Reflections from a Tough 2010 for Innovating Differently in 2011

So here we are already in December. Budgets are being argued, numbers fixed, concepts and plans discussed, high hopes build for a successful 2011. Tell me what did we learn from 2010 from an innovation perspective that we can build upon in 2011?

For me a number of important lessons or impressions come out of 2010 that I’ll continue to build upon in 2011 as areas of opportunity for changing, challenging or clarifying. These I simply summarize in ten points for this column:

I felt 2010 was a ‘crossing point’ in innovation maturity to position us in 2011. We began to consolidate what we know, explore with growing confidence what we didn’t know and experiment in-between. That was healthy in such a tough year of uncertainty. Now we need to build on this in different ways.

  1. Firstly, “ideas and alternative solutions coming from everywhere” is now fixed in most peoples’ minds, unless you have freshly arrived from Mars. What we all need to work through  is the significant implications, the different structures and management approaches for opening up organizations to this ‘rush’ of diverse thinking.
  2. The single-fix solutions are collapsing in adoption; organizations are recognizing the ‘harder road’ of sustaining innovation takes more than one fix to solve all. It involves complex work, yet to be undertaken and painful to complete without a clear, comprehensive roadmap and depth in innovation understanding.
  3. The delivery and speed of innovation seems unrelenting but the time to market still seems stuck internally in conflicting issues and personal agendas. When will this change? 2011? All involved really need to be (seriously) challenged.
  4. ‘Defend & Extend’ seemed to rule the roost of 2010 but the early signs of ‘Disruption’ will come sweeping back in more industries to chase the elusive growth needed. Are you ready for the roller coaster effect of going over the top with your stomach in your mouth, screaming and pumped up?
  5. Capabilities, competencies and capacity all had a mixed review for progress in 2010, did we advance or stay trapped as many organizations struggled to keep or lay off people. Along the way many organizations lost their creative people, their mavericks and now they struggle to recreate that ‘buzz’.  Stability and growth need to come back somehow so it ‘allows’ for a positive build of skills, trust and knowledge retaining and 2010 was not one of those years!
  6. Social media & design thinking have raised their heads in 2010 and demanded to be integrated with innovation. The way ahead still needs to be defined for many to understand this but they have moved up in top-of-mind in 2010 and we will see some of this emerging in 2011 that will have the ‘rush to copy’, irrespective of effect.
  7. The chance to throw away much of the innovation legacy in old approaches, structures, processes etc. that we have built up ‘piece meal’ prior to the downturn was not cleared out and replaced- what a real pity! We still are trying to manage 21st problems with 20th century tools. This has just got to change soon! We lost a golden opportunity in the past year of much restructuring to address this ‘full on’.
  8. Innovation leadership got lost somewhere in 2010 to a host of crisis management issues- understandable but regrettable. Will leadership in innovation come through more in 2011? I suspect it all depends on the crisis either ‘within’ or the forces outside and the rallying call of “all hands to the innovation pump” will mean different things to different circumstances. We do need strong bolder innovation leadership to come through in 2011. Will we get it, do they, our leaders, get it?
  9. The ‘rush’ of ‘how-to’ innovation books really was plentiful, yet strangely there was little pioneering work within these, with the notable exception of the books on Business Model Innovation and Design Thinking, the majority were more to substantiate and confirm existing thinking. I certainly hope this really does change in 2011; we need fresh bolder thinking with a future perspective and imaginative thinking not just a confirming look in the rear mirror or just consolidating (part) of innovation practice.
  10. Finally, 2010 saw many restructures, write offs and layoffs but little new emerged that I felt was highly imaginative to change our fundamental thinking about ‘business as usual.’ 2010 was a year to survive but sadly not to re-engineer, perhaps this is for 2011? Those that do confront change in innovation thinking will pull ahead as business is certainly not ‘as usual’ after these past few years, it is getting (or is) very different and demanding on all of us to think and react differently. Nothing seems to stand still, it demands ‘agile’ minds.  We do need to start in ‘managing’ differently from the past and that is one big leap to make.

Any thoughts you might have had on reflections from 2010 that give us optimism (and work) for 2011?

By Paul Hobcraft

About the author

Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft is the founder of Agility Innovation Specialists that focuses on Innovation exclusively through research and consulting. Paul spends much of his time between Asia and Europe bridging East & West in cultural and innovation understanding, after living for 16 years in Asia until 2008. He has been in general management in a number of multinationals dealing primarily with start ups, turnarounds and restructures. He holds an MBA from Henley Management College, UK. His present research involves 35 different innovation themes including: the dynamics & fitness landscaping for innovation; sustaining institutional capability for innovation focusing on climate, culture with the emphasis on renewal, impact, & catalysing innovation; the required social systems, context, capability & competence building. Paul is presently located in Switzerland but maintains a base also in Singapore. Welcome to read more at: www.agilityinnovation.com
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