When we ‘cast around’ we are looking for something; to try it out, to think about it, to search for connecting a vague idea with something more tangible. So let’s go innovation fishing.
The word ‘cast’ is around us in so many ways – anglers cast their line, we are cast adrift, we cast or drop anchor, we cast to put about, to tack, we cast our eyes upon the speaker, we cast light, we cast aspersions, we cast someone in a play, we cast a plan, we cast into a certain mould, are all just some of the many examples of how ‘cast’ is part of our everyday thinking.
In innovation, cast can become a fairly dominating action – we can cast about or around for ideas, to devise a plan, we can equally cast off those ideas or concepts we reject or simply cast out, or finally, we can agree to cast one’s lot into a plan or concept to take forward as a united team.
Good casting needs a clear routine, method and structure.
So why is casting important to innovation? Casting objects has been around for thousands of years. The better your experience in ‘casting’ the more likelihood you arrive at something that is useful and valuable (and highly appreciated) from the efforts put in.
When we think through building the capabilities for more open innovation, it is the finding and developing good ideas that innovation is all about. To get to this end-result of delivering upon the idea into tangible innovations it is often thanks to having in place the process to find, capture and commercialize and providing the corporate culture that promotes and protects these processes, to allow for trust but to execute rigorously against clear criteria and (emerging) objectives measured against specific goals. This becomes the art of casting open innovation.
It is this art of casting around we can increase discovery, we can capture and act on that discovery or set of connections to generate our future innovation activity. The more we establish a set of patterns, perhaps to have a casting process, the more we can evolve ideas and move them along the innovation process. We gain confidence if we know where we are going but we do need a ‘casting plan’.
What is important when we set about casting we do need that certain ‘something’ that gives the process a good structure and a given clarity. I think as we cast we need to work through five stages of casting : Discovery, Generation, Conversion, Diffusion and Acceptance. We raise our abilities if we cast in a prescribed way.
The virtues of openness are like casting a wider innovation net for better return.
Open innovation gives us all considerable benefits from looking outside our existing organizational boundaries for different concepts and ideas. We can also draw in outside help and partly to confirm those ideas in our growing connections with the final consumer. We need to cast more often today in a world where we have to work at being the smartest.
It is reckoned that an organization that has strong and robust open innovation capabilities are seven times more effective than firms with weak capabilities and is twice as effective as those with moderate capabilities, in terms of generating returns on their overall R&D project investment portfolios (source Booz & Co research)
Innovation needs casting practice in knowing where to ‘fish’.
If we keep practising casting, we will be making longer and longer casts as we gain in open innovation experience. Just like in fishing you gradually loosen up the control until you get confident in where, what and why you want to cast (around).
Remember when you are searching for innovation, no different from fishing, always reel-in enough line after you cast to allow for enough tension, so you can begin to ‘feel’ the response and gain that feel that this is worth ‘reeling in’.
The real key to innovation casting though is back-casting.
The back-casting method helps define our innovation understanding
For me casting around is a most important part of how I work through innovation coaching.
‘Casting around’ in coaching is trying to understand and see the possible ways to get someone from point A to a new point B. We always ‘cast back’ to gain the initial understanding and put ‘things’ in context. We can then begin to establish patterns that might need challenging that can be discreetly explored, others can be re-affirmed so in our process of ‘casting around’ we can initially explore the different triggering points.
Also by offering a ‘neutral’ environment (a trusted third party) allows for being more open and specific in changing thinking. The external advisor can shift perceptions that can eventually lead to better innovation understandings and outcomes as he is not part of the ‘threatening environment’ often seen within organizations. Casting for me, is actually essential and becomes a significant part of the solidification process within coaching.
There are so many ways to cast innovation.
You can ‘cast’ simultaneously and more accurately for those multiple needs. Those immediate ‘burning needs’ required for improving on today’s products and then you can open-up possible areas for those future ‘winning needs’. But more importantly this back-casting allows you to base line, then to ‘look across’ new horizons, explore and take a greater time to ‘feel’ out and explore new areas of discovery in new awareness and discovery. The value of working through the five stages of casting in prescribed ways can be more than useful.
Also working in different time horizons has good value. Having three different mindsets of the ‘here and now,’ the more entrepreneurial, and then the more futuristic, based on this vision and awareness and then back-cast, allows for throwing open the innovation net for catching ‘greater’ possibilities.
No, casting is absolutely critical to innovation.
If we can learn the technique of ‘casting forward’ and ‘casting back’ we are gaining insights into ‘casting around.’ We have a much clearer plan of where and why we are looking for something because it has become more specific. Then we can try it; explore its possibilities, to think about it, to search for the connections that turn a vague idea into something more tangible. Open innovation becomes highly focused and well-cast! It becomes aligned.
Casting correctly can lead to greater promise; perhaps land the innovation ‘catch of the decade’ for you?
image credit: castnetworld.com
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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.