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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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Innovators Start Your Engines


(Or, Design Thinking’s Fatal Flaw)


If I asked you to choose between two machines that could determine how your organization might compete, create value, grow market share, increase revenues, and deliver impact in the future how would you know which one to pick?

Chief Innovation Officers have been kicking the tires on design thinking’s engine for more than a few years now. But Think Wrong is not just this year’s model.

What’s the difference?

Design thinking and thinking wrong are both problem solving systems. Like a machine, each requires certain inputs, performs specific functions, and generates outputs that produce value.

Design thinking is defined by IDEO (the driving force behind popularizing design thinking) as: “A human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

At Solve Next, we define thinking wrong as: “The ability to conquer biology and culture to change things from how they are to how they might be.”

Picture design thinking as a machine that puts the the person for whom you are solving at its center.

Picture thinking wrong as a machine that puts the impact your organization wants to have and the people to whom that impact matters at its center.

Design thinking produces simpler, more intuitive solutions than what existed before—solutions that reflect the users’ environments, ways of operating, and their cultures.

Thinking wrong produces unexpected, disruptive solutions that break the biases, orthodoxies, and assumptions that form that status quo and have the ability to drive the positive change their champions aspire to create in the world.

IDEO and design thinking found their way into the popular vernacular in 1999, when ABC’s Nightline ran a story on them. That segment included IDEO’s redesign of the shopping cart. It featured their user-centered observations in supermarkets and what they revealed about shoppers’ behaviors. It showcased IDEO’s futuristic cart with a detachable basket—IDEO had noted that shoppers repeatedly parked their carts and walked down aisles for specific items. They designed a cart that had the potential to improve things for shoppers. Disappointingly, 17 years later, shopping carts remain largely unchanged and unimproved.

Think Wrong problem solving machine would not have started with observations of shoppers. Instead, it would begin by exploring what the client (grocers in this case) most aspired to accomplish. Thinking wrong would challenge the grocers to be bold and to imagine the greatest impact they might have. It would ask: “What value are they seeking to produce for the communities they serve, their stakeholders, society at large, the environment, and future generations?” It would invite shoppers into the process, to ensure their wants, needs, and ideas were central solutions that might create that positive change. It would enable grocer and shopper to imagine, prototype, and implement new ways of shopping that might lead to that impact together.

Like design thinking clients, think wrong clients need help putting their customers, beneficiaries, constituents, members, partners, and people at the center of their design efforts. But they also want to have impact that is not just marginally better than others. They want to change the game. They want what John and I have for years had called “Big D” design. Not the decorative stuff that gets applied after the strategic thinking has been done, but the kind that has the power to change the course of markets, nations, society, and future generations.

So, choose design thinking when you want to make a significant improvement to the way things are. But if you’re aim is to change the way things are to how you think they should be, choose thinking wrong.


“REBBL has $1 billion opportunity ahead of it. That’s quite a market for a company that currently has annual sales of less than $10 million, and just six employees.” Mark Rampolla, co-founder of PowerPlant Ventures, in a recent Fortune Magazine article.

REBBL is a wonderful example of what the Think Wrong engine can produce. It was born at Not For Sale’s Montara Circle, where Solve Next helped more than 50 leaders from across the private and public sectors take on the challenge of ending the exploitation of villagers and their environment in the Peruvian Amazon. The result, a refreshing tonic made, in part, from ingredients purchased from those villagers, economically inoculating them from exploitation. “We love launching products that have the power to change culture, start conversations, and challenge the status quo” says Palo Hawken, co-founder of REBBL in this recent BEVNET release.


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