“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Leo Tolstoy.
In an organisational setting this old maxim often applies – organisations don’t change, people do. Efforts to undertake transformational change will fall short if the strategy fails to address the underlying mind-sets and capabilities of the senior managers who are tasked with executing it.
Self-understanding and the ability to translate it into an organisational context is a key prerequisite in a change leader. Change is driven by role models, rather than by apologists for the status quo.
Enlightened companies recognise that change is not only an outward driven process, but must also take account of inward factors, by linking systemic intervention with genuine self discovery and self-development by its leaders.
Read on: McKinsey – Change Leader, Change Thyself
Innovation is all about creating new ideas and selling them. To successfully innovate in an organisational setting a number things need to happen:
- Individuals need to enlarge their toolsets to think differently;
- Groups must have a culture that supports risk, to ensure new ideas are not ‘killed’ at inception;
- Organisations must structure themselves so that innovation is part of its strategic focus;
- The market must see the opportunity and value;
- Society must accept as legitimate, supporting community values and aspirations;
- Technology must be developed to make the innovation ready for prime-time.
These six factors constitute constraints to innovation. Why do organisations, who say they want innovation, systematically put-up barriers to constrain new ideas from being formulated? Why does innovation fail more often than not? At the heart of most tales of innovation are stories of frustration, road-blocks, show-stoppers, and fate. As the rate of product and service innovation speeds up, so does the innovation imperative. The key to driving innovation is leadership that not only manages the constraints, but also enables aspiring innovators to successfully innovate.
There are no best-practice solutions to seed and cultivate innovation. While senior managers cite innovation as an important driver of growth, few of them explicitly have the skills to lead and manage it. There are a whole gamut of questions around the person specification for this role – is it a training issue, should leaders be generalists or specialists, and so on? Leaders of innovation are people who are connectors – bringing disparate areas of the organisation together and divergent threads of conversations and ideas, and curating the conversation. And, because they see across divisions and into connections, they are able to align resources and focus time and energy on productive, meaningful work. Innovation leaders understand the need for a deep understanding of the non-linear, of the role of emotional intelligence, and the increasing complexity and rapidity of change that is the new normal.
At its core innovation leadership is about understanding the constraints framework that can stymie innovation, and discerning a way to diagnose which of the constraints is particularly critical and will need to be managed.
In developing an innovation strategy there are some key deliberations:
- Start small – learn by doing and build on your experience;
- Build a portfolio – use a variety of attempts to learn what works and ensure that something works, the risk on any one project is modest;
- Abandon projects appropriately – create an environment where people want to move on from low probability projects;
- Support your innovators – don’t delegate innovation to specialists, but use specialists to support innovation;
- Reward effort, punish inaction;
- Intervene when groups go wrong – but set them up so they can succeed;
- Set clear expectations about good effort, and encourage early experimentation.
Owens, David (2012) Creative people must be stopped. Jossey-Bass.
Innovation: Time to Ditch “Model T Leadership”. Forbes.
Scenario planning is a big-picture method of thinking that allows people to see the future logically, systematically and realistically. It is primarily used as a resilience test for strategy, but can also provide a framework for innovation and risk analysis. It involves several stages, in which research, interviews, reports, analysis and brainstorming all play a part, and is of value to both creative and analytical thinkers. Scenario planning helps an organisation prepare for a range of possible futures.
Scenario planning provides a conceptual framework, within which you can evaluate and explore complex strategic concerns.
As business and organisational futures are difficult to predict scenario planning is a useful mapping tool.
Scenario planning needs an internal champion, most likely your CEO, and ideally an external facilitator to provide independent insight.
A complete process can take 3-12 months – there are no short-cuts in scenario planning. The outcome should lead to a dynamic, ongoing and heightened awareness of alternative futures. A good set of scenarios extends at least 10 years into the future, and will be valid for two to three years as long as they are reviewed periodically.
The key benefits of scenario planning are that you can:
- explore the strategic options available to you, as individuals and as an organisation
- develop new understandings of the future by envisioning a wider range of possibilities
- design strategies that are robust enough to withstand future shocks and surprises
- learn to research ‘change’ in the business environment and to think systematically about business or organisational concerns, and apply techniques to the strategic planning process
- understand the power of storytelling.
Further reading: Watson, Richard and Freeman Oliver (2012). Futurevision; scenarios for the world in 2040. Scribe.
The biggest and most destructive myth in time management is that you can get everything done if only you follow the right system, use the right to-do list, or process your tasks in the right way. That’s a mistake. We live in a time when the uninterrupted stream of information and communication, combined with our unceasing accessibility, means that we could work every single hour of the day and night and still not keep up. For that reason, choosing what we are going to ignore may well represent the most important, most strategic time-management decision of all. McKinsey Quarterly shares insights into improving the fit between the priorities of managers Read on…
Source: Web 2.012 Virtual Conference, 4 October 2012
Stephen Abrams delivered a keynote lecture on the need for libraries to get back to strategic planning. Some key take outs from the session:
- Library services are not a noun, they are a verb – what are the verbs in your library?
- Library users are a narrow demographic, therefore they do not connect with the majority of the community. There is a need to create the “social glue” to maintain the library in the community. Invest time in demographics and analysis.
- Main threat is the perception that libraries are about books, and not integral to a knowledge-based economy. It is essential that libraries “protect reading not the book”, and understand the threats to reading.
- Libraries must have a strategy to improve learning in the community. Libraries are good at statistics, but they need to measure impact. The value of libraries is in the experience.
- All collections should have a program attached. Service needs to move to a higher level. Prioritse programs not collections.
- The focus must be on informing rather than managing. The confusion of the end user must be reduced to build an experience, this needs lots of skills. What differentiates a library experience from a transaction? Is your library organised around questions and programs? People want transformation, not transactions.
- The virtual user is different from the physical user. Libraries need to understand both users. Currently there is a disconnect and a need to balance the physical and the virtual. The end user is the product (Google model).
- What is learned virtually is a social act so use this opportunity to engage with learners. The relationship is with the end user.
- Libraries are doing too many things, there are too many desks, too many books. Priortise. Libraries need to get better at promotion, marketing and engagement.
- More library staff must be in relationship management roles, and look at issues that affect the social web, such as advocacy, running campaigns.
- There are celebrity chefs, why are there few celebrity librarians? Librarians’ self-effacing attitude is getting in the way. Need to make librarians locally and globally famous.
- Reposition the library and librarian separately, engage critical thinking and market sex appeal.