Editor's Choice, October 2013: The six steps to significant change
How does interesting innovation turn into true transformation? How do we move from innovation by one firm to innovation of a system? This month’s Editor’s Choice, Creating the big shift: system innovation for sustainability by Forum for the Future’s Stephanie Draper, simplifies the answers into a 6-step process for significant change.
The 6 step process is described as a change curve in chapter 2 of their new publication.
Like in solving any complex problem, the process begins with understanding the challenge at hand which, in this case, involves recognising the need for change. Draper describes the next three steps as the ‘major moments of system innovation’ – diagnosing the system, creating pioneering practices and enabling those practices to become systemic. Through a diagnosis of the system, we can identify what needs to change. We can then move to creating new practices that can showcase a more innovative approach to doing things. Draper points out that many of these practices won’t catch on or be achievable but a few can lead to systemic change. The ‘hardest step to make’ is scaling up those achievable practices so that they become mainstream and are adopted across the system. The final two steps involve making sure the change is here to stay and is sustainable in the long run.
The paper concentrates on the three critical steps in the middle of the process – providing practical insights on how these steps can be achieved to bring about systemic change. The dynamism of this approach is very appealing - to me more appealing than some of the static representations of market change
The focus of the paper is on system innovation, not explicitly inclusive business, but in practice it is very much about how collaboration amongst businesses and other players can create significant change. In the document and in a recent workshop hosted by Forum for the Future and Shell Foundation about the report, one of the key themes to emerge was about the need for collaboration to shift from being pioneers to bringing out system change. And that this needs to include a shift in the boundary between pre-competitive collaboration and competitive differentiation. Firms resist collaboration when in competition, but increasingly recognise the need for collaboration on pre-competitive issues, such as market building and system building. This is a key issue we are also seeing in the BIF portfolios, where companies invest in IB to be market leaders, yet true scale depends on the wider market developing alongside them.
I would highly recommend this paper to anyone who is interested in a quick and clear reflection on the bigger picture. And for those of us in inclusive business, it makes one think about whether all the work being done amounts to something more.
For innovation insights in inclusive business read the BIF Insider on Innovation by Soji Apampa
All previous Editor's Choice blogs can be found here.