Friday, 9 February 2018

Procrastination and innovation

It's pretty counter-intuitive that procrastination and creativity are connected, right?
There is plenty of evidence however that by delaying completion of something, you end up with a better, perhaps more innovative, result.

Think of the process as a shape of a 'U'. Those that get right to it and come up with an idea really quickly (the big downward slope of the U) may miss ideas. Dwelling on concepts and applying considered design may result in other, better alternatives. Conversely, those that leave everything until the very last minute (the upward slope of the U) are likely to also miss opportunities that dwelling-on may offer.

It seems that those who quickly come up with one or two ideas, then think on them for a while, maybe try a few out (the Design Thinking process) and finally make a decision down the line, may come up with more innovative and successful solutions.

A similar phenomenon that we've all experienced is when faced with a tricky problem and we decide to 'sleep on it'.

Take a look at Tim Urban's very funny and illuminating TED Talk on being a master procrastinator and his 'instant gratification monkey'.

Adam grant also wrote a nice post in the New York Times 'Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate'

If you need an external stimulus to stop you procrastinating, try 
Stikk is a fee goal-setting app from behavioural economists at Yale. The idea is that you make a public goal, set the stakes or pledge, get a referee and add friends for support. I love the idea that some of the most successful pledges are apparently those that result in something you don't want to happen. For example, '$100 goes to the National Rifle Association if I don't meet my deadline' (assuming you don't support the NRA!). 

I've been  preparing for the KIN Spring Workshop on 22nd March at The Shard.'Reimagining the Innovative Organisation'. Adam Billing of Treehouse Innovation will be running an experiential exercise for us. This will be a fun interactive session that will use Design Thinking principles to stimulate ideas for innovative management practice. Treehouse have an app called Sprintbase that helps organisations systematically tackle tough challenges by including design thinking into problem solving.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

'Think like a system, act like an entrepreneur' - RSA Innovation Report

In the run-up to the KIN Spring Workshop at The Shard on 22nd March, we will be sharing some insights on 'Reimagining the Innovative Organisation' (the theme of the workshop).

The first of these is an excellent RSA paper* that illustrates the value of melding Design Thinking, Systems Thinking and entrepreneurship.

KIN has looked at Design Thinking in the past and the Spring workshop will feature a Design Thinking exercise from Treehouse.  The paper posits that this approach is not sufficient without a holistic perspective or context in which an innovation is to be deployed or scaled. We also recently had an excellent Systems Thinking masterclass led by the School of Systems Change, so we are clearly on the right path!

A brief extract that underlines the importance of human-centred approach to innovation...

"In Democratising Innovation, Eric von Hippel argues that we have moved into a ‘user-centred’ as opposed to ‘manufacturer-centric’ era of innovation. As Jeanne Liedtka said in the 2015 Batten Briefing on Innovation and Growth : “The most secure source of new ideas that have true competitive advantage, and hence, higher margins, is customers’ unarticulated needs.” Businesses are now routinely generating innovation using human centred methods. These processes employ user research, experimentation, prototyping, and iteration and foster innovations that meet a particular human need rather than being purely product-driven. These methods have been used to inform design innovations in everything from airline flatbeds at British Airways to breathable sportswear at Nike. 

Whilst Design thinking has obvious benefits in product innovation, it's application to management processes and service solutions is less clear. We will be considering this in depth at the workshop. The RSA report supports this application...

Design-led innovation has demonstrated a clear dividend in consumer facing industries, and design thinking is no longer the preserve of product developers. The process also generates service solutions, new concepts and governance models, and it is being used to envisage new business strategies and services across sectors, including the public sector". 

* Thanks to Izzy Taylor of Plan International for bringing the RSA report to KIN's attention

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Warwick Business School at the Shard - 22nd March 2018

Warwick Business School at The Shard
Invitation to the launch of ‘The Innovation Network’

When: 5:00pm – 7:30pm, Thursday 22nd March 2018
Where: Warwick Business School's new conference facility at the Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG. 2 mins from London Bridge Station.

The last decade has seen innovations in products and services that were unimaginable 20 years ago. Hotels didn’t see AirBnB coming, Tesla reinvented auto manufacture, Netflix & Amazon now dominate entertainment. Blockchain providers are likely to disintermediate almost every professional service. Large organisations need to be smarter & more agile in the way they innovate and leadership needs to adapt to a world of 'adhocracy'.

You are cordially invited to an evening that will stimulate and challenge your thinking about innovation in your organisation.

  • A drinks reception and Innovation Showcase, with contributions from KIN Member organisations and many others
  • Tony Corkett, Head of Strategic partnerships at Google's Deepmind. Deepmind received a lot of publicity after beating the world champion at Go. Tony will show how Google’s remarkable AI and machine learning capability are transforming research into healthcare and many other real-world problems. 
  • The official launch of ‘The Innovation Network’ (formerly Warwick Business School’s Knowledge and Innovation Network)

Who should participate
Leaders from the following functions
Organisations from the following industries are particularly welcome
(KIN has a policy of only one member from each sector to maximise openness and trust)

  - Innovation and R&D
  -Learning and Development
  -Industry/academic collaboration
  -FMCG / Retail
  -Strategic change
  -Policy development 

To register

Participation is free, but by invitation only. You and your colleagues are welcome to attend if you have an interest in the Innovation Network. Please see overleaf for network aims, ethos and membership criteria.

Please contact Jane Mallin at to register, or for more information.

KIN aims and ethos

A non-profit practitioners’ network of large, predominantly blue-chip organisations. The network is kept deliberately small in order to foster trust and familiarity and the ability to ‘get behind’ what makes organizational learning and Innovation techniques effective. Having only one organisation from each industry sector, and no consultants or vendors, provides a unique atmosphere of trust and diversity of thinking.

Business value is driven through the development of new insights, real-world research and the sharing of proven practice and tools. Examples of the themes include:
  • Organizational learning and Learning from Practice
  • Innovation practice
  • Knowledge sharing and knowledge retention
  • Virtual teamworking
  • ‘Enabling’ Technologies (augmented and social media, data analytics, AI etc)
  • Communities of Practice
  • Social Network Analysis
The Network provides:
  • Dedicated Facilitators, working with Member organisations, connecting wants and offers and ensuring connections are developed and insights shared.
  • An extensive calendar of Member-only events. This includes unlimited organisation-wide participation in Roundtables, Masterclasses and Webinars; typically one per month. Two free places at our major quarterly Workshops, which include networking dinners and accommodation.
  • A content-rich and secure online MemberSpace and a private & secure LinkedIn forum.
  • The KIN bi-annual network analysis is our systematic way of identifying and measuring high performing elements within Member organizations. This allows KIN to bridge the competency gap and inform our programme. It also allows member organisations to set measurable innovation and learning improvement targets.
  • Access to academic and applied research from the IKON Research Group at Warwick Business School (IKON is the founding body for KIN).


General KIN Announcement: New Site Visit Event: MINI innovation site visit, Oxford, 24 Apr 2018

Following KIN's successful innovation site visit to Bletchley Park, we have arranged an exclusive group tour of the Mini plant at Oxford. BMW and Mini are at the forefront of technological and management practice innovation. We will have an exclusive guided tour of the Mini assembly facility. This will be led by an experienced guide, who will be available to take questions about Mini processes and techniques. At the end of the tour, we will have a group discussion to reflect on what we have seen and how this might influence innovation practice at our own organisations. Timings are still to be confirmed. We are limited to 15 participants for this site visit. As we expect this site visit to be very popular, we will initially limit registrations to one participant per member organisation.

Full details can be found on this event page:
SiteVisit: MINI innovation site visit, Oxford'

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Science Fiction (Sci-Fi) as a Stimulus For Innovation

As part of my role as a Facilitator for Warwick Business School’s “Knowledge & Innovation Network” (KIN), I was privileged to be invited to a Sci-Fi Symposium organised by the Defence, Science &Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The event took place just before Christmas 2017, and was led by Dr John Carney, Principal Scientist and Mrs Caz Pitt (Innovation Process & Culture Lead) at Dstl. , The aim of the Symposium was  to explore whether the stimulus of Science Fiction might enable the development of new solutions and provide unexpected insights into future security and military challenges.

With this year’s schedule of events for KIN being focussed primarily on innovation practices and techniques, I was interested to learn whether the format for this event could be applied more generally as a stimulus for innovation within other KIN member organisations, or adapted as a model for the wider public and private sectors. I think we would all agree that British industry is facing an uncertain future, and we must be able to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive global market. We can only do this with innovative products and services, delivered at competitive prices and assured quality.

The objectives for the symposium were defined as follows:

·       To provide a forum for verbal interaction between Science Fiction writers, Academics with a specialism in science fiction and/or creative writing, scientists and other interested parties from across the Ministry of Defence and wider Government.
·       To educate Government scientists in the value of creative writing and thinking differently.
·       To stimulate small group discussions on (pre-prepared) defence and security challenges through the perspective of science fiction with a view to generating new insights and ideas
Having set the context for the day, we heard from various academics and Sci-Fi authors who provided short briefings with the aim of providing stimulus for the group discussion activities that followed, as follows:

·       Dr Ping Zheng (University of Canterbury) and Dr Victor Callaghan (University of Essex) on how science fiction and fantasy have been used to stimulate innovation.
·       Alastair Reynolds – former Space Scientist turned Sci-Fi author
·       Nicole Devarenne - Lecturer in English and Film Studies with special interests in South African literature and film, science fiction and speculative fiction
·       Sean McFate – Expert in Future of War, author and novelist, including Tom Locke novels.
·       Nick Harkaway – Sci-Fi author, who reminded us that Sci-Fi is not always good at predicting the future.
Interspersed with the scene setting and networking activities, the core part of the day was based around small group discussions on 11 different challenges. The challenges were set by various Dstl subject matter experts and consisted of a broad theme and a summary briefing, setting out the problem or challenge and what was required from the group. Members of the 11 groups were allocated based on the preferences they had selected as part of the pre-symposium delegate instructions. Each group discussion lasted for 1 hour, and was led by a Dstl presenter and supported by a Dstl rapporteur, who summarised the outcomes from the discussion as part of a plenary feedback at the end of the day. The symposium was organised such that participants were able to contribute to at least two group discussions during the day.

Just to give some context to the group discussions, the headline topics for the 11 challenges were as follows:

1.     Radiation Protection for Humans
2.     Digital Diplomat
3.     Safe Spaces
4.     Human Behaviour in Smart Environments *
5.     Defence (in)efficiency: what does the future hold?
6.     Making our people more capable, in less time *
7.     Understanding and Exploring Threat
8.     Please report to the information assurance bureau for re-education
9.     Societal reactions to new technologies
10.  Expeditionary Warfare
11.  Where’s the baddie?
I think you will see from the above that - with some obvious exceptions – many of the topics could apply to just about any organisation seeking innovative ideas for improving performance.  The two groups that I participated in are shown asterisked, specifically chosen because the subject was fairly generic and played more to my personal knowledge and experience.

The key dynamic which (I believe) contributed to the overall success of this seminar, was the ‘free-thinking’ stimulus developed initially from the pre-workshop presentations, and the diversity of knowledge, experience and personality within each discussion group. Either by accident or design (I think the latter), each group had a blend of academics, Sci-Fi authors, subject matter experts and practitioners. An unusual mix, some might say, and the logistics of assembling such a cohort cannot be underestimated.

I don’t have the detailed outcomes from all of the discussion groups, but the two groups I participated in generated a number of new ideas that haven’t previously been explored by Dstl. Of course, turning these ideas into practical solutions may not be always possible, and this may ultimately be the measure of success for this type of seminar. However, based on my own experience, and with reference to the title of this blog, I think that Sci-Fi did indeed provide a stimulus for innovation in our discussions.

The question is, whether the overall approach could be a template for any organisation or sector that is serious about wanting to innovate or challenge institutional inertia. The cost and logistics of assembling the diversity of talent will be a major factor, but I think the process is scalable, i.e. a focus on fewer challenges with fewer participants. I don’t think it has to necessarily include a Sci-Fi element (though this might be useful for more technologically-oriented organisations) but does need to include participants with imagination and creative skills.
Authors and novelists seem to fit this criterion, but it would be useful to explore other creative arts, such as musicians, artists, actors etc., people who are more likely to think differently to civil servants or corporate employees. Innovation means doing things differently, and that starts with thinking differently. This will no doubt be the challenge for many organisations, moribund in “group think”.

Dstl will be presenting the lessons learnt and some highlights from this Sci-Fi Symposium at their showcase stand at the KIN Spring Workshop, The London Shard, 22nd March 2018. Not to be missed!

Other Reference Links:

Steve Dale

KIN Facilitator