Byron's Babbles

How Radical Innovation Happens

The following is a book excerpt from The New Science of Radical Innovation

How Radical Innovation Happens

By Dr. Sunnie Giles

Radical innovation germinates for a long time, surfacing at the critical inflection point when momentum has become large enough (as some would call self-organized criticality). Radical innovation happens when many self-organizing employees experiment profusely and learn—to see how to adapt to the environment best and adjust their behavior iteratively using simple rules. The iterative adaptation based on the results of these experimentation builds the momentum, often well below the radar screen. The employees take cues from the environment in an open-feedback system. Radical innovation is a result of these employees coevolving with the environment in an open system where information for feedback and adaptation flows without friction. Radical innovation is created by an adequate level of random perturbations from the environment and the complex system’s adaptations to them. It often results from accidental, spontaneous recombination of existing ideas and tools.

In the process of this constant adaptation to signals from the environment, employees use simple rules to speed the reaction time, rather than executing with perfect accuracy, because second order change happens as a result of growth of variances or errors from imperfect execution. As such, speed to generate meaningful variances from iterations of trials is more important for radical innovation than perfection.

Radical innovation cannot be planned or choreographed; it can only be fostered and nurtured. Putting someone in charge of an “innovation” department, allocating some budget, and tasking that person with managing the innovation pipeline can only yield incremental innovation, such as packaging innovation or line extension. To maximize chances of radical innovation, the kind that produces 10x improvements, individuals with differentiated, unique expertise, skill sets, and perspectives must be forged in solid connection as a coherent team.

Radical innovation involves a cultural shift and the accompanying changes in HR and leadership practices. Once manifested, radical innovation sustains for a relatively long period, until the next radical innovation redefines industry dynamics. To summarize, I define radical innovation as a serendipitous result of many self-organizing, interdependent employees learning from profuse experiments using simple rules to produce a minimum of 10x improvements. Radical innovation is a specific manifestation of complexity.

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About Dr. Sunnie Giles

Dr. Sunnie Giles is a new generation expert who catalyzes organizations to produce radical innovation by harnessing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). Her research reveals that applying concepts from neuroscience, complex systems approach, and quantum mechanics can produce radical innovation consistently. Her expertise is based on years as an executive with Accenture, IBM and Samsung. Her profound, science-backed insight is encapsulated in her leadership development program, Quantum Leadership. An advisor to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, she also is a sought-after speaker and expert source, having been quoted in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc.

Dr. Giles’ latest book, The New Science of Radical Innovation, provides a clear process for radical innovation that produces 10x improvements and has been endorsed prominent industry leaders such as Jonathan Rosenberg, Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Sean Covey.

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