Monday, March 31, 2014

Innovation and the Art of Recognizing Hidden Criteria
Posted on March 16, 2014 by Kate Hammer

An interesting discussion on what happens when the average person is faced with radically new concepts.

When we propose a novel concept that disrupts cherished assumptions and tacit expectations, we need to expect hidden criteria to surface. Hidden criteria are the crutches decision-makers lean on as they attempt to block something truly disruptive because it is frightening or de-stabilizing…. 
…. Hidden criteria are the opposite of explicit criteria. They hide in plain sight, until an activity or event teases them into salience. When they surface, hidden criteria take the form of verbal dismissals – “that’s rubbish” – or feints like “I don’t get it” (head shaking slowly). Sometimes they’re even fainter: blank stares, shrugged shoulders. Only rarely do hidden criteria get put into words… 
… Sometimes, hidden criteria mask a hidden agenda. “We say we want X but, really, we want Y.” Other times, hidden criteria indicate there’s a value gap. Author and Research Professor BrenĂ© Brown, Ph.D. explains:
“The space between our practiced values  (what we’re actually doing, thinking and feeling) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think and feel) is the value gap”….
… Recognizing hidden criteria
It’s not a surprise that hidden criteria surface in the face of novelty; it would be weird if they didn’t.
Here are the telltale signs that a boss is mustering hidden criteria:
s/he won’t give an idea air time, won’t allow a meeting or presentation or pitch to be scheduled
s/he starts interrupting the presentation, usually with questions or comments that flatten the positive responses group members may be showing towards the novel concept
s/he uses body language and silence to show group members that their curiosity or interest in the novel concept isn’t welcome
s/he outright rejects any comment that would reframe or add context to the novel concept, from a team member brave enough to speak up
Building a matrix of support
As innovators, we have a choice. We can cave-in to the murky logic that hidden criteria try to impose. Or we can work within what psychologist Howard Gardner calls a “matrix of support”.
Here are four ways you can build a matrix of support, to counter murky logic’s corrosive effects.
1. Share early and often, so that acceptance finding for a novel idea is happening ahead of any meeting where a boss might grow defensive.
2. Stand in the boss’s shoes and from there, dream up all the rebuttals s/he might imagine. From there, you have the choice whether to equip your allies with the responses they’d find most helpful to shore up the case.
3. Thank your boss for creating the creative space in the first place. Find the genuine contributions s/he has made to the breakthrough thinking (be that framing the commercial imperative, inviting new ideas, flexing business-as-usual workloads).
4. Model the behavior you seek. Use tools like PPCO to put some rationality back into idea evaluation.
In the matrix of support, “clean logic” may not govern decisions but at least it’s present.

Monday, March 24, 2014

An Innovation Dilemma and Question from Michael Dell
Posted on March 16, 2014 by Cris Beswick

Great stuff…I added comments from our class on Driving Organic Growth through Innovation. This is the start of creating competitive

A six-year research study, The Innovator’s DNA,  by Hal Gregerson, Jeffrey Dyer and Clayton Christensen has identified five discovery skills, which characterize leading innovators. By using these skills in varying degrees the world’s best entrepreneurs and innovators are able to unearth ‘stuff’ which we don’t ordinarily see and to create new masterpieces from incomplete information. The five discovery skills are: 
Just because two pieces are blue doesn’t mean they are adjacent bits of sky.” Associating” means being able to connect the dots, to combine pieces of disparate information until they join in new and innovative ways. (seeing the dots is obvious, connecting them is not and the source of deep insights) 
Open your eyes and look for the patterns. When you observe properly you unearth deeper, more meaningful insight because you see different things. You can then resolve the real problems you see with solutions which have more substance and resonate with people rather than papering over superficial niggles.(Ethnography)
Entrepreneurs and innovators rarely take the easy; find the corners first option, to solving problems. Rather they favor a more “how else can we solve it and what are the options” approach. This requires an ability to accept that things may fail and that the solution may not be the best first time but the process will result in a learning curve and experimentation prevents the solution becoming bogged down in a ‘logical’ process which may never result in a satisfactory answer. (Options Management and Discovery Driven Planning) 
Questioning… (keep asking why? Until you get to the root cause)
From questioning grows a deep appreciation of the problem and the insight to produce a solution. Instead of assuming we know the answer to a problem or area of tension and in the process potentially making the problem worse; taking time to question, to create an innovative solution results in a long term improvement. A questioning mind never accepts the first or apparently easiest answer but always goes deeper asking what next?” or “how else could we do it?” 
The world’s leading innovators take networking in a different context to the traditional definition. They use their constant inquisitiveness to gather people together who are fundamentally different from themselves in order to gain multiple perspectives on problems. This also means they use this to find challenging and opposing views to their own which will engender that spark of creativity.(fight the phenomenon of Escalation of Commitment)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Critical Few: Components of a Truly Effective Culture
Forget the monolithic change management programs and focus on the elements of your culture that drive performance
by Jon Katzenbach, Rutger von Post, and James Thomas

Simple but very powerful. I strongly suggest you read the full article

 ….if you get these three critical elements in sync, your culture’s positive impact will be felt on the bottom line much sooner than you might expect:
Identify the Critical Behaviors
Pinpointing a few critical behaviors is priority number one. Once the behaviors that embody the cultural priorities that a company seeks are identified, clarified, and supported widely, you can focus on harnessing them to strengthen and modify the existing culture. But even while we focus first on the critical behaviors, you will see just how interwoven the elements of the critical few are.
Honor the Existing Culture
Your organization may have many admirable cultural traits, but you need to focus on those three or four traits that are distinctively clear, wisely profound, emotionally powerful, and widely recognized. If you go mining for more, not only will you hit rapidly diminishing returns, but you will also make even the strongest traits seem somehow tenuous, and the entire process will lose credibility.
Focus on the Critical Informal Leaders
You’ve picked the behaviors you need to change or energize. You understand which facets of your existing culture can help spread the new behaviors you are seeking. Now, focus your efforts on a critical few groups and specific people within the organization who can help bring this transformation about and make it last.
Second Those Emotions
As you work to put the critical few into practice in your own organization, remember to focus on integrating emotional support. It is particularly important to avoid the trap of relying too heavily on conventional approaches to culture change and change management: programmatic consistency, process rigor, engagement tracking, and so on. Neither should you get too caught up in focusing on rational arguments and shared values, relying on hierarchical channels, and motivating through “stretch targets.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Four Tips for Walking Your Innovation Talk
To produce a climate of innovation that trickles down from the top, start by following this effective formula for leadership role modeling
Lisa Bodell

Very powerful and very consistent with the tenants of MDG

Employees at all levels take their cues from management, which makes it essential that senior executives practice what they preach. And that means a climate of innovation must start at the top, ideally with senior leaders who are both inspiring and dedicated….
… Through years of innovation training for the world’s foremost companies, my firm, futurethink, has identified an effective formula for leadership role modeling. Use the four tips below to increase innovation activity and results from your entire organization: 
Define and communicate desired behaviors. Telling people to “be innovative” isn’t specific enough to create a culture that embraces change and new ideas. True leaders know they must define and communicate the innovative behaviors they want to see in order to get the results they need. 
Dedicate a budget. You can build an innovation sandbox within your own business, where a small, cross-departmental team of visionaries can collaborate and rapidly test new concepts. Appoint a passionate leader to shepherd ideas into business possibilities as quickly as possible. Assigning a specific fund for innovative projects is the ultimate indicator that senior management is putting its money where its mouth is. 
Host an idea competition and celebration… consider an internal competition between offices and a virtual award ceremony. Invite vendors or partners to participate in subsequent competitions to increase the diversity of perspectives and solutions 
Show tolerance for risk. In your own business, publicly define a smart risk in terms of time investment, financial impact, required resources, or prototyping. Demonstrate your tolerance for the risk by holding an annual failure ceremony or spotlighting a risky experiment to the rest of the organization. Use the company’s intranet to provide real-time updates even if the project isn’t on track. And regardless of the outcome, make a point to publicly commend the risk-takers. (the Decision Criteria we discuss in our class on the MDG process defines the boundaries for “smart risks”)