Reframe your thinking, can you?

Reframed thinking forms the underpinning of Built to Thrive and an understanding of the concepts presented to you will culminate in an ability to begin to reframe your thinking. The rise in social networks, mobilization of crowds and tribes and the impact of social based innovation all affect our views of ourselves and the landscape around us. I will go on to show that reframed thinking is the ability to avoid becoming trapped in the spider webs of past practices, to view your situation from a fresh perspective, to begin to gather information from larger and previously inaccessible collective resources and utilize this knowledge to drive growth effectively. To reframe will become the catalyst for the implementation of actions that are appropriate to a landscape that is shifting constantly. The journey through the book is in itself an act of reframing.

I have a confession to make…

KungwiniDear planet, it’s beena while since my last confession. Actually, I have never made a confession as the motivation has never been as strong as now…

I have not posted anything on this blog for last two months as I’m grappling with some reasoning about certain aspects of our modern existence. I’ve been brought up in one way (and rebelled), transformed into the world of commerce in another way (and was forced to adopt or die), and pushed into rethinking all of what was there before.

Operating in a commercial world where I spend some of my time teaching innovation (and related topics) at one of the local business schools, got me thinking that we are living in the most intense times of change. Ye sure, “change” – move on. But, there are many things that we are forced to think about that is not how we were brought up. All the great inventions of our era and the past 100 years or so, are all under serious scrutiny.

I have to confess that I find it difficult to shape an outline for my next academic paper (that is expected of me as a part-academic) and still feel comfortable that I’m promoting something that will be good for humankind going forward. It is incredibly hard to separate the “logic” of global warming, pollution, human rights issues, and the general destruction of human behaviour WITH the clean thoughts of recycling, eating organic food, clean energy usage, etc.

My clients are large corporates that are trapped, like all of us, in a cycle of demand and production where it is virtually impossible to reverse the wrong doing of age in one generation. Yet, it is expected that all of the human race needs to change its view on how it lives its daily life.

I am confronted with the emotions of employing a number of people to earn an income and feed their families, while the only means of income is based on the application of skills by using toxic (to this planet) based products. How do we reconcile our behaviours during the radical transformation periods?

I have to confess that I’m ill equipped to fully guide my children on the dangers of how they should behave to preserve their offspring’s future. The world I come from is long gone, and I’m only in my 40’s…

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Social Based Innovation, human-mashups under emergence

Does innovation require a different outcome during these times? Will a lean approach make me more successful? Do we have to do things differently than before? Would people adopt the approaches quicker than before? There are a number of questions that are left partially unanswered as academics and practitioners struggle to find easy answers for their individual settings.

Discovery, Invention, Innovation, Improvement, Creativity; throwing these in the organizational “pot” creates more confusion than solving problems. When [man] saw fire for the first time, was it a discovery? Imagine the surprise and excitement when the uneducated and uninformed caveman felt the heat from the fire for the first time. But, how do I keep this thing going? How was it created? Got asked before the long road to innovation to turn the discovery into something that is more controllable. The invention of making fire came much later.

Innovation during lean times is about the realization; that most of what we’ve learnt during the previous knowledge cycle since the beginning of the industrial revolution, is now under threat. We are working on two innovation re-think projects called “Built to Thrive”, that focuses on understanding business innovation as an eco-system activity; and “Social Based Innovation”, that focuses on the approaches to follow to re-invent yourself.

Participative Customer:
Historically we found that many of the time-locked concepts for example “client centricity”, “best practices”, “talent management” and “scorecard based measures” to mention a few; create common and copied views of how the world works. This imitation without understanding deeply why you need it has destroyed more companies than any other. The great pioneers of our time do not copy; they engage and immerse themselves deeply in the activity of their business and then redesign their future’s appropriately. The industrial era’s mindset is still fresh in the minds of managers and they find it difficult to shift [paradigm] to an era where the value creation activities are now socially influenced.

Let’s take one such example called ”client centricity”. Listening to your customers is a sure way to get into trouble; they have entirely different approaches, mental mindsets, and outcomes in mind compared to you and your business. The future is about crowdsourcing, crowdspirit, co-design, co-production and immersion. You do not want to give your favorite mobile provider or bank the exact requirements of what they need to make for you in the future. You want to be surprised and enlightened. This requires a much more networked and involved approach to understanding the issues and problems of the day. It also requires more insights into the solutions that might result in financially successful and environmentally friendly outcomes. Business models are evolving through the development of the participative customer as a means to get closer to the action; where the economic customer is seeing financial value in the network.

Social Networks:
Look at some of the latest innovation ecologies, these are essentially crowdsource based idea generators, that emerged over the last 2 years or so. Coke, Starbucks, Apple, IBM, etc all now have active and very vibrant idea to innovation communities that allow customers, competitors, and staff to interact in an integrated world of information sharing. They leverage the organization’s shadow and the industry’s undercurrents to gain deep understanding of of the shifts that are taking place. So, instead of copying, they allow for the crowds to co-produce and co-design the intended future. Market segmentation and coarse grained approaches will disappear and swarm based approaches and unique value approaches will emerge.

Our approach to delivering value is “Social Based Innovation”. Leveraging the shadow organization in achieving innovative outcomes. It’s not about product innovation; it’s about the offering. It’s not about process innovation; it’s about capability innovation. It’s about leveraging the social value in the business and not the elitist team that’s responsible for innovation. It’s about mobilizing the crowd through tribes and not the formal structure where innovations get trapped.

Obsessive Execution:
It’s in the portfolio; the success of your innovation efforts. The translation and articulation into meaningful actions. It’s the journey “from here and now, to here and now”.

Let’s take a view on innovation terminology that’s still in use today; “product based innovation”. Maybe the concept called “product” does not exist. Maybe there is only “service based innovation”. Take the chair you’re sitting on as an example; is it a product or a service? It was designed at a point in time where the collective knowledge of chair making and manufacturing got frozen and encapsulated into that chair. But, it is used to deliver a service for you tonight. It might be comfortable easy to adjust, etc making it a great service delivery platform. If the chair is not comfortable will you walk away thinking that the night was not useful?

Service Design through Social Based Innovation

shadownetworkpicturesService Design is an approach used by iconic design and innovation firm, IDEO. It is the practice of designing intangible experiences that reach people through different touch-points. The purpose is to influence these interactions in such a way that financial and benefits are positive to the firm. Realistically these intangible experiences are very hard to quantify and even harder to describe in processes.

Great service designs emerge over time and have the ability to capture the essence of the interactions between humans and humans and computers. Often a great design is only identified once it is created; the act of making it relies on deep experience of the designer together with the ability to immerse in the activity that is being designed. This results in “I’ll know it when I see it…”.

Due to the emergent nature of this type of design; you require many different view points that cut across the organization. Using a social based approach allows for interested and other parties top collaborate in ways never explicitly designed before. The add-hoc nature of the interaction drives the energy and interest to solve the service design challenge.

Making the case for Social Based Innovation

I’ve been discussion many concepts relating to innovation over the last few years. But kept the development of our new approach under wraps as we are testing some of the constructs. So, let me give you a sniplet of what’s been going on.

Working globally with financial services, manufacturing, and other services firms we discovered some interesting concepts in innovation. You would’ve noticed that I have a number of posts on social networking (the hot topic of the day I guess), and other social related phenomena. All these contribute partly to the concept of Social Based Innovation.

The initial definition is:
Social Based Innovation is the ability to influence social actions in such a way, that benefit is obtained by the social group in its tribal setting, behaving in a way that value is captured by the collective.

Social Based Innovation websiteShadow organizations as they are called, refer to the social interactions that happen outside of the formal structures as defined by leadership. These shadows are often overlooked as sources of value and not nurtured. Social Based Innovation as an approach is used to capture value holistically by allowing all dimensions of the community to interact. This drives the tribal approach where common beliefs and ideas are developed even if these are from customers, employees, competitors, or other traditional constructs. Crowdsourcing, Co-production, crowd spirit, etc are concepts that try to capture the emerging world of social mobilization. Leveraging communities as crowds that influence your innovation mandate has become a new topic of discussion.

Some notes on where reward systems (check out McKinsey&Company’s And the winner is… paper) and Social Based Innovation intersect:
– Identify excellence through social rating approach and tribal acceptance and co-development of ideas and innovations.
– Influence public perception by exposing a wider community to rewards for great ideas and innovations.
– Focus a community by getting the entire social group involved in collective activity for common purpose without the traditional organizational boundaries.
– Identify and mobilize new talent by allowing individuals to have creative freedom during idea development and guidance through implementation.
– Strengthen the community by getting tribes actively involved in problem solving.
– Educate and improve skills by getting champions of innovation to emerge based on their attitudinal and aptitude towards innovation. These people can then assist others in achieving more in the network.
– Mobilize capital once the strategic intent of the campaign and involvement of the formal and social structures have delivered a verdict.

Is innovation as a discipline evolving faster than before due to the effects of social networking?

Situation traps and other mental phenomena

Life cyclesI came across Adizes’s work some 10 years ago. The concepts he promoted made sense and I started reading his work extensively. After buying 8 videos from the Adizes Institute and working through these over time, I got to understand his views.

In 1999 he published “Managing Corporate Lifecycles” that provides great insights into how organizations evolve over time. He has the ability to articulate clearly some complex change phenomena making him quite unique. You can also do a self test on his website to determine where you fit on his model; Understanding the Corporate Lifecycle: Get an Instant Online Lifecycle Analysis.

Today we have a need to rethink business and not apply the dogma of the day, but find new methods and approaches, and question the basics of how leaders take their businesses forward. There is a new world emerging and those that believe in a static set of concepts will follow the academic rhetoric of the past. This creates the situation trap that most managers find themselves in. I’ve been questioning the basics of much of where modern strategy and innovation is developed from; and the picture is still pretty bleak. It took major global catastrophes, climate change and a few crisis’s to get people to sit up and question their ways.

… that’s why I like this entry from Adizes…

This is from his latest posting:
Waiting for a plane in Kiev, Ukraine, I picked up the Harvard Business Review from January 2009. Although I do not typically read this magazine, because it is so alien to my way of thinking, I did so because I was bored.

As I should have predicted, I became quite intellectually disturbed reading some passages and wondering, am I on the wrong track or is “the establishment,” as represented by Harvard, on an old, outdated track?

For example, page 21 on what it means to be a leader: “Leaders on the front line must anticipate merely what comes after current projects wrap up. People at the next level of leadership should be looking several years into the future. And those at the C suite must focus on a horizon some ten years distant.”

Well, being proactive requires anticipating the future, granted. Predicting the future is a necessary variable, but not sufficient in itself to make one a successful leader. The variables have to also be sufficient to produce the desired results, in this case to lead the company to success.

Have a look at his web site at

Do we read to much, and think too little?

Things you need to start doing:
I started focusing on reading snippets instead of entire books…
I started to listen to interpretation instead of believing dogma…
I started to synthesize instead of taking reasoning for granted…
I started to formulate and write about my own views more succinctly…
I started to test and execute on all of my ideas…

This is the result of looking at highly successful innovators, entrepreneurs and people that have made a difference!

“The person who reads too much and uses his brain too little will fall into lazy habits of thinking.”
– Albert Einstein

An emergent view on Design Oriented Innovation

The “design oriented innovation” approach impacts innovative organizations in many ways. Design by definition refers to the process of creating new artefacts, processes, organizations and even the act of creative activity is included in the typical definition. It does however play an important role in the process of innovation. In actual fact the role changes as we move from creativity to invention, and from invention to innovation and onto implementation and improvement.

There is a part of the design process that requires a deliberate act of experimentation. Experimentation allows the team involved in solving an innovation problem to focus on key hypotheses and determine the accuracy of assumptions. The act of design on the other hand, allows the designers that are managed by the process of design to execute on their creative genius.

My work on Design Influence has revealed some interesting results. Innovative behavior is often directed by the ability to influence dominant designs implemented in the business. If a team has no influence over outcomes; why should they contribute or participate in any innovation campaign? Look at P&G’s latest drive using design thinking. The concept is being used to break down barriers of the silo’d and often fragmented businesses that need to make sense of their innovation energy.

Reframing: Innovation Eco-System

Leaders in thriving companies know how to use reframing as a tool, to not only transform themselves over time, but guide the entire business through its journey to an unknown destiny (somewhere in the future). Why somewhere? One of today’s key thinking patterns (in strategic innovation and other disciplines) that focuses on guiding organizations, is the ability to plot the path of execution during uncertain times.

Reframing, as a method of thinking about the future gets us to question the reasoning behind why we do things in a certain way. Reframed Reasoning might include the ability to leave parts of the business open to innovation where emergent trends and signs are used to guide execution.

So, do we need a strategy and execution plan then? Maybe I’m a bit harsh on this topic, but it is true that our strategies are constructed based on yesterdays understanding of tomorrow’s challenges. But, now that tomorrow is here, what are we doing to correct the thinking problems of yesterday? The business that is built to thrive knows how to create the careful balance between the completely unknown and the highly articulated business models. It known that the only way to get this right is to reframe the thinking of the leadership in all areas of the business and then to allow this thinking to be executed.

Reframed view of the Innovation LandscapeOn the subject of scenarios and where they fit, reframing does not relate to the act of scenario construction. It relates to the process of thinking, reasoning, and inductive stimulation of the experience, while trying to articulate some alternate futures. Various methods exist to define scenarios and then to play out scenarios. One such example is where we guide our thinking by trying to articulate the things that will stay the same and that are not really changing, from the things that we have control over and can change. Playing out a scenario is when we discuss the potential paths of execution and look at the barriers that need to be overcome to achieve some alternate future.

Again, the value is in the process of thinking of the alternatives and debating and internalizing the many options that will influence your thinking subconsciously. Reframing is about getting a group of people to believe in an alternate future to the extent that they take ownership of the reasoning needed, in order to explain the potential roadmaps needed to get there. Having a well described and documented set of scenarios actually means nothing without it being reflected in the behaviours of the people. Having the ten step plan or the one thousand activity action list does not make you successful.

What makes companies that are built to thrive successful, is the ability to propagate the reasoning and thinking into the heart of the organization?