Has anyone ever built muscles by taking a tour of the gym?

Really?

Bringing innovation into an organization culture is like building a mental muscle. You cannot learn it online or through watching panel discussions amongst thought leaders. It requires sustained effort for long period of time, and painful learning.

Has anyone ever built muscles by taking a tour of the gym

Basic Physics behind an Organizational Behavior

Organizations seem to follow some basic principles of physics. For example

  • Friction: Opposing force resisting relative motion.
  • Inertia: Tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.
  • Gravity: Left to themselves, unsupported objects will fall to the ground.
  • Energy: The capacity for doing work.
  • Momentum: Impetus gained by a moving object.

When an individual or a team tries to get innovative, to change a process or product, essentially trying to move it from its current state to a different state; it encounters both friction and inertia. The team has to put in a lot of energy to get it moving, and to build and sustain the momentum.

Overcoming Inertia and Friction

Organizations have inertia and internal friction that will hold them back from a successful positive transition. But, if you can build momentum through proper infusion of energy, you can make a lasting enterprise-wide change.

Start by sending the right message to the 13% early adaptors, and they will join the 3% innovators already working in that direction. The 34% of early majority will need some kind of objective and training to follow through. The 34% late majority would need incentives and tangible rewards in addition to the objectives and capability training. Never mind the last 16% laggards and CAVE people, they will find a different role.

Building Momentum

In Volume-3, we discussed 4 tracks of activities to build an innovation profile. Consistent execution will help build the momentum.  Leadership needs to think of the following steps as a wheel

  1. Be clear about the Innovation Purpose, and the vision of success.
  2. Create, communicate, and use the two sheets of music, the Innovation Strategy (Roadmap), and the Dashboard to track the progress.
  3. Build the Innovation Capital, by investing in talent and knowhow.
  4. Inspire talent to engage in Innovation Activity to realize the roadmap.
  5. Keep Innovation Lean by aligning people, products, and markets.
  6. Recognize and reward teams for performance and learnings.
  7. Update the roadmap and dashboard annually and go back to step 2.

Keeprotating this flywheel and build a momentum that would be hard to stop. Purpose, strategy, and rewards provide the willingness to innovate. Capital and activities build the capability. Lean reduces internal friction. Collectively, they build the culture of innovation, over a few years. It is a mental muscle.

Just like a few workout sessions at the local gym won’t build your body muscle, a few successful projects won’t build the mental muscle of your organization. You will have to go through many projects, over the years, and slowly change the basic behavior. I get into conversations with senior leaders who think that a 2-day workshop on ideation or innovation is all they need, and after that, it will happen on its own. A 2-day workshop is just like taking a tour of the gym.

Lesson from the Coronavirus Pandemic

In March 2020, within 2 weeks, America went from business as usual to a complete stop, except essential services. The markets were shutdown, social distancing put in force, almost everyone working from home, no more parties, weddings postponed, no access to beaches, bars, or nightlife. The level of change that would normally take a decade was visible in a blink of an eye. Situation updates and restrictions were being brought into the workforce by the hour. What was at stake? Life. No one asked you to think or act Out of the Box. Your box was just crushed by the tiniest invisible life form, leaving everyone scrambling to find a new box to think in. Innovation was seen all across from primary life-saving equipment, to communication, to support structure. Innovation was not a struggle at all. Organizational leadership was open to all sorts of ideas to keep their employees safe and the business afloat. They were willing to quick test, follow any successful option, and learn.

Where did that innovation muscle strength came from? Life saving rush of Adrenaline!

In Summary,

There are many reasons, excuses, and myths about why innovation does not succeed. I concur with Bill Fischer that it never gets started or supported by leadership even if it starts. The primary struggle is a leadership mindset, which slowly erodes employee morale to innovate. In some sense companies have successfully managed to promote productivity performers to the leadership roles, putting innovators and innovation on the back seat. Will the pandemic change that? Will it mark the start of an innovator’s era with a very different form of struggle, the struggle to let innovators lead, for a while.

If you like this blog post, you will like my book series “Inspiring Next Innovation ….” available on Amazon and summarized in these book launch webinars on YouTube.

For Leaders –

Inspiring Next Innovation Purpose,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube                               

For Innovators –

Inspiring Next Innovation Value Chain,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube  

For Managers –

Inspiring Next Innovation Framework,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube     

For Leaders –

Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube

To engage with the author – please register for upcoming virtual sessions.

Are you Managing or Leading Innovation?

Really?

I like the statement – “Manage process and lead people”. But what about innovation? We still struggle to understand if it is process, or people mindset, or some combination.

We know innovation is a lot about exploratory action and Leadership that empowers action. There is still room for managing it particularly in corporate setting, which must manage risk.

Innovation Managing and Leading

Innovation, Managing, and Leading

There is a lot written around managing vs leading, as applicable to people, processes, and business. Some of that when viewed through the innovation lens, looks like:

InnovatorsInnovation ManagersInnovation Leaders
Solve complex problemsControl complexity in developmentTransform company, industry & ecosystem
Develop new products & servicesDeliver to the roadmapCreate vision, strategy, and roadmap
Create future they conceivePredict the future based on trendsPrepare for the unpredictable future
Deploy their expertise to resolve situationsOrganize, staff, and manage resourcesAlign expertise and offerings with markets
Create new outcomesPrevent negative outcomesPromote positive outcomes
Be creative and exploreControl creativity and experimentationEmpower people to experiment and learn
Develop their expertiseAssess the expertise and fill the gapsProactively fill gaps to required expertise
Build relationships of valueRe-structure to accomplish goalsCreate relationships to be highly effective
Do it the way they know bestDo it the right wayDo the right things
Defend their viewpointSell solutions to get everyone on boardAcknowledge & surface healthy conflict
Collaborate, learn, & produceMotivate but control collaborative practicesInspire collaboration and learning
Strive for excellenceMaintain a Center of ExcellenceBuild a Network of Excellence
Want to feel importantWant to look importantMake others feel important
Compete and collaborate as requiredCreate competitive strategies to winCreate collaborative strategies for win-win
Focus on Innovation Value ChainFocus on Innovation FrameworkFocus on Innovation Purpose and Mindset

In Summary,

An innovation focused organization needs all three roles – leaders, managers, and innovators. I emphasize the term ‘ROLE’ and not ‘TITLE’. I have seen CTOs actively engaged in technical discussions and engineers creating vision and collaboration with competitors for a win-win. 

A successful innovative organization allows a bit of all three across all its staff – from technician to the C-suite. That cross over through working meetings and casual chats, in person or virtual, promote sound teamwork, transparency and integrity, and internal empathy; so much needed to be adaptive and agile.

If you like this blog post, you will like my book series “Inspiring Next Innovation ….” available on Amazon and summarized in these book launch webinars on YouTube.

For Leaders

Inspiring Next Innovation Purpose,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube                               

For Innovators

Inspiring Next Innovation Value Chain,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube  

For Managers

Inspiring Next Innovation Framework,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube     

For Leaders

Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset,

Available on Amazon Watch on YouTube

To engage with the author – please register for upcoming virtual sessions.

Why everyday workbench innovations matter?

Really?

Safety and Innovations are both an outcome of mindset or a cultural issue. They both require constant situational awareness, creativity, ideation and risk reduction at operational level, and management commitment at the top levels. That mean Heinrich’s triangle for shop floor safety should also be applicable to enterprise innovation.

Corporate Innovation Triangle

Heinrich’s safety triangle model in a workplace states that for every accident that causes a major injury, there are 29 accidents that cause minor injuries and 300 accidents that cause no injuries. His theory, given in 1931, was an empirical finding based on actual data from the 1920s. Today the numbers may be different for different sectors, but the concept of the triangle or pyramid is still valid.  Frank Bird’s analysis in 1966, based on over 1.7 million accident reports from over 300 companies depicted similarly, but with 600 incidents at the base and a single death at the top.

I believe the same triangle law applies to innovation. For us to get one disruptive innovation, we need to get a few breakthroughs and trendsetters, many evolutionary innovations, and a continuous improvement in business processes, all supported by widespread workbench innovation.

In some sense, companies like 3M and Google are where they are today because of this very fundamental cultural aspect. They encourage a widespread innovation mindset. Almost everybody is encouraged to engage in novel value creation most of the time. Multiple things go into building a mindset. It all begins with questioning the well-known wisdom around the business (status quo).

Strategy, roadmap, capital, tools, and processes discussed in the first three sessions are necessary, but not sufficient, to be a consistent innovator. Having the right mindset is what brings success.

Some workplaces respond to safety issues only there is an accident. Others build it into the mindset through everyday discussions. During my corporate career, we used to have “Safety Minute” which was a one-minute discussion in every staff meeting around how an employee has improved safety in their workplace.

Some companies try to launch innovation projects when they are losing customers or falling short on deliverables. Others build it into the mindset through everyday discussions. I have successfully copied the safety concept   to “Innovation Minute” which is a one-minute discussion in every staff meeting on what someone might have read about innovation outside of the company/industry and may have relevance to their workplace.

The ‘Innovation Triangle’ needs an innovation mindset at the bottom, like safety mindset in the industry built over the years. This requires some unlearning and reprogramming at the leadership level, which ignites creativity, encourages exploration, and accepts failure while exploring.

In Summary,

Just like cost of accident prevention is lot less than cost of serious injury or death. Cost of innovating is lot less than cost of not innovating. We all talk about ROI. We rarely talk CONI “Cost of Not Investing”. How much will it cost you, if a competitor launches a product or service before you do and you are now forced to respond, rather than forcing your competitors to respond to your great ideas?

If you like this blog post, you will like my book “Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset” available on Amazon

If you wish to engage with me in a conversation on innovation mindset, please register for online session scheduled on April 01, 2021 from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM ET (-4:00 UTC) co-hosted by Nerac.

Why Not Start with a Why Not?

Really?

There has been a lot of hype about Start with the Why on social media, after the Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, and his book in 2009. I am personally having a tough time with that.

Why Not Start with a Why Not

Innovators question more than comment.

I strongly feel that innovators and trendsetters start with a ‘Why Not’ in their hearts. It most likely leads to the ‘Why’ as a form of expression to engage others. Novel solutions come out of asking ‘Why not’ and they get communicated with ‘Why’.

So, I engaged many fellow innovators in a debate of ‘Start with Why’ vs ‘Ask Why Not’ and I was quite encouraged to learn that so many of them have been able to solve tough research problems and customer engagements by coming up with wacky ideas and asking their team “Why not we do …this…?” “Why can’t we try … that …”  A good friend Dr. Pavan Suri felt that these may be two sides of the coin and which one comes first is a tossup. Is it?

I also found the following quotes, which further substantiated this.

The common question that gets asked in business is, 'why?'
That's a good question, but an equally valid question is, 'why not?'
                                                     - Jeff Bezos
You see things; and you say ‘Why?’
But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’
                                                     - George Bernard Shaw
Others have seen what is and asked ‘why’.
I have seen what could be and asked ‘why not’.
                                                     - Pablo Picasso
‘Why not’ invest your assets in the companies you really like?
As Mae West said, 'Too much of a good thing can be wonderful'
                                                     - Warren Buffett
Why pay a dollar for a bookmark?
‘Why not’ use the dollar for a bookmark?
                                                     - Steven Spielberg
I remember my dad asking me one time, 'Why not you, Russ?'
You know, why not me? Why not me in the Super Bowl?
                                                     - Russell Wilson

As a consumer, you go buy the product that gives the best value, not why the business owner is in business in the first place. Apple products sell because of the finesse and performance not because of why Steve Jobs was in business. However, I submit that when business leaders have a strong Why statement, they align the employees on that purpose, and the resulting products and services are excellent, which the consumers flock to, helping the business grow.

Once the purpose is defined and a culture of questioning can be built, the golden circle can have an innovative sibling. Innovative solutions come out of “Why not” and get communicated with “Why”  to convince the buyer.

In Summary,

Why not? How about? And what if? define an innovator’s mindset.

If you like this blog post, you will like my book “Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset” available on Amazon

If you wish to engage with me in a conversation on innovation mindset, please register for online session scheduled for April 1 2021 at 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM ET co-hosted by Nerac.