The Evolution of Insight, in Hindsight

The most amazing part of the legacy of IT innovation in 2007 to 2015 is the number of different ways that individuals had to initiate action. The vast expansion of options had an unprecedented reliance on underlying support mechanisms that were heterogeneous, spontaneous, or ungoverned in their availability and presence.

In particular, conventional controls on interaction such as policies (permission) or configurations (structures) faced conditions so diverse or even ephemeral that achieving operational predictability was possible only on fundamentally new terms.

Today and going forward, the new normal environment of operations for users is even more heterogeneous and “open”. Managing production in that environment requires insight into what the environment already wants to support and do systemically, which can then be exploited under management.

The driving metaphors for that environment’s state of affairs are “organic” and “Darwinian”. Native elements coincide, combine, and compete.

As an overall ecosystem, the complex set of relations in this new state pose a big challenge to discovering the regularity of its dynamics — the probabilities showing  a “natural” set of priorities, and the most common attributes of “natural” constructions. Without that information, imposing practical preferences and mitigating risks is far more difficult.

This throws us into a scientific mode of achieving a practical familiarity. The ability to “look into the system” and recognize its behavior is the insight that matters.

In general, we first maintain continuous observations from which events, transactions and outcomes are revealed.

Then we aggressively analyze those observations, to identify any significantly persistent correlations.

Finally, the most useful logical modeling of those correlations will characterize and reveal co-operative agents and brokers in the system.

The Evolution of Insight


Creativity Under the Microscope

When we go to the underlying “template” of nearly all discussions about “creativity”, our main interests, are always the same:

– How do you recognize it?
– Where does it come from?
– How do you use it?
– Who cares?
– What is it worth?

We know what the word “create” means: it means “to make”. Competitively, we want creativity to refer to making things in a way that they were not made before — a strategically useful requirement. We want to know if those new “formulas” are inspired (implicitly discovered) or engineered (explicitly discovered), and we want to know if we can cause the discovery on demand.

But the terms of discussions about creativity are often too ambiguous to be shared effectively across different parties. The ambiguity inhibits both confidence and progress in taking creativity under management.

A glossary of characteristic distinctions would help to sort out the discussions so that the answers provided would be understood the same way by all of the participants.

Most of the mythology about creativity is actually about where it comes from — namely, the nature of “inspiration“. Creativity is seen most commonly as “originality of awareness”, usually characterized in one of two ways:

– insightful (sees within)
– imaginative (foresees)

But artists, teachers and coaches know that creativity can be both taught and learned as a behavior that generates insight and imagination. The behavior has any or all of the following characteristics:

– playful (arranging for pleasure)
– experimental (arranging for discovery)
– inventive (arranging for newness)

– constructive (static effectiveness)
– productive (dynamic effectiveness)

– distinctive (different per specification)
– unusual (different per context)
– original (different per known precedent)

Overall, the glossary allows us to “map” these behaviors as  different types of “vision” (seeing), “build” (arranging),  “impact” (effectiveness) and “value” (difference).

It’s fair to ask about how the behaviors become competencies.

The answer is that the behaviors can be pursued intentionally and need not be only spontaneous or “inherent”. In particular, we see training as the work done in any behavior to separate the 80% of unnecessary effort from the 20% of effort worth amplifying. The other key effort required is planning. By looking at what each different behavior is actually about, it can be taken and prioritized as a potential source of change to a current state reality.



De-Myth-ifying Business Creativity

Because it is now accepted that innovation is a competitive imperative, Business Creativity is a subject with strong legs. It gets to play in thinking about resources, competencies, strategies, and environments — nearly all of the Big Management games.

But the real topic of the “business” discussion about creativity is usually this: “How Do I get Great New Ideas When I Need Them?”

The myth of management is “Do what worked before, and it will work again.” In that light, the ways to get ideas fall into only a few categories:

(a.) Find them;

(b.) Steal them;

(c.) Make them.

A more specific catalog of  “How To” efforts (find, steal, make) is necessary, but insufficient. Someone will invariably point at something and ask the question, “How do I know that is going to work?”

In reality, the answer is, “Well, you don’t.” And the reason why is that creativity is inherently unpredictable.

Almost any competent artist can tell us that “creativity” consists of (a.) labor, (b.) imagination, and (c.) inspiration, even though those three things don’t always occur in the same order or at the same time or degree. So creativity is also about being overtly opportunistic about all three.

This clarifies thinking a lot. Things that get in the way of laboring, imagining, and getting inspired are pretty much a lock to inhibit creativity. 

Said differently, “creativity” is not an event. It’s a condition that is fostered by a culture. A culture of low inhibition is simply more likely to host creativity.

Sometimes, the “condition” is one person’s free-associating mentality in the shower; sometimes it is a large operational unit ‘s new perspective – a groupwide view, acquired from research or hearsay, of a near future that it might know how to make…

Summarizing: “Business Creativity” is not about causing creativity. Instead; managing “business” creativity is fundamentally about managing how the business’s own ideas of risk are applied to an un-inhibiting culture.


The Accidental versus the Intentional: Creativity as Discovery

In most of the global business writing today about innovation,  “Creativity”  gives “Agility” a neck-and-neck run for the money.

Almost no one tries to explain innovation without reference to creativity. But the definition of “creativity” — something everyone needs and wants —  is often left unexamined, even as people presume it can be managed for “innovation”.
Creativity is intentional discovery, as distinguished from accidental discovery. It can be recognized when it’s there, and it can be cultivated so as to become a practice “in effect”.
A quick glossary of Creativity from an Innovation point of view:
  • The value of creativity is discovery.
  • The effect of creativity is invention.
  • The operation of creativity is experimentation.
  • The subject of creativity is structure.
  • The skill of creativity is composition.
Given those terms, there are still certain limitations on what creativity provides to innovation.
  • an invention may be new to its maker without being new to the world. It is possible that the same thing can get invented at multiple places or times, completely independently of each other.
  • a discovery is not necessarily of a “new” thing. Things that have already been discovered may get independently discovered again through different means and/or by different parties, therefore also possibly at different places or times.
As a result, innovation is not based on the uniqueness of creativity. This may at first seem to make “management” more difficult, in terms of control. But the more important aspect is in terms of development —  noting that multiple wide ranging sources of creativity can be called upon to support a more singular innovative concept or outcome.

Recognizing Governance

Doing things the right way is most often looked at in terms of whether a desired result predictably arrives. Those results make sense for “share” holders as performance, but “stake” holders are different.

Stakeholders want things done a certain way, and they base their support of the organization on that. To retain that support, assurance must be developed for stakeholders.  It means discovering and aligning governance opportunities as an intrinsic influence throughout the organization’s behaviors.
Get the notebook behind this overview diagram on Slideshare at this link.
(c) 2014 Malcolm Ryder




Systemic Governance

Like defense or offense, governance is a high-level orchestration of multiple concurrent activities, conducted to create an overall state — in this case, a state of assurance of stakeholder values. Governance provides an orientation to activities that, by executing them under known constraints, aligns their impacts cooperatively towards assurance. This framework guides the orchestration.

The background notes for this framework are here on Slideshare.





The Typology of Change

Now that “Change” is the default condition instead of the exception, ordinary management intends to bring regularity to directing the influence, preparation, and exploitation of it. The key obstacle to this regularity is ambiguity. The ambiguity often stems from the buzziness of the words used to make change stand out as a priority. Disambiguation is a good thing.For example…


The Typology of Change

Business Reference to ITSM

The business reference to ITSM has an overall subject matter of why the business has the services that it does, in the form and availability that they have.

The business perspective on IT Service Management is generated primarily from a demand-based point-of-view. This is because the fundamental requirement of the business Client is to use IT-based services, not to make them. In the role of service user, the top issue is to identify the key factors and flavors of business change, while the ability to obtain and leverage service is derived from the objectives of managing the services. Unless the objectives are aligned to the business factors, there is no reason to expect significant levels of benefits from the service.

The reference framework here identifies essential actions of the business that are the appropriate direct business influence on the management of the service. All of the business actions represent decisions that may retain the status quo or change it. The sensitivity to the level and scope of change is often arbitrarily limited or disorganized, creating complications between the service user and service provider. However, the default situation is that the business is the customer and is always responsive to a need for change, while the provider is always a replaceable option at some level of risk and convenience. Overall, the business needs an organized way to refer to its intent to influence the service impacts.

In general, the business has three groups of demand-side influence.

  • An environment of guidance is established. (Leadership / Strategy / Best Prractices)
  • Services and their lifecycle are built and managed. (Production / Operation)
  • The means of production are chosen and applied. (Processes / Tools)

The management of the service, from the business POV, also falls into three general areas.

  • Design service. (Transform / Plan)
  • Provide service. (Implement / Run)
  • Align service. (Optimize)



Performing Innovation Under Governance

For those who manage performance, governance appears to offer a layer of security for meeting performance targets. But the scope of governance’s concern naturally exceeds the scope of production performance, representing a need to protect opportunity above and beyond performance targets. Inappropriate performance management will hold back innovation unless governance is appropriately influential on production.

Performing Innovation Under Governance

The notebook accompanying this table traces the influence on the production environment that governance brings, with regards to supporting innovation. Click here to access the notebook.

The Right Thing To Do

Companies trying to make innovation a routinely successful practice may have steep learning curves and deep-rooted habits preventing the necessary degree of acceptance of change. Complicating matters further is uncertainty about whether governance is present and supportive, or instead, more likely an inhibitor of change, in their organizations.

A key part of clearing that hurdle is having a consistent understanding of what is getting done by the variety of efforts needed to allow innovation to succeed. The distinctions shown here are the basis of a recommendation to exploit portfolio management and strategic sourcing in order to accelerate practical adoption and development of innovation. Followup discussion will be added to this article’s table during December.

Performance versus Innovation