Innovate OR Die – the rallying call of organizations in today’s Business V U C A Environment. So what is this V U C A environment?
Executives have taken to using the military acronym VUCA–Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity–to describe the business world in which they operate and to ask that question: In a VUCA world, what’s the point of strategy? Well, strategy does still have a purpose, but to build a strategy in a VUCA environment – it requires you to ignite more nuanced thinking.
It is also time to innovate the way you innovate. Here are some counterintuitive yet proven strategies for boosting innovation and making it a repeatable, sustainable and a profitable process.
Let’s take a LOOK!
Get people you don’t like into your team
This makes sense as developing something new requires a wide range of thinking. Innovation demands diversity of perspectives, disciplines, and personalities. Having a group of people who think like you do gives you more of the same. They may get along well, but it will rarely lead to new and innovative ideas.
People who are different from you may at times seem annoying, but do consider these people as complementary to you. They have skills and perspectives that could provide balance and help you become more effective and innovative. Team diversity is of extreme importance, even at your leadership ranks.
Creativity and innovation come from tension, giving rise to differing viewpoints and alternative ways of solving problems.
Don’t Think Outside The Box; Find A Better Box
Most of the time we hear our leaders using the expression: “Think out-side the box”. The belief is that eliminating constraints and allowing people to think freely will increase creativity. This unbounded approach actually reduces creativity and leads to abstract or impractical solutions.
Instead of telling your team to think out-side the box, give them a ‘better box’ to innovate inside of. These constraints will actually increase creativity and lead to useful solutions.
Albert Einstein reputedly said, “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-nine minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.” Most companies spend the full sixty minutes finding solutions to problems that do not yield good ROI.
Well-defined challenges guide innovation efforts, provide useful constraints, and define that ‘better box’.
Survival of the Adaptable – Not of the Fittest
Innovation is not about new products, processes, services, business models, or even new ideas. It is about staying one or more step ahead of your competition so that you outpace them – yet at the same time you make sure you don’t run into your new competition.
Innovation is about change – an ongoing change. It is about adaptability, flexibility, and agility. When the pace of change outside your organization is greater than the pace of change within, you will have a tough time keeping your business afloat.
Understand the marketplace and harness the energies of our organization by focusing on what is most important. Pick your colleagues (team) wisely. The people you choose as your innovation partners are an important part of your innovation strategy.
A lesson from Indiana Jones
In the movie: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Dr. Jones advises students to “forget any ideas you have got about lost cities, exotic travel and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and ‘X’ never, ever marks the spot.” What Dr. Jones was saying is to go out into the world and uncover the lost civilizations and find buried treasures.
In today’s world of data mining and customer analytics, it can be easy to study your customers from the comfort of your desk. This ‘academic’ approach will certainly give you insights into your customers’ buying habits, usability behaviors, and other consumer patterns. But you are only gathering data about your customers – you would be missing the data of former customers and people who never were customers.
The real treasure can be found when you don your ‘Indiana Jones’ fedora and bullwhip, get off your seat, and study customers with your own two eyes. Observe your customers and listen to them – lost, or potential, and current customers.
See the world and your customers with fresh eyes: discover opportunities you never expected and in the process you might just find your buried treasure chest.
View the World Through a Different Lens
As an innovator, don’t get too attached to your ideas. Being right can be the enemy of good innovation. When you view the world through the lens that your new idea is a good one, you see only the evidence that supports your conclusion, while subconsciously ignoring all of the points that don’t. You will ignore any contradictory comment made by anyone.
Make sure that as you develop new concepts and measure their effectiveness, you look for disproving data. Find all of the evidence that refutes your beliefs and hypothesis. This is the first step toward eliminating confirmation bias.
It is human nature to believe what we want to believe. When we get an idea in our heads, we subconsciously focus our energies on proving that belief right. Proactively play devil’s advocate and look for disproving data that will help you measure your innovations against the alternatives, and give that data equal or greater weight. This will allow you to make better decisions on which innovations to pursue and which ones to kill.
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