It’s often said Canadian businesses aren’t innovating enough and we risk losing our competitiveness. Let’s explore an innovation process that’s part of a business relationship mapping tool I recently designed.
Below is a graph of part of the innovation process:
First, let’s look at goals. You can have immediate goals such as improving team communication or you can have longer term goals such as designing a new product.
Second, let’s establish some parameters and metrics. Parameters are guidelines that those working to achieve the goal must respect. There may be few parameters – the only thing that matters is that the time delivers by X date, budget-smudget (that doesn’t happen often). You can also have the scenario of having many parameters: the project must conclude by X date, within Y budget, using ABC personnel.
There’s another way of looking at parameters and that’s using parameters to stretch the innovation. Project must be done by X date using newly developed resources. What are those resources? Don’t know – that’s part of the innovation and resourcefulness of this particular project.
Third, you need to look at your existing network. What are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, what are the knowledge gaps? Then you can start putting feelers out to see who is interested in participating and has the skills and knowledge to compliment your existing team.
Fourthly, you get to be resourceful, scrounge, create, and beg for new resources.
Fifthly, you implement and measure your impact.
If you look at how you are managing people, constraints and resources, you can then start to have different conversations. From those different conversations, all sorts of wonderful impacts can follow.
I’d like to hear from you if you’ve tried to apply this model. Let me know what you think.
Last week I gave a talk on ‘Unique Selling Propositions – The Innovation in the Outliers’. I presented a number of market trends. During my talk I encouraged participants to ask questions and share their own experiences.
One of the changes we talked about is the centralisation/decentralisation trend. Some companies are centralising resources, workflow, funds, and decisions. Others are horizontalising, spreading out the decision-making and resources.
A participant worked in the creative industry. He saw how there was a big push to decentralise products and services, work with a collection of contractors instead of one large entity, and seek revenues from alternative sources such as crowdfunding to get projects off of the ground.
Another attendee had a foot in two worlds: one product she was selling was through a highly centralised model and a second product she was selling was through a highly decentralised model.
There’s value in aligning yourself with a trend. There’s also value in intentionally not participating in it. To generate the most benefit for your clients and dollar for your efforts, you need to understand how your target market will want to receive their product.
Whenever you hear about market trends, I encourage you to think about these questions:
Have you recently changed some of your business practices to incorporate market changes? How did that work out for you? I’d like to know more about it.
When we think of budgets we often think of financial budgets. In my interactions with entrepreneurs and small business owners, I’ve come to realise that there are two other kinds of budgets: time and mental energy. These other two budgets also play a critical role in how well a business is run.
Let’s look at the first kind of budget: money. Tracking cash flow is an obvious budget. You don’t know how much you can spend (or should spend) unless you know how much you are earning. An obvious thing to do. Sometimes tricky to implement. But entirely doable.
The second budget: time. Something may be really interesting to do. The time it will take to do it doesn’t work with the rest of your schedule. Rushing from one project to another is exhausting. Eventually competing deadlines will conflict. When thinking of taking on new work – also consider how much time you have.
The third budget: mental energy. Sometimes you have the money and time to do something. You look at a project and think this could work. When you start getting into the details of the project, all of your energy starts to wane. It becomes difficult to get the simplest of tasks done. You end up hating the project and the work. That’s never a good sign.
When you’re deciding whether to take on new work, take into account these three budgets. If you are interested in the work but the project would stretch one or more of these budgets, approach colleagues to see if you can negotiate a better balance.
I changed my twitter profile to say that Canada needs to create 3 million jobs. I should qualify that – 3 million middle class jobs. It might sound like a crazy number but keep in mind that the CBC recently reported that Canada could lose up to 7.5 million jobs because of automation.
The need to generate 3 million jobs is simply to address current economic realities. Below I outline how I think Canadian companies can generate these jobs.
I think the bulk of these jobs will be generated by small and medium sized businesses that see the potential in doing things differently. By that I mean they stop spinning their wheels trying to sell to the biggest company in town and start doing more business with other companies. The economy goes from a pyramid, trying to sell to the company on top, and becomes more of a spider web with an array of relationships.
Doing things differently means that companies rethink how they interact with their employees. Wise employers realise that they need to expand development opportunities for their employees. Innovative companies encourage their staff to bring all of their talents to work. They also provide opportunities for employees to own a piece of the company (private shares, cooperatives, other arrangements).
When people can bring more of their talents to work, they want to contribute more, share and inspire. Being allowed to be an authentic person increases opportunities for innovation.
Companies can generate 3 million jobs by rethinking their business ecosystems. Some relationships work. Other relationships offer false hopes and time sinks. False hopes come in the form of thinking someone else will come in and rescue your company. They won’t. Only you will steer your company in a new direction.
And then there are time sinks. You think you are being productive when in fact you’re not. Once unproductive behaviours are hacked away, then true innovation and growth can occur.
I’m looking to create a group of small businesses to participate in a round of workshops to innovate and grow. If you’re interested, contact me directly.
In 2015, it was estimated that the long-term costs of unresolved workplace conflict cost the Canadian economy $16.1 billion. At a time when businesses are struggling and innovation is lagging, Canadian businesses can’t afford to ignore conflict. There are interesting ways to transform destructive conflict (a cost and liability) into innovation. Here’s how:
Conflict isn’t something to be shied away from. Exploring conflict internally and in relationships can lead to new ideas, new relationships, new ways of using resources, new ways of engaging in business. Put all together when well managed conflict can lead to innovation in all aspects of a company. Which type of conflict will you explore today?
Let’s face it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by phone calls, emails, office politics, deadlines, and personal life demands. All of these drains on our attention make it difficult for us to focus, be creative and invest in relationships that are truly important and worthwhile. It’s difficult as a leader to motivate others when you’re stressed, to encourage others when there are many distractions, and to engage in meaningful conversations when everything seems to be interrupted.
Instead of trying getting stressed about what you might be missing or not doing well, simplify simply:
Productivity doesn’t equal time sitting behind computer or hours worked. Start paying attention to your day – when do you feel focused, when do you feel distracted, when do you feel tired. Change one thing in how you organise your day to better align with your own rhythm. Experiment. Play around with scheduling
When distractions are carved away, people can see the work they really need to do to accomplish their goals. When the weight of being overwhelmed is removed, suddenly there’s all sort of energy and passion for the work. Simplifying all at once can be daunting. Strip away the busy and allow the productive to emerge.
I was enjoying a coffee with a friend of mine. We were reflecting on some of the changes we’ve been experiencing in the past few years. Some of the changes were easy and empowering. Other changes were more difficult to process as they demanded that we confront ourselves. This led us to talk about wisdom and how people can acquire insight.
I reflected some more on our conversation. Life’s lessons aren’t always obvious. They very much come in the form of heavy weights pressing down on us. Sometimes we can lift the weight and emerge stronger. Other times we ignore the load and remain stuck, burdened by what we can and cannot see.
As leaders we must first lead ourselves. And leading ourselves means finding the courage to try to understand the weight that fell on our heads. Once we figure out its significance, we gain wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t come easily. Once the weight of wisdom is lifted, we grow stronger.
In ancient Rome, roughly 1 in 3 people in Italy were slaves. There was concern in the Roman senate that slaves would cause a rebellion. The Roman senate debated the idea that all slaves wear the same colour toga – so that Roman citizens could know the status of the person to whom they were addressing. After much deliberation, the Roman senate decided against the measure arguing that if slaves could easily identify themselves they would plot against Romans.
Fast forward to today. There are many changes occurring in business. Many entrepreneurs are struggling to implement change, seek out investors, and develop something new. Quite often entrepreneurs will dilute their original idea to fit in – not to sell, not to gain investors, not a better version of their original idea – but to fit in and blend in. Basically to become wall paper, it’s there but no one notices it. I think this does a great disservice to the entrepreneur, the markets and society as a whole.
Instead, I suggest that entrepreneurs wear their togas. Stand out. Be different. Show everyone just how unique your company is. Only then will you be able to find like-minded partners, truly interested parties, and potential sales. If people see your toga as blending in with that of everyone else, then they don't see you. Wear your new toga with pride.
I recently gave a presentation on mentoring and how to create a mentoring program for your company. One of the participants asked how he could convince management about the importance of having a mentoring program. In a nutshell, this was my answer to him:
Begin with the basics. If management needs to be convinced that a mentoring program is needed, then you need to have another kind of conversation first. The conversation you should be having with management is how they view employees. If management sees employees as disposable that mentality needs to be addressed first. If management doesn’t see the purpose of investing in employees’ professional development, then that dialogue needs to happen before any mention of the creation of a mentoring program.
Whether looking to expand employee benefits, creating a mentoring program, fostering innovation, all of the fun and exciting things that workplaces say they want to do, start looking at the things that prevent these conversations. Start addressing conflict, poor communication, workplace bullying, inappropriate tools, uncomfortable furniture and weak leadership. Once there’s a solid foundation in place, then you find yourself with more energy, time and engagement from your coworkers to build a thriving workplace.
Some 12 years ago events piqued my curiosity on the economy. Since then I’ve become deeply interested in economic trends, systems-analysis of economic issues, economic numbers, and solutions. It is my personal belief that Canada needs to create at least 2.5 million net new jobs to begin to (re)experience prosperity. It is my belief that the majority of these jobs need to be export related. I’m happy to go over with you how I reached that number – just ask me. Really –go on, just ask me.
Over the past few years I’ve been engaging entrepreneurs and business owners -- and pretty much anyone who will listen -- on economic matters. I mentioned the soft economy. Job growth is often not as strong as wanted or needed. Profits and margins are low. I noted weak productivity increase and slow innovation. There were other trends that I mentioned. Cold hard reality facts.
One of the participants suggested that I was too negative. That I shouldn’t mention to entrepreneurs and business owners how weak the current economy is, that I shouldn’t mention how stuck many companies are and how stagnant current efforts at business innovation are. In good faith and with sincerity, the participant suggested that this perspective would shake business confidence, demotivate participants from being creative and generally be a downer.
I thought about it. And then I came to the realisation that until someone recognises the cold hard facts as they are, nothing will change. The alcoholic will not seek rehabilitation until they chose to. In drunken stupors all will seem fine because the haze is considered normal. They chose to seek support to become sober when they know and understand they have a problem they can’t fix on their own. The athlete will not seek a professional coach until they realise that their practices and methods will only get them so far in the competitive leagues. If they are sincere in advancing their performance, then will seek out professional athletic coaches.
I think the same is true for entrepreneurs and businesses. When entrepreneurs and businesses come to grips with the harsh numbers of today’s economy, the sagging productivity, the stiffness of competition, the painfully low margins, the rising of barriers to access to resources and networks, then and only then will they be motivated to think up new solutions and implement them. First admit there is a problem. Second come to terms with the problem (it won’t go away on its own). Then thirdly, start working on the problem’s solution.
Bottom line: face the brutal economic reality for what it is – take a moment to gather strength and courage, and then press forward boldly and innovatively.
PS: Thank you Jen for helping me find my voice in expressing the sober yet opportunity-laden impressions of business.
Allo there ~ I'm Renée and this is my blog on leadership and business development. Here I explore the nexus between leadership, conflict resolution, networks, innovation and prosperity.