Depicting the Intent Behind Collaborative Innovation: the Grid

Intent guides the practice of collaborative innovation. What problem do we want to solve? What possibilities do we want to explore? In introducing his blueprint for collaborative innovation, innovation architect Doug Collins suggested applying the Balanced Scorecard as a simple, visual approach to start the conversation around intent. Recent practice with clients has him revisiting this guidance. This article presents his latest thinking.

The blueprint for collaborative innovation offers a simple, visual approach for depicting how your strategic intent maps to the forums where you apply the practice which map to the process by which you support a campaign or challenge (figure 1). I introduced the blueprint in an article. Its structure organizes the chapters in Innovation Architecture.

Figure 1: the blueprint for collaborative innovation

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In its simplicity the blueprint offers the promise of clarity and, thus, understanding. Campaign sponsors and managers can tell the story of their practice on one page over coffee in the morning and drinks in the evening.

Robert Kaplan and David Norton developed the balanced scorecard. It, too, offers a simple, visual approach for telling the story of one’s strategy on a page. Thus, when I developed the blueprint, I adopted their scorecard for intent. I saw no reason to build a better mousetrap: their approach keeps the population well in check.

Experience tells me that I can expect to learn something new each time I engage clients, causing me to revisit it again and again.

I published the blueprint last spring. Since then, I have through my own practice with clients gained deeper perspective into the intent that drives many sponsors and their campaign teams. In time I began to sketch this newly found insight as a way to initiate dialogue around campaign formation. I share my sketch in this article. Consider it a work in progress. Experience tells me that I can expect to learn something new each time I engage clients, causing me to revisit it again and again.

Intent Revisited: the Grid

Figure 2 depicts the sketch in its basic form. The attribute of customer experience defines the X axis. Customer experience resolves to customer satisfaction in the positive X direction and revenue (for the campaign sponsor’s organization) in the negative X direction. Positive and negative do not connote value in this context. They describe only dimensions of customer experience. Organizations seek to maximize customer satisfaction. They also seek to maximize revenues they receive from customers. The former drives the latter in part. Organizations can maximize revenues, too, by delivering new product and service innovations to the market, for example.

The attribute of associate experience defines the Y axis. Associate experience resolves to associate engagement in the positive Y direction and associate productivity in the negative Y direction. Here again, positive and negative do not connote value. Organizations seek to maximize associate engagement. They also seek to maximize associate productivity. The former drives the latter in part. Organizations can maximize productivity, too, by introducing new technologies and by offering opportunities for associates to gain new competencies, for example.

In other words, the attributes that define the axes are not universal in the way that the attributes that define the balanced scorecard are universal. Every organization, profit or non-profit, has a set of financial metrics that define success or survival, for example. Rather, the attributes reflect my empirical understanding of what forms of intent drive the many collaborative innovation campaigns that I have experienced of late.

Figure 2: depicting in a grid the intent that drives many collaborative innovation campaigns

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The grid can offer further context to campaign sponsors and their teams, as shown in figure 3. Campaigns that map to the upper right half of the grid, as delineated by the dashed diagonal line, tend to speak to “soft” metrics: metrics that do not imply financial results, directly.

For example, organizations embrace the Net Promoter Score as a way to measure customer satisfaction. The Net Promoter Score is not a financial metric. Rather, organizations find that improved Net Promoter Scores can lead to improved financial results, as more customers choose to continue doing business with the organization and recommend to their friends that they do so, as well.

By comparison, revenue—either more revenue per customer or more customers providing the organization with the same amount of revenue per account is a financial metric: a “hard” number, if you will.

Delineating between campaigns that result in outcomes that enable the sponsor and their team to speak to “hard” and “soft” results does not serve as an invitation or a suggestion to develop a balanced mix of campaigns by this yardstick. For example, if your customers leave you in droves because you offer appallingly bad customer service, then concerning yourself with growing “share of wallet” by way of increasing revenue per customer is stupid. Common sense and your shareholders suggest that you instead focus your energies and campaigns on innovating to improve customer satisfaction before the hemorrhaging installed base kills the patient.

Figure 3: overlaying hard and soft dimensions to the intent grid

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The Grid in Action

If the idea of adding the grid as a new tool in your practice toolkit intrigues you, then you may ask, “Well, how might I apply the grid to my situation?” I respect your pragmatism.

To date, I have pursued two application scenarios.

In the first scenario, when facilitating campaign formation sessions (please see an earlier article on “The Three C’s” for more information on this topic), I now draw the grid on a white board or provide it on a piece of paper in order to encourage and guide dialogue with the campaign team. I welcome campaign teams to draw lines through the attributes that define the X and Y axes, replacing customer and associate experience with ones that better reflect their specific scenario. More often than not, however, the grid serves as a reasonable place to start the conversation. Campaign team members can approach the grid as a group exercise. Or, they can each complete their own grid and then share their perspective with their colleagues. These variations in engagement represent classic forms of facilitation.

In the second scenario, once the campaign team alights on a focus area for their challenge question to the community, the grid serves as a useful point of reference for mapping multiple dimensions to the enquiry. For example, the campaign may focus on maximizing customer satisfaction. If they place the focus in the right half of the grid, then they indicate that they tie associate engagement to customer satisfaction (i.e., more engaged associates lead to more satisfied customers).

As always with intent—grid or no grid, no “right” answer awaits the campaign sponsor and their team. Instead, the grid and in a larger sense the practice of collaborative innovation serve as a means by which the campaign sponsor, team, and community can realize their potential for leadership through the means by which they form and resolve their challenges.

Figure 4 shows the blueprint with the grid as a second way to depict intent. Choose the way that works for you.

Figure 4: the blueprint with the grid as the means to depict intent

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By Doug Collins

About the author:


Doug Collins is an Innovation Architect who has specialized in the fuzzy front end of innovation for over 15 years. He has served a variety of roles in helping organizations navigate the fuzzy front end by creating forums, venues, and approaches where the group can convene to explore the critical question. As an author, Doug explores the critical questions relating to innovation in his book Innovation Architecture, Practical Approaches to Theory, Collaboration and Implementation. The book offers a blueprint for collaborative innovation. His bi-weekly column appears in the publication Innovation Management.

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