Complexity has just got a more complex

John Hagel has written an inspiring piece on HBR picking up on the thinking of Drucker in relationship to complexity. Source of thought is here:
The challenge John lays down is “If we are to successfully adapt to the escalating complexity of our environment, we need to invest more time and energy in exploring institutional innovation
However, I believe that Innovation is fundamentally a useless word in terms of defining a strategic intent as it has a unique meaning for each person.  "Innovation" words come in many guises, with defined mind sets and siloed understanding.  The corporate (instructional) and early stage businesses use the same words but with very different understandings. Often in corporate life the same word is used to understand or express different outcomes.
 Within a corporate mind set I see;
  • Revolution and or revolutionary is typically the person or thing that changes the core business model using what already exists and is within the reach of the business
  • Evolution is how the corporate effects change to create a new environment where it can adopt
  • Innovation / innovator means the person or thing that adds a feature or benefit to what already exists. It is a modification, tweak or minor rework to eek out life expectancy of existing products.
  • Invention / inventor is understood to mean creating something new with intellectual property. It often invokes the buy over build debate which is a total distraction.  It is working on the next big thing that is just over the hill.
  • Research and Development by an expert, is working on something that has a high degree of uncertainty and is high risk.
Irrespective of the word used, ROI case is first, coping is bad, cannibalism is a sin, iteration is slow, hurdles and gates guide a process and it must have a meaningful impact on the business combined with low risk.

Within an early stage company mind set, the same words have different meanings.

  • Revolution and or revolutionary is something that is too risky to raise money for if this is your first time through building a business - you are too unknown, leave this to the guys who have done it before
  • Evolution creates change in the market knowing the corporate cannot adopt fast enough and hitting the slow rate of change effect
  • Innovation / innovator sees the obvious, a known discontinuity, a quick fix or change to existing but is new. Start small. Utilise existing client and existing channel. It solves a customer problem today.
  • Invention / inventor need a shed, must have a sugar daddy but has massive returns if you get the timing right.
  • Research and Development is all about what tax relief can I get
 Irrespective of the word used, Business case must be investable, coping is good, iteration is fast, nothing is too small.
 The reason for this is that the problem is not about Intuitional Innovation but the change in how we will all work aka Andrew McAfee thinking.  His TED talk on this is here

“Complexity has just got a more complex”