Leaders lead by asking better questions

Many of my friends are leaders. All my clients are. They are leaders because they naturally develop people around them. Not only because of a title. You can recognise a good leader by how many of their followers are also leaders. Leaders and their follower leaders co-develop their skills. So leaders help each other, up-and-down the hierarchy and side-by-side in a network. Leaders are not threatened by people in their structure becoming better and better at leading, they usually take pride in how others are rising up. This makes the whole organisation like a network, like a collective brain. Managers don’t always like this, they don’t like it when people lower in “rank” challenge them, asking more of them. They prefer the hierarchy, which is more like a spine and less like a brain. But this is not the place to go into the difference between leaders and managers, or brains and spines.

So this is my main point for today: Leaders ask better questions, so that their teams can search for better questions. They are on a perpetual search process for better formulations and for “higher” questions that stretches everybody to think wider, deeper and more creatively. The goal is not better answers, that belongs to the linear world where questions have specific answers that are either right or wrong. Leaders know that by formulating better questions they enable everybody around them to explore better in this complex world where there are many formulations of a question, each with many answers. Good questions lead to better questions. Leaders somehow understand this complexity, where there are multiple hypotheses that explains what we see or can measure. This means many questions, and many possible answers, and many more reformulations.

These better questions are not random, and they do not emerge out of an isolated mind. They emerge from the very networks and contexts that the leaders are immersed in. Leaders can sense the better articulation of questions, or the unsatisfactory answers from their teams. They can feel that people are not satisfied, and instead of ignoring the issue, they enable a process of reflection with others to lift out the issues that matter. Leaders can also sense when people have fallen back on routines to get things done, so often the questions leaders ask require people to stop, reflect and question. This is not always appreciated as it takes energy to step out of the groove and to engage with new questions.

Right now in South Africa we need more leaders to ask better questions. Better questions about the role of business in the society. Different questions about how to allocate resources between many competing ends. Tough questions about balancing the rights of particular groups and individuals with the well being of the society as a whole. When I look at they way questions are framed by political leaders they often pose ideologies as questions. The very nature of an ideology is that it provides answers, often irrespective of the context. While some of these questions are important, they are closed. They do not allow for much debate, exploring these questions are not really permitted. These kinds of questions do not help as they don’t only exclude beneficiaries, they also exclude the connections of minds. While leaders in the non-government sectors often scoff at political leaders, many business leaders themselves have an ideology about how a workplace should be organised, how they game should be played. They often forget their own bias. Much of my work is about helping these leaders reflect on their own theories.

Focus. Back to my main point. If you are a leader (which I believe you are) then step forward in your environment, and offer to pose the questions that are on people’s minds. Are people feeling hopeless? Then ask questions about what it would take to have hope again. Ask questions about creating alternatives, or for taking stock of what exists and what can be done with what you have.

You have to set down a framework where people know that even if it is uncomfortable, certain questions that are sensitive or uncomfortable should still be explored. If you are afraid that people will burn you on a pile of office furniture then express your question as a theory, and ask your people to help you verify or invalidate you theory. Articulating the difficult questions, those ones where we just don’t seem to have all the right words, this is what we do as leaders. And then we join our people and help search for answers and listen for signals that there are better ways to formulate our questions.

Oh, and this process does not have an end. This is what we do. We ask better questions. All the time.

South African Research units and funding scenarios

I have been holding back on this post for a while, because it touches on a very sensitive situation here in South Africa regarding the student protests about university fees (see #feesmustfall). In South Africa, many of our research and technology development units that are publicly funded are hosted by universities. These centres depend on students and particularly post graduate students to deliver services to industry. At the same time these centres depend on industry to commission research, prototypes and to also take up the graduates. With the massive shortage of funding in the education sector, many of these centres and their hosting universities are starved of funding.

In August, I was helping a leadership team think through their industry strategy. I realised that their strategy was dependent on two implicit assumptions. Firstly, that the student unrest about the fees would be contained and short lived, with government miraculously finding funding from somewhere to relieve the pressure in the system. Secondly, they assumed that the private sector would somehow remain keen to invest in R & D, problem solving and prototyping despite the political uncertainty and adverse business conditions that we have in South Africa at the moment.

I helped the team to develop a set of scenarios, and this is what this post is about. It was a spur of the moment idea at the end of a meeting.

A simple way to develop scenarios would be to take the two assumptions (we usually use uncertainties) and to construct a simple 2 x 2 matrix. I know a 2 x 2 matrix has many shortcomings, but this simple matrix was to allow a team to explore several topics they have been hesitant to consider collectively. This was about helping a group make sense so that they could develop some actions together. With the leadership team, we wrote an assumption about the stability at the university on the horizontal axis. On the left we have a stable political environment at the university, with some high uncertainty about how long the peace would last and how much public funding will be available. On the right hand side we wrote that the situation becomes both unstable and uncertain. This axis is all about the stability of the hosting university.

On the vertical axis we wrote at the top that business people remain optimistic and continues to draw on the facilities and the services of the research centres, while at the bottom we formulated the opposite.

This simple matrix gave us four quadrants which we numbered 1 to 4 clockwise.

Scenario_Matrix

The instruction to the team was to think of each of the quadrants in the extreme of the two assumptions of the quadrant if they both played out. I won’t repeat all that was said here, but will just briefly capture some ideas. In quadrant 1, the situation at the university was stable, while business people continued to draw on their resources. The group agreed that this was the preferred quadrant!

Then they consider quadrant two, where the university was in chaos, and industry had to find alternatives for their services, or they were stuck. Trust relations developed with industry over many years were harmed (again).

In the 3rd quadrant, industry is depressed or paralysed, while the university is unstable. Everybody loses. Good graduates can’t find work, good researchers and lecturers lose hope and possibly leave the system, while business slowly but surely falls behind because the instability is very local. Globally competitors are investing, expanding and growing because the world goes on.

In the 4th quadrant the industry is depressed, meaning that demand from industry is possibly suppressed. The stability at the university is uncertain, meaning little investment takes place. The university does not have the resources to build capability or offers that helps industry, while industry does not have the resources to expand their investment. The whole system just hangs there waiting for something to give.

Now I know that this little scenario exercise was done very fast (we spent an hour on this), and yes, I know it does not address the fundamental issues that the university and government (and politicians) have to sort out. But the leaders quickly realised that their whole strategy was based on a quadrant 1 scenario. In fact, the very academics that always complains about the short term focus of the private sector were now trapped in a short term survival mode themselves. No industry or society can increase its wealth, prospects or competitiveness by waiting, especially when global competitors are at the door, looking for opportunities! This quick exercise helped the team to realise they needed to expand their offerings to be ready for the very likely other quadrants. They also realised that they had to think of ways of adapting their strategy so that the small steps they could take with their existing resources would lay “platforms” or stepping stones for an as diverse as possible range of future alternatives. For instance, one of the technology centres decided to shift its focus from a product development to a process enhancement focus, because there was a strong interest from industry to find ways of improving operations, cutting costs and improving flexibility.

The scenario dialogue enabled several follow up meetings  where the team could draw in more people and together re-imagine their future alternatives. Everybody was relieved that they had some options, where before this meeting they felt trapped without many options.

What I tried to illustrate in this post is that a simple scenario exercise could be a great instrument to help a team realise that despite almost certain disruptions, they could still think in the short term and the longer term. They had some options, they could even create more. By anticipating the future they also felt more ready for the disruptions that we are all waiting for.

For me it was also important to see how this team realised that their clients (industry) also faced huge uncertainties, and that if the research centre could offer services that reduce risks and costs while at the same time creating alternatives for market and technological development. Somehow shifting the focus from their own survival (and fears) towards the needs of industry and graduates looking to complete their research helped them move forward. Thus I could help the team consider how they could ensure their clients continue to innovate, which in turn helped the leadership to better understand how they themselves then have to be innovative.

Innovation was instigated!

 

 

 

Categories and links updated

I set aside this morning to rework most of the categories on my blogsite at www.cunningham.org.za

You can find the categories on the bottom left-hand side of the site. The number in brackets show the number of posts under each category.

Now you can link to a topic on my site in the following way:

All posts about industrial policy: http://www.cunningham.org.za/Topics/industrial-policy/

All posts about innovation systems: http://www.cunningham.org.za/Topics/innovation-systems/

and so on.

I was surprised about how many articles I have posted under the Complexity and Evolutionary Thinking, as well as Process and Change Facilitation categories.

I can now easily create a dedicated topic for a theme, like I have done with “Globetrotting“.

If you have linked to my blog or any of my articles at its previous shawncunningham.wordpress address, then please remember recreate those links.

Thank you for following my blog. Any suggestions and comments are welcome.

Elon Musk on keeping on keeping on

As a promoter of innovation and good decision making, I am always hesitant of getting too attached to what the icons like Google, Tesla, GE and others are doing. People take ideas from these organisations while forgetting about the culture, the context and the past of these organisations. Trying to copy and paste things that work in a US firm into a South African one is simply not that straightforward.

A few months ago I received this URL about an interview with Elon Musk from a friend. I filed under “to do when I have nothing important to do”. My friend raved about this video because it showed that even superheroes like Musk can cry on camera. This did not convince me to make space (!!) for this video.

So this morning, while attending to some administrative things, I watched this youtube video of an interview with Musk. I liked it very much. He talks about the difficulties of promoting an idea that is not supported by people that he admired. Yes, he gets a bit moist, but that is certainly not the main reason to watch this clip. Watching the SpaceX rocket return safely to the landing pad was just breathtaking!

So here it is. Take a look.

For me, the moral of the story is this. Don’t think that the current thought leaders will always appreciate your genius, your progress or your ideas. Challenging the Status Quo is tough. Even with lots of money it takes time, probably much longer than we all think.

I hope that you can today also decide to push harder despite not always receiving the recognition and the admiration that you believe you deserve!

Futurists and local economic development

Futurists use a forward-looking philosophy to chart their organisations’ strategies. They are not so caught in the here and now. Rather they imagine and then mobilise people towards a future that does not yet exist. It means you can not yet plan for it, you first have to imagine it. Futurists are not caught up like most of us with trying to make what we have to work better, nor are the plugging gaps. They force us to think about completely new architectures of technology, social arrangements and capabilities.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are considered global futurists. Many of the near emergent technologies, like driver-less cars or advances in artificial intellegence were hard to imagine just a decade or two ago, now they seem to be around the corner. Yet, cities, business and governments are still planning with a short term cycle, mainly using what exists or what is lacking as guiding their decisions.

A lot of emphasis here in South Africa are placed on data, prioritising left behind areas and dealing with social integration. Every now and then I wonder if we are not simply getting better at preparing for the past? You know, that one that will never come back? What if the very industries that we have now will not be viable in just a few years? What if the cities and towns that emerged around old industries are no longer viable or sustainable?

This morning I read about New York hiring a futurist to help them imagine and plan for the future on a CNN site.

“In an unlikely move for a city, New York is also hiring a senior futurist to gather insights on possible cultural, economic and environmental changes ahead”

Wow, imagine we could do that here in South Africa? I know we have a long list of problems that require our immediate attention, but should we not set aside some time to also imagine the longer term future? That way, bureaucrats and technocrats can develop better models and designs that can be presented to politicians and citizens. More important, we can get more designers, engineers, scientists and business people mobilised to think about and design for a future that is imminent.

“New York’s latest efforts are designed to be proactive, rather than reactive”

From my perspective, most of our companies and local governments are not ready for what is coming. We are all caught with trying to cope with what is and what should have been done. Then our local political climate sucks a lot of energy from our economy, resulting in resource rich companies growing while all the rest is holding up their breaths, waiting for something to happen.

I know this sounds negative, but with the digital revolution in manufacturing, and the rapidly integration of fast numbers of enterprises into the networked knowledge economy, I see many of our industries falling behind. Not all companies, but many. I often ask my students to imagine the following:

  • What does the future of local economies, secondary cities and the currently unemployed in South Africa look like?
  • What are technologies that we can expect to have a profound change on our country in the medium to longer term? What does this demand from our institutions, policies and businessess?
  • Can we get more people involved in thinking about the long term future?
  • How do we shift from a low skills labour intensive economy towards a knowledge economy without leaving millions behind?
  • What do we have to equip our students and children with to empower them to shift with the times and prepare for this future?

We have so many priorities that we have to address at the same time. Perhaps while we are running on this treadmill we need to also think further into the future.

Just thinking out loud!

The photo at the top of this post was during a Local Economic Development study tour I led to Germany together with Frank Waeltring in 2009. The tour group was a diverse range of senior government officials and the objective was to learn about Germany’s experience with economic change, industrial change and cooperation between many different stakeholders in a decentralised way.

 

Exploring individual Social Technoliges that enables Systemic Change

My exploration of complexity thinking and how it enables leaders and collectives to make better decisions is taking me back to where I started. I started in organisational development and innovation. Then I shifted into larger economic systems like innovation systems, local economies, value chains or regions. For the last four years I have been working mainly on organisational development in meso organisations involved in technology development and innovation promotion. So I have come full circle, but I sense that I am now better able to synthesize and use my experience and ideas. Now I will focus on the role of individuals in changing economic systems.

Marcus Jenal and I wrote last year about Systemic Change. In our reading the wealth of literature on economic evolution we were were deeply impressed  by the work of Eric Beinhocker. In particular, the idea that economic development demands a co-evolution of:

  • Physical technologies – are methods and processes for transforming matter, energy and information from one state into another in pursuit of a goal or goals; they enable people to create products and services that are worth trading. A physical technology is not only the physical object itself, but both the design of the thing and the instructions and techniques to make and use it. The ability to learn how to use, make and adapt the physical objects is critical.
  • Social technologies – are methods, designs and arrangements for organising people in pursuit of a goal or goals; they smooth the way for cooperation and trading products and services. For example, the ability to organise people into hierarchies, such as companies or other organisations, which can allocate resources to specialised functions and which can learn is a social technology.
  • Business plans – are developed by enterprises and other organisations that are competing for resources, acceptance and buy-in in the economy. Business plans play the critical role of melding physical and social technologies together under a strategy and then operationally expressing the resulting design in the real world. From an evolutionary perspective, the purpose of business plans is to discover what is profitable, efficient or even possible in a given economic context. You could call this an economic technology.

I realized last week that I have spent at least five years of my career immersed in each of these three co-evolutions, but with the others not completely forgotten. From a physical technology perspective, I have always been involved in promoting trans disciplinary research, promoting innovation systems and helping innovators become more effective. I have spent a number of years supporting entrepreneurship, developing supply chains and promoting value chains. From a social technology perspective I have been working on management education, business consulting, assisting with change processes and facilitating search and discovery process within and between organisations.

Now I am taking this to a next level. I will for the next few months focus intentionally on the role of individual leaders in the co-evolutionary process. The co-evolution is fractal. I started at the highest level, the level of open systems, innovation systems, local economies and industries. Then I shifted to meso organisations, development organisations and universities, where I often focused on teams and how they use their resources in a systemic way to improve the networks they form part of.

The focus on individuals will be formal this time, where in the past this was informal, almost a by-product of my process consulting and advisory work. To equip me for this role I had to refresh my organisational and coaching skills. I have also participated in an advanced coaching programme in order to facilitate this shift in focus. Lastly, to enable this process I have exited many contracts, or not renewed contracts as they came to a close. This will enable me to dive deep. I will focus my coaching praxis on leadership support, innovation support and institution building, but with the role of the starting point. This will require many new business practices, and many new clients. I will try my best to frequently reflect here on my learning.

Blog site location changed

Hi

I have moved my blog site from wordpress.com to a hosted space at my internet service provider. I ticked the box to move the site two weeks ago and Whoosh! – it all happened faster than expected and not as planned. My intent was to copy the content to the new hosting site, figure out some of the new features, and then redirect my domain www.cunningham.org.za to the new site. But this is not how it worked out. To my surprise, clicking on “import site”also redirected my domain name automatically. Then I hit a few small snags along the way, one being that my internet service provider had to make quite a few changes to my administrative rights to enable the site to work as expected.

If you are a regular reader, or receive this blog via the email subscription function, please remember that the new address for the site is now

www.cunningham.org.za

In the coming weeks I will focus this blogsite on my ongoing development of an innovation and organisational toolkit. In the words of Harold Jarche, this site and its content will be in perpetual beta. Yes, I will be publishing half-baked ideas, a-ha! ideas and inspirations. Those that know me are used to these in any case, and I am often relieved to hear how people combine my ideas with their own. Refined ideas, fully baked concepts and tools will be published in more formal articles, papers or elsewhere, with links from my blogsite.

It is also necessary to explain that I am also shifting my praxis from an economic development focus towards and organisational development, decision support and innovation focus. In the last few years my focus was in any case aimed more towards decision makers in meso institutions, most of which do not identify with the label of “development organisation”. I don’t think any of my friends or clients would be surprised by this, organizational and leadership development was always at the core of what I have been doing.

I remain committed to working with organisations that through their behavior strengthen the competitiveness, economic evolution and systemic change in societies, whether they are public or private, big or small.

I will explain more about this shift in the next few posts.

Rigid agencies in complex economic change processes

The last few days I have been a participant in a conference about transformative innovation policy. It was quite a treat to be a participant in an event and not to be a moderator or speaker. The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium is an initiative of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. Many other governments, research alliances and academics are part of this initiative.

It was great to hear the voices of the gurus whose material I usually only get to read. A core concept of the initiative is the idea that there are 3 frames of innovation policy (Schot & Steinmuller, 2016). In my vocabulary a frame is the punctuated equilibrium that exists between paradigm shifts. The first frame of innovation policy was mainly about R&D and regulation. The second frame shifted towards national systems of innovation and entrepreneurship. The third and most recent shift is towards transformative innovation policy. I will not go into the description of the frames, I want to focus on one thought that struck me during the conference, and it is about the organizations (or agents) that are supposed to help on this process of transformative innovation.

Economic change is a complex process. Transformative innovation tries to achieve a particular (broad) kind of change in a society. A wide range of organizations in the science, technology and innovation domain would have to collaborate and even change themselves to enable or promote transformative change. While some changes may have to do with technology development, adaptation or other kinds of innovation, other changes would be more about social technologies like improving cross silo collaboration, mobilizing a broader range of civil actors into innovation activities, experimenting with policy and learning by doing. However, many these organizations themselves are often very rigid, hierarchical, and to some degree clumsy, especially in developing countries. What I mean with clumsy is that research requires a degree of planning, organizations need to coordinate across disciplines and themes, and that governance and oversight remains necessary and important. So when there is a sudden shift these organizations struggle to change quickly. They are rigid, and many of their internal systems and the predominant organizations culture are designed to withstand distraction, and to plow straight on through obstacles, resistance and confusion. So to a large extent, many of these organizations are primed to ignore weak signals, soft voices and serendipity.

These kinds of organizations are my clients. So let me not complain too much about their ability to make sense of what is going on around them. The ideas shared in this conference would inspire many of my clients and friends working in the Department of Science and Technology in South Africa, and the network of academics, researchers and technology centers we have here. I am excited about many of the concepts, but also weary that there is little space to fail or time to lose due to political and societal pressure to show results.radike_72dpi20130703_MG_0435

 

Berlin: History from the perspective of a building

Every year our family travel together to Germany for a company meeting, and to host the annual Summer Academy. Here we have learned how in Germany, especially in Berlin, the community can reflect on the past in order to participate in the present and better navigate the future. Our family is always struck by the many museums and events  that looks not only at German history, but also mistakes and darker periods in Germany’s past.

20170704_lightshow01

One such event is the annual Media and Light display that is projected against the facade of the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus over the river Spree. This thirty-minute  installation is entitled “Dem deutschen Volke – Eine parlamentarische Spurensuche. Vom Reichstag zum Bundestag” (To the German People – A journey through parliamentary history from the Reichstag to the Bundestag). It shows the history of parliamentarianism in Germany and of the Reichstag Building in Berlin. This journey through the past 130 years shows how the Reichstag building is used and has always been a reflection of the state of German democracy.’ The official site of this show is hosted on the Bundestag website. The show is 30 minutes long and is repeated every evening from mid May to Mid September

Imagine we could do this in South Africa? Would that not allow us to have a more meaningful discussion of our past, to help us understand how we are all shaped by decisions, actions and influences from the past? What would the Union Buildings tell us?

This display is special to our family for several reasons:

  • there are several light sources.  Video footage, shadows and colors are projected onto several buildings, while music from Paul van Dyk (Wir Sind Wir) and Die Toten Hosen (Tage Wie Diese) fades in and out around the narrative. When the narrator talks about the wall, a spiked fence shadow is projected over one of the facades (see picture above), while later the whole building is behind barbed fence.
  • the sound is amazing, even if the narrative is in German.
  • the people we take with us are touched by the footage, even if they don’t understand a word. These are typically participants in the Mesopartner Summer Academy from many developing countries where they too tend to sweep past decisions under the carpet.
  • this display also reveals something about the German culture that we admire, the ability to debate, discuss and deliberate in a very transparent way. Even if it is about taboo decisions.
  • we get the idea of one nation, even there are different opinions. Even if this is expressed in German.

20170704_lightshow02

Head over to Youtube. Here is one link to a show recorded in 2016. Here is another link. Alternatively, search for Film- und Licht­projektion im Parlaments­viertel.

If you have seen the show, share your thoughts, your photo or your impressions. Some German translations of some of the text would also be welcome!

How difficult it is to change an organization around a simple insight

In the last few months I have been going back to my change and organizational development roots. I have been on a journey to reconnect my more recent insights on systemic change and innovation systems with my earlier experience in process consulting, supporting organizations to change. I have rediscovered many old ideas that are still extremely valid and useful. I even have to wonder how I forgot some things that once were so important to me. Also, some things that did not seem all that important 10 years ago now seems far more important, but I digress.

Let me share an example of how a more recent insight about innovation became more powerful when I looked at it from an organizational development perspective. In my training work on innovation systems, I often lay a foundation with some simple concepts. One such building block is the idea that there are three kinds of innovation: product, process and business model. Product innovation is the easiest (you need to mainly be creative, know something about either a key technology or a key market), with process and business model innovation often being more difficult because you might need more abstract thinking capability, technical and others skills from beyond your organizations as well as a creative imagination. Easy enough, all the participants nod their heads in agreement and indicate that I can move on. Yet, back at the office this was not so simple.

I noticed that a few of my favorite technology and R & D centres here in South Africa were struggling with this very simple idea. They were mainly focused on product innovation, arguing that their behavior is shaped by the incentives created by public grants that supported them to develop products for wanna-be entrepreneurs (I wrote about the importance of technological capability here). It was convenient to blame the public grants for this incentive, and everybody knew that the results less than ideal (many of these wanna-be entrepreneurs did not stand a chance in the market as they lack technological capability and or business experience). Thus the Status Quo was maintained with everybody talking about changing but not really making the shift.  Until the easy funding became less easy. It was at this point that some management teams realized just how entrenched the culture of product innovation was, and how dependent these organizations have become on public grants.

So I had the task of coaching a team to think through this change process, to reduce their dependence on public funding by helping their team to shift to process innovation from a mainly product innovation focus. This meant that instead of designing, prototyping and manufacturing a particular product for a wanna-be entrepreneur, they shift their attention to helping existing companies or entrepreneurs with a track record improve, enhance or expand their process technologies so that they can themselves develop, prototype and manufacture new products.

Interestingly enough, the technological capabilities for product innovation and process innovation for this particular engineering group have a lot in common. It is mainly the internal processes, arrangements of teams, self assessment criteria (are we making progress?) and the identity of the organization that had to change to make this shift. This in itself meant some business model innovation was required. They also had to become better in forming partnerships with other technology providers. In complexity thinking language, the physical technologies and entrepreneurial technologies will remain largely the same, but many additional or different social technologies would be needed. For instance, some additional skillsets are needed that are more expensive and not typical to technology centre at universities. Lastly, this process focus shift would require far more work on the premises of the client, and also working with many other unknown technologies and sectoral requirements, which meant that concepts such as self-management, temporary work teams and many parallel projects also had to be tried out. It started sounding more and more like a completely new organization and a major disruption that this client could not afford. Starting over was simply not an option. And the individuals in the current team was a real asset.  If this team could not make this shift then very few would be able to make it.

It was agreed that we needed an adaptive process, a series of small experiments that allowed them to try some process innovation applications. The horizons of innovation provided a useful framework (Tim Kastelle inspired me about this model, recently Ralph-Christian took it further). We captured their current technological and market capabilities and agreed that this focus had to be maintained while we find ways to explore the adjacent technological and market spaces without breaking the bank. Tim Kastelle always say 70% of the focus should be on the current block (horizon 1). We did this by first looking which process innovations would be interesting to some of their existing markets (we found a few). The we looked at where their current technological capability could be used in new markets, but in a process innovation way. This could be done by investigating some economic sectors a little deeper.  Thus most of the energy of management remains on the current technological base and markets, with an additional focus on process innovations in an adjacent markets and technologies. We were all surprised that these ideas required very little additional funding (at first), with more specialized equipment and skills required if any of these ideas took hold.

The moral of the story is this. It sounds simple to say “shift attention from product innovation to process innovation”. People might actually agree this is important. But to make this shift requires many internal changes. A process of exploration and mental simulation using a simple framework was all it took to identify some areas where the current management team with its current resources could try several new ideas, without much change to the business plan or operations of the organization. I am very pleased with this outcome.

Thanks to the team for trusting me to facilitate this process. You know who you are!