This article is perhaps more relevant now than when it was originally written. The balance seems to be shifting rapidly and those who once led the world in terms of Innovation are struggling a little and those who considered themselves to be lagging behind are feeling the wind in their sails.
I often get asked about the pace of innovation in different countries or their ability to innovate. Many such questions come from people whose awareness of global issues is sadly lacking and who represent so called developed countries. The answer I give to them is the same as the one I give to those in less developed countries who are seeking inspiration and motivation for their efforts.
My own personal definition of Innovation is purely based on Human Capital so I choose a metaphor that involves people. Think of Innovation as a race, but with a difference. Some runners have an advantage in that they start further ahead, perhaps because of a time or resource advantage and some start with varying degrees of disadvantage.
Those initially at the front may be well trained and have the latest sparkly gear but they are running almost as fast as they can – improvements being measured only in small amounts. Our runners at the rear will acquire the trappings of leading athletes such as running gear, coaches etc in due course.
There are still two very important factors to consider. How long is the race and how fast can those at the back run? The race we are in is, I believe, a long one with sustainability and resilience to crises being key. So, the longer race will provide greater opportunity for less developed countries to narrow the gap. If their natural talent is greater than developed countries, the race could be close.
My word of warning to those in the lead currently is never underestimate the opposition and look over your shoulder once in a while. My words of encouragement to those at the rear is to believe in your talent.
2012 will be an exciting year!
Do you think that we should consider cancelling Christmas?
No this is not a manifesto from a fringe group who are avoiding the frayed nerves and expense associated with Christmas Shopping, cooking, boisterous children and upset tummies. Christmas is a time where a million and one things must happen and be in place (more or less) by the time presents are unwrapped on Christmas day.
To be honest most of us manage it. We enjoy (or tolerate) the influx of friends and family and for once we seem capable of multi tasking i.e. having a drink, fixing the tree, carving the turkey. Using Christmas as a metaphor, why can’t we do all these things in the workplace? Why can’t we encourage diversity, set objectives, plan and execute strategies?
A subtle clue might be in where the focus lies. As individuals, who do we focus on at work, who do we focus on at home (especially at Christmas)? Now think about where the most dramatic results are achieved!
So far we have considered taking Christmas to work, but what if it were to be the other way around? Just think of all of the rules which we tolerate at work, or at least put up with because it suits us. Here are just a few of the issues that might surface during the festive season:
- Tall object with pine needles – removed for health and safety reasons
- Three Wise Men – disbanded because of contravention of equal opportunities policy
- Baby in a stable – social services involved, baby now in care, animal rights protesters angry because of displaced donkeys
- Larger house needed – health and safety dictate that there is not enough floor space per human/animal/present
- Christmas dinner cancelled – no proper workstation assessment carried out on dining table and various rickety items of furniture that we use
- No presents – Santa has not been on a manual handling course
The list could be endless. There is a serious point to be made though. Yes we do need some frameworks to work within, and for someone to look out for the less fortunate and disadvantaged, but too many rules and too many people saying NO is stifling. In the current economic climate we need to bend or even break the rules where necessary.
So its time to decide whether in 2012 you wish to embrace a more creative and productive way of working or wither away under a pile of rules and red tape. Remember, if Christmas really was like work, it would be cancelled. Long live Creativity and Christmas!
This seems an odd thing to be calling for, especially when trying to sell the idea of creativity to businesses. Generating ideas for a purpose consists of divergent and convergent phases but our brains cannot handle divergence and convergence simultaneously without exploding!! Have you ever tried sitting in a group brainstorming to solve just one problem. It probably failed, partly because you selected the wrong technique but also because you were trying to do 2 things at once. Separating these phases will help but will introduce inefficiency. You will generate many more ideas (good) but you may have to spend more time sorting them out (not so good).
We also tend to build a framework around our idea generation sessions, partly because we wish them to be focused. But these restrictions on the problem/process will also have an effect on ideas and solutions generated. If you lead people down a particular path, do not be surprised if their ideas only reflect the scenery observed from the path! People must be allowed to wander off piste a little.
There is also pressure to jump from the normal state of creating relatively practical ideas to creating wacky ideas. If this is what you need to do then you will need to build up to it. People need a little practice in the techniques that they use and also some time to realise that they have permission to leave normality behind. For this reason I find that a 2 day session is better than 1, the most useful being day 2 and day 1 almost being a warm up.
To obtain maximum inefficiency:
- Allow time for distinct divergent and convergent phases
- Ensure suitably provocative stimuli
- Create an appropriate idea management system
- Use an experienced facilitator
Thanks to fellow PSA member Reg Athwal for this. In order to be creative we must dare to be different.
To maintain a healthy level of insanity…try the following 8 or 9 things
1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.
2. On all your cheque stubs, write ‘ For Marijuana.’
3. Skip down the street rather than walk and see how many looks you get.
4. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat,with a serious face.
5. Sing along at The Opera.
6. When the money comes out the ATM, scream ‘I Won! I Won!’
7. When leaving the Zoo, start running towards the Car Park, yelling ‘Run for your lives! They’re loose!’
8. Tell your children over Dinner, ‘Due to the Economy, we are going to have to let one of you go.’
And the final way to keep a healthy level of insanity.
9. Pick up a box of condoms at the pharmacy, go to the counter and ask where the fitting room is.
Share or send this to someone to make them smile. It’s called …. THERAPY
I do not claim to be an economist, I am just someone who looks at systems and situations and asks questions like ‘do we have to do it this way?’ or ‘has it always been like this?’ Here is a simpleton’s manifesto for the UK.
My soapbox moment relates to the UK economy but could apply equally to many of the countries that are experiencing economic difficulties just now.
Many parts of England and all of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are heavily dependent on the public sector for jobs. With budget cuts the UK government is telling councils and government departments that they must hack huge sums of their budgets. It sounds sensible at first until you realise that:
- The departments left behind cannot actually provide a proper service anyway
- The so called Big Society cannot plug the gaps
- The private sector cannot create jobs at the rate that the government is cutting them
- More people will end up unemployed and claiming benefits
- More unemployed equals less money spent in shops and other businesses
Does it have to be this way? What if we kept employment artificially high in the public sector but made it more capable of doing more and providing better services or slimming itself down through efficiency rather than surgery. Could we not have a situation where:
- We improve the performance of the public sector
- The Big Society can do its work without being stretched to breaking point
- We do not rely on the private sector but both sectors work together for economic prosperity
- There is no steep rise in people claiming benefit
- We continue to spend in our businesses and on the high street
I am no economist and someone far cleverer would need to do the maths but I do wonder if anyone has really considered the possible alternatives. Mr Cameron says there is no Plan B. I disagree, there are many possibilities but not all will be compatible with coalition policy.