Enabling Sustainable Innovation

Enabling Sustainable Innovation

In this article we consider three stages in enabling sustainable innovation and our preparedness to let what we create to develop a life of its own.

Over the course of the last few days, along with colleagues both internal to Innovation People and external to the business, I’ve been involved in reviewing what we’ve been doing for the past number of years, 16 years in fact.

Three Stages in Development

To repeat the phrase, ‘in fact’.  In fact, just yesterday I sat with someone I met quite recently discussing the history of the business, the history of Innovation People.  I explained, the business had three stages in its development, and we together joked about them being like the three trimesters a pregnancy, from conception to giving birth.  For the subject of our conversation concerned the birthing of a new product out of a question and then an idea that formed around that question, which in turn grew with nurturing to emerge in due time as a product in its own right.

Personally, I find the analogy rich and satisfying, that the process of innovation might be a little like the process of pregnancy and giving birth.  So, in this way, a new product might be conceived in the forming of a question, which then grows and develops, all the while developing potential, nurtured by its ‘parent’ business, and finally given birth as a ‘thing’ an entity, a product that is new and has its own life.

Innovation and the Simplest of Definitions

I know the simplest understanding of innovation itself is not so much in the creation of something new, but in that capacity to take that new thing and breathe life into it either through realising commercial potential of some other form of productive application.  I’m sure readers will agree, this makes sense.  Fundamentally innovation is about breathing life into new products and services.  It’s a kind of birthing.  A parenting.

Taking Time to Review

Our concern as a business and the reasons for our review have been twofold.  Firstly, we’ve been concerned to consider what we’ve been in the business of creating, giving birth to.  Secondly, like all responsible ‘parents’, we’ve been reflecting on the best way for our ‘child’, our innovation to grow and flourish.  This is bearing in mind my own heritage which recognises that any responsible, innovator, entrepreneur or parent needs to know when their relationship with their off-spring needs to change and maybe when that off-spring needs to be allowed to go off and make their own way in the world.

Having the Courage to Let Go

Certainly, as an observer of innovation and entrepreneurship I encountered all too many instances of over-protective ‘parenting’, of a reluctance to ‘let go’, a refusal to let their child have the independence they need in order to flourish in the world.

Three Trimesters of Development

Certainly, this theme was at the heart of my meeting yesterday with the person I met as we discussed the three trimesters of the business’ life.  As I described to him, the first of these was all about questioning, testing and reviewing: pure research and reflection.  The second was about development and experimentation.  It was about forming something new out of reflection.  It was the ‘maybe moment’, of ‘fail fast’ and ‘let’s try this or that’.  The third trimester has been about testing commercially and to extend into the early life of a child, into the parent and toddler group and potentially kindergarten.

So here we have these three trimesters of:

  • Conception and research, idea formation and testing.
  • Development and maturation, the emergence of a product
  • Early-stage life and increasing independence.

And each with the end that the thing you have given birth too and formed needs to mature beyond you.  It needs to find and nurture a life of its own.

As I reflect, I am attracted by this idea of trimesters in the innovation process and of the analogy of parenting.

As an actual, real-life parent and grandparent myself, I am only too aware of my own short-comings and, as the cliché goes, you know you’ve done a good job when your off-spring make their own lives and live as good people.  (Yes, I know people have bumps in the road of life and that bad things happen to good people, but for simplicity’s sake, stick with the cliché as an analogy.)

The point my colleagues and I are caused to reflect on the most is that parental moment, when your offspring so obviously needs to grow and flourish beyond you, for this is the point we have reached at Innovation People.

Letting Go of Our Creation

We have researched what became the SPICE Framework® and have gone on to develop the SPICE Ecosystem™.  As proud parents, we treasure both.  However, we know that for our offspring in the SPICE Ecosystem™ to flourish it needs to gain increasing independence.  As a business we are now committed to enabling this.

Allowing Emergence

However, the process of bringing the SPICE Ecosystem™ to the point of its own independent life makes me reflect on what is the ‘E’ of the SPICE Framework itself, where ‘E’ stands for ‘EMERGENCE’.  By emergence, we mean what actually happens and what might be intuited to be right, rather than what is planned or conceived at the outset.

So right at the outset, I conceived a business, committed to researching new approaches to developing people and organisations.  The business researched tested and explored all kinds of approaches.  What emerged – what we’ve birthed as it were – is a wholly new approach that spans the real-life work of businesses and their people and into the metaverse of the virtual world.  When I look, when I reflect on the experience, I cannot say this has been planned.  It has truly been emergent.

Supporting Others

Then again, the absolute truth is that I never wanted Innovation People to be one of those consulting businesses that would simply churn out half-understood, poorly researched guff and neat models.  I wanted the business to get its hands dirty, birthing significant work borne of practise, reflection and experience in our untidy and complex world.

We’d be simply delighted to share our experience with others and to work with others to support their development, nurturing what may emerge from their life.

Written by Michael Croft

August 8, 2023