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2017 – Seek out Innovative & Disruptive Ideas

ID-10020186 (2015_09_21 22_53_07 UTC)Have you ever noticed that the road to innovation is not straight nor is it flat, it’s disruptive, curvy and sometimes riddled with potholes? Typically, those potholes create distractions that cause burnouts, minor failures or even monumental, catastrophic failures.

The net result of this can often be loss of focus and fear within many organizations, especially as we start a new year. 2017 will be a year of major disruption in my opinion and it will require all the Ikigai and Kaizen you can muster within your organization.

The key is these should be expected. Any time you choose to introduce change and new ways of thinking, lack of adoption or failure is a possibility. Many leaders live in fear of innovation or disruption and remain stagnant.  Frozen.

Unfortunately, stagnation due to a lack of innovation is often a death knell for organizations. Many companies try to play it safe by keeping their exploitation/exploration ratio out of balance.

Too often the exploitation creeps up to 80% or higher and exploration drops way below the 20% which is dangerous. This is the part where the big, slow-moving, status-quo companies tend to get booted into the sidelines of the industry.

Some people simply cannot or will not embrace innovation. For example, politicians, policymakers, academics and old-school accountants are not prone to change. Large business leaders often get caught up in their size and bureaucracy which leads to analysis paralysis and stagnation.

Here’s the Good News for 2017

Where the stagnant, stalled and less innovative reside is absolutely where you’ll find opportunity. Look for out of whack exploitation/exploration ratios.  Typically, in a healthy organization this ratio should be no more than 60% exploitation and no less than 40% exploration.

The risk-reward equation rests heavily on the side of innovation. But innovation is always challenging. The best advice I’ve heard offered is quite simple: Don’t look down; don’t focus on the obstacles. Look in the direction you want to go, proactively move forward and that’s where you’ll end up. Focus, vision and a clear view of your endgame are the ingredients for success—and for disruption.

What is Disruption?

We generally throw this term around very freely. It is often found in very shallow conversation when it really belongs at the core of deep and fruitful conversations.

No question about it, disruption is a seismic event. As change goes, it can be destructive or it can be constructive. It is at the intersection of “How it’s always been done” and “A Blinding new approach.”

  • It’s the thing that causes thought leadership & revolution.
  • It’s what brought us the internet, email smartphones and Amazon.
  • It’s what brought us out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.
  • It’s what should bring us into the next business/management revolution, if we allow it to work.
  • It’s a freshness of thinking that creates change.
  • It is supposed to be the very foundation of this country.

Now Hear Lies the Rub!

You should be driving that change within your organization. You and your people must be part of something important and soulful.

It doesn’t matter if you own a doughnut shop, a dry cleaner, a tech startup, a franchise, manufacturing plant or a medical firm. You can innovate but remember It is more difficult the larger you get, but it can still be done.

Your ability to visualize new things and communicate innovation fearlessly in your approach to business is the key to innovation & disruption. All of this together is key to making a lasting economic impact and creating sustainable opportunities.

The accelerated, frenetic pace of innovation right now is undeniable and very much a part of our culture. However, a lot of it is wishful thinking and shallow attention to detail. This frenzy can divert your attention if you are following the leader rather than being the leader. Don’t get caught up in the confusion and destruction.

Remember: your business will be and must be a direct reflection of your culture, no matter where it’s headed.

Assignment for January, 2017

In this month of January, I challenge you, as a leader, to research, read, discover and review 10 – 25 companies doing brilliant things, reinventing ideas and reimagining markets. Don’t put any restrictions on your thinking, let your imagination roam with an eye towards adaption of ideas that will work in your environment.

Look within and external to your primary industry for these nuggets. Don’t get tripped up by thinking small and narrow, even if the application you have in mind may require a niche adaption.

Write down the nuggets of truth, trust and innovation you discover without doing any editing.  What works for the company you are studying? Why do you think it works? What would it take to adapt this within your company?

I like to refer to this as the magic fairy dust of innovation, entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and culture bending expansion. It is people doing things no one ever thought possible. It’s people doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason.

Often it is a subjective list, with few specifics or scientific attachments. It’s not based on revenue or cash burn. It’s simply 100 cool, exciting, new ways of seeing things.

Key Point: DON’T COPY, adapt and modify to work in your culture. Copying will lead to an even bigger failure.

If you adapt ideas from your COOL list, you are now the drivers of change. Risking failure is part of what you do as a leader. Your mantra should be this: Don’t look down but proactively move forward, have a clear view of your direction, be persistent and keep everything in focus. You are limited only by your own imagination.