Making Sense of Innovation

One of the greatest challenges in designing client solutions within the innovation jigsaw is around making sense of innovation and creating coherence within the diversity and complexity of abstract terminologies and processes. Coherence is defined as “the act or state of cohering”, a “logical interconnection; overall sense or understandability”.

This made me to suspect that one of the key reasons why people and enterprises are not yet convinced that innovation is the 21st century strategic and systemic lever to change, growth and increased competitiveness is due to this overall lack of sensemaking and coherence!

Having spent the greater part of my 28 years in enterprise consulting attempting to make understandable a variety of abstract leadership, team and culture concepts, here’s what I’ve noticed is really going on.

There appears to no common understanding of the key notions; innovation, innovation leadership, innovation teams and innovation culture. Adding entrepreneurship and now intrapreneurship to the mix, it appears that these mighty creative, conceptual and analytical challenges would benefit enormously from coherence in the overall jigsaw puzzle;

  • What do they really mean in the industry and client specific innovation contexts?
  • Why are they important key pieces?
  • Where exactly do they fit?
  • How exactly could they play out to deliver the greatest value?

This suggests that innovation, as strategic and systemic lever to change, growth and increased competitiveness, in enterprises, is in itself still in the early adopters’ stage, in consulting, organizational learning and development.

At ImagineNation™ we believe that innovation can not only change the world, it also has the capacity and potential, when applied successfully, to save the world.

First steps towards making sense of innovation

Our specific problem was to discover, design and deliver a fast track innovation culture development process for a client, and here’s what we found;

Step one involves the Discovery of a flaw, problem or opportunity that the client can ‘see’ and wish to correct, solve or exploit in ways that improve their users experience and add value to the quality of their lives;

  • What do these abstract terms really mean in their specific organizational context?
  • How could they logically and efficiently interconnect to deliver our desired outcomes?
  • How could they fit into a comprehensive description of an agile enterprise innovation project and/or culture, or not?

Step Two involves partnering with the client to co-create a Design and blueprint of a creative idea to correct, solve or exploit the solution in ways that improve their users experience and add value to the quality of their lives;

  • What are some of the key forces that are converging and diverging in their specific industry and playing field?
  • What are the ideas, patterns and links that are emerging in this field?
  • Where specifically are the key possibilities (blue oceans) for our products, services and organization?
  • What are the links between the key pieces of the jigsaw puzzle for us to manifest?

Step Three involves the Delivery of the prototype that corrects, solves or exploits the solution in ways that improve their users experience and add value to the quality of their lives,  that enables us to iterate, pivot, fail and learn from;

  • Which are the critical key pieces of the innovation jigsaw puzzle that will enable us to facilitate the results we want?
  • What exactly do we want people to understand about our agile enterprise innovation project and/or culture?
  • What are the aligned key approaches, methodologies and technologies that could potentially cultivate the desired internal enterprise innovation culture and leadership capabilities?

The 3 Key Lessons to Making Enterprise Innovation Coherent

Here are 3 the key lessons we learned in solving our initial problem;

Cultivating an internal enterprise innovation culture and building the desired innovative, entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial leadership capabilities to non-conform in enacting and embodying it.

  1. Approach innovation as a coherent strategic and systemic lever for business growth or transformation that the client understands and is convinced will correct their flaw, maximize their opportunity or solve their problem.

It’s critical to invest considerable (and mostly unpaid) time upfront developing a common and agreed understanding as to what exactly is the purpose for innovation in the client specific context.

  • A strategic approach in that innovation needs to be coherent within the vision and as a key passionately purposeful lever in the design, development and delivery of the business strategy.
  • Our systemic approach in that innovation is a cultural system that delivers results; a great experience or increased value for customers and income and potentially profit for owners and shareholders when the customer is satisfied.
  1. Build a coherent integrative and iterative enterprise innovation focused customized change process that solves the client’s problem.

Building on the mutual understanding established in the initial discussions, it’s important to custom build an integrative; to bring together or incorporate (parts) into a whole” solution. Iterative; repeating; making repetition; repetitious” in that it’s initially a prototype solution that gets tested, validated, iterated and pivoted as its being implemented.

This typically involves customizing an end to end solution that incorporates the discovery, design and delivery phases of innovation, in an integrated, iterative and coherent way to;

Deliver the results the organization wants to HAVE;

  • By building in an end to end traceable technology based planning process aligned to the vision and strategic plans to drive accountability.
  • By defining and generating a mutual understanding as to what innovation, entrepreneurship and intraprenurship means in their unique enterprise context.

Build the internal capability in leadership behaviors, skills and activities to DO;

  • What is needed to engage, enroll and empower people to break down the internal silos and collaborate and co-create creative ideas and innovative solutions.
  • What is needed to enable people to safely make the courageous decisions and take the bold risks involved in implementing and executing the strategic plan.

Build the core critical foundations of ultimate success for people to BE innovative, entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial;

  • By igniting and aligning people’s critical intrinsic motivators to purposely play in the innovation game.
  • By cultivating the innovation mindsets and entrepreneurial traits that underlie and sustain innovation success.
  • By cultivate peoples emotional agility, to be resilient and develop the creative confidence and self efficacy to flourish rather than flounder in the face of adversity and failures.
  1. Build an aligned leadership or top team to lead, to congruently role model, and sponsor the implementation of the innovation focused change process within coherent, co-creative, iterative and partnership approach.

Creating top team alignment is critical to the success of any team or change intervention, and it is even more critical within an enterprise innovation project because innovation requires passion and failure to drive and sustain it. This involves generating, participating in and sustaining a more challenging, discomforting, and disruptive and hence emotionally volatile business environment.

If the leader is unwilling to authentically role model, communicate and enact the key values and messages of the desired future innovation culture people won’t either.

Leaders are required to;

–  Be-come bold disruptive provocateurs who willingly demonstrate their vulnerability around uncertainty, experimentation, maximizing diversity and in taking smart risks and experiencing failures as opportunities for learning.
– Safely disrupt and challenge the status quo and be playful to create the cracks, openings and thresholds for creative ideas and innovative solutions.
– Create a trusted business environment where people know and understand their role and unique contribution and line of sight to the achievement of the vision, who are accountable and hold others to account.

Taking on the innovation coherence challenge

So next time a client proudly tells you that they have appointed an Innovation Officer, Head of Innovation or even an Innovation Department, to be responsible for enterprise innovation; make sure to take a very deep breath.

Perhaps to then take the risk and experiment with be-coming the bold disruptive provocateur who courageously, creatively and compassionately leads by example by taking the required twenty steps backwards before taking even one step forwards in the creation of an enterprise innovation project.

And perhaps even discover new frontiers that create openings, thresholds and doorways to save the world in the process!

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviours and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Contact us now at janet@imaginenation.com.au to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.