Eli MacLaren

Written by Eli MacLaren @elithechef eli@bif.is

Share this:

In 2010, my mind was blown by the inaugural TEDWomen — I mean literally blown. My brain hurt, and I was off-balance and discombobulated, as my brain raced with many powerful insights. I was grateful for the plane home, so I could process and make meaning of what I’d heard, creating a new practice:

Whenever I leave a conference, I make a list of no more than 5 insights that are so powerful that I must act on them. I create an intention for what that action looks like, define the barriers and risks of acting in new ways, and hold myself accountable for starting.

As Chief Market Maker at BIF, I am blessed that two days of innovation storytelling is part of our annual Fall cycle, and so this practice continues for me after each BIF Summit. I am also blessed that I get to process the learnings and insights with a team of Experience Designers, and incorporate them into our work with institutional leaders. Not everyone is so lucky, and it had me wondering how this formula of inspiration, design, and strategy could be useful to our audience too, so I wanted to make a proposition.

Here’s why:

I regularly facilitate conversations about business model innovation. I use BIF’s methodology to teach teams and groups how this methodology can make transformation safer and easier to manage. The goal is to inspire confidence in transformation (versus the well-known approaches to incremental innovation) and to teach a few fundamental behaviors required to be successful:

  • Transformation requires shifting your lens from your core business model and taking a human/user-centered approach.
  • Recognize that your initial solution design is only partially right, and move as rapidly as possible to real-world prototyping to fix the rest.
  • Focus on scale only once you have figured out what the “it” is; too often, we let questions of scale surface and create resistance to trying something new before we even know what the new is and how it works.
  • All of this is relevant to the design process — a process of seeing anew and a bias towards action.

The second part is the internal strategy, meaning:

How do even seasoned innovation leaders create the conditions for and the permission to do transformational work?

The reality is that one of two conditions will exist in institutions. In the most ideal and least common, the CEO will recognize the institutional imperative to explore new business models as part of the innovation agenda. In the least ideal and most common, the innovation leader (Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, etc.) will want to ensure that transformation is part of the innovation portfolio, but unfortunately, their efforts are not supported, resourced, or declared at the leadership level.

Then what?

Building on my own experience as a seasoned intrapreneur and the work BIF has done to explore the entrepreneur experience, (a) we know how hard it is; and (b) we have a few recommended strategies:

  • Stories mobilize others to act. Share them early to test the waters. Grow them to build ground and resources. Make them visual. Make them personal — enabling others to connect through authenticity and vulnerability.
  • A sense of a belonging is hard to find within — there is a reason innovators are known as rebels and disrupters. Search for tribes. Carve out gold in the grey space — physically and virtually — across business units, silos, and disciplines.
  • You have to earn the freedom to act. Be prepared for resistance, and confront it with listening ears. Recognize that you won’t win all the time, loss happens. Know when it matters.
  • Strengthen your organization’s response system through your own actions. Overcome self-doubt. Reframe failure as intentional iteration. Have patience, and be eternally optimistic.
  • Differentiate know-what and know-how. Recognize the two types of knowledge building. Be prepared to unlearn and de-educate, especially while working within existing organizational constructs. Draw from life experiences.
  • Make it easy for others to invest. Be strategic in finding executive sponsorship. Create an opportunity to vet and evaluate routinely. Seed a sense of collective contribution.

So how does this relate to your BIF2018 experience? Because here is what is going to happen:

  • You will hear stories from 32 storytellers who will blow your mind, inspire your thinking, and shift your lens.
  • You will connect with your tribe, and be incredibly optimistic about the possibilities to transform.
  • Without the strategy part of the equation, you’ll go home and be disenchanted with the ho and the hum of business as usual.

That’s where we come in.

Following the Summit, I will happily jump on the phone with you to: (1) quickly help you identify the key challenges/barriers to transformation; (2) define the core behaviors and strategies that will help you navigate them; and (3) help you frame a narrative for how this design and strategy might come together to alter your institutional trajectory.

Design + Strategy = A New Good Story.

It’s all part of making transformation safer and easier to manage. Welcome to the community.

New call-to-action