Posted on Leave a comment

How to overcome the innovation predicament – the term versus the spirit

I’ve observed before how everyone wants innovation but no one wants to innovate. The essence of that observation roughly 6 months ago was that although the talk of and need for innovation (from company executives) was high, interest in the topic wasn’t (from punters).

Not much has changed since except the gap has probably grown. Can you blame people when there are so many other pressing issues and people are overwhelmed.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still very much needed, nor from the fact that it is happening in abundance, despite all the disinterest in the term or even all the other overwhelming pressures.

Distractions and pressures aside, people, whether in startups or large corporations, are out there innovating and doing their thing every single day. They are just not necessarily calling it innovation.

Who cares then, what it’s being called, as long as its being done. And I don’t believe the imperative for it being done comes just from executives.

Most, whether admitting it or not, want to be innovative. It’s an innate desire to evolve, be creative or inventive. It’s built into us. It was needed for survival in the real jungle, now the jungle has evolved but survival by these means is still necessary.

For evidence that there is a bunch of innovation hustle and bustle out there, look no further than the Creator Economy. If you want deeper level insights on this, follow Creator Economy by Kaya Yurieff from The Information (a newsletter). The creator economy is just another catchy phrase for people being innovative (since creativity is at its core) and by all accounts, it’s huge.

The difference in the terms and spirit of it is that on the one hand there is a lot of talking going on (about innovation) and on the other, on being innovative (by just doing stuff).

In an age where self promotion is par for the course, its understandable that talking dominates. And there is good reason to shout about successes and spreading the word. But when it comes to innovation, it is the doers that matter and just plain being innovative. As an individual or a company, whatever you call it, this is what determines success and in many cases survival.

So how can we do more or be more innovative

  1. As an individual, experiment. Try things out and see where it leads. By this I mean a methodical approach that begins with an hypothesis and then pursues a series of trials to either prove or disprove it. The benefit of doing something yourself, whether at work or in your personal life, is that the barriers to doing so are super low and this approach should provide data. Assuming positive, you can present the data as evidence in arguing your case and getting others on board as will inevitably be the case. This is quintessentially a learning by doing exercise and any which way it goes, it’s a win.
  2. As a company, cultivate intrapreneurs. I wrote an eBook that was partly on this subject and that’s how this website started. Read that or any of the posts I created as part of researching that book under various tags: innovation hacking, startup innovation or intrapreneur. In many of those you will find, whether in startups or large companies, stories where individuals are given the freedom and courage to innovate with the success this brings. But don’t just take my word for it, PwC have a series that cover this well (even if not using the term intrapreneur – but remember, its not about terms): Workforce of the future – The World in 2030. Ditto the World Economic Forum: David vs Goliath – Understanding the corporate battle of digital disruption.
  3. In general, forgive failure. People wont try if they fear failure. They have to give themselves permission to fail. In companies you can make it safe to fail (great article from McKinsey which explains how and also recounts a story about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s approach to this). Speaking of Microsoft (disclosure), one other thing it does is organise global hackathons, with customers even, most recently. These are essentially safe spaces and times to innovate and fail gloriously even though the ultimate goal is to come up with great ideas that can be commercialised. Some examples of the latter here: The Garage Wall of Fame – Microsoft Garage. This should apply to the whole of society really if we are ever to overcome the innovation predicament and solve some of its biggest challenges and ills in the true spirit of innovation.
Posted on Leave a comment

The Kool Aid Acid Test for Culture

The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test was a book written by Tom Wolfe way back in the day. The Acid Tests were parties at which everyone takes LSD (which was often put into the Kool-Aid they served) to “abandon the realities of the mundane world in search of a state of [intersubjectivity]”. Wolfe presents a firsthand account of the experiences of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters who went around the US in the sixties.

Continue reading The Kool Aid Acid Test for Culture
Posted on Leave a comment

Startup innovation is alive and well in UK GOV

I’m a fan of startup innovation having followed the practice and written about it extensively. This culminated in an eBook/trend report a few years back: Startup Innovation. The Information has just written a post about how the UK government is embracing the practice: How Silicon Valley Is Rewiring Downing Street’s Brain (registration required).

Continue reading Startup innovation is alive and well in UK GOV
Posted on 1 Comment

Two brains on “Everything as a Service” for the price of one

These are some thoughts captured and co-written by Stephen Danelutti and Jason Noble, two long time contributors to the world of Everything As a Service (XaaS) who met recently. We realised our common background and insights and decided to produce this combined thought piece – hope you enjoy.

Continue reading Two brains on “Everything as a Service” for the price of one
Posted on Leave a comment

The changing influence of culture and technology at work and the battle for the mind

I work in a field that frequently deals with changing the culture of work through managed change engagements. They are most often aligned to new technology adoption or digital transformation efforts. In all this work, the typical influencers present themselves: people, technology and process.

I’m exploring the first two in this post and assuming people as being synonymous with culture. Mindset is a relatively new component I also delve into. This is an essay capturing recent observations on the changing influence of all these elements. You may get more questions than answers ;)

Continue reading The changing influence of culture and technology at work and the battle for the mind
Posted on Leave a comment

Of hopes and dreams in organisational transformation

I work indirectly in the organisational transformation business. I help with the adoption of new technologies. This often drives a need for change.

Ideally I see it being done because a group of forward thinking individuals have realised the need for change. Perhaps they see there are better ways of achieving outcomes than in the past. They take the initiative and are naturally inspired to drive the change and are encouraged by the organisation to do so.

They form a groundswell of activities that drive the change and show others the need for it and how to embrace it.

Sometimes, but not often, the movement comes from the top, from executives. More frequently the movement starts underground.

Unfortunately, either of the above scenarios are still in the minority.

What often happens is that companies are forced to change. I wrote about that here: Innovation is the why, change is the how.

Either through crisis forced by a competitive landscape or lack of innovation, their hand is forced. The change needs to be forced through, like mince being fed through a sausage machine.

Hopes and Dreams

What happens to employees hopes and dreams is that they are forced to play second fiddle to necessity. People get that business comes first and without it there are no jobs so they are often happy to toe the line.

Passion, enthusiasm and engagement are the things that are compromised though. Especially when the motive is not so clear and a change is forced through without a well intentioned and explained “Why”.

Hopes and dreams suffer and they are the magic potion of great transformation efforts.

They are what inspire creativity. People come alive when their aspirations are fuelled by a heady mix of purpose and newness.

People love to embrace the new when they see a good reason for it and it aligns well to the work they do and how they do it.

Moreover, when they are given rope to indulge their hopes and dreams organisations are more likely to harness collective effort, engagement and passion for a successful transformation.

Business success imitates art in this sense, as Leonardo da Vinci put it:

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”

Leanardo da Vinci

Imagination, innovation, creativity and spirit are given flight when our hopes and dreams are engaged.

And these are key differentiators, especially in a post robotic AI age where the role of creativity and innovation reign supreme.

This is also the route to passionate workers who are more productive than merely engaged workers.

Posted on Leave a comment

The customer’s success is crucial to yours and begins with mindset

I’m surprised more organisations haven’t cottoned on.

Focusing on making customers successful with the use of your products or services.

Understanding that this success drives your success. Understanding the drivers of success and amplifying these.

You’d think organisations would have armies focused on this.

They talk about it enough. Think of product demo’s you have seen. Or comparison ads. How a product works for best results or beats another.

Subscription economy companies with their customer success teams get it. They understand: drive successful use > create value and great experiences > win loyal customers.

Other organisations are waking up.

This site set up to support the new eBook / trend report I’m writing has much more on the subject.

On Mindset

I recently wrote that The Future of Customer Success is not Human.

It emphasised the role of automation, AI and bots.

I did specify though that humans’ still have a role. I said it would outweigh that of technology in impact terms.

The recent debacle with Bodega shows that the human touch still counts. It drives connectedness and well being. It’s a prerequisite for business success.

Humanity operates in the mind. The heart has a strong role but thats for another post.

And for the foreseeable future, humans are still masters over machines. To what purpose we apply technology and what we create of value through it is still in our hands.

What mindset we bring to the game determines how we enact our purpose. I’m riffing on all this as part of the introductory chapter in my new eBook.

Herein lies the rub. Often we neglect to think about this even when it is in our grasp.

What most determines success is often least addressed. It’s easier to spend time twiddling knobs, tweaking features and functions.

Human affairs are messy.

Yet what we get out depends on what we put in.

What we put in, in turn, is dependent on our thinking. Our thinking determines how we act. This becomes ingrained in habits and the culture of the company.

Here is the flow:

  1. Mindset and purpose influence employee action
  2. Action creates habits and builds experience (supported by process, technology, etc.
  3. Experience drives customer satisfaction and loyalty

So a pretty important area of business to address you would think.

Where to start?

The top is a good place. Digital transformation success is often dependent on leadership. Leaders mindset’s influence organisational behaviours and cultures.

Having a growth mindset is in fashion. The CEO of Microsoft emphasises growth mindset versus fixed mindset.

It’s a great starting point when it comes to customer success too. Not least because customer success manager’s are also growth hackers.

Customer centricity is a worthwhile business goal and a state of mind. It has to involve the whole organisation and often starts with leaders. At least it’s entrenched or enforced by them.

So lots to think about but mindset is nothing without action. I thought these steps might help:

  1. Have a simple and measurable approach/method. One for creating, reviewing and iterating on purpose, behaviour, culture and outcomes. Customer experience maps are a great way to align all these things toward a common goal.

  2. Take time to infuse this into all parts of the organisation and operations. And it will take time. Great purpose is not realised overnight. Team games, ping pong tables, slides and bean bags are optional extras.

  3. Inspire and appeal to common human yearning. I love what Phil Knight from Nike has said in his new book. I have co-opted it to be a customer success manifesto below. This was not enshrined in a plaque for a wall. But you can tell it was and still is a living, breathing directive for the company.

  4. Empower, measure and transfer. Rinse and repeat. I would start small. Start with a success team focused on this area. Get them to do it right then transfer the success, mindsets, behaviours. Go big. McKinsey capture this approach well: How a digital factory can transform company culture.

csm manifesto

These steps, indeed the entire list, are very simplistic. You’ll find much written about this area. How to create or reinvent a great culture and make behaviour change stick.

I love this great case study on Aetna over at HBR: Cultural Change That Sticks.

This post was only a way to think out loud and explore the topic for my first chapter.

Thanks for reading. Did I miss anything or get anything wrong? Please let me know in a comment.