Feel like you’re stumbling in the dark?
3 ways to get your team focused and thinking strategically

So, you want to create a systematic shift, bring innovation back on the agenda or mainstream design work in your organisation, but where do you start?

An innovation vision often serves as a foundation to such work, and when coupled with tools of strategic foresight, it allows for long term results.

There are three simple steps that you can take to get your team thinking long term and create well considered innovation vision.

 

1. Scanning – using strategic foresight and anticipatory thinking to reach an understanding of what is on the horizon

Short-sightedness and refusal to see what is coming up is perhaps one of the biggest challenges of businesses today. The coronavirus crisis has accelerated a future that we already knew was coming (working remotely) and consequently, those who had the foresight to identify this future are the ones to have benefited most.

As speculative fiction writer William Gibson said, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

The practise of regularly collecting signals of change has become an essential for all businesses today, especially if want to avoid ‘future shock’ and being observers of someone else’s preferred future.

Practise for you – gather your team and start collecting signals of change, these can be specific events, legislations, start-ups, patents, academic research, etc. Keep a track of them in a shareable folder/virtual whiteboard. Over time, you will be able to assess which signals are stronger than others and need urgent attention. Creating future forecasts from the strong signals allows us to be imaginative and consider possibilities of how the future will impact your organisation and industry.

 

2. Sensemaking – Generating insights from the future forces that we have uncovered, allows us to articulate what role do we want to play in the future.

Source: Institute for the future, 2007

 

As we continue to move into a world of abundance, whether it is information, products or services, one of the most urgent skills of the 21st century will be sensemaking.

Isaav Asimov famously said, ‘I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.’.

Scanning for signals and creating future forecasts is a practise that allows the creation insights for the present. This practise of collective scanning and sensemaking is a representation of your innovation vision and commitment to be innovative as an organisation.

We see that the most innovative companies in the world are the ones to bring future that exists in the margins to the mainstream. These are organisations and teams that are imaginative, creative and ultimately, optimistic about the future as they are actively creating it and bringing it to their customers.

Try this – to get into the habit of sensemaking, chose ice-breakers, activities and learning opportunities for your teams that have mental flexibility, creativity and synthesis. Always ask your team to explore the ‘so what?’ question when a new piece of information is shared.

 

3. Sharing – Understanding and articulating the vision simply isn’t enough, communicating this vision with the team is essential.

Ultimately, an innovation vision is a commitment of how an organisation will prepare for their future. This can range from incrementally improving their offering to radically transforming it.

Making this vision clear and tangible to employees across the organisation provides an inherent decision-making framework on priorities, direction and purpose. A good innovation vision captures these elements succinctly.

Gone are the days of expensive innovation labs that house the ‘creatives’ who make innovation happen. As we’re doing away with these old ways, we must also reconsider our old priorities and the purpose that they serve. The great pause that we have collectively experienced is a great time to prepare for the next decade, explore what’s on horizon, what role do we want to play in it and how best to bring everyone in your organisation on board.

Practise for you – gather your team and run a round of asking everyone to write down and share the innovation vision of a well-known organisation (try Google or Atlassian) and note how consistent everyone’s response is. It’ll give you an opportunity to learn about how your team perceives other organisation’s efforts. Then try this for your own organisation – noting the consistency of responses will allow you to understand which elements of your vision have been miscommunicated vs clearly understood.

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