Spoiler alert: this blog carries a message about innovation workshops.

Listening is important. The simple act of shutting up and hearing what people say is always revealing. It’s a shame that the current trend is to write and talk rather than listen and read – unless you’re a search engine or a spider. If you are – OVER HERE!!

Listening to a large accountancy practice today was enlightening. It wasn’t a surprise to hear them describe strategy very differently to us. In their world, delivering a successful project means applying Lean principles and improving material flow and machine utilisation in a plastics factory. Now the benefit’s been worked into the factory’s financials, the owners can sit back and count the savings made by not letting product become scrap on the floor.

But will that be enough for the factory to survive? The new strategy isn’t even a strategy. Where’s the view of customer need? Where’s the statement that confidently predicts the market will need plastics into the future? Or the data that suggests it might not? Where’s the plan that launches a new idea before the competition? In fact, where’s the plan?

What we’ve got here is a new working practice that improves efficiency. It’s necessary and well done. We might ask why a consultancy was able to make the changes when the management team wasn’t, but I think we all know the answer to that one.

Reading the Sunday papers last week, a similar thing struck me. The Sunday Telegraph Business section, for example, talked about the issues currently challenging Premier Foods; an interrogation of President Trump’s ‘trade war’; various opinions about whether Brexit is an opportunity or a disaster; news that the John Lewis Partnership is planning to future-proof itself by doing more of what it thinks it already does; and so on.

I didn’t find a single mention of innovation at the core of any strategy. In fact, it was only elsewhere in the paper that innovation was raised as the latest last ditch attempt to save the NHS. Ironic, if nothing else.

To put innovation at the core of planning a strategy demands that you look to a future market need. That’s why it’s not popular. To be popular, you have to agree with the consensus around your board table and choose one of the tried and tested options presented for your future direction. I’ll almost guarantee that these will include most of the things you do already, but to a greater/ lesser/ cheaper degree. It’s estimated that most companies commit 90% of resources to doing the same things they did in the previous financial year. And no-one reading this will be surprised.

To innovate, you need to stop doing this.

To innovate, you need to look to a market need at a future point in time and work back to plot your route there.

The very act of informing this vision needs you to be interested in it and to be the agent of change.

We know that identifying trends that are meaningful to you, and devising a strategy that you can present with confidence, will meet resistance from your peers. Because we know this, we’ve designed some training to prepare you for the challenge. You could even bring your team along to reduce internal resistance and begin to shift your culture before you start the conversation.

Our innovation workshops are entirely adaptable to your situation and easy to access if you just want to try them out for yourself:

  • Design Thinking, Part 1 – Trends and signals: see things differently
  • Design Thinking, Part 2 – Focus on transformation
  • Design Thinking, Part 3 – Making it stick: a culture of change

You can take the course in three half-days or in one go. Have a look at the detail here.

Invest 20% of one week and change the way you plan for your future forever.

Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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