Saturday, June 20, 2009

Get rid of that label

Some of us get bogged down by what interests we showed in our early childhood, a teacher or a parent would have called us sporty, artistic, numerate or systematic. If one escapes from there, then the waiting corporate world would do something similar and assign us a 'role'!

An individual more often has an ear for only what labels others have assigned, or what she has assigned for self, more often in the areas we are supposed to earn our bread from. Similarly our creative instincts also get aligned to this mindset, though capable, we end up raising self designed hurdles against creative possibilities.

Labels play equally negative role in collaborative innovation.

1) Expecting a research engineer to shorten the duration on a car assembly line.

2) Expecting a productivity improvement unit of your company to improve productivity of your team.

3) Expecting a security guard at your premise to protect you from all security related threats.

As you see the labels are nothing more than anchors, the desired “outcome” however does not necessarily need to come out of the labels.

Don’t run to facility management for a facility improvement idea. Don’t congregate only the experts on subject for the innovation at hand.

A little story I read sometime back. A teenager, while going through the list of school sports he could participate on a sports day, wished there was ‘fishing’ in the list, as that is what he has done most in last few years. But then his eyes stopped on the 'long jump', a sport he has never attempted. It was while fishing he started jumping from one side of the stream to the other, at times he got wet while not making it to the other side, but the distance he jumped increased as he became more proficient.

As an individual your most promising expertise may not be in the domain of your work.

Get rid of that label; try a mask – the transient!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

“But in our business, we don’t need to innovate a lot”

… said a new friend I made at a recently concluded Silicon India conference, he was responding to my explanation on ‘open innovation’ term.

Opening up obviously provides more ideas, more resources, more everything. However ‘more’ is only an approach, not the end result. When you open up for innovation, what you are after is the right idea and the right skills to orchestrate the innovation you are after, at the right time and for a right price.

The right innovation, ground breaking or just common sense, is what you need, and you may not need too much of it, or too frequently. Open innovation can get you that just one innovation with the help of magnitude of resources around the world. One doesn’t need to be a bulk buyer! But why mind a wider option to choose from!

On hearing the word “buyer”, the next question my new friend asked … “Isn’t it like open source software … free?”

Open innovation might be little like open source software when it comes to the making of it, but not the same when it comes to usage. You might still get few ideas for free, but not forever. Easier way is to not compare it with the open source software, because open innovation gets the word ‘open’ for crossing your walls and opening it up to wider resources for getting your innovation done, and not for distributing or using it for free.

Cheap maybe, but not free is open innovation.

Yes, your business may not need to innovate lot, or at least that’s what you think for now! either way innovation can become addiction and this one is a good one.

Just as innovation is the lifeline for multinationals, it is for a one person business, a newly found means “open innovation” walks the same path.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Groupthink – Please agree!

The Meeting or a brainstorming session is a well accepted technique to come together in a room for idea generation. I have participated in these sessions many times and have come out of it feeling ‘time well spent’, I am sure you too have.

Of many observations, I want to talk about the small problem of ‘herd mentality’, and how it might affect the outcome in a big way.

a) An idea put on the board blocks others to think in different direction.
b) Pressure to generate idea might make one agree of someone else’s idea.
c) A wrong belief might set in - if most of us are thinking in one direction then that must be the correct direction.

“Iraq has weapons of mass destruction” – Half the world believed so at one point of time.

“Kashmir is root for the India Pakistan problem” – All the Pakistan rulers say this as part of their swearing in.

“The foam rupture is too small to create any problem for NASA’s Challenger” – The statement issued by the top management, engineers on the ground kept mum.

Back to our professional world, many of you must have overcome challenges in groupthinking.

What if everybody can contribute their ideas privately, then everybody gets a peak into everybody else’s ideas privately; say everybody has to support two ideas, one of that could be their own. Brainstorming happens for the top supported ideas, for additional ideas, to take the top ideas to the next level of details, and on how it needs to be executed. Doing this might eliminate the issues of herd mentality mentioned above.

“Individuality into the group thinking” is better than plain “individual thinking” or plain “group thinking”.

Check it out; your group may not think that groupthink is a problem!