Weekend Reads: Lessons in Corporate Innovation & Product Mindset

Some weekend reads for those in the world of digital, technology, innovation, organisational transformation and beyond.

Photo Credit: Valeriia Miller: https://unsplash.com/@iyamiphotography

Some things are just difficult to get moving.

Trying to change the direction of an organisation that has been operating the same way for decades is a bit like attempting to move an aircraft carrier with a jetski.

This is an analogy I have used for many years in multiple roles, as once there is some movement, then the resistance becomes less over time and also there is traction, which leads to momentum, which in turn leads to the small wins and successes (plus lessons from failures) becoming the norm, at a wider and wider scale.

So, it made me smile to read Tendayi Viki’s tweet this week on how some of this pushback and resistance, in relation to corporate innovation, comes from the very leaders who claim to want that change in the first place.h

You wouldn’t choose to move an aircraft carrier with a jetski, so therefore his piece on the shortcuts that leaders should avoid and the lessons therein is, I feel, critical to not just innovation but also organisational transformation.

The 10 key shortcuts to avoid are and the emphasis is mine:

1. There Is No Innovation Strategy

The leadership in a company should provide clear guidance of the arenas that innovation teams should be exploring. The shortcut taken here is to simply tell teams to work on cool stuff without guidance.

2. The CEO Has No Time

The CEO should spend 20%-40% of their time on innovation. The shortcut taken by most CEOs is to spend less than 10% of their time on innovation. Without leadership support, most innovation programs don’t succeed in the long term.

3. We Are Working On Only Two Ideas

The shortcut taken here is to not make multiple bets but choose two or three big bets. In such a scenario, the chosen ideas are ‘condemned to succeed’.

4. Innovation Has No Power

The shortcut taken here is to appoint a Head Of Innovation with two layers of reporting above her and zero access to the CEO. (one I know very well)

5. We Don’t Want To Talk To The Core Business

The shortcut taken here is for innovation teams to avoid any contact with these key functions until their ideas are ready for launch. In particular, innovation teams love to avoid the Legal and Compliance function. This becomes a problem because these functions are not going to simply sign off on your idea once it’s ready for launch.

6. We Reward Hitting Revenue Targets

The shortcut taken here is to stick to the traditional model of incentivizing the accomplishment of revenue targets. This puts innovation teams whose ideas fail at a disadvantage and incentivizes people to work only on ideas they are confident will succeed.

7. Innovation Teams Work Part-Time

The shortcut taken here is to allow teams to work on innovation projects part-time. We are lucky if we get teams that can dedicate over 30% of their time on any given innovation project.

8. We Want Detailed Business Plans

Given the time it takes to create a business plan, this should really be referred to as the long cut. However, the shortcut taken here is that leaders want to make investment decisions without the teams having tested or validated their ideas.

9. There Is No Innovation Skills Building

The shortcut taken here is to invest in the smallest amount of training possible. The question I often get asked is why the company needs to invest in a four-day bootcamp. Can we not cut the days in half and cover the same content?

10. An Excessive Focus On Ideation

The shortcut taken here is to constantly seek the ephemeral sparkle of ideation at the expense of long term results. The hard part in innovation is not the ideas, but adapting them until you have a value proposition that customers care about embedded in a profitable and scalable business model.

Sound familiar? As you can see from this great list of shortcuts and approaches to avoid, they also resonate in the world of business and digital transformation, as a large number of principles required to embed innovation across an organisation are the same required to embed a new way of working, operating and thinking as an organisation.

The Top 10 Innovation Shortcuts Company Leaders Should Avoid

Yet, one of the biggest lessons for leaders and organisations is that the major factor that allows innovation to thrive, the potential and power of your people collectively to be unleashed and to drive continuous improvement of all products, services and experiences is mindset.

I talk a lot about a ‘digital mindset’ but it is worth also reflecting on the value of a product mindset, which is tuned to asking ‘why’ more and be ‘less certain’, more often.

So, a great piece as the second weekend read by Chris Butler (from Cognizant) on his experiences of ‘training’ this mindset across clients and companies, which can provide leaders with a more rounded view on how to approach problems, to ask better questions and also challenge the reality around them

What is the Product Mindset?

Asking better questionsfocusing on the ‘why’ and developing a mindset that allows you to be more curious bridge both of these read this weekend.

The world needs more leaders who hold these 3 principles true, as the future (and present) is uncertain, but if we are able to work together, with a mindset that is grounded in these principles, then it will be a better place for all.

Thank you for your time and attention, onwards & upwards.

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