High AR

Mastering Turbulence through High AR

Being Resourceful

Creative, Innovative Use of Resources

Nurturing entrepreneurship and innovation

For creative, innovative thinking and application of resources in novel ways

Being Resourceful is the complementary capability to Being Action-Oriented. It is not enough just to act quickly and appropriately; the challenge is to do it in creative, innovative ways that generate best thinking and the novel application of resources, including finding new resources fast if needed. It means individuals and teams thinking and acting like entrepreneurs, and organizations building the capacity for sustained innovation into their core functions. No small tasks! High AR organizations create a culture that supports such thinking and action.

It isn’t alchemy or fortune that generates High AR resourcefulness, but persistent, systematic and focused steps and processes across all four levels. Major companies that consistently generate new products and services work hard at developing the capabilities needed – they develop and nurture good science, great talent management, and solid operations, marketing and support functions. All the pieces are focused on being and staying creative and innovative.

There is too little attention given to a great related concept that describes an important aspect of resourcefulness – bricolage. This refers to the novel use of resources in unexpected ways. It captures the essence of resourcefulness, since severely disruptive change can sometimes force you to react before you can think through the situation fully and marshal the needed resources in a systematic way. Being able to use what you have at hand in novel ways to buy sufficient time may be the best possible way to proceed under such conditions, and fostering those competencies and skills is what this capability is all about.

Approaching rapidly evolving, disruptive events creatively requires building capabilities around a fundamental axiom: diverse and complex environments require equally diverse and complex responses – this has been called the “law of requisite variety”. It is critical that your company develops more than one way of being creative and innovative. That may sound contradictory and obvious, but we have found many companies develop a limited response repertoire – the “one best way” syndrome – which works most of the time in less turbulent environments but may not work very well as the firm confronts more surprises and shocks. We advocate developing multiple response paths or “scripts” that fit different kinds of situations. Most companies have more than one, but they tend to emphasize one. We advocate that you systematically invest in and refine at least four, summarized in Table 7.1 of Mastering Turbulence.

Being Resourceful as an Individual

Thinking and acting like an entrepreneur

Being Resourceful at an individual level means thinking and acting entrepreneurially. It means quickly yet thoughtfully taking advantage of opportunities and moving quickly to avoid collisions with events that may have negative consequences. This requires individuals with the mindset and competencies and skills to act that way. The age-old question of whether entrepreneurs are born or made is an interesting one. We believe that firms can select for important cognitive traits and developmental experiences, but other necessary skills can be acquired, such as project management and team leadership. The key trait is willingness to confidently take initiative, including mobilizing others to act. Initiative has to be grounded in solid competencies and skills to assure impact.

Recommendations for Being Resourceful as an Individual

  • Think like a company owner. Recognize that there are consequences of not acting and you have a responsibility to act. Do so thoughtfully and competently. Many situations in turbulent conditions form quickly and grow in significance with time. They are often weakly structured and poorly understood. They require creative thinking to make sense of them and appreciate their implications.
  • Develop your skills in running or participating in a fast-response team for crisis situations. These skills can be acquired.
  • Engage in activities such as simulations, prototyping and other exercises that boost your creative thinking. Keep your mind agile and open to possibilities. Avoid routines and tasks that sap your creativity.

Being Resourceful as a Team

Creativity and innovativeness as a team sport

Teams are valuable for leveraging individual work – believe it. We have said that several times for a reason. Companies tend not to invest in their teams as much as they need to, so we are advocating being more conscious about their roles and value in the company when they are designed well. How teams get formed, how they are supported, how members are selected and rotated in and out – all of these issues are design features that should be well established in your company where team-level creativity and innovative work is expected.

Creative design and problem solving teams are vital features of organization life, and we are advocating making them as effective as they can possibly become. The goal is to create the climate and processes within your teams so that they can quickly form, then bring out the best thinking and innovative ideas from individual members and those important others that are needed to make the ideas pop. There is a tremendous amount of excellent writing about team creativity – you should become familiar with that literature.

Recommendations for Being Resourceful as a Team

  • Value team creativity and innovation – it is the heart of resourcefulness. Practice, practice, practice. The middle of a very difficult, fast-moving situation is not the time for a team to learn or test brand new competencies and skills. It may increase improvisation, but not the good kind! It increases risk, not diminishes it.
  • Stress test teams. Simulations and what-if exercises under a variety of scenarios can be practiced well ahead of when needed. Extract lessons from those experiences and use them to improve performance.

Being Resourceful as an Organization

Meeting variety with adaptive innovation scripts

Large global organizations in intensely competitive industries compete on the basis of their innovative capacity. They work at creating and sustaining the capabilities that feed that capacity and become extremely good at it. Others less so. Being Resourceful doesn’t just mean innovating new things, but also coming up with solutions to issues and problems that minimize setbacks. AR resourcefulness applies to both threats and opportunities.

The idea of being flexible enough to try different approaches to different scenarios or conditions means becoming adept at reading situations and accurately assessing what type of a response is most appropriate. In Mastering Turbulence we offer a 2x2 matrix that may help your company decide what type of “script” or approach to use based on the scale of impact and response timeframe. Four approaches to innovation challenges are proposed, as the accompanying matrix illustrates.

Figure 7.1 - Joeseph McCann & John W. Selsky, Mastering Turbulence

Recommendations for Being Resourceful as an Organization

  • Design HR practices that select, develop and reward creative individuals and teams. Encourage those practices at all levels of the organization.
  • Develop the capability for approaching situations or conditions with multiple response scripts, particularly the ones appropriate for fast cycle/high impact conditions. SWAT teams and fast-response teams trained in creative thinking and bricolage tactics are particularly important as turbulence increases.
  • Know when to call upon the resources and assistance of others and whom to ask. Going it alone without being able to access additional resources when yours become exhausted should never be an option if you want to become or remain agile and resilient.

Being Resourceful as an Ecosystem

Collaborative creativity through open innovation

We have noted how acting with other organizations and groups benefits an organization from the added scale and scope, the pooling of knowledge and resources, and most importantly, more predictable, less threatening change. From a resourcefulness perspective, collaboration at an ecosystem level allows an organization to pool creative thinking and engage in action to punch above its weight. It could be an industry-level response or information sharing across a global supply chain that not only generates new insights, but, most importantly, coordinated action that benefits all participants.

Being Resourceful at an ecosystem level means building innovation competencies and skills ‘above’ the level of your company. There are many examples of industry-based and even global value-added networks where partner expertise is successfully pooled to create new products and services. There are also examples of region-based and even global partnerships that ‘bricolage’ complementary resources to address issues and problems that members share but none can deal with alone.

Creative collaborative initiatives require recognition of what distinctive competencies and skills each entity possesses, combined with effective, reliable technologies for supporting interaction.

Recommendations for Being Resourceful as an Ecosystem

  • Study as many examples as possible of both successful and ineffective collaborative action. These may be found in the business press and in the management literature on partnerships and alliances. Then develop the competencies and skills for successful collaboration at all levels, particularly how to manage differences and execute large-scale projects that may be widely dispersed.
  • Systematically assess what each partner brings to the creative process, then build the means for bringing those to the table in a reliable way that attracts participation and provides pathways for benefits to be shared among all.
  • Invest in communication and work systems that facilitate collaborative innovation.