Exponential innovation

In a context of rapid change, organisations need to integrate innovation into their day-to-day business.

Two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling summed up the whole innovation process in one sentence when he said that the way to get good ideas is to generate lots of ideas and get rid of the bad ones.

This is a brilliant definition because it disproves the mistaken belief that the success of any project depends on a brilliant idea that fleetingly appears in our minds, changing the course of history in an instant. Examples such as the famous incident of the apple falling on Newton’s head and triggering the whole theory of universal gravitation have helped to support this widespread perception.

Reality is not so poetic and genius ideas rarely arise from a moment of divine inspiration. When innovation fails to produce satisfactory results in companies, it is usually not so much a lack of creativity, but rather a lack of discipline.

In general, we can say that innovation is the result of a systematic action oriented towards discovery and problem solving. That is why, if the right spaces and routines are not created, staff end up consuming all their time and resources in execution-oriented activities.

For innovation to become a real fact, the great challenge for organisations is to open up spaces in the midst of all the day-to-day executive activity, allocating part of the time to exploring new opportunities. This is a challenge because each individual or team will always assign a higher priority to the activities that form part of execution than to the set of activities aimed at exploration or innovation.

It is therefore necessary to incorporate a series of rituals for exploring new opportunities into each execution cycle. Only in this way can the experience gained in implementation be connected to improvement.

These rituals connecting experimentation with the organisation’s needs help future opportunities to emerge from the needs of the moment

Start to innovate!

Our «Innovation» canvas will help you to question everything you take for granted even though you have no data to back it up. Assumptions and beliefs are, depending on how they are treated, a source of errors and a source of innovation.

Serial innovation

The widely known model of trial and error is very useful to make innovation become a real fact and not just a mere statement of intent. By its very nature, it is a model which shows a clear willingness to move towards a result by progressively building new knowledge, based on evidence and data.

The spark starting this whole process arises from our daily executive activity, identifying the assumptions on which our current knowledge is based. In other words, what we take for granted even though we have no data to support it. The next step is to question this perception by posing hypotheses and designing a set of experiments aimed at (in)validating these beliefs.

Each experiment will provide knowledge on the one hand and a wealth of information useful as raw material for future hypotheses.

With this approach, innovation has the mission to transform the natural knowledge generation process of our execution activity from a linear to a non-linear pattern: when our beliefs are validated, progression is incremental and everything progresses according to our predictions. But, when we are confronted with experiments that refute our current knowledge, a disruption occurs which generates a large volume of information.

Non-linear progress is simply accepting that today’s world is by no means deterministic and that often, the outcome of performing a series of tasks does not always coincide with our prediction.

In this sense, innovation is about proving our perceptions totally wrong with evidence. The hope on which this model of innovation is based lies precisely in proving that we are wrong in our forecasts. Knowledge extracted from something which does not work according to our beliefs is infallible. The opposite, feeding back our perception by looking for an example which reinforces our current knowledge will usually lead us to persist in error.

Therefore, the exploration process is really a learning process. The challenge is to acquire a disproportionate amount of knowledge about the problem under analysis.

Exponential innovation

Establishing an exploration routine means that the results which can be obtained from these experiments are even more unpredictable than from the executive activities of a project or day-to-day activity.

In this context of exploration, the term non-linear also means that a small incremental step in the execution of an experiment may lead to a disruption in the outcome.

This is why the fear of non-linearity inherent to human beings is particularly prevalent in this type of activities. In many cases, when innovation is not a fully established routine, these actions to discover opportunities are progressively reduced to such an extent that they are limited to a minimum, in order to avoid risks.

Operating with such an approach, orienting teams to implementation activities and planning from the outset in a deterministic way everything to be done in an attempt to reduce uncertainty levels does not improve final results in any case.

On the other hand, taking advantage of the benefits of the non-linearity characteristic of this learning process in each execution cycle and throughout the whole activity could be highly beneficial and, in many cases, extremely cost-effective. It is simply a matter of asking ourselves the following questions in each execution cycle:

  • What are we taking for granted even though we have no data to support it?
  • What should we validate in the next working cycle?
  • What experiment are we going to conduct to validate our hypotheses?

Innovating is a day-to-day action...

Only when we have the necessary curiosity to try to understand reality will we be in a position to design and integrate innovation routines into our daily activity. It is an exercise which requires an initial effort but provides great benefits.

If you want to incorporate innovation into your daily business, we can help you design the systems you need. We will be happy to guide you through this transformation.