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2013

I started discussing innovation and the importance of encouraging and developing an innovative culture through continuous improvement that is driven by ‘Why not?’ over the last couple of weeks.  These discussions have been popular and driven many great discussions regarding methods and tools that can help to encourage innovation.  One of those discussions was with Gregory Frenklach who has a very intriguing career in developing methods for innovation and problem solving tools and techniques.  After some discussion with Gregory I thought that the discussion would be of interest to others.  So here is a bit more of my discussion with Gregory for you, starting with Gregory’s background.

 

TB - Gregory, please provide some information on your background and your interests -

GF - I am a TRIZ (inventive problem solving) expert with about twenty five years of problem solving experience in various fields of technology like microelectronics, medical devices, precise mechanics and robotics etc.  I have developed a number of TRIZ based innovation methods, a TRIZ based software (“Inventor Assistant”), and various training materials for managers, engineers and students. I have also developed MUST (multilevel universal system thinking) – unique, in my opinion, as a software tool  supporting  and encouraging innovation  methodology (http://www.bmgi.com/sites/bmgi.com/files/Some%20Thoughts%20About%20TRIZ%20Feature%20Transfer%20Into%20Other%20Field%20of%20Human%20Life.pdf) I also participated in development of the last versions of the TRIZ Guided Brainstorming software (http://gbtriz.com/Products.htm)

 

 

My life was changed by Genrich Altshuller's books  (G.Altshuller developed TRIZ - the Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and wrote many books and articles on the subject.  . The effect of the first Altshuller's book (In English it is known under name "The Innovation Algorithm") that I have read was like someone suddenly had switched on a light in a dark room and I could clearly see the things which were hidden in darkness.  Since this moment my life was connected with TRIZ and innovation.

I would prefer to focus on problem solving methods that are intended for team or individual work instead of speaking about teams and personalities. I study and classify various personalities only in order to build methods that are more suitable for them.

 

TB - What problem solving methods have you experience with that have provided positive results?

GF - TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving), TRIZ VEA (Value Engineering Analysis), TOC TP (Theory of Constraints Thinking Procedures), TRIZ Guided Brainstorming.  I would also add to this list "hybrid" of TRIZ with TOC TP and I-MUST (Innovation Multilevel Universal System Thinking). I-MUST  was developed by me (http://www.bmgi.com/sites/bmgi.com/files/Multi-level%20Problem%20Solving.pdf). The "hybrid" of TOC TP and TRIZ we have developed together with my companion Rony Mann (http://www.bmgi.com/sites/bmgi.com/files/TRIZ%20Marriage%20with%20TOC%20Deliver%20Improved%20Product.pdf). The new system of Inventive principles for TRIZ Guided Brainstorming was developed together with Sergey Malkin (http://gbtriz.com/Guided_Brainstorming_Companion.pdf http://gbtriz.com/TRIZGB.htm).

 

TB - Are there different problem solving methods that work better for individuals or teams?

 

 

GF - TRIZ  and I-MUST work better for individuals. All the rest work better for teams.

 

TB - Have you worked with a system that effectively measures the success of these systems centered methods?

 

 

GF - Positive results (solutions for problems that were not solved for years, meaningful cost reduction when it looks as  impossible etc.) are the best metrics in my opinion.  

 

TB - What methods and tools would you recommend to start down the path of this type of team development?

 

 

GF - The mentioned above "hybrid" TOC TP with TRIZ  and TRIZ Guided Brainstorming are suitable methods for innovation teams.

 

TB - How do you suggest teams utilize these systems centered methods to drive innovation?

 

 

GF - In my opinion the first step is to drive pilot projects – facilitated workshops.  During the workshops teams start to learn the methods  and apply them to resolve  their real problems under supervision of an experienced facilitator - at the practitioner level. Then from the team are chosen those that will continue to learn the methods on professional level and apply them to resolve complex innovation problems – the second step.  Among these professionals will be chosen a few persons that will continue lean the methods to become facilitators and lead and train innovation teams – the third step.

 

TB - I hope this provides some incentive to try these tools mentioned by Gregory, I think there is a great deal of potential and value in utilizing these tools to encourage innovation in your company.  As Gregory suggests - start with a facilitated pilot to test the capabilities and then expand as you gain experience and value.

I’ve been writing a lot recently about innovation, starting with a concept that I feel is a driving factor to innovation which is what I’ve started calling the ‘Why not?’ factor.  As the discussion progressed I worked through many concepts to take into account; from the baseline of implementing a continuous improvement culture to a need to combine the program types for greatest value.  This included a view on the importance of the Program Management Office in coordinating programs, although I am also suggesting that the classic Program Management Office should be re-designed in light of a continuous improvement culture.  All of these concepts and types of programs will most definitely drive value in your organization and in fact any one of them would start you down the road of innovation and redefining your organization.  However, none of these programs in and of themselves can or will create a culture of innovation.  I think that while all of these, and more concepts to be discovered play an important role in innovation, I think that the key to innovation is simply a combination of flexibility and curiosity.

After reflecting on this series of discussions, the great responses from readers and then developing the next discussion, I’ve come to realize that flexibility and curiosity are the key to the innovative culture. While any concept or practice if executed effectively can bring great value to the organization, I think you must agree that without the curiosity to ask ‘Why not?’ and the flexibility to try the concept an organization can never hope to innovate.  I think that all of the concepts and program initiatives that I’ve mentioned have a base objective of innovating the process, program or organization and the innovation is achieved through the flexibility to try the new concept or program and the curiosity to search out and try these concepts and programs. 

The curiosity and flexibility are key to the mix-and-match approach that I have been promoting in this series of discussion.  I think that this is the key to the success of implementing an innovative culture because after reflecting on this series and the great responses of readers, I think that curiosity and flexibility are the very definition of innovation.  This definition however can also be innovation’s greatest challenge; after all many people have a problem in accepting and working towards a concept or program without a direction manual or plan for reaching the objective.  The whole concept of innovation is one of lose definition without an instruction manual and for this reason alone it is very hard for some people to accept. 

This is where the team comes into play because the team can provide the support and initiative that will encourage the innovation and then implement the innovation.  The team is important to this initiative because provides the support structure to implement innovation and then build an innovative culture.   All members of the team provide a value to developing and more importantly to sustaining the culture of innovation.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What is your experience with the combining and maintaining a multiple programs in a complex organization?   How important is flexibility and curiosity to this objective?  Can you provide examples of consistent results of the influences?

in a recent discussion about innovation and how to bring about change through a continuous improvement program, a couple of my readers make some great observations.  These comments started my thinking about the combination of program types in order to multiply the value of improvements.  This has also been a common theme of mine in the past that you may recognize; when does one plus one equal more than two?  One of those observations identified two types of programs that can influence innovation; the Continuous Improvement Program (of course) and a Customer Bonding Program.  The Customer Bonding Program especially interests me because, as you’ve seen from my discussions, one of my key interests is the critical importance of the customer relationships on success in the extended supply chain. 

There are two methods to actively engaging in these programs; the first is as two separate programs and the second is combining the two programs.  In my opinion the combination of these two programs and objectives is a great next step in the growth and improvement of the organization,  I recently saw a great phrase that I would relate to this - it is time to develop a program in search of the 'holy grail' of customer service - a superior, consistent and dedicated program to improve the customer relationship and that is where I think the Customer Bonding Program will fit very nicely.  These two programs are complimentary of each other, though in my view the value will be greatly multiplied if implemented as such in a combined fashion.

This also leads to another practice that I am also have a great interest; how a Business Process Management program can fit into these  programs.  This is a base concept that should be taken into account in all initiatives and should be a key building block in any improvement program in order to ensure success.  The reason that you should take into account your business process as it relates to both customers and business operations is that they are both strongly linked together in the day-to-day operation.  In order to truly progress, and more importantly, in order to ensure that the improvements stick, you must take into account your current business process and how these processes impact your ability to improve and bond with the customer.

The reason I bring these concepts and programs together in this discussion is because there is basically nothing in real life that can successfully be segregated from conflicting actions and programs.  I suggest that you take into account all actions and programs that you have in place to coordinate the efforts and ensure that the programs are aware of each other and that they work together for the ‘greater good’.  All that being said I’m sure that you’re saying to yourself this is what a Program Management office should be charged to do.  While I agree with this proposal I would also say that the Program Management Office must be re-engineered in order to achieve and ensure these objectives are met.  Afterall, if a Continuous improvement Program, Customer Bonding Program and Business Process Management program are good enough for improving the entire organization, they should be good enough for the Program Management Office, don’t you think?

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What is your experience with the combining and maintaining a multiple programs in a complex organization?   Can you provide examples of consistent results of the influences?

In a recent discussion I asked a relatively simple question - How do you encourage teams to identify and create the positive destruction of your organization that will renew your business and create the new businesses that allow your organization to grow and prosper?  I suggested that this is a strategic objective that would be helped if  you develop and implement a robust governance program to recognize and encourage the types of initiatives that can bring about the new business capabilities and new businesses that will bring about the continued growth of your organization.  In another discussion I provided an example of a company that I consider a great example of creative destruction that is ingrained in the culture of the company.  Then I provided another example of a company that has developed a creative destruction ‘program’ through a continuous improvement practice that is ingrained in the company culture.

In this discussion I’d like to discuss the importance that the senior leadership team plays in developing and nurturing this culture.  In addition to the importance of developing and nurturing this culture, the buy-in from the senior leadership team is absolutely essential to the success of developing a creative destruction strategy. This is where your leadership team really must step up and embrace the potentials that can be achieved by this framework.  This is where your teams must be encouraged by the senior leadership team to try new things and not be boxed in by current methods.  In short, this is where the ‘Why not?’ will really pay off.

OK, now that I’ve given the rah-rah speech about the leadership team’s role in the development of the culture I will get into some of the more mundane actions that you will more than likely run into in your efforts to develop this new culture.  The reality of most situations is that your senior leadership team will need to be persuaded because they are comfortable in the current culture.  In most cases the single biggest factor to embracing a new strategic direction is being forced to make a change.  Change is hard and the best way to make a change stick is to ‘burn the bridges’ so there is no going back. 

Another method to driving change is to prove that the current practices and culture must change to get to the next level.  Unfortunately while this may be a much more common situation in the business world, it is the most difficult to break through.  What makes this so difficult is the necessity to convince the senior leadership team that change will bring positive value to the business.  In this situation you must develop the business case for change based on the positive results achieved by a team, or teams, that have been assigned to break the rules.  These teams will most likely be created as skunk works with a mission to break the rules and identify a new business model.  If this sounds simple, don’t be fooled because in this current business environment there is a very low likelihood that one team would be given the mission to experiment, let alone multiple teams.  This is where you must get more creative to identify a means to experiment. 

There are some ways to get creative in this goal to experiment and I would like to get your input regarding methods you have used to experiment in your teams.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What is your experience with the gaining the acceptance and approval from senior management to experiment?  How do you maintain the ‘Why not?’ mentality that leads to a new business?  Can you provide examples of your successes and failures?

tbrouill

Creative Destruction

Posted by tbrouill May 18, 2013

Today I want to discuss creative destruction in a little more detail and from a strategic level.  Creative destruction has been a popular topic in many education and methodology circles for quite a while and I find the concept both fascinating and extremely hard to execute at the same time.  It seems to me that creative destruction is a very close relation to innovation and more of a type of innovation that should be very upsetting for any organization.  In order to better understand this challenge try to think of an organization as a living thing, or entity, and as with any living entity the objective is to continue life as they know it and any form of creative destruction will generate a level of fear and uneasiness because at its heart, the objective of creative destruction is to create a new entity from the ashes of the previous entity.

My favorite example of a company that practices creative destruction model is Google and their practice of developing new prototypes and providing to the public to measure acceptance.  Some of these tools develop into new tools that define the entity for example Google+ has defined their social networking strategy and they will add features and functionality to support these new tools.  Google’s most impressive practice in my opinion is their willingness to kill prototypes that do not meet their current strategy or direction; for example Google is killing their ‘labs’ because it no longer fits with their current strategic direction, even though I think it has been very successful in bringing you features and software to the public.

Now my favorite example of a company that practices a continuous improvement model is Microsoft and their practice of improving current software suites and capabilities based on the market desires and consumer interests.  Microsoft has a very successful continuous improvement method that allows their organization to continue to grow and prosper through the continuous improvement and expansion of their software tools. MIcrosoft has been extremely successful in their practice of releasing products and software that meets the market base needs and then further developing that market and improving capabilities to meet market needs through a program of regular releases and upgrades.  They have added to this suite of tools through acquisition or improvements development and have developed a very successful business model utilizing these practices. 

Obviously both of these examples have been extremely successful and their model of focus on creative destruction, or continuous improvement supports their success.  As in so many models, there is no absolute right or wrong model and their are many variations on the theme that mix practices from each of these models.  The model is important from the aspect that an organization must ‘pick a lane’. I also believe very strongly that the model is important from the aspect that the senior leadership of the organization must buy in to the model and support the model publicly and privately in order to be successful.  I am now starting to lean towards the belief that the model, or method, is not critical and the critical aspect is the acceptance and support of the senior leadership for a model.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What is your experience with the conflicting directions of creative destruction framework compared to a  continuous improvement framework?  How do you maintain the ‘Why not?’ mentality while maintaining your strategic direction?  Can you provide examples of consistent results of the influences of senior leadership in selecting and succeeding in one of these models?

I’ve been thinking about how do you maintain a strategic view and mission while maintaining a continuous improvement program, or more accurately a continuous improvement culture.  As I think I’ve proven time and again, I am a huge believer in the benefits of a continuous improvement program or culture.  The challenge though is how do you maintain a long term, strategic view while focusing on a continuous improvement framework?  In addition to that, you should add to the mix the ‘Why not?’ approach that I have been promoting recently and it can seem that the strategic viewpoint could easily be overlooked or even pushed to the side.

There’s always the simple and somewhat flippant response to a question like that and that flippant response is that you must always keep your eye on the future and the long term strategy.  I hope you can see the same thing that I do, and that is that this flippant response simply says that you must do what your mission says you should, or will, do.  It has no mention or reference to how you might do this, only that you must follow your mission.  Well that’s kind of like whistling past the graveyard to use an old saying.  In order to be successful you must focus how you can achieve your objective and also why you must achieve your objective.  This can be especially difficult because to some extent when you embrace a continuous improvement program you are to a very large extend embracing a framework that encourages a very fuzzy roadmap to your destination, or objectives.  This is where your team members come into play and provide an important supporting role.  Your team members in this framework should be providing the ‘guard rails’ that will guide your program to meet your strategic objectives.  This is where you empower your team to determine the best means or methods to meet your strategic objectives while having the power to determine the methods to meet those objectives. 

There is another dilemma that you should be prepared to encounter and that is - How do you encourage the teams to identify and create the positive destruction of your organization that will renew your business and create the new businesses that are required for your organization to grow and prosper?  I think this is where you must develop and implement a robust governance program that will recognize and encourage the types of initiatives that can bring about the new business capabilities and new businesses that will bring about the continued growth of your organization.  This is where your leadership team really must step up and embrace the potentials that can be achieved by this framework.  This is where your teams must be encouraged by the senior leadership team to try new things and not be boxed in by current methods.  In short, this is where the ‘Why not?’ will really pay off.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What is your experience with the conflicting directions of maintaining a strategic view in a continuous improvement framework?  How do you maintain the ‘Why not?’ mentality while maintaining your strategic direction?  Can you provide examples of consistent results of the influences?

tbrouill

Secret Sauce Suggestions

Posted by tbrouill May 14, 2013

I received many responses to my series on innovation and innovative teams and first I want to thank everyone that participated in the discussion because there were so many great suggestions.  These responses ran the gamut from agile development and experimentation to encouraging and obtaining involvement and support from senior management.  One of them particularly stuck in my mind as the essence of the discussion and that suggestion was ‘Passionfruit and lemon aide’. 

I liked this suggestion immediately for two reasons; first because of the humor that it highlights and second because it embodies two critical factors.  The two critical factors are a passion for the success of the objectives and the view point to make lemonade from lemons.  While I’m at it I also want to add that a sense of humor provides a third critical factor.  I have to say that I also want to thank the person that made this suggestion because I made me think for a bit about all of these discussions that I’ve been leading regarding innovation and also gave me a different perspective.  I have to admit that its a great idea to get as many perspectives as possible and I truly appreciate the feedback.

This gave me pause because it made me think about the concept of innovation from a perspective that I overlooked; that is the importance of a little playfulness and irreverence in any activity.  I’ve come to realize that my concept and discussions around the question ‘Why not?’ also embodied a bit of irreverence and humor at its essence.  I believe it's critical to include a little bit of humor in every aspect, it makes the time more enjoyable and it also gives you a positive viewpoint that I believe is critical to the success of any critical initiative.  I also happen to believe that a little humor is a critical ingredient to a successful continuous improvement program that is the essence of ‘Why not?’  In my opinion it is easy to see that a bit of humor provides the basis for a successful ‘Why not’ initiative.  I think that there are two aspects that drive a successful ‘Why not?’ continuous improvement program; a bit of humor and also a bit of frustration and both of these emotions are flip sides of the same coin.

I think the frustration can be the impetus to ‘push’ you out of your comfort zone and then the sense of humor provides the impetus to ask ‘Why not?’  So now this brings me back to my initial point about the ‘passion fruit and lemonade’ suggestion!  This simple phrase in my opinion comes as close to embodying the critical aspects of the ‘Why not?’ concept and the objective of a successful continuous improvement program; a little bit of humor to overcome the frustration of being handed lemons and a little bit of passion for the objectives that will give you the drive to continue.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What is your experience with the impact of frustration and humor and the ability of  team personalities and the power of the personality interactions to overcome the frustraions?  Can you provide examples of consistent results of the influences?

tbrouill

Team And Culture

Posted by tbrouill May 12, 2013

A question that comes to my mind lately is - Does the team make the greatest difference? or Does the culture make the greatest difference?  I am starting to view this as a similar analysis to the ‘nature or nurture’ question that has been around for years relating to child rearing.  I view this as similar because I think there are circumstances in situations that can be positively compared.  This is also a type of analysis that can be extremely difficult to come to a standard conclusion because the circumstances and the results can be influenced by so many different factors.  This question has so many factors and influences that many companies have been built around development and training programs and frameworks to help develop teams and cultures.  As a side benefit it seems that whole industries have been built around the tools and techniques to develop these types of cultures and teams, in fact the term ‘high performance teams’ comes to my mind.

There are a lot of factors that play into the makeup and growth of  teams, organization cultures and people.  Because there are so many factors involved the influences of these factors will be extremely difficult to measure and develop a plan with which you can take advantage.  Isaac Asimov, in his ‘Foundation’ series of books,  wrote about a branch of mathematics called psychohistory which was a concept of mathematical sociology developed to provide a means to predict mass actions of society.  Asimov’s concept was that predictions could be made based on large scale society that could not be made using small scale groups of people.  It seems to me that a team culture and even a company’s culture can be too small of a group to effectively predict the outcome of any individual influences from team members or even teams influence on a company’s culture.  

I will be the first to admit that I am not a psychologist, or a mathematician and I have never performed a study on the influences on a team and company’s culture regarding the consistency of the influence of factors on a these same teams and companies culture.  From a layman’s perspective, based on reading a science fiction series quite a few years ago, it does seem to me however that there can be a relationship between the size of the team, or company culture, and the predictability of the influences of personalities on the results of these teams and company cultures.  I also believe very strongly that the influences of an individual can be very great on a team and a company’s culture and the combinations of personalities in a team and a company’s culture. 

I also believe that as time progresses and additional studies are performed on personality influences that the predictors are being more effectively identified and the influences on  the relationships more effectively measured.  As studies progress  the influences of different personality types on other personalities and especially team culture and company culture can be more effectively measured and potentially guided to desired results.  Also, as studies progress the personality types and influences are also refined and the details of influences are further documented in order to refine and further the documentation of the influences.  As you might have guessed I find this area of study very interesting.  I am fascinated by the definition of personality types and the influences of these types on each other based on variations of circumstances and the strength and mix of personality types.  I believe these personality types provide a type of ‘secret sauce’ to the success of a team and a company, however I’m challenged by the complexity of the influences that will make it difficult to predict results.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What is your experience with team personalities and the power of the personality interactions?  Can you provide examples of consistent results of the influences?

tbrouill

Variations On A Theme

Posted by tbrouill May 11, 2013

I want to take some time today to discuss what I am referring to as Variations on a Theme.  I have written many times about how important I feel a continuous improvement program is to the success of an organization.  I’ve written many times about the keys to a successful initiative or movement and one of the foundational keys has always come down to a robust continuous improvement program.  In fact in my most recent series of articles you will remember I finally came to the realization that I was speaking of the importance of a continuous improvement program.  This is in fact the result of my critical question, ‘Why not?’, from simplistic terms this question drives a continuous improvement program.

A number of readers of my recent articles suggested that Agile Development method would be a particularly effective method to implement an innovative practice in an organization.  This is a great idea and Agile Methodology is an extremely effective method to develop innovation in an organization through a series of deliveries that build upon each other.  This method is especially effective because it allows the team to deliver a series of successes that can build the momentum of the support to gain what I’ve referred to as an escape velocity, where the practice becomes self supporting and embraced by the entire organization.  I agree with this suggestion and see that Agile Development can provide the framework to deliver on the promise of innovations that I represented by the question ‘Why not?’  I hope though that you can also see that Agile Methodology is also simply another continuous improvement program.

This is an example of what I mean when I refer to variations on a theme; the theme I refer to is the continuous improvement program.  What we have then over the years is various methods to implement a continuous improvement program.  Each of these methods can be very successful in their own rights, both from an organizational value perspective and also from a solution methodology sales perspective.  In other words, these methods that are variations on a theme - continuous improvement - can be very lucrative for the people that commercially develop these methods and then develop  the training and seminars to advertise and teach these methods.  These methods and tools have provided a great value to many organizations and the fact of the matter is that all of these various methods and frameworks would not have become accepted if they did not provide a value to the organizations and people that have implemented these methods and frameworks.

To me, the most interesting thing about these variations on the theme, and my firm belief, is that these methods are only successful because of the people involved in implementing and practicing these methods.  I feel this is the critical factor to the success of these variations on the theme and that is why I focused on that in my previous series of articles.  This being the case then, I would also say that the most critical factor to focus on is the development of the team!  The critical point to understand is the impact of the team members’ personalities on the capabilities of the team and the impact of the interactions of these personalities on the team.  That being the case then I think it is more critical to focus on team building and then focus on the methodology in order to ensure your successful initiative.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What is your experience with team personalities and the power of the personality interactions?

tbrouill

Lessons For Innovation

Posted by tbrouill May 9, 2013

After my last few entries regarding innovation I’ve come to realize that innovation can be achieved by focusing on tried and true practices that can be found as part of a continuous improvement program.  i did not start out with this assumption to prove, I started with the assumption that if a team was open minded and focused on the simple question ‘Why not?’ that innovation would be the natural outcome.  So I started the series of entries that covered what I felt were the key contributing factors to implementing a team and an organization that would deliver an innovative culture.  As I said though at the beginning of this entry, a funny thing happened along the way as I was discussing the methods to achieving an innovative organization; I realized that I was describing a continuous improvement program.

I don’t want to mislead anyone and I’m guessing that at this point many of you are saying - If its so simple why can’t more people be successful at it?  That is a great question and that, I think, is the key point that I discovered in my previous entries; the reason why some teams, or organizations, are successful is because of the personalities involved in the leadership, the personalities involved in the execution teams and the mix in both of these teams that goads the drive to discover and success.  What I learned is that the question ‘Why not?’ is quite a bit more complicated than I originally imagined.  So what exactly is it that I think that I discovered?

i think that what I discovered in my examinations that there is something special that happens when the right people get together in the right organization, or environment, and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented.  I’ve seen stories and attended seminars that discuss these points in many different ways and many of these stories and seminars discuss methods that should be followed that will encourage, or drive, this type of discovery.  The challenge I found with these methods is that while they can work, I think they can only work when coupled with the right people, in the right environment that take advantage of the opportunities that are presented.  This is exactly where the question ‘Why not?’ comes into play because this concept is what will encourage people to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

I think that the thing that makes this so difficult to predict is that there are three factors that provide equal influence to the success; the right team of people, the right organization or environment to encourage the team, and the opportunities that present themselves.  I believe that each of these factors will ebb and flow over time and so the final and perhaps most important factor is the drive to continue to try and to see the opportunities that present themselves and the drive to continue to ask ‘Why not?’  I also believe that this requires a continuous growth and changing, or even rebuilding the team in order to maintain and encourage the drive and the curiosity.  I believe that the secret sauce is creating a team that continues to grow and learn from its experience. 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What other examples can you think of that describe the lifecycle of innovation?  What other examples can you think of that describes the positive and negative examples of best practices and latest practices?

In my last entry  I spoke of the Innovative team and so in this  entry I will discuss the organization requirements to develop an innovative culture.  This can be the most difficult and at the same time the most important factor in developing a cohesive, high performance and innovative culture.  The key factor to this achievement is a commitment to support and nurture the teams and build the necessary momentum that will allow the culture to become self sufficient.  It is critical to have the support and commitment of senior management in order to achieve the necessary momentum to achieve a self-sustaining initiative.

Frankly I’m torn by the dilemma that can be the result of the challenge presented by the need to develop an innovative culture.  On the one hand, its very easy to sign up for this challenge but it is quite another thing to maintain the commitment when it seems like you are not making any progress.  On the other hand, I don’t think that the breadth and depth of cultural change required to meet this challenge can be undertaken within smaller groups.  I think that unless you commit to organization wide change you will not achieve the results, objectives and benefits that can be achieved by an innovative organization culture.  All that said though I believe that in order to gain the commitment from senior management you must complete a proof of concept.  I know this is contradictory on the surface but in order to gain the commitment you must provide some initial proof of the potential. 

I’ve been thinking about these contradictions now for a couple of days and I’m at the point now where I think that the opportunity must be viewed in the long term that will only be achieved through a progression of steps.  The first step should be research and education; you must research your senior management team to identify the members that are most open to the concept, or challenge, then you must educate the receptive members in the potential that can be achieved through this challenge.  The second step is to leverage the initial senior management team members to extend the education to the other members of the senior management team.  In conjunction with the second step you should execute a proof of concept to confirm and provide a basis to measure the success and potential.  I think the final step to ensure success is to implement a continuous improvement program to ensure that you adjust for the corrections that will be uncovered especially during the initial cycles.

Now I think that you should be able to see my dilemma - the core of this concept is implementing a continuous improvement program to ensure that you review the process, identify improvements, implement the improvements, measure the progress and then start the cycle again.  This is the very thing that I have been promoting as a base principle..  So now that I’ve gone through this review process I believe that the critical factor to developing a successful innovative organization and culture is based on implementing a continuous improvement program.  This should be a very easy to promote to your senior management team because after all your implementation plan is to adjust based on outcome to improve.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What other examples can you think of that describe the lifecycle of innovation?  What other examples can you think of that describes the positive and negative examples of best practices and latest practices?

tbrouill

Innovative Team

Posted by tbrouill May 4, 2013

In this entry I want to continue my discussion related to the type of team that will have a higher likelihood to spark innovation.  I believe that there are two critical keys to encouraging and implementing the type of environment and that encourages and nurtures innovation.  The first key is the team that has the predisposition, or the spark, that will ask the question ‘Why not?’ and then take the initiative to continue down that path of reasoning to a conclusion.  The second key is the environment, or culture, that will nurture and encourage the development of the types of teams that will ask the question ‘Why not?’ and then allow the team the time, and even a reasonable amount resources to follow their investigation to a conclusion.

These points may come across as very easy and at first my own reaction was ‘This can’t be so difficult - why isn’t it more common, or at least less uncommon?’  As I thought about it though, I began to realize just how difficult it would be to do this.  There are many factors that contribute to the success or failure of these efforts and so I think that generally speaking the deck is stacked against the success of these efforts.  It would be very easy to say that the success is a matter of luck but I think that in these situations luck is a matter of a lot of hard work and determination.  In fact I think that the success depends on visionary leadership that can see the potential and has the patience to nurture and encourage the success.  Needless to say, this takes a great deal of determination, along with a willingness to accept and even encourage failures. 

You will never achieve success in this effort unless you provide the environment to experiment and fail - you must put long term success over short term gains.  Of course in the business world at least you can’t just focus on encouraging experimentation - you must also pay the bills so there is a limit to the largess.  You must however take a long term view and measure the success of your effort not just by the short term gains but also by the long term success that builds your future.  Again, this may sound simple but there are more forces against than supporting your success.  I think in this regard that 3M is probably the best example of a company with a long history of encouraging innovation through encouraging their employees to experiment and even taking into account the time that is required to be successful in this effort. 

In the business environment that focuses on short term gains it can be extremely difficult to follow through and maintain the patience required to achieve success.  Then to add to the difficulty you have to take into account that this type of initiative to develop an innovative environment will not just happen if you publish an edict that everyone in the company must spend 10% of their time experimenting and developing a new product or service.  Remember the old saying that ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, there must be an additional spark that provides a reason to develop the new product or service.  Then lets just say that you’ve provided the edict to develop a new product and then someone gets the spark of a new idea because of some difficulty they’ve encountered.  The next hurdle is to maintain the initiative to continue through failures and the imagination to ask ‘Why not?’ 

I hope I haven’t discouraged you from the efforts to develop an innovative team.  I hope that you enter into this effort understanding the hurdles and prepared to overcome discouragement and failures because the result can be extremely satisfying.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What other examples can you think of that describe the lifecycle of innovation?  What other examples can you think of that describes the positive and negative examples of best practices and latest practices?

In my last entry I discussed my proposal to change the focus from ‘Best Practices’ to ‘Latest Practices’ because of my conviction that a focus on ‘Best Practices’ encourages a focus on the past that would have a tendency to direct you towards safe decisions and also has a tendency to discourage innovation.  I realize this may be at odds with the beliefs of many people and with many industry organizational practices.  One practice that comes to mind is industry benchmarking, but I will get into that at a later date.  My concern at this point is that I believe now that many practices that companies have embraced are not cohesive and can work against each other.  So how does an organization change and become an innovative organization?  I think that one key ingredient to achieving the type of velocity required to achieve acceptance and even ‘escape velocity’ it is critical to reach that tipping point. 

Let me recap for a moment my ending points from my last discussion because i believe they are very critical to meeting the ‘escape velocity’ objective. It is very easy to outline methods to focus on the future that have also actually worked successfully at some companies.  This doesn’t, however, describe the tipping point, or what causes companies and organizations to focus on the future and achieve success from those methods.  There must be a ‘spark’ that will start the chain reaction and I think that the ‘spark’ that achieves the tipping point is related to the people.  There are many contributing factors that will help you reach the escape velocity and I really believe that the secret sauce is putting together the right team.

There have been volumes written about team development.  How to identify and mix personalities to develop the strongest teams.  How to work through the stages of team development, like forming, storming, norming and performing.  I would also wager that most of you reading this have participated in training and completing personality assessments in a great variety of practices and types.  I also think that we would all agree, in varying levels of course, that there is something about the mixing and matching personalities that can make a difference.  We all have worked with someone that for whatever reason seems to make the team gel and by the same token we have all worked with someone that either threw cold water on initiatives or you just could not work with.

I think that in order to achieve the spark to innovate we should considered this the next level of team development and I would add to that next level of team development an incorporation of additional practices; motivational procedures and a healthy mix of ‘why not?’ procedures.  In order to achieve escape velocity I think you must have the right mix of personalities on the team.  You must have the motivator to keep the team together, you must have the explorer in order to maintain the ‘why not?’ spirit, you must also have a driver that goads the team on to achieve the innovation and spark the team to achieve.  In other words you must have a team that will drive the innovation along with the drive to maintain and even grow the team.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What other examples can you think of that describe the lifecycle of innovation?  What other examples can you think of that describes the positive and negative examples of best practices and latest practices?

tbrouill

Latest Practices

Posted by tbrouill May 2, 2013

In light of my recent discussions on the power of ‘Why not?’ I started thinking about ‘best practices’ again.  The discussions helped me to connect some thoughts and previous discussions together in a manner that brings some new light to some powerful legacy concepts.  This first concept that came to mind is ‘best practices’  and I realize now more than ever that ‘best practices’ needs to be retired from your business concept tool box.  In fact, I now think that ‘best practices’ may be one of the things that holds a company back from being truly innovative.

I’ve come to a realization and a conviction that 'best practices' implies an end point - yesterday's best practices can be today's worst practices and maybe its time to embrace a new concept called  'latest practices' because you should always be improving and moving forward.  So this is where I connected my discussion on the power of ‘Why not?’.  I relate the power of ‘Why not?’ to the concept of developing ‘latest practices’ rather than ‘best practices’.  These discussions helped me to realize that the concept and mantra of ‘best practices’ can unintentionally drive a company into a downward spiral because of a focus on the past that also potentially promotes a practice of playing it safe.  What I mean by that statement is that a focus on ‘best practices’ could promote a focus on implementing concepts that have been proven to work.  Today’s best practices are yesterday’s innovations and so if you take this into consideration I believe that you will have a much higher chance of growing stale and stagnating.  This focus on implementing concepts that have been proven to work unfortunately can encourage a tendency to play it safe. 

The focus of a ‘latest practices’ concept is basically developing a continuous improvement program that feeds on itself to provide a steady stream of innovations, large and small, that when added together deliver major innovation to your business and capabilities.  On the other hand, think about a focus on best practices which is a focus that is continuously looking at the past, or in the mirror behind you, rather than looking out your windshield at your future.  Your focus should be on a continuous growth path that enriches and mover yourself and your company forward.  In order to achieve this objective you must focus on the individual and specific needs of your business.  Think about it for a moment; how can you improve your capabilities when you are busy implementing capabilities that have been developed for another business model?

This is all well and good in fact it is very easy to say that some companies fall behind because of the focus on the past rather than a focus on defining and building the future.  It is very easy to outline methods to focus on the future that have also actually worked successfully at some companies.  This doesn’t, however, describe the tipping point, or what causes companies and organizations to focus on the future and achieve success from those methods.  I think that the ‘spark’ that achieves the tipping point is related to the people involved in the methods and I would further say that there is a great dependence on the team interaction and the manner in which the team furthers the objectives in a progression that cannot be achieved through the power of a single person.  In other words I think the team must be open to the thoughts and suggestions of the other team members and then take those thoughts and suggestions to build a greater result.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What other examples can you think of that describe the lifecycle of innovation?  What other examples can you think of that describes the positive and negative examples of best practices and latest practices?