TL;DR? Got no time? No problem. The key takeaways from this article are:
Simple fact: There is always more to do. In our professional lives, nothing is ever truly "done" - there is always more to learn, to build, and to improve. I often observe that managers, in particular, struggle with this realization and then default to simply doing "more" of the same: Why not answer a few emails over morning coffee? Why not make a few quick phone calls during lunch break? Why not add another project on top of everything else?
Simple truth: There is nothing more precious than time, and we all only have 24 hours of that resource in a day - but we have full control over how we spend it. However, the question is not how we can work even more hours - but how we can continuously increase our output.
Many tools have been developed for this typical prioritization problem. The list is extensive, including the Eisenhower matrix, "eat the frog" (according to Mark Twain, i.e., tackle the hard stuff first), "the customer who shouts loudest wins," delegate tasks, and so on.
Yet, in spite of this, I think that most managers just roll with it and keep going with their daily hustle. Somehow it just doesn't feel right. This has led me to consider how we can think about our use of time differently?
Enter Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel. In his book High Output Management, he introduces the idea of representing a manager's output as the output of his/ her team + the output of the neighboring teams under her/ his influence.
What can be done to increase the output? More activities? Sure. Improved delegation? Certainly. Involvement across more neighboring teams? Of course. Another perspective is the concept of leverage. Consider this simple equation:
'A' represents the activity itself, and 'L' its leverage.
The theory: For every activity performed, the output of the organization should increase by some degree. The extent to which that output is increased is determined by the leverage of each activity, namely L1, L2, …, Ln. The leverage itself can be described across two dimensions: impact and effect. Consider the following matrix:
Long story short: You will want to introduce as much high-impact positive-effect leverage as possible to your activities. Instead of simply doing "more of the same," you should focus on leverage as a point of prioritization.
Let's first consider what high-impact activities are. Here are a few characteristics:
Ideally, you will want to focus on high-impact activities that also have a positive effect, influencing the subsequent work of teams. A few examples of such activities include:
Meanwhile, you will want to avoid high-impact activities that have a negative effect at all costs. A few examples of such activities include:
From this point of view, we can intuitively understand why professional innovation management - including well-managed front-end and corporate foresight activities - is invaluable.
Let’s consider a typical high-level innovation process with preceding corporate foresight activities:
Out of this process, there are several examples of corporate foresight activities that produce valuable outputs for subsequent process steps:
In addition to this, activities in corporate foresight and the front end of innovation as a whole influence several other areas:
On a longer time horizon, both innovation strategy and innovation culture can be significantly influenced. A few examples are:
To further enhance the efficiency and the effectiveness of corporate foresight and innovation management well-chosen techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can be introduced to significantly increase and scale the highly positive leverage:
With these techniques, managers can invest a greater proportion of their and their team’s valuable time in creative tasks such as interpreting data analysis results, making decisions, and taking action - giving them a potential advantage over other market participants. In this way, the early phases of the innovation processes can be designed and implemented in an even more targeted manner, which increases the likelihood of successful innovations.
AI can be applied in a large variety of use cases, such as trend scouting, technology scouting, startup scouting, competitor monitoring, and risk monitoring. It’s not only faster, but it can also continuously work and produce results at a theoretically unlimited scale.
To complete the picture, only one element is missing in the age of digitization. That is, a common, single point of truth and digital innovation platform to manage all of these activities:
This platform is used as a tool to:
Recalling the definition of high-impact and positive-effect leverage from above, it is quite easy to see from this perspective that one digital innovation platform is much more than "just another tool". The establishment of such a platform is not only itself an activity with a preferable leverage, but also a framework for improved management and transparency of all related activities.