At Simon Associates Management Consultants, we find the steady downloads of our power points and white papers on Innovation Games totally amazing. Apparently, the challenges of coming out of the pandemic seem to have accelerated the interest in innovation, and as a result, Innovation Games have become in high demand. But you might ask, what are Innovation Games? Should you try them yourself? Do you need a professional’s help, someone like us? Let’s begin at the beginning.
What the heck is corporate anthropology?
People often ask us: "What do you do?" and "How do you do anthropology?" They are familiar (maybe) with anthropologists who work in small-scale societies in far away lands. My response: I tell them that companies or organizations in more complex societies are like those small-scale societies. We observe their interconnected networks, and the way people get their jobs done every day. They have many of the same dynamics as tribal or hunter-gatherer societies. They also have different ones which reflect how they have evolved into effective, or dysfunctional, organizations. Our job as corporate anthropologists is to help them "see, feel and think" in new ways to sustain their growth during these fast-changing times.
These are chaotic times. And we are in crisis mode. And while there are significant problems, there are also great opportunities. We can re-create our companies and ourselves for the future. No doubt it’s going to be very different. The challenge, however, is that people are uncomfortable when there’s no certainty. What I am suggesting is that this is the time for us to begin to use new tools and to see how we can adapt ourselves, our companies, our staff and our customers in innovative ways.
Every last one of us makes mistakes — that's a given. If you aren't making any mistakes, chances are you're not trying anything new, which is a mistake in itself. The famed UCLA basketball coach John "the Wizard of Westwood" Wooden said, "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
Although they often feel like huge gaffes or missteps (especially when it’s you who’s made them), mistakes can lead to great ideas and innovation. But in reality, they are the stepping stones that propel us out of our comfort zone into the growing zone, where great lessons can be learned. After all, how can you tell if something works if you don't try it?
Contrary To Popular Belief, Mistakes Are Not Failures
As we work with clients or conduct workshops, we are finding a recurring frustration: CEOs who believe they sell "value" are losing bids over pricing issues. They are realizing that being a "value-add" solutions provider is not as valued as it used to be. And they're having to admit that if they can be easily replaced by another company's solutions at a lower price, what have they actually created? Something ephemeral? Not really of such great "value"?
What is value anyway? And is your company's value at risk as business changes what it values?
In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee developed an open system which did not require access and which enabled the exchange of information on a global scale unseen in human history. Back then, the World Wide Web had a small community of devout users, while others wondered what it was and generally remained skeptical.
Like any new technology in its infancy, the internet raised a lot of questions. But look at where we are now.
The story of blockchain technology has the same potential. Like the internet, blockchain is developing out of necessity. When the global economy crashed in 2008, the first blockchain was conceptualized to change the way finances function. And like the emergence of the first emails, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were developed to drive the development of blockchain technology forward.
In a recent Atlantic magazine, Bryan Caplan, author of The Case Against Education, writes a very caustic, albeit truthful analysis of the current state of higher education in the U.S.
In this particular article among many he has written, The World Might be Better Off Without College for Everyone, there is a litany of reasons why our approach to educating our population for society, for jobs, for productive lives, is flawed, failing and fallen.
What types of innovations open new markets successfully—and help you grow your business by adding innovative value, not just incremental improvements? And a related question: are you just thinking business innovation or doing it?
Blue Ocean Strategy shows you how to find uncontested market space which you can own
Blue Ocean Strategy focuses on unlocking new markets, described as "blue oceans," rather than competing in existing markets, or "red oceans." By creating a blue ocean of new customers, businesses don't compete for a small, highly competitive pool of existing customers.
How are you attracting customers?
At SAMC, far too many of our clients are working with the same customers in the same way they have always done...until something happens and those customers float away.
As we work with our Blue Ocean Strategy clients, we repeatedly see some great "aha moments" when they realize that amazing opportunities are often all around them. All they need to do is recognize them. This typically begins when clients go exploring with us to "see, feel and think" in new ways—and it is that "seeing" part that is so important.
I'd like to share two stories here, each of which are available in more detail in my award-winning book, "On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights."