Monthly letter

A monthly collection of thoughts and reflections about the themes of innovation, humanistic management, idea-centric business processes, multiculturalism in business, and many others near and dear to his heart.

Global mobility and Innovation

For many decades global mobility has been promoted as one of the key factors of success in careers, as business expanded its boundaries and became fundamentally borderless. For those of us working in innovation, it became a regular mantra to seek and find inspiration in distant lands and unknown cultures.

When confronted with a pandemic that has already killed so many people worldwide, it goes without saying that a reluctance to be mobile, particularly globally mobile has become the norm.

How can companies and businesses continue to find those blends of perspective that the global nomads used to bring to the table? What can replace the major impact that eye-to-eye exposure to a new culture brings?

The usual answer is that with remote connection technology we will be able not only to replace the need for direct contact but also reduce expenses in the process.

The fact of the matter is that virtual meeting technologies have significantly evolved, bringing up new experiences we could hardly dream of only a few years ago. Furthermore, with the continuous development of 3D technologies, we are on the verge of even more fascinating solutions.

However, it has also become quite obvious that when it comes to ideation, to innovation sessions where our human interactions go a long way in making it possible for us to “seek to understand before being understood” ( Steven Covey), the direct contact, the impromptu conversations, the informal lunches, even the walk on the park cannot be simply replaced.

As we move towards a gradual relaxation of our norms of confinement, let us not forget the importance of motivation, mutual support, appreciation of each other’s ideas, all in the context of planning innovation meetings that will allow ideas to be ideas and will avoid the pattern of most meetings that become the “PDO” type (the Painful Discovery of the Obvious).

We need to re-think our global mobility, by bringing it closer to principles of humanistic management, in order for innovation to be not only the driver of growth but also a key vector of sustainability.

Foresight in times of confinement

Insights come as a result of different events, behaviors, or attitudes. A masterful work by Gary Klein demonstrated that there are fundamentally five ways to generate insights: Connection, Coincidence, Curiosity, Contradiction, and Creative desperation. Insights are the Holy Grail of business, the source of many a decision made about the future, quite often disguised as a fact-based extrapolation of the present, coated with a glossy amount of hope and optimism.

Insight, hindsight, and foresight normally walk hand in hand. The analogy to driving a vehicle, with the dashboard, the rear mirror, and the windscreen each playing an important role, is quite relevant.

Insights, however, do not point towards innovation. Autopsy doctors are very good at telling us why the patients died but they are not capable to resurrect them.

When in the middle of a crisis, whether of economic, political, or sanitary nature, the whole transition from insights to imagining or visualizing the future gets affected and blurred by the inability to see the future with clarity.

That is precisely why foresight is so critical. There are huge challenges in bringing insights to life and estimating what future success might look like. Using the same tools for insight generation, businesses ought to focus on the power of ideas and enrich them so that the future can be better visualized.

Creative desperation in times of crisis is indeed a major driver and should be harnessed to deliver solutions to problems sometimes we don’t even know we have or will have.

In a recent workshop with a client, we used the power of enriched ideas, even under the shroud of desperation, to deliver creative foresight and solutions.

Back to the Future 

Between the prophets of doom and the proverbial Pollyannas sit most of us, not so desperate that we cannot catch a glimpse of light, and not so optimistic as not to see that turning things around is not necessarily an easy task.

Innovation is not an exception. Often touted as the great stock price driver, with its bag full of promises for the future, and more often than not, paradoxically the first company activity to be cut in times of crisis.

What we are now confronted with though is not just your usual run of the mill crisis, with economists drawing complex curves to predict the end of the slump and the forthcoming recovery. Whether the recovery is going to be V-shaped, a hockey stick or any other format, statisticians and glorified fortune tellers are suffering from computer-tired eyes trying to guess what the so-called new normal will look like.

The main issue is that this pandemic has brought to our attention that the “normal” was not so normal after all. Humanity needs to re-think many of their strategic choices, lifestyles, political systems, while re-visiting essential and long forgotten human values.

More than ever, we are now faced with the opportunity to not go back to normal, but rather go forward to a new normal. In the broad field of management and for innovation in particular, this means a number of new ways to uncover new opportunities.

Some non-exhaustive examples are: – Focus on human values leading up to defining and incorporating humanistic management; – Fostering and nurturing ideas that will keep leaders and their teams oriented towards results while maintaining well-being; – New measures of success which go beyond numbers; – A challenge to growth as the sole ideology; – A deep connection with the agendas of sustainability, environmental preservation, public health, and climate change.

Our forebears in times of crises throughout the centuries were not so equipped with all forms of intelligence, artificial or otherwise, to make predictions. They resorted to extrapolations from their present, then combined with fate, superstition or the perception of divine intervention in order to anticipate the future.

We have an opportunity to change for the better, to manage better, to organise ourselves better, so that we can have a quantum leap towards economic success grounded on essential human values.

Business and organizations at large can do that by harnessing ideas that will not only transition them to a new era, but rather will transform them into new entities. Innovation will continue to be a driving force. However, it will have to be more grounded on human values, with the power of ideas at the forefront and the connection with the very future of the planet.

If you wish to know more about how to capture, generate, enrich and select ideas to feed any chosen innovation process, please click below.

Ideas or Processes vs. Ideas and Processes 

One of the oldest wars being fought in Corporate conference rooms and annual meetings is the war between Processes and Ideas. Successful companies tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency, cost controls, and other measurable parameters, which indeed are very critical for their survival and further growth. However, much of the praise being showered on the processes necessary to make all of those happen is done to the detriment of the mother of all successes: the idea. As most companies hire a lot more engineers and accountants than philosophers or sociologists, it is only normal that good processes take a front seat in the theatre of expectations for their business. However, today more than ever, there is a need to call an armistice, to find at least an opportunity for a truce that gives everyone the chance to see that without combining the power of ideas with the lubrication of good process, success itself will be ephemeral.  Capturing ideas, enriching them, looking for intriguing ideas rather than just feasible ones is a major exercise in preparing to be both successful and meaningful as a business.

If you wish to know more about how to capture, generate, enrich and select ideas to feed any chosen innovation process, please click below.