Recreating Your Company
Your Only Friend
Innovation is different from everything you do as a leader in three distinct ways. First, innovation happens in the future for which you currently have no data. In fact, one of the most common forms of resistance to innovation is excessive data collection because it stops your company from taking purposeful action. Second, innovation is a time-based form of value. That is it has a shelf life and goes sour like milk. So innovation has to happen within a specific window of opportunity. Third, innovation happens in cycles; not straight lines. Revolutionary innovations seldom occur in good times because the relative risk is high and the reward low. In a down economy innovation isn’t your best friend…it’s your only friend.
Given the temporary, emergent and cyclical nature of innovation you will have forgo many of your control based management practices to give your business the freedom it needs to grow. While quality and efficiency result from eliminating variation, innovation and new market growth come from adding it. So how do you maintain control of your business and recreate it at the same time? You use the unique dynamics of innovation to your advantage.
Creativizing is a made up word like Martinizing. It means the process of adding little bits of creativity to the most ordinary of tasks to make them extraordinary. This approach espouses that innovation is basically about getting everyone to do small things radically differently to create momentum. There are four simple steps to creativizing your business:
1. Set High Quality Targets
Many leaders make the mistake of aiming too high or too low when it comes to setting an innovation target. The key is to get the speed and magnitude of your desired result right. It all comes down to two questions: How much innovation? How fast? A high quality target should contain three points of view: 1). Emerging market opportunities, 2). Realistic assessment of your capabilities, and 3). Authentic expression of your level of ambition. Don’t worry about the numbers. They don’t inspire. Talk in terms of visions, metaphors and stories.
2. Enlist Deep & Diverse Domain Expertise
Creating a new therapy for a dreaded disease, building an eco-tech engine for a new type of aircraft or writing an app for the latest tablet with its funky operating system all require a virtuoso team that really knows their stuff. This doesn’t mean that they all have advanced degrees but it does mean that they are highly practiced. The key here is to intentionally create constructive conflict. Alignment is over rated. The positive tension between domain experts with different points of view produces hybrid and breakthrough solutions.
3. Take Multiple Shots on Goal
Watch a bench scientist or a successful venture capitalist and you will notice that they don’t avoid the failure cycle – they accelerate it. They manage their project portfolios to fail early, often and under the radar. While this sounds like risky behavior it’s actually the opposite. By widening the number of projects they undertake and minimizing the amount of time and resource they spend on each they quickly learn what works and doesn’t, and most importantly, why. Think of it like fishing. At first you throw a lot of different lures and bait into the water to learn what the fish are biting. Once you know, you adjust your approach. So hedge first and optimize later.
4. Learn from Experience and Experiments
Failure is only valuable if get smarter from the experience. Sit down with your team for an after action review to deconstruct and reconstruct your projects. This requires absolute honesty. From this discussion divine some simple rules of thumb so that going forward these key learnings will help all your employees avoid the mistakes and adopt best practices. These practices adjusted appropriately will help make innovation happen everywhere; everyday.
Each cycle gives way to a new one but now with new knowledge and capabilities gained through real experiences to perpetually recreate your company and sustain its growth. Be sure to leave room for the stuff you don’t know now because innovation requires that we make it up as we go along.
JEFF DEGRAFF is a Professor of Management and Organizations at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and author of . To learn more about Jeff visit www.jeffdegraff.com or follow him on Twitter @JeffDeGraff.
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.
- The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
- Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
- Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.
- Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
- Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
- It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.
- Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
- The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
- The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.