Coming: Dips, Rocks and Thunderstorm

Joseph Pistrui's post from his blog really resonated with me and I thought it would with you!  Jospeh is a friend, colleague and wise man. He diverse background and expertise gives him the credibilty to speak on our very dynamic world.  So read on and please ponder.  And thank you, Joseph, for letting me repost your words here!

A recent tweet by 7billCORPORATE (@7billcorp, part of @7billionideas) really nailed the truth about innovation and business. On 30 January 2015 via Twitter, a brilliant graphic was added to a post that contrasted the perception many people have about the path to progress and what it’s really like. Here ’tis:

Path to Progress

So many think that innovation happens quickly, smoothly, without roadblocks or bumps. And that may be true, for a few. If you are operating in a business environment in which there is a reasonably clear — and straight — line to who your future customers will be and what products and services you need to develop for them, first count your blessings and then get on the accelerator. Assuming you have the technology and know-how to make it happen, these are precisely the conditions when speed is critically important. Start. Go fast. Keep going. Don’t stop.

In these rare moments in the world of enterprise, getting to your destination as fast and efficiently as possible must be your paramount goal. The business world has countless tools for planning and eking out process improvements for such journeys, and you probably already know how to use them well.

In such cases, think of the time you may have watched with envy that shiny red Porsche Carrera speeding off down the highway with the driver pushing “pedal to the metal”. Recall the roar of all that horsepower as it reached top speed and peak performance, unchallenged by anything or anyone on the road.

Unfortunately, such an analogy isn’t the reality for most firms. “The future” for most businesses and organisations I encounter will be the kind of path that 7billCORPORATE displays. There will be dips, rocks, wobbly bridges over unknown chasms and deep water where you expected smooth pavement. Oh, and don’t forget the thunderstorms.

For most of those I meet, their future operating environment is uncertain, ambiguous and even (heaven forbid) unknowable. During their journey in time, many of the time-tested tools and techniques at their disposal will prove to be, well, not very helpful.

That does not mean that what’s needed is a new car and a new driver. Think now of that same Porsche, only this time keeping in mind its other performance capacities, such as cornering, shifting, braking and speed. This exceptionally well-engineered automobile is both ready for the high-speed straightaway as well as the curves, redirections and sudden changes of speed required to drive the rocky road to tomorrow.

Yet, if you lack the mindset to power up and power past unpredictable obstacles, you might as well be on skateboard with only one set of wheels. You’re not going to move far, fast or fearlessly. Which is why, as I work with companies large and small, I find that what’s most needed is a new leadership mindset, skillset and toolset. Too many leaders have great cars, but they lack versatility. The 21st century leader must be able to move fast when he or she knows the right direction, be cautious when the terrain is unknown or threatening, be willing to change directions when new and compelling information becomes available, and be able to stop quickly — even altogether — should the conditions for progress prove impossible.Porsche Carerra

Becoming more versatile (or ambidextrous) as a leader is no small task; but, in my experience, it is now an imperative for survival, and even more an imperative for growth. Our Nextsensing Project is about working with the mindset of any leader facing an uncertain future. No matter what kind of car he or she drives, moving into the future requires an understanding of the unique challenge at hand, the identification of the appropriate tools to use for the situation, and the building of confidence that only rough roads truly test the abilities of the vehicle — and the driver.

Porsche image from

Are You On a Salvage or Launch Mission?


Sunk Costs: money you spent that can’t be recovered… salvaged.  This month, I’ve been working with a few companies struggling to walking away from sunk costs. Despite how ‘obviously’ inane it may be, many companies keep throwing good money after bad.  They keep spending more money to try to salvage any use or benefit from what is sunk – down at the bottom of the sea.  In the Venture Capital world we call this financing risk – putting good money after bad on the hope that at some point, Einstein’s Law of Insanity* will be wrong and the salvage mission becomes a successful rescue mission.  Problem is this rarely happens.

So, guess what? Sunk costs are sunk. Move on. Get over it. Put your energy, time and resources into opportunities for growth, into potential launch missions.  Put good money after good money. Stop salvaging and start launching.

* Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


Are Networks Leading Indicators for Innovation?

As some of you know, I am passionate about networking, leading indicators and innovation from new combinations of existing things. I’ve been wondering how networks can be leading indicators for innovation!  Sarah Beaulieu reminded me about LinkedIn’s Maps, so I took a look at mine:

I won’t go into detail, but it’s interesting to see the clusters of my clients, the communities I “belong” to (geographic, education, career, faith, etc.) and the intersections (or not) between them.  In some cases, I’m the key connector, in others I’m one of a few. 

How is this a leading indicator? I see a few connections between a manufacturing/prototyping client and regional biomedical device companies.  Could this be a leading indicator of increasing medical device manufacturing in the region? If I look further, I can see what if the companies are focused on orthopedics, pediatrics, cardiology, etc. and start watching for more in-depth developments.  The Venture Capitalist in me finds this very interesting.

What if we look at the changes in my map over time: new connections between existing people in my network through me or without me; increased connection density between different “communities”; outliers – one-off connections that develop? 

I’m going to regularly update my map and see how it grows.   Many of you are in it!  Thank you! So take this challenge with me:

  • Check out your own map and share what you see and learn with us; and
  • See what you can do to increase the connections you have in “my” network – who you can reach out to do learn something new, who you can connect to each other and who you could innovate something with.

Let us know! Please share – and have fun – I know you will!

The Paradoxical Gift of Paradox

This is just a quick post on something that hit me yesterday.  In preparing for a strategic planning session this week, I realized that no matter how many of these I do, there is always a paradoxical feeling of being nervous about doing an excellent job for my client and being confident (hopefully not arrogance) in being great at what I do.  After all, the stakes are pretty high: people’s livelihoods, families, safe working environments, taxes paid to schools, police, etc. and the rest of a business ecosystem to say the least. 

It’s that paradoxical feeling that keeps me on my toes, asking dumb questions, challenging the status quo and trying to draw out the client’s wisdom and courage to grow.   This week, the client’s leader is the epitome of paradox!  He is one of the most innovative, creative, ‘out-there’ thinkers I’ve ever met and one of the most dependent on routine and habit.  That paradox is the reason they have more than doubled growth in 3 years - paradoxically in an industry that is shrinking! 

As some of you know, I love paradoxes.  They make us think, explore, reflect, discover, search, question. Innovation is found in new combinations of existing ‘stuff’.  Paradox is crucial to making that happen – it leads us to revisit and question assumptions, to combine things in ways we didn’t or couldn’t have imagined, to take the best of both and discard the worst.  Paradox makes us ask Why and Why Not repeatedly. Paradox puts us out there at the edge (per John Hagel), where new things are happening, even if it’s not always ‘safe’.

So this week, as a few of us will be intensely embracing paradoxes, why don’t you too?  Look for just one area in your business, organization, environment that seems counterintuitive, that is an oxymoron and question why, and why not.  Please share what you discover.