Creativity in Solving Complex Problems

The other day, at the end of my seminar on “Solving Complex Engineering Problems” a delegate asked me as to whether the entire process of solving complex problems can be automated in some way by means of a software instead of relying on human creativity.

Such a response wasn’t unexpected. In the corporate world the word “creativity” is often looked at with suspicion. They would rather prefer structured and standard approaches like “brainstorming” at 10.00 am sharp or team work or collaborative effort, which in my opinion do little to help anyone solve complex problems or even address complex problems correctly.

That might be the single most important reason why “complex problems” remain unresolved for years affecting profitability and long term sustenance of an organization. Failing to resolve complex problems for years often earns such problems the sobriquet of “wicked problems”, which means that such problems are too tough for “any expert” to come to grips with.

What they sadly miss out is the role of creativity in solving complex problems, which no automation or technology can ever replicate. They miss this because most organizations systemically smother or mercilessly boot out any remnant of creativity in their people since they think that it is always easier to control and manage a regimented workforce devoid of even elementary traces of creativity.

So, is managing creativity and creative people a messy affair? On the surface it seems so. This is simply because we generally have a vague idea of what drives, inspires and really sustains creativity?

Creativity is not about wearing hair long or wearing weird clothes, singing strange tunes, coming to office late and being rude to bosses for no apparent reasons. These things hardly make anyone creative or help anyone become a more creative person.

Actually, things like “being attentive and aware”, “sensitive”, “passionate”, “concerned”, “committed” and above all “inventive” just might be the necessary ingredients to drive, inspire and sustain creativity.

Why?

Though there are many ways of describing and defining creativity what I like best is – “creativity is the expression of one’s understanding and expression of oneself” – deeper the understanding better the expression of creativity.

When we look at creativity in this manner it is obvious that we are all creative though the expression and its fidelity might vary to a great extent. Clearly, some are simply better than others.

Further, if creativity may be thought about as a process, then the inputs and the clarity of understanding of ourselves are more valuable elements of the system than the outputs that the process anyway consistently churns out (remember the uncountable hours we spent in organization meeting, discussing and brainstorming to solve complex problems).

In these days of economic depressions, organizations can really do themselves a huge favor if only they pay more attention to facilitating such inputs to people rather than get overtly worried about control and management by conformity.

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Predicting Black Swans – Part II

In the earlier post we dealt with the concept of predicting a ‘black swan‘.

In this post, I intend to explore the concept a bit more: what exactly we monitor to notice a ‘black swan’ in time?

In doing so we would be forced to consider the natural response of a system.

The starting point of our exploration would be to understand how any system, as a whole, whether natural or engineered, would disturbed by a ‘black swan’.  A system is disturbed in three possible ways, which are as follows:

a) A system loses energy till it reaches a tipping point

b) A system gains more and more energy till it crosses the point of system resilience

c) A part of a system emits more energy than it is normally supposed to, that is going beyond the linear response of the part. 

So the natural way to watch a system to expect a ‘black swan’ in time, is to keep a tab on the ‘energy’ of a system in the following ways:

a) Monitor the entropy of a system. As a system functions the entropy of a system gradually rises till it hits a threshold limit indicating the appearance of a ‘black swan’ or an outlier. 

b) Monitor the energy gain of a system till it crosses the ‘resilience’ point to give birth to a ‘black swan’, outlier or a ‘wicked problem’. 

c) Monitor critical parts of a system for excess emission of energy till it goes beyond the linear response of a part. 

It is useful to remember that energy is transferred in ‘quanta‘ or in packets of energy. Therefore, it is natural to expect jumps of energy levels as we record by capturing the different manifestation of energy levels on monitoring trend charts. So when a ‘jump’ is big enough to cross a threshold limit or resilience point or linear response level indicated by its presence outside the Gaussian distribution range  we can be quite sure that a ‘black swan’ or an outlier or a ‘wicked problem’ would soon arrive on the scene. We call such an indicator as a signal.

Therefore, the central idea is to capture such signals in time, just before a ‘black swan’ makes it way to appear on the scene to dominate and change the system.

However, the question is how early can we detect that signal to effectively deal with the inherent ‘black swan’ in a system, which is yet to appear on the scene?

That would be explored in the next post.

General Principles and Methods of Rapidinnovation

The following forms part of the course notes for the workshop on Rapidinnovation I would conduct on 26th April 2013 at Indian Chamber of Commerce, Kolkata.

 General Principles and Methods of Rapidinnovation:

A) Management Perspectives:

1. Follow your aspirations but check the facts (failures are all around) and re-purpose if need be.

2. Aspiration shapes strategy; Strategy provides vision; Failures stop us from arriving at vision; Improvisation/innovations to eliminate failures pave the way to arrive at the vision.

3. Take failures of any system as the starting point of learning and leadership. Learn to face failures and fears through improvisation and innovation to balance both efficiency and effectiveness.

4. Through inventions, innovations and improvisations we can release the untapped potential of any organization for higher Productivity, Performance and Profitability simply free of cost giving on-going benefits.

B) Read on-going organizational stories:

5. What is going on?

6. What does it mean?

7. What might we do about it?

C) The nature of failures: Catching the snake

8. All failures in organizations are stories of tiredness & unhappiness of the human spirit. However, no management would like to fail. The Loss to the society is irredeemable. What might we do about it?

 

9. Whatever is visible would fail; whatever is invisible drives all failures.

10. Whatever fails is never the cause or culprit of the failure.

11. All failures are stories of interdependence.

12. Problems only appear when the necessary conditions to solve or resolve them are present.

13. The solution/resolution of any problem lies in the ‘motion’ of the problem itself.

D) The underlying process: PLS3D Awareness

14. Pay attention to a failure or problem or issue, called a point (Point)

15. Connect other points (Line)

16. Connect the lines to form surfaces (Surface)

17. Create a 3 Dimensional view of the failures and problems (3D)

18. Transcend the 3D view (Beyond)

E) What we might do:

19. Achieve balance of forces and fields through re-design

20. Balance contradictions

21. Eliminate imperfections within the interactions

22. Change quantity to improve or change quality

23. Allow ‘negation of negation’ to its natural conclusions.

24. Optimize time between negations.

25. Recreate a new story by changing the stories that cause failures.

F) Learning:

26. Learning is a personal responsibility. It is about personal mastery.

27. Collaboratively learn through self-study, observations, thoughts of others, interactions with peers and mentors and feedback from your own work since learning, understanding and gaining insights might not possibly happen in one stroke.

28. To learn continuously and deeply stop learning; do, think, reflect, experience deeply, bring your unique perspective into anything; be the discipline; arrive at wisdom

29. Use the stories of all failures in an organization to develop training and education within the organization.

30. Luckily, all of that happen in a blink through perseverance and patience, aided by the power of emergent complexity of our 800 MB human genome in a self-organizing way that can beat the best super computer of the world.

G) Measurement Criteria:

31. Productivity, Performance and Profitability (Effectiveness)

32. Reliability, Availability and Maintainability (Efficiency)

33. Health, Happiness, Creativity (Human Spirit)

Chance favors the connected mind!

The art of ‘noticing’ or ‘paying attention’ or ‘observation’ is the starting point for our Nemtical studies, Design Kata and Rapidinnovation.

Right observation is the basis of strategy formulation, innovation, decision making and possibly everything we do as humans. Much depends on our choice and power of discrimination of what to notice and what not to notice.

The following article brilliantly exposes the ‘Art of Observation’ in a very nuanced manner.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/03/29/the-art-of-observation/

Indeed ‘Chance favors the connected mind’.

 

Pattern Based Innovative Management

This is a guest post contributed by Daniel Durrant.

Pattern Based Innovative Management

By

Daniel Durrant*

Over the past few weeks I’ve been conversing online with Dibyendu De, a reliability management consultant in Kolkatta, India.  For 23 years of his career he has applied his extensive background as a mechanical design engineer toward helping 50 organizations achieve sustainable growth.  Our conversation utilized social media channels like Twitter, Google+, and blog posts, written in response to some of the questions I raised for my assignment in “Management Issues for Information Professionals”, a class I’m taking at QUT.  Eventually we caught up for a brief Hangout using Google+, where we discussed his views on management, strategy, and innovation.

Observation

Dibyendu declares that “observation is the most important part of anything” and that it serves as the starting point for understanding and communicating “reality”.  He suggests that “observation” is the foundation on which we would build further (De, D. Personal Correspondence, 13, March 2013).  He then tweets, “Science Engineering & Management are like bikinis, what can be seen is interesting; what’s hidden is vital.”  He’s being humorous, but entirely serious.

Without observation, the strategies can end up being based on “dreams and wishes”, he tells me.  Dibyendu adds another tweet, “Business reality is complex. So it can’t be dealt by rules, fixed plans, policies or idealistic wishes.”  He goes on to explain that the starting point of understanding “complex business reality is by viewing failures & their undesirable effects.”

I’m reminded of Peter Drucker‘s suggestion that organisations should seek “windows of opportunity” not just in successes, but in “unexpected failures” (Druker, 2007).  It has also been said that “failure is more instructional than success” according to Tim Ogilvie, CEO of Peer Insight, an innovation consultancy based in Washington, D.C..  He argues that failure can be inspiration for startups to fill a void in a particular marketplace.  He’s quoted by Entrepreneur.com,  “I don’t think about failure … I use the word experiment.  I think, I’ve got a hypothesis about a business, and I’m going to do an experiment to test the hypothesis.  Just that language alone makes you less prone to self-delusion” (Hann, 2013).

Perception

Dibyendu shares a similar view as Drucker and Ogilvie; additionally, he emphasizes the failures resulting from overlooking the perceptions of customers, a serious marketing failure.  In an email, Dibyendu tells me that the customer is “the only profit center any organisation has” and that while management may look at ‘market research’ to find out needs “they don’t have systems in place to capture how the customer actually ‘notices’ the organisation.”  He continues, “Since they overlook this, they are at a loss to find ways and means to engage them till exchange” (De, D. Personal Correspondence, 21, March 2013).

A story on Dibyendu’s blog about a hospital in Kolkata provides an example of how strategy can be skewed by management’s failure to include their customer’s perceptions.  The hospital he visited was named after the famous poet: Rabindranath Tagore Heart Research Institute.  The formidable reputation of the hospital began in 2000 when it was founded, but more recently it’s business had slumped from what the chief administrator told Dibyendu was the “ever-increasing stress of handling the ‘swelling crowd’” (De, 2013).

Dibyendu shares a brief history of the hospital, founded by a famous heart surgeon, Dr. Devi Shetty and his top grade specialists, who were highly trusted.  A well-known national daily interviewed Dr. Shetty about his dedicated application of a service replica based on Ford’s Model T, a point of pride for the hospital because of the large number of successful operations and other procedures that had been carried out by his team who applied his system.

The chief administrator was worried by how many of their patients had switched to their competitors and how good doctors were leaving; he inquired how the hospital could keep their profits up so that they might open similar facilities in other towns and nearby states.  Dibyendu asked, “Where are your research facilities?” It turns out, the Rabindranath Tagore Heart Research Institute, didn’t have any.  Dibyendu then asks the readers of his blog what the hospital’s strategy should be moving forward.  In response, I pointed out that a service replica of Ford’s Model T is a poor fit for a hospital because “relating human beings to manufacturing cars is a mismatched metaphor.” I then suggest that the strategy would need to re-align with the perceptions that the name of the hospital suggests and “the fact that no research was being done and the spirit of Tagore was not alive and well in the hospital, is the key issue to be addressed.”

Dibyendu replies in agreement, “Yes, perceptions of customers rule strategy. A kind of inverted image to start thinking on strategy.”  One of his tweets also speaks to this point: “Strategy is [about] Questions. But before that comes, viewing or notice. … [Without] that, nothing.”

Interaction

Tied up in the issue of failed perceptions is manager’s tendency to “label” and seek plans with “magic bullets”.  In a conversation, Dibyendu explains, “Once you have labelled something, you have siloed it.”  When management begins to label problems their minds go in a prescribed direction and they rely on what he calls “traditional medicines”.  The tools and methods of experts can be useful, but very often they are “applied forcefully”, which is the issue.  Again, he stresses that interactions are the important part and that what needs to be done doesn’t require “gurus”.  His suggestion is to “innovate your own cure” (De, D. Personal Correspondence, 21, March 2013).

When asked if manufacturing companies take up innovation as their first choice?  Dibyendu replies, “No. In fact it is usually the last choice.”  He detailed why on his blog:

… companies first try out tried, tested and proven methods to achieve their aspiration. In that process they do achieve quite a bit. The focus is generally on operational efficiency and cut costs. When they don’t achieve what they set out for then only they take up innovation to achieve their goal. They generally take up innovation when they find their ‘magic bullets’ not providing them the needed relief or results. (De, 2012)

His description of the issue reminds me of an often overlooked distinction between strategic planning and strategic thinking described by Fiona Graetz.  She explains how strategic planning deals with the step-by-step, rational, systematic, logical process.  While on the other hand strategic thinking views patterns, which Graetz says are “unplanned, emergent strategy patterns or consistencies that are realized despite, or in the absence, of intentions” (Graetz, 2002).  My understanding is that strategic planning tends to involve proven methods, while strategic thinking supports more innovative outcomes.

I asked Dibyendu, “Why do you think innovation is needed in an organization?”  He responded during our hangout, and then later typed out his answer on his blog:

Two things. First, while strategy gives direction to an organization innovation drives it. Strategy and innovation go together. Second, all organisations are unique in their own individual ways. This is because design of all organizations differ. These small differences create the uniqueness for each company. Hence there seems to be no common magic formula or bullets to bite. Each organization has its own story and those stories can only be improved by people within the organization through their innovative efforts. (De, 2013)

Design

I wanted to hear more of his approach and wondered if it had to do with his brand of “Rapidinnovation”.  I inquired into its meaning and if it signifies that innovations can be done rapidly. He explains that “RAPID is an acronym which stands for Reliability, Availability and Performance Improvement through Design Innovation.”  He adds how RAPID can also include innovations achieved “quickly and effectively” (De, 2013).

Dibyendu has found that people are generally afraid of innovation due to the risks involved.  He writes about the importance of “decision making criteria to achieve a balance between risks and rewards.”  Rewards such as “improved reliability, availability and performance” must be clear in the minds of management, he tells me.  He goes on about the value of earning more with less effort and how innovation needn’t involve the cheap production of things by cutting costs.  He clarifies that innovation should “reduce risks to the minimum while maximizing the benefits” (De, 2013).

I inquired into how these benefits are achieved.  Dibyendu tells me it has to do with “design innovation, which is a type of minimal intervention that maximizes return on the assets.”  In manufacturing organisations, design is everywhere, from the layout of machines, their maintenance systems, product designs, management systems, strategies, and the organisation itself.  The issue is that each is designed and managed separately, yet the interactions between them fall out of balance, due to “small imperfections” which produce “failures, problems, or issues that prevent any organization from achieving what they want to achieve” (De, 2013).  He then puts this in context of Rapidinnovation:

The job in Rapidinnovation is to find or identify these hidden imperfections and then eliminate them through innovation thereby releasing the trapped or clogged energy within the organization to flow again smoothly and more productively. Thereby you achieve more with less. However, such innovations must be minimally invasive so that it not only uses the least amount of effort, resources and time to execute but also minimizes risk to the minimum possible extent. It must however ensure long term benefits to the company in terms of ROA (return on assets). Else innovations are meaningless. (De, 2013)

Balance

I asked how to go about discovering these imperfections?  He tells me, “Start from failures an organization experiences. Start anywhere and soon one gets to see the whole symphony” (De, 2013).

Much of Dibyendu’s work focuses on the people of the organisation, helping them find balance in life and work, as well as in the strategic decisions they make.   He explains to me that strategic planning often fails to recognize and explain complexity.  He believes that strategy and design “go hand in hand” and that people’s development and their lives needs to be a part of the equation if there is to be “social upliftment”.  In a blog post he writes:

… it is indeed stupid to have any fixed plan in the mind and exert our will to achieve the ‘desired mental model’ we have in mind. That of course does not tell us not to have any ‘intention‘ whatsoever. Nor does it ask us to submit to ‘fatality’ of reality. Our path clearly lies in balancing between the two wheels of ‘reality’ and ‘desire’ forged by our will emanating from intention. Such balancing act is fueled by the heady mix of courage to pay attention to our thought process and the deeply felt intention to balance.

Stories

During our hangout, Dibyendu explained how his approach to diagnosing problems involves “the mind of the people”.  He adds, “Innovation comes from their sufferings, their memories, and thinking.” This is done through extensive meetings and dialogues with all involved.   He said that very little data is gathered, but rather, attention is paid to stories and the underlying narrative which all parties involved have yet to perceive:  “By linking stories, little data is needed.  The diagnosis is in the narrative.”  He further describes his process on his blog:

It is mainly through dialogues with people. They tell about their pains, shortcomings, challenges, problems and you soon get to see the patterns within those stories and narratives. You then help them see or notice the underlying patterns that are affecting them and off they go on their own creating their own cures. Seeing the affected patterns is the important thing. Once seen the rest follows. However, there is one problem. If you don’t get to see the pattern in a blink you possibly miss the pattern for a long time. Whatever it might be — at the end of the day, there is really no magic formula to apply. People must innovate their own cure to get rid of organizational diseases and keep them at bay.

Dibyendu suggests that people become aware of their feelings and stories, thus self regulating potentially destructive impulses that may compound into an organisational disease.  His views remind me of Daniel Goldman’s work on emotions, popularized in his work on “What Makes a Leader”. Goldman suggests that “many of the bad things that happen in companies are a function of impulsive behavior ”  Goldman describes how organisational integrity is maintained by people who actively self regulate their emotions during changes by thoughtfully reflecting during times of ambiguity (Goldman, 2004).

Dibyendu’s approach could also be compared to the kind of “organizational conversations” that Groysberg and Slind describe in “Leadership is a Conversation”.  The casual conversations they describe are less about “issuing and taking orders than about asking and answering questions.”  They found in their research that smart leaders “engage with employees in a way that resembles an ordinary person-to-person conversation more than it does a series of commands from on high” (Slind & Groysberg, 2012).

Dibyendu’s method involves a unique line of questioning that at times may involve inquiring into the perceptions of individuals and then gauging their willingness to “see things differently”.  He plays an active role as a facilitator and by witnessing interactions between all parties involved, he discovers overlooked relations between processes and people in the organisation. He tells me that oftentimes there are debates, but eventually a new way of doing things becomes apparent.  In other words, the solutions to their problems emerge from their own stories and interactions.

Conclusion

The scope of management issues is vast and complex, crossing multiple domains.  Dibyendu’s emphasis on looking beyond the labels and seeing the relations is a capacity that I intend to cultivate within myself.  Organisational distress is often caused by the failures of prescriptive thinking which fails at observing the emerging patterns that matter most.  These patterns arise from interactions and perceptions that are engaged through a “whole symphony” of stories.  Designs that are derived from these stories can balance “reality and desire”, while accelerating innovation throughout the organization.

Innovation, strategy, design, marketing, and leadership are not separate, but enacted by the entire “symphony” of an organisation.  All actors in the organisation can notice what underpins their interactions and choose to engage in conversations more mindfully.  Time can be taken to mull over the stories and patterns of exchange that shape perceived realities.  When the whole organisation is given the chance to observe their own stories and emotions, balance can steadily be restored and innovation becomes attainable.

My dialogue with Dibyendu has helped me clarify the value of our collaborative learning relationship.  This engagement has revealed and continues to present ‘emergent patterns’ that are informing our own strategic thinking.  Indeed, it seems these patterns relate to a broader context, a narrative beyond the scope of this particular report, which I must now conclude.

References

De, D. (2012, February 21). Nemetics – Some Questions and Answers. Retrieved from http://dibyendu.tumblr.com/post/18006947480/nemetics-some-questions-and-answers

De, D. (2012, August 10). Problems, Landscapes, Habits; Leadership in the 21st Century. Retrieved from https://rgbwaves.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/problems-landscapes-habits-leadership-in-the-21st-century/

De, D. (2012, July 23). 1 of 100 Suchness of Wicked Problems through Nemetic Lenses. Retrieved from http://chaosysdesign.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/1-of-100-suchness-of-wicked-problems.html

De, D. (2013, March 16). Model T in a Famous Hospital. Retrieved from https://rgbwaves.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/model-t-in-a-famous-hospital/

De, D. (2013, March 28). Innovate Your Own Cure. Retrieved from https://rgbwaves.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/innovate-your-own-cure/

De, D. (rapidinnovator). “Science Engineering & Management are like bikinis, what can be seen is interesting; what’s hidden is vital.” 12 May 2013, 6:59 p.m. Tweet.

De, D. (rapidinnovator). ” Business reality is complex. So it cant be dealt by rules, fixed plans, policies or idealistic wishes.” 12 May 2013, 7:14 p.m. Tweet.

De, D. (rapidinnovator). “Starting pt of understanding complex business reality is by viewing failures & their undesirable effects.” 12 May 2013, 7:23 p.m. Tweet.

De, D. (rapidinnovator). ” Strategy is abt Questions. But before that comes viewing or notice. Most imp. [Without] that nothing.” 12 May 2013, 9:14 p.m. Tweet.

Drucker, P. (2007). Chapter 3: The change leader. In Peter Drucker (2007) Management challenges in the 21 st century. Oxford, UK: Butterworth – Heinemann, pp. 62-81.

Goleman, D. (2004). What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review, 82(1), 82-91.

Hann, C. (2013, January 23). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225199

Marin, R. (2013, February 2013). Don’t Let Strategy Become Planning. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/02/dont_let_strategy_become_plann.html

Slind, M., & Groysberg, B. (2012, June). Leadership Is a Conversation. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2012/06/leadership-is-a-conversation/

About the Author:

Daniel Durrant (aka Dan R.D) is a Masters Student of Information Technology at QUT in Brisbane, Australia.  Dan actively researches how organizations can best adapt, communicate, and innovate when challenged by complex issues.  He is interested in how mobile connectivity is enabling citizens and organizations to learn and serve each other in more meaningful ways.  Dan is just beginning his investigation into how simulation games can enable leaders to perceive a more holistic and contextually rich view of the environmental and social needs facing their organization.  Dan’s additional research interests include change management, leadership, learning environments, collective intelligence, publishing services, interaction and affective design, sensor networks, robots and drones, augmented reality, health and human potential, complex adaptive systems, strategic communication, and knowledge management. His collaborative approach to research has linked him with a diverse group of professionals from around the globe who share a common quest for stories and solutions that inspire us to achieve more with less.  Central to this aim is ensuring that workers from all walks of life can thrive during uncertainty by gaining new literacy and maths skills.

 

Immersion Workshop on Rapidinnovation

Indian Chamber of Commerce is hosting an ‘Immersion Workshop’ on Rapidinnovation on 26th April, 2013 at Kolkata at their premises 4, India Exchange Place, Kolkata – 700001.

This is second part of the series on Manufacturing Excellence made up of 5 parts.

The announcement and the workshop schedule follow:

Indian Chamber of Commerce

Workshop Series on Manufacturing Excellence Toolkit

 

26th April 2013 – Workshop on Rapidinnovation

 

Manufacturing Excellence in modern times needs at least five components to meet the highest standards of operational stability, efficiency and effectiveness on a sustainable basis. It is like the five fingers of a hand. To use the hand efficiently all five fingers must be effective. The five components are: –

1. TPM, CBM, RCM — Maximize Manufacturing Efficiency by minimizing wastage and risks

2. Rapidinnovation — Dramatically improves Productivity, Performance and Profitability on an on-going basis       through creativity & innovation

3. Marketing  & Beyond — New Age Industrial Marketing Strategies

4. Strategy– Formulate a creative company strategy to create great new Products and Services to solve problems of customers through efficiency and innovation

5. New Age Human Development Skills – Human Competencies in the new age – a more creative workforce to unleash human potential.

 

These are interdependent paths to excellence. Therefore they are inseparable.

Keeping this in mind, we intend to regularly conduct brief ‘Immersion Workshops’ every month to expose participants to these well-tested concepts filled with practical ideas, and follow-up with the “Master-class Series”  which may be upgraded, on demand, to the Systems Clinic Cluster approach. At the inception level, all individual workshops would be of 5 hours duration which would include lunch and 2 tea-breaks. We are launching the Excellence Series with the second workshop on 26th April, 2013, at the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Meeting room 1, 9th Floor, 4 India Exchange Place, Kolkata 700001.

Workshop on Rapidinnovation

AimDramatically improve Productivity, Performance and Profitability on an on-going basis through creativity & innovation. While strategy gives direction to an organization, innovation drives it. Organizational Strategy and innovation go together to achieve the aspiration of any organization.

Who must attend?

Managers from the  manufacturing industries, who would like to understand how to align strategy and innovation to dramatically improve Productivity, Performance and Profitability in the shortest possible time with least effort and resources by eliminating inherent ‘imperfections’ in their systems.

Take away:

After attending the workshop the participants would be able to –

1.  Learn how organizational strategy and innovation are linked.

2.   Learn about the process of discovering hidden ‘imperfections’ in various interactions

3.     Learn how to achieve balance between risks and rewards

4.     Learn and apply the fundamental process of innovation.

5.     Draw action plans for initiating Rapidinnovation to improve the 3 Ps.
Workshop Coverage:

1.     What is Rapidinnovation?

2.     Systems, Interactions, Complexity, Imperfections

3.     The Fundamental Approach of the innovation process.

4.     The Concept of minimal intervention

5.     Cases of innovation in machines, maintenance system, product, customer experience, systems design, strategy design & organizational design

 

Methodology: Lectures, Dialogs, Case Studies, Hands on exercises

 

Schedule of the Immersion Workshop

Introduction – 15 mins

Rapidinnovation – Strategy formulation with case study – 30 mins
Dibyendu De, Director, The International Nemetics Institute

Tea break – 15 mins

Formulation of Balanced Scorecard with example – Satrajit Sanyal, Deputy Director, ICC – 30 mins

Aligning strategy with innovation a case study – Smita Pandit Chakraborty (CEO of Phoenix Continental Tyres, Europe) – 30 mins

Lunch – 60 mins

More case studies – Dibyendu De, Director, The International Nemetics Institute, Kolkata – 30 mins

Learning & Human Development – a plan – Sanjukta Mukherjee, Deputy Director, Indian Chamber of Commerce – 30 mins

Q&A session with tea – 30 mins

Each session would be followed by 15 mins of Q & A session on the topic covered.

Please contact through twitter (@rapidinnovator) or by just leaving a reply on this blog if you want to enjoy the experience.

Innovate Your Own Cure!

Few days back my friend Dan R.D (@ddrrnt is his twitter handle) and I were having an interesting dialog over Google hangout.

Dan is busy researching on many management issues like strategy, innovation, leadership, ethics and simulation games on leadership and management.

Our dialogue was more focused on innovation with a special emphasis on Rapidinnovation as I practice it.

Our dialog went somewhat like this:

Dan: Do you see manufacturing companies take up innovation as their first choice?

Me: No. In fact it is usually the last choice.

Dan: And why is that?

Me: This is because companies first try out tried, tested and proven methods to achieve their aspiration. In that process they do achieve quite a bit. The focus is generally on operational efficiency and cut costs. When they don’t achieve what they set out for then only they take up innovation to achieve their goal. They generally take up innovation when they find their ‘magic bullets’ not providing them the needed relief or results.

Dan: Why do you think innovation is needed in an organization?

Me: Two things. First, while strategy gives direction to an organization innovation drives it. Strategy and innovation go together. Second, all organisations are unique in their own individual ways. This is because design of all organizations differ. These small differences create the uniqueness for each company. Hence there seems to be no common magic formula or bullets to bite. Each organization has its own story and those stories can only be improved by people within the organization through their innovative efforts.

Dan: What does Rapidinnovation stand for? Do you mean to say innovations are done quickly.

Me: Rapidinnovation is an acronym, which stands for Reliability, Availability and Performance Improvement through Design Innovation.

I agree with you that innovations are also be done quickly and effectively. If you see it that way you may call it RAPID.

Dan: Say more.

Me: People are generally afraid of innovation. And rightfully so. This is because there is always a risk involved in innovation. So there must be a decision making criteria to achieve a balance between risks and rewards. Rewards must be very clear in their minds, especially in the minds of the management. These are in terms of improved reliability, availability and performance – something that help them earn more by doing something better with lesser effort and earning more revenue in the bargain rather than only focus on producing things cheaply by cutting costs. Also innovation should be such so as to reduce risks to the minimum while maximizing the benefits.

Dan: How is that achieved?

Me: This is achieved through design innovation which is a type of minimal intervention that maximizes return on the assets.

Dan: What is the central idea in design innovation?

Me: Anything that we find in a manufacturing organization or for that matter in any organization is a result of design. It might be machines, their layout, their maintenance systems, product design, management systems, strategy and organizational design. So we find design everywhere. However, these are designed separately and also managed separately. But then these are also made to work together. This is precisely where the problem arises. When all these systems work together they intensely interact with each other. Small imperfections within these interactions produce failures, problems or issues that prevent any organization from achieving what they want to achieve.

[Additional notes – interactions within an organization is like different elements communicating to each other like people to produce an overall symphony. If there are imperfections within such communication links the symphony either turns into noise or stops. Design innovation aims to eliminate those imperfections to correct and regain the energy flow of the symphony]

The job in Rapidinnovation is to find or identify these hidden imperfections and then eliminate them through innovation thereby releasing the trapped or clogged energy within the organization to flow again smoothly and more productively. Thereby you achieve more with less. However, such innovations must be minimally invasive so that it not only uses the least amount of effort, resources and time to execute but also minimizes risk to the minimum possible extent. It must however ensure long term benefits to the company in terms of ROA (return on assets). Else innovations are meaningless.

Dan: How do we find out these imperfections?

Me: Start from failures an organization experiences. Start anywhere and soon one gets to see the whole symphony.

Dan: What makes it difficult?

Me: Labeling and placing things in silos. It is usual for us to label things. It is useful but not when trying to solve a problem. The issue becomes more acute when we attempt to solve complex problems for which answers are neither obvious or clear. So for example when we see a quality problem we instantly label it as a quality problem. Or for instance we observe a problem in customer experience we quickly label it as say a HR issue. Then we appoint appropriate persons to look at the issues. What is missed in the process is the links and interactions. The quality problem might well be an issue connected to machines and their performance and the customer experience issue might well be connected to manufacturing issues. So labeling and silo approach make things difficult.

Dan: What is the process you generally adopt?

Me: It is mainly through dialogues with people. They tell about their pains, shortcomings, challenges, problems and you soon get to see the patterns within those stories and narratives. You then help them see or notice the underlying patterns that are affecting them and off they go on their own creating their own cures. Seeing the affected patterns is the important thing. Once seen the rest follows. However, there is one problem. If you don’t get to see the pattern in a blink you possibly miss the pattern for a long time. Whatever it might be — at the end of the day, there is really no magic formula to apply. People must innovate their own cure to get rid of organizational diseases and keep them at bay.

With this the dialogue ended.

Later Dan beautifully summarized the outcome of our dialogue in the following paragraph:

“The inclusive and participation-driven approach in which his inquiries spark the needed interactions which then trigger change in organisations is awesome, to say the least.  What I found most appealing, is that we’re not offering magic formulas or proven solutions, but helping people come up with their own solutions.  We’re nurturing the emergence of patterns which can then be woven into a shared narrative, a shared strategy, a shared objective.  The harmonizing effects reduce imperfections and increase flow, so that exchanges carry more value and are RAPID with increased potential for innovation. “

Model T in a Famous Hospital

Few days back my friend, Debu and I visited a famous heart hospital called Rabindranath Tagore Heart Research Institute in Kolkata named after the famous poet.

It was founded by Dr. Devi Shetty, a famous heart surgeon. Its team of doctors were top grade specialists. People trusted them for their skills and diagnosis. Even patients from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan & Pakistan flocked to the place patiently milling around to have themselves treated.

Started in the year 2000 it has acquired a formidable reputation. In little over a decade the place had an overcrowded look. With the ever-increasing stress of handling the ‘swelling crowd’ the smiles on their employees faces were turning into perceptible unwelcome frowns.

Big photo posters were displayed all around proudly showing their team of competent doctors loudly proclaiming the enviable number of successful operations and other procedures they carried out. It was a service replica of Ford’s Model T. The founder Dr Shetty prided himself for having applied that model so well in service of the people. A well-known national daily covered an interview with Dr. Shetty about his dedicated application of Model T in service industry.

Soon we were discussing with the chief administrator about their operations. He looked a bit worried. Other heart hospitals were coming up in the locality. Some of their patients were switching to their competitors. Many of their loyal patients stopped turning up. Some of their good doctors were leaving them. Profits were going down. And they wanted to boost their profits by opening similar facilities in other towns and nearby states. He wanted to know how we may help him keep their heads high and profits up.

It is at this point I asked, “Where are your research facilities?”

“Well, to be honest we dont have one”, he replied.

“But the name of your facility proclaims that so boldly”, I shot back with curiosity.

He looked blank, unsure of his response.

“Well that might just be the thing that you need to keep your heads high and profits up”, I quipped.

I think, one may choose to find out about anything. Whatever they find out would help them restrategize their business.

What is going wrong? How do they strategize? What else can they do? Any clue?

Outline of the 1st Week of “Emotional Entrepreneurship”.

Here is a course outline for the 1st week of a 12 week course on “Emotional Entrepreneurship” 

It is all about innovation and entrepreneurship.

12 week course on Emotional Entrepreneurship

The general activities for the first of 12 weeks of ‘Emotional Entrepreneurship’ course by TINI (The International Nemetics Institute) at Kolkata.

Goal: by the end of 12 weeks participants would be able to design and give shape to and channelize their feelings into a small business that enables them to live more happier and contended lives.

The general plan for the first week: 

a) Reflecting NatureLearning to relax and reduce anxiety – dialog, demonstration, workshop, practice, innovation in their design of business. (Addn: notes – health, breathing, thoughts).

Without a relaxed body and mind designing and running an enterprise is an useless thing. Record has it that two out of three business start up fail during the first three years of operation and barely one out of 10 survive the first ten years of operation.

b) Catching the snake – the art of attention — dialog, workshop, practice, innovation in their design of business.

Perception is critical to anything that we do. If we get it wrong it destroys us. It is like catching a poisonous snake. If we catch it by the tail it swings around and bites us to death with its poison (wrong perception).  However, if we are able to catch it by its head (that is get the right perspective) we are safe. It is the same with entrepreneurship. Wrong perceptions lead us to death of any entrepreneur. Fortunately, getting the right perspective is not difficult and is teachable. It is done through the art of ‘attention‘.

c) Listening to flower bloom – the art of listening — dialog, workshop, practice, innovation in their design of business.

Listening is the critical to survive and thrive in a small business. However, it is not easy in a noisy environment that we face. We have to listen to customers and we have to listen to our own voice. The art of listening lies in balancing the two voices and making sense of it.
d) Introduction to social media and its use (part 1) — Gmail, G+, G docs, pages.

Social media is a way to learn, be in contact with mentors and get instant feedback about our activities. It is also about letting the world know about our activities and develop a healthy self-esteem about what we are doing.  All these are important to keep, sustain and direct our efforts in the right direction.

e) Keeping a journal.

Keeping a journal is an introspective tool of what we are doing right or wrong with every passing day. A well recorded journal tells us whether we are progressing or deteriorating as days go by. It is a sort of hard trend of our own happiness, health, inner growth that guides us and provides cues

Stay tuned for the plan for the 2nd week. 

How to create an Incentive scheme to boost Self Organized Productivity?

The Issue

Creating an incentive plan or scheme in an organization is a tricky affair. Most don’t seem to get it right. As a result the desired goals are left unmet. So the top Management feels that they lost in the bargain. And surprisingly the employees also think the same that they have been unfairly treated or cheated by the scheme. Nonetheless it leaves behind a bitter taste that isolates Management from its most vital resource — the employees.

What is known or desired by Management?

However, the aims of any well-meant incentive plan is clear; some of those being —

a) Improve productivity through self organized improvement of efficiency and effectiveness of a production system.

b) Improve self managed quality as an inbuilt factor into any production system

c) Enables employees to quickly discover systemic faults in the production system and self correct those through self-initiated interactions.

What is Unknown by Management? 

a) Management does not yet have a model to work out an incentive plan/scheme that is not only systemic but also self organizing to improve the system.

b) Presently management looks at bits and pieces of data to create work wise incentive plan that is applicable to an individual or a group or a department at most. It does not know how to create an incentive plan that would map and address both interdependence of different departments and their independence too.

c) The same goes for correctly evaluating or assessing the contribution of different types and grades of employees who work in various departments.

d) Management is also unaware of the type of data to look for that would not only help them create the right type of incentive scheme but also keep the inherent dynamics of the system, where the central idea is to create a dynamic incentive plan that helps the production system to be resilient rather than a static one, which can prove to be quite anti-resilient and limiting.

What is needed? 

a) A clear understanding of the system dynamics.

b) The maximum and minimum potential of the system

c) What would be the stability zone to operate in and how to predict when instability sets in?

d) The inherent potential for the system to improve without any additional investment

e) The limit beyond which only additional investment can improve productivity.

f) The right parameters to be selected

The Resolution

The resolution to the above issue is depicted by the conceptual model as shown below:

incentive Plan
Incentive Model

Results

This model (based on science of complexity) was applied to one relatively large Indian multi-national unit and the results were the following:

1. Productivity improved by 1.75 times within 2 months of implementation of the scheme.

2. Self organized improvements took place

3. Real time communication increased between employees

4. Quality improved and sustained.

5. The improvements were self-sustaining without any other capital investment.