The Key Difference of Innovation vs Business As Usual

In times of economic crisis it is important for organizations to optimize their effectiveness in order to survive. In many cases, people jump to cost optimization, only looking at their bottom line. And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't forget the role of the customers and end-users. In many cases we see a natural reaction of organizations to generalize their operations with the goal to increase the manageability of it, and that's where a lot of things go wrong, as people tend to forget that introducing new modules, new products, new services is a fundamentally different thing than maintaining existing business. Looking at existing business one could perfectly think about standardizing the processes involved and optimize as much as possible, using Beyond Budgetting, Lean, Six Sigma, Agile, Kanban or any other process improvement methodology available.

Depending on the economic environment, history and context the organization is living in, one will work better than the other, and mixing models might be a necessity to achieve remarkable results to maintain and grow existing business. As we have supported many organizations in this quest to effectiveness with our A-B-C model, we can confirm that this direction is the right one to take in order to grow your business, as opposed to the struggle to stay alive. These models, methodologies, techniques and tools are perfectly suited to optimize a process where one solves small problems within existing businesses, as those problems will need a swift solution which is, in most cases, easy to discover. Why? Well, because these solutions will extend in the same context and environment as the existing one, having a clear goal at hand, and thus do not necessarily require the innovative creativity of a brand new quest. If we need to describe the process of getting to a solution we could say it is about...

  • ...generating a couple of suitable ideas that could solve the problem at hand = divergent thinking
  • ...evaluating the ideas towards one or two most suitable solutions (feasibility, cost/benefit, SWOT...) = convergent thinking
  • ...put the solution in the product and get user feedback as soon as possible, iterate to optimize the final implementation.

For this kind of process, one does not need to spend too much effort on innovation and can focus on the existing environment to fix the issue. But what if you have a totally different problem to tackle? One that requires you to enter into a new environment? (market, departments, end user group...) One that is almost not touching your current business? The clear goal easily becomes a very fuzzy goal to reach!

This is where an organization will need a completely different process to reach an accepted solution, one where there is a lot more of groaning and exploring to go through. One where the people involved are not (less) biased by the existing limits and stay a lot longer in the divergent thinking zone, not evaluating the ideas generated in the context they live in, but allowing to really go out of the box. Taking ideas one step further without shooting them down with "No! Impossible.", "This is a stupid idea", "Bad Choice." or anything else...

usual vs innovation

Taking ideas as they come, exploring the possibilities and combinations between them, and maybe even come up with brand new ideas along the way is what it's all about. It's about asking yourself "What would Chuck Norris do?" or "How would we solve this using a coffee machine?". You might think this is wasted time, but using the right techniques and a diverse group of people this does not need to be the case.

Through experience we see Gamestorming as a perfect, low cost tool to guide groups of people through this process of creativity and innovation. Similar to business as usual, you will need to combine different frameworks to achieve remarkable results. Combining Gamestorming with other frameworks for innovation and/or change management (like: GPS Brainstorming, Forth Method, Mindsetter...) will provide you the engagement required to get through the complexity of innovation. Engaging your potential customers, your partner organizations and your employees is key to initiate your quest to a fuzzy goal and get through the bumpy landscape of the groaning zone, not exactly knowing where to end. Taking all of the above into consideration we could define the process of getting a solution in an innovative manner as...

  • ...finding the right diversity of people/environments to generate ideas and form the core innovation team
  • ...using the right techniques to guide the group to a more extensive divergent thinking zone, applying Gamestorming techniques for example
  • ...guide the group through a necessary groan zone or exploring zone, applying Gamestorming techniques for example
  • ...getting the group through the convergent thinking zone by validating the ideas at hand, applying Lean Startup and Customer Development techniques for example
  • ...try out the solution and get user feedback as soon as possible, iterate to optimize the final implementation (or trash useless ideas)

Of course there are many flavors available, and all have some truth in them and will partially work, but at the core they stay the same. Depending on your context and environment, you will need to mix techniques as needed to get to an effective innovation process for yourself, with or without the use of our A-B-C model or something similar. What should be clear is that your innovation process cannot be part of the business as usual proces and will require the attention it deserves. Yes this will take some time but if you spend it wisely it does not need to result in huge implementation costs!

The key is to allow budget, time to go through a more extensive divergent thinking zone and an extra exploration path. By allocating this budget you avoid the risk of spending huge amounts on implementing useless ideas. Yes, we have seen graveyards full of dead innovation elephants within organizations because they jump to soon into the implementation/development throughout their innovation process and spend too little or no time exploring the ideas at hand, which limits their capability to discover the right, maybe exotic, solution to address something new. It is by exploring the options at hand and other business domains that one can come up with really innovative ideas and solutions, in all other cases we see organizations getting stuck with dead elephants. It is through good exploration that these days we find rubber cutting machines initially build for tire factories inside cheese factories, cutting cheese, reducing the time and cost of the cheese process significantly. It is through good exploration that google is what it is today and foremost that we have crystal clear beers around...

It is through good exploration that we love the world we live in today, (co-)learning new things anytime, everywhere and with everybody. I would like to invite you to discover some of the techniques, tools, methods, frameworks and models mentioned above during our "Re:Think - Work=Play? Engage for success" conference, where you can get a taste of the power of using Gamestorming, GPS Brainstorming, Fort Method... in one of the workshops scheduled.

When? 8 March 2013 Where? Ter Elst, Edegem (Antwerp, BE) How Much? 225€ 

rethingworkplayweblogo

getyourticketA

You could also join one of our upcoming Gamestorming trainings and retreats. Feel free to contact us if you want to know more about this topic.