Connecting Dots 06 / Innovation’s Process Paralysis


Zürich, CH - The water smacks my face as my heels helicopter awkwardly over-head. At this moment it strikes me that I don’t really know how to dive off a 3m springboard any more. I mean I know what to do, I’ve done it before, could even draw a chart but right now I’m out of practice and don’t know how to. As dusk settles over Lake Zürich the well tanned locals silently agree and flawlessly fling themselves off the diving board for elegant entries. 

I had just left visiting an innovation lab for a prominent manufacturer. They were doing serious work creating proper digital things for real people. Yet they are grappling with how aquire a new kind of know how within the company’s exceptional high performing talent base. They knew what they needed to do but recognized they don’t know how to do it. They had enough theory and needed help developing the practice. 

It made me think about all the Medium posts and “canvases” sharing innovation  “know what” masquerading as “know how”. It’s one hypothesis I have for the stagnant rates of innovation and growth in corporations. We confuse grabbing yet another process or framework with developing the ability to actually do innovation at a high performing level. 

Like any craftsperson the first times you use a tool it’s awkward. With practice and application it goes from knowing what to do to how to do it.  All the agitation for change and innovation is just telling us to awkwardly jump off a diving board. I’m much more interested in once we’ve jumped how to enter the water elegantly, repeatedly and under any conditions. An ambition we’ll continue to explore in coming editions of Connecting Dots.

Are you paralysed by process discussions at the expense building know how?

Hungry for More?

  • This post was inspired by Clayton Christensen’s anecdote of Andy Gove at the pinnacle of Intel’s innovation era. Andy challenged Clayton to separate the what (to do) from the how (to do it.) Ref: The Four Disciplines of Execution


This week I’m in Girona Spain cycling, eating and reflecting on my upcoming INSEAD research in 2020. One leading candidate topic is ‘what is enough stability in constantly transforming organisation to enable meaningful digital innovation.’ We challenge the conventional notion of permafrost and change resistance with the concept of permathaw as a phenomenon of organisations under continuous digital transformations.

Late September I’ll be in London with another possible visit to Zürich. Early October it’s Fontainebleau and Paris possibly followed with anther SF jaunt. Say hi for coffee. So great to meet up with readers/friends Tom Williams and Dan Moore in SF last month.

See you on the digital frontier,


Next Edition - my dispatch from San Francisco and what hardened corporate leaders can learn from hardened criminals in the Pelican Bay innovation accelerator.