I have discussed in the two previous posts how a belief can determine a reality (“I don’t believe in digital”) and how our beliefs are fundamentally flawed and dangerous anyway (Quantum physics, The Matrix and the corporate world).
There is maybe an opportunity to escape this determinism, as history seems to repeat itself, and the disruptors become the disrupted (eg. Kodak, Motorola, Nokia…).
And the only way is to acknowledge that everything we know is wrong: no industry, category, company or product is safe.
Disruptive change is accelerating, driven by the rapid emergence of new technologies, the blurring of lines between industries, and competition from both traditional and nontraditional players.
As a result, corporate lifespans are shrinking. On average, a company drops out of the S&P 500 list and is replaced once every few weeks. If current trends hold, about 75% of companies on today’s list will fade away or get acquired by 2030.
(Innosight, The strategy confidence Gap, 2015)
…And that it’s OK. It’s super-exciting. Now we can question everything, even the unquestionable as Einstein did when he questioned the definition of Time or the nature of Gravity.
As our biases are cognitive and behavioural, the solution to overcome them lays there too.
In The Innovator’s DNA, authors Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen build on what we know about disruptive innovation to show how individuals can develop the skills necessary to move progressively from idea to impact. By identifying behaviours of the world’s best innovators—from leaders at Amazon and Apple to those at Google, Skype, and Virgin Group—the authors outline specific skills.
They outline that all innovative disruptors have in common: specific cognitive and behavioural skills, institutionalised processes to support a large number of people in the organisation using these skills, and a culture/philosophy to sustain the process.
When you question your beliefs (what I think I know and what I know I don’t know) you’ll have to face your blind spot (what you don’t know you don’t know).
Innovators cognitive and behavioural skills, people and processes allow them to look into the blind spot by asking questions :Why? How? If?
“There’s nothing more dangerous that the right answers to the wrong questions”
- Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom,
How do you ask yourself questions about things you’re unaware of, and incompetent at?
By starting with a clean slate, leaving all of your assumptions away.
Asking yourself how many things you are wrong about.
Simple questions – just a few words. The process is called Catalytic Questioning, as asking questions changes your perspective on the problem.
This step is hard, as it requires being comfortable with being uncomfortable (see an example with Pixar BrainTrust).
The Heath Brothers provide fabulous examples in their book “Decisive” about the importance of the devil’s advocate role.
- Observing: scrutinising the behaviour of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new and different ways of seeing/doing things
… Look for what is surprising and unexpected.
- Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives.
In order to get valuable insights you need to go to different people – different industry, category, gender/age group…
This is a little bit like in Chip & Dan Heath’s Book “Switch”: did someone else answered that question successfully?
- Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge
Make it small, fast and cheap. Experimenting should be accessible and facilitated to all in the organisation.
- finally Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields, the combinatory play: selecting and probing the answers helps new ideas emerge from connecting the un-connected.
Innovation, Strategy, Change even are often mistaken for an Event, when they are a process. It’s everybody’s job, and anchoring it in our behaviour requires routine: we are what we repeatedly do. We are wired to solve problems (see David Kwong’s TED Talk).
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
As a 4 y.o. I was always asking Why? and If? I never stopped since.
When did you?
Innosight – The strategy confidence gap
HBR – Catalytic Questioning
New York Times – Carl Richards Personal Finance on a napkin
Credit Suisse / Forbes – The most innovative companies methodology
FastCompany – Inside Pixar BrainTrust
David Kwong – Two nerdy obsessions meet — and it’s magic