Written by Francesco Mantovani on 13 Oct 2016
We are almost ten years in the future; are we ready for the New World?
In this VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) your business needs speed to survive. This is especially true in order to rival your competitors. You need to either anticipate them, or run fast after their innovation. And if your products are slow-moving, you might even end up waving goodbye to your business in a few years. Look at Nokia, Blackberry, Kodak, Blockbuster and many other cases in the recent past. These once loved brands are all victims of this VUCA world. Slow moving may as well equate to not moving at all.
A question you might be asking yourself is, “what is speed?” A better way of putting this might be, “what is the speed you need and how can you ensure your people have it?”
I found the answer myself, many years ago, when one of my mentors explained to me the meaning of a popular slogan in our company: "Make a little, sell a little, learn a lot."
Employees at our company were encouraged to try new things. They were asked to go beyond the simple concept of their idea and consider the impact if their idea was to be realised. From feedback received, they were able to refine and adapt their ideas, to make them workable in the real world. It’s worth noting there's a difference from a simple intuition (a good idea) and the ability to explain how it could work and where it would be placed in the market.
I was familiar with the application of the ‘prototyping’ concept to commercial areas of the business. But, the point of making it diffused and leaving people free to try, with little barriers, to me, seemed liked magic.
In a way, it was. But the company culture could easily be killing the magic. Risk aversion is a genuine virus in big and small corporations, threatening setback and stagnation.
The IFTF called this magic "protovation". It means, ‘fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles’. If you are struggling to understand how to react faster to aggressive and innovative competitors, then that's a good starting point. You need a fearless culture, a solid reward system for protovation, a search and reapply mechanism and a bunch of risk takers motivated by the adrenaline of short term wins.
These elements blend well together. If you don't hire some risk takers, the reward system will be useless, but if you hire them and immerse them in a control-freak or double check culture, they will leave or switch off. Finally, if you hire risk takers and reward them properly, but you don't provide a platform to spread learning from their trials, you will just waste millions by making the same errors time and time again.
The attitude of people in protovation is not difficult to assess. Even by just using standard interview processes, you can consider their past experiences and look at how they react to failure.
The results of these interviews and analysis of actions taken to solve complex issues in a short amount of time will tell you if you have a "prototyper" in front of you or not.
Protovation is not the only answer to lack of innovation in some companies or industries. On top of this, we cannot completely mitigate the risk of disruptive innovation, but this grants a competitive advantage in any business where competition is high and speed is fundamental. And starting to search for this skill in your talents is never too late.