Lessons learned from a year of innovating

Lessons learned from a year of innovating

When I look back over 2016, I can see many examples of widespread change, disruption and innovation. I can see tremendous gains and hard fought incremental improvements. But away from the big ticket items, what has really changed? Let’s take a look. Live your mantra When I worked at Nike, we had the world famous tag line, “just do it”. It’s a great, action oriented phrase that can be applied to our approach as leaders. But more importantly, it can set an agenda and a mindset across all levels of business. And when it comes to innovation – to driving outcomes of invention – this can be vitally important. Rather than seeing “just do it” as a tag line or a motto, I prefer to think of it as a mantra – something that can be thought and acted upon. Some of the leaders and businesses that have stand out mantras and business models this year include: Elon Musk’s SpaceX company is “making life multiplanetary” and blowing our minds along the way Michael Dubin’s Dollar Shave Club helps you “shave time, shave money” and was picked up by Unilever this year for $1 billion Jeff Immelt has relentlessly pursued innovation at GE, and “imagination at work” can be seen in every story told about the company in any and all media. Creating a digital strategy that sets you apart The last five years has seen a significant change in the way that we consume and produce news and media. Gone are the days of the once and done TV ad. Sure it may work for some Superbowl scale brands,...
Innovation – It’s Like Juggling Chainsaws

Innovation – It’s Like Juggling Chainsaws

Hands up who has an ideas platform. Hands up who has an innovation team or a lab. What about email? How many new business ideas would your receive in your email each week? Or month? What about informal and formal chats, hackathons or pitching competitions? There’s an abundance of ideas, right? Almost every leader I know has an “innovation backlog” – a collection of great ideas, opportunities and plans that never get implemented. Time is too short. Implementation takes too long. Or our focus on quarterly goals narrows our ability to accelerate and incubate new projects. There is always a reason – or excuse – to file an innovative idea away for later. But I firmly believe that leadership is about decision making and action. Applying lean startup principles to the business of being a leader will help us to a certain extent, but how do we go about exercising judgement? When we are inundated with information and ideas, judgement can be clouded. What we need is a way to find clarity. Prioritizing the Aha Moment One way of prioritizing your innovation backlog is to assess each idea  in terms of the “Aha moment”. By quickly scanning each of the ideas, you are looking for a moment of “realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension”. Those that don’t make that first cut can be ignored. Yes, ignored. Or better yet, deleted. As leaders we must actively trust our experience and capability. We can’t second guess our decisions each and every time. We need to back ourselves. In doing so, remember, you are not making this decision in isolation. You are...
The Five Principles of Lean Leadership

The Five Principles of Lean Leadership

When it comes to innovation, there is much that we can learn from the lean approaches taken by startups. There is the rapid iteration, hypothesis testing and measurement, that builds a dynamic, responsive organization. There is the focus on releasing products and services as part of an iteration cycle. And there is the relentless focus on customers that I have long been an advocate for – what I refer to customer oriented thinking. But in a world where change is accelerating, and where the needs of our customers, the competing demands of our stakeholders, shareholders and competitors cry out for decisions, action and differentiation, we need to find ways to react faster. To produce faster. And to create strategy on the fly. It’s no longer about customer oriented thinking but customer oriented doing. We need to find ways to apply the “thinking and doing” approach of startups to leadership. McKinsey have long argued that we need to find ways to integrate short, medium and long term strategy into our leadership capabilities. But I believe this shift in leadership is less about process and more to do with the qualities of leadership, approaches to teams and the strategic use of data to help inform decisions. For it is the rapid making of decisions – and the ability to respond to changing conditions – that’s when lean leadership comes into its own. Where the lean startup approach focuses on ideas, coding and data, lean leadership sets the conditions for maximum acceleration. This means that the leader looks to the organization, the teams and the capabilities required to deliver and execute strategy....