Trouble getting started on Innovation?

  • May 23, 2017
  • Pensaar
vK“How can we do what we are already doing, a tiny bit better, a tiny bit cheaper and a tiny bit faster?” – said no innovative company ever. The fact that big companies find it hard to innovate is perhaps the worlds worst kept secret. When you feed into the urge to dissect this fact, you come across a multitude of reasons as to why this struggle persists. Primarily though, is the palpable discomfort within an organization & its individuals (across the board) to move away from their comfort zone. Moving away from doing the things they have always done a certain way.
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose” – Bill Gates
Truth be said there’s no silver bullet for success, there’s no single framework that solves for organizations of every shape, size and colour. Why? Because if it was as easy as replicating best practices or copying strategies, then most companies wouldn’t be struggling. Two companies equally know for their innovation prowess could have very different innovation signatures. And to identify & chart out your own innovation journey, a good place to start is by looking at the mental models within your organization. Essentially, mental models are the dominant logic or the core principles, which determine how we win – as individuals, teams or companies. And these models get reinforced by success – the more we win the more we believe that these theories of the world are right. It is also reinforced by tenure. the more people work in a company, the more they get infused by the playbook. Yes, these mental models are dysfunctional and unfortunately these are widely shared and deeply held. If you think about it, the companies that have been around the longest, that have a long track record of successes, have the brightest people around are the ones which are most susceptible to having fixed mental models. Bottom line, we are prisoners of what we know. Or what we don’t know. We at Pensaar call it educated incapacity. Innovation, as is evident, is a complex process. Most organizations, in our experience, are struggling to get their efforts of the ground. Its not uncommon to hear rallying cries for collaboration by leaders, as a key to get innovative within organizations. The challenge though is that, due to the prevalent mental models (which don’t really come to surface but act at a subconscious level) getting collaboration needs an alignment of purpose and a clarity on “what do we need to solve for”? Well, collaboration amongst the people who are all steeped in the same mental models is always going to be a challenge. Now, talking of innovation (and am not referring to incremental innovation), to really move the needle, requires organizations to work towards and address the ‘unknown unknowns’. A major mind shift is needed for truly disruptive innovation.
“Its not often we admit what we don’t know” – Naomi Simson (of Redii & Australia Shark Tank fame)
In our experience, of having introduced and led innovation & strategy conversations across multiple organizations across geographies (Pensaar leadership team comes with a combined experience of 60+ years across India, SE Asia, China, Americas and Europe), we believe part of the success comes from focusing on & [re] framing 4 fundamental aspects: Co-create to set the base & pace for collaboration In her insightful book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal defines collaboration as the intersection of three kinds of efforts: cooperation, coordination, and co-creation. And co-creation is the most critical element of the three, as it sets the base for coordination & cooperation to kick in. Trust us when we say this, magic starts to happen when you co-create – with your colleagues across functions, with your partners (external) but more importantly the end-users for whom you set out to create awesome experiences for. Future commercial success should be rooted in and seen through the lens of putting humans at the center of everything the organization does. Bring the Outside in perspective to transform from inside-out When talent and knowledge transcend company and geographic boundaries, innovation requires external collaborators. That’s not easy though, as a lot of our client conversations get stuck when a torchbearer at the company says and I quote – “but, you know our company and industry is so unique. it will be challenge for you to understand our business. Our processes are very complex. Do you have any domain expertise?” When you look at that statement, you realise its self-serving than anything else. Our response, 100% of the times is that with an approach rooted in design thinking which is domain agnostic, having a fresh pair of eyes with a cross domain expertise adds a lot more value than imaginable. Needless to say, everything starts with an understanding of their business and stakeholders. But the approach is led by a discovery research to find the unknown, to articulate the unmet need vs. validating what’s already known (see I told you its self serving). It definitely bodes well for organizations to assess and develop competencies within their ecosystem through external collaboration What most organisations don’t realise is that players outside their own industries are disrupting them and their industries. For e.g. Banks & Financial Institutions shouldn’t be worried about other banks building technology stacks. They should be worried about Peer to Peer lending players or any other technology players who are building payment stacks. That’s true of several industries. In such a scenario, wouldn’t you want to collaborate with external partners who can bring the outside-in perspective? Perhaps someone who can boldly ask the right questions. Design for human behaviour. Technology isn’t a business model Its surprising the number of organizations (both incumbent & startups) who anchor their strategies & vision on the next new shiny technology. How many times have you heard someone say – my business model is an App or we are moving our business model to AI.
“Ads today have forgotten the protagonist of the story – the user” Naveen Tiwari Founder & CEO, InMobi.
It’s critical for organisations to keep a straight line of visibility to whom they are creating solutions for. We believe in designing for human behaviour. Everything that an organization does needs to be informed by the needs, aspirations, motivations of the people -be it internal employees or end users. Fall in love with the problem, not with your solution As humans, we are hard wired to solve problems. We seldom step back and explore multiple solution spaces to assess which one works best to deliver the experience (for users) we are aiming for. Its not uncommon for us to see how an organizations proximity to the problem clouds their perception of reality – a reality which is disconnected with users. How does a tech company like Airbnb emerge as the new wave in hospitality? How do you redefine advertising in a mobile-first world like InMobi did and stand tall in competition against giants like Facebook and Google? How does a financial software company create an agri-tech product, Fasal, to help farmers make more money? What it takes is looking at the existing problem in a new light or better still, identifying and articulating the right problem to solve. At Pensaar, this is perhaps the critical pillar and we, rightly so, call it Opportunity Framing. Because framing the right opportunity creates a new growth trajectory for organizations leading to an unfair and durable competitive advantage.
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