If we had a blank slate
In some discussions online Paul received this bit of feedback about the "Frozen" middle managers:
The cavalry is not coming. It is the responsibility of every manager to be innovative and grow the business. Very difficult to do when everyone is working 12 hour days.This represents what I call the zero sum thinking approach, and unfortunately also represents reality in many companies. The argument here is that the middle managers have no time for innovation. If innovation is (or must be) introduced, what is the executive team going to de-emphasize or remove from its expectations?
So what are you going to stop doing to make room to run your innovation experiments.
There's a question I often like to ask at this point in the conversation to reframe the debate. That question is:
If you were starting fresh in this market today, what would your offerings look like?Yes, the "blank slate" "start from scratch" approach. What this approach allows us to do, if even just for a moment, is to shift perspectives. There are usually three insights:
- What I'd stop doing - every business is supporting products or initiatives that don't have any real value, and the investments in those activities crowd out other useful activities.
- What I'd do more of - every business should rebalance its portfolio and chose where to place emphasis
- What I'd do that's new - and here's where we move from defense into offense. Doing more of the same, only faster and with fewer resources, is competing in the "red ocean". Could we step back and find new solutions, new offerings, new markets that allow us to open up a "blue ocean"?
What are we going to stop doing to make room for innovation? The question almost answers itself if you take a blank slate approach. What products, services and business models are outdated or require more in investment and time than they return? What would you do if you could start from scratch? Even if you can't start from scratch, realize that other entrants and disrupters are doing exactly that. It's better to obsolete your own products and services intentionally than have others do it for you as a surprise.