Leadership, Team Building

Creating a Culture of Innovation Starts With the Leader

The leader plays a critical role in creating the right environment for innovation to flourish.

Influencing innovation and ideas at the organizational level.
There are many strategic ways leaders can influence the flow of innovation and ideas at the level of organizational design that goes beyond the lame suggestion box. Here are three proven approaches.

1. Acknowledge and reward innovation.
Promoting innovation and ideas should be on every leader´s scorecard. Employees should be encouraged to look at their daily tasks through an innovative lens, and they should be acknowledged and rewarded for innovative ideas. Compensation and gift giving is standard practice in progressive organizations such as Zappos.

2. Inject creativity with acquisitions.
Vijay Govindarajan has written about how organizations can inject creativity and innovation into their organizations through joint ventures and acquisitions. Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, for example, revitalized Disney´s creative juices.

3. Dedicate time to innovation.
In 1948, 3M launched its 15 percent program, where 15 percent of employees’ time was dedicated to innovation. The Post-It note was invented during 15 percent time. Organizations such as Hewlett-Packard and Google have both replicated this approach. Gmail and Google Earth were conceived during Google’s 20 percent time.

Influencing innovation and ideas at the personal level.
Oftentimes leaders focus on strategically influencing innovation at the organizational level and can overlook the key role it can play in influencing a culture of openness and ideas through interpersonal effectiveness. Here are some ways leaders can encourage and role model openness and increase the flow of ideas through the way they interact with employees.

Business innovation concept

1. Increase dialogue.
Very often leaders talk about engaging with others through debate and discussion. These three verbs have very unfavorable etymologies. To engage, from the old French engagier, means to bind by promise or oath; to debate, from the old French debatre, means to beat; and to discuss has its origins in the Latin discutere, meaning to smash or break up.

Dialogue, on the other hand, comes from Greek dialogos, denoting flow of meaning. This is not just semantic pedantry, it gets to the heart of what effective modern leaders do – they broaden perspective, and they facilitate a flow of ideas through shared inquiry.

According to William Issacs, dialogue is a way of thinking and reflecting together. It is not something you do to another person. It is something you do with people.

Leaders can sometimes get carried away by their own status and positional power and feel duty-bound to challenge ideas, and keep everything on track. This closes down innovation. Ideas cannot flow when everyone is arm wrestling; ideas flow when people are curious, inquiring and openly expressing their ideas.

Leaders should recognize that dialogue is key to innovation, and they should be encouraging, cultivating and role modelling shared thinking.

2. Suspend assumptions and judgements.
To assume and infer is to process data through our own interpretative lens.

Leaders need to consciously suspend their natural inclination to add layers of meaning and inference to ideas. Critical observation in early ideation closes down innovative thinking.

Two powerful tools that help leaders suspend judgement and remain receptive to new ideas include Chris Argyris’ Ladder of Inference and Edward do Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

3. Actively listen.
Mark Twain famously remarked, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.”

A key way leaders can inspire people to produce ideas is to take time to actively listen to them. It sounds obvious, but giving someone space to develop their ideas creates a respectful environment, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

When leaders are constantly interrupting, talking over ideas, finishing sentences and projecting negative body language, it breaks the creative flow and deters innovation. Rather than giving a person a good talking to, give them a good listening to.

Innovation is key to competitive advantage and growth. The 2016 Global Innovation Index, which is an annual ranking of the innovation capabilities and performance of economies around the world, focuses on national policies, but it’s individual leaders who can make a difference by driving innovation within organizations and creating a conducive environment for innovation to thrive.

Deep-Dive, Methods

What is the DeepDive Brainstorming technique ?

Deep-Dive is the name of a technique used to rapidly immerse a group or team into a situation for problem solving or idea creation. This approach is often used for brainstorming product or process development. Deep-Dive technique is increasingly used for innovation not only in product development, but process improvement and customer service strategies.

ideos-deep-dive

Originally developed by the IDEO group for rapid product development, the Deep-Dive technique is now widely and increasingly used for innovation not only in product development, but process improvement and customer service strategies.

This approach to innovation often focuses on four distinct areas: Process, Organisation, Culture, and Leadership.

The key to a successful Deep-Dive session(s) is for participants to arrive with information about the needs of their customers – and most importantly an open mind of what they can offer and how they can meet clients needs and expectations.

Often Deep-Dive sessions are run off-site, this has the disadvantage of helping to ‘educate’ the participants that they can only think ‘off-site’. To help support and engender a spirit of creative thinking it is recommended that all Deep-Dive sessions occur on-site.

Agile Innovation Systems, Methods

Agile Innovation Systems

Agile Thinking is a framework for innovation execution within any organization. It can be defined as an execution-centered and business value driven decision making methodology for building an efficient, agile and impactful innovation delivery system.
With execution as the central pillar, coupled with the principles of accountability and flexible resource deployment, it allows for the design of an adaptable and effective organization structure for reliable delivery of new ideas to market.

agile_methodology_overview
Agile Thinking as a methodology has crystallized out of practical experience with delivering innovation within leading global corporations. In the simplest terms, it is a formal method for practical resolution of key challenges that organizations face when delivering innovation. It is based on a fundamental belief that an unexecuted idea is a worthless proposition and that the execution must be an integral part of any innovation management system from the start.
A big part of the Agile Thinking concept involves appreciation of the fact that each organization is unique and inspiring the ability to build on your unique strengths by utilizing flexible resource re-deployment through collaboration, alignment and accountability.

Open Source, science and future, strategy, technology

How Arduino is open-sourcing imagination | Massimo Banzi

Massimo Banzi helped invent the Arduino, a tiny, easy-to-use open-source microcontroller that’s inspired thousands of people around the world to make the coolest things they can imagine — from toys to satellite gear. Because, as he says, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great.”

Business Model, Methods

Developing an innovation mindset

One example of innovative use of space is how firms operate by adopting the concept of flexible workspace

TECHNOLOGY has shaped lifestyles and businesses immensely. The use of devices such as smartphones and tablets has permeated daily activities to the point where they have become a functional necessity in society. It would have been unthinkable a little more than a decade ago that today we can shop online while on the move, or that a ride-hailing company could offer services to users and drivers jointly through an app.

Ride-hailing companies or e-commerce services do not develop technology; they adopt technology by innovating to create powerful systems specifically suited to their business. Innovation can be developing new or better processes, the newest technology, a new way of using space, or introducing new and improved products and services to the market.

The digital economy is one of the key drivers for Singapore’s growth in the long term, with innovation and productivity crucial to this growth. This presents many opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to harness digital technologies and platforms, such as advanced freight forwarding systems. Regardless of size, companies can now seek out new businesses or customers globally, and transact with them through digital network and payment solutions anywhere, anytime.

sme_may2017_pg18_20_1_0

Singapore has the best airport in the world according to Skytrax, a robust digital infrastructure and one of the fastest Internet speeds. We are also ideally placed – at the heart of a region that is significant to global economic growth. The opportunities to grow are abundant, and it is up to SMEs to seize these opportunities and be equipped for long-term growth.

 The government is providing support through grants, as well as broad-based and targeted programmes to assist firms with transforming their businesses successfully and go digital. Some businesses are at different stages of maturity in terms of adoption of digital technologies. SMEs will receive help at identifying technology to aid in innovating and competing, while more digitally advanced companies will get advice from the proposed SME Technology Hub that is slated to be set up by the end of the third quarter of this year. Traditional ways of doing business could still remain for a while, but companies must be prepared and willing to transform.

Innovation and going digital does not necessarily mean an overhaul. Both, however, require a change in mindset. Some businesses may not be willing to upgrade and adopt technology, they feel that the implementation of digital technology is too complicated. Conversely, there are companies with innovative ideas that go beyond technological advancements. They assimilate technology into their business to ensure that they keep up with the pace of change, but crucially, these companies understand and anticipate market trends, and find solutions.

For example in retail, a firm is now building a strong e-commerce platform beyond its brick-and-mortar model. In addition, it is now using a digital accounting solution from its banking partner to synchronise transactions from different operating accounts. This solution provides the business with real-time information as well as an auto-reconciliation of transactions with the bank, such as purchase orders to suppliers and daily takings, thus improving productivity and freeing up important resources for other key business functions.

Another firm, an established local jewellery group, has adopted three-dimensional (3D) printing technology into the process of jewellery design. Developed with funding support, its research and development team adapted the technology to provide customers with a precision-printed 3D model of their jewellery design. A process which used to take up to three weeks, this has been shortened to three days. In addition to increased productivity, the group has also seen an increase in conversion rate of sales by up to 10 per cent due to the increased likelihood of a purchase with a view of a 3D model.

One example of innovative use of space is how firms operate by adopting the concept of flexible workspace. Depending on their operational needs, companies are remodelling spaces – converging traditional serviced offices and coworking space – hence “flexible workspace”. Coworking within a flexible workspace set-up also helps to foster an interactive community where ideas are borne. By implementing a flexible workplace strategy, firms can make efficient use of space, expect a reduction in operating cost and increase productivity by making adjustments to the space ratio within their premise. It also offers businesses a good point of market entry with reduced capital expenditure, or capex, in comparison to conventional space.

Take a company whose business is data and cybersecurity for instance – both are important assets for firms as businesses adopt technology and go digital. It could be that part of a data and cybersecurity business offers computer and network security via Cloud computing, while another part offers client solutions through hardware and physical controls. This company could remodel its physical workspace to scale up or down relatively quickly according to its projects and operational needs, thus reshaping the way that the office looks and its staff interact.

The logistics industry is harnessing both existing and emerging technologies to tap into the growth of e-commerce. For example, many warehouse, fulfilment and distribution centres are familiar with automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) which offers highly accurate, efficient and high throughput inventory management capabilities. Installed applications of ASRS is wide ranging, including retrieval of packages in warehouses, retrieval of books in libraries, retrieval of bicycles from a bicycle tree (bicycle carpark), and even retrieval of cars from a factory or carpark.

ASRS could be scaled to integrate with emerging technologies to provide an incremental system design. This would allow great flexibility in customisation and expansion to meet increasing productivity demands, as well as changing business and operational needs. In addition, when supported by advanced technologies, ASRS provides an integrated solution for logistics companies which include monitoring of warehouses, stock-keeping unit (SKU), and shipment globally. The growing e-commerce sector would also look to combine ASRS with emerging technologies such as data analytics to improve delivery and inventory management capabilities.

While technology has become more powerful and embedded into our daily life, some businesses are having a hard time playing catch-up. Companies must be willing to make the transition by scrutinising all aspects of their existing operations. To innovate requires continuous tweaking and not just for business but in every endeavour. The next big thing could well emerge from a thriving SME community.

The writer is head of industrial services, Colliers International Singapore

strategy

How to Reduce Your Innovation Risk

The trouble with innovation is it’s risky.  Sure, the upside is nice (increased sales), but the downside (it doesn’t work) is distasteful.

Everyone is looking for the magic pill to change the risk-reward ratio of innovation, but there is no pill. Though there are some things you can do to tip the scale in your favor.pill

All problems are business problems.  Problem solving is the key to innovation, and all problems are business problems.  And as companies embrace the triple bottom line philosophy, where they strive to make progress in three areas – environmental, social and financial, there’s a clear framework to define business problems.

Start with a business objective.  It’s best to define a business problem in terms of a shortcoming in business results. And the holy grail of business objectives is the growth objective.  No one wants to be the obstacle, but, more importantly, everyone is happy to align their career with closing the gap in the growth objective.  In that way, if solving a problem is directly linked to achieving the growth objective, it will get solved.

Sell more.  The best way to achieve the growth objective is to sell more. Bottom line savings won’t get you there.  You need the sizzle of the top line. When solving a problem is linked to selling more, it will get solved.

Customers are the only people that buy things.  If you want to sell more, you’ve got to sell it to customers. And customers buy novel usefulness.  When solving a problem creates novel usefulness that customers like, the problem will get solved.  However, before trying to solve the problem, verify customers will buy what you’re selling.

No-To-Yes.  Small increases in efficiency and productivity don’t cause customers to radically change their buying habits.  For that your new product or service must do something new. In a No-To-Yes way, the old one couldn’t but the new one can. If solving the problem turns no to yes, it will get solved.

Would they buy it? Before solving, make sure customers will buy the useful novelty. (To know, clearly define the novelty in a hand sketch and ask them what they think.) If they say yes, see the next question.

Would it meet our growth objectives? Before solving, do the math. Does the solution result in incremental sales larger than the growth objective? If yes, see the next question.

Would we commercialize it? Before solving, map out the commercialization work. If there are no resources to commercialize, stop.  If the resources to commercialize would be freed up, solve it.

Defining is solving. Up until now, solving has been premature. And it’s still not time. Create a functional model of the existing product or service using blocks (nouns) and arrows (verbs). Then, to create the problem(s), add/modify/delete functions to enable the novel usefulness customers will buy.  There will be at least one problem – the system cannot perform the new function. Now it’s time to take a deep dive into the physics and bring the new function to life.  There will likely be other problems.  Existing functions may be blocked by the changes needed for the new function. Harmful actions may develop or some functions will be satisfied in an insufficient way.  The key is to understand the physics in the most complete way.  And solve one problem at a time.

Adaptation before creation. Most problems have been solved in another industry. Instead of reinventing the wheel, use TRIZ to find the solutions in other industries and adapt them to your product or service.  This is a powerful lever to reduce innovation risk.

There’s nothing worse than solving the wrong problem. And you know it’s the wrong problem if the solution does not (1) solve a business problem, (2) achieve the growth objective, (3) create more sales, (4) provide No-To-Yes functionality customers will buy, and (5) you won’t allocate the resources to commercialize.

And if the problem successfully runs the gauntlet and is worth solving, spend time to define it rigorously.  To understand the bedrock physics, create a functional of the system, add the new functionality and see what breaks. Then use TRIZ to create a generic solution, search for the solution across other industries and adapt it.

The key to innovation is problem solving. But to reduce the risk, before solving, spend time and energy to make sure it’s the right problem to solve. It’s far faster to solve the right problem slowly than to solve the wrong one quickly.

Sorgente: How to Reduce Your Innovation Risk