CategoryObservations

Beyond SoLoMo

I can take a photo of a check and deposit it in my bank account, then turn around and find a new book through a Twitter link and buy it, all while being surveilled by a drone in Afghanistan and keeping track of how many steps I’ve walked.

The question is, as it has always been: now what?

via The Jig Is Up: Time to Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic.

Alexis Madrigal looks at what lies beyond social-local-mobile.

Business Model Innovation Factory book

Saul Kaplan, founder of the Business Innovation Factory organization and conference series, has a new book out on reinventing business — the Business Model Innovation Factory, launching on April 24.

The business model innovation movement overall has built a literacy around articulating and then experimenting with how businesses create value — e.g. see the Business Model Canvas. Kaplan and BIF have been great champions of collaborative innovation in the enterprise, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they take these ideas forward.  Intro and TOC embedded below. See more at BMIFbook.com.

 

Port 2050: Vancouver scenario planning

Robin Silvester, CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, gave the annual address at the Vancouver Board of Trade and wrote an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun on the subject of long range planning and the implications of four future scenarios for the Greater Vancouver Gateway region.

The scenarios were part of a Port Metro Vancouver initiative called Port 2050 which I worked on earlier this year with strategy firm Adaptive Edge and the PMV leadership team. We engaged hundreds of stakeholders and PMV employees to co-create four different visions of how the Vancouver region’s future might unfold over the next three decades.

It is fantastic to see the scenarios in print, and to see how the Port has already used them as a tool to interpret recent events and to drive further future planning. Kudos to PMV!

Port 2050 participants agreed that we need to develop the policies, programs and mechanisms that allow us to adapt to local, provincial, national and global change. In fact, we had begun contemplating various avenues required over the next few years to allow all of us to do just that — to adapt to future and as-yet uncertain global events.

But then things changed. The Greece crisis. The Italy crisis. Monetary and market upheavals. The Occupy movement, and the questioning its early hours provoked in the public about fundamental and important issues. In a flash, global shocks and economic developments indicating that the changes and volatility we collectively envisaged in the Port 2050 process were real, and closer than we thought.

Robin Silvester, Vancouver Sun op-ed, November 23, 2011. Future Jobs Need Planning Now. (PDF)

Robin Silvester, Vancouver Board of Trade Annual Address 2011. A Time To Plan, and a Time to Act. (PDF)

Port Metro Vancouver: Port 2050 Summary Report (alt PDF)

Five Dysfunctions of a Digital Team

When an organization’s external digital presence is inconsistent or incoherent, this is nearly always a symptom of deeper internal structural problems, such as:

Silos: The people responsible for digital work are isolated from the rest of the organization. They can’t get the information they need to support other teams/departments until it’s too late. The digital lead or team ends up becoming a quick-turn-around production team expected to blast emails without strategic input or considerations for member engagement. The digital lead may not be seated at a high enough level within the organization to be proactive, or the digital staff may be a sub-unit of an existing team that has a director who does not represent digital well for leadership or cross-team planning opportunities.

Personality Fit: You have the wrong person in the digital role—he/she may have some historically appropriate skills but otherwise brings the wrong attitude and is unable to work collaboratively with others. Digital work interfaces with all aspects of an organization, so the person responsible must be open-minded, solutions-oriented, and ideally a delight to work with. If your digital lead creates resistance, or seems conditioned to say “no” more than “let’s figure this out,” you are—at best—stifling the growth of your organization’s digital program. At worst, you are enabling the growth of a toxic environment around digital work, and your organization may spend years trying to recover.

Overload: The digital lead or team has too much to do and is unable to prioritize work. This is one of the most common conditions we see. Your leadership may have undue expectations for how long R&D or even basic online operations should take, and they don’t know how many requests are coming in from all angles. Often the digital team isn’t the right size to keep up with increasing demands, or the digital lead is unable to prioritize the work on their own. Sometimes, they don’t know how to say no to requests that are unrealistic or that don’t fit their vision (if they have one—see the next point). Leadership can exacerbate the overload by asking the digital lead to chase after new bells and whistles, which they may not have the confidence or experience to push back on.

Lack of digital vision: The underlying issue beneath overload is typically the lack of a framework to strategically prioritize resources for digital work. Every organization needs a digital vision to set a direction that supports the core mission and business goals of the institution, and to evaluate whether the inevitable new tools, creative ideas, and campaigns “fit” with the strategic approach and should be undertaken. Strong digital teams prioritize new opportunities—and kill bad ones—using a simple rubric of “viability and fit.” To measure viability, they need to be experienced and networked enough to know what’s going to work in the digital world, and empowered enough to stand up to people who don’t. To measure fit requires this vision.

Lack of organizational vision: The problem may not actually be with the digital team at all. A good digital communications or engagement strategy can’t compensate for a missing organizational vision or outdated theory of change, both of which have to come before you can establish a digital framework. If you can’t clearly articulate what your organization is specifically trying to change in the world, how to realistically achieve that change through your current actions, and how your supporters can play a meaningful role in making that change happen, then you’re just asking your digital team to create pseudo engagement with increasingly meaningless actions. It may be the toughest thing to do, but spend some time re-evaluating your overall game plan, offerings, brand story, and engagement model, and then re-evaluate your digital work to support that.

Great analysis and advice regarding challenges in managing and governing the digital function in organizations – by Jason Mogus (@mogusmoves) of Communicopia, Michael Silberman (@silbatron) of Greenpeace, and Christopher Roy (@christopherroy) of Communicopia and Open Directions. Don’t miss the followup piece on Four Models for Managing Digital.

Integrating Sustainability and Corporate Strategy

Integration of sustainability commitments into a company’s competitive strategy plan will increase the likelihood of ongoing funding.

More and more Fortune Global 500 companies are following this approach. Ben Packard, VP of global responsibility at Starbucks described his company’s rationale like this:

At Starbucks, sustainability and strategy are now integrated at the strategic planning level. The global responsibility strategy is driven at the enterprise, strategic planning, and annual operating planning level. One reason we do this is because the bigger costs of driving changes in our supply chain occur outside of the global responsibility budget.

The road to sustainability integration into competitive strategy is difficult. But companies such as Starbucks, UPS, Centrica, and Hitachi are employing three common steps to create “sustainability infused competitive strategies.” These steps include:

Seek natural ways to tie sustainability and strategy together

Connect sustainability to opportunity

Integrate materiality issues into competitive strategy

Good examples of how leading companies are ensuring corporate sustainability initiatives provide value and do not get marginalized.

Bombay v New York

Photo series by Nisha Sondhe on the two cities, via @ethanz.

Bombaynewyork
Nishasondhe

 

 

Why innovation resists codification

The latest book on [design thinking] is Designing for Growth, a “design thinking toolkit for managers” and it provides a pretty good snapshot of how people are thinking about the discipline right now. Namely, that the reins of design thinking lie firmly in the hands of executives. In this world, design thinking is shorthand for the process implemented in a more creatively driven type of workshop, one involving visual thinking, iteration and prototyping. In this world, you don’t have to be a designer to be a design thinker, and the process has been codified as a repeatable, reusable business framework.

This is all, arguably, fine. But mostly it unwittingly highlights the true tension at the heart of the design thinking debate. A codified, repeatable, reusable practice contradicts the nature of innovation, which requires difficult, uncomfortable work to challenge the status quo of an industry or, at the very least, an organization. Executives are understandably looking for tidy ways to guarantee their innovation efforts — but they’d be better off coming to terms with the fact that there aren’t any.

Helen Walters of Doblin on the challenges of integrating design thinking into business.

Associating. Questioning. Observing. Networking. Experimenting.

Clay Christensen and coauthors write in The Innovator’s DNA about “what makes innovators different.” They point to five skills or behaviors:

First and foremost, innovators count on a cognitive skill that we call “associational thinking” or simply “associating.” Associating happens as the brain tries to synthesize and make sense of novel inputs. It helps innovators discover new directions by making connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas. Innovative breakthroughs often happen at the intersection of diverse disciplines and fields. Author Frans Johanssen described this phenomenon as “the Medici effect,” referring to the creative explosion in Florence when the Medici family brought together creators from a wide range of disciplines—sculptors, scientist, poets, philosophers, painters, and architects. As these individuals connected, they created new ideas at the intersection of their respective fields, thereby spawning the Renaissance, one of the most innovative eras in history. Put simply, innovative thinkers connect fields, problems, or ideas that others find unrelated.

The other four discovery skills trigger associational thinking by helping innovators increase their stock of building-block ideas from which innovative ideas spring. Specifically, innovators engage the following behavioral skills more frequently:

Questioning. Innovators are consummate questioners who show a passion for inquiry. Their queries frequently challenge the status quo, just as [Apple Inc. co-founder Steve] Jobs did when he asked, “Why does a computer need a fan?” They love to ask, “If we tried this, what would happen?” Innovators, like Jobs, ask questions to understand how things really are today, why they are that way, and how they might be changed or disrupted. Collectively, their questions provoke new insights, connections, possibilities, and directions. We found that innovators consistently demonstrate a high Q/A ratio, where questions (Q) not only outnumber answers (A) in a typical conversation, but are valued at least as highly as good answers.

Observing. Innovators are also intense observers. They carefully watch the world around them—including customers, products, services, technologies, and companies—and the observations help them gain insights into and ideas for new ways of doing things. Jobs’s observation trip to Xerox PARC provided the germ of insight that was the catalyst for both the Macintosh’s innovative operating system and mouse, and Apple’s current OSX operating system.

Networking. Innovators spend a lot of time and energy finding and testing ideas through a diverse network of individuals who vary wildly in their backgrounds and perspectives. Rather than simply doing social networking or networking for resources, they actively search for new ideas by talking to people who may offer a radically different view of things. For example, Jobs talked with an Apple Fellow named Alan Kay, who told him to “go visit these crazy guys up in San Rafael, California.” The crazy guys were Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray, who headed up a small computer graphics operation called Industrial Light & Magic (the group created special effects for George Lucas’s movies). Fascinated by their operation, Jobs bought Industrial Light & Magic for $10 million, renamed it Pixar, and eventually took it public for $1 billion. Had he never chatted with Kay, he would never have wound up purchasing Pixar, and the world might never have thrilled to wonderful animated films like Toy Story,WALL-E, and Up.

Experimenting. Finally, innovators are constantly trying out new experiences and piloting new ideas. Experimenters unceasingly explore the world intellectually and experientially, holding convictions at bay and testing hypotheses along the way. They visit new places, try new things, seek new information, and experiment to learn new things. Jobs, for example, has tried new experiences all his life—from meditation and living in an ashram in India to dropping in on a calligraphy class at Reed College. All these varied experiences would later trigger ideas for innovations at Apple Computer. Collectively, these discovery skills—the cognitive skill of associating and the behavioral skills of questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting—constitute what we call the innovator’s DNA, or the code for generating innovative business ideas.

 

Prehype helps companies execute on “20% projects”

Prehype aims to come into a company and identify its “intrapreneurs.” Then, they will host the employee or employees a la Google’s 20% time, building a new company outside of the original company. Another way it works is if an employee has an idea and seeks out Prehype. Prehype will then help them convince their company it’s a good idea. If successful, they will spend the first four weeks planning and fleshing out the idea. In either case, the goal is to build something magnificent and sell it back to the bigger company.

“When we set out, we have this concept of an intrapreneur. It’s pretty easy to spot them. It’s the person who’s been there for a couple of years. The person in the meeting who raises their voice and has ideas that people listen to. They feel comfortable about asking the slightly silly questions and making sure everyone is on board,” says Prehype’s Philip Petersen.

Prehype spends a total of 12-14 weeks building the company, leveraging an external network of developers and designers. The idea can be big or small. Prehype only cares about it being successful. After the project has been greenlighted, they start building and Prehype ensures that the project is managed well for the engineers. Like any startup, pivoting is expected, but Prehype tries to keep it to a 3 month-long schedule, which forces the entrepreneur to limit his or her idea.

“It’s a lot about the process rather than the actual product. A lot of people think we’re an agency when we get into the corporation. So, we use the American Idol metaphor, in that it’s partly the process that helps create the winner. It’s a notion of going through a process where we have an idea of what the product will be but also leaves room for growth, as with any startup out there, we expect a healthy amount of pivoting based on feedback from real users before the end product is born,” says Petersen.

While it’s completely project dependent, if the company buys or spins out the new company, Prehype generally gives 20% of the money back to the entrepreneur(s) and the rest is split amongst Prehype’s partners and the developer and designer pool accordingly. Prehype doesn’t charge for the production, other than a flat management fee that is normally around $25,000 per month.

Interesting model — companies outsource the development and execution of innovative Google-style “20% projects” to Prehype for a fixed fee, ownership is shared after launch. Having clear and friendly ownership terms seems crucial here — I will be curious if this version holds: “If the company buys or spins out the new company, Prehype generally gives 20% of the money back to the entrepreneur(s) and the rest is split amongst Prehype’s partners and the developer and designer pool accordingly.”

Building companies on top of tech infrastructure

The East Coast tech-scene is booming because we are going through a phase where experience design, clever new business models and distribution is becoming as important as the technology itself. The new East Coast growth companies are standing on the shoulders of the tech platforms that the West Coast has built over the past decade such as easy-to-use infrastructures like Amazon, discovery tools like Google and Facebook’s social graph. While companies like Esty, Groupon and Gilt Groupe are considered technology companies, they are really just smart, new innovative companies – built on top of technology. I imagine that New York’s access to talented designers, marketers and business developers will continue this trend.

Insightful quote from Henrik Werdelin, founder of Prehype, on the rush of innovation happening in consumer-focused web startups in New York.

© 2019 chris coldewey

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑