We’ve been told for years that we can predict the future.

The reality is, we can't, suggests Scott Morrison, Founder of the Boom! and Co-founder of Loops.

The world is changing rapidly, and there is absolutely no way to keep up with this level of change. The only thing we can do is create our own future and make it happen. And that’s our job as innovators.

At our recent Innov8rs London conference, Scott shared tools innovators can use to inspire innovation thinking and address rising innovation challenges.

The Gap Between “Business As Usual” And “Business Unusual”

Imagine plotting consumer expectations over time on a graph. Not so long ago, those exact expectations plotted along quite linearly- just think about how many years it took to create a new terrestrial channel, while today, with a click of the fingers, you can subscribe to Netflix and have access to thousands of shows. Things were progressing slowly, and consumers were all happy. Yet something happened around 15 years ago: the smartphone was invented and consumer expectations skyrocketed.

Today we all are “Uber's children”, we hold unreasonable, demanding expectations and we want to have everything on our terms instantly. “After all, if I can order a car now to pick me up and take me wherever I want, why can't my whole life be as simple as that?”, says Scott.

Consumers want their lives to be seamless. And that creates a huge gap between businesses as usual and businesses unusual. The former know that consumer expectations are growing exponentially and are thinking differently to innovate and create value. Everyone else who's not doing that is doing business as usual. The gap between these two is an actual mindset gap called “positive disruption”.

When an organization harnesses the power of positive disruption, it can go from being business as usual to being business unusual. However, if you are an innovator and consider yourself a business unusual person, you certainly know how hard it is to get leaders and the rest of the organization to come along with you on this path. Scott shared what we can do to change that.

9 Behaviors to Inspire Innovative Thinking

As innovators, we have to unblock, unlock, and unleash positive disruption within our organizations. We must support leaders in understanding why this change needs to happen, how it needs to happen, and what the results will be.

The unblock (the old thinking), unlock (new ideas), and unleash (with action) phases include nine behaviors innovators should adopt to foster this change from within.

Unblock: Killing The Way We Used to Work

The first step to unblocking positive disruption in your organization is to get rid of the old thinking and the way you do things, and then engage the business to think differently about solving the new rising challenges. Three core behaviors will help you:

1. Rebelling. Rebelling equals thinking differently about how we approach the challenges we engage the business with by going straight to the nub of those challenges. To do that, ask heresy questions- i.e., the questions that everybody knows must be solved, but nobody – including leaders – does it. And everybody knows that if we don't do something about it, and if we don’t answer those questions correctly, that will kill our business. And still, we never talk about it.

A heresy question for a music business a few years back would certainly have been: “What happens if nobody wants to consume music and buy CDs anymore?”

Probably, only those who dared to ask that question survived and got to a solution that helped innovate their business in new and different ways. There’s definitely something like this happening in your own business right now. And only if you ask a heresy question will you discover a rich and fertile ground on which to innovate.

Don’t waste time asking obvious or difficult or awkward questions- instead, go beyond and ask heresy questions.

2. Reframing. What often happens in business as usual organizations is that we simply do the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result, which we will never get. The actual challenge and opportunity with innovation is to reframe that brief whenever possible. “Let's innovate smartly and reframe what we do. Let's not just follow the business as usual approach", advises Scott.

3. Recasting. The power of having different voices in the room is incredible. And so, be sure the team you're working in (and with) is cognitively diverse. This means you need people with different mindsets, perspectives, and viewpoints on board. Because if they all have the same mentality, you'll keep getting business as usual responses.

Greg Larkin once said everything about corporate innovation needs to change, starting with how you cast the people who can help you deliver the innovation you want to see. Accordingly:

  • Identify all of the obstructionisms and obstructionists that thwarted transformation in the past and get rid of it.
  • Find the executive punk(s) who care more about change than status, and give them all the resources and autonomy they need to never let obstructionism win ever again.
  • Every time they get stuck, and it's not because of reasonable invalidation but rather because of unreasonable obstructionism, make it your job to remove the obstructionists.

Unlock: Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning

Unlocking isn't about individuals. It is more about a cultural element behind the broader organization and its ability to be self-aware and know that many things we've learned so far deliver business as usual. To switch to business unusual, we need to stop doing things that don't work and don't create value- we have to unlearn them. And when we do that, it leaves space for us to relearn, to think about what's new and what needs to replace the old. The unlocking behaviors are:

1. Connection. Innovators should create a connection to the principle of learning, unlearning, and relearning. Start from you and ask yourself what in the business has got you so far but it's not helping you anymore and you’d rather unlearn it. Then think about what you can learn and relearn.

Next, define how you can do the same for your team and your organization and enable them to understand why unlearning and relearning. Explain to them that's the way to create countless new opportunities to transform innovation within the organization.

2. Collection. Make sure you’re bringing stakeholders along and helping them understand what innovation – the innovative thinking, the insights, the ideas – that's being generated around the world looks like and how it can relate back to your organization. When it comes to innovation, sometimes we forget that we don’t always have to create something new- “we can just elegantly steal from others”, says Scott.

Great Ormond Street Hospital of London takes care of more than 600 young people daily. A few years ago, they noticed several complications sometimes occurred in operations handover. Of course, the hospital knew they needed to do something about this, but no one knew how to solve this puzzle. One night the lead surgeon was watching Formula One and noticed that the pit stop where they change tires and top up the fuel was identical in concept to what they do in operations handover. Not to mention that Formula One cars are actually really delicate, and the pit stop team must complete complex tasks in seconds.

And so the surgeon rang Ferrari, which then helped the hospital reconfigure a brand new handover. Immediately after that, complications dropped to relatively 0%. Formula One had fundamentally helped save children's lives.

Herein lies a precious lesson: innovation is constantly happening around us and can be applied to your business with a simple rethink and re-proposition. But it takes a collection of thinking and ideas to do that.

3. Conviction. The myth of failing fast works brilliantly in Silicon Valley, yet it doesn't work so well in corporates and through the chain of your teams. Organizations and people are not programmed to fail (and to fail fast): if in traditional businesses you fail, you lose your job. Therefore, we should change our conviction and shift from a fail fast to a learn fast culture.

Research on employee satisfaction shows that the biggest motivator for people to come to work is learning, growing, and taking responsibility and ownership (money only ranks sixth). So when you start building a learn fast culture, it suddenly taps into that number one need for work. And it also embraces the fact that even if you eventually fail, you succeed anyway because you’re constantly learning and moving towards business unusual. It follows that a conviction to a learn fast culture is critical.

Unleash: Creating Action in Our Organizations

Unleash is arguably the most crucial phase as here things get actually rolled out and pushed into the organization. And the process to make this happen is really simple and consists of three actions:

1. Adopt. As mentioned in the collection paragraph, organizations frequently waste time and money trying to invent something wholly new and different. Instead, they should commit to creating a learn fast culture and adopting what others have already invented.

2. Adapt. You may need to adapt others' innovation to your organization (for instance, your culture may have specific needs)- and that’s completely fine!

3. Invent. Only invent something new if and when what you’ve borrowed doesn't work for you or doesn’t add any value.

What’s even more interesting about the adopt-adapt-invent process is that organizations always tend to do it the other way around. Business as usual constantly invents something new without measuring or checking whether it's fit for purpose or not. But if we adopt first, we also learn how to identify the most crucial challenges we want to solve and can better prepare ourselves to invent something on our own.

In summary

Business as usual can't cope with ever-changing consumer expectations. Business unusual can. The gap between these two opposite situations is known as positive disruption, which can spread throughout organizations in three sequential macro-actions: unblocking and getting rid of the old thinking, unlocking new ideas, and unleashing with action.

  • In the first level, unblock, innovators have to create a cognitively diverse team and approach challenges differently by asking heresy questions. Also, they have to reframe what they do if the ultimate goal is to get different results from innovation activities.
  • The second level, unlock, is all about learning, unlearning, and relearning and staying stick to this mindset. At the same time, helping leaders apply innovation thinking and ideas developed elsewhere is key to saving money and being more efficient. Unlock also means shifting from a fail fast to a learn fast culture that taps back into our human need for work.
  • And lastly, unleash, equals adopting others' innovation and adapting them to our organizations’ needs. Inventing should be the last part of the innovation process and not the first, as is usually the case in business as usual.

As innovators, it’s up to us to lead the shift from business as usual to business unusual. It’s up to us to align our organizations with the changing consumer needs. It's up to us to make leaders understand that innovation will likely bring positive results. If we succeed in this, we’ll eventually spread positive disruption and all the benefits that follow across our organizations.