In this era of disruption and exponential change, where we claim that the next several years will see more change than previous decades, it is to say the least remarkable that so little noise is being generated around innovations to lever the standard of the tried and trusted nursery. All the more so as experience shows that we often approach regular business and innovations in the same way. Nice and easy: one size fits all.
And this is where the shoe pinches – because close inspection shows that innovations rarely come from the existing organisation. At face value this is quite understandable in a world where management agreements, Service Level Agreements and Key Performance Indicators are working overtime: management focuses on control of the existing, but predictable and feasible in order to keep things together. A place where we prefer to see off-the-wall stuff disposed of as soon as possible as litter between history’s wings…
All this despite the extensive innovation which is underway. It’s worth looking at the factors which make this approach successful. Seen from my new role as director of De Innovatiecentrale, this will sound like ‘Eat your own dogfood’. Given my track record – which includes operationalising truck platooning – I can state that this is all about a fan, made up of four elements and methods, which I regard as equally crucial: using these you form a star, as it were.
- First is the learning by doing approach. This is simply building a bridge, while you are walking over it. In turn, this is based on Julius Caesar’s dictum that: ‘Practice is the best teacher of all.’ Slotting in with the Scrum - Agile approach, which is so fashionable nowadays. Here we take short steps, close to the ball, glancing back from time to time to see what worked out and what needs to be improved, but with a healthy, regular to-and-fro between thinking and doing. This approach is swamped by living labs and real life cases – whereby the research agenda, follows rather than leads, and does so quite snugly. The joint objective here is to realise an impressive ‘time to market’. And this is where we escape from the nightmares of blueprint thinking, detailed planning and other varieties of micro management.
- Co-creation comes second, with a central position for the social issue rather than for your own institute or kingdom. This is to shift the focus from a product or service to an integrated performance, based on creating concrete customer value (light – not a lamp; heat - not a boiler; mobility rather than a vehicle and infrastructure). Whereby management of the mutual interfaces in the triple helix approach (government, market, knowledge institutes) represents the inexhaustible source of energy. This results in network leadership, working shoulder to shoulder in the spirit of Harry S. Truman: ‘It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credits.’
- Thirdly, there is the power of the speck on the horizon. As a beckoning and seductive perspective. Looking ahead, a speck that will soon encompass the end result. A speck, needed for a start à la Stephen Covey, with the end in view – to yield input for a roadmap -, but also to clarify which solidly rusted pattern you no need to break through to realise that vista in due course. A speck, which, self-evidently is designed in such a way as to make crystal clear the benefits that participants can harvest, based on the tried and tested win-win concept, whereby notwithstanding the various driving forces – the publicly listed company versus the see-through public edifice – one can work very well together.
- Last come operations from a quite different perspective. This is because the task is not to see what no one has seen before, but to think up what no one has thought up in terms of what we all see. Indeed, this matches with what we’ve learned from Peter Drucker: ‘The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, but acting on yesterday’s logic’. That is to say, thinking based on usage or access, rather than possession, and from surplus, rather than scarcity. Information and data are central here, rather than money, whereby a consumer can simultaneously be a producer.
It’s not for nothing that the 2014 Management book Zakendoen in de nieuwe economie (Doing business in the new economy) sets out the difference between optimisation of the existing (Doing the same things better) and the shared creation of the new (Doing new things together with others); the aim here is to take fundamental steps towards system renewal.
It’s reasonable to ask whether all this is new – in my opinion it is not. Speaking more than a century ago Henry Ford evidences that: ‘If there is a secret for success, it is the ability to see things from someone else’s viewpoint.’