Innovation and Organizational Learning

Success is one of the leading causes of failure. Market and customer research can cause tunnel vision. Management involves understanding today’s customer needs. Leadership means taking off the blinders of what is to explore what could be.

Innovations, breakthroughs, and major changes often come from unpredictable, chaotic, and random events. The innovation paradox is that random, chaotic, and unpredictable innovations need a stable management system and process to nurture the growth and development of “lucky breaks.” It’s a tricky process with four main steps. The first two steps are dependent on leadership skills. Steps three and four lean heavily on disciplined management systems and processes.

  1. Exploration — A broad, open search for latent or unmet needs, potential new markets, customer segments, and business model adaptations.
  2. Experimentation — Pilots, clumsy tries, and “mucking around” to test potential opportunities for viability and to learn what would be needed to make it successful.
  3. Development — Major resources are now committed to fully developing or refining the few new products, services, businesses, or business model.
  4. Integration — The new product, service, or business enters the organization’s mainstream.

Symptoms and Causes of Innovation/Learning Disabilities:

  • Rigid strategic planning.
  • Strategy development is separated from implementation.
  • Low levels of frontline improvement activities.
  • Improvement suggestions are tossed to others for implementation.
  • New ideas or products/services must come from official sources.
  • Low trust levels.
  • Unforgiving culture of punishing mistakes.

Keys to Innovation and Organizational Learning:

  1. Craft strategy through “strategic opportunism.”
  2. Get comfortable with paradox and ambiguity.
  3. Balance implicit and explicit knowledge management.
  4. Get intimate with customers to understand their problems and aspirations.
  5. Leverage the Law of Averages with lots of experiments and pilots.
  6. Nurture champions and skunkworks.
  7. Build a culture of trust, openness, and tolerance of mistakes.
  8. Systematically study, revise, and retry.
  9. Disseminate learning broadly throughout your organization.
  10. Stay current and search the world for best practices/solutions.

For additional resources on Innovation and Organizational Learning click here.

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