We are reading reports telling us that temperature records were shattered across the United States this week as the polar vortex continued to take hold, with all 50 states experiencing freezing temperatures at some point in the day.
As I’m sure many experiencing this extreme weather that is giving us this polar vortex most have become aware of what is causing it. It is a circulating pattern of strong winds flowing around a low-pressure system, which normally sits over the Arctic during winter.It is not a single storm.
These winds tend to keep the bitter cold air locked in the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. However, when the vortex breaks down or splits into two, the vortex becomes distorted and dips much further, allowing this to spill farther southward than you would normally find it, sending this very cold air further south.
Many organizations are presently trapped in an innovation vortex
Many organizations are facing their own spinning motion, their own vortex, where the innovation air is trapped. It is cold, frigid and simply going nowhere as it is “incrementally thin.” A lack of more radical innovation is freezing organizations, many deciding to pout of their growth path to the future. This is different to the polar vortex as it is of our own organizational making, the innovation vortex is an ongoing phenomenon of our own making, that until the leadership wishes to break this cycle, the organization will simply stay locked in this constant, swirling pattern. It is simply just holding itself in those ‘frozen, repeating’ safe conditions of extending existing shelf life of their products, services and business models, ignoring potential new opportunities.
Many organizations are facing their own spinning motion, their own vortex, where the innovation air is trapped. It is cold, frigid and simply going nowhere as it is “incrementally thin.” A lack of more radical innovation is freezing organizations, many deciding to put off their growth path to the future. This is different to the polar vortex as it is of our own organizational making, Yes the innovation vortex is an ongoing phenomenon of our own making, that until the leadership wishes to break this cycle, the organization will simply stay locked in this constant, swirling pattern. It is simply just holding itself in those ‘frozen, repeating’ safe conditions of extending existing shelf life of their products, services and business models, ignoring potential new opportunities.
How many organizations are presently keeping their innovation activity trapped in risk aversion mode, just simply sustaining the existence of the business, ignoring what happens when their business climate begins to break down, as it eventually will do. They recognize, often too late, they have become uncompetitive, had their market advantages eroded and have ended up lagging in rapidly changing markets, where once they were proud leaders through innovation? They are sacrificing their future by short-term expediency for narrow ends.
Both vortex conditions are life-threatening for our health
Polar Vortex Hypothermia happens when your body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius. Authorities say even those who survive hypothermia are likely to have lasting kidney, liver and pancreas problems. Organizations equally can suffer a type of hypothermia, where the creative juices get reduced down to dangerously low levels as the innovation activity remains frigid, locked in a repeating pattern of no real new “wealth generating value”. All the heat generation from innovating exciting new things has gone from the organization. Innovation has left the building, leaving it a cold and devoid place, simply existing.
How do you know if you are suffering from hypothermia? Officials say warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Organizations suddenly get caught out by other organizations that have kept their innovation activity fully turned on. The management of the “incrementally trapped” goes into total panic mode, they knee jerk, send out conflicting demands and get into the habit of rash decisions.
Frostbite is damage that extreme cold does to your skin and underlying body tissues. The National Weather Service says a wind chill of nearly minus 29 degrees Celsius will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. For organizations by not keeping themselves warm with innovation beyond the thin blanket of incremental only, suddenly find they are totally caught out and get their ‘frostbite’ by a sudden deterioration of performance. They experience lost market share and require a heavy dose of necessary medicine to stand any chance of emerging out of this innovation vortex. Innovation that freezes can be very expensive to reverse and takes time to be resolved.
Frostbite often affects the extremities of the body – those areas farthest from the warmth of your core, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. It can turn those body parts white and cause you to lose feeling in the areas. Organizations caught in their innovation vortex have lost all there feeling, all their pipeline and portfolio momentum, they “see red” before they regain that innovation feel.
The effects of being in an innovation vortex
The effects, the longer this innovation vortex remains, the harder it is to return to a different condition. A repeating pattern, that swirling set of conditions reinforced that it just keeps repeating itself leaves organizations highly vulnerable.
The big difference between the current polar vortex and the innovation vortex is the extreme weather of this polar vortex quickly returns to a more normal set of winter conditions. It is not a prolonged event but for innovation practice that ‘locks itself’ into a numbing incremental only approach, it is different. We forget how to innovate differently, we get totally locked into one certain pattern and when we are suddenly asked to change we simply don’t know how to respond, we have lost that innovating habit and until it returns over time we remain at the mercy of the conditions we have, within ourselves ‘we’ simply created.
We have numbed the essential parts for innovation to be successful
This has simply numbed the essential parts of the organization body that is capable of generating new growth and wealth, you have become exposed as you are not properly dressed up when you need to be, you simply just get caught out. And that could result to a frostbite, hypothermia and death. It often starts with tingling or stinging sensations, you sense them but try to ignore these warning signs of deterioration . Frostbite happens when the face, fingers, and toes get affected, it is no different for an organization, and the numbing effect only becomes noticeable when you begin to ‘feel it’ and by this time your innovating muscles and other tissues have often become numb and deadened, paralysed and stupefied . They are unable to respond to new challenges brought on, not by extreme weather conditions but by extreme competitive ones and that is as chilling as it can get!
No, organizations should at this time of extreme cold weather reflect on their own potential for being caught out in a chilling innovation vortex of their own making. Warm innovation air can flow back, it comes when you release that creative energy, as the new front required to regain strong growth and better results. You bring the innovation climate back into greater balance across all types of innovation activity and the environment begins to change and improve, you ‘sense’ the promise in your future.
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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.