Monday, 21 August 2017

'Mapping Innovation' by Greg Satell - a very readable 'Playbook for navigating a disruptive age'

I've just read Greg Satell's new book 'Mapping Innovation'. It must be good because I took it on holiday to finish reading it! I'm a fan of his blog Digital Tonto, which I also recommend.

The book's title doesn't do it justice as it is full of innovation anecdotes, quotes, case-studies and practical advice. I was delighted to see that Satell talks extensively about diversity (in all its senses) in relation to innovation practice. In fact one chapter is entitled 'Innovation is Combination'. n order to innovate in the digital age organisations need to shift emphasis from knowledge workers to relationship workers'. 

Like almost every consultant, Satell frames his hypotheses using a 2x2 matrix. The Y axis is 'Problem Definition' . He emphasises the importance of a thorough understanding of the problem by quoting Einstein "If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would spend 19 days defining it". The other axis is 'Domain Definition'; this is harder to define, but is primarily whether the organisation has the skills and capability to address the problem.
The examples of disruptive and breakthrough innovation reference the usual digital suspects including Google and Apple, but also draw on many from healthcare, finance and transportation. The Opensource movement and its implications for all sorts of contemporary collaborative models (eg Innocentive) that have followed is particularly interesting. I would have liked to have more examples of breakthrough innovation in organisational management, but maybe that's because there haven't been that many. Satell does describe AirBNB and Uber's disruptive business models, but even these are predicated on already well-established technology.

The most impactful take-away in 'Mapping Innovation' is the importance of Basic Research. In his 1945 report to President Truman, Vannevar Bush argued for what became the US Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD):

'Basic research leads to new knowledge. It provides scientific capital. It creates the fund from which the practical applications of new knowledge must be drawn'.

In the book we learn that both Google and Apple leaned heavily on the outputs from government-funded basic science that can be traced directly back to OSRD . Only giants such as IBM have the resources to carry out their own speculative research. Satell conspicuously avoids the elephant in the room by not addressing Trump and other western government's attacks on basic science funding and the implications for future downstream innovation. I am not sure whether he is deliberately avoiding taking a political stance, but if the author's premise is right about the importance of the bottom left quadrant of his matrix, innovation and economies will suffer in the long-term.

Meanwhile, individuals and organisations will focus on the other 3 quadrants and can learn a lot from this 'Playbook for navigating a disruptive age'. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

'Will video make text and writing obsolete?'

Here's an irony...
I've been doing research in preparation for the Autumn Knowledge and Innovation Network workshop 'Now You're Talking - the language of workplace communication'. 

I came across this recent blog post 'Will video make text and writing obsolete?' 
The irony that the posting uses text rather than video will not be lost on you. Josh Bernhoff raises some interesting observations about of mixed-media communication and which are the most effective tools. We will be exploring these and others at the workshop on 20th & 21st September.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The intersection of Design Thinking and Knowledge

An ex-colleague from the World Bank, Arno Boersma, has written a useful article about how Design Thinking can be applied to knowledge sharing.

I agree that trying to convince workers and managers that 'KM' is a worthwhile endeavour is counter to the principles of Design Thinking and futile. Design Thinking ensures that we don't develop 'solutions' without fully understanding what the problem is and why it's a problem. Greg Satell's post on this is a great read I've been convinced for a long time that part of the problem is vocabulary. Rather than invent a new acronym 'KDT', we should promote design thinking skills and techniques as part of existing learning and development processes. Similarly, Systems Thinking; whereby problem solving is addressed holistically.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Design Thinking - not the panacea for innovation?

'What should I title this post?' That is how I used to start writing blog posts. 
Of course if I were to apply design thinking to this problem, the question should be 'what would the reader want to do having read about this topic?' The title would be the last thing, not the first. Since completing a Stanford MOOC on Design Thinking, I've been impressed with the approach. The process is sometimes summarized as: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn. 
If you are not familiar with Design Thinking, this description from Digital Tonto, will give you a good idea.

'What makes design thinking so effective is its relentless focus on the needs of the end user. Instead of starting with a set of features, it begins by asking what the final experience should be and then works to define a solution. Designers develop products through a series of prototypes and continuously improve and refine them through testing.
So, for example, instead of developing a mobile phone by asking, “what should the keypad look like? A design thinking engineer would start by asking “What does the user want to do with the phone?” In a similar way, a design thinker wouldn’t start designing a doctor’s office by asking where the waiting room should go, but by asking, “what is the purpose of the waiting room?”
As Apple has demonstrated, design thinking can be tremendously helpful when you’re working with mature technologies that are well understood. Unfortunately, they’re not much help when you’re venturing into the unknown to, say, find a new cure for cancer or develop a new approach to artificial intelligence, which may be why Apple has gotten bogged down lately'.

This extract is from Greg Satell's article 'Here's Why Your Innovation Strategy Will Fail'. 
Satell suggests, illustrated with case studies, that a wider variety of 'paths' to innovation are needed. However, many organisations have a single approach, perhaps vested in Research and Development. 
Unsurprisingly, Apple features strongly in the article. It's interesting to consider how Apple set out to disrupt existing technologies and service providers, before considering what product innovations might serve that purpose. As we all know, the iPod, iPhone and iPad resulted. Great examples of design thinking. The big question for Apple is that it's 10 years since their last truly groundbreaking product innovation. It's highly likely that their autonomous vehicle, by the time it's available, won't be the only player and they may already be playing catch-up.
This revealing article on The Verge uses the history of the iPhone development as a lesson in how this disruption was planned by Apple. What innovation path are they using to maintain their preeminence?

Post Script: Another path to innovation I was reminded of is Systems Thinking; an extension of Design Thinking that attempts to take account of the increasingly interconnected and complex world. See

Source: Mapping Innovation by Greg Satchell

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Doing Conference Speaking Not Badly - David D'Souza

David D'Souza is without doubt, the most interesting, relaxed and compelling speaker I have heard.
I say heard rather than seen, as on both occasions, he has held the audience's attention for an hour without slides or notes. This is how he does it.

In typically modest style, David calls his post

'Doing Conference Speaking Not Badly'