Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Playing Innovation Oddball: Expand Boundary

 Either individually or collectively, we should keep expanding our thinking box, gaining fresh knowledge, and accumulating new experiences.

In the industrial age, the overly rigid hierarchy is often the cause of organizational bureaucracy and leads to business stagnation. With overwhelming growth of information and emerging digital technology, the black and white boundaries continue to diminish in the 21st century due to the occurrence of increased economic integration, characterized by the movement of people with diverse background across geographical borders and the wider communication empowered by advanced digital platforms and technology. To inspire creativity and drive change, digital organizations need to harness the cross-functional collaboration by expanding business boundaries and playing innovation oddball skillfully.

The digital boundary is not the sharp line for dividing but like the fluid wave for enforcing mutual understanding and fostering innovation: Boundaries is indeed a very broad term that encompasses all sorts of things, strict or fluid; boundaries can be good, bad, or indifferent depending on the application. On the one side, the boundary is a space for learning, an opportunity to examine our own thoughts, beliefs, and actions. On the other side, many come to believe that boundaries are not tangible places of resistance but are self-imposed limitations we place on ourselves to hide our own fear to move forward. To solve many of today’s complex problems creatively, people often need to think out-of-the-box or in the bigger box, work cross-disciplinarily, to put another way, expand the boundaries to allow their mind flow, and thus idea flow. Expanding the boundary is about learning and gaining new knowledge continuously, being open to different thoughts, beliefs or alternative to do things. It’s to experience what it is like to agree to disagree and still remain engaged; scrutinize your own perceptions, identify blind spots, recognize that you are responsible for promoting or dissolving your own thoughts, emotions, and actions, embrace the emerging changes and the new reality.

The digital boundary is fluid and the digital business structure is interrelational to connect the dots: We are living in a complex world where inventions, developments, and conflicts are continuously changing and that makes it impossible to have a complete knowledge and understanding of many issues. Digital organizations blur the functional, geographical, and even the industrial borders. The dynamic processes with expanded business boundaries enable information, knowledge, and idea flow by reducing tensions, frictions, and conflicts that arise, and help to develop the culture of learning and innovation. The digital organizational structure is interrelational to connect the dots and the business management practices need to be interactive. The management processes should be developed to help communicate objects and concepts smoothly. The expanded boundaries encourage open mind, open space and open leadership. The harmony is priceless. We do not have to agree with one another in order to learn from and with one another. We all bring different perspectives and our boundaries might have changed based on open conversations and taking the time to thoughtfully think about the specific issue of boundaries. Being creative is not just about "knowledgeable" - because they are often at the edge of things and able to expands the boundaries of knowledge or conventional thinking, and through such expansions, the new knowledge is developed. So the expanded boundary amplifies the collective potential to innovate.

The horizontal connectivity within the organization enables information and idea flow: Organizations need to be loose to deal with the high business velocity and rapid changes. Silo builds the wall and creates the barriers to communication and collaboration. To continuously innovate within organizations, individuals and groups need to connect and communicate more openly, frequently and effectively. The expanded boundary enable idea flow. Ideas are seeds of creativity that can change a certain situation and future. There is more flow of creative ideas, the more is happening, the innovation pie gets bigger. The digital organization builds many innovation clusters which are cross-functional communities help to brainstorm fresh ideas or exchange knowledge. From the management perspective, expand boundaries to allow cross-pollination of ideas, offer people ownership and responsibilities in what they do, with the ultimate goals of transforming ideas to achieve the business value.

Nowadays, the oceans or mountains cannot stop us from communication or collaboration. Still, there is much in the world we do not know nor understand and because of that limitation, we need to choose to continue to learn, grow and empower people to learn and grow too. Therefore, either individually or collectively, we should keep expanding our thinking box, gaining fresh knowledge, and accumulating new experiences. People are ready for moving to a fluid structure and working for boundaryless digital organizations. Digital leaders are eager to set stages for playing the innovation oddball skillfully and expanding the multitude of boundaries for opening the next page of digital innovation playbook.


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