Today, i’m sharing some early work around ‘Innovation’, specifically, six foundational thoughts, and six steps in the process of transforming an organisation to be more able to innovate. I am not developing an innovation process, because i don’t view innovation as a process, but rather my focus is on ‘creating the culture, the conditions, for innovation to be unlocked’. This work draws upon some other strands of my work, specifically the Change work that have been sharing over the last two years, and aspects of Social Leadership and Learning.


First, let me share six foundational thoughts:

1. Innovation can be ‘nurtured’, or ‘provoked’. We need to understand the mechanisms of both, as they relate to internal change, and external disruption.

2. ‘Innovation’ vs ‘Exploitation’. Innovation is an exploratory, experimental state. Exploitation is about optimisation, profit, and scale. They may not be mutually compatible in one culture.

3. Creating an Innovation culture may require wholesale cultural transformation. We must understand the resistors, and amplifiers, of this type of change.

4. What works ‘there’ may not work ‘here’. Observing innovation may not change us, unless we are adept at understanding the foundations of what is happening. This is a core leadership skill.

5. ‘Failure’ and ‘Innovation’: it’s unlikely that innovation is a binary success/failure state, but rather an ongoing ability to refine and iterate. Understanding how this sits in opposition to organisational structure is key to overcoming Constraint.

6. ‘Mindset’, not ‘Process’. An innovation process may work to exploit, but not necessarily to innovate. We must understand the organisational mindset, and see process as secondary to that.

And then here are six elements of a framework, intended to show how innovation founders on the rocks of cultural Constraint.

It’s about an Organisational Culture that can visualise, explore, experiment, and adapt, to innovation.

1. Passivity: interest in change, but no change happens (relates to ‘Constrained’ culture)
2. Known: delivers change within existing action set (Risk Management culture, envisions, but then constrains change)
3. Innovation: envisions change with new action sets (Curious culture, only gives POTENTIAL for change)
4. Experimentation: process of rapidly iterating new action sets (Ignited Risk culture)
5. Disruption: change that negates previous action sets (may relate to Predatory culture)
6. Exploitation: ability to relocate it back into business structure (may relate to Growth culture, or Dynamic one)

Within this approach, it’s possible for each manifestation to exist concurrently, resulting in an overall Constrained state.

I am starting to prototype this work, so will iterate it fast as it’s grounded in practice, and also some research i’m doing into this cultural formation and flex. So, for now, take it as early stage #WorkingOutLoud.

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Foundational Shifts in Power

Much of the dynamic of the Social Age relates to fundamental shifts in power: broadly, this is a flow away from formally organised systems, with codified power, into socially moderated systems, with reputation based, and networked, power. We will still have formal systems, and formal power, but the reach of both is diminished, and their ability to apply consequence is increasingly limited. Let me share a few examples.

Social Leadership 100 - types of power

Historically, organisations managed change through restructuring, with a recognition that some good people will leave early, but the baseline assumption was that the community was there to be reshaped as desired: fear of redundancy or rejection kept people glued into the system. Today, there is lower expectation of the permanency of a job, and more of a recognition that organisational loyalty is well intentioned, but often fictional. Not only do people move more, but social consequence, and damaged pride, are less of a factor than they were. With a more mobile workforce, getting short term engagement may be ok, but it can be increasingly hard to get the type of mid term engagement we need for change, without more actively earning it.

As another example, organisations used to own the notion of ‘career’: in return for conformity and compliance, small portions of development, and incremental steps us the ladder, were granted magnanimously. Today, learning is more democratised, increasingly accessed either socially, or externally, the ‘career’ structure has evaporated, and the strength of your community becomes more a factor in success than your seniority alone. Reputation probably trumps role in most cases: indeed, it’s hard to be effective with a poor reputation, in a Socially Dynamic organisation.

More widely, we see other types of power undergoing foundational shifts: communication has slipped the bonds of production and broadcast, moving into a new space of democratised creation, and socially moderated amplification. Effectively, we have moved into a frictionless, or at least lower friction, space, where amplification is not closely tied to mass. The quality, not quantity, of your connections will impact likelihood of your message spreading. This system favours the authentic individual over the connected organisation. It favours reputation over formal role.

Social Leadership 100 - Reputation

Other shifts in power abound: sites such as exist to hold, independently of any organisational control, a crowdsourced assessment of ‘what it is like to work here’. These aggregated, socially moderated, sites, are particularly symptomatic of the new, distributed, power: it cannot easily be gamed, adjusted, or influenced. Indeed, when an HR Director recently asked me how he could influence their score, i could only share the most unhelpful answer: ‘make every part of your organisation better, fairer’. And yet, crass as my answer may appear, it’s true: the reputation of an organisation is earned through it’s actions at scale. So we must often do better.

These shifts in power are just one part of the evolved ecosystem: it’s still perfectly feasible for Organisations to thrive, but to do so, they will need to build new strengths, and if they fail to do so, they will be punished. But alongside these adapting or failing organisations, will be emergent new ones, who may be fully optimised, drawing upon a different strength, more agile by design, not simply through effort.

Our challenge is to, firstly, understand the change, and, secondly, create sense making spaces, to figure out what to do about it.

Power is complicated: we are seeing shifts in individual power, in collaborative, community held, power, and in organisational power itself. Not incidental, inconsequential shifts: functional and foundational ones. And, at some level, it’s all about power. As formal power is balanced out by emergent, socially moderated power, our salvation will lie in building both: one held within our systems and hierarchy, and one held in trust by our community.

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#WorkingOutLoud on the Trust Diagnostic Analysis: The Boss’s Business

Today i’m sharing more of the analysis of the prototype Trust diagnostic. I’m really just playing with this first instance of it, reworking some of the language, and finding ways to analyse and usefully present the data, on which note, thanks to Rebecca, who pointed out where i had rushed, and made a mistake on the scale yesterday, so corrected through her kind feedback today. Part of #WorkingOutLoud is to share your initial thoughts, and evolving understanding, so whilst i am nervous about the quality of this early work, it’s shared as part of the process of learning how to do it right!

Trust Diagnostic - The Boss

An individual’s personal life is not a boss’s business”, is the first question, and it explores organisational vs personal prioritisation. I’ve been playing recently with a social taxonomy, which is only ever going to be an abstraction, but it looks at ‘tribes’ being the primary cultural unit of organisation, which group together into communities (overlapping tribes) and Organisations (aggregated formal structures, overlapping multiple social ones). As part of the Trust work, i’m trying to look in detail at three levels within this: trust between two people, trust within communities and teams, and trust in organisations. The results above are from a group in Singapore: there’s some reason to believe that we will see cultural, ethnic, and gender based differences within groups, something that we will be able to explore as we build to a scale of data.

It’s probably unsurprising that 47% were ‘somewhat’, or ‘strongly’ in agreement. Personally i was surprised that 41% came out neutral: possibly it’s possible that we will see cultural differences here as well, or maybe not. Maybe we will see that the assumption of cultural difference is stronger than the reality.

In any event, these results reinforce the view that the boundary between ‘formal’, and ‘social’, between individual space, and organisational space, has blurred. The range of views is also significant, as it shows a range of perceptions within the group, which, i would argue, means the possibility of misunderstanding is greater.

I want to start playing with some narrative responses, for example:

Your group results show a broad spread of opinion, but clustered towards ‘neutral’ views, or views that ‘agree’. This may indicate that there is tendency to consider that ‘an individual’s personal life is not a boss’s business’, but by no means does it indicate that this is so all of the time.

If we were to play with ‘what you can do about it’, i may say:

With a broad spread like this, consider running open conversations around this topic: ask people to consider under what circumstances is this condition true, or false. Perhaps consider co-creating some informal rules around this. And for communal, social events, consider being explicit which rule set may apply: the formal rules of the organisation, or the social rules of the community.

We could try to write some narratives about the ‘individual’ vs ‘organisational’ prioritisation, which is the factor we are considering behind this question:

The fairly strong sense of neutral feeling, or cautious agreement with this statement may indicate a strong, local, tribal structure, with lower sense of loyalty to the Organisation itself: it may hold the potential for a ‘them and us’ attitude. Consider storytelling and story listening exercises to broaden the networks of understanding, to break these barriers down”.

Really, i’m just playing with analysis and format at this stage, but i will continue to #WorkOutLoud as i refine it.

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#WorkingOutLoud Trust Diagnostic Analysis: Belief

I’m continuing to #WorkOutLoud on the analysis of the Trust diagnostic: the data i’m sharing today is from the first alpha test. These results are from a group of 17 people based in Asia, and i’m using it to help develop my narrative around the questions, and to provide some observations on what they reported. In this instance, the question was ‘When my organisation communicates a message, i believe in that message’. Like all the questions, it’s built out of the primary research, and it ties into an exploration of ‘trust’ in formal stories.

Trust Diagnostic - Belief

I picked this question to share today, because it relates to something i’m interested in: the way that ‘organisationalstories may differ from ‘individual’ ones, or even ‘co-created’ ones. The output from this group is fascinating: only 6% strongly believed in those formal messages. 53% ‘agree’, but are not particularly strong in that belief. Perhaps it’s a cautious, or resigned, belief. As we build out wider groups, i’m interested to see, for example, if this differs regionally, or culturally.

Perhaps it also indicates a development need for the organisation: to create ‘sense making’ spaces, when formal stories land, where the community can engage in a conversation to figure out ‘what it means for us’. Indeed, when i prototyped the ‘Readiness for Change’ diagnostic with 1,000 people in a global organisation, they identified that leaders told authentic stories, but their key frustration was that they lacked spaces to respond to those stories.

Perhaps unsurprising: in democratised, social, storytelling spaces, we are used to having a claimed permission to ‘like’, ‘frown’, or freely respond. Perhaps that is the learning here.

This is all very early stage work: i will continue to #WorkOutLoud as i conduct this initial analysis, and recruit the next few alpha test groups.

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Struggling To Get On The Same Page

I’m #WorkingOutLoud as i (attempt) to analyse the first set of data from the prototype Trust Diagnostic. You can read more about the context of this work in yesterday’s blog post. Today, one questions stood out to me: ‘when my team works with other teams, or departments, in the company, we often struggle to get on the same page’. This question is exploring aspects of primary cultural alignment, and tribal structure.

Trust Diagnostic Alpha

41% of the group in this organisation felt that this was ‘always’, or ‘often’, true, with a further 35% feeling it was ‘sometimes’ true. Nobody thought it was never true.

I’ve been exploring the tribal structure of organisations: how we often have our strongest cultural alignment in our local tribe. To become more interconnected, to be more Socially Dynamic, we need to bridge these rifts in trust: we can never grow one global tribe, so instead we need to align between the disparate ones more effectively.

As with virtually every one of the twenty factors measured in this first prototype, i am very keen to see if we see replication of this distribution more widely, or if we see wide variety: either result will tell us something. Also, to see if it sits within sectors, e.g. will military groups rarely feel like this, whilst financial service ones often do? Time will tell: i will continue to #WorkOutLoud on this, and subsequent, analysis.

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The Trust Diagnostic: #WorkingOutLoud on the Alpha Group Analysis

Assume that today’s post is full of caveats: i wanted to share my initial analysis of the first prototype of the Trust Diagnostic, but this is very early stage work, and it will take me some time to find my way with it. Part of #WorkingOutLoud is to share your evolving thinking, and the Landscape of Trust is an open data project, so both those imperatives incite me to pull my finger out and just share it the best that i can. First, context: i refer you to this recent post to understand what the alpha diagnostic is.

Trust Diagnostic - i feel valued when

The dataset that i’m sharing here is from a group i ran it with in Singapore last week: there were 17 participants. Over time, i hope to build out some standard text around each question (describing which aspect of Trust it is exploring, and some standard text describing the relative values e.g. ‘if your group looked like this, then this is what we may read into it’. This will let me move towards a greater degree of automation in the analysis.

I feel valued at work when…

In total, the 17 participants selected 63 different choices, so an average of 3.8 choices each. My expectation for this question was that ‘freedom’ would rate strongly, and ‘reward’ would rate low (people were able to choose multiple options). ‘Reward’ has indeed rated very low, with five selections (29%), but ‘freedom’ is almost equally low, with six (35%). Possibly ‘autonomy’ (59%), the second highest rated response, could correlate to ‘freedom’, expressing the notion of ‘individual agency’ (my confirmation bias indicates that i hope it says this: in the Change Handbook writing i’m doing right now, i identify ‘individual agency’ as a key component of the Socially Dynamic Organisation, so i’m willing that result to come through…)

Development’ (64% of respondents), ‘Recognition’ (64%) and ‘Respect’ (64%), were each selected by 11 of the 17 respondents. That may tie in nicely with some of the narrative accounts, which express ‘legacy’ as something that they value.

Inclusion’ (47%) is interesting, i had expected that to rate more highly, but it sits around the middle. I’ll be interested to see if this one shows regional or gender based difference, once we start adding those demographics in.

Arguably, ‘Development’ falls directly in the gift of the Organisation, as, perhaps, do ‘Recognition’, and ‘Reward’. In total, they account for 40% of responses. We could therefore take a view that 40% of the thing that make people feel valued are under the control of the organisation.

That would leave 60% (‘freedom’, ‘respect’, ‘inclusion’, and ‘autonomy’) being ‘awarded’, or maybe ‘moderated’, by the community. I realise that there is some wriggle room here: we could argue that ‘autonomy’ is granted by an organisation with an agile mindset, so it should count as a factor that falls under organisational control. But equally, autonomy may be claimed in some ways, even when not granted. I guess we could split the difference…

So what could a narrative say? Let’s try this: ‘There are multiple factors that make people feel valued: some of these fall under the control of the organisation, whilst others appear to be held by the community itself. If we wish to build out a strong Trust network through the organisation, we should maximise the opportunity of those factors which are within our control (development, legacy), and nurture and facilitate those factors which are in the gift of the community (respect, recognition, freedom)’.

Phase 3 of the Landscape of Trust research will see us looking into Development Pathways: taking the visualisations, and diagnostic tools, built out of the research, and making practical suggestions for effecting change. I won’t start that work until next year, but, just to play, i might suggest some ideas. For development, if we went with the reading above, we may wish to consider socially moderated ideas for formalised recognition and respect (e.g. a tool to let you award ‘thanks’ to individuals within a team, which can be examined at scale to see where they cluster), or we could consider an ‘autonomy’ index), a second tool that helps people to explore, or articulate, what ‘autonomy’ means for them.

I’ll pause there: as first attempts go, i feel fairly unsatisfied: i feel pretty sure that i could have reversed most of that interpretation. Whilst some factors stand out reasonably strongly (notably that ‘freedom’ and ‘reward’ score low, the rest is more ambiguous.

The Landscape of Trust

My aim is to rapidly cycle through a number of these alpha prototypes, so possibly the first thing to do is to see if there is a normalised distribution: i don’t know if i will be more excited if there is, or if there isn’t. If we always see similar trends, it may indicate some valuable insight into who ‘owns’ which part, whilst if we see radical variation each time, i think that is equally ok, as it indicates potential to shape results more easily, if we can agree what ‘effective’ looks like. Perhaps in an ideal world, we can correlate certain response sets to other, wider measure of success. E.g. do organisations where populations sample ‘low’ for ‘reward’ and ‘freedom’, do they also score low on e.g. the Readiness for Change diagnostic (also, itself, currently running in beta testing).

So i’ll leave you with that unresolved response, and share more analysis through this week. This part of #WorkingOutLoud, and, indeed, of research in general, is a familiar feeling of wading through mud. The hope is that, with time, volume, and some judicious statistics, we can come to sense the order, the signal from the noise.

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The Need for Trust

The formal structure of an organisation is visible, clear, codified by rules, system, and process. It’s the management structure the determines whether i have power over you. In parallel to this, runs the social structure, and it doesn’t work in this way. Social structures are multi layered, complex, adaptive, conflicting, and strongly tribal, and it’s the nature of bonds within this system that i’ve been exploring with the Landscape of Trust research.

Social Leadership 100 - Reputation

Trust is complex: probably not one thing, but rather a basket of forces that, in aggregate, we look at and decide, ‘do we have trust’. And we do that at the level of the individual, the group, and the organisation. Trust is not a ‘one time’ force, but rather something that we constantly assess, so if we have it today, i may break it tomorrow.

The Socially Dynamic Organisation - Bonds of Trust

I’ve been gathering stories of trust: how it forms, grows, and fractures, and those stories reflect the complexity of the subject. People describe trust differently, and that’s led to me consider twelve aspects in the research: clear differences emerge based upon gender, age, the use of technology, culture, and ethnicity. Not, i suspect, differences in what trust means, but rather in how we experience it. For example, people ‘trust’ formal systems less than social ones. And, generally, if we experience ‘trust’, we will feel it as ‘freedom’. A freedom to explore, to collaborate.

To thrive in the Social Age, we must build a more Socially Dynamic Organisation: one that finds it’s strength in it’s diversity, a strength built not on codified power, but on community power, and reputation based authority. And an organisation with trust at it’s heart: broader networks of trust, bonds which cross over formal structure, building a secondary web that transcends it.

If we want innovation, if we want fairness, if we wish to build a deep capability in transformation, we need to create conditions for community, and that should start with trust.

Posted in Community, Social Leadership, Trust | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments