Monday, July 30, 2012

A Simple Framework for Innovation Leadership

If you are looking for a simple and effective framework that you can adapt for organizational innovation and for coaching your innovation leaders, then you will find help here.

You may be familiar with the framework for leadership that was developed at MIT over a four-year period by Professors Deborah Ancona, Tom Malone, and Wanda Orlikowski, with Peter Senge, and tested in diverse real world settings, the FCF is a powerful tool for understanding and integrating the four critical components of leadership. The FCF, as described in research on Leadership in the Age of Uncertainty, defines these components as follows (

  • Sensemaking: making sense of the world around us, coming to understand the context in which we are operating.
  • Relating: developing key relationships within and across organizations.
  • Visioning: creating a compelling picture of the future.
  • Inventing: designing new ways of working together to realize the vision
I looked at this framework from the Innovation angle and to my pleasant surprise, all the four terms - sensemaking, relating, visioning and inventing - precisely described the critical components of Systematic Innovation. Here I describe how I adapted this highly successful framework for Innovation. I used this to coach innovation leaders in my organization and found it very effective.

  • Sensemaking: this is all about understanding the innovation ecosystem and ensuring that the innovations are spread across the entire ecosystem (refer to my earlier blog post on how successful Innovators focus on the Ecosystem -
  • Relating: I would like to interpret this a little differently (a) Innovators analyze relations and understand inter-dependencies (b) Innovators create new connections and form relations where none existed before.r
    • I use the "Adapt" trigger to borrow ideas from other domains and relate them to the problem that I am trying to solve - If I am designing an innovative school, I ask myself what I can borrow and adapt from a hospital or bank or restaurant and introduce in a school to make it more effective.
    • Here is something that coudl help you in forging new relations -
      6 Innovation Triggers
      The Innovation Genome Project is a grand effort to look at historical innovations and identify best-practices and techniques that could help us to create innovative ideas. Read more about it at Innovation Excellence - - six powerful questions that could trigger innovative thinking:
      1. What could we look at in a new way?
      2. What could we use in a new way, or for the first time?
      3. What could we move into a new context, either in time or in space?
      4. What could we connect in a new way, or for the first time?
      5. What could we change, in terms of design or performance?
      6. What could we create that is truly new?
  • Visioning: Most Innovators succeed by visioning the innovative solution well before inventing it - some of them get inspired by the imagination of others and proceed to invent those visions - H.G Wells inspired Leo Szilard to invent artificial atomic energy and Jules Verne inspired Simon Lake to invent the Submarine. 
  • Inventing: This is the heart of Innovation. After understanding the ecosystem, creating new connections and visualizing the ideal solution, it is time to solve the problem and come up with an inventive solution. Innovator's ability to smartly design and conduct experiments that prove his innovative concept is very critical. This skill can drastic bring down the time for innovation and helps the decision maker to prioritize the most promising ideas.
Key Takeaways
  • Make Sense of the Ecosystem 
  • Connect and form new relations 
  • Create a Vision of the Ideal Solution 
  • Develop an Inventive solution for the problem and grow it into Innovation.

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