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Disruption

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Hey Chief Innovation Officer. You’re Fired.


(And Two Simple Ways to Stop That From Happening)


Trying to innovate within your organization is one of the most courageous or foolhardy jobs you can choose to take on, because between you and the needed change are a hundred named and self-appointed Chief Don’t F*&k It Up Officers who’ve made it their mission in life to keep everything running just the way it is.

Get it wrong—you’re fired.

You're charged with delivering Goldilocks Innovation—change that isn't so big that it causes disruption and distraction to the revenue producing machine, but not so small that nobody notices. You need to find the enigmatic innovation sweet spot that's just right.

Get it wrong—you’re fired.

You're expected to demonstrate measurable ROI for the unknown, in an environment where certainty is valued more than great questions. And where not knowing is seen as weakness rather than an exciting opportunity to discover.

Get it wrong—you’re fired.

You gather motivated outlaws who want you to lead them on the bold path of change to the land of “how things could be.” But metrics, policy, personnel, business-as-usual, best practice, embedded culture, and CDFIUO roadblocks stymie you at every turn. Over time your merry band of intrapreneurs gets worn down and depressed. Now all of your effort is spent lifting the moral of some of your organization’s top talent—for fear of otherwise losing them.

Get it wrong—you’re fired.

“Think Wrong holds a mirror up to leaders and demands that they do the hard work with their internal entrepreneurs to overcome the orthodoxies, antibodies, and inertia that kill new ideas or, at best, starve them of oxygen.”
Linda Yates, CEO and Founder at mach49, Henry Crown Fellow with the Aspen Institute

Make sure you and your team don’t get fired.

Use the following Think Wrong Frameworks to identify a bold path from which you can deliver high impact change—and to create meaningful context to defend your efforts from forces that might otherwise destroy them.

The Deflection Point Framework

The well-trodden path of the status quo is known, understood, and predictable. But if we stay on this predictable path nothing changes. So nothing changes. The impact you seek requires that you depart from this predictable path and chart a bold new path—one that delivers a shift from “How Things Are” to “How Things Might Be.”

Start by drawing this simple diagram.

Think_Wrong_Predictable_Path.png

1. Draw a horizontal line. This line represents your Predictable Path. Below it, identify the current projects, policies, practices and structures that represent how and what your organization does today— and will continue to do if nothing changes.


2. Draw a line at 45° from the Predictable Path. This line represents your Bold Path. Above it, identify the initiatives that your organization is engaged in that represent a departure from the status quo. The further up this line and to the right, the greater the departure from the way things are. Also add what you might want to change from “Current State” if you could—be bold about your aspirational “To Be” State.

3. Plot what and who might complicate or resist your departure from the status quo in the space between the lines—conspiring to pull you back onto the Predictable Path.

Engage your colleagues in envisioning the changes that need to be made, what might get in your way, and what still needs to be done and done better—by inviting them to draw this picture with you.

The Uncertain/Unknown Framework

All projects are not the same—that goes without saying. So, not all projects should operate under the same set of practices and rules.

Start by drawing the 3x3 grid above. Then map the projects you plotted on the Deflection Point Framework onto the 3x3. Be honest about where they live. Depending on your organization the distribution will vary.
 


For well-established organizations many projects will be in the top right where both the challenge and solution are certain and known. These projects are often focused on improvements in efficiency, optimization, or technology. The Think Right Practices of ROI, metrics, analytics, and best practices make a real difference here.

For less well-established organizations—and organizations that are trying to shake things up—many projects will focus on disruption and change. Those are likely to fall in the uncertain and unknown territory.

You’ve now identified the projects where Think Right Practices are the go-to tool set, and those where you should Think Wrong. Use the Uncertain/Unknown Framework to set new ground rules—and expectations—about which practices will be applied to which projects.

Overtime, your portfolio of change (read: innovation) projects will move up and to the right as you become more certain of the real problem you are solving, the needs you are meeting, and which solutions truly work best.


To check out some fantastic tools for managing your innovation portfolio reach out to the fine folks at www.valize.co. And follow Valize founder and Think Wrong co-conspirator Rita Gunther McGrath on twitter @rgmcgrath.


To learn more about thinking wrong order a copy of Think Wrong: How to Conquer the Status Quo and Do Work That Matters and check out our website.


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Culture of Innovation Fail

GasLanterns.png

(Or, Why People Build New Homes with Fake Gas Lanterns by the Front Door)


If, as the leader of a multi-billion dollar corporation, the director of modest non-profit, the president of a university—or whatever your position—you are responsible for building a culture of innovation you’re probably frustrated with the results.

My home state gives you a pretty good hint why.

Maine is a place nostalgic in nature, evoking lighthouses, Andrew Wyeth paintings, sailboats, colonial architecture, and lobster dinners on the beach at sunset. It all fits comfortably and appealingly into our collective consciousness.

“Maine, the way life should be” is our official state slogan.

Most homes in Maine (with the exception of double-wide trailers, worthy of a later blog post) are old or built to look old. I live in a large, old house built in 1863. So, “What’s wrong with that?” you might ask. Nothing. Except that it costs a fortune to heat with oil, the rooms are relatively small, and maintenance is high. In 1863, they were building houses using 1863 technology and aesthetics. Building has come a long way in 153 years.

Or has it?

I was recently in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, home to the Sugarloaf ski area, and noticed a relatively new “ski” house. It wasn’t built in the traditional ski house vernacular. Instead, it was built to resemble a colonial home from the 1800’s. Complete with fake gas lanterns, non-moveable shutters, and ornamental columns by the front door.

So, what’s going on here—and in innovation resistant organizations? Why do people keep putting fake gas lanterns on your front doors?

Well, it’s biological and cultural. A specific idea of “home” gets hard-wired into our brains at an early age. Images of cozy cottages with white picket fences universally represent comfort, safety and stability. Over time, we connect those images to those feelings through synaptic connections that forge enduring neural pathways. A superhighway is built connecting what we experience and feel to what we believe. The result? We build 2016 houses on a 1863 blueprint. Anything that varies from the norm is actively discouraged or outright rejected.

What’s true for our homes is true for our organizations. We think that we’re making rational, well-reasoned decisions when we are following pre-determined pathways in our brains. We're building on old plans. We do this even when making big decisions with big financial ramifications, such as building a new office or plant, inventing and funding a new business, or adopting potentially life altering policies (think how hard it is for us to move at scale from our oil dependency to renewable energy—even when confronted with overwhelming evidence of the impact climate change on our planet).

The gravity of the status quo seems inescapable. Culture change is tough. It means overcoming the way our brains and cultures conspire against innovations that threaten the way things are.

But breaking the grips of our orthodoxies is not impossible. When our friends and collaborators Linda Yates and Paul Holland decided to build a new home in Portola Valley, they didn’t hesitate to let go of conventions about what a house is or is not. They were boldly set out to build the greenest home in America.

“We've always been passionate about environmental causes,” says Holland. “We wanted to take our family out of the oil-based economy, so there are no oil-based products associated with the house: there is no natural gas, no plastic, no PVC. Everything is powered by renewable energy sources, either solar or ground-source heat exchange.”

Take a peek at this    recent Style magazine article    featuring the Yates-Holland home. No fake gas lanterns there.

Take a peek at this recent Style magazine article featuring the Yates-Holland home. No fake gas lanterns there.

If you really want to lead a culture of innovation, give your people the permission, language, frameworks, tools, and training they’ll need to conquer the current orthodoxies, beliefs, and assumptions responsible for the status quo—and to do work that matters.


www.tahmahlah.com

www.tahmahlah.com

In the spirit of Think Wrong’s Move Fast Practice, Yates and Holland are not proprietary about their home. They’ve created this website to share what they have learned and the resources required to build greener more sustainable homes.


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