“Yes, I have a turn both for observation and for deduction. The theories which I have expressed there, and which appear to you to be so chimerical are really extremely practical—so practical that I depend upon them for my bread and cheese.” Sherlock Holmes. The Sign of Four, Chapter 2: The Science of Deduction. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1890.
In the March 2015 blog Practical Reasoning: Decision making in Rainforest innovation ecosystems in this series, we quoted David Milligan from his book Reasoning and the Explanations of Actions, written in 1980 but still fresh. Milligan explains that a good deliberative reasoner is “not someone who simply obeys the rules of logic,” but someone who is also a sound judge, can make intelligent decisions, and can defend his or her decisions about how to act by pointing to reasons which support actions.
Relating decision making to action, or a series of actions, based on these decisions goes far beyond explaining how a system state came to be, but produces interventions to change the present system state to a future desired state through reasoned actions.
We also noted that rather than downgrading the importance of logic, Milligan work launches us into the necessary search for non-deductive ways of reasoning and decision making in environments where there is an abundance of wicked problems – which is almost everywhere. (Don’t try to tame wicked problems: Part 1).
Let’s see how this works in practice by taking an example from commercializing university research through creating a new business around the technology (a spin-off company). See a previous blog in this series Solving the Right Problem: Part 1 for more on spin-offs.
What characteristics of the university’s innovation environment might support greater spin-off company activity? To make things simple, consider the case of trying to reason and choose one of just two options out of many possibilities:
- Resources: make available more financial and supportive resources for spin-off creation.
- Culture: develop a culture of innovation throughout the university and its broader stakeholder community.
After deliberation, two reasons emerge as reasons in favor of Culture which we will call P, and Q. Two reasons against Culture also emerge which we will call R and S. It turns out that P and Q outweigh R and S, therefore Culture development is the better option.
In linear systems the argument from the P and Q to the selection of Culture must be deductive, although neither P nor Q is necessarily a conclusive reason for Culture. In non-linear complex (Rainforest) systems where wicked problems are the norm, and deduction cannot be used, forming an acceptable good reason involves deliberation involving evaluations, sometimes called reason statements, which can be defended, or indeed changed if they fail to hold up against a challenge. This reasoning will typically involve drawing non-deductive conclusions from observations.
An example of this is when we deploy The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential process and scoring model introduced in our January bonus-blog Measuring Culture, Performance, and Innovation.
When the Scorecard is applied reasoning is used in two ways.
- To qualitatively apply non-deductive reasoning to produce a quantitative score for each of the 6 Scorecard categories: Leadership; Frameworks, Infrastructure, Policies; Resources; Activities, Engagements, Role Models; and Culture.
- To find relationships between the 6 categories from Scorecard data collected during its application.
In both cases deliberation, producing reason statements, draws on experience, knowledge networks, references to related past results, cognitive insights, contexts, cost-effectiveness, and so forth. In some cases deliberation may also identify a small number of key variables which greatly influence results – more on this in a future blog.
For details of finding relationships between the 6 Scorecard categories see the Forbes blog by the Rainforest Scorecard co-author Henry Doss, Status Quo Leadership is the Biggest Impediment to Innovation.
As Milligan notes “reasons can be good and sufficient to justify a conclusion without being deductive… in the context of deliberations reasons which are not deductive are the most important.”
Or as Sherlock Holmes put it, don’t rely entirely on deduction to make a living.
“If scientific reasoning were limited to the logical processes of arithmetic, we should not get very far in our understanding of the physical world. One might as well attempt to grasp the game of poker entirely by the use of the mathematics of probability.” Vannevar Bush, Founder of the US National Science Foundation.
We ended our February blog with the question “So, what can we do if we must make decisions regarding wicked problems but cannot use deduction?” Wicked problems are intractable, interconnected, problems with unclear cause and effect connections – see January’s blog for details of how wicked problems are defined. In this blog I will suggest that not being able to use deduction does not mean we cannot use reason and deliberation.
We can measure factors or variables as the basis for decision making because complex adaptive systems have ‘basins of stability’ – as introduced in our August 2014 blog – which are steady state systems maintained by the feeding in of external energy. For corporations and innovation ecosystems this equilibrium is a kind of order. In the language of complexity these steady states, regions of quasi-stability or system-level order, are known as ‘attractors.’ Empirical research has shown that in large complex systems such as communities and corporations, these attractors maintain conditions required for emergent self-organization, adaptive capability – and measurement.
The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential process and scoring model introduced in our January bonus-blog Measuring Culture, Performance, and Innovation seeks to describe an ideal organizational ‘system state’—the aggregate set of conditions or features of systems that are generally present in innovative organizations. This idealized model is in turn used as a gauge against which organizations can measure and evaluate their own state of innovation.
Buridan’s donkey, named after the 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan, had a problem in trying to make a rational decision using deduction. This hungry donkey standing midway between two equally nourishing looking piles of hay is unable to make a rational decision to choose one pile over the other and consequently dies of hunger.
Another philosopher, David Milligan, in his book Reasoning and the Explanations of Actions, written in 1980 but still fresh, explained that a good deliberative reasoner is “not someone who simply obeys the rules of logic,” but someone who is also a sound judge and can defend his or her decisions about how to act by pointing to reasons which supports them.
“The deductivist [a person using deduction] tries to reduce the elements of sound judgment and correct evaluation either to the application of logic or to a kind of subjective response.” Milligan does not talk about complex systems or linearity as such, although everything he discusses applies (another example, as as we have seen before, and will see again, of the significance of philosophy in understanding complexity). Rather than downgrading the importance of logic, the author is trying to show that “reason is far wider and has a far more important role in action than might appear from the deductive list account.” Milligan’s work launches us into the necessary search for non-deductive ways of reasoning and decision making where there is an abundance of wicked problems – which is almost everywhere.
Another feature to take into account is that decision making will always be ‘bounded’ – that is we cannot know all the factors which possibly should be taken into account when making a decision, and thus we cannot reach an optimal solution. This concept was first proposed by the economist Herbert Simon as an alternative basis for the mathematical modeling of decision making; we will have to be satisfied with a less than optimal solution. The decision-maker is thus sometimes referred to as a ‘satisficer’ – someone who is satisfied with a good enough solution. For readers of this series the advantages of sub-optimum solutions will sound familiar (e.g. Imperfect Works Feb 2013 blog in this series. More about satisficers and maximizers in future blogs.
We should point out that being satisfied with boundedness and sub-optimality does not imply accepting insufficient depth of knowledge of those factors we do know about.
All this may be sounding a bit abstract, so in April’s blog we will apply these ideas of non-deductive reasoning to trying to choose one of two options for the solution to a wicked problem.
Global Innovation Summit + Week is here.
Today we start the world’s greatest conference on creating innovation ecosystems. We will begin with:
- Opening Keynote Interview by Mary Kay Magistad of BBC Radio and Public Radio International with Kamran Elahian, Chairman of Global Catalyst Partners.
- Design Lab #1: The Rainforest Scorecard & Radar, where all will contribute their Rainforest Scorecard data to build the first ever mapping of global innovation ecosystems onto Rainforest Radar charts.
If you’re at the Summit, we hope this newsletter helps stimulate your discussions with the global innovation community. If you couldn’t make it this year, you can still tweet your ideas to #gisw15. We are streaming tweets live throughout the day at the Summit, and we will hear you!
SUMMIT: FEBRUARY 17-19 | WEEK: FEBRUARY 15-21
THE BIG PICTURE
Alistair Brett, International Technology Commercialization Advisor for T2 Venture Creation, from The Innovation Rainforest (blog)
In the last few years international development organizations seem to be discovering complex systems and wicked problems. The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential is a measurement methodology based on complexity characteristics, and does not assume linear cause-and-effect relationships, but does recognize that ‘emergence’ is a critical feature of complex adaptive systems. Read more here.
The chance that any new startup will grow into a successful, sustainable company are extremely small. So while the number of startups is often used to measure the health of a particular region’s tech sector, it probably means less in the long-run than being able to account for the number of businesses that have a real chance of succeeding. The researchers from MIT’s Sloan School of Management have developed a new way to evaluate the quality of startups, rather than relying on their quantity to ascertain the strength of any particular tech region. Read more here.
The New York Times
The age-old art of storytelling — something humans have done since they could first communicate —has become a new buzzword. In these days of tougher-than-ever job searches, and competition for crowdfunding among start-ups looking to be the next Google or Facebook, it’s not enough just to offer up the facts about you or your company to prospective employers or investors. You need to be compelling, unforgettable, funny and smart. Magnetic, even. You need to be able to answer the question: what makes you so special? You need to have a good story. Read more here.
Women entrepreneurs could boost the economy in a way that hasn’t been seen since women entered the workforce in mass numbers in the 20th century, according to Sources of Economic Hope: Women’s Entrepreneurship, a report by the Kauffman Foundation, which researches and advocates for entrepreneurship. Read more here.
KQED Public Radio
Relationship problems between co-founders is one of the biggest reasons companies don’t make it. Increasingly in Silicon Valley, business partners are looking for help before things go downhill — they’re signing up for couples counseling. An imbalance in co-founder relationships can be insidious. In cases like that, good ideas get dismissed, opportunities are lost. A counselor’s job is to help build trust, communication and empathy. Read more here.
THE LATEST NEWS
The Wall Street Journal
Since the start of a grinding recession six years ago, Europe has seen a sharp increase in the number of business incubators and accelerators, spreading beyond well-known tech clusters in London, Berlin and Stockholm. A study last year tallied a nearly 400% increase in such startup programs since 2007, and found that the number of European programs—260—was roughly comparable to the U.S. on a per capita basis. Read more here.
The Brookings Institution
With only 20 percent of the population, the world’s 300 largest metropolitan economies account for nearly half of global economic output. The fastest growing metro areas this year — as measured by Brooking’s Global Metro Monitor, which uses an economic performance index that combines employment and GDP per capita growth — are concentrated in China, Turkey and the Middle East. Read more here.
The Washington Post
Not commonly known as a resource for Silicon Valley-esque start-ups, the Commerce Department plans to announce a pair of new projects intended to support high-growth young companies and help revive the country’s sputtering entrepreneurship engine. Read more here.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
The Global Innovation Summit is the world’s largest gathering for building ecosystems of innovation and entrepreneurship. Here’s the agenda.
February 17 to February 19. Silicon Valley, CA
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
- Special Sponsored Breakout Session
- Dr. Leon Segal, Founder, Innovationship
- Opening Ceremony: Welcome and Introduction to the Summit
- Victor W. Hwang, Executive Director
- Mark Newberg, Deputy Director
- Opening Keynote Interview
- Interviewer: Mary Kay Magistad (BBC Radio and Public Radio International)
- Kamran Elahian (Chairman, Global Catalyst Partners)
- Design Lab #1: The Rainforest Scorecard & Radar
- Evening Event: Celebration of Art & Innovation
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
- Special Breakfast Session
- Opening Case Study – The Shinola Story
- Interviewer: Loren Feldman (Entrepreneurship Editor, Forbes)
- Bridget Russo (Marketing Director for Shinola and Bedrock Manufacturing)
- Design Lab #2: Thinking Outside the Box
- Conversation #1: Design.
- Innovation Inside: Building Innovative Teams
- Moderator: Joe Sterling (Head of Consulting, T2 Venture Creation
- Pablo Salazar Rojo (Managing Director, Naranya Ventures)
- Natalie Sweeney (Senior Business Innovation Strategy Consultant, Highmark)
- Jeanine Becker (Lecturer in Law, Stanford Law School)
- Patrick Davis (Senior Officer for Strategic Initiatives, Calvert Foundation)
- Emily Lutyens (Co-CEO, Legworks)
- Rubik’s Cubed: Creative Problem Solving at Scale
- Moderator: Ade Mabogunje (Senior Research Associate, Stanford University)
- Megan Kachur (Creative Development Manager of Innovation, Walt Disney World)
- Conrad Von Igel (Executive Director, Centro De Innovacion)
- Maggie Hsu (Director of Marketing & External Relations, Las Vegas Downtown Project)
- Maryann Feldman (Heninger Distinguished Professor, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
- Educated Insight: The Reinvention of Learning
- Moderator: Diana Walker (Principal, Walker Impact Strategies)
- Mark Hatch (CEO, TechShop)
- Rick Beyer (President Emeritus, Wheeling Jesuit Univ.)
- Wanny Hersey (Superintendent & Principal, Bullis Charter School)
- Wayne Li (Oliver Professor of the Practice of Design & Engineering, School of Industrial Design, Georgia Institute of Technology
- Case Studies: Design of Startup Ecosystems
- Moderator: Tom Guevara (US Department of Commerce)
- Prafull Anubhai (Ahmedabad University)
- Isabel Alvarez-Rodriguez (External Relations, Inter-American Development Bank)
- Networking Lunch with User-Generated Discussions
- UAE Interactive Lunch Lab
- Conversations #2: Capital
- Atlas Hugged: When Big Money Builds Global Ecosystems
- Moderator: Mark Newberg (Managing Director, 5 Stone Green Capital)
- Per Fredrik Ilsass Pharo (Director, Government of Norway’s Climate & Forest Initiative)
- Jason Baron (Managing Director & Head Portfolio Manager for Social Investments, US Trust)
- Gordon Myers (Chief Counsel, Technology & Private Equity, International Finance Corporation)
- Catching Waves: Investing in Emerging Ecosystems
- Moderator: Allen Taylor (VP, Global Network, Endeavor Global)
- Paul Breloff (Managing Director, Accion Venture Lab)
- Jessica Loman (Director of Operations and Impact, Toniic)
- Walid Bakr (Director, The Abraaj Group)
- Making it Matter: Impact Investing at the Cutting Edge
- Moderator: Cathy Clark (Adjunct Professor and Director, CASE i3, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University)
- Raul Pomares (Founder, Sonen Capital)
- Miguel Granier (Managing Director, Invested Development)
- Abigail Noble (Associate Director & Head of Impact Investing Initiatives, World Economic Forum)
- Case Study: Investing by Geography
- Moderator: Ben Thornley (Founder & Managing Director, ICAP Partners)
- Ahmed Alfi (Founder, Sawari Ventures)
- Nasir Ali (CEO, Upstate Venture Connect)
- Case Studies: Designing Ecosystems
- Case Study: The Catchafire Story
- Rachel Chong (CEO, Catchafire)
- Moderator: Cynthia Muller (Senior Director of Impact Investing, Arabella Advisors)
- Financial Health: New Solutions for Underserved Markets
- Arjan Schutte (Managing Partner, Core Innovation Capital)
- Jennifer Tescher (President & CEO, Center for Financial Services Innovation)
- Case Study: Crowdfunding: Circling Up
- Moderator: Mark Newberg (5 Stone Green Capital)
- Jason Yuan (CircleUp)
- Design Lab #3: Building Solution Prototypes
- Ecosystem Design Gallery
- European Startup Showcase
Thursday, February 19, 2015
- Special Breakfast Session
- Something in the Air: Measuring, Understanding and Driving Innovation Culture
- Julie Lenzer Kirk (Director of the Office Innovation and Entrepreneurship, U.S. Department of Commerce)
- Henry Doss (Chief Strategy Officer for T2 Venture Creation)
- Alistair Brett (International Technology Commercialization Advisor for T2 Venture Creation)
- Conversation #3: Leadership
- Phoenix Rising: Triumph Over Crisis
- Moderator: Michael Lesnick (Senior Partner, Meridian Institute)
- Dr. Sakena Yacoobi (CEO, Afghan Institute of Learning)
- Jeff Finkle (President & CEO, International Economic Development Council)
- Earl Robinson (Principal, RLMcCall Partners)
- Chid Liberty (CEO, Liberty & Justice)
- Insight Included: Diversity by Design
- Moderator: Adiba Barney (CEO, SVForum)
- Kumardev Chatterjee (Founder & President, European Young Innovators Forum)
- Ursula Oesterle (Vice President of Innovations, Swisscom)
- Nola Masterson (Founder & Managing Director, Science Futures)
- Bill Tobin (Partner, Strayer Consulting Group)
- Eric Ball (Treasurer & Senior Vice President of Finance, Oracle)
- Case Studies: Leading the Technology Commercialization Process
- Moderator: Soody Tronson (Founder and Principal, STLGip, Technology Law Firm)
- Victor Hwang (Co-Founder & Executive Chairman, Liquidity Corporation)
- Mir Imran, Chairman & CEO (InCube Ventures)
- Andrew Farquharson, Managing Director (InCube Ventures)
- Case Studies: Leading Public Policy to Grow Ecosystems
- Moderator: Greg Horowitt (T2 Venture Creation)
- Juan Camilo Quintero (Executive Manager, Ruta N)
- Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu (InfoGraphics Nigeria Ltd.)
- Design Lab #4: Synthesis & Action
- Closing Keynote Conversation – Fostering the Entrepreneurial Spirit
- Moderator: Loren Feldman (Entrepreneurship Editor, Forbes)
- Nancy Pfund (Founder and Managing Partner, DBL Investors)
- Fadi Ghandour (Founder and Vice Chairman, Aramex)
- Awards and Closing Ceremony
- T2 Rainforest Scorecard & Master Plan — Q&A with the Authors
- Moderator: Joe Sterling (Head of Consulting, T2 Venture Creation
- Henry Doss (Chief Strategy Officer for T2 Venture Creation)
- Alistair Brett (International Technology Commercialization Advisor for T2 Venture Creation)
February 15 to February 21. Silicon Valley, CA
Sunday, February 15
- 11:00-5:00PM. Family Science Days. Host: American Association for the Advancement of Science. Location: San Jose Convention Center
Monday, February 16
- 5:00-6:00PM. Rainforest Architects and Makers Reception (private). Host: T2 Venture Creation. Location: Marriott Hotel, San Jose
Tuesday, February 17
- Morning. Inventing Tomorrow’s Manufacturing. Stanford’s Strategic Foresight & Innovation. Innovation Leadership Board, Lux Research Location: Stanford University.
- 1:00PM. Hands-On Innovation: Prototype Locally, Innovate Globally
- 6:15-8:15PM. Celebration of Art & Innovation. Global Innovation Summit, City of San Jose, and Anno Domini (for registered Summit attendees only). Location: San Jose
Wednesday, February 18
- 8:00AM. Regional Innovation Ecosystems: Foundations for Growth in the 21st Century
- 1:00-6:00. The Future of Personalized Vehicles. Host: SVForum. Location: Quadrus, Menlo Park
- 5:30-7:30. Greater Phoenix Innovation Showcase. Host: Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
- 6:00-7:30. European Startup Showcase. EYIF. Location: Marriott Hotel, San Jose
- 7:30-9:30. TechShop Open House. Host: TechShop. Location: San Jose.
Thursday, February 19
- 8:00-11:00AM. Tea With a Twist. Host: Global Privat. Location: Marriott Hotel, San Jose
- 11:00-1:00PM. Innovation in R&D: Lunch & Learn (by invitation only). Host: BayBio. Location: South San Francisco
- 2:00-4:00PM. Convening the Conveners (private). Host: Opportunity Collaboration and Global Innovation Summit. Location: Marriott Hotel, San Jose
- 2:00-6:00PM. Clean Tech Commercialization — Rapid Prototyping for Global Deployment. Host: Urban Innovation Exchange. Location: Prospect Silicon Valley, San Jose
- 3:00-5:00PM. Startup Funding Disrupted: Understanding the New Venture Ecosystem. Host: DLA Piper. Location: Xerox PARC, Palo Alto
- 5:00-6:30PM. Design Thinking: A New Foundational Science for Engineering and Innovation Ecologies. PARC Forum (with Stanford design researcher Ade Mabogunje). Host: Xerox PARC. Host: Palo Alto.
- 6:00-9:00PM. Entrepreneurship in Brazil. Host: BayBrazil. Location: San Jose
Friday, February 20
- All Day. International Startup Marketplace. Host: Hult Business School. Location: San Francisco
- 8:30-5:00PM (thru Saturday, February 21). Franchise for Humanity: Act for Impact. Host: Franchise for Humanity. Location: Stanford University
- 2:00-5:00PM Embracing Multicultural Entrepreneurship. Host: Global Filipino Network and STAC Silicon Valley. Location: UCS – Haas School of Business
February 20th, 5:00-9:30 PM, G|café at Galvanize, 44 Tehama St., San Francisco
Blackbox and Google for Entrepreneurs invite you to a night of startup demos, pitching and networking at the brand new g|café at Galvanize in San Francisco. This will be a very special evening concluding the 10th edition of Blackbox Connect.
16 startups representing 15 countries were selected in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs’ global network of tech hubs. For 2 weeks the founders live and work together, attending workshops, meeting distinguished executives, accomplished investors, and successful founders from Silicon Valley.
On Friday, February 20th, this handpicked group of international founders will showcase their products and pitch on stage to a panel of investors. We are looking forward to seeing you this special evening, celebrating the accomplishments of these amazing founders and the 10th edition of Blackbox Connect!
By Henry Doss, Chief Strategy Officer of T2 Venture Creation, from Forbes
To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. — Theodore Roosevelt
A quick read around in contemporary business writing might show that we are on the verge of elevating innovation and innovators to some kind of mythical status. It is becoming commonplace to equate those who consciously seek the new, the different, and the disruptive with an exceptional class of leadership and extraordinary business value. This may very well be true. But at the end of the day, after all, even innovators are simply people engaged in the world, doing their best. We elevate innovators to high organizational status at the risk of trivializing what they attempt.
Still, it’s worth remembering that those who choose consciously to cause or lead the growth of innovation in their organizations are engaged in changing things, in breaking things, sometimes in outright destroying things. More than anything else, they array their thinking and their beliefs and their actions in direct confrontation with the status quo. In this role, innovators make choices and decisions that have implications not only for their own lives and careers and communities, but also for the work and life experience of all those around them. Innovators make foundational assumptions about change and risk and value, and then seek to instill those very same values into their communities, and other individuals. This is not an inconsequential matter.
Immanuel Kant took a definitive and uncompromising position about our accountability for truth and for our influence on and interaction with others: “Act only on the maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” At its simplest — and most profound — he is simply calling us to examine our own motivations as if they were universally applicable, and then consider the consequences of that universality. If we apply this same thinking to our advocacy of innovation, we might begin to reshape our sense of our leadership accountability in ways that can be instructive and even a little sobering.
Anyone who is a champion of innovation is someone who by definition does things differently, and in ways that are almost always disruptive of the norm. Disruption, change and organizational turbulence are stressful and sometimes outright harmful, even when absolutely necessary. The process of creative destruction — intentional or otherwise – may very well be a creative process; but it is also after all a process of destruction, and destruction — creative or otherwise — has consequences for organizations and for individuals. Innovators are the ones who seek out creation of the new and its attendant destruction of the old, and they often relish the process of destroying and rebuilding. This is their calling and, more often than not, their natural inclination. And it’s a powerful way of being. But not everyone in an organization will view the prospect of change and innovation as happily . Therein lies the particular accountability — and leadership challenge — for innovators.
For the natural born innovator, risk and failure are akin to an old, comfortable pair of shoes. Change for them is a preferred state of being, rather than something to be avoided. The challenge comes when the risk-inclined begin to interact with and lead the risk-averse. This presents a challenge on two levels. It is on the one hand a management and leadership challenge to appropriately introduce risk-tolerance and a nuanced perspective on failure into organizations; on the other hand, it is also an issue of accepting accountability for actively changing other individual’s natural inclination or actions. It is one thing for someone to be comfortable with risk, but quite another to insist on others adopting or accepting that perspective on risk. The innovator has the twin challenge of both working to help others accept a risk-oriented experience, and of accepting accountability for the consequences that go along with causing change in others.
Much of the success of any innovation culture rests on the foundation of individual and organizational trust systems. The trust quotient of an organization is stressed and tested when it is being led in a direction where change and uncertainty are the norm. Ultimately, this is actually a a good thing, because it is trust — given and received — that supports the relationships necessary to lead an organization to accept and embrace risk-based thinking and change. So, what cultural attribute more than trust should be subject to periodic stress tests? Change can be mandated, of course; but top-down, fiat-driven change is very unlikely to leave an organization in a powerful place. Change that is led by role models who are willing to accept personal risk to advocate change, and who will appropriately mediate the consequences of disruption, will in turn create long-term, lasting cultural norms amenable to adaptation and innovation.
This is the leadership imperative of anyone who wishes to be an innovator. The charge is not only to innovate, but to mediate the consequences of innovation; not only to advocate change, but to guide others in embracing change; not only to resist the status quo, but to teach and support others in doing so. It is this holistic, diverse and trusting leadership stance that will drive innovation over the long haul.
“Many development partner tools and business processes deal with static, simple or linear problems. There is considerable demand for new methods and principles that can help development partners better navigate the complex, dynamic realities they face on a day-to-day basis.”
From best practice to best fit: Understanding and navigating wicked problems in international development. Ben Ramalingam, Miguel Laric and John Primrose, UK Department for International Development (DfID).
Don’t try to tame wicked problems: Part 1 introduced ‘wicked problems’ though six typical characteristics of these problems.
In the last few years international development organizations seem to be discovering complex systems and wicked problems. This series of blogs are not intended to be literature reviews, but two examples out of many are:
One question being raised is whether the method of Logical Framework Analysis, also referred to as ‘logframes’ can be used, can be relied upon, when dealing with complex systems generally and with wicked problems in particular.
The Logical Framework Analysis was tested by USAID in the 1970s for evaluation of technical assistance projects, and used extensively by governments, consultants, and international aid and development organizations for project planning and evaluation ever since. Logical Framework design is not an evaluation in itself; it provides a plan of the project against which project progress can be assessed by evaluators. It was also intended to make evaluation less threatening. Furthermore, where there are clear and logical relationships between inputs and outputs this can lead to efficient task delegation.
As noted in our January blog, the behaviors of complex innovation ecosystems don’t fit well into logframes which deal with inputs and outputs and the tasks which produce the latter from the former. To illustrate what we are talking about a rather simplified logframe (it typically is a 4×4 matrix) might look something like this:
|Goal||Improve creation of spin-off companies from universities.|
|Purpose/Outcome||An effective improved company creation system is operating.|
|Output||New spin-off companies developed.
New incentives created.
Increased number of role models and mentors.
New methods in place.
|Input||Analyze problems with current methods to create spin-off companies.
Provide more early stage, start-up, funding.
Find more brokers available to help match R&D needs to sources.
Provide more incentives to researchers.
Identify role models and mentors.
Create an entrepreneurship culture.
Inventory physical and people assets.
This table suggests we can produce a certain set of outputs from a certain set of inputs to achieve the required outcome. These concepts can help us think through a project in an orderly, logical fashion assuming there is a definite cause and effect relationship between any level and the level immediately above it; in wicked problems this is not the case. Cause and effect logic is also the basis for strategy maps and best-practice balanced scorecards. Finally, an emphasis on cause and effect suggests a rational expectations hypothesis, which does not take into consideration extra-rational motives which influence behavior.
At T2 Venture Creation we just published a short book about measuring variables in innovation ecosystems, The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential. The work is a measurement methodology based on complexity characteristics and does not assume linear cause and effect relationships, but does recognize that ‘emergence’ is a critical feature of complex adaptive systems. Measurement however is only the first step; decisions and actions must follow. In the decision making process this traditionally implies deduction – reasoning which links a set of premises with a logical, and necessarily true, conclusion. Probably the best known example of such reasoning is:
- All me are mortal (premise)
- Socrates is a man (premise)
- Therefore, Socrates is mortal (conclusion)
So, what can we do if we must make decisions regarding wicked problems but cannot use deduction? And, furthermore, we will have to make decisions in spaces where indicators of success may be fallible –as discussed in the April 2013 blog in this series Fallibility and the Making of Good Decisions: Solving the right problem Part 2. We shall turn our attention to this question next time.
Next time: Practical Reasoning: Decision making in Rainforest innovation ecosystems.