Learning to Play the Lean Start-Up Way!
In a recent article Why the lean Start-Up Changes Everything, in HBR, Steve Blank describes a lean start-up as “favoring experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over ‘big design up front’” developments.
Residing in Israel, where there are currently more than 4,500 “lean start-ups” being developed at this very moment, around this tiny nation, I decided to explore how this phenomena could be applied to creating entrepreneurial and innovative corporate leaders.
With “Innovation” as a current “buzzword”, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reports in “The Most innovative Companies 2102” that 76% of their respondents rank innovation as a “top three” strategic priority – the highest level in the surveys history! That 85% of CEO’S ranked innovation as a top three priority, with almost 40% ranking it as the top priority, with a strong commitment to increase their investment in innovation.
The report also states that since the advent of the list in 2004, companies that have been on the list every year have delivered a 4% premium over 10 years, indicating that when companies become consistent innovators, they achieve longer term growth.
So, how does a company become a consistent innovator?
How can they do this by maximizing the qualities of the lean Start-Up to create a new entrepreneurial economy?
How can they create value from understanding the generative nature of business problems and ideas?
When researching the possible answers to some of these questions, I noticed that most company’s efforts were focused on installing idea generation and crowd based platforms as well as identifying mostly technology based process improvements. I also discovered that most innovation education was based around practical problem solving and idea generating techniques and tools, or upon a range of mostly formal consultant led interventions. Which, to my mind, were very traditional and even conservative approaches to becoming consistent or lean innovators and would not deliver the desired or possible long term growth factors!
“You can’t solve problems with the same thinking (or mindset and behaviors) that created them!”
With this as my mantra of I invested time towards understanding and identifying the unique attributes of the Israeli innovative eco-system, to explore how this systemic approach could be replicated and incorporated into a corporate learning environment.
I also researched and codified the range of cultural drivers that drive it, to see if these could be inculcated into organizations as the basis for developing innovative cultures – as the development of an innovative culture is the basis for being a consistent innovator.
Ultimately, I researched, codified and replicated the intrinsic motivators, mindsets and behaviors into the Innovate like an Israeli Model and Learning System (ILI). I integrated these concepts, principles and techniques with other cutting edge approaches to innovation management and emergence processes, including Otto Sharmer’s “Theory U” as a way of leading from the future as it emerges.
Innovation is a leadership responsibility!
Discarding most of what I “already knew”, I also researched and explored a wide range of options, including enterprise gamification, to create a visceral, provocative and memorable learning experience, which ultimately became “The Start-Up Game™”; a business simulation to teach innovative and entrepreneurial leadership in the global corporate arena.
Adopting a generative, gamified and experiential approach
Utilizing my 30 plus years in designing customized corporate curriculum, I adopted a generative and experiential approach to learning that emphasizes “continuous experimentation and feedback in an ongoing examination of the way organizations go about solving problems”, which is very much aligned to the lean start-up way. This also involves integrating the spiral of learning; by creating an initial and relevant experience that is debriefed to conclude and plan better ways of doing things next time. As games are metaphors for what happens in real life, learning’s can also be applied and integrated at the individual, team or business levels.
Catering for differing learning and cultural styles
The concept of experiential learning incorporates the 4 styles developed by David Kolb; Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. These factors all influenced the sphere of adult learning and became the basis for designing and developing the majority of corporate education programs since the early 1990’s. Additionally, consideration was taken around the role and impact of cultural differences and inclinations in learning program design.
Making learning sensory specific and neurologically adept
It was also important to integrate the key sensory factors involved in learning, to make the learning program sufficiently ‘sensory specific’ to all types of individual processing and preferences; visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and audio digital. The intent was to stimulate peoples neurological processing and preferences for acquiring and accessing information, through a broad and diverse range of visual, auditory and active techniques based stimuli.
Neuropsychological research into learning suggests that Sensation Seeking provides a core biological drive of curiosity, learning and exploration. A high drive to explore leads to dysfunctional learning consequences unless cognitions such as goal orientation, conscientiousness, deep learning and emotional intelligence re-express it in more complex ways to achieve functional outcomes such as high work performance.
Entrepreneurial innovation as a learning system
In 2011, Robert M. Gemmell surveyed 172 technology entrepreneurs to explore links between learning style and learning flexibility and decision making behaviours hypothesized to produce entrepreneurial innovation and success. His study confirms the “profound role of experimental practices” within a learning system for innovation, suggesting that “an overwhelmingly large portion of innovation performance achieved by our entrepreneurs (52%) can be explained by their hands on, iterative approach to learning and problem solving.”
Gemmell concluded that “entrepreneurs are most innovative when they utilise experimentation as a key practice without ignoring the other learning processes. Entrepreneurs will be more successful and innovative when they take time to reflect upon multiple alternatives and when they test trial ideas socially before making important decision.”
So, The Start-Up Game™ was born, a co-creation between ImagineNation and The Playful Shark, two Israeli Start-Ups, as a two day business simulation that develops innovative and entrepreneurial leadership capability. It aims to develop a culture of “provocative competence”, which is an innovative and entrepreneurial way of thinking, doing and be-ing resulting in consistent innovation, the lean start-up way!
image credit: musicteachershelper.com
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Janet Sernack is the Founder & CEO ImagineNation. She is an ICf certified executive coach and experiential learning specialist with expertise in adaptive leadership and team effectiveness. Janet facilitates a weekly business network in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, for English speaking business owners and entrepreneurs.
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