Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 39 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 6

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 16, 2018

This is my 39th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-38.)

I began Part 38 with a point of observation that I started addressing there and that I will continue discussing here:

• Ultimately investing in people with ideas and not just in specific ideas, depends on how effectively a business can in fact institute an effective back-channel if you will, unstructured, or at least less-structured communications system that can address the novel information flow needs that innovation, and disruptive innovation in particular require, while still maintaining effective risk management oversight of genuinely sensitive and confidential information.

And I offered in Part 38, as a part of this overall discussion, a simplified, and I admit somewhat simplistic standardized risk assessment scoring system that I am pursuing here for didactic purposes: a score that ranges from zero through 10 inclusively, with all intermediate integer value scores included. I offered a simple-seeming risk = 0 score example and briefly outlined how low probability but potentially impactful events, among other possible complications can force a change in even what would more reasonably seem to be safe low or no real risk, risk management assessments there. And I offered a relatively clear-cut risk = 10 example there too and discussed how complicating factors can force a needed risk reassessment for that too. And that left me with the middle ground and with events and circumstances that would fit a more mid-range risk score according to this test-case system.

I concluded Part 38 with a briefly stated assessment of that category of mid-level risk events, which I repeat in part for its relevance here:

• All of this type of added risk-factor consideration becomes much more complicated with more mid-range information management risk scores. And that is where the type of unstructured, or at least less-structured communications and information sharing issues that I write of here in an innovation context, become both more important for innovation and more nuanced and challenging for their risk management considerations. Genuinely zero risk information sharing does not enter into any access decision making considerations here, and risk of 10 information is in most cases going to be off the table for that and out of consideration too. It is middle ground risk evaluation level data where this becomes important, and at least potentially challenging.

I offered that at the end of Part 38 with a goal of further discussing the sometimes conflicts that arise when considering communications and information sharing in an innovation context. And I pursue that line of discussion here, beginning for smoother continuity of narrative with some still-earlier aspects of this overall discussion.

I wrote in Part 37 and again in Part 38 about how innovation is information driven and information access driven, and how arriving at a practical innovative insight starting point can be essentially entirely so. Would-be innovators and even the most creative and capable of them can find themselves left in the dark if they do not have access to the information that they would need if they are to shape their innovation starting point concepts in ways that would be amenable to practical development and use. And if they do arrive at such an insight but no one can hear of it because of rigid information compartmentalization – or at least no one can who could help start a process of testing and developing from it, then it is as if no innovative effort were even started. But I am going to turn to a later part of this process, and the step-by-step process flow that would translate and develop an initial innovative spark into a realized disruptively new product, for my core example here. Information access and availability, and access that can cut across the more usual channels and communications patterns in that, are not the only possible bottleneck points that such an effort can face at this stage in the development of New. But it can still be a crucially important one.

Let’s develop this working example from the fundamentals:

• Innovation never takes place in a vacuum and cannot be assumed to be the sole prerogative of any one business enterprise, and certainly when an effort is being made to more effectively manage or resolve a more commonly realized problem or challenge that others see need to resolve too. And this applies for disruptive innovation that would come up with completely new and novel approaches for accomplishing that, just as much as it does for more routine next incremental-step evolutionary development. If you and your business are working on a potentially significant innovative advancement, you have to assume that others are too. And even if your approach is more creative and novel than that of your competition, if they get there first, and bring their New to market first, they start out with a real advantage.
• Let’s assume here that your business is pursuing a disruptively new approach to resolving an open challenge faced by your industry, and the consumers and end users in your marketplace. And your competition is taking a more next-step evolutionary approach and simply seeking to adapt what they already produce and sell, to more effectively address this recognized need.
• For this, their next step-only, more comfortably familiar evolutionary development new product offering might have a real advantage over an at least initially similar for functionality first iteration stage, disruptively new product type, and certainly in anything like first mover timeframes. (Here, I presume “functionally similar” in terms of addressing the initial commonly recognized problem that all of this new product development effort has been at least initially directed toward resolving.)
• Remember, the more comfortably familiar might not have the potential for further development that a newly developed, first take disruptively new product or technology might have – as it is further refined and developed in next products offered and next after that. But the more familiar product option that hits the marketplace can start out attracting the interest and the purchasing power of a wider swath of the innovation diffusion acceptance curve and its participants, with middle and even some later adaptors jumping on early because they see simpler evolutionary change to an already known and familiar to be more reliable, and comfortably so. And meanwhile a disruptively new alternative to that might only capture pioneer and early adaptor interest at first and a significantly smaller initial market share, as these competing new offerings seek to prove themselves.
• With those potential and even likely initial market share constraints and imbalances in mind, I raise the following consequential point. Essentially any delays in development and production, and certainly for the more disruptively novel marketplace option here, and certainly any that would present themselves as being more structural in nature and likely to recur would be problematical at the very least.
• Any real delays or blocks in the process flow that would move an initial innovation concept from the lab to production, and on to market, can rob an innovative business of any window of opportunity that they would need to really succeed with their New. This is a circumstance where first mover effects really matter.
• This is not all information-driven. A potential ground breaking and even blue ocean marketing and sales opportunity can evaporate if for example, the production line that would actually manufacture for it is slowed or stopped because a crucial part or material for this new offering cannot be acquired on time, and with seemingly ongoing failures to meet expected delivery dates for that. Actually, even that type of breakdown can be information-driven if the people at that business, starting with the initial developer of this innovative idea, and including its specific product designers, are left out of those production challenge-addressing conversations. Failure to include these potential participants there might very well preclude this business being able to switch to a Plan B alternative for designing and building this new product, that might bypass this here closed-off parts or materials delivery bottleneck.

I posit this as a mid-level risk example as far as business intelligence sharing and communications are concerned, because most if not all of the essential information details that could be more effectively communicated to potentially crucial stakeholders here, would fit into a mid-level risk assessment range and in any realistic risk management assessment. And if necessary and even essential people are kept out of the loop for these conversations, and their potential insight and solutions to this problem are left out as a result, that is probably more due to the momentum of the standard and routine, than from any specific case in point risk management-based information access assessments that might at least potentially be made too. A and B are not brought together in these types of conversations because they do not routinely need to do so. And if they are not communicating already, they are not going to know when pressing need has arisen where they should so communicate.

And I add that this can reflect how specific access decisions, if explicitly made at all, are made on an individual information sharing detail by individual information sharing detail basis, and without regard to or even awareness of the larger innovation-to-product process. Risk management itself can become too compartmentalized and walled off for it to be able to make effective big picture-aware decisions.

I am going to continue this discussion in my next installment to this series, with an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access determination process, as it arises and plays out in this type of mid-range risk management context. And I will continue on from there to discuss how this type of system can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how it addresses both normative and predictably expected, and more novel potential information sharing contexts. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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