Leading Multi-Disciplinary Innovation - Innovation for Organizational Success

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Leading Multi-Disciplinary Innovation - Innovation for Organizational Success

  1. 1. Leading Multidisciplinary Innovation Organizing for complex-challenge success By Bruce Tow, Synovation Solutions. June 30, 2009 Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  2. 2. Profile – Bruce Tow, Synovation Solutions  Principal with Synovation Solutions - helps enterprises with complex, multidisciplinary challenges.  Leading architect and designer of enterprise applications and applications- development technologies, having designed more than 100 such applications.  Founder and CEO of Synthesis Institute, a non-profit devoted to advancing the art and science of multi-disciplinary problem-solving.  Co-author of "Synthesis-an Interdisciplinary Discipline," published in the May- June, 2009 issue of The Futurist. Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  3. 3. Agenda Introduction What we hope to accomplish Terminology Multidisciplinary innovation Managing multidisciplinary innovation Ensuring long-term success Summary Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  4. 4. What we hope to accomplish Share our insights into how to succeed at multidisciplinary endeavors:  Align you with applicable concepts  Help you recognize impending challenges  Help you understand how to optimize an endeavor  Organize  Execute  Ensure its optimal completion  Help you understand and recognize a special class of individuals  Key to addressing/resolving these unique challenges  Help you best organize to resolve future challenges Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  5. 5. Terminology Term Description Breakthrough A breakthrough is a key event in an endeavor at which the team discovers a fact, insight, etc. that provides substantive progress towards ultimate resolution. Breakthrough A breakthrough profile is a document that records insights into a given profile multidisciplinary endeavor's needed breakthroughs, both significant and additive. Coupling Coupling is the act of combining information from different-discipline sources. Enterprise- An enterprise-wisdom repository is a library or other knowledge-storage site or wisdom database that records and makes available insights, breakthroughs, etc. gained repository from both the enterprise's successful and its unsuccessful activities. Multidisciplinary A multidisciplinary endeavor is a project or other finite-timeline activity to endeavor solve a challenge that requires input from specialists in two or more disciplines, and which requires for its success breakthroughs resulting from insights and other inputs from multiple disciplines. Multidisciplinary- A multidisciplinary-capable enterprise is an enterprise that has mastered the art capable enterprise and science of resolving complex, multidisciplinary challenges. Synthesis Synthesis is the art and science of solving problems by gathering and combining information from diverse sources. Type N A Type N person is a person who gets a significantly greater brain reward from learning something new vs. extending existing knowledge in a discipline. Type M A Type M person is a person who gets a significantly greater brain reward from increasing mastery by adding to their existing domain or specialty knowledge vs. learning about something in a different discipline. Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  6. 6. Agenda Introduction Multidisciplinary innovation What is multidisciplinary innovation? Special challenges of multidisciplinary innovation Understanding specialists vs. generalists Special roles in multidisciplinary innovation Case study #1 – ROI calculation Managing multidisciplinary innovation Ensuring long-term success Summary Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  7. 7. What is multi-disciplinary innovation ? Multidisciplinary innovation is innovation that combines and blends the skills, knowledge and attitudes of two or more specialties in order to address and resolve challenges that do not fit any single specialty •Recognizable when no one specialist is available whose skills and experience fit the problem Specialties Sub-specialties Problem to solve Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  8. 8. Special challenges of multidisciplinary innovation  Multidisciplinary innovation is unique and poorly understood  Specialists are used to working with others in their field  Rarely have experience working outside of their specialty  Asking specialists to work outside of their comfort zone is easy  Getting them to work outside of their comfort zone is hard  The challenge to be solved looks differently to different specialties  Terminology can create confusion, concern and even disdain  Can result in innovation-squelching attitudes  More often unconscious than otherwise, thus more difficult  Multidisciplinary challenges, almost by definition, fall outside of any given assigned specialist’s area of strength or interest Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  9. 9. Special Challenges - Continued Medical Specialist Biologist Problem to be Computer solved Scientist Finance Specialist Circus Clown Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  10. 10. Understanding specialists vs. generalists Specialists/sub-specialists/hyper-specialists • Focus on achieving depth in a narrow field • Prefer learning that extends their specialized mastery (Type M) • Are essential to progress in their fields • Have tendencies that can be counter-productive within complex, multidisciplinary endeavors Generalists • Often have a specialty – at least formally • Prefer learning that exposes them to something new (Type N) • Can be restless – and even disruptive – within their specialty • Are like “yeast” during complex, multidisciplinary endeavors • Are fairly rare (we think about 5%) Cross-disciplinary specialists (e.g., urban planners) • More likely to be specialist than generalist by nature Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  11. 11. Special roles in multi-disciplinary innovation Bridge  Generalist personality whose primary motivation is synthesis  Role is somehow to induce “coupling” between specialists  Assigned typically to activity primarily for specialist expertise  Benefits from enough time/space (~10%?) to induce coupling  May or may not benefit from special training or orientation Gatekeeper (optional)  Generalist personality whose primary motivation is organizing  Role is to be recorder/organizer/historian/librarian  Probably benefits from specific training Specialists  Likely don’t need specific training  Encourage simply to do what they do best  Just let Bridge-induced coupling work its magic Executive or project manager  Organizes and manages the endeavor  Ideally understands at least basic multidisciplinary “principles” Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  12. 12. Case Study #1 – ROI Calculation In 2008, we helped an enterprise with a difficult and seemingly contradictory ROI situation: •Happy existing customers – All in-production customers were ecstatically happy they’d bought the product •Uncompelling tangible ROI – Tangible benefits (mostly time savings) seemed to be about 1-to-1 (i.e., $50K benefit for $50K cost) Background What we did Results Commentary Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  13. 13. Agenda Introduction Multidisciplinary innovation Managing multidisciplinary innovation Phases of a multidisciplinary endeavor Crafting your endeavor Kicking off your endeavor Monitoring the exploration phase Monitoring the exploitation phase Managing closure Case study #2 – SRI’s experience Ensuring long-term success Summary Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  14. 14. Phases of a multidisciplinary endeavor A multidisciplinary endeavor has special characteristics which affect success substantively; in order to focus on these characteristics we use a unique vocabulary to describe endeavor phases •Crafting – Design your process, taking into consideration challenge characteristics, staff strengths and characteristics and endeavor-specific “vocabulary” •Kickoff – Get everyone involved started off on the right foot •Exploration – Manage pre-breakthrough activities in order to uncover breakthroughs quickly – or fail quickly and educationally •Exploitation – Exploit your breakthroughs •Closure – Make sure you gain maximum benefit from your success – or your failure Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  15. 15. Crafting your endeavor  “Map” specialty areas that apply to your specific challenge  Match to specialized-staff “maps”  Defining an effective coupling strategy  Identify and assign staff  Seeding your staff with a Bridge  Deciding whether you’d benefit from a Gatekeeper  Assign needed specialists  Designing your endeavor’s breakthrough profile  Skewing towards possible early-and-educational failure Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  16. 16. Kicking off your endeavor  Orient and align your team  Begin and start to use endeavor-specific vocabulary  Assign – formally or informally - special roles  Bridge – always  Gatekeeper – if available and appropriate  Communicate breakthrough profile  Communicate that if failure, should be early and educational  Do not push specialists to work outside of their specialties  Unnecessary – and possibly counter-productive Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  17. 17. Monitoring the exploitation phase  Focus on achieving breakthroughs – or early/educational failure  Keep Bridge’s workload light enough to encourage coupling  Brainstorm frequently but keep sessions short (under 45 minutes)  Gatekeeper, if any, is perfect note-taker and facilitator  Actively try to recognize – and document – breakthroughs  Find and cherry-pick serendipitous results (good Gatekeeper role)  Shift to exploitation phase upon finding last needed breakthrough  Suspend or cancel A.S.A.P. if detecting irresolvable failure  Expect specialist boundaries to blur toward problem to be solved: Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  18. 18. Monitoring the exploitation phase  Project lead can fall back on more-standard project management  You may be able to reassign your Bridge - or share with other endeavors if still needed for own-specialty expertise  If you have a Gatekeeper, probably should keep throughout  Optionally, reduce hours or use to augment other activities Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  19. 19. Managing closure  Closure activity is like that of more-specialized projects  Take time to revisit and seek serendipitous results  These can be worth even more than original endeavor!  Allow your Gatekeeper, if any, adequate time to “tidy up” Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  20. 20. Case study #2 – SRI experience  In late ’70s, SRI realized usefulness of “bridge people”  Genesis was request to Dr. Joseph McPherson to find out why some multidisciplinary projects succeeded – while others failed  He found nearly 100% correlation between success and inclusion of a special type of person (“bridge person”) on the project  SRI never published results for proprietary reasons  Another SRI staff member, Dr. Stewart P. Blake, mentioned “bridge persons” briefly in a book published in 1978  Listed 14 personality characteristics of a bridge person (essentially describing a “Type N” personality)  I (Bruce Tow) was introduced to McPherson by Blake, and interviewed McPherson twice in early ’80s  SRI never tried to exploit beyond simple inclusion of a bridge person in selected projects as seen to be desirable (and when such a bridge-type person was known and available) Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  21. 21. Agenda Introduction Multidisciplinary innovation Managing multidisciplinary innovation Ensuring long-term success Learning from success - and failure Leveraging special long-term roles Managing your multidisciplinary “repository” Summary Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  22. 22. Learning from success - and failure  From success  Document breakthroughs (and what you felt led to each)  Harvest participant strengths/weaknesses in complex, multidisciplinary situation  From failure  Don’t assign fault – you want to encourage future risk-taking  Never punish specialists simply for being specialists  Always  Harvest serendipitous results (easiest if you included a Gatekeeper)  Expect specialist borders to snap right back afterwards Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  23. 23. Managing your multi-disciplinary repository  Your repository includes  History of complex, multidisciplinary challenges – successes, failures and serendipitous results  Vocabulary – which builds and matures between challenges  Staff “mappings” and history to aid future assignments  Staff classifications on “Type M to Type N” scale (below)  Ownership of your repository is key  Gatekeeper (or ideally, Ordinologist) – with advanced training  Do not assign to a Bridge – not likely organized enough  Do not assign to a specialist – too narrow a viewpoint  Technology for your repository could be low- or high-tech Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  24. 24. Agenda Introduction Multidisciplinary innovation Managing multidisciplinary innovation Ensuring long-term success Summary What we’ve learned today About Regalix Questions and answers Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  25. 25. What we’ve learned today  Special challenges of and techniques for succeeding at complex, multidisciplinary endeavors  Special rules and personal characteristics affecting them  How optimally to organize and execute a complex, multidisciplinary endeavor  Importance of planning to cover early and educational failure  Importance and benefits of harvesting serendipitous results  Importance of maintaining an enterprise multidisciplinary repository Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved
  26. 26. About Regalix  Forefront of Online Marketing, Research and Web 2.0 portals  Multi-disciplinary Leadership Team  Fortune 500 and Venture-Backed Customers (B2B and B2C)  Global Operations: HQ in Silicon Valley, 4 Offices  150+ Team, Built on 8+ years of research  Recognition Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved © 2009 Confidential | Think 26 26 Innovation
  27. 27. Thank You! Learn more about Regalix at: www.regalix.com Contact: Email: info@regalix.com Learn more about SynOvation Solutions at: www.synovationsolutions.com Contact: Email: btow@ix.netcom.com Think Innovation | © 2004 - 2009 All Rights Reserved 27

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