Innovation: Cracking the Code


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An unscientific survey of what managers ask and say about Innovation shows the volume of serious advice rapidly increasing but managers still losing ground. Maybe the advice needs to be simpler and more consistent.

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Innovation: Cracking the Code

  1. 1. Innovation: Cracking the Code An archestra notebook. © 2014 Malcolm Ryder / archestra research
  2. 2. Innovation is Annoying It’s annoying because it is risky, confusing, and it hurts when someone else beats you to it with a good one. And, it takes longer to explain it than to do it, but so often they won’t let you do it unless you can explain it first. Plus, there’s the language barrier. Why do so many of the words in the “innovation” vocabulary make the logic fuzzier instead of clearer? Maybe it’s time for a do-over.
  3. 3. Somebody, make it stop. laughter other cool stuff tv guessing collaboration creativity insight bacon shock intuition inspiration awe lunch ideation forgetting teenagers Switzerland surfing
  4. 4. Innovation is not Optional Innovation is not optional. Okay fine. But given the way things are talked about today, you’d think there should be an innovative approach to innovating, which of course would result in… an innovation. We could go on, but let’s not. Instead, let’s just admit that “an innovation” is a result; and when a result is an innovation, there might still have been a lot of different ways, even old ones, that we might have gotten there. Since results arise from lots of different kinds of efforts, we can find innovations in lots of different arenas. Maybe the real issue of innovation is to know where to look for it, and how to know it when we see it. We all want to know how to make them. What if we’re already really close to getting them done and just don’t know it? Anyway, it seems like there is still a lot of room to think about things differently. Possibly more simply.
  5. 5. Spaghetti Code Some people are alive today who are old enough to not only have heard of “spaghetti code”, but to have actually seen it, been victimized by it, or even take the blame for making it. Good spaghetti code wasn’t non-functional; but it was really hard to use unless it was your own and you had a great memory. With spaghetti code, you knew what your code meant and why it worked, but very few other people did or could. That is, your way of describing how things worked was simply not very helpful. Lots and lots of people decided that spaghetti code was a bad way to continue working together. They started unraveling the spaghetti piles, and stopped making more of them. They decided to organize, use and describe code specifically in ways that made it more shareable. Structured code turned out to be really useful. People all understood it the same way, and still got to make as much of their own distinctive stuff as they liked. Hmmm.
  6. 6. The Who Cares Test Innovation matters because it changes our current conditions. Naturally we want it to be beneficial, and we’d like to use it for our own purposes. In fact, after any excitement, strangeness or surprise of an innovation dies down, its utility turns out to be what always matters. What we all want to understand, in the same way, about an “innovation” is how it turns into something that we want to use. To do that, it’s reasonable to account for “an innovation” from its origination (when we get a possibility of using it) to its end (when we stop using it).
  7. 7. Sorting it Out Utility accounts for a lot in the way that we find innovation to be valuable. When we have come to know about something, we can then use it intentionally, including for specified outcomes, to which we also make adjustments that keep things relevant to ongoing change in our current circumstances. Utility doesn’t cause us to make the connections in that familiar way, but it is both enabling and encouraging of the effort. All along the way, we wonder what is possible, viable, feasible, and preferable. Here’s a structured thought. Useful for… Useful for… Useful for… Renovation Solution Production Discovery Boredom… Obsolescence… Curiosity… Risk… © 2014 Malcolm Ryder / archestra research
  8. 8. How Difference Becomes Interesting This general progression doesn’t change, but there are many different reasons, parties and occasions that may change the details of how it is realized or maintained. The origins of these variations can be cultivated as well as simply accommodated or resisted. But an innovation is especially more interesting as its influence becomes “progressively” more useful. Renovation Solution Production Discovery Adoption Provision Engineering Stimulation Engineering a discovery, providing a product, adopting a solution… all are options that support continuing progressions. © 2014 Malcolm Ryder / archestra research The effect of any variation can be a result that is an innovation compared to its predecessors. Living with these experiences makes the chain of relevance a pretty good frame of reference
  9. 9. How Things Get Different Different stages of the utility progression have their own respective progressions -- which we already have a very strong habit of trying to manage, step by step, within the stage. But each step is also a point where variation can occur, intentionally or otherwise. This can mean “new” results… possibly unprecedented, and possibly useful. Renovation Memory Observation Challenge Desire Normalization Production Adaptation Transformation Discovery Development Application Adoption Exploration Analysis Survey Experimentation Play Solution Invention Provision Imagination Engineering Stimulation Engineering a discovery, providing a product, adopting a solution… all are options that support continuing progressions. © 2014 Malcolm Ryder / archestra research Various stuff happens, maybe on purpose “Utility” ranges from possibility to final impact.
  10. 10. Planning versus Improvising The vast majority of useful innovations result from change management and integration within and across the stages of utility progression -- driven by art, problem-solving and competition, all of which are familiar and can be taught. Intuition Collaboration Creativity Meanwhile: Intuition, Inspiration, Insight, Creativity, Ideation, Collaboration… these are all the language of the pursuit of intentionality – a recognizable preoccupation with “causality” and “management”. Put simply, these popular generic terms are meant to describe the conditions-plus-controls of what happens in the overall workspace regarding innovation… management looks for conditions-plus-controls that are likely to increase the chance of preferred outcomes occurring. However, too many of these popular capabilities are thought to be unteachable. Worse, many of the terms actually fail, beyond describing things, to explain. Even so, they still amount to a form of accountability. Inspiration Insight Managers may wonder if repeatedly producing the same type of conditions and controls, in the same areas, might regenerate the same outcomes. But the important realization about intentionality is that most, if not all, of its variety of conditions and controls can apply to any stage in the overall progression, and to any step in the stages. There may be no standing “formula”.
  11. 11. Structured Code Any step in any of the stages is independently subject to variability and even permanent change. This diversity is also what accounts for the huge range of types of effects that, regardless of circumstantial worth, may turn out to be innovations. They result as conceptual, material, structural, procedural, or situational innovations – separately, and potentially in combinations with each other. The alignment of instances and types of innovation is sometimes coincidental but can be intentional. Orchestrating the individual results to co-operate in progression is potentially critical to the attributed value of any step or stage. This is entirely familiar to us within such disciplines as composing, programming, modeling, design, and architecture. The overall “workspace” of the progressions includes numerous stages and steps. This makes it clear that innovations having intrinsic value can surface in many ways -- whereupon they are resources available to contribute to given contexts either immediately or at a later time. This is why having them in an internal portfolio, as well as an ability to acquire them from external sources, are both practices to maintain within the constraints of sustainable investment. Meanwhile, it is clear that innovations in orchestration itself can be a primary strategy for leveraging already-existing results – whether they are innovations or not – to provide new value.
  12. 12. The Innovator’s Path The requirement is for an assessment and navigation of where else to be active, and why, throughout the progression in order to derive a desirable outcome. The worth of one innovation may require an innovation elsewhere. Importantly, any area of expertise can itself be internally “innovated”. Within the area, a progression of utility can again apply to innovation. © 2014 Malcolm Ryder / archestra research The opportunity to change something in a worthwhile way definitely exploits the innovator’s predisposition. But the final worth requires more than an emphatic point of origination. It includes leveraging and aligning existing types of opportunity (such as need or expertise) located amongst other steps and stages within the progression of utility. Orchestrating innovation can mean reaching across both the various regions and granularities of specialization. Innovating engineering
  13. 13. Impact, Value and Worth When a result becomes normalized within a community, its difference (its included transformation) may have an overall impact that proves to be dramatic – both within that community and as an influence on other communities. But the probability of this happening may be difficult to determine. As a familiar example, a solution adoption by one party may become a proof of concept that triggers broad acceptance by other parties and the proliferation of the next “normal”. But this is not what always happens. Often the reasons why it does or does not are suspected only through historical precedent, or confirmed only in hindsight. A new state-of-the-art may or may not become a new standard-of-practice. A new paradigm may or may not become the new orthodoxy. A transformative effect may or may not become disruptive. What is always true, however, is that the results that we care about are ones that make a difference; the type of difference is the inherent value; and the benefit-versus-risk that the difference generates in a given context is its worth. A breakthrough that allows for faster running counts for a lot more on dry land than it does in a swimming pool.
  14. 14. Notes • Innovation is a systemic effect that occurs at different scales and granularities of effort • Multiple types of innovation can occur independently of each other, and outcomes that are one type of innovation may or may not require innovations of other types • Many disciplines already successfully supply and leverage techniques that orchestrate and manage change to generate value • Modeling a collection of capabilities (conditions-plus-controls) may explain a prior success without predicting a future one; acquiring capabilities may be necessary yet insufficient • Utility is the primary pre-determinant of the value and worth of an innovation; the “availability” of utility progresses from discovery to renovation • Future utility is valid as well as current utility, but it is subject to the current sustainability of investment
  15. 15. © 2014 Malcolm Ryder / archestra research