Tag Archives: Randomness

Time to move on…

It seems to be that time of year and it’s time to move on. A shuffling of the corporate deck chairs left me thinking that I’d like to find new challenges, so I’ve taken the package.

The next week or so will involve kiddy drop-offs, catching up with friends that I really should have spoken to sooner, and chilling out around the house. (There’s a huge pile of books in my to read pile that I should do something about.)

After a brief pause and reflect, I’ll see who has interesting challenges that they would like me to help them with.

Innovation and the art of random

A little while ago I was invited to speak at an event, InnoFuture, which, for a mixture of reasons, didn’t end up happening. The theme for the event was Ahead of the trends — the random effect. My take on it was that innovation is not random, it’s just happening faster than you can process, and that ideas are commoditized making synthesis, the creation of new solutions to old problems, what drives innovation. I was pretty happy with the outline I put together for my talk, that I ended up reusing the content and breaking it into three blog posts, rather than letting it go to waste.

Innovation seems to be the topic of the day. Everyone seems to want some, thinking that it’s the secret sauce which will help them (or their company) bubble to the top of the heap. The self help and consulting communities have responded in force, trying to bottle lightening or package the silver bullet (whichever metaphor you prefer).

It was in this environment that I was quite taken by the topic of a recent InnoFuture event when I was asked to speak.

Ahead of trends — the random effect.
When a concept becomes a trend, you are a not the leader. How to tap into valuable ideas for products, services and communication before they are seen as trends, when they are just … random? Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Let’s open the doors and let the imagination in for it seems that in the current crisis, the right brain is winning and we may be rationalized to death before things get better.

I’ve never seen the random effect, though I have been delightfully surprised when something unexpected pops up. Having been involved in a bunch of companies and projects that, I’m told, where innovative, I’ve always thought innovation was not so much random, as the result of obliquity. What makes it seem random is the simple fact that your are not aware of the intervening steps from interesting problem through to novel solution.

I figured I’d mash together a few ideas that capture this thought, and provide some (hopefully) sage advice based on what I do to deal with random. I ended up selecting:

  • John Boyd on why rapidly changing environments are confusing,
  • Peter Drucker‘s insight that insight (the tacit application of knowledge) is not a transferable good,
  • the struggle for fluency that we all go through as we learn to read,
  • John Boyd (again, but then he had a lot of good ideas) on the need for synthesis,
  • KK Pang (and old lecturer of mine) on the need to view problems from multiple contexts,
  • the need to follow a consistent theme of interest as the only tractable way of finding interesting problems to solve, and
  • my own experiences in leveraging a network of like and dissimilar minds as a way of effectivly out-sourcing analysis.

The result was called Of snow mobiles and childhood readers: why random isn’t, and how to make it work for you. I ended up having far to much content to fill my twenty minute slot, so it’s probably for the better that the event didn’t go ahead, as it would have taken a lot of time to cut it down.

Given that I had a fairly well developed outline, I decided to make it into a series of blog posts (plus my slides these days don’t have a lot of text on them, so if I just dropped the slides online they wouldn’t make any sense). The blog posts ended up breaking down this way:

  1. Innovation should not be the race for the new-new thing.
    Points out that innovation only seems random, unexpected, as you don’t see the intervening steps between a problem and new solution, and that innovation is the result of many small commoditized steps. This ties into one of my earlier posts of dealing with the speed of change.
  2. The role of snowmobiles in innovation.
    Argues that ideas are a common commodity, and that the real challenge with innovation is synthesis rather than ideation.
  3. Childhood readers and the art of random.
    Argues that the key to innovation is to find interesting problems to solve, and suggests that the best approach is to be fluent in a range of domains (sectors, geographies, activities, …) to provide a broader perspective, focus on a line of inquiry to provide some structure, and build a network of people with complimentary interests, providing you with the time, space and opportunity to focus on synthesis.

I expect that these are more productive if taken as a whole, rather than individual posts.

If you look at the path I’ve charted over my career then this is the approach I’ve taken, and my topic of choice is how people communicate and decide as a group, leading me to John Boyd, Cicero, human-computer interaction, agent technology, biology (my thesis was mathematically modelling nerves in a cat), and so on.

I still have the slides, so feel free to contact me it you’re interested in my presenting all or part of this topic.

Ahead of trends – the random effect

I’ll be speaking at InnoFuture Momentum on August 5th, 3:30pm to 6:30pm, in Telstra’s Executive Briefing Centre, Level 18, 35 Collins Street, Melbourne.

InnoFuture Momentum is a dedicated network for innovation professionals to Connect, Attract and Adapt.

The topic for the event is Ahead of trends — the random effect.

When a concept becomes a trend, you are a not the leader. How to tap into valuable ideas for products, services and communication before they are seen as trends, when they are just … random? Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Let’s open the doors and let the imagination in for it seems that in the current crisis, the right brain is winning and we may be rationalized to death before things get better.

I’ll be speaking about Of snow mobiles and childhood readers: why random isn’t, and how to make it work for you.

There’s an interesting roster of speakers:

  • MC & Host: Leonie Valentine, GM, Customer Experience Marketing, Telstra Industry Panel: Diverse industry perspectives will be presented to provide a balanced insight into this important thought leadership topic.
  • Drew Ginn, OAM, ‘Oarsome Foursome’ : The future is now: what are the random moments for professional high performance.
  • Elizabeth Rudd, FutureNous: Picking up weak signals – why are they valuable in making future decisions and how to tune in.
  • Charlie Nelson, Foresee Change: random numbers… yes, but there is no such thing as ‘random’… the patterns associated with the wisdom of crowds … and how you can the wisdom of crowds work for you
  • Peter Evans-Greenwood: Of snow mobiles and childhood readers: why random isn’t, and how to make it work for you.
  • Discussion Moderator: Amantha Imber, Inventium: Latest Australian Author of a business bestseller ‘The Creativity Formula’ (soon to be released).

The event wraps up with an interactive discussion and networking. Walk away with inspiration & ideas to implement. Meet other corporate innovators and innovation evangelists. Share ideas over a drink! Experience the stimulating environment of the high-tech Telstra Executive Briefing Centre.

Hope to see you there!