Innovation And The Art Of War. Part 1


Black smoke hangs like a sweating vulture in the sky. Evil eyes flickering like tiny torches in the trees – waiting for the last bullets to cease.

You’re on a blood curdling crusade littered with destruction and death. In your wake lay burning villages, tear-filled children in tattered clothes. You have vivid recurring nightmares – rivers of thick red blood pouring from unfortunate and mangled warriors. Mud mixed with guts sit stinking in the gutters. The dogs and cats of war feasting on the rotting flesh – stinking carcasses of earlier ideas.

You’ve met a hardened resistance movement.

You’ve witnessed their blockades, the IED’s – the booby-traps built through their unending dogma and craft. You’ve met the enemy. You’ve watched in disbelief the naysayers smiling as they clench still warm stilettos in their teeth. You are not really sure what side they are on. You’ve been ambushed by the slippery decision process and you’ve had dangerous midnight rendezvous with many shadowy people – all those that you have to buy off to get this battle won.

You are trying to implement real innovation in your company.

Years ago I worked in a large company. I now visit and work with hundreds of them. I always admire the people. I have utter sympathy with them. They are trying to win a war by sitting in meetings. My experience of meetings, and it is still the same today, is that getting things done in them (or properly thinking about stuff) is not likely.

Beyond the meeting it actually gets worse if you are on a mission to create new value. There are far too many avoidable pitfalls along the way. Nowadays the sad reality is that most people no longer even think to try.

Getting anything agreed and then developed in meetings is next to impossible. It is also demoralizing, tedious, stupid – a wrong headed process. Brainstorms, meetings, workshops are seen as things to be avoided at all cost.

My Own Personal War With Stupidity

Back in the day – in utter desperation with the lack of progress or innovation – I would grab a marker, a flip chart and shout at my colleagues and urge them gangnam style to just discuss their basic ideas – simply. I would do anything to get them to talk without the jargon. Describe ideas that had value – to begin with it was hard. I tried everything and eventually the only thing that seemed to work was some kind of picture of the conversation.

I finally left that company but I had arrived at an interesting place.

My journey since then took me to the distant corners of the world and the nooks and crannies of my head.

I became delirious with methods and books, experts and idiots alike. In my mind I waged unholy wars against advancing armies of flip charts and radar defeating post-it notes. I slept in the freezing caves of the ancients – brewing Anti-Power Point broth long into the night.

I sat and plotted for far more than 40 days and nights.

I stared out at the evil empire of ‘Word Doc Mountain’ that impenetrable Nation on the horizon. I took hedonistic delight and counsel from the consulting Gods and was drugged by the the PR machine that drowns us with ‘wise’ methods by academic authors and renegade booksellers.

I woke up.

Now many years later me and my trusty warriors have learned (the long way around) that it can be different and it deserves to be. We are now the war torn warriors of positive disruption. So I share here just a few of the key lessons learned in the battles.

6 ingredients for actually getting things done.

  1. Stealth – Deploy Excitement & Delight: When you are ready make your idea an open secret. Quickly prove that the idea makes the cynics hairs stand up on end. Think bayonets and get to ‘deep in the gut’ appreciation for the idea.
  2. A Squad – Gather A Positive Cadre Of Liberateurs: Create a proud and conscious gang of resistance workers. Enough people around you with the respect to even get started on the idea as a valid thought.
  3. Intel – Gain Sufficient & Necessary Data: Build the map. You can point to a map of the terrain that proves that the idea is just going to be different enough to work.
  4. Top Secret – The Battle Plan: Understand all the aspects of the crusade – build a plan that can withstand the dynamics of what lies ahead and ensure everyone is on track to execute the plan within the same framework.
  5. Guile – Understand The Devils Switch: There is no data to prove this idea and that is why it may just be right. Then have the courage to defend what appears great risk. Even with a cast iron business case the whole enterprise is geared up to stop anything like this from happening.
  6. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate: Explain the idea within a story that delights and engages the important folk who have the power to make decisions.

Good Luck!

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johncaswell @johncaswell
John Caswell  @johncaswell
"Without interdependence, nothing could exist.” - Thich Nhat Hanh #quite @tifferly 

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