The 3 stages of innovation – Research, Resolve, Reuse

I came across an interesting framework for innovation in a slideshare deck by Benjamin Joffe, CEO of Plus Eight Star:

Obviously he has proposed this framework for explaining how an idea may be commercially exploited, in a new start-up kind of situation.

I was thinking about how one might re-interpret this framework for innovation within an organization, when the employees innovate and come up with new ideas and how it may be “exploited” in a commercial sense by others in the same organization.

I came up with the following framework – the “Research | Resolve | Reuse” approach:

In the Researchstage, we are facing a challenge/issue/problem and we are collecting all possible information related to it in the hope of coming up with a solution to it. (I agree that we don’t innovate only when we are faced with a problem, but for the sake of simplicity, I have considered this premise.)

As Frederik Haren puts it,

Idea = p (k + i)

Idea = person combining knowledge with information to come up with something new.

So, it is imperative to expand our knowledge and information on the subject in order to combine them in various ways to hit upon the one “idea” that will help solve the problem.

The Resolve stage starts as soon as we have hit upon a feasible/workable idea, and we develop it into a full-fledged solution in this stage. We may implement it as a pilot, receive feedback to incorporate changes and make it as perfect as it needs to be.

The Reuse stage involves “marketing” the innovation to others in the company for further adoption. We need to get into more details of the benefits of the innovation (ROI calculation), adaptability to other similar problem situations, extensions, modifications, etc.

-o0o-

Please let me know your thoughts!

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“Drive-on” Innovation: An Automatic transmission model

I have been driving a car only after I arrived in the USA and started working here. Driving a car requires complex levels of concentration on several tasks simultaneously. When I announced in my company’s internal blogging platform about clearing the road test and getting my driver’s license, this is what I wrote:

When I was taking the driving lessons for practice before the road test, the missus asked me about how I was finding it all. I said there are too many things that we need to keep watching – we have to maintain the lane discipline, we have to maintain the speed and follow the posted speed limits, we have to signal properly before turning, we have to do the blind spot checking, we have to watch for signals by the other vehicles, etc, etc..

Missus gave me a hard look and said “You sound exactly like Kamalhaasan in a scene from the Tamil film Pammal K Sambandam.” You know, the scene in which he is acting as Lord Shiva for a movie shoot, and the director scolds him for not saying the dialogue properly, and he replies, “The snake on the neck is rolling and I have to control that, the cow is pulling away, I have to press this bladder to make sure River Ganges comes out through my head gear, in the middle of this how do I remember the dialogue and say it too?”

It is not surprise that I thank God for little mercies such as automatic transmission which frees up the driver from the additional task of having to shift the gear manually.

Vehicles conforming to US government standards have the transmission modes ordered as P-R-N-D, usually from top to bottom, or in some cases, left to right. They represent the following transmission modes:

P – Park

R – Reverse

N – Neutral

D – Drive

 

(The 2 and 1 are second-gear and first-gear transmissions modes, which I will ignore in this discussion, as they are part of the overall D mode representing all forward-gear trains.)

As I was watching the modes when I was driving around, a thought struck me, as thoughts are prone to: If we consider Innovation as a journey, and each of us have our own vehicles that we use to reach our goals and destinations in that journey, what would be the various  transmission modes that we would be using in our vehicles? 

Here I present, the Automatic Transmission model for “Drive-On” Innovation:

P: Pilot

In the Park mode of transmission, the output shaft is mechanically locked, thereby restricting the vehicle from moving in any direction, although the vehicle’s non-driven roadwheels may still rotate freely.

The Pilot mode of innovation works along similar lines. In this mode, there is no actual movement in any particular direction with respect to the proposed innovation or idea. (In other words, it is neither accepted nor rejected outright.) We are testing the applicability and effectiveness of the innovation by putting it through a pilot (usually of a small size, but adequate enough to show clear results that can be extrapolated for the broader situation).

R: Re-use

In the Reverse mode, the reverse gear is engaged with the transmission, giving the ability for the vehicle to drive backwards.

The Re-use mode of innovation works according to the same principle. In this mode, instead of developing new solutions for the same problems over and over again (“reinventing the wheel” to use a travel/vehicle related analogy!!) we re-use the innovations that have been already developed by other sections of the organization (this is in specific organizational context.) This mode forces us to look backwards internally to evaluate the existing options, re-use whatever is available and applicable, before moving forward with new ideas.

N: Nurture

In Neutral mode of transmission, all gear trains are disengaged within the transmission, effectively disconnecting the transmission from the driven roadwheels, so the vehicle is able to move freely under its own weight and gain momentum without the motive force from the engine.

In the Nurture mode, we allow the new ideas and concepts brought to the table to be developed and nurtured into clearly defined business outcomes featuring innovative solutions. In this mode, we encourage the team members to think along different directions and bring more clarity to their ideas, others ideas, etc.

D: Demonstrate

In the Drive mode of transmission, the full range of available forward gear trains are engaged with the transmission, and therefore allows the vehicle to move forward and accelerate through its range of gears.

In the Demonstrate mode of innovation, we are in a position to deliver the innovation to the stakeholders, typically clients, and demonstrate the benefits and value to them. (Please note that we have already run a pilot, obtained the results, used the results and other inputs to nurture the idea so that it is fully developed into a feasible and beneficial solution). The demonstrate mode will allow us to receive feedback to make minor adjustments (if any) and accelerate towards full implementation.

-o0o-

Please share your comments and feedback on the proposed model of automatic transmission modes to help you drive along the innovation journey.

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The M-theory of information and knowledge

I was reading the book The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. The book attempts to answer three fundamental questions (1. Why is there something rather than nothing? 2. Why do we exist? 3. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?) and also elaborates on the 11 dimension M-theory as the acceptable model for the universe. Before going there, they describe the earlier laws of nature as expressed by leading scientists of the time, and how they have evolved.

For example, consider the theory of light. Sir Isaac Newton proposed that light was made up of little particles or corpuscles. This explained why light traveled in straight lines and why it got bent or refracted when it passed from one medium to another.

However, this theory failed to explain the phenomenon of Newton’s rings – a pattern caused by the reflection of light between two surfaces – a spherical surface and an adjacent flat surface. When viewed with monochromatic light it appears as a series of concentric, alternating bright and dark rings centered at the point of contact between the two surfaces.

Then came the wave theory of light, which was able to explain that the light and dark rings are caused by a phenomenon called interference. An excerpt from the book The Grand Design:

A wave, such as a water wave, consists of a series of crests and troughs. When waves collide, if those crests and troughs happened to correspond, they reinforce each other, yielding a larger wave. That is called constructive interference. In that case, the waves are said to be “in phase”. At the other extremes, when the waves meet, the crests of one wave might coincide with the troughs of the other. In that case, the waves cancel each other, and are said to be “out of phase”. That situation is called destructive interference.

In a picture accompanying this description, Hawking and Mlodinow had written:

Like people, when waves meet, they can tend to enhance or diminish each other.

This particular line set me towards thinking about what would be the theory for information. Information comprises of smalls bits of data that has been meaningfully related and interpreted. In that sense, we can easily apply the corpuscle theory to information.

However, at this point, I must acknowledge that I remembered another line from a Tamil film song Yaakkai Thiri from Aaydha Ezuththu, penned by lyricist Vairamuthu. “All the love in this world is the same, it just keeps traveling from one heart to another.” (உலகத்தின் காதல் எல்லாம் ஒன்றே, ஒன்றே, அது உள்ளங்கள் மாறி மாறிப் பயணம் போகும்!) I was inclined to think that the same principle applies to information and knowledge as well, it originates in one person’s mind and keeps traveling from one to another, especially in the era of social networking tools. This made me realise that information also follows the wave theory. The only variation is that unlike light waves, there is no destructive interference when two waves of information meet each other. It is always a constructive interference.

Let me illustrate. I grew up in Periyar Nagar, a suburban area in Chennai. We had a local library where a group of readers came together and founded the Reader’s Circle. My father and I were regular participants in the weekly meetings where we exchanged thoughts and ideas on dicverse topics. It was the most illuminating experience of my life and helped me improve a lot in terms of logical thinking and communication skills. As part of recruiting more participants, my father would use this analogy: If both you and I had a one-rupee coin each and we decided to exchange them, there is no material difference after the transaction; however, if both of us came with an idea each and decided to exhange them, we are both richer after the transaction. Hence my conclusion that wew only have a constructive interference while two information waves meet. Even in the scenario where I was holding an inaccurate view on something and I come across an alternate viewpoint that is accurate, I only stand corrected with the new information and not nullified in any manner.

The additional twist I came across while thinking about this is that some times, when I come across a new piece wave 🙂 of information, I can combine it with something else that I already know and come up with new insights or ideas. Please note that I am considering this as something slightly more than just constructive interference. Fredrik Haren, the reknowned speaker on innovation defines idea as nothing but combining two known concepts into something new. Following this, I propose that the combination of information follows a fusion reaction, similar to what happens in the core of our sun, generating all that heat and energy. It is no coincidence that whenever I get a new idea, I get into a state with a lot of increased energy. 😉

Combining all of these, let me briefly state the key postulates of my grand M-theory of information and knowledge:

1. Information follows the wave-particle duality, similar to all other matter in the universe.
2. In wave state, it undergoes only constructive interference while meeting other waves.
3. Information particles can undergo fusion with each other generating new insights and associated “energy”

I have named it as M-thoery, not only as a reference to the emerging M-theory of the universe, but also because M is the first letter of my given name, so it made a lot of sense to appropriate it, before somebody else laid a claim to it! 😉

Do share your thoughts and views through the comments.

Posted in Theory | 1 Comment