Innovation_teams

Thinking about innovation

As a British citizen, the image I have of innovators is the kooky inventor working on some mad cap idea in a cluttered shed at the bottom of their garden. Though it is true that the eccentric genius is very much part of innovation, in truth many of the challenges that organisations face cannot be solved by a single person, the self-declared thought leader or by someone with an expertise in a single knowledge area or discipline.

The aftermath of the pandemic is complex, there is no one single end point or clear picture about “what next” and for many companies who have invested heavily in data analytics, what can you glean from data in a business landscape that has been interrupted for 18 months especially as we do not yet know what the implications are on society, demographics or human behaviour.  The research landscape over the next ten years is going to be incredibly dynamic as the fall out of “this” begins to be understood.

If no one know what comes next...

But if no one knows what comes next, it is going to take collaboration and collaboration to work out how to innovate as the new world emerges. The difficulty of course is thinking about thinking together is not easy at the best of times, it is ten times more difficult where our normal paradigms have been rendered obsolete.  Organisational thinking has been focused on three core truths: a robust business model, clarity about the market and a responsive organisational design.  All three truths in flux.  Pre-pandemic the Industrial revolution 4.0 and the utilisation of artificial intelligence and machine learning was dominating innovation, today we are in an era that supersedes that but will still be impacted by it.

Now, more than at anytime in my lifetime, the word “unprecedented” is rightly applied.  The management models and business structures that developed last century are a blockage to rigorously questioning ideas and assumptions about fundamental business truths.  It is time for new thinking about models of organisation, business and work, new thinking that is long overdue. 

In such unprecedented times we need to think about our thinking.  But thinking in a vacuum is pointless.  If we are to question perceived knowledge, reject anecdotal or non-scientific evidence and examine the source of information we need to avoid forums that allow bias and prejudice to creep in.  We need to become both open-minded and well-informed, and yet develop the skills and knowledge required to judge the quality of an argument and draw cautious yet evidence-based conclusions. 

The pandemic has supercharged the requirement to rigorously questions ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value.  To BE innovative in this space with need to invite in new perspectives to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings we though we knew were right represents the entire picture.  Seeking innovation in this new space therefore needs us to innovate HOW we approach our thinking and being open to find out that what we thought was right is not.

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