Inspiring NEXT Series

by Dr. Ripi Singh

Our Industry does not Respect Tradition, It only Respects Innovation. - Satya Nadella

Introduction to the Book Series

After a keynote lecture on Purposeful Innovation in 2019, a very graceful lady walked up to me, introduced herself as Cleo, the CEO of a services company, and asked, “Do I need to hire a Chief Innovation Officer?” My response was, “Only if you want to grow! … If you want to wait and watch, a Chief Risk Officer will do; … and if you are comfortable with the current state, please hire a Chief Prayer Officer!

The 4th Industrial Revolution has put innovation at the center stage of discussion across the world since 2015. The technology-driven change has already been fast and furious, coming from all directions.  We need an open mind and a suite of processes to develop, adapt, and apply digital technologies that are fusing with the physical reality.

Innovation is the need of the hour. The global pandemic Coronavirus has just pushed everyone out of their comfort zone. Within 6 months of incubation in China, it has infected over 10 million people, killing over 500,000 in over 200 countries. Every country is scrambling to manage the health of the population, while trying to juggle the economic realities from widespread lockdowns. Creativity at home and innovation in the workplace are witnessing enormous opportunities coming out of human survival instincts. It is as if the world has gotten a crash course on crisis innovation.  The next three years will be an era for the innovator to bring a new normal to the world, fueled by novel business models, Industry 4.0 technologies, and a social purpose.

Innovation is hard. We perceive it to be hard because of the uncertainty and risk of novel ideas and experimentation. Thinking and attempting something different, with potentially little or no short-term reward, can be emotionally draining. Our natural tendency is to fall back on known methods to arrive at solutions. In most of the work environments, we tag not making mistakes or avoiding an embarrassing failure as outstanding performance. However, this is an unavoidable part of experimentation. In my experience, the biggest barrier to innovation is leadership lacking the courage to go with the minority opinion or weak market signals. The moment we fall into driving the consensus amongst a group of responsible managers, we end up with an average acceptable next step, that everyone can see; at the cost of disengaging the visionaries and their opinions.

Innovation can be made easy. If we could agree on a process where the risk of exploration can be managed, and a mindset where ideas and learnings (failures) are welcome, we can bring innovation into our culture. We can take a portfolio approach where the total output is way more when accounting for some of the failures (learnings), as compared to limited attempts with guaranteed success.

The approach to innovation presented in the first four volumes integrates strategic innovation and tactical execution within a common Framework called ‘+4π’ which means looking at the subject from all directions, like 360o in 3-Dimension (3D). Symbol ‘+’ denotes that it is additive. It is based on a core process, from purpose-driven ideation to monetization, which is enhanced by a suite of enabling tools and tips that bring discipline to various aspects of innovation management. This Framework asserts that innovation can be much more affordable and accelerated through a disciplined approach, now fully supported by the International Organization of Standards (ISO).

The +4p Framework has evolved from decades of practice in solving tough problems at high-tech companies, several Research and Development (R&D) turnaround assignments, and partnerships with the best of the schools around the world. More recently, engagement with global experts on the subject, while writing ISO 56000 series on Innovation Management, has been a precious exercise in benchmarking and validation of the approach presented in this book series. Throughout the series, I have occasionally shared my current thinking with some raw models, that are still under research, and are unproven. I have disclosed them appropriately with an intent that readers might find an application to experiment and derive value; after all, this is a book on innovation, written to inspire exploration.

How to Extract Best Value from this Book Series?

This book series is all about rebuilding the innovation muscle, which we all had as children, and which we have demonstrated in the face of the recent pandemic. This Volume-0 is a summary of four volumes, which individually help you address your next need. It could be a search for the next purpose (why?), execution of your next project (what?), building your next innovation profile or mindset (how?).

book series

Volume-1 will help you identify your next purpose (Why?). Your purpose may be merely to drive or turnaround your business financially, or you could push through the 4th Industrial Revolution. At yet another higher level, you may be in pursuit of creating a better social life for human beings, and finally, some of you may be inspired to work on a balance between economic and ecological systems of the planet earth for the sake of humanity.  Business leaders must not skip this. Chapter-3 in this Volume-0 is a summary of Volume-1.

Volume-2 will guide you with steps to your next project – product, service, or business model (What?). It systematically walks you through the steps of opportunity identification, ideation, development, risk reduction, in alignment with your purpose. Innovation managers must not skip this. Chapter-4 in this Volume-0 is a summary of Volume-2.

Volume-3 provides you the Framework to build the next profile driven by the purpose (Process How?). It provides a set of synergistic tools that will empower you to create a Strategic Innovation roadmap, build your Innovation Capital, manage Innovation Value Chain, and keep it Efficient. The objective is to get you ahead of the competition. Innovation leaders must not skip this. Chapter-5 in this Volume-0 is a summary of Volume-3.

Volume-4 provides you with tricks to build the next mindset (People How?) and is important, since processes and tools are not sufficient to become a consistent innovator. Leaders and managers tasked to bring change to the organization must not skip this. Chapter-6 in this Volume-0 is a summary of Volume-4.

Each volume carries a summary of other volumes in the form of an unnumbered chapter. This helps with a recap or a broader perspective when you skip the details.

If you already have a well-functioning innovation engine, you can treat this series as a tool chest, where you can pick the tool you need and just use it. Some are simple to use, some power tools need external energy, and some delicate ones may even need surgical precision. Many of the tools are multipurpose and adaptable. At times, you may find some that serve opposite functions, just like your tool chest has cutting tools as well as bonding tools. Please do not view them as confounding, as each tool may just offer another way of accomplishing something different, that you may need some other time.

If you wish to start or accelerate your innovation journey, you can use this book series to align your entire organization with purposeful innovation. You can implement processes to consistently innovate, build the innovation mindset, and grow sustainably. The processes, tools, models, and tricks are sequenced to progressively build an awareness and appreciation of innovation, and the concepts within the Framework will serve you best while reading like a typical book bundle from front of Volume-1 to back of Volume-4. All chapters and volumes provide an opportunity for introspection or self-assessment.

Each chapter closes with a Selfie Moment section.
Each volume closes with a Time to Reflect chapter.
Volume-4 closes with a Time to Liberate chapter.

These sections and chapters have been specifically placed to help you plan your journey towards a more innovative organization. Change agents must read all four volumes and work through the selfie moments and introspection exercises with the eye of the company, and then create a plan using the last chapter of Volume-4. During execution you can reference any of the volumes like handbooks – go to any chapter/section and use that as a stand-alone tool, process, guide, or even just cite a story or share a quote.

Please appreciate that innovation capability development is a long and hard journey to build the mental muscle. Just like building the physical muscle requires regular visits to the gym, proteins for months, adequate rest, and a coach; The mental muscle requires discipline, consistency, commitment, patience, and coaching. Once you are on your way, please give this muscle enough time and energy to develop.

ISO is providing Innovation Management Guidance (ISO 56000) as a series of standards. This book series would be incomplete without an introductory mention to various standards at appropriate places in the series. The ISO standards are copyright and available for purchase. In this book series, the mention is kept to a minimum, mostly from the public sections of the official ISO website. I have used a few definitions from the officially released versions, with an intent to promote the use of the ISO standards, through demonstration of relevance and value. If you wish to apply the ISO standards, please purchase them from www.iso.org.

ISO 56000 provides key insights to establish an innovation system and does not contain any requirement. The guidance is generic and applicable to all types of organizations. While on one hand, ISO provides flexibility to adapt, it is also subject to interpretation and requires tools and models for successful conformance. The +4p Framework in this series of books provides the necessary tools for such conformance.

Pandemic as a dislocation. Just when I was finishing this book series, the world was taken over by Coronavirus, and life came to a standstill, awaiting a new normal. We can address it as a dislocation, having disrupted every sector, industrial domain, country, and society. Since this has ushered an era of the innovator, I was suddenly compelled to add a chapter addressing a tough time scenario to each volume and inspired to plan Volume-5 as a follow through.

Volumes on industry-specific applications will follow. 

With due respect to so many experts on the subject of innovation and strategy around the world, I make a sincere effort to give them credit through references and even through using some of their original language without distortion; I do not intend this to violate any copyrights, but I mean it as a prior art or research plugged into various models in the +4p Framework for purposeful innovation.

Disclaimer: My personal anecdotes at the start of each chapter, providing context to the topic, are based on actual life stories, slightly altered to protect individual and company identity.

Failure to Explore and Learn is Not an Option
                                                                                  – Ripi Singh