innovation & contribution on change

We’re „Erfinder“, inventors, a team of designers and engineers creating and verifying concepts, technologies and experiences, innovating new products and services. „Erfinder“ for us means as well being in concert with our clients, next to entities for production development, provision and aftermarket. Being focused on technology and experience, we’re less about business strategy and change management. Although, as people continue linking innovation to structural change, this subject hits us. Hereafter our learnings and our very own way to deal with change as consequence of innovation projects.

Learning 1: People are not subject of change nor can’t they be changed. Methods, procedures, technologies, buildings, structures and processes surrounding people may be changed. Not the individual. Neither are people connected; convictions and beliefs don’t come as an infusion. People look for inspiration and want to be repeatedly ensured. Inspiration doesn’t come from power points, methods, papers and the like. Inspiration comes from seeing, feeling and using the thing.

Learning 2: To inspire, you have to instantiate direction, instantiate the thing. It’s the opposite of „don’t make yourself an idol“, here there needs to be a golden calif to inspire, the thing to inspire willingness to be part of change. It’s not about the unthinkable, it’s about a potential future, about what’s relevant, what does innovation mean for the individual. Don’t talk about clouds, show me the thing, show me the beef.

Learning 3: Innovation and change don’t go in parallel. Innovation happens in small, trusted, authorised teams, change typically involves many. Innovation need to happen fast, in short creation and decision cycles to limit change order. Structural change needs lots of communication, time and repetition. Change has to follow innovation, based on results having reached a certain stage.

Learning 4: People will decide if the future, instantiated by the thing, is working for them and draw their conclusions. For some it may mean fresh air and chances, for some it may mean challenge and transition. Support has to be provided for whatever change means for the individual, which will ease future changes to come. But first they need to see and understand the thing resulting from innovation. Colleagues, teams and partners.

So now, how do innovation and change in our mind go together. Hereafter an admittedly idealistic approach for change following innovation. As in the end it’s about humans, for sure in real it’s affecting many more details:

Lead and trust. Management needs to understand necessity and implication of developments in technology and the market. Even if innovation is not leading to product developments, explorations are important for people in charge to become decisive and in case are ready to act. As leaders typically can’t drive innovation projects themselves, they have to build trust and authorise a small team per innovation project. Big teams are good for discussions and hell for innovation. Small teams are fast, act responsible and effective. If there is trust and the right support.

Ideation. Almost always ideas are ready to pick and explore in every company. What may be missing is the climate for them to be exposed and to grow. If there’s munition missing, ideation workshops help to build and complete a picture. There are no stupid ideas, never to many and humour doesn’t kill innovative spirit.

Concept. Ideas will be synthesised to form concepts, ideally extreme concepts in opposite quadrants of the defined solution space. Like a technology leadership version, a discount version, a Swiss knife, a new markets version and so forth. These concepts will be voted on and a selection of resulting concepts will be further explored as part of the pre-development phase.

Feasibility. Technologies in question need to be verified for feasibility and cost. A solid method to explore is Cynefin, which spans a circle from knowns to never knows. Complexity will become clear, associated risks can be valued. Ideally a balance will result consisting of standards, technologies in-use and innovations. This step might already involve prototyping.

Experience. Inspired by the success of Apple and the likes, people realise the importance of a sound, user-centered experience. Technical feasibility is foundation, user experience the criteria for adaptation and success. For this phase design comes into play, covering aspects of understanding, interaction and usability. Experience needs the thing as well, no experience building and testing without prototyping. This can sometimes reach from a paper prototype, to a virtual experience or even a haptic thing.

Initial testing. People in the know can’t judge. To understand acceptance and market potential, there needs to be testing in the markets intended. The more innovation, the more testing, the less doubt and rumor in the markets. Big corps sign many patents, have many parallel trials, signaling to markets that things are prepared to counter disruptive developments. So test. And then decide.

Subject of change. As mentioned infrastructure, processes, methods and so forth can and need to be changed as part of innovation. Planning, budgeting and implications management also has to to consider, what it means for employed people involved. Mostly innovation requires new methods, procedures and technologies to produce and maintain as well. So, next to the „thing“, there needs to be the message what it means for infrastructure, what it means for professions and what it means for the individual.

Inspire. After the subject of innovation has been tested, linked objects of change have been thought of and the message for the people involved is ready, management is equipped to decide for a Go. People involved see and interact with the „thing“ and understand the support they will get, to decide about their future. If there’s doubt about direction, if there’re questions coming up, they’ll have this thing im mind. Sessions to introduce subjects of change and the thing have to be repeated, with different views and different formats. The thing need to be there, always.

If management is not convinced and decides against product development and associated change, budgets invested in innovation and pre-development have not been lost. Even if a proposition doesn’t come true, there’s knowledge gained by the teams involved and there’s potential IP to deal with. This IP might be inappropriate for own products, but highly valuable for other companies. Corporations have to consider making business selling IP.

The biggest sin is combining innovation and change projects, to run them in parallel. Time intense discussions and instructions will slow down an innovation process and may lead to frustration in the innovation team. People being subject to change may be introduced to unfinished, untested developments, left with an unclear message of where things are going and become frustrated as well. So our mantra is first innovation, then change based on a proven value proposition. People need to be ensured to leave their known territory and this doesn’t work with paper or thinking only. It needs the sin of instantiation.

2017/02/15 by Eberhard Frank

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