Category Archives: Unthinkable

Unavoidable

Well it’s been five years since Unthinkable was finished and handed over to the publisher.

Five years changes your perspectives a lot, but most of the book still seems right to me.

In truth, most of my regrets about the book were there before it ever saw the light of day:

  • I know of at least 10 typos and other silly errors.
  • I thought the format was too American and not penguin enough for British sensibilities.
  • There’s a famous saying, “If I had more time I would have made it shorter.” In my case, if I’d had more experience, I would have made it shorter. As it was, the publisher wanted 50,000 words. I wanted a bit of respect for writing 50,000 words and so it was 50,000 words. But all business books are bit long and boring, and Unthinkable is no exception. I should have tried to do it in 20,000. More surgery would have doubtless improved the health of the patient.
  • In terms of the content itself, I now know a lot more about doing it right. And I know a little bit more about getting it wrong. In particular, I’ve got some particular tips on how to actually do it in the land of large companies.
  • Finally the preamble. Unthinkable must have been one of a thousand books that year with the same preamble, the same introduction. Next time we’ll just open it up with “The world is changing,  yada yada”.

So I’m planning a second edition. But one that is so different, it will be like another book entirely. Let me know if you have any thoughts, or if you bought the first one and feel cheated. In the later case, I will gladly send you a copy of the new book if you can show me a pic of you with the original.

Joining the dots

 
Did I mention I was speaking at Dots in Brighton? Neil (who is curating) has a look at the whole line up here. Even better, I can offer a few time-limited reduced price tickets if you are one of the first five to use the discount code ‘Tom’ when booking online. See you you there for a lovely, lively and interesting day by the sea.

Linkened In

JUN15_23_Linkin-Park_The-Hunting-Party-Tour_Hamburg-Germany

We constantly hear about how innovative musicians have become. The labels are wankers, dinosaurs, out of touch, unable to adapt their business model: their days are numbered.

Well now it seems that the artists are wankers too. In this article from HBR, we find that the very darlings of the MySpace revolution, Linkin Park – a band which launched its own innovation business in 1999 and managed to build direct relationships with millions of fans etc etc – are once again turning the innovation knob (up to 11).

But this time it’s all in management doublespeak. in 2014, we learn, the band decided they needed a ‘paradigm shift’. Its executive vice president decided that there was plenty of “blue ocean” for them to explore.

Let’s hear from the band themselves:

As co-lead vocalist and founder Mike Shinoda puts it, “Our goal was to build an internal team of diverse talent to support the non-traditional endeavors the band plans to pursue in the coming years.” The move allowed us to venture freely into diversified revenue models to complement our music sales. Our business now operates like a tech startup, with less hierarchy and far more agility.

I don’t know about you but when I was a kid I really wanted to be in a rock group… With a diversified revenue model – so cool!

As the article goes on, I personally had to cough back a little vomit as I found out about the need to build a ‘differentiated brand ecosystem’ and, even better, to ‘dissected the Linkin Park ecosystem and architecte a framework to execute our new long-term vision’.

Possibly the best bit of innovation non-sense is when it is decided that the band should use ‘creative content to communicate our brand’s point-of-view.’ Perhaps they could play some songs and dance?

As you read on, you occasionally check to see that the URL hasn’t switched to The Onion. Rock musicians talking like management consultants is not on the list of things that makes the world a better place. But don’t worry,

To be clear, we are still in the music business, but creating and selling music now plays more of a supporting role in our overall business mix.

Facts not opinions

We’ve been lucky enough to have Hugh MacLeod provide the illustrations for the book, and damn fine they are too. I won’t ruin that surprise.

However, I was reminded this morning of just how close in thinking much of Tom Fishburne’s work is. As an innovator in a big business, we know many clients can feel like this:

Garden of innovation (the threat to the idea).

Or this:

Or this:

Start managing innovation the same way you manage media budgets and the Christmas party, and you can guarantee the sort of brutal attack Fishburne envisages will come about. If you try and make yours just another project, you can be sure it will be managed like one – which doesn’t work for doing new things.

The only way to fight the opinions of those more senior, or disruptive, is facts. And the innovator must dedicate themselves to finding the real facts at the heart of their business idea.

What Fishburne doesn’t allude to in his fantastic cartoons is just why the nurtured idea is about to be exposed to the knives and barbs or colleagues.

And the answer here is simple: money.

If you can run your innovation effort out of petty cash, no-one will ask those question or take a swipe at you. It’s when large outlays are required, and more importantly, grand projections made that critics will circle.

Prove them wrong, and do it on a budget.

But that’s not to say that your don’t want criticism. Exactly the opposite, you should seek it out. And be your own worst critic.

All too often the adversarial process of getting and keeping budgets can convince the innovator to be bloody minded in the pursuit of their original concept. Keeping your idea away from the most sectarian and political forces may be wise, but never shelter an idea from criticism entirely. This is how your idea will grow. We’ve seen over and over again, that ideas which only ever get praised, rarely get any better, or indeed see much success.

A final Fishburne

innovationfunnel

 

What we’re saying is see the teeth in the picture above as your friend. If you are tough (not pointlessly critical) as you progress thorough every stage of assessment of the idea and build of the proposition, the process will make you (and your idea) stronger.

What’s it about?

So. Why did we write the book, Unthinkable?

The truth is that the thinking that got us to write the book is just the same as the reason the partners started the agency, Fluxx, back in 2011.

We knew from years of working with companies on new things that often the most exciting ideas and challenges were prone to end up the most disappointing failures. We knew too the reality of such missed opportunities was not of innovation teams overcome with the technical or consumer challenge but rather battling against the forces of their own business.

We recognised the need to find new ways to operate to enable the largest businesses to forget their pasts and truly embrace completely new things.

For us to get stuff done in large companies, we must spend as little money as possible, tangle with as few of these sectarian forces as we can and get output as early as possible.

We must move the game from predictive project and management thinking to foster learning and facts over bluster, confidence and unfounded optimism of macho management.

Unthinkable will be published in the first half of 2015. Sign up for our newsletter (right or below) if you would like to learn more. Contact me if you’d like to tell me your stories of getting stuff done in large enterprises.