Nick Webb

Increase your Failure Velocity! Simple advice to anyone that wants to enjoy increased success, and positive human impact for 2023 and beyond. In order to truly embrace this concept, I think it’s important to understand the massive impact of chaotic innovation on your career and enterprise.

In a time of differentness, a death grip on sameness is deadly.”

Nick Webb

The Five Faces of Chaotic Innovation

As with any concept, to understand Chaotic Innovation, and its power to either help you or damage you, let’s break it down into manageable chunks. In the business marketplace, we see Chaotic Innovation emerging as an increasingly powerful force in five key areas:

Increased customer power

People who buy your products and services have more choices and they’re more involved in the brands and suppliers they love (and hate!). They not only “vote” with their cash, but they can make their voices heard through social media and on platforms such as Yelp and Angie’s List. They want, and expect, 100% on-time delivery in full, and no-nonsense returns. No company can survive without managing the disruptive power of the customer—which means exceeding expectations, first time, every time.

Revolutionary connection architecture

Digital media has disrupted the way we do business. Internal tools now include intranets and real-time dashboards that can deliver up-to-the- minute company performance metrics and reveal problems demanding action. We now shop online, putting enormous pressure on bricks-and-mortar retailers to innovate and redefine the customer experience. In the supply chain, the Internet of Things (IoT) means that every step is tracked and verified—there’s no place for sloppy work to hide! In other words were not just inventing, digital objects, most importantly, or developing innovative strategies of connection architecture.

Rapid innovation

The pace of Chaotic Innovation is increasing. Product lifecycles are shrinking. Analysts say that across a range of industries, fifty per cent of annual company revenues are derived from new products launched within the past three years. This means that long-term product “cash cows,” which may have been in a company’s portfolio for many years, are becoming things of the past. And if a business is slow to introduce a new product to market, it risks launching something that has already been superseded by competitors.

Evolving economic models

The days of the old top-down, hierarchical company are fading. Today’s digital world of work has shaken the foundation of organizational structure, shifting from the traditional functional hierarchy to a network of teams. As teams operate and customers interact with the company, they must share information about Chaotic Innovation s, what’s working, what isn’t working, and what problems they need to address.

Emerging employee personas.

Too many leaders treat their team members as if they live in a single demographic bucket. In fact, leaders are increasingly recognizing a range of what we call employee personas, based on what employees love and hate. It’s not about their age, income, position, ethnicity, or any other traditional demographic factor. Innovation leaders know how to identify their team members across a range of personas, and by doing so they can engineer beautiful experiences for them across a wide range of team touchpoints. I can’t over state how important it is, that you implement an enterprise culture of happiness, through understanding the unique and beautiful difference of all of your employees.

When a leader can be extremely granular about each of their team members and understand them based on what they hate and love, they do a far better job of engaging them, connecting with them, and ultimately creating a work environment that delivers the best human experience for them while delivering the best productivity and results for the enterprise.

Employees who feel like they’re being treated with indifference become disengaged, less productive, and more likely to look for the exit.

A New Age Demands New Skills

In a time that requires leaders to leverage Chaotic Innovation, the old management systems no longer apply. Every leader needs to know how fast-moving disruptors are changing what’s required from organizational management and leadership. Organizations need to increase their speed, get better insights, and deliver better experiences to both customers and team members alike. This is the only way to ensure consistent growth and profits.

In short, even if you’re currently in the lead, the pack behind you is picking up the pace. They’re hot on your heels and would like nothing better than to put you one step behind.

That’s reality. But what can a CEO, Leader or Manager do to stay ahead? After all, we human beings are more or less built the same as we’ve always been. Just like everybody else, CEOs need to put in their hours at work and then go home and have a private life. They need to get more done with the same human limitations.

Whew! How Can Anyone Keep Pace?

You may ask, “How can any leader keep ahead of the relentless pace of Chaotic Innovation? Aren’t there too many moving parts?”

Relax. It’s easy to assume that all of the changes happening across the changing customer, emerging technologies, and economic shifts are far too complicated to ever understand. The good news is that assumption is

To the Winner Goes the Prize

Wrong. Today’s Innovation Superstars develop a core competency around future trends. They don’t need to understand the endless minutia of every little emerging technology, consumer behavior, or economic shift. If we can focus on these building blocks at a high level, we can begin to understand how these changes impact the way in which we deliver human experiences, technologies, and services, and ultimately how we serve to achieve sustainable results on strategy.

The “Baby Step” Approach Doesn’t Work

Too many organizations attempt to leverage Chaotic Innovation by taking baby steps at disruptive initiatives that include future-casting activities, innovation customer experience (CX), workforce engagement initiatives and the list goes on and on. The leaders therefore assume that by taking a cursory approach to leveraging Chaotic Innovation they’ll stay ahead. The problem is that the rate and depth of change requires a holistic and comprehensive approach towards gaining better customer and market insights, while doing a far better job of maximizing the efficiencies and effectiveness of our teams and leaders. In other words, today’s Chaotic Innovation is changing everything, and how leaders lead is no exception.

Be Brave and Lean into Chaotic Innovation

Innovation Superstars are brave. Their bravery is revealed by their absolute willingness to lean into their own executive development by accepting and even driving the changes occurring both with in their organization and outside in the markets and economies they serve.

Many of today’s leading companies began as upstart market disruptors. They include:

  • Airbnb. Launched in 2008 by Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, by understanding and leveraging shifts in consumer behavior, this global hospitality giant succeeded by overturning conventions in the hospitality business that had been around for a century.
  • SpaceX. Headed by Elon Musk, this disruptor of the aerospace industry designs, manufactures, and launches re-usable rockets and spacecraft, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. The company’s success comes at a time when private companies are entering the space market, an endeavor long associated with, and controlled by, national governments.
  • Facebook. Led by Mark Zuckerberg, this massive global social media company, founded in 2004, has totally disrupted and transformed how people communicate and share information. Similar digital disruptors include Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
  • Spotify. Founded by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, this music steaming service has disrupted the economic model of popular music by shifting billions of consumers away from buying music (records, CDs, MP3 downloads) to renting it. With Spotify and other streaming services you pay a fee to listen to a song. Each time you listen, the owner of the song gets a micro- payment.
  • Netflix. The brainchild of Reed Hastings, Netflix has disrupted how we view movies and has shaken up the movie production industry. Remember Blockbuster video rentals? Blockbuster

was blind to the disruptive force of Netflix, and by failing to respond, it got crushed.

Amazon, Uber, Lyft, Tesla, Spanx, Red Bull, WeWork, 23andMe, SurveyMonkey . . . the list goes on and on. We live in an era of unprecedented market Chaotic Innovation.

This makes many excellent leaders nervous. CEOs sometimes say, “My business isn’t going to change the world. I’m not Steve Jobs or Sara Blakely.” Or, “We’re a service business,” or, “Our product is ubiquitous. We’re not high-tech.”

You’re not competing head-to-head against Apple or Spanx. You’re competing in your market, which you know very well. Your market is very intense and competitive in its own way.

While most businesses aren’t going to be massive market disruptors, any business can innovate and stay ahead of their competition. For example, in November 2017 Domino’s Pizza rolled out its “Pizza Insurance” program. It simply stated that if your takeout pizza got run over by a car, or drenched in the rain, or dropped on the sidewalk, within two hours of purchase you could bring it back to the same store, uneaten and in its original packaging, and you’d get a free replacement pizza of the same type.

Is there any product more ubiquitous than pizza? Or any market more intensely competitive? And yet Domino’s stays ahead by making innovations in how its product is marketed, and disrupting—in an incremental way—the pizza home delivery industry.

There are functional areas in your business ready for innovation. As an innovation leader, all you have to do is identify them and nurture them.

“Wishful” and “Thinking” Don’t Go Together

Today’s Innovation Superstars know the first step towards leveraging Chaotic Innovation is to recognize the world as it really is and not as they’d like it to be. They know that wishful thinking will put them on the road to disaster.

Successful organizations chase truth, not success.

As people we achieve success only after we’ve been honest and truthful about what’s required to drive enterprise excellence. As a philosophical starting point, merely chasing “success” is misguided. If we aim only for success, we’ll never get it. Success is the end result of staying focused on the truth.

This applies to how we manage our teams. We need to be honest about what we’re asking them to do and then we need to address the realities of the challenges head-on. Chaotic Innovation requires that we recognize what’s really happening and respond decisively, without thinking, “We can’t do that!”

There’s nothing wrong with success—in fact, that’s what this entire book is about! But innovation leaders know that to stay ahead, you need to know exactly where you stand in the race.

Can I Be an Innovation Superstar? (Yes!)

It’s true that the rate of change in business is speeding up.

To win the race, you only need to stay just one step ahead of your nearest competitor.

You’re already very good at what you do. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be in the race.

All you have to do is take your good performance and step it up a notch. Squeeze out just a little more speed. Take a slightly longer stride. Don’t stop for a latte macchiato quite so often. Focus a little more at work. Make an extra effort to engage your employees. Do the things that anyone could do if they chose to do them.

In business, winning is a choice. You can choose to be an Innovation Superstar, or you can choose to slide back into the pack with the others.

Action Item Checklist

To become an Innovation Superstar, you need to:

Recognize the increasing rate of change. Too many leaders operate under a set of assumptions they may have formulated earlier in life, when the pace was slower; or they may not see that change can impact any industry, no matter how ubiquitous it may be. Make sure your view of your industry is accurate and timely!

Cultivate your customers. Consumers are plugged into social media and review sites, and don’t hesitate to express their displeasure with a product or service. You need to respect their growing power and use it to your advantage.

Set the goals that work for you. Remember, it’s okay if your company isn’t a massive disruptor or isn’t going to make headlines with a new innovation. As we’ll see in

the pages ahead, staying ahead isn’t just about rolling out new technology or a splashy new product. You can stay ahead in human resources, your supply chain, operations, financial management, employee relations—all the functional areas that drive an organization forward.

Identify and evaluate the sources of external Chaotic Innovation in your market—the emerging forces that threaten your organization’s viability. What might threaten your supply chain? What new competitors are rising? Are your customers coming back again and again, or are they defecting to competitors?

In its most-simplest terms, the core to enterprise success for 2023 and beyond is your willingness to increase your failure velocity. In a time of differentness, a death grip on sameness is deadly.”

Nick Webb

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