Post Blog Silos

Do “skunkworks” create corporate silos?

I just read an interesting article by John Winsor, a contributor to Forbes.com.  The title of the article is

Don’t Put The Word ‘Innovation’ On Business Cards.

Here’s the link to the article.

SUMMARY:

The idea of the article - as I understand it - is that innovation 
centers, special innovation units, or skunk works creates a silo in a
company's culture. It's unfavorable because it breeds demotivation, 
and could create serious brain-drain if the company hits hard times
and the unit is disbanded or scaled back or if someone leaves the 
company. Instead, embed innovation throughout the entire company; 
don't isolate it.

MY COMMENTS ON MR. WINSORS’ ARTICLE:

While isolation and silo-type of culture could develop as a result of having an innovation special unit, it’s not a direct correlation. If it is happening, more likely it is a red flag that the innovation program is not working correctly.

Let me create an analogy between an innovation special unit and the Navy Seals. Both are agile groups that focus in on missions that are too tough for others to complete. Maybe others have tried and failed or no wants to try. These SEALS carry out their assigned missions and in the process, develop special operational strategy and tactics. Over time, these proven strategies and tactics can be systematized and processes can be developed for use throughout the organization. The SEALS take on the toughest problems and they encounter obstacles that develop and test their stamina, leadership and ability to work as a team.
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blogTinkering

Tinkering is good; but it is not necessarily innovation

Bruce Kasanoff (from Opportunity Shaper, Now Possible) just wrote a blog article called, “Why Tinkering Around is the Key to Success” It’s on linkedin.

He starts the article this way,

"Here is a quick way to judge whether your company will continue 
to be successful: can you tell your CEO that you spent the morning 
tinkering around with an idea? If the answer is yes, you are in 
good shape. If no, start looking for another job.

Successful companies know that the path to innovation isn't 
a straight line. Profitable growth is a messy, roller-coaster 
process that involves almost as many setbacks as victories. 
If you succeed in everything you do, you aren't aiming nearly 
high enough.

I get frustrated when companies talk and talk and talk about 
innovation, while simultaneously making it nearly impossible 
for their employees to tinker around. Tinkering is what drives 
innovation, not talking."

There is much that I agree with in Bruce Kasanoff’s article, but there are some big disagreements as well. In the spirit of lively conversation, here are my comments:

Bruce Kasanoff, you are correct. There are a few reasons why tinkering is so valuable: (1). You allow your brain to enter another state of being – it’s not linear, driven, goal-oriented. If you learn to recognize that “creative/tinkering” brain-state then you can enter it more easily and on-demand. The ability to move into and out of states-of-being is very valuable for serial innovators. You need to learn to develop that skill if you want to innovate reliably. (2). Developing your persistence ‘muscle’ is also vital to innovators because innovation generally takes effort and you cannot cave-in at the first obstacle. There are lots of reasons why innovators need to persist. It is a basic characteristic of great serial innovators.
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When does CPI begin

When does continual improvement actually begin?

A Quality Assurance Manager asked, “When does continual improvement actually begin?“. Here was my response:

It begins in the minds of each worker the second they begin to work. It begins in the hearts of a leader (whether they be employee or manager) the instant they accept responsibility to make things better.

You see, every single employee develops work momentum the more they perform their job. They improve their processes so they can do a better job (or the same job) with less effort. This is the nature of our brains. Human brains love resource efficiency. Since every single employee will be “continuously improving” their work, it’s management’s job to make sure that those “improvement” benefit the company and not just the employee.

The first time someone develops or defines a metric for improvement and that metric is accepted, then that may be the start of an OFFICIAL improvement plan. The improvement continues as long as there is someone to work on it. (Although my husband left his employer years ago, he still offers CI suggestions to his old employer much to their profit and chagrin.)

Bottom line: CI begins when any employee accepts responsibility.

blog_fear stops innovation

What Serial Innovators Know about Fear

I read a blog article at the Huffington Post by Judith E. Glaser called, “Innovate or Evaporate“. This is a good article about innovation,  but I have one disagreement her statements about fear limiting innovation. In a nutshell she says,

"When fear 'owns our brains' we cannot think creatively... All we think about is how to protect ourselves."

There are indeed processes that happen consistently within the human brain. We have responses to inputs that travel in ‘ruts’ or along strong synapse paths. In these cases inputs create a cascade of reactions. Fear can cause a cascade of reactions that does indeed ‘close down’ the creative parts of our brain and get us stuck in protection mode. But, and this is a big ‘but’, it doesn’t need to. A person can train their brain to respond differently to fear – interrupt the cascade – deflect the automatic response – and react more usefully and creatively. Serial innovators train themselves to be able to change states.
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Innovation can happen anywhere

Innovation can be mapped to any culture

I just read a blog by Pearl Zhu at at her blog . She says

Maintaining a culture of innovation in an ongoing and sustainable way requires: Openness because innovation comes from a combination of need and culture of being open to new things; and Playfulness  because innovation comes from the environment in which thinking & experimenting is stimulated, and Adaptability because innovation is the collective capability to adapt to changes and Adaptability is key; and Flexibility because healthy process for innovation goes between flexibility and hard process; and finally, Agility because innovation efforts work best when focused through fast, rapid cycles to shape and test solutions.

Here is my response to this list:

I like what Ms. Zhu says about “innovation involves the collective capability to adapt to changes – adaptability is key.” The ability to continuously assess the situation is vital. Persistence, resilience, courage: these are all important characteristics. Also, cross-pollination is critical.

But I have to argue quite strenuously with several ideas.
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Rear Admiral "Amazing" Grace Hopper

Serial Innovators – what type of person are they?

Contrary to popular belief, genius innovators are not one particular type of personality. If you want a clear example of this, compare Thomas Alva Edison and Nickola Tesla!  In fact, innovative people come in all personality types. And I’ll even go one step further.

Innovation can happen within any environment. You don’t need to have a specific type of culture, space, support, management, local, proximity to, or anything outside of yourself to invent repeatedly.
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blog_it's not fair

No One Promised You Fair

“No one promised you fair,” Mom would always quip when some unearned indignity had been visited upon me in my callow youth. I thought her quite unsympathetic. Her words of wisdom, however, stayed with me my entire life. So what does this have to do with anything?
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Pioneer Thinking versus Entitlement

Avatar Picture of DaynaPioneer Thinking (.wmv)

I know I often write about psychological inertia (PI) and the problems it creates, but today I want to talk about how PI can be beneficial in some cases and detrimental in other cases.  As Americans, we used to embrace some PI that was great (the pioneering spirit) and I fear we are in danger of losing it – replacing it – overwriting it with something new (a system of entitlement).

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