You Can’t Get There From Here

The January edition of Best’s Review contains an article titled, “AM Best’s Innovation Criteria”. According to the article:

AM Best defines innovation as a multi-stage process whereby an organization transforms ideas into new or significantly improved products, processes, services, or business models that have a measurable positive impact over time and enable the organization to remain relevant and successful … AM Best expects the output of the innovation process—those new or significantly improved products, process, services, or business models—to have a measurable impact. Some level of risk-taking and possible project “failure” is an expected part of any innovation program … innovation is a dynamic and ongoing process, as well as a long-term commitment. Companies [should] that treat innovation as part of a continuous cycle of organizational growth and development and … integrate their “new-stream” innovations with their mainstream legacy operations.

As criteria go, those are pretty sound. But criteria aren’t directions, and you can’t get there from here.

How To …

Creating or improving products, services, or business models requires a number of things:

  • Philosophically, it requires a purpose, a why. It requires adherence to that why, while checking egos, territorialism, and other manifestations of bureaucrap at the door.
  • Strategically, it requires plan, a what. It requires democratic ideation, with contributions from all levels of the organization. It requires balancing a willingness to fail with opportunities to learn. It requires managing talent, projects, knowledge, and risk.
  • Tactically, it requires a series of activities, a how. It requires clear roles responsibilities, decision-making authority to go along with those responsibilities, and consistent accountability.

Most of all, creating or improving products, services, or business models requires a matrixed framework — engaging everyone across the organization — that considers the future, as well as the present state, and in which to capture and organize everything necessary for making innovation systemic, systematic, and sustainable. It requires that framework to manage things from concepts to capitalization, from ideas to ISO 56000 conformance, from talent assessment to organizational alignment, from qualification criteria to funding, from market strategy to market delivery, and from ideas in the present to success in the future,

With that framework, you can map out your strategic direction. And you can definitely get there from here.

Take the Cult Out of Culture: Part Two

In March of last year, I wrote the first post in this series. In that post, I wrote this:

Organizations that have leaders who make rules inclusively and enforce them judiciously have cultures of accountability. Organizations that have leaders who make rules arbitrarily and enforce them punitively are cults. Organizations that have leaders who make no rules at all are failures. The lines between them must be drawn with equal parts care and conscientiousness.

One of the challenges of organizational cultures is that they’re seen as static. Leaders in organizations with static cultures say things like this: “This is our culture,” or, “Our culture is one of [fill in the blank],” or, “We have a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion.” But when you look more closely you find out diversity, equity, and inclusion may be check boxes intended to reflect the identity groups represented in the company. But there is no diversity, equity, or inclusion in the ways of thinking, in the levels of contribution, or in the degrees of collaborative interaction taking place in the company. Rather, the company is doing the same old things in the same old ways with the same old thinking.

The Proof Is In …

Those kinds of companies think they need to have a culture in the same way they think they need to have a mission statement — to have it on hand should someone ask about it or to publish it on the company’s website. They don’t realize cultures are fluid, dynamic, interactive, and changing — and encouraged to be — just as the ways in which the identities, personalities, and styles of the people who constitute cultures change.

Such companies also fail to realize organizational cultures are like honesty and integrity: They can’t be talked or written into existence. They can only be demonstrated in reality. And the only way corporate culture can be manifested and demonstrated is by creating an environment in which people and culture can take root, evolve, and flourish. And that, as they say, is when the magic happens.

The Good News

If you create that environment and (to quote the Beatle) let it be, you’ll find your organization improving, thriving, becoming more successful more consistently, evolving into a culture of enthusiasm and innovation. We call that evolution cultural mobility.

If you have the right framework, here’s how and why it works: