The Dynamics of Change and Fear

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Carly Fiorina, Former CEO at HP, talks about the dynamics of change and fear. She notes that entrepreneurship is about risk-taking, and this is always associated with trying something new. Fiorina concludes by asserting that change involves gathering enough energy and force to overcome the power of status quo.

So what do I know about change? First thing I know is that everybody is afraid of something. Everybody is afraid of something. All of you are afraid of something. All of us are afraid of something. What distinguishes people who are successful in their life from those who are not is what do you do with your fear.

The essence of business is risk taking. Taking a risk is all about trying something new. And yet as people go on in their lives, they become afraid of trying something new. And so change is always resisted, always. Because people are afraid, even if what they have is not satisfying to them, a lot of people are afraid to venture into the unknown.

Read full Article about The Dynamics of Change and Fear at Innovation Management.

The Best Tools to Derisk Innovation

At the start of the twenty first century the innovation buzz has become deafening. It commands the attention of everything – from the popular media to scientific journals. Innovation is claimed to be the driver of economies and the competitive edge of companies. With innovation being the core of many new management styles, one question still remains for the enthusiastic manager; what are the concrete tools for my employees to build our revolutionary innovations?

At the core of any innovation management technique is a risk management philosophy to lower risks along the development and implementation chain. Whether it is focused on minimizing waste via Lean Thinking, correctly addressing consumer needs via Design Led-Thinking or hedging bets via Equity Style Management, the focus is always on how do we reduce the risk inherent in being innovative? Risk and innovation are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other.

 

“4% of innovation initiatives achieve their internally defined success criteria.”

 

The tools to achieve these goals nowadays are focused around a few enabling principles. They are mostly about connecting the right people to the right problems. And doing this in the simplest and most frictionless way possible. We are seeing this with Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, Open Innovation (both ingoing and outgoing), Open Access, Open Source, and many more.

 

For more about The Best Tools to Derisk Innovation visit Innovation Management.

 

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Risks in Innovation Leadership Talent

You don’t need to look far to see risk in innovation leadership. Yet many entrepreneurs lack a sufficient understanding of how to judge and deal with risks. In this article we introduce a model for classifying risks in innovation leadership. In turn, we discuss how some of these risks can be reduced or averted, and in some cases even embraced and reframed to mean something positive.

According to some statisticians, more than half of all startups fail within their first five years of existence; figures on innovative startups are even bleaker. A first round of investment is no guarantee for success, either-  the generally accepted figure is that roughly three-quarters of venture-backed firms won’t ever return their money.

One of the inherent virtues of innovation leadership is that the excitement of the opportunity outweighs the perceived risks of loss and failure.

Low probability – low impact risks: to be ignored

Risks that have a low likeliness to occur and low potential impact are not worth spending much, if any, time on. 

Low probability – high impact risks: to be insured

Risks that have a high potential impact but a low probability can often be averted through insurance. This is desirable when the benefits of insurance are likely to outweigh the costs.

High probability – low impact risks: to be averted

These risks, due to their low severity, are as inconvenient as they are avertable. Examples of risk in this category are: a key team member becomes ill just before an important deadline; a computer crashes with all the customer data information.

High probability – high impact: to adapt to

The risks in Quadrant 4 are of key concern for innovation leadership (and any existing business), as they are too costly to insure and cannot simply be ignored or averted due to their severity.These risks are the real company killers, often tapping into the core beliefs and (informed or non-informed) assumptions that businesses have built their product or services on. All elements of the enterprise (market, competition, leadership, operations, legal, finance) are exposed to such risks.

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25 Steps to Jump-Start your Innovation Journey

We’ve covered some essential ground to help you prepare your innovation journey, and now it’s time to put these concepts into action. The innovation formula addresses the very specific tasks that have to be accomplished for innovation to emerge from your organization not only as a matter of luck or at random, but through a concentrated effort that results in sustained innovation performance. Here you will find the Taking Action steps along with 25 additional suggestions that we hope will help you to think and plan creatively and productively about how to make innovation a reality in your organization.

  • Change and complexity, the external world that seems to be different nearly every day.
  • Risk and the need to come up with great ideas, and to balance potential rewards with the risks that come with striving to attain them.
  • Speed, the imperative to go fast because the external world isn’t waiting around for you or your organization, and your competitors would be happy to seize your market share and make it their own.
  • Engagement, because it takes the observations, expertise, and insights of many people working effectively together to come up with great ideas, and then transform them into working solutions to problems that your customers really do want to solve.
  • Leadership, because no innovations happen without courage, commitment, support, and often resources, and these are elements that you, as leader, must provide in highly visible and emphatic ways.
  • And then tools, which can make the path much easier and faster even if they’re not fancy.

Your Innovation Team

This will be a dynamic group of people from many different backgrounds who have vital roles to play in support of your firm’s innovation management objectives. Without knowing the specifics of your situation, your organization, and the unique challenges you’re facing, please consider the following as a suggestion and a general set of jobs or roles that are useful to the successful pursuit of innovation in a small organization, that is, your company.

Complexity and Change: The Strategy Manager

We began the discussion of your innovation needs, requirements, and opportunities by exploring the driving forces of change that are shaping the world of tomorrow. We talked about technology, science, culture, the population, and climate change, and these broad trends as well as some that may be specific to your industry or your organization present a continually changing panorama that you need to be paying close attention to, for there’s no telling when an external change will lead to a specific requirement or challenge for you.

Getting Started

As you recruit the best people you can find to participate on your innovation team, and work to engage with them as your teammates, colleagues, and fellow travelers on the innovation journey, one of the most important things to remember is that innovation is driven by divergent thinking, which we also know as lateral thinking, and as a leader you must specifically encourage, promote, and indeed insist on the necessity of divergent thinking across all aspects of the work, from the design and management of your innovation efforts, to the conduct of the many ongoing innovation projects.

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Elements of The Innovation Formula

In the first chapter of The Innovation Formula for small business leaders and entrepreneurs, Langdon Morris explained the importance of questions and maps that describe competition, change, the future, innovation and strategy that are intended to help you understand the significant forces that are shaping business today, and to harness the ones that are already shaping tomorrow. In the second chapter, we look at a third core element that this book is organized around, which is the innovation formula.

Yes, we do believe that there is a formula for success at innovation, and we have found over the years that it doesn’t matter whether you’re running a garage, a sandwich shop, or a multinational auto manufacturer, success in each case relies on your performance in the same five areas. Whether you’re the CEO of GM or the chief cook and bottle washer, you have to think about the same problems, study, learn, research, experiment, engage in some risk, and manage it closely. How you do these, of course, is entirely different depending on the size of your business, but nevertheless the actual elements seem to be consistent across all businesses.

The formula consists of the six major topics: complexity and change, risk, speed, engagement, leadership, and tools. Here is a quick summary of the key ideas and the reasoning that you’ll find throughout the rest of this serialized book.

Complexity and Change

The external environment is an unyielding and unceasing source of change, and your organization must adapt to it if it’s going to survive. Hence, complexity and change literally define the context in which innovation and its close cousin, strategy, are relevant. It is to external change that drives market needs and preferences, and hence it is a critical role of leadership to be attuned to the rhythm, character, and specifics of what is happening out there in the increasingly wild world. The other critical role is of course leading the process of responding to those changes.

Risk

When we understand what’s happening in the external environment we can organize the pursuit of innovation, correctly targeted, so that we produce the right innovations to meet current and future market needs. But if only it were so easy. In fact, it is intellectually and operationally challenging to figure out what’s the right thing to do, the right products and services to create.

Furthermore, having a clear vision of the future products and services is not at all the same as actually having them in hand.

Hence, there is a double risk. First, anticipating future needs correctly is by no means an easy task. What if, for example, you see clearly what the needs of the future will be, but in the end it turns out that you’re wrong? This, of course, is the story of countless failed companies, which aimed for a target in the future market that the actual market itself never selected?

Second, even if you do get it right, there’s still the many problems associated with developing the right products and services to meet the anticipated needs. Can your designs and plans actually work? Can you complete the development work in a timely way? Does your organization have the internal talent and the right external partners to master the many challenges?

Risk, then, is inherent in the innovation management problem, and it is inescapable. So the right amount of risk is essentially the least possible risk.

“Least possible,” however, is trickier than it may at first sound. Least, after all, is really none, but of course the point of competition and change and all that is that taking no risk means making no innovations at all, which is actually a very risky approach, because it leaves you entirely vulnerable to those very changes. Consequently, “least possible” really means the least you can take on while still remaining viable, but even knowing exactly how much risk that is, is actually unknowable.

And so the problem now becomes one of information, because you probably don’t know what innovations your competitors are working on, nor everything about the new and innovative technologies that may be coming, etc., etc., which means that while you cannot afford to do nothing, to just wait for the future to bury your business, you are obliged to act, compelled to act, to act proactively yet with incomplete information.

This is the character of the risks you must take. Taking them well, thoughtfully, strategically is what’s necessary. Achieving this, navigating through this difficult but fascinating landscape will take some thought and a lot of effort.

Speed

Despite the many risks you plunge ahead, thoughtfully, to create your organization’s future. You are now engaged in the depths of the innovation process itself.

That process is not such an easy one, as it must be thorough and thoughtful, of course, but above all it must be fast. Again, the premise here is that your information is incomplete, and you just don’t know how fast your competitors will move, nor do you know exactly how the market will respond to their new ideas, nor to yours. So the best way to deal with the compounding of uncertainty is to go fast, to learn fast, to learn what works and what doesn’t work through techniques such as agile sprints, rapid prototyping, minimum viable products, a-b testing, and related techniques (which we will discuss in chapter 5). We express this in the innovation formula as speed, and of course there is a lot of value in getting solid results fast, faster than your competitors.

Engagement

The next element of the formula relates to the culture of your organization, for you and your partner are the ones who are going to develop ideas, figure out which ones are great, and turn them into something useful, test them, and bring the very best to the market.

Theoretically, you could find the smartest person in your organization, set them to the innovation task, and achieve good or even great results. Practically, though, the issues that have to be dealt with are probably deeper and broader than a single individual can master, because today’s innovation projects integrate knowledge across multiple domains, each of which itself runs quite deep.

Hence, we know that innovation is not an individual activity, but a team sport. The optimal innovation process is one in which your organization is engaged, one in which all of the strengths, thoughts, and talents of everyone, and also those of the broader ecosystem in which your organization participates, are fully engaged.

Leadership

It’s also true of organizations that deep and thorough engagement comes about only when there is superbly focused leadership. We know that innovation can happen in organizations where the risks are understood, and where the ambiguities and uncertainties that are inherent in the process are known and acknowledged, and where there is willingness to engage in the necessary levels of risk taking.

We also know that in organizations where people are punished for making intelligent mistakes, for thoughtfully trying new things that fail, for thinking about how to do things better, and differently, the spirit of innovation is swiftly and decisively stifled. Hence, leaders must embrace and promote the critical elements which enable an innovation culture to emerge, or it will not emerge.

Tools

The last clause of the formula concerns the tools and methods that we use to manage the entire innovation effort. All other things being equal, better tools and methods are likely to support better results, and while this does not necessarily mean that you have to invest a lot of money in new technology, you do need to think through carefully and invest appropriately in methods, processes, and organizational structures that enable and promote innovation efforts, and which set the tone and context in which innovation can thrive.

So these are the six elements in the innovation formula; here they are expressed in pseudo math:

(Complexity and Change) > Innovation
Innovation = f (Risk) (Speed) (Engagement) (Leadership) + (Tools)

Or in English, Complexity and change means that Innovation is essential for survival. Achieving innovation a function of Risk, times Speed, times Engagement, times Leadership, plus Tools.

In previous books, I and co-authors have examined many aspects and facets of this formula in considerable detail, and in our work with enterprises large and small all around the world we’ve worked with them to implement it, to make innovation real, important, and effective for their organizations.

And as I mentioned above, we believe that exactly the same innovation formula works for GM and Toyota as it does for the local restaurant and the auto garage, and that it will probably work for your small business too. So while nearly all of the nuances and details or its implementation will certainly be different from the Fortune 500 firm to the local business in Peru, China, New York, or Auckland, we are convinced based on many years of practice that the actual thinking process, that the critical questions and the guiding maps, will be nearly the same.

This book is the fifth one in a series that explores all of this in a lot detail. It was preceded by Permanent Innovation, The Innovation Master Plan, The Chief Innovation Officer, and Agile Innovation, and you may be interested in checking these out if you’re the sort of person who likes to absorb a lot of detail and wants to study the deeper reasoning.

If you’re not the person who wants to read a lot of detail, then hopefully the concise contents of this book will help you to understand the challenges, and design the right responses.

In each subsequent chapter we will explore the formula one element at a time, beginning with a quick look at the broader context of complexity and change, followed by the remaining five elements, with a particular focus on what they mean for you, the small and medium sized business leader or entrepreneur, and also with focus on action and implementation.

This is not intended as theoretical exercise, but rather an entirely practical guidebook. We hope it helps you to arrive at the right destination, namely an innovative and thereby successful firm.