Thursday, August 25, 2011

Innovation in Business process management


   Never before in history has society been confronted with the amount of change we face today. Organizations and individuals are met with a simple choice: create the future in a creative manner or be mere passengers towards it. This choice will largely determine success or failure in the future.
   This article explains some of these changes in the context of Business Process Management (BPM) and gives some practical guidelines to apply creativity and innovation in everyday life towards a better future.

Current outlook

   South Africa today is reaping the results of a decade of solid democracy and financial management. The growth rate attained exceeded all expectations. A strong middle class has developed, laying a sound foundation for the future.
  However education, law enforcement and general wellness are lacking in many respects. This is due to many root causes, including the growing divide between rich and poor, and the inability of local governments to provide basic services.
  To be competitive on a world class level is within our reach, but this will require leadership of a different kind. We need to have a passion for everything we do, focus on improving on all levels, be different and unique, study global practice, sharpen our radar systems to pick up on great opportunities, never give up on innovation and do it in an ethical way with empathy for those that are lagging behind (Sunter, 2001).
   The world of the next decade will differ immensely from the one we used to know. The baby boomers, currently representing a large percentage of the population, will move into retirement, and a new generation, now 15-25 years old will bring a new dimension, skills offering and a vastly different market.
  The shadows of several revolutions - the information revolution, the coming of the new South Africa, and the rise of Conscious Capitalism  - will pose greater challenges to individuals and organizations (Aberline, 2007).
  In this new world, long-term planning rituals do not work anymore, as strategy will become a living thing. Quantum leaps become more important than incremental steps. We will need to destruct frequently, see all positions as temporary and do everything as a project. We have to cut the sideshows and create awe-inspiring value with an experience.
   A key tactic will be to cross communication boundaries with high touch and more female thinking, as we all work in cross-functional teams.  We must fire turf kings and move frequently – a bit like musical chairs (Peters, 2003).
  The year 2011 poses exceptional challenges and opportunities. Newspapers do not write about it due to the obsession with 2010, but understanding the aftermath of 2010 may bring greatness to those that consider it carefully.

“It is time that we move from judgemental thinking to thinking concerned with value creation…..

We can analize the past, or we can design the future…that is the difference between suffering the future or enjoying it!”  de Bono (2002).

Context of Innovation and BPM

Following current ways of thinking and acting will not bring wealth, prosperity and a better world (Venter, 2004, personal  communication).

Conventional thinking
Value innovation[M1] 
Industry assumptions
Its given
Shape it
Strategic focus
Beat competition
Make them irrelevant
Retain & expand
Focus on value
Use existing
In traditional boundaries
Solutions beyond boundaries

We should see a process as something that converts inputs to outputs and BPM as a structured way to analyze and continually improve fundamental activities such as manufacturing, marketing, communication, and administering. Applying innovation on BPM processes does not require major technological breakthroughs, but poses challenges in the way that it requires people to fundamentally change the way they work.

   In this new world we are entering the real winners will be those that work together, put things together, and show others how to; those who do it differently, apply it differently, and do it locally in an empathetic and environmentally conscious manner (Friedman, 2006). More than ever before, winning will be about doing things differently.

Organizational context

We need to get over the idea of sharply defined units and move to a point where managers are representing markets, products and processes rather than having total control over it (Hammer, 2002). Yet management often fights for its “God-given” territory (Moss-Kantor, 2003).
   There are exponentially more data and information than a few years ago. Most of these are available to everybody, but creating knowledge from it is more difficult. Real insight and finally wisdom are only attained at great effort and with exceptional sharing of it in a climate of trust. This process is indispensable in attaining a competitive edge.
   In leading this process, managers need to move from doing the right things to doing things right, from doing right things better to doing away with things, from doing what others do, to doing what they do not do, and doing the impossible.
Creativity and Innovation in practice

To practice creativity managers need to lead the process to continuously create many ideas and steer it towards practical implementation. Creativity happens when we:
  • Are set to break sets, destruct if necessary
  • Explore givens, use good things of the past
  • See a broad picture with local detail
  • Value play, become children again
  • Build up, and not knock down
  • Live with looseness
  • Involve others (never do it alone)
  • Connect and are receptive
  • Know what we want, have a focus and a vision
  • Cycle often,close late
  • Manage the process (Open University B822, 2007)

Creativity amongst people will only happen if they trust each other and the process starts with bonding, then sharing, followed by new insight.

The innovation process consists of generating many ideas, filtering it to the vital few and combining it  to steer towards a product or process of value.

An 11-step process to work alone, in meetings or in groups is recommended (Open University B822, 2007).

Step 1:
Relax, play, talk. Never just start the process. Great ideas will not happen in stressful situation

Step 2:

Explore all aspects of the challenges. Avoid open discussion and brainstorming. Use anonymous techniques. The focus is on quantity not quality. Listen to a story, note daydreams or use the brain-writing technique.
Step 3:

Reduce ideas to the vital few things that must be done. Divide these ideas into groups, discuss the grouped items and label with a new name.

Step 4:

Discuss and gather more information. At this point make presentations on the topic.

Step 5:

Break, incubate, sleep over it.

Step 6:

Before this step use metaphors like items from nature or art to stimulate right brain thinking.

Create many ideas on how to solve the challenge. Use playful techniques, use art, stories, play, and paint. Have fun!

Step 7:

Reduce ideas to the vital few and group into clusters. Label clusters of ideas and name the clusters as resultant action steps.

Step 8:

Screen further with only the vital few remaining.

Step 9:

Prioritize. Do the easy steps with the highest impact.

Step 10:

Create an action plan with action step, date for completion and responsible person.

Step 11:
Execute and follow up.

Management and Leadership

Managing creativity means that the managers need to equip themselves to read the environment, be proactive and visionary, have excellent people skills and remote management skills, use IT to transform, manage complexity and be competent to manage changing contexts.
   Leading a process like this can be compared to certain techniques followed by a Jazz band: 
         Know where the soloist is
         The soloist listens and builds on group
         Know the rules and when to break it
         Experiment in the band by changing structure
         Overblow your clarinet / sax sometimes
         Expect smashes, recover and move on
         Do not repeat the same solo, improvise on the known 

In summary

Creativity and resultant innovation is a choice. It is a choice each person and each organization can make. It is a difficult journey that will often challenge our existing ways of doing. . However, the outcomes of this process hold such great promise that we have no choice but to embark on this journey.

Southern Africa Institute of Management Services for their trust and support

Marianne Theunissen for creative writing.

Creatix Design for the layout of this article and the design of the PowerPoint presentation

Tertia Agenbag for additional research.


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