How do we set about and measure the impact of something or somebody? Impressions do matter, snap judgements can shape and influence so much that you can actually spend your precious time at simply defending and justifying something or someone.
This applies to a new product as much as it applies to ourselves and how we engage across society, organizations or in our teams. We actually have a set of daily impact points and we need to think about these, it can be positive and impressive, or it can be inappropriate and judged as weak. They can be proactive or just ‘set’ constantly in reactive mode.
Having a clear understanding of the different impact points can help you and those around you have a better meaning in helping to shape events and the future contributions that can make a positive difference and give you a greater sense of satisfaction.
How do we shift from that often subjective view to a more balanced one?
I’m a great believer in trying to shape events before they happen. This often requires a lot of pre-work and often some ‘spent energy’ but if I’m not prepared enough I often feel uncomfortable and not in command of myself, and my ability to explore and influence through my thoughts. This gives me that sense of insecurity and then I feel I have less of an impact on the discussions and caught up in other people’s agenda’s, often for the wrong reasons and not for the best outcomes
So what are the points of impact for innovation?
I think we need to break these down into different levels of impact. Arguably there are different boundaries of impact. For example we might have global, organizational, social, competitive and personal impact points. We can surprisingly have an influence in all of these in a highly connected world, and through our organizing and influencing will partly determine your innovating future.
So I look at impact points in different ways but I tend to start at two points of impact.
1. What are the triggers to growth?
Answering this question leads us out on the appropriate impact path. Are we, for example, in survival or in crisis mode? What is our needs for future growth (personal and organizational for instance), do we need to find an innovative response to a burning need, are we facing competitive pressures, are we seeking new market space? Do we want regeneration in what we do? We need to discover, to explore new ideas, new learning opportunities and concepts. We need also to make some evaluation to any seen or even unseen threats to any growth approach.
2. The second question relates to our legacy issues.
These are often ignored. We tend to layer onto what we have instead of taking a more radical approach to overhaul where we are. We often build up our innovation activity in set, established ways and don’t want to face the issue of re-engineering the innovation systems or process. I would argue we should. There are always natural tension points in any innovation process, we get caught up in inertia, the copying of other people’s best practices, the commodity trap, the extraction of ‘raw’ energy in the name of efficiency and the constant ‘quest’ to become more effective. We really do need to press the ‘reset’ button. We should look at alignment to strategy, to challenging what we are doing in the name of our customers not just ourselves. We need to reconfigure and we need to simply challenge and let go of much of what we have built up. It is never easy but legacy resolutions release much for improving the impact.
Then we need to set about two further questions.
3. Improving performance
The potential surrounding absorptive capacity is critical for creating the appropriate impact on innovation performance. Absorptive capacity (AC) is a critical dynamic capability in knowledge-based competition. It is the ability to recognize the value of external knowledge, assimilate it and apply it to new commercial ends. To learn how to target, absorb and deploy this external knowledge becomes critical to ‘feed’ the internal innovation process. Learning to do this and do this well, this can become a powerful source of competitive advantage, not easy for anyone else to copy. This can become unique practice applicable to you, not best practice found across your industry. The work of Cohen & Levinthal is a great starting point, besides some of my own comments you can find on my site. It is this ‘outside in’ potential that feeds the process and raises the engagement.
4. Tacit Knowledge
The more knowledge you require- not information or data- the more you have the potential for strategic advantage. Just look at places that knowledge is not moving as fast as its potential, collecting more knowledge or insights than others and focusing on the customer experience all the time raises knowledge, implied and explicit. Tie that back to absorptive capacity and you have powerful sources of potential impact.
My third set of impact points relate around building platforms, road-maps and in execution.
5. Building platforms and road-maps
As we become more open within organizations and in ourselves we begin to develop a more connected sense. Separate ideas or points of knowledge need combining; they need greater collaborative efforts than before. We need to reach out to others; we need to recognize others have a greater specialised knowledge than we do so we need to learn to build more platforms that allow multiple parties to work together, each on their own parts. It is this ability to leverage through a platform approach that yields the potential for greater impact, for more radical or breakthrough innovation through diversity yet working towards a common cause.
Innovation is complex, it needs sketching out, and it needs always a roadmap. Innovation needs clarity; it needs a greater awareness of all the points of innovation fitness for you to navigate along as you traverse the terrain to your end point. I have a dedicated site on this area at www.innovationfitnessdynamics.com which is outlining the different aspects of dynamics needed for innovation impact understanding. The aim is looking to improve the innovation performance engine within organizations and build fitter, more responsive and dynamic ones, around their needed innovation capacities.
6. Execution is the last 5% of real effort.
The argument goes; ideas are ten a penny and simply it is through our execution we make impact. Execution is the tougher end of innovation not that fuzzy front end stuff. This execution end is the real point of innovation performance where you actually feel the impact of all your personal efforts. Do you meet the needs and wants of your customers? Did you arrive with a clear winning proposition or felt you have compromised far too much within the organization that the final result was incremental at best and not what you are truly capable of. Execution is far more than ‘just’ 5%, because if you can’t execute then where is the lasting impact?
Then my last set of impact points are the ones that impact on you personally.
7. Adapting to change.
We often struggle to adjust our thinking, to recognize that change is needed and invariably we leave it too late. It can become ‘disruptive’. We do need to combine the three e’s of evaluate, explore and exploit, we need to adapt them to changing circumstances. The value of combining these in different ways gives numerous, surprising diverse levels of impact points.
8. Empowering and Trusting
We need greater engagement, we need powerful stories to motivate us more, and we need to seek out more meaning in what we do. The more we do this the more impact we can contribute back. This needs dedicated time in resourcing, supporting and investigating from others to support us. The more we trust each other, the more we form stronger relationships, to build better networks of understanding and place our growing trust into more effective collaborations, which have growing impact for all to see.
9. Measuring our success
There are many ways to measure success. There are the ones ‘handed down’ to us, there are ones we can measure ourselves against. I believe our own measures usually far exceed the ones handed down to us. If we can learn to adapt more and quicker, if we can utilise the technology around us more effectively, if we actively seek new learning and experiences, to respond to any threats in better ways, then we are really learning and making a constant improving impact within ourselves. If we can apply what we learn constantly with the aim of improving on the existing, we are then moving well beyond’ appropriate’ impact, we are building our competencies and capabilities that become visible for all to see the positive impact.
There is a self always in relationship to others.
How others see you and what sort of person are you matters. If you care for making an impact there are many ways. How do you want others to see you? It is all in alignment, how you absorb and translate knowledge and where you wish to take it. Improving your circle of influence comes from knowing, from seeking out new knowledge, staying throughout life in that endless curiosity. As Harold Jarche does put it so nicely: “Life in perpetual Beta”
We all need a virtuous cycle, something that reinforces the good. We can make deliberate steps to change our behaviour, to make increasing contributions. How you are viewed, in turn, changes the way you are treated. This reinforces change. The more you can contribute in positive effect, the more impact you can have. You choose the impact you want to make and you will be surprised that in today’s world you can influence far more than you often can image, and then perhaps bring a brighter colour into your and others lives through your positive impact.
You can choose the appropriate impact points you wish, what you do need is a strategy, knowing where you can shape and what you can influence. It is the path to improving your recognition and value and that is not such a bad point in these difficult times.
image credits: tibbr.com
Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.