My last post resulting from the TOC ICO conference last week. We'll see if I keep up this rate of blogging in general.
Steve Holt gave a talk entitled "Stay on the Red Curve by Making Your Own Products Obsolete." He touched on a lot of topics, but the general idea is that the competitive advantage linked to innovations (in product, service, etc) can only last so long for a business.
This "red curve" reference has to do with a presentation Eli Goldratt made a number of years ago, where he drew a growth curve in red with a stability curve, usually drawn in green. (The color choice had to do with the fact of the pens he had with him at the time.) The admonishment is to find ways to stay on that red curve - in the discussions of the time, these were Viable Vision offers. Today, the TOC community refers to being an ever-flourishing company. In any case, it is the concept that a company should be able to grow and grow along the red curve, instead of stabilizing (stagnating) on the green curve.
Steve made the interesting connection between the red/green curve and the wider conversations about adoption curves - curves that are usually drawn as S-curves: slow introduction, rapid growth, and then maturity (or even depletion). Innovation Zen has a decent description of the idea of S-Curves. This discussion talks about new technology performance, but it can refer to adoption and money gained through an innovation as well. The article also has a drawing of exactly the connection that Steve made: if you overlap a couple of S-Curves you end up getting a portion that looks like the overlap of the red and green curves: the first S is hitting stabilization while the second S is starting to take off.
Steve's suggestion is that for a company to survive, it must be on the lookout for the next red curve - and for the inflection point in their current curve. For me, the interesting point in Steve's discussion was the idea that it is very difficult for people/organizations to think like this. It's easy to rest on our laurels of the current performance, either thinking it will continue forever or that no one else will catch up. The business world has plenty of these examples. See The Innovator's Dilemma and many related books and ideas that say as much. Most of these discussions say similar things: companies are doomed to fall to someone else "eating their lunch."
Steve is a little more optimistic. There are some strategies companies could employ to become their own red curve-generating machine. He referenced a number of approaches: Blue Ocean, Crossing the Chasm, Wisdom of Crowds, value of experts, critical thinking, etc, etc. One element that was new to me is the US Army's Red Teaming concept that includes structured ways to think. (Reviewing my notes, I see some similarities to what John Ricketts discussed in the idea of dynamic S&T Trees.)
Finally, one element that Steve mentioned a couple of times and that I heard in some of the other talks at the conference: Quite often the innovative or brilliant ideas that create the next leap for an organization are already known to some people in the organization. They haven't come to the fore for many reasons: fear of standing out, fear of being wrong, filtered out by management, etc.
So, how do you overcome this obstacle? Another familiar topic: getting everyone involved and aligned to the goal of the organization. And there has to be an honest desire to hear the new ideas throughout as well.