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6. Overcoming walls of doubt: excite and enrol stakeholders

Steve Bax Kogan Page ePub

06

Overcoming walls of doubt

Excite and enrol stakeholders

We need to hire mavericks; only people with this kind of a rebellious attitude can come up with innovative ideas and see them through to the end.

This notion of a maverick acting like a Lone Ranger to conceive of and succeed with a radical idea can and does work for entrepreneurs. However, in large organizations, if mavericks become lone rangers, though they still can and do conceive bright new ideas, they are rarely able to make them happen.

Many organizations have also romanticized the Skunkworks approach, originating in Lockheed Martin in the 1950s. They create a small team, separate it from the main organization and give it autonomy ring fence it to develop innovations. Again Skunkworks often do succeed in coming up with big ideas, but seldom does it translate into innovation success, especially in large organizations (Lockheed Martin, 1943).

Walls of doubt

A passionate team in an organization breaks through mental-model boundaries and succeeds in coming up with an orbit-shifting idea! Its been a great voyage of discovery so far and they are now ready to share it and showcase it to the rest of the organization. They also now need the expertise of other functions, others who have not been involved in the journey so far, to develop the idea into a working solution. The team believes the others will be equally excited and will come forward to contribute actively in growing the big idea into an in-market success.

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5. Orbit-shifting insight

Steve Bax Kogan Page ePub

05

Orbit-shifting insight

An organization has taken on an orbit-shift challenge and burnt its bridges. It now needs to break through mental-model boundaries and discover an orbit-shifting idea.

What does it take to actually uncover and break through the mental-model boundaries of an organization or an industry, especially when the people attempting to do it are usually as much a part of the established mental model?

What is needed is an orbit-shifting insight that will break through mental-model boundaries, join new dots and make the orbit-shifting idea visible.

Orbit-shifting insight: beyond technology roadmaps

Two big mental-model boundary breakthroughs in two very different worlds gaming with Nintendo Wii (originating in Japan) and microfinance with Grameen Bank (originating in Bangladesh) were both triggered by an orbit-shifting insight.

The gaming industry had long been locked into the mental model of following technology roadmaps. As Genyo Takeda who was part of the Nintendo design team says:

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9. Ascending the orbit-shift mountain

Steve Bax Kogan Page ePub

09

Ascending the orbit-shift mountain

Making orbit-shifting innovation happen is more like scaling a daunting, unclimbed mountain than like managing just another tough project.

What makes orbit shifters take on and not just survive but thrive through these at once amazing but painful orbit-shift journeys? They see the innovation journey as an unclimbed mountain with multiple thresholds. They approach it like an adventure into the unknown, with a sense of both fear and anticipation.

As Todd Skinner, the mountaineer said:

 

If you are not afraid, you have probably chosen too easy a mountain. To be worth the expedition it had better be intimidating. If you dont stand at the base uncertain how to reach the summit, then you have wasted the effort to get there. A mountain well within your ability is not only a misspending of resources; it is a loss of opportunity across a lifetime of potential achievement (Skinner, 2003).

Settlers, on the other hand, see an orbit-shifting innovation journey merely as a process to be followed, another project to be managed. They hope that a mature process will bring certainty to an intrinsically uncertain and unknown terrain. They attempt to fit innovation to the traditional ways of working: All we need to do is have a chief innovation officer (CIO) and a mature innovation process this should ensure the success of innovation.

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3. Take on an orbit-shifting challenge and burn the bridge

Steve Bax Kogan Page ePub

03

Take on an orbit-shifting challenge and burn the bridge

All excitement around innovation is centred on getting the big idea. Thinking out of the box is talked about obsessively. The world of innovation is full of stories of how a leader got to an out-of-the-box idea that created a transformative impact.

Nearly all of these stories are really about incidental and accidental innovation. The core question is: How do we make orbit-shifting innovation happen by design?

The reality for most organizations is that layers and layers of gravity can make it very difficult to come up with an out-of-the-box idea. Come to think of it, out of which box is the real question. For there is the organizational gravity box, the industry gravity box, the country gravity box and the cultural gravity box. The deeper you go, the more invisible the box becomes.

Most orbit-shifting innovations did not start with an out-of-the-box idea, but with an out-of-the-box challenge, an orbit-shifting challenge.

It takes an orbit-shifting challenge to create the escape velocity needed to break through gravity. An out-of-the-box idea is a consequence. An orbit-shifting challenge leads to an orbit-shifting idea and not the other way round.

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7. Navigating the fog: overcome daunting obstacles

Steve Bax Kogan Page ePub

07

Navigating the fog

Overcome daunting obstacles

All orbit-shift stories are heroic and even romantic, in hindsight. They hide the fear, the pain and the moments of self-doubt when the orbit shifter was confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They hide the many, many points when the orbit-shifter was faced with dark nights, when it seemed much easier to give up and return to the comfort of the old orbit.

Orbit shifters start combating dilution when they enrol stakeholders and prevent the orbit-shifting idea from getting compromised. But enrolment alone is not enough an orbit-shifting idea will still face many execution hurdles.

Executing an orbit-shifting innovation is a journey filled with tunnels of fog multiple points where the orbit shifter is confronted with new unforseen problems. Faced with fog, orbit shifters dont give up or give in. It is their capacity to navigate the fog that differentiates an orbit shifter from a settler.

The next and the next door

In making the LifeStraw happen, the team at Vestergaard Frandsen was repeatedly confronted with fog the execution obstacles seemed to be never ending. For a year and a half, the team persisted with research and over 120 prototypes were made, with variations in the kinds and quantities of the various chemicals, absorbents, pre-filters etc. There was a time when the mounting numbers of prototypes seemed daunting, but the organization remained unwavering in its commitment to the research agenda. As Navneet Garg, Chief Development Officer at Vestergaard Frandsen, says: The question always was, How can we do it? it was not whether we wanted to do it or not.1

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