How Do You Conquer The Everest Of Business Innovation?

7 integral steps to a successful implementation


Creativity and innovation (especially the disruptive type) is so scarce that it would be a disaster to waste any opportunity to get it. The possibility to reach the summit at Everest is also rare. From the integral point of view (Ken Wilber - AQAL), any business should be viewed as a mix of individuals, culture, individual deeds and results and systems, procedures and rules. Climbing Everest is the same, a mix of your own dedication, passion and self confidence plus real action, professional gear, a collective effort and a certain system in which to operate.

In this respect, the integral view ensures the largest chance to achieve it. A possible map to include all of this business innovation would be similar to the one below.

I am going to use the metaphor of conquering Everest, as innovation in business is as hard, full of errors and total failures are common.

The BASE CAMP (5400 m / 17700 ft.)- Preparation of the CEO and of the business for creativity and innovation.

The CEO or manager of a team is on one level of consciousness or another (Red, Amber, Orange, Green, Teal, etc. - see Frederic's Laloux recent book on 'Reinventing Organizations'); a proper ‘initiative for innovation’ starts with the leader upping their level.

Let the CEO declare a future campaign of creative and innovative ideas collected from all the employees, based and centered around a specific problem and to be released in 1 month.

Gather several good creative people to form a ‘Facilitation Team’ for the development, set up and deployment of the campaign.

Let the facilitation team collect the tools and information then communicate them to the company.

You may see this stage as the preparation stage, where you gather your forces, prepare the instruments, gain knowledge from peers and arrange the climbing campaign as best you can.

The ICEFALL (5500 m - 6100 m / 18000 ft - 20000 ft.) - Identification of the Problem.

Have a desired outcome settled by the Board of Directors: a problem to be solved, a dilemma, a goal. The more specific it is, the better. The more 'client centered' is it, the better. Use tools to get input from employees, clients and competitors.

Let the CEO communicate it to the company and let them launch it as a focus for the next month as a 'Creatively Solving the Dilemma' (CSD) campaign, let's say.

In reality, the 'icefall' is considered a 'huge horror-chamber at an amusement park' ( Any wrong turn may turn your expedition into a nightmare. It is also a crucial point for any company's innovation campaign.

CAMP 1, VALLEY OF SILENCE (6100 m - 6400 m / 20000 - 21000 ft.) - Generation of New, Creative and Innovative Ideas

Have as many burst idea generation sessions based on the format described in ‘The Leadership Spark’ or any other format that works for you. The key ingredient here is to suspend judgement and embrace any ideas that people have.

'Endless snow, deep crevasses and mountain walls often washed by avalanches'. Stay silent while others are coming with ideas. It is not the time to judge anything but only listen 'to the deep, murmuring cracking sounds under our tents - it is the crevasses opening and closing deep down in the glacier beneath' it is the sound of judgement trying to get out.

CAMP 2 (6400 m / 21000 ft.) - Feedback of the Pool of Ideas

Have a 'Employees' Ideas Pool Poll' done on the generated ideas. Let everybody vote for the most innovative, ‘out of the box’ idea, the most extraordinary or the most integral ones.

Have a 'Clients and Competitors Pool Poll' done on the generated ideas that have come from this.

On Everest, at this stage you 'reach a rocky patch. This place is absolutely stunning. Clouds roll in from the lower ranges of the Himalayas, up the valley and into the camp. While acclimatizing, we spend time looking for cool old climbing gear; left here by all of Everest's climbing history. This is also the last chance to get a decent, prepared meal.'

At this stage, the innovation campaign is getting its views from above and below; like history is depicted by historians looking at artefacts. You will get the most relevant ideas here.

CAMP 3, LHOTSE WALL (6800m - 8000m / 22300 ft. - 26300 ft.) - Exploration Of Selected Ideas

Have as many iterations of an idea as possible based on the winning ideas from the previous step. Exploration means playing with the few ideas selected before.

'Imagine sliding a fun, icy slope on a sunny winter’s day. Only this one is 1200 meters (4000 ft) high. This is not a place to play. You might not feel too clear in your head but it’s crucial to concentrate.' This is innovative idea exploration; not really clear but of great interest when going up.

CAMP 4, THE DEATHZONE (8000 m / 26000 ft.) - Validation, Decision and Implementation

The most critical aspect of business innovation is not to that they don’t have enough ideas it’s purely that they struggle with evaluation and implementation of them. Therefore, simplify them and let the people (stakeholders, not managers, the Board or the CEO) rate it collectively using solid validation instruments.

This is the ’taking the risk' part of the whole innovation program; decide which idea should be followed, invested in and worked on further.

'Only fear remains on everyone's face. People don’t talk a lot. Resting in your tent, feeling weak already, you try to get some sleep as night falls outside. The wall towards the summit is steep and dark, you are in the death zone and you can´t help thinking that within the next 48 hours, there is a very real risk that you might not live. You will feel great as long as the day is bright but lose spirit fast when night falls. The cold, scary darkness outside is anything but inviting. Fear is always worse than reality.'

THE SUMMIT (8850 m / 29035 ft.) - Implementation

Implement chosen idea. No comments, no fuss, no second-thoughts. Innovation = Ideas x Execution. It is not about the idea being implemented; what everybody gains in the end is a freedom of conquering the innovation mechanism, the self-confidence of generating, exploring, evaluating and implementing new ideas.

'You have reached the summit, friend.'


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