What Innovation Coach Do to Help You?

The old way of describing innovation is a closed one. Innovation used to be reserved only for the techies, engineers, R&D officers and bosses. What’s the new way? Innovation is open for everyone and anyone who wishes to create new value in the societies. Inspiring? 

Now, the way I understand innovation is about solving problems. The way I understand coaching is about developing others potentials. Therefore as an innovation coach I professionally help leaders develop their potentials to create new value by solving problems particularly in organizations and businesses. 

Although innovation today is attributed mostly about technology and digital, I am one of the handful coaches with little technical background yet able to appreciate the function of both in today’s brouhaha of technology and digital transformation in organizations. 

Humanizing technology is not easy. In many “tech” presentation you will be blown away by how simple the dashboard looks, how beautiful the visuals, how seamless is the experience from one point to another, how smart the data analytics and so on. Just a click, right? 

No. Ask any techies that working behind those, it is not that simple. Don’t be fooled. Those work require deep expertise, endless nights of toils, large work streams and of course huge amount of investment. In an organization, the real challenge is when you need to put this in front of customers. To do that, the tech must be discussed over with other people such as the management, sales, marketing, finance, engineering, product, strategy and so many others. Issues ensued. 

In the early days of Google, there was no manager. Engineers report directly to another engineer who is doing the work. It was a no-brainer to have an engineer to report to a project manager. What does a project manager knows about tech? Until the work becomes complex and large, they realized they need managers to work with the multiple streams. 

Eventually, Google has managers. Additionally, they brought in coaches to help the project managers and top leaders lead. “Your title make you a manager, your people make you a leader.”

As an innovation coach, my focus has always be on pushing the limits of both leadeers and technology so they can co-exist and complementing each other. Here’s the three of the Cs as my focus of an innovation coach:

COLLABORATION

Very hard to do although a resounding yes when asked. Because there’s little appreciation of technology by other than the tech department, often collaboration suffered great defeat in many innovation projects. Coaching in this area nudged leaders to include working with multi disciplinary teams or reassigning some great minds to great project to make it work. 

Innovation coaching helps leader to see the best minds as game changer, make time for empathic listening from stakeholders, find ways to develop faster prototype using low fidelity method and welcome nasty feedbacks that will definitely tear the project apart in some situation. Fail early, fail often as some says.

CROSS POLLINATION

Do you realized that previously the digital world learn a lot from the physical world? Now it is overtaking the physical world to become “the” prime industry. Cross pollination coaching helps leader to experiment other successes in other industries and bring it to their own. 

A simple exercise is to raise the awareness of engineers by asking them to attend human resources conferences and vice versa. Most of us tend to frequent our own kind, try attend a new conference from other industry and see what you will gain. PM me your learnings!

CONFIDENCE 

Seamless and connected digital services that many organizations trying to do today are dreams yet to come true. Possibly wild ideas and potentially radically different approach to their business models. Because of that, instilling confidence is crucial to leaders and their team members to try anyway – you either make it or learn.

However, a lot of questions about risks and rewards about their career come into the discussion. What if they fail? Will they still keep their jobs? How about personal reputation? Can they recoup their investment? What if they lose it all?

As an innovation coach, my work is also involve in instilling confidence with the top leaders to be change-ready. Just as the new language of transformation is experimentation, developing good enough products and services to be change-ready require mindset and culture shift in the organization.

Finally, to leaders, “repeating what you do everywhere is never a winning formula for innovation success. We thrive by trying new things”. With the right tools, good support and a sound method from innovation coach, we’ll get there together. Go coaching!

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Why Coaching for Innovation?

As innovation becoming more demanding of leaders, organization now realize that technology alone wouldn’t be able to achieve their innovation goals. Leaders now found out that the people felt “left behind”, unwanted and confused. There’s so much animosity around innovation implementation as well as business or digital transformation towards that. 

It seems, the high tech innovation that we brag about all these years requires some human touch eh? Yes we do, if we want to make it work and integrating well for long term. One of the tools that you can use is coaching. 

Why do you need coaching in innovation?

Other than just the familiarity of the innovation tools such as design thinking, agile, scrum, lean, strategic thinking, business model canvas, blue ocean and many others; there’s a deeper hurdle left ignored. Hurdle to make change; and change is always difficult, emotional and constant. 

Leaders with foresight know, that coaching will help them change from “me” perspective to “we”. Say, in an ideation lab, the leader’s ideas opposed, he will still feel comfortable. In fact a well coached leader would welcome opposition because it will enrich the discussion. Besides, it empowers the team. Not about me, it is we.

In another situation, when an idea is risky, poor leaders will not support. A confidently coached leader, besides the mantra “doing it right from the first time”, he’d put his neck on the choppin’ to experiment a wild idea although it might fail. His new mantra is “you either make it or learn”. The word failure now taken a back seat or eliminated. 

The speed of activities is another hurdle in implementing big scale innovation. There are so many things to do. Right from the augmented customer experience, digital touch points, integration of big data, interpreting analytics, artificial intelligence bots, blockchain in smart contract, mobile first solutions to drones operation. 

How just a leader with all these new stuffs lead? Can you imagine a senior vice president at the age of 55 going to chew while keeping his sanity? It will be too much and he might be too occupied delivering his strategic function – which is more valuable due to his/her knowledge. This is another area where coaching could help. 

A coachable senior leaders would gain through giving trust early in the relationship particularly with their direct reports. How many senior leaders do you see still unable to let go certain operational meetings because it “seems” all important to them? In times of innovation like now, decision making has to be fast and getting immediate feedback should be faster. It is also should be expected, the direct reports would make some mistakes along the way as part of their learning curve. Fail early, fail often. 

In some organizations, they are still stuck at the “over analysis becomes paralysis” situation. After round and rounds of meetings, no one seem to be willing to call the shot. Because innovation about venturing to uncharted waters, a coached leader will demonstrate higher tolerance for ambiguities and can live with “just enough” information to make a next step decision. With tools such as 2×2 quadrant or A/B testing or BMC, these well informed leaders will advance further; the rest still in another meeting.

To be an innovative leaders, coaching could help to unlearn and minimize biases of past experiences. Where the culture could be dry, brazen and unwelcoming, these coached leaders turn them around so ideas thrived, people become responsive again and businesses nourished. The best innovations in the world only flourished when a corporate culture supports and drives them forward. 

Because of the change component that comes together with innovation, there’ll be always tension of opinions, resources squabble and constant realignments. Besides, strategy is not just another management retreat or document. A strategic innovation leaders know, there’s a need to discuss qualitative data, customer pain points, challenge assumptions and question “facts” at hand; although it may not be related to his own department. Furthermore, a coached innovation leader will not stop there. He will ensure the organization have taken serious and structured considerations including influencing the board of directors to discuss innovation as the top agenda in the board meeting. 

By coaching for innovation, leaders role is reimagined to be more assertive, substantive and collaborative to make the organization future ready. Leaders, you can still keep your pride, but please don’t lose your shirt. Go coaching!

Business Innovation Tools

This post was first published in LinkedIn on 25 July 2019 and has been trending on #innovation. I am sharing it here for my website followers.

*ICE Post*

The work of innovation should be more about outcomes than the tools itself. Knowing and practicing more tools will give versatility to the organizations because of the evolving nature of change.

Change is difficult. Learning innovation tools are like change, it is difficult. However it is not impossible. Other than satisfying your customers, a worthy initiative to do in the next 5-10 years from now is to train your workforce utilizing innovation tools.

From my research, more than 60% workforce innovate using “their own tools”. The MNCs are more equipped usually with their business systems which are prepared by the Headquarters.

Here are the lists of innovation tools that would almost guarantee and secure your organizations future if not bulletproof it. Eventually with repetition & practice, your organization productivity will change to net positive. Give it 3-5 years, the needle will surely move.

Have a blast! “A tool and a fool seldom differ.”

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com