Posted by: Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager on Wed 23 Aug

Welcome to the latest in a series of brief interviews with guest experts from KnowledgeBrief’s Innovation Programme, providing a window into the experts’ latest ideas and new advice for executives.

At the last Innovation Day, KnowledgeBrief clients were introduced to the Predator technique by Professor Victor Newman, University of Greenwich. This fruitful exercise is about visualising an attacker who has no emotions about the legacy of your business, and will go for any opportunity that is worth exploiting or developing.

Jeanne Meinholt, Senior Research at KnowledgeBrief (KB), interviewed Prof Victor Newman (VN) after the Innovation Day to discuss how organisations need to stop reacting to competition and start anticipating their arrival, or even changing the rules of the game before a rival does.

KB: What’s the key business challenge that organisations need to address, that your research tackles?

VN: The ability to innovate continuously. Understanding and managing value lifecycles.

As we are coming to the end of the useful technologies that were presented as prototypes or ideas at the Great Exhibition in 1851, we also have leadership cohorts running organisations whose experience of continuous business growth combined with digitisation of legacy technologies mean they are unable to lead the development and introduction of genuinely new innovations.

In other words, as we approach the end of useful lifecycles of products and services, there is a tendency to invest in efficiency strategies or innovations that extend current lifecycles instead of innovating to replace legacy with new innovations with different lifecycles.

My research shows that leaders are too busy sweating the margins of legacy products to think about innovation. Similarly, the political structures of large organisations are built around old technologies upon whose longevity leaders have built and bet their careers.

KB: What advice would you give to executives, based on your findings?

VN: Deliberately stick close to customers, consume your own and competitors’ products and services. The customer keeps changing, you need to stay adaptive. Boredom is your friend: if you are bored, then it’s time to do something new.

Understand the power of conscious attitude upon yourself, others and customers. Your behaviours send important messages back to yourself (reinforcing them) and to everyone you meet. Try to associate yourself with, and spend time with people and groups with high energy and positive, can-do attitudes. Avoid and reduce exposure to your own and others’ Behavioural Waste (won’t-do and can’t-do attitudes). If you do this, positive people will come to you.

Think like a start-up, or a predator. For the start-up, there are only 4 key questions: the customer, the problem, the solution, and monetisation. Whilst there are lots of useful models (sometimes called “canvases”) out there, try to keep it simple. Provide the tools and language of fast prototyping through rapid value proposition construction plus customer-testing before they build a business model.

Alternatively, if trying to remotivate teams and organisations, encourage use of Predator thinking – to liberate employees from behaving like hostages and to take action without waiting to be told.

You can’t invite people to innovate if you don’t have a generic (context-free) innovation process which you invite people to customise (so they feel they own it); and if you can’t provide a sense freedom to innovate based on emerging challenges which invite people to fill the space you offer.

KB: How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

VN: Leaders don’t really understand disruptive thinking. They still believe it’s about the internet. Uber is a truly smart network model (eBay was the original), it delivers great value to customers, but it’s essentially parasitic.

Leaders know they have to do something about their innovation culture, but they don’t know how to define it usefully, and they don’t know which approach will be more than cosmetic.

Innovative processes are useful, but innovative people are essential. If you have the wrong people with negative attitudes in the room plus a great process: you get a mediocre result. If you have great people with the right attitudes and a mediocre process: the people will find a way to make it happen, anyway.

Managers are too busy sweating legacy products and extending them, to do anything genuinely new. We can only build new innovative capacity by consciously reducing the embedded negative behaviours that slow us down. We need to work inside-out instead of outside-in.

KB: What did you learn or take away from meeting with the executives in the KnowledgeBrief Innovation Programmes?

VN: There is a cognitive dissonance between the official, academic version of reality that we find in research publications caused by the way the academic reality is expressed and the personal, unexpressed reality of what happens every day in organisations.

I notice that executives enjoy exploring and testing ideas by talking about them and trying them out.

I find that KnowledgeBrief executives often intuitively know the reality of what actually works in organisations if you just ask them the right questions, and build their confidence in translating the synthesised research that KnowledgeBrief shares into practices they can apply in their world. It’s this translation process from synthetic to usable knowledge that gives KnowledgeBrief its edge.

With thanks to Professor Victor Newman, University of Greenwich.

Next month, we will be talking to Dr. Viktor Dörfler, University of Strathclyde, on how leaders can benefit from the knowledge of people in their organisation. Find out more here.

Part of a series of brief interviews with expert guests from our Innovation Programmes, we cover insights from the latest research and key advice for executives to stay ahead in management and innovation.

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Techniques Referenced in this Blog

Business Innovation | Decision Trees | Forecasting | Innovation Management | Lifetime Customer Value Analysis | Scenario Planning

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