Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
Wednesday 2 May 2013
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your twice-monthly (or thereabouts) newsletter on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.
Most articles in this issue of Report 103 can also be found in the archives together with dozens more articles, papers and thoughts.
In this issue of Report 103
- Strategy & Innovation
- The 12 Commandments of Organizational Innovation
- Anticonventional thinking infograph
- Are You Wasting Money with Brainstorming?
Strategy and Innovation
About a year ago, I wrote an article, Innovation Versus Vision which argued that the world's most innovative companies do not in fact focus on innovation, but rather they relentlessly strive to achieve a visionary strategy. Leading innovators do not see innovation as a goal. Merely a tool for achieving their vision.
If your organisation is so caught up in innovation that you've lost sight of strategy, something is wrong. You need to look at your strategic vision.
First and foremost, if you intend to be an innovative leader in your sector, your strategy needs to be an inspiring, unique one. If your strategy is so generic it could apply to any business or if it fails to differentiate you from the competition, you need a better strategy! A strategic goal like "We strive to produce great products at reasonable prices" may be laudable, but it is hardly inspiring and even less unique! Even if you could persuade your people to relentlessly pursue such a strategic aim, the result would hardly make your business innovative!
A unique strategy, provided you truly focus on it, does two really good things for your company. Firstly, it makes it much more likely that your company stands out in customers' and potential customers' minds. Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook, for example, have achieved this. Secondly, it gives you a great focus for your innovation. Better still, the more your innovation focuses on your strategy, the more your strategy is ingrained into the awareness of your market.
What if your strategy is conventional and uninspiring? Use a little creativity and make it sexy, make it unique, make it inspiring! And don't worry if you don't fit the strategy now. A little tool called "innovation" will help you get there.
Anticonventional Thinking (ACT)
Anticonventional thinking is a great way to define a unique, inspiring new strategy.
Step 1: Deconstruct the Goal
In order to work out what your unique strategy should be, you need to understand what your company is doing and what you want it to be doing. You need to question your corporate image, not only from your perspective, but from the perspectives of employees, customers and people who chose not to be customers. You should ask what kind of people aspire to be your employees and what kind of people you would like to be hiring. Arthur VanGundy's book, Getting to Innovation includes a chapter on Question Banks, which includes many questions you can ask. I expect many other books on strategy also provide useful questions. The Emmerich Group has a set of strategy defining questions for banks in this PDF document. Many of those questions could also apply to other kinds of businesses.
In particular, it is worth asking "Why does our company exist, what is our purpose?" and "What would we like that answer to be?"
Step 2: Sexy Goal
Your sexy goal is simple: to devise a strategy that is so uniquely inspiring, business academics of the future will be writing books about it and it will be premiere case study material in the world's leading MBA courses in 2020.
Step 3: Build a Big Idea/Strategy Statement
Using the answers to your questions, together with any insights gained along the way, build a big idea -- or, in this case, build your strategy statement. If it is not inspiring enough to inspire business writers of the future to write about it, it is too conventional. Reject such conventional ideas and try out new ones until an idea knocks your socks off. Remember, unlike brainstorming, ACT welcomes criticism, debate and discussion.
Step 4: Step by Step Action Plan
How will you implement your strategy? The first step will doubtless be a communication plan to inform employees and other stakeholders of the new strategic statement. From there, you and divisional managers will need to determine what changes need to be made, and how, in order to align operations with the new strategy.
Be Open to Change
No matter how brilliant your strategy statement is, a disruptive technology, new legislation or unexpected catastrophe (war, earthquake, alien invasion) could make it irrelevant. Kodak, Polaroid and other companies in the film business were doing just fine until digital imagery came along. Being able to recognise such threats and reformulate strategy accordingly is one way not only to stay in business during times of change, but to thrive!
Once you have defined and communicated your new strategy, you need to focus on it. Innovation should no longer be about innovation. It should be a tool for the pursuit of strategy.
Anticonventional Thinking (ACT) Infographic
I've made a simple infographic demonstrating the anticonventional thinking (ACT) process. You can check out the infographic here and, if you are sufficiently impressed you can even buy a poster of it here.
The 12 Commandments of Organizational Innovation
By Fernando Cardoso de Sousa
President of APGICO - Portuguese Association for Creativity and Innovation
Considering that the value of uniting people around projects of economic and social development interest is one of the few alternatives remaining for reversing the fragmentation of Europe, The Portuguese Association for Creativity and Innovation (Apgico) is developing actionable, research-based conceptual and operational principles, which we would like to share with the readers of Report 103.
If you gather the appropriate people (with the authority, knowledge, skills, resources or information adjusted to the project) around a given goal, under facilitative leadership and using a rigorous working method, they will create the needed visions and strategies, and will surprise you with their creativity, wisdom and power of achievement.
The effectiveness of innovation in generating organizational change is proportional to the circle of participation, in other words, more individuals and groups take responsibility for a given project irrespective of the existing structure or functions performed.
Although only innovation (value created) is of interest to organizations, each individual’s creativity (imagination, knowledge and will to persist) is essential to add to that value, because organizational learning is done by people and not through systems.
Creation is always collective, and so the isolated individual, however creative she may be, will always be more limited than if she is inserted in a group. Therefore, the foundation of any organization should rely on teams. The value of each team depends to a large extent on the quality of its leadership.
By leadership quality we mean the ability to include others in the decision-making process and to reconcile discipline in day-to-day work with the development of projects conceived and carried out by teams.
The value of the talented individual is undeniable but, for organizations, is less important than the value resulting from the application of the talent and unique expertise that all collaborators have in the benefit of the collective. Management may excel by being able to recognize, encourage and develop those talents.
Without participation there is no real organizational development. But, it is not enough to invite people to participate in order for them to do so. Transparency is critical, especially in regard to rewards, performance evaluation and relationship's security because without trust participation is not possible.
Creativity comes from the diversity of contributions rather than the methods used or the training received.
Problem discovery or definition is more important than its solution. But making a diagnosis that mobilizes for action takes time, persistence and knowledge. It cannot be achieved merely by the application of an individual reasoning process or method of group work.
The greatest difficulty of group work is achieving flexibility in thinking, in other words, the ability of each member to accept the views of others and not to censor one’s own thoughts. However, even with good flexibility, if there is not a strong team commitment with the decisions made, creativity can hardly result in innovation.
Although the ideal working groups are small ones, it is perfectly possible to work with large groups if the working methods and the coordination skills used are able to maintain the same degree of effectiveness and participation as in small groups.
The Internet and new technologies expand considerably the possibilities of gathering the appropriate people in large numbers and at the same time. However, technology will always be complementary to the value of face-to-face meetings, without further mediation than a facilitator and a flip chart.
Are You Wasting Money with Brainstorming?
Are you throwing away time, resources and money with brainstorming events that fail to deliver creative ideas that you actually implement? Are your top thinkers wasting time in brainstorming sessions that produce no lasting results?
Research has shown that brainstorming is not an effective means of coming up with creative ideas. As a manager, you probably already know this from experience.
What can you do if you need to generate and implement truly creative ideas that have the potential to become profitable innovations?
You can learn about anticonventional thinking (ACT) -- the first truly viable alternative to brainstorming.
ACT is based on research, not flawed assumptions!
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