Monday, September 3, 2018

The CIO as “Chief Innovation Officer”: Explore Digital Innovation Internally

The creative workplace is based on a triangle with three vertices: Culture, method, and people.

The emerging digital era opens the new chapter of innovation, Innovation is an exploration, production, adoption, assimilation, exploration, and exploitation of value-added novelty in business, economic and social spheres. Digital organizations starve for creativity and relentlessly pursue innovation. Innovation is a journey and is therefore not possible to pre-describe how it will work out. Organizations need to take a structural approach to manage digital innovation. Here are five aspects of how organizations can explore digital innovation internally.

Challenge assumptions: One of the biggest challenges in this complex digital world with high velocity and uncertainty is that nothing is certain with the rapid digital flow and continuous disruptions. To spark creativity and deal with many old and emerging problems, you have to challenge automatic assumptions. Even you have to make a forecast, but you will never have complete information because the new information and events continue emerging. When the assumption is wrong, the conclusion will also go wrong. Therefore, it’s important to take a logical innovation scenario by observing, listening, questioning, connecting, understanding, planning, testing, and collaboration. It’s critical to gain the contextual understanding of things, look for something “hidden,” which is not always obvious, read between the lines, in order to eliminate pre-conceptual assumptions or unconscious bias. With unprecedented uncertainty and complex business new normal, to move forward, business leaders or professionals still need to make necessary, hopefully, the good assumptions which are based on multidimensional thinking and knowledge-based perception and forecasting. Envisioning requires imagination power, but it needs to be validated at repeated intervals. People are encouraged to challenge old assumptions, embrace different perspectives, update knowledge, and apply different ways to solve problems. Innovation is all about figuring out the better ways to do things or produce something new to achieve its business value.

Disrupt something outdated: The art of innovation is that it involves new ways of bringing together the latest ideas, technologies, and resources to create something novel. However, people consciously or subconsciously protect their status quo which is the very obstacle to innovation. If you are creative, you will disrupt the status quo as you break through the conventional wisdom and push toward the path few people take. Outdated organizational rules, structures, processes, information, knowledge, or technology are the barriers to speed up innovation. Today’s digital organizations are nonlinear, volatile, interdependent, uncertain, and complex; they also face fierce competitions and overwhelming growth of information. Thus, businesses need to disrupt something outdated such as the overly restricted organizational hierarchy or bureaucratic management style which is criticized for its inflexibility, unresponsiveness, silo mentality or inefficiency. It means that organizational management today must keep updating their management rules and practices to discover new opportunities for exploring innovation and eliminate something outdated or redundant to accelerate the business speed.

Look carefully at how you frame the problem: Innovation has three phases: discovery of a problem or new idea, designing a prototype solution and the ultimate delivery of a commercially astute outcome. The first phase of framing the problem is critical because solving the wrong problems waste time and investment. The ability to innovate is ultimately dictated by the depth of understanding of the problem/issue to be resolved. To frame the right problem, creativity and systems thinking go hand in hand. Creativity is about connecting dots; Systems Thinking needs to discover the interconnectivity and interdependence, discover the connectivity and common ground from the difference, help problem identification to avoid “worrying about the wrong thing” symptom. It’s an important step to identify, understand, and evaluate the opportunities in which important problems need to be solved, deepen the understanding of the issues by stepping back, or getting out of the box, in order to look at the problem from the different angle or understand the issues holistically through multi-disciplinary lenses, not get inundated with too many details. The deeper you understand the problem, the easier you could frame the problem, and the better chance you could solve it creatively.

Chunk up the issue: It is often difficult to think of something new. Try focusing on what can be done to improve or enhance a product or service. Leveraging Systems Thinking for breaking down large problems to the interdependent smaller problems helps to see a larger system with interactive pieces and “conflict” goals. Practicing creative problem-solving by chunking up the issues tend to be more future driven, understand the problem as well as potential solutions from the future lens, assembling those smaller pieces of issues in a different way to give you a sense of “what it could be.” In order to explore innovative problem-solving methodology effectively, you can simulate the processes and identify the constraints, robustness, modularity, scalability, requirements, costs, stability and everything else you would need for optimizing the process of problem-solving. It is also important to mix perception, knowledge, and imagination toward a more comprehensive and innovative way to solve overcomplex business problems today.

Borrow & scale: Businesses today face fiery competitions and rapid digital shift either technologically or economically. Looking uphill can help to identify the real problems that matter, and on a scale that can make a difference. In large businesses especially, there may be other departments with different ideas in the way resources create and support a product. Borrow these ideas to create a new product or service will avoid reinventing the wheel and shorten the innovation management cycle to deliver faster business results. Adaptive innovation processes can provide the community with self-organizing methods to collectively deliver results; also provide a consistent way for companies to evaluate the promised value and figure out how to reduce risks and scale up innovation efficiently. The most powerful thing about these processes involves tapping the organization's people-centric ecosystem for the collective perspectives/insights of those who make up and know intimately their parts of the system. Innovative organizations naturally have closer connections between functions and all functions and levels are more intimately involved with the market and each other on a regular basis, cross-pollinate ideas and build close business connections to the market for all parts of the organization.

Digital innovation not only has the broad scope but also has deep context. The creative work place is based on a triangle with three vertices: Culture, method, and people. Innovation is nothing without exploration and exploitation. Innovative organizations deploy a range of different management practices, technologies, processes, and structural solutions to explore digital innovation internally and experiment open innovation externally.


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