Innovation Leadership, ideas, inventions

How and why to accelerate innovation in times of crisis.

Image for post
Image for post

I recently had the pleasure to speak to Really Good Innovation in their first online innovation summit, where I shared my thoughts on ‘innovation in times of crisis’. Here are the summary points — and the actual deck embedded in the following.

Why invest in innovation during times of crisis?

The world is changing rapidly and the ability to spot high-potential innovation opportunities, early enough, becomes a survival trait for businesses.

2. To improve the ‘state of mind’ of your company.

Innovation can strengthen the connection among employees and teams, it can fix the morale, the shared attitude.

How to empower innovation in times of crisis?

Provide all the innovation resources via digital means; make your innovation channel always-on.

2. Make it more ‘flexible’

Remove bureaucracies; Make your innovation process simpler, faster, and asynchronous. …

Image for post
Image for post

What’s the (user) story?

User stories are simple, yet extremely powerful constructs: they describe pieces of functionality from a user’s point of view, expressed in a solid, compact way. They reflect what a particular class of user needs and the value to be gained. The format is very simple and easy to use. There are several variations, including:

As a <role or persona>, I can <goal/need> so that <why>”

Or, in another instance:

“As a <particular class of user>, I want to <be able to perform/do something> so that <I get some form of value or benefit>

Why User Stories?

User stories provide an excellent way to define your product with clarity. A set of well-defined, prioritized user stories can help you articulate the functionality of your product using ‘plain English’ — with no technicalities and implementation details. …

Innovation and related terms are often misused and in many cases, they become business buzzwords. Let’s shed some light on the most important ones.

A bookshelf with books and the word definition — referring to the need to define the term innovation.
A bookshelf with books and the word definition — referring to the need to define the term innovation.
Images by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Depending on their angle, people understand different things when they hear the word ‘Innovation’ — and this varying level of understanding occasionally leads to lengthy discussions, confusion, and eventually, false expectations.

In today’s world, everybody is talking about Digital Transformation, being Agile, and delivering Disruptive Innovation. But very often, these terms become business buzzwords: they are overused and gradually lose their essence.

This page is part of the effort to organize and explain frequently used innovation terms into a practical Innovation Glossary. Find below the core innovation definitions along with related processes, methodologies, practices, and innovation artifacts.


Agile Engineering

Agile engineering refers to software development practices and methods that embrace change, engage with customers early, and deliver incremental value, frequently. It is characterized by fast iterations, user feedback loops, continuous learning and improvement.

A chain of ideas ‘written in stone’ on blockchain — in the context of Open Innovation. A global platform for publishing ideas, empowering collaboration, and contribution.

Image for post
Image for post
Image by athree23 from Pixabay

Yes, ideas alone cannot change the world or build business empires. In practice, even the boldest of ideas can be forgotten, abandoned, or fail due to poor framing and/or execution. To drive results and bring impact, great ideas also need exceptional execution which usually involves a massive effort and collaboration across various teams and, in some cases, organizations.

However, every initiative starts with ideas. It is some great ideas and their potential that inspires individuals, businesses, scientists, and the entire world to move further. And this was the source of inspiration for a new kind of sharing platform: a place where people can articulate and share their concepts, in search of ‘attention’ from the ecosystem — other innovators, businesses, the startup world; communities, and the market. …

A simple, yet powerful model for capturing and sharing business ideas — the ‘Idea form’.

An attempt to draft an idea on paper
An attempt to draft an idea on paper
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Reflecting on more than two decades of innovation work, the weakest points of innovation programs usually refer to the lack of solid innovation definitions and tools. Innovation is often perceived differently depending on the point of view and the background of the observer. In the typical corporate environment, ideas flow in as lengthy decks or documents with no standard structure and associated processing mechanisms.

Ideators often have a hard time explaining their ideas with clarity — due to lack of time, tools, or due to limited experience and lack of guidance.

The following form — the Business Idea template- empowers innovators to articulate their draft ideas quickly, in a standard format. This consistent, short summarization also simplifies the circulation of ideas within the company — sharing, discovering, and consuming ideas within and between teams. Ideas that come in this form are far easier to attract attention by the right stakeholders and trigger meaningful business discussions. …

How a new way of thinking from the design world can push your business forward

Image for post
Image for post
Image by schaeffler

Think about your business or the service you provide to your customers. That business or service depends on a whole system of people and technologies to make it work. You can imagine it as a spiderweb. Your service sits in the centre, with suppliers, workers, technology, and customers connected to it through the lines of the web. Different parts of your business that support that service are also on the web, as well as anything else that affects your service, like laws, other businesses, and even current market trends.* Every spiderweb — every system — will look a little different.

For the past four years, I’ve led design-led innovations at two separate innovation centres. We have been entrusted with dozens of large-scale and complex problems to solve, as well as asked to create innovative solutions to open-ended challenges. The first thing we do when we are given a new problem is to map the entire system it touches. Why? You can’t design a car engine without understanding the entire system of the car; the best engine in the world does you no good if you can’t get the power to the wheels. In the same way, if you want to solve problems in our business or find opportunities, it’s helpful to first build an accurate view of the entire picture of the system. …

A Universal Model for Articulating Business (and other) Ideas

Image for post
Image for post
The Power of Ideas (and a Model to Untap it) — cover photo by Jelmer Assink on Unsplash

Ideas are powerful constructs; provided that they are articulated in the proper way and handled efficiently, they can become the starting point of impactful initiatives.

The problem with business ideas is that they can come in a wide range of formats and varying levels of detail and sophistication: On the one hand, an idea is ‘expressed’ on a sticky note and put on the wall for ‘evaluation’; on the other hand, ideas may be presented through lengthy and difficult-to-consume decks or documents, that usually receive limited attention and engagement.

Organizations need a standard, compact way for articulating ideas. As a user story may describe the user's need or a feature of a product, the Idea Model can capture any idea in a concrete, ‘executive summary’ statement as shown below. …

Image for post
Image for post

The term ‘innovation’ means different things to different people. Corporate leaders, startups founders, customers, employees, and market analysts — they all look at innovation from a different angle.

The various forms and types of innovation allow multiple views and interpretations — depending on the perspective of the observer. Customers, employees, managers, and leaders understand innovation in their own context and probably have different expectations and definitions of success. For instance, a startup team perhaps perceives innovation very differently than the typical established company.

The Corporate Perspective

In our digital world, it is well understood and widely accepted that innovation is the only way to remain competitive and stay in business. …

Consider this thought experiment.

You’ve run Sales at a business for three years. This year an opportunity presents itself, a fork in the road. You can select one of two choices:

Choice A: Deliver, with 100% certainty, one million pounds to your company’s bottom line (profits) this year.

Choice B: Deliver, with 1% certainty, one billion pounds to your company’s bottom line (profits) for this year.

[Attribution: Astro Teller, Innovation Leader at Google X]

Which do you choose ?

Choice A is tempting. And for the risk averse amongst us, it is a solid choice. Nobel prize winning scholars Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahnemann (1979) masterminded the field of decision theory which (very plausibly) contends that it’s the way most of us are actually likely to go. We tend to prefer avoiding losses, rather than acquiring equivalent gains. So much so that losses are felt twice as powerfully as gains i.e losing £10,000 is the same psychological experience as gaining £5,000 — a cognitive bias known as loss aversion. …

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store