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The Nostradamus Approach – Make the invisible visible to forecast innovation

By Andrew Harrison

I have worked with Bob Rosenfeld for 15 years. As we reflect on the 35th anniversary of ICS, it made me go back to 2008. I was on a call with a client where they joked that Bob was Nostradamus, as he could forecast things that were about to happen inside of their organization. (Image: Adobe Stock)

However, Bob is a scientist rather than a soothsayer. Through his pursuit of the Periodic Table of People, he, and the company he founded 35 years ago in March, has been accurately forecasting how people, teams, and organizations will behave and perform in a wide range of industries.

And it’s not in the stars. It’s in the instrument Bob created with Larry VanEtten – the Innovation Strengths Preference Indicator® (ISPI™).

Being able to increase your chances of success by accurate forecasting is a compelling value proposition because the fog of uncertainty can stop you in your tracks with indecision or at the other extreme, rash choices. Uncertainty stifles and even ends many organizations.

In an always and – according to many – increasingly uncertain world, your ability to make work more predictable is a huge competitive advantage.

It’s true in almost any industry and nowhere is this more vital than national defense. For example, working with one branch of the US armed services, ICS facilitated a simulation involving the formation of six teams of five people each using the ISPI™. Each team was challenged to find an innovative solution to an assigned problem. The teams performed well, but most importantly we were able to show our defense client how you can forecast the way the work would progress (with 82% accuracy). As predicted by us, the more Pioneering groups “colored outside the lines” – they took chances, ignored some deadlines, and provided unique concepts. They bent the rules during their Shark Tank presentations. Pioneers go after revolutionary advances… And remember, this is within the military. But this approach can work in many instances.

Also as predicted the Builder teams in the simulation stayed in their lanes, methodically checked all the boxes, and advanced on schedule. Their solution was also well received, albeit far more incremental than the Pioneers’ solution.

The Connector groups integrated both approaches, pushing some boundaries while integrating the rubric and implementation.

All of this was predictable because, based on ISPI™ results, we knew everyone’s mindset. And we knew how the teams we structured would perform. The client saw the value, as did the participants. Time and again, we see that people like finding their sweet spot for working with others.

Still in defense, but on the commercial side, our client Raytheon became a disciple of our assessment approach 12 years ago.

Each year the company sponsors its Raytheon Innovation Challenge (RIC) to develop new innovation for their clients and also to strengthen organizational cohesion, pride, and performance.

From a Raytheon article:

The premise of the RIC is that good ideas can come from anyone; however, authors need to understand customer needs and have a path for submission, refinement, and mentoring of ideas towards initial product development and insertion.

The RIC starts by creating an internal call for ideas whereby any employee can submit a short white paper and single chart describing the essence of an idea for a solution to an announced topic challenge. This targeted innovation process exposes employees to customer needs they may not have been aware of, and often connects the kernel of a solution from one domain or product area to customer needs.

Using the ISPI™ both in the RIC and in the company’s day-to-day innovation process, Raytheon has seen how teams can be formed for both generating truly revolutionary concepts and bringing very out-of-the-box ideas to practical, valuable fruition.

The ISPI™ helps Raytheon form the types of teams it needs to both imagine and implement true innovations. You need all types of innovators to be successful: the Builders, Connectors, and Pioneers. How they are orchestrated makes all the difference. It takes the right mix of people, and they achieve this with the ISPI™. (For a deeper dive, check out Bob’s story about "Good Gravy.")

Over the past 35 years, and through the predictability and accuracy of the ISPI™, ICS’ client companies continue to profit from the greater certainty they have in their innovation processes.

When it comes to innovation, we help make the future foreseeable.



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