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  • Wake-up call!

    ProfielfotoDirk-Jan de Bruijn October 31, 2016 0 reacties

    In my new role as director of the Innovation Lab it’s fascinating to check out the various formulas for innovation: not just to see how they come about, but particularly in terms of the effects. Hardly a superfluous luxury, you might think, in a world overflowing with exponential changes and increasingly shorter times to market.

    The world is strongly marked by a previously unknown tsunami of technological change, including new generation robots, artificial intelligence, advanced brain science, genetics, nano technology and quantum computers. It’s hardly surprising when the experts suggest that we are on the cusp of a new industrial revolution. In turn, this imposes stringent demands on innovations: far more than in the past they must rapidly outpace the level of charming hobby projects; they will need greater impact and scale while winning the acceptance of large groups of users. In so doing innovations can help realise higher aims, also covering areas such as safety, sustainability and mobility.

    Smoothly running diesel engine

    It doesn’t take a prophet to point out that the current (linear) organisation is not the most ideal route to this type of innovation. Over the past several years this organisation has been magically transformed into a smoothly running diesel engine, based on values including ‘makeability’ (i.e.: predictability), ‘standard’ (one size fits all), ‘are you in control’ (no risks) and ‘who’s actually in charge’ (position and power). This organisation has the feeling of a stringently scheduled trip. This organisation is decked-out with complex reports and detailed schedules to enable answers to issues of steering, governance, budget and resources. And all this is packaged in slick management contracts.

    Hierarchy versus network

    So, it’s quite logical that innovations are organised side by side. This enables crucial ingredients, like network leadership (horizontal, triple helix based alliances), co-creation (with strongly developed interfaces between the various participants) and thinking rooted in higher societal objectives or higher functionality (rather than institute or organogram based). This permits ‘learning by doing’ steps – far removed from stifling blueprint thinking. In fact, this is nothing more than the difference between hierarchy (vertical, top-down) and network (horizontal, equal). After all, routine requires hierarchy: a single decision-making forum, clear starting and end points, a problem formulation whereby content has been defined and there is an approachable structure. Meanwhile, innovations require network-type settings with more decision-making rounds, actors that come and go and strategic actions, various forums, no fixed starting or end points and an issue open to multi-faceted consideration.

    Social innovation

    Well, maybe, but with all due respect to upmarket terminology like ‘triple helix’ and the troika of government, education, entrepreneurs: this party will always be supply-driven. The question then arises: how does one organise this social innovation? How do you get the user on board? How do you make sure that the end users modify their behaviour to meaningfully embrace the innovation? How do you enforce real break-throughs, entailing impact and scale? The answer is environment/user. And this counters the ‘We-are-building-a-bridge-what-a-pity-that-people-will-drive-over-it’ phenomenon.

    Customer journey

    I believe that there is one dominant key here: approach the issue from the angle of the end user. Whereby functionality takes a central position, self-evidently embellished with experience. This demands an integral approach with government and market working together! The example below shows safe, clean and reliable mobility, evidencing a strong ambition (no fatalities, no CO­₂ emissions and no tailbacks):

    Christmas eve 2020. Outside the wind cuts like a knife, inside there’s a cosy fire. Everybody looks forward to a special evening. You and your family take an Uber-like shared electric car from Breda to Eindhoven. Your journey is predictable – before you leave you get an exact briefing on your ETA, based on real time information on the traffic situation -, and you drive, via green waves, to the motorway, where your car is connected with its predecessor via a sort of wifi. This creates an organic traffic outlook, with everyone driving safely at the same speed – with no shockwave traffic jams. The fact that the government has applied financial incentives (based on the surcharge tariff) means the new concept has been embraced by all road users. In this context traffic management is service-oriented, based on the principles of predictability and self-steering, using floating car data.

    A little voice tells me that this matches seamlessly with the message of the great Steve Jobs: ‘You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.’  This is true in any language, that’s how he sold a billion iPhones.

    Source: www.ibestuur.nl

  • How innovations can indeed be successful

    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.’

    Source: www.managementsite.nl