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CAIL Innovation Blog

“Learning principles” – to Innovate for Impact

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If the goal is to meaningfully improve outcomes, expand opportunities, create significant wealth, etc. from innovation, there are many things to “ learn “ to innovate for impact.

For this to occur today in an enterprise typically requires effecting meaningful change. Unfortunately, relying on traditional vehicles to gain knowledge (ie: teachers, classrooms, conventional consulting / methodologies / practices, etc.) severely limits the ability to anticipate the future and change as well as how to make good on opportunities.  Further, with high User expectations, the need for ease and convenience, the importance of relevant digital capabilities and personalized services, the requirement to deliver a great User Experience, perform in a shorter window of opportunity, the ability to monetize value creation (frequently in new ways), etc. –  the demands now are far greater and the tolerance for deficiencies much lower than in the past.

Fundamentally for an enterprise to move forward today, it’s about recognizing there are many variables and things that have to work out to achieve success. These include –  doing things that people value, understanding context, getting the different mindsets / objectives / agendas / skills / perspectives / risk tolerance / values / etc. on the same page , dealing with the significant differences in business and technology sophistication between organizations and industries as well as the mental abilities of decision makers, variances in the talent / ambitiousness / resourcefulness / resolve of the people involved in creating the future, an understanding of the obvious and not so obvious (but relevant) factors to successfully expand business capabilities or to gain traction in the market, creating synergies, dealing with different personalities / likeability, being accountable and respectful, recognizing and getting past nativity / ignorance / arrogance as well as people who are egotistical / self absorbed, the ability to digest lots of information and intelligently apply filters to know what matters, how to create and monetize value, get outside your comfort zones, to be able to think clearly and strategically – especially in stressful or demanding situations, have strong look ahead skills, can admit mistakes, is able to adapt / change / pivot,  learns fast – internally and from others, etc.    With this, the Internet, crises and advances in information technology – being successful today involves much more than in the past.  And with the ongoing need to deliver new capabilities that matter in shorter time frames, the importance of learning how to learn is critically important to moving forward –  for you and your organization.

To win today in an on-line, real-time, all-the-time world requires collaborating with people having the above attributes who are results oriented and accomplished at initiating projects, great at problem solving, are highly determined, etc. that apply the following learning principles –

1. Satisfaction comes from frequent new learnings ( ie: every day). This is important to do things better, and make real impact. It’s also a key part of enjoying the journey as well as the destination. It’s not about superiority or weakness, but to realize goals and realize the rewards.

2. Success requires challenging assumptions and the status quo. With this learning principle, people who are high achievers start with a conviction that new learning will lead to new opportunities and/or reveal limits or deficiencies  in existing models. With many ways to create and monetize value, it’s important to challenge convention and assumptions since the business landscape is changing and people’s needs are evolving.

3. Learning means understanding (far beyond memorization). Great business people strive to understand the depth of a situation, a trend, a customer need, rather than just a personal opinion or the prevailing view, or to recite a list of projects, etc. While a technology is not a solution, understanding a technology in the context of an opportunity or a customer need, will result in more appealing, valuable and a longer term solution.

4. The act of communicating and writing enhances learning. The process of documenting and effectively articulating your plan, vision, the thinking, etc. to others greatly enhances your own understanding of things. With this greater understanding, you are able to more effectively share your insights and articulate opportunities to accelerate awareness of how the organization needs to move forward.

5. Recognize building a new product / service / business requires “ process and predictability “ as well as “ insight and inspiration “.  Identifying and making good on an opportunity is about understanding the needs and thoughts of people who would benefit with your solution as well as the  associated technology or brand familiarity. With this, ensure you leverage networks, social media, and other forums to increase solution awareness and appeal. Fundamentally, to win in the market and reduce business risk, it’s about creating synergies as well as being good at leveraging science and art.

6. Realize learning is about looking outside yourself – at other people and situations. Extending your knowledge occurs quickly when you look at other businesses or industries who are also dealing with change (ie: who have or are transforming after being disrupted). With this, it’s essential to be very knowledgeable about competitors or potential competitors,  as well as having strong look ahead skills to know how to win in a new business landscape, extend your comfort zones, etc. In conjunction with this, the Internet enables you to quickly test a new business opportunity or concept – and get quick feedback from around the world at low cost.  If you’re not doing these things, you’re losing ground.

7. Relationships are a test of your learning readiness. Creating “ the new” today is also about building relationships – internally and externally – with stakeholders, customers, partners, influencers, peers, etc. While we each need to make a meaningful contribution to have a better future, it’s usually much quicker with effective collaboration – especially with highly talented and ambitious people, often with different and complimenting capabilities, who share your aspirations.

8. Proactively ask for help and anticipate the need to pivot / fail fast / scale quickly. Engage with colleagues and others having a shared interest in the outcome from the innovation initiative. With enterprises having numerous resources and an ecosystem as well as the Internet, you can ask for help from normally inaccessible experts, with minimum personal exposure and cost. From this, it’s easy to see what others have done, what has occurred over time, etc. – so your own learnings and the challenges of dealing with change shouldn’t be an issue. Avoid the arrogance trap.

Regardless of your age or background, following these learning principles will accelerate innovation progress and reduce the risks associated with change. And since people learn much more from failure than success, ensure there are rewards from events that fast track “ Learning “ !

June 15, 2020    CAIL / Marty Zwilling         CAIL Innovation commentary     

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