Your New Year’s Resolution for Collaborative Innovation

The New Year offers a quiet time for reflection and reappraisal over a fine, locally brewed winter lager. How will I spend my time wisely? What will I do better? What will I do differently? Do I return the juicer from Aunt Ethel? In his first article of 2013, innovation architect Doug Collins suggests a New Year resolution for people who practice collaborative innovation.

People make two kinds of resolutions: resolutions to start a new practice and resolutions to increase or intensify a practice they have underway. The former offers for example the time-honored declarations to stop smoking and to start exercising. The latter offers fewer examples. The individual who runs five kilometers a day does not think to resolve to run six in the New Year. The individual who reads one book of good literature each month does not think to resolve to read two. I do not know why the former trumps the latter. To me, a resolution to increase or intensify an existing practice seems more attainable than a resolution that requires the individual to wade into unfamiliar territory by way of embracing a new practice.

My advice: if you decide to resolve a course of action in the New Year, take the safer route. Choose an activity that benefits you today. Commit to doing more of it tomorrow. Live a life of fierce intensity.

Now, to the Practice of Collaborative Innovation

In this spirit I offer for your consideration the following idea for a resolution for people who have embarked on the practice of collaborative innovation within their organization or within their community.

Consider: in 2012 you embraced the blueprint for collaborative innovation as your framework for authentic, productive engagement. You found ways to map your organization’s strategic intent with the critical questions to pose to your community. You mapped a series of internally and externally focused enquiries to pursue. You mapped and managed a day in the life of each challenge from the front to the back end of innovation. You smiled as your fellows began to more fully realize their potential for leadership in the culture that you helped to create.

You are in effect running five miles a day. What might it mean to run six?

Hello, Neighbor

My suggestion: resolve to introduce three new leaders in your organization or community to the practice in order to intensify your practice. Why three? Why not three?

What I find – especially in larger organizations – is that practitioners fall into a rut in terms of their engagement. They find a person or persons who resonate with the practice. These friendly souls perceive the benefits; they enjoy the results. The wheel squeaks. The practitioner applies liberal amounts of grease. Time passes. Life is good.

Where to begin? Take two steps…

  • Map the strategic grid to your organizational chart to find new ground.
  • Introduce yourself to the new leaders.

Mapping New Ground

I recommend that you print a copy of the grid that depicts intent. Today, many enquiries informed by the practice of collaborative innovation start as a function of exploring the customer experience or associate engagement.

Next, print a copy of your organizational chart as a way to see the whole of your organization.

Now, try mapping your org chart to the grid to identify the white space for your practice. For example, you may see that in 2012 you had no exchange with your marketing group. Yet you know that the leader – the CMO – wants to improve the customer experience. Specifically, they seek ways to engage authentically with customers by applying social media (figure 1).

Figure 1: mapping intent to new people with whom to engage

Click to enlarge

Congratulations: you identified your first area of white space for extending your practice in 2013. Find two more areas to keep your resolution.

Dear John…

Next, introduce yourself to this individual. Resolve to engage in productive outreach in 2013. A draft inquiry follows.

Dear John,

I apologize for contacting you out of the blue. By way of introduction I serve as the manager of our organization’s Kaleidoscope Zero program for collaborative innovation. In 2012, Kaleidoscope, for example, helped the leaders of the Loosest Nut project find innovative ways to reduce waste water discharge by 40% at our Suwanee facility, saving USD 800,000 annually in utility and permitting charges.

The reason why I am contacting you is to enquire as to whether Kaleidoscope may be of value to the marketing group in 2013. I know, for example, from your recent briefing to the Project Delta tiger team that you seek this year to foment deeper engagement with our customers through applications of social media. We find from our experience that the enquiry-led form of collaborative innovation and the co-creation that ensues in an externally-focused challenge (or series of challenges) can lead to powerful forms of engagement with lead users.

Please let me know your interest. We support Kaleidoscope with a robust practice that helps you to articulate your intent, map the forums for your enquiries, and manage a day in the life of your challenge with minimal time commitment. Mapping the practice through Kaleidoscope with social media opens interesting possibilities.

Your most obedient servant,

Augie Tutweiller
Manager, Kaleidoscope Zero program for collaborative innovation

Onwards and Upwards

You committed to the practice of collaborative innovation in 2012. Resist going off on a tangent in 2013 by, for example, resolving to master the contrabassoon during your lunch breaks. No good will come of this plan.

Instead, commit to intensifying your practice by engaging new people in 2013. Explore more deeply the mechanics of engagement, negotiation, and persuasion that, as attributes of leadership that define the practice, enable people to cross the canyon from the front to the back end of innovation. Grow what you know. In doing so you reinvent yourself in order to better prepare yourself to embrace the future.

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.

  • Thomas Petersen

    We need to understand how to build and increase our connections to build community, I also believe that their is a dimension to not only find the white space of connections but also build the network with a purpose as you try with the “grid” approach. Thereis also a ways to increase insight by using different type of network analysis to explore questions as, do I need higher diversification in the community network, what is the optimiced level of diversification but also what type of connections do I need depending objective. I will continue read more of your posts. /Thomas