how to execute and deliver deep change and innovate in uncertain times.
  • Aligning technological, processes and adopting a human-centered structure for change management to deliver business breakthroughs and digital transformation initiatives.
  • Breaking down silos and supporting people to collaborate; re-connect, re-energize and re-invent themselves in a disrupted world.
  • Maximizing differences and diversity that exist between people’s demographics, cultures, values, perspectives, knowledge, experiences, and skillsets to deliver their desired outcomes.
  • Learning and coaching people to adapt to survive and thrive by solving complex problems, uncertainty, instability, and trends that are constantly emerging.
  • Improving both customer centricity and the customers’ experience.
  • Building accountable, equitable, and sustainable business enterprises that people value, appreciate, and cherish.

Strategy #5

Challenge the status quo and conventional ways of perceiving innovation to unleash the possibilities and the opportunities and kickstart change that true innovation offers by:

  • Taking a strategic perspective in the longer term and the need for investment in innovation, rather than being reactive, and short-term profit-focused.
  • Developing an understanding of the different types of innovation and how they can be applied, including incremental, breakthrough, sustaining, and disruptive, depending on their strategic imperative and motivation for change, and not just focussing on making continuous and process improvements.
  • Improving trust in organizational boards and leadership decisions, reducing self-interest and eliminating corruption, and focussing on being in integrity to successfully empower people in change and innovate in uncertain times.

Strategy #6

Explore opportunities for measuring, benchmarking, and contextualizing the impact of innovation on business performance, leadership, executive team, and organizational ability to adapt, innovate and grow by:

  • Embracing new business models, developing leadership capabilities and collaborative competencies, capacities, and building people’s confidence to perceive their worlds differently, and with fresh eyes.
  • Letting go of “old” 20th century methods of diagnosing and assessing culture, based solely on the “nice to haves” rather than exploring the emerging “must haves” to enable people to survive and thrive by experimenting with new assessment tools like the OGI® and the GLI® to quantify and qualify current and potential strengths and weaknesses.
  • Using data to know what new mindsets, behaviors, and skills to embody and enact, differently to become future-fit and succeed in the 21st century, and accepting that some of these are “not nice”.
  • Cultivating an innovation culture to embed deep change, provide learning and coaching to evoke, provoke and create mindset shifts, behavior and systems changes, and radically new sets of artifacts and symbols.

Taking the first steps to change and innovate in 2023

Embracing a range of new and different strategic and systemic approaches governments, communities, organizations, teams, and leader organizations can successfully kickstart change and innovate in uncertain times.

By using this moment in time to choose to refuse to walk backward and sleepwalk through life, by simply committing to take the first baby steps in allowing and enabling people to pause, retreat, reflect and:

  • Recover from the effects of working mostly alone, from home, and online.
  • Re-balance work and home lives through reconnection and resolving loneliness and rebuilding a sense of belonging.
  • Know how to tolerate uncertainty and become resilient and adaptive.
  • Reimagine and refocus a more energizing, compelling, and sustainable future.
  • Reinvent themselves, their professions, business practices, and teams in meaningful and purposeful ways.

We can then confidently, meaningfully, and purposefully energetically engage and enroll people, mobilize and harness their collective genius, to innovate in uncertain times in ways that add value to the quality of people’s lives in ways they appreciate and cherish.

To kickstart changes that contribute effectively to global stability, security, connectedness, and sustainability in the current decade of transformation and disruption.

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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Voting Closed for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022

Voting Closed for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO HAS BEEN NOMINATED

For more than a decade I’ve devoted myself to making innovation insights accessible for the greater good, because I truly believe that the better our organizations get at delivering value to their stakeholders the less waste of natural resources and human resources there will be.

As a result, we are eternally grateful to all of you out there who take the time to create and share great innovation articles, presentations, white papers, and videos with Braden Kelley and the Human-Centered Change and Innovation team. As a small thank you to those of you who follow along, we like to make a list of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers available each year!

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO HAS BEEN NOMINATED

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Do you just have someone that you like to read that writes about innovation, or some of the important adjacencies – trends, consumer psychology, change, leadership, strategy, behavioral economics, collaboration, or design thinking?

Human-Centered Change and Innovation is now looking to recognize the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022.

It is time to vote and help us narrow things down.

The deadline for submitting votes is December 31, 2022 at midnight GMT.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO HAS BEEN NOMINATED

Build a Common Language of Innovation on your team

The ranking will be done by me with influence from votes and nominations. The quality and quantity of contributions to this web site by an author will be a BIG contributing factor (through the end of the voting period).

You can vote in any of these three ways (and each earns points for them, so please feel free to vote all three ways):

  1. Sending us the name of the blogger by @reply on twitter to @innovate
  2. Adding the name of the blogger as a comment to this article’s posting on Facebook
  3. Adding the name of the blogger as a comment to this article’s posting on our Linkedin Page (Be sure and follow us)

The official Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022 will then be announced here in early January 2023.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO HAS BEEN NOMINATED

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

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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Voting Closed – Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022

Vote for Top 40 Innovation BloggersFor more than a decade I’ve devoted myself to making innovation insights accessible for the greater good, because I truly believe that the better our organizations get at delivering value to their stakeholders the less waste of natural resources and human resources there will be.

As a result, we are eternally grateful to all of you out there who take the time to create and share great innovation articles, presentations, white papers, and videos with Braden Kelley and the Human-Centered Change and Innovation team. As a small thank you to those of you who follow along, we like to make a list of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers available each year!

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Do you just have someone that you like to read that writes about innovation, or some of the important adjacencies – trends, consumer psychology, change, leadership, strategy, behavioral economics, collaboration, or design thinking?

Human-Centered Change and Innovation is now looking to recognize the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022.

It is time to vote and help us narrow things down.

The deadline for submitting votes is December 31, 2022 at midnight GMT.

Build a Common Language of Innovation on your team

The ranking will be done by me with influence from votes and nominations. The quality and quantity of contributions to this web site by an author will be a BIG contributing factor (through the end of the voting period).

You can vote in any of these three ways (and each earns points for them, so please feel free to vote all three ways):

  1. Sending us the name of the blogger by @reply on twitter to @innovate
  2. Adding the name of the blogger as a comment to this article’s posting on Facebook
  3. Adding the name of the blogger as a comment to this article’s posting on our Linkedin Page (Be sure and follow us)

The official Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022 will then be announced here in early January 2023.

Here are the people who received nominations this year along with some carryover recommendations (in alphabetical order):

Adi Gaskell – @adigaskell
Alain Thys
Alex Goryachev
Andy Heikkila – @AndyO_TheHammer
Annette Franz
Arlen Meyers – @sopeofficial
Art Inteligencia
Braden Kelley – @innovate
Brian Miller
Bruce Fairley
Chad McAllister – @ChadMcAllister
Chris Beswick
Chris Rollins
Dr. Detlef Reis
Dainora Jociute
Dan Blacharski – @Dan_Blacharski
Daniel Burrus – @DanielBurrus
Daniel Lock
David Burkus
Dean and Linda Anderson
Diana Porumboiu
Douglas Ferguson
Drew Boyd – @DrewBoyd
Farnham Street
Frank Mattes – @FrankMattes
Geoffrey A Moore
Gregg Fraley – @greggfraley
Greg Satell – @Digitaltonto
Helen Yu
Howard Tiersky
Janet Sernack – @JanetSernack
Jeffrey Baumgartner – @creativejeffrey
Jeff Freedman – @SmallArmyAgency
Jeffrey Phillips – @ovoinnovation
Jesse Nieminen – @nieminenjesse
John Bessant
Jorge Barba – @JorgeBarba
Julian Birkinshaw – @JBirkinshaw
Julie Anixter – @julieanixter
Kate Hammer – @Kate_Hammer
Kevin McFarthing – @InnovationFixer
Lou Killeffer – @LKilleffer
Manuel Berdoy

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Mari Anixter- @MariAnixter
Maria Paula Oliveira – @mpaulaoliveira
Matthew E May – @MatthewEMay
Michael Graber – @SouthernGrowth
Mike Brown – @Brainzooming
Mike Shipulski – @MikeShipulski
Mukesh Gupta
Nick Partridge – @KnewNewNeu
Nicolas Bry – @NicoBry
Nicholas Longrich
Norbert Majerus and George Taninecz
Pamela Soin
Patricia Salamone
Paul Hobcraft – @Paul4innovating
Paul Sloane – @paulsloane
Pete Foley – @foley_pete
Ralph Christian Ohr – @ralph_ohr
Randy Pennington
Richard Haasnoot – @Innovate2Grow
Robert B Tucker – @RobertBTucker
Robyn Bolton – @rm_bolton
Saul Kaplan – @skap5
Shep Hyken – @hyken
Shilpi Kumar
Scott Anthony – @ScottDAnthony
Scott Bowden – @scottbowden51
Shelly Greenway – @ChiefDistiller
Soren Kaplan – @SorenKaplan
Stefan Lindegaard – @Lindegaard
Stephen Shapiro – @stephenshapiro
Steve Blank
Steven Forth – @StevenForth
Tamara Kleinberg – @LaunchStreet
Teresa Spangler – @composerspang
Tim Stroh
Tom Koulopoulos – @TKspeaks
Tom Stafford
Yoram Solomon – @yoram

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

We’re curious to see who you think is worth reading!

Nominations Closed for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022

Nominations Closed for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022Human-Centered Change and Innovation loves making innovation insights accessible for the greater good, because we truly believe that the better our organizations get at delivering value to their stakeholders the less waste of natural resources and human resources there will be.

As a result, we are eternally grateful to all of you out there who take the time to create and share great innovation articles, presentations, white papers, and videos with Braden Kelley and the Human-Centered Change and Innovation team. As a small thank you to those of you who follow along, we like to make a list of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers available each year!

Nominations are now closed.

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Do you just have someone that you like to read that writes about innovation, or some of the important adjacencies – trends, consumer psychology, change, leadership, strategy, behavioral economics, collaboration, or design thinking?

Human-Centered Change and Innovation is now looking for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022.

The deadline for submitting nominations is December 24, 2022 at midnight GMT.

Nominations are now closed, but people were able to submit a nomination in either of these two ways:

  1. Sending us the name of the blogger and the url of their blog by @reply on twitter to @innovate
  2. Sending the name of the blogger and the url of their blog and your e-mail address using our contact form

(Note: HUGE bonus points for being a contributing author)

So, think about who you like to read and let us know by midnight GMT on December 24, 2022.

We will then compile a voting list of all the nominations, and publish it on December 25, 2022.

Voting will then be open from December 25, 2022 – January 1, 2023 via comments and twitter @replies to @innovate.

The ranking will be done by me with influence from votes and nominations. The quality and quantity of contributions by an author to this web site will be a contributing factor.

Contact me with writing samples if you’d like to publish your articles on our platform!

The official Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022 will then be announced on here in early January 2023.

We’re curious to see who you think is worth reading!

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Five Key Skills for Chief Transformation Officers

Five Key Skills for Chief Transformation Officers

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

As digital transformation continues to become more commonplace in the modern business landscape, the role of the Chief Transformation Officer (CTO) has become increasingly important. A CTO is responsible for leading and managing large-scale, enterprise-wide transformation initiatives that typically involve multiple stakeholders, departments, and processes.

Given the complexity of their role, CTOs must possess a blend of technical and leadership skills in order to be successful. Here are five key skills that every CTO should have:

1. Strategic Thinking

The CTO needs to be able to identify and prioritize potential areas of transformation in order to develop a comprehensive and effective transformation plan. This requires a deep understanding of the organization and its goals, as well as the ability to think strategically and plan ahead.

2. Change Planning, Leadership and Management

The CTO must be able to effectively lead and manage the transformation process, which includes developing and implementing a plan, managing stakeholders, and ensuring that the transformation is successful. This requires a deep understanding of change planning, leadership, and management principles and processes. Ideally, they should be a certified Human-Centered Change professional, skilled at leveraging the Change Planning Toolkit™.

3. Cross-Functional Communication

The CTO must have excellent communication skills in order to effectively communicate the transformation plan and objectives to stakeholders across functional siloes, as well as to ensure that everyone is on the same page throughout the process. The Change Planning Canvas™ is a great tool for getting everyone literally all on the same page for change, and is introduced in Braden Kelley’s best-selling book Charting Change.

4. Technical Expertise

The CTO must possess a strong understanding of the technical and operational aspects of the organization in order to develop effective transformation plans and strategies. This may involve a deep understanding of data, analytics, and enterprise systems.

5. Relationship Building

The CTO needs to be able to build relationships with stakeholders across the organization in order to ensure that everyone is on board with the transformation plan and objectives. This requires the ability to understand different perspectives and build consensus among stakeholders.

These five skills are essential for any CTO to be successful in their role. With the right skillset and a strategic approach, a CTO can lead their organization to success and ensure a successful transformation.

To read more about Chief Transformation Officers, see my other article here:

Image credit: Pexels

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Nominations Closed – Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022

Nominations Closed for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022Human-Centered Change and Innovation loves making innovation insights accessible for the greater good, because we truly believe that the better our organizations get at delivering value to their stakeholders the less waste of natural resources and human resources there will be.

As a result, we are eternally grateful to all of you out there who take the time to create and share great innovation articles, presentations, white papers, and videos with Braden Kelley and the Human-Centered Change and Innovation team. As a small thank you to those of you who follow along, we like to make a list of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers available each year!

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Do you just have someone that you like to read that writes about innovation, or some of the important adjacencies – trends, consumer psychology, change, leadership, strategy, behavioral economics, collaboration, or design thinking?

Human-Centered Change and Innovation is now looking for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022.

The deadline for submitting nominations is December 24, 2022 at midnight GMT.

You can submit a nomination either of these two ways:

  1. Sending us the name of the blogger and the url of their blog by @reply on twitter to @innovate
  2. Sending the name of the blogger and the url of their blog and your e-mail address using our contact form

(Note: HUGE bonus points for being a contributing author)

So, think about who you like to read and let us know by midnight GMT on December 24, 2022.

We will then compile a voting list of all the nominations, and publish it on December 25, 2022.

Voting will then be open from December 25, 2022 – January 1, 2023 via comments and twitter @replies to @innovate.

The ranking will be done by me with influence from votes and nominations. The quality and quantity of contributions by an author to this web site will be a contributing factor.

Contact me with writing samples if you’d like to publish your articles on our platform!

The official Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022 will then be announced on here in early January 2023.

We’re curious to see who you think is worth reading!

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

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

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

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“We need to be more innovative.”

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

But what does it mean to be more innovative?

Innovation’s ABCs

A is for Architecture

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

Each of these elements answers fundamental questions:

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

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

B is for Behavior

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

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

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

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

C is for Culture

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

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

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

Easy as 123

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

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

Just like the Jackson 5 said

ABC, It’s easy a 123

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

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

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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