Inspiring NEXT Series

EZ Innovation 1 – Welcome to the Innovator’s era

After a keynote lecture on Purposeful Innovation in 2019, a very graceful executive 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 9 months of incubation, it has infected over 25 million people, killing nearly a million 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 EZ (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.

EZ Innovation from Inspiring Next is a series of posts that we will bring to you on a weekly basis, covering dozens of interrelated topics helping you with demystifying innovation. These will include strategic innovation and tactical execution within a common framework that 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 bench marking and validation of the approach to be discussed in this series. Throughout the series, I will occasionally share my current thinking with some raw models, that are still under research, and are unproven. I will disclose them appropriately with an intent that you might find an application to experiment and derive value; after all, this is all about innovation, written to inspire your exploratory side of the personality.

This series is all about rebuilding the innovation muscle, which you had as a child, and which you have demonstrated in the face of the recent pandemic. We have structured the series to 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?).

innovation book

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.

If you wish to start or accelerate your innovation journey, you can use this series to align your entire organization with purposeful innovation. Occasionally, we will provide an opportunity for introspection or self-assessment.

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.

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

If you wish to learn more please visit Inspiring NEXT Series