Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 44 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 11

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 24, 2019

This is my 44th 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 1-43.)

I have been at least relatively systematically working my way through a series of background issues since Part 39, with a goal of using that foundation-forming narrative as a basis for addressing two topics points and their issues, that I have held forth as organizing goals for this overall narrative. And my primary goal for this installment is to at least begin discussing those topic points directly now. That means I will at least begin to:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access-determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows.
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. 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. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

I concluded Part 43 of this series with some general comments regarding new employee selection, and working with people already on-staff at a business, so as to bring in the right creatively innovative people and support them for what they can bring to the business. Then after (presumably) finishing that discussion thread, at least for purposes of that posting, I said that I would turn to discuss the above-repeated topics points and essentially from the start of this one. But I have decided since writing that, to at least selectively expand upon the complex of personnel related issues that I was addressing in Part 43 first, to further complete the foundation that I will begin addressing the above Point 1 from. This, I add, is particularly important and relevant here given the overall thrust of this series as a while, with its personnel-oriented focus.

I begin this posting-starting digression by explicitly noting that when I refer to creative hands-on and managerial staff and the innovation that they can bring to a business, I am not just referring to innovation as it can arise in marketable products or services; I am writing of innovation in general as it can more widely hold potential for enriching a business, with that including business process innovation, innovation in how a business reaches out to and connects with its markets, or with possible supply chain partners or other business-to-business collaborators, or in any other context where such creativity might arise – or be thwarted. And I am writing of innovation as a product of individual effort, and even when it requires coordinated effort of several or even many to bring an innovative insight to meaningful fruition.

If you are a business owner or a more senior executive there, or a lower or midlevel manager there for that matter, who finds yourself having to hire a new employee and at whatever level in the organization, what should you look for that would go beyond your already current and ongoing routine and normal? And what should you do to identify, support and encourage such potential in the people who you already have working with you on payroll? Going beyond that, and in acknowledgement of the constraints that businesses both face and create for themselves from bringing in people part-time and short-term, and as part of a gig economy approach to hiring, where and how should you look for innovative potential and other sources of value that would make it more worthwhile for all involved, to actively bring people onboard as full time in-house employees, who prove themselves as good candidates for that from their performance in more transient positions there?

Some qualities and habits come immediately to mind that would offer worth from essentially anyone who a business would seek to bring in and keep, and actively support for their abilities to create new sources of value for an employing business. And this would just start with recognition of a driving curiosity that would bring an employee or a prospective employee to look beyond their own particular day-to-day routine to see at least something of what might be possible beyond that. And it would also include a willingness and ability to connect the dots, seeing how what might at first seem to be unrelated needs and resources might be brought together in unexpected ways. Communications skills enter in here too, as do what might perhaps best be considered marketing skills, for sharing and arguing the case for possible innovative insights that have been realized.

There are, of course, a number of other traits that could be added to that list as offering at least supportive value to what I have just outlined here. But for purposes of this posting and the above-repeated Point 1 that I will at least begin addressing here, these are the key characteristics and qualifications that I would start the main line of discussion of this posting from, here.

At the risk of repeating myself on some key points that I have already discussed in this blog, and even at least touched upon in this series too, I offer the following as context in which possible innovation and possible innovators might be addressed:

• The more standardized and the more routine a business process, or a product and its manufacturing are, or any other area of business activity that might be considered here, the less new information is actually going to be required to carry it out. And I even include operational possibilities here such as customized manufacturing, where customization per se is usually still tightly constrained and where options are in most cases routinized with customers selecting from suites of already-prepared-for options.
• The more standardized and the more routine here, the less new information, and at least as importantly the fewer the number of types of information have to be explicitly shared in order to carry it out. And the second half of that bullet point even holds true when considering big-data intensive operations, such as Customer Fulfillment Center operations where employees have to be able to access large amounts of data concerning the specific customers they are dealing with, in order to set up and complete sales or other transactions with them. They might see a diversity of specific data through this, but it is essentially certain that they will primarily if not exclusively see this coming up through specifically formatted and populated database tables that they have specific vetted access too, and with the same data fields tapped into for this every time and without exceptions. So even there, they are only seeing and working with a limited set of types of data for this.

Innovation, and looking beyond the standard and routine, calls for wider vision and understanding if it is to bring relevant value to a business or to the people who work there as they carry out their workplace responsibilities. So when I initially wrote and offered the above Point 1, I was setting up what can become a fundamental conflict that can play out in a business. And it is one in which the default decision making option is one of simply pursuing standard and routine, and the cost of that can easily become a loss of creative opportunity – and of overall opportunity that in the long run might have proven essential to the business as a whole for its ongoing success.

I explicitly framed Point 1 in terms of a simplified risk management tool that I have offered in recent installments to this series in a few progressively more refined iterations, for use as a didactic tool. And I continue this discussion from that point where I will focus on mid-range risk scenarios as discussed in the context of that tool.

Why mid-range risk issues and scenarios? I have already touched upon that question and its answers when initially offering the above cited risk management tool that would be used for managing this area of consideration, or at least for organizing its management. But I will address that complex of issues again here, this time expanding on what I have already offered on this topic, embedding my earlier response to it in what follows:

• Risk management is all about limiting the possible negative impact of uncertainty and the unexpected.
• In a standard business-as-usual context, and when standard and routine processes and flows of them are carried out in the performance of required tasks, this uncertainty fits essentially entirely into the category of known unknowns. You might not know when an adverse event will specifically arise but most of the time, and with only rare exceptions, you will start out knowing basically what types of such events can and with time will occur.
• Under these circumstances, the primary difference between low risk, mid-range risk and high risk events would be that progressively higher overall risk here, can be represented as a calculated mathematical product of progressively higher likelihood of an adverse event occurring, and a progressively higher negative consequence if one does, or some other overall higher value combination of these factors.
• In practice, in mathematical terms this is going to actually mean a calculated product that is weighted towards progressively more adverse outcomes, per incident as the risk assessed increases. And it is a key outcomes consequence of risk management, that efforts be made to reduce the calculated risk values as determined here, moving forward. Quite simply, a business process that fails too often is going to be replaced. A marketable product that does so is going to be recalled and the business will stop producing or selling it, at least until it can be redesigned or until its production line quality control can be improved.
• But even rare events can call for such change if their negative consequences rise to a sufficiently high level. Consider the recall of playpens and other items for infants and toddlers when a child dies as a result of a product failure.
• The key here, summarizing across the preceding bullet points is that when risk is essentially entirely driven by known and familiar unknowns, it becomes possible to in effect establish actuarial table approaches to dealing with it. And it becomes possible to comparatively set up tables of low risk to high risk activities and their outputs that can be supported or avoided too, as a matter of business routine. And the mid-range risks and the activities that they arise from, that I cited in Point 1, do not hold any particular significance beyond that of how they fit into larger, overall business-wide risk determination schemes.
• Now add in the additional uncertainties of innovation and of the disruptively novel and new. This is when unknown unknowns enter this narrative. And bottom line, that makes this source of uncertainty and the actual uncertainty that arise from it fundamentally qualitatively different from the known unknowns and their risks that I have just been writing of here.
• Lowest and highest risk possibilities are in most cases going to remain the same whether or not known unknowns are added to the mix, given the low likelihood of their creating unpredictably disruptive new risk increases. But when you add the possibility or even a significantly concerning likelihood of unknown unknowns into this, they add a level of impact to any overall risk determination, and a maximized level of overall risk increase for any possible events that would fit into a mid-range risk category in particular. And they specifically add whole new layers of uncertainty as to what is likely to arise as an adverse event or outcome of that categorical level too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will specifically turn to consider information sharing, and the innovative context, as the underlying logic of the above set of bullet points plays out. And as a key part of that, I will explain the immediately preceding bullet point as just offered here regarding mid-level risk events and their possibility too. Then I will turn to consider Point 2, in light of this still ongoing discussion. 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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