Today’s guest, Lee Foster, began her career as a water engineer. Then she followed her passion for innovation and spent several years researching what makes successful innovation. And the outcome is her own framework Inno Wise. Which picks up from where ideation stops. It helps innovators implement their great idea.
She’s the founder of Innovate Wisely which helps organisations innovate with knowledge in mind so that they can bring their ideas to life. Lee is also a visiting research fellow at QUT, continuing to develop the understanding of the innovation, knowledge nexus.
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You can find out more by visiting Lee's website
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Push the barrier of knowledge, I guess, and try to find new ways of doing things, especially in water treatment. It was always, an area that needs advancement. So I went to university, QUT to study a bit more about projects and, what makes them so difficult to, to have innovation in and you want to send me more about also organizational theory and what makes organizations tick, especially around innovation.
So on the journey, I found that I was interested in innovation and especially innovation in projects. And that, research continued and finished in 2018. And I guess since then, I've found innovation. Very fascinating because you're dealing on the edge of knowledge and what, isn't fascinating about that.
Issues in water that you need to take out, but you don't know how to take that water out to protect human health. And that's what water treatment's all about. And it's about protecting human health. So when you get new knowledge in one aspect, it drives you knowledge in another aspect to deal with new problem.
For example, there's a lot of issues in water at the moment around disinfection byproducts. Which can cause cancer. So how do you go about treating that as a huge area of research? It's great to do the research, but then how do you apply it and how do we implement it in organizations? And that was just so frustrating to see, organizations just being stuck in the BAU and not really wanting to take on new ways of doing things, or if they did.
Not sharing that information widely after really get the full benefit of that, of that innovation. Is it, is that particularly because I know you experience obviously with water, so they're fairly big organizations do, what is it in a larger organization that makes it difficult that I analyzed in my research show that the people are in their silos and don't really talk to each other, which is a common, common theme.
So if you're not sharing that knowledge wildly, then it's not going to go very far. And that's what the w what I've studied. I guess it's all about understanding how knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer works and what gets in the [00:05:00] way of it, and what gets in the way that is. Trust between networks.
And anyway, you're going to get trust is to get to know people. You get to know them, you get to trust them, you get to like them. And then you'll start working more together as a collaborative and innovation. That is so important is to work in a collaborative way. And that just doesn't seem to happen in large organizations.
In smaller organizations. It's a bit easier, but because you're smaller and you can share information easier, but in large organizations, that's just so much harder. Is it always confused me as into why people don't know what's going on within a company, you know, but you're right. They just like exist so separately.
So it was a virtual conference, which was innovative itself. So people were able to dial in from all over the world. Also, you had finances and you had problem holders and you're problem solvers, technology developers, people like me interested in. The theory of innovation and how to do innovation better.
I guess what came out of it was an awareness of what other people are doing around the wheel in this space. And that's the whole idea. It was to share information and to collaborate, which is the key to innovation. As I mentioned, it's all about collaboration and sharing knowledge. And that's what this whole is about.
There's a lot of people they're from poorer countries as well. Africa and Asia, trying to find funding and, or new ways of doing things. So, so, so that was, um, really good. Yeah - of course there's some massive issues in some parts of the world of just getting access to fresh, clean water.
Innovation and knowledge needs to work together because without knowledge, you don't have innovation. And with our innovation, you don't have new knowledge. And from that new knowledge, you get organizational and community growth. But if you manage the two together, the innovation and the knowledge, then you get wisdom in my framework, I guess it asks you in the first.
Step two. Think about what knowledge do you actually have right now help you solve that problem. So you're doing a bit of a knowledge. If you are doing something new that the organization hasn't done, there's likely to be a knowledge gap within your organization. So you reflecting on that, what is my knowledge gap?
And that is what you need to feel. And that's the new knowledge that you need to create, which is in the next step, creating that new knowledge, but also creating new knowledge objects to then be able to transfer that knowledge to the people that are using that innovation. And by new, not new knowledge objects, I mean, it could be.
Manual or a memo or a drawing to help explain that new knowledge that's being created. So it's not just sitting there in theory or in someone's head or that it actually gets out there and creates a reason and purposeful and helps you transfer it to the people that you want to use. Your. Innovation cause otherwise, yeah, just stays is a great idea.
How can I turn this into something that actually makes money, which is what innovation is. So yeah, improving your processes or just applying a new way of doing things. It's not necessarily all about making money it's is it, but it has to add value. It has to add value to your audience or you or your community, but that could be in all sorts of different ways.
There's a lot of research out there that shows that for innovation to truly succeed, you need to collaborate. And the reason why is because you're filling that knowledge gap within your organization, and it's usually to fill that you have to go outside of your organization too. Collaborate. Yeah. And even more powerful is collaborating with a research organization because then you're really pushing that barrier of new knowledge and thinking know.
In a different way, different perspective. So, so once you've formed your project, your problem, your people, it resources, you can then start creating. So you're creating. The turning the idea, your innovation, you might be doing a prototype testing your solution. You're testing your knowledge objects as well.
So you're creating those and you're testing them. And at the same time, you need to be really focusing on that collaboration side of things, because it's actually really working now. And you need to keep the momentum going because the next phase is the really hard phase, which I call a dot, um, which is where you're implementing your innovation.
So, but you also should be revising. What, what new knowledge? Yeah, we actually created through this whole process and how can we embed that into our organization? And then how are we going to monitor that? It has been fully realized not in the innovation, but the new knowledge that has been fully realized in your organization and the community that's involved.
And then from there, I guess your. Working out what your next problem is to solve. Yeah. And how are you going to solve it? What's your solution. And once again, what's your goal and the cycle continues. How do you overcome the silo issue? So, you know, if we go and find a way is identifying that the silos is a problem is within your structure, a way of, you know, this really has to get buy in from the top of the ladder.
That's really, really important. It's being shown many, many times that leadership is. Super important and sponsorship of your project needs to be demonstrated and, and, and they need to demonstrate it through energy or motivation. So people see that you're motivated and then they get trust that, yes, I'm going to be back by my management for this.
They're going to provide the right resources for this new thing. And, and it also, it's also about, I guess, a collaborative. Understanding of the problem. We all agree. This problem is real. and it needs to be sold. We all agree that the solution is the right, right solution. We trust it's going to work and therefore, you know, we're motivated and we'll, we'll keep working together and, and we'll.
Because it will be hard and there will be issues that come up. And if you, if you don't have energy to push through that barrier of BAU, then you'll just go back to BAU, which so often happens. Does that explain that question? Yeah. One I'm really interested in is what are the pitfalls at that stage? Like you full on into.
Well, really the adoption stage, what can go wrong? Yeah. Well, that's where you can really lose trust. So you, you're starting to go wider in the, in your internal, external community with your solution, with your technology or in your process, whatever it is, you starting to come up against. Probably it's likely you'll come up against more problems.
So if you're not addressing those problems quickly and in a way that solves those problems, then you're going to lose trust in the solution and you'll lose motivation. And then that's where that innovation will start to lose momentum and die. So it was keeping communication going through. The, the different stakeholders who often, I guess, while, especially these days when might not be in the same physical space.
Communication is so important, which is why you really need to be focused in the beginning of what. What kind of knowledge do I need to be creating knowledge objects? Do I need to be creating, to transfer even awareness of the problem through my organization and awareness of the solution? Um, and then, and then how to use it.
So you can keep going and keep solving those problems together. I'd do that is to focus. Keep focusing back on why you're doing it. So the purpose is really key and understanding that, and that's why the leadership has to really be there, the forefront and really driving that message of why we're doing this change.
It is more likely to be incremental, incremental innovations rather than majorly disruptive. Disruptive innovation is really scary. Incremental innovation is scary enough, but really disruptive innovations for large existing. Corporate organizations is, is really scary. So, you know, they don't want go there, but sometimes I have to, um, if, if the world around them is changing so much, Then they have to really think, think about what's the environment telling me out there and do I really need to be thinking my value proposition here?
And I guess the problem is a lot, a lot of larger organizations that have died in the past. Like, Oh, did someone say the other day? Um, we don't want to go and have a Kodak moment. Yes.
Here's a Kodak moment used to reflect a Houston means something else. But now, so those of us who are slightly younger now listening audience that probably didn't even know Kodak was, she had filmed before, but. Oh, that's true. That's very, very true. But sometimes organizations do need to have it disruptive, um, approach, otherwise, you know, and this, as the saying goes, if you don't innovate, you die.
And in that case, yes, it needs to be disruptive to the organization. Or they disappeared like so many great companies in the past, but mostly I'd say it's incremental. It is really interesting because is it fair to say that to counter the. Debate. If you like, are we, we haven't got time for innovation.
Yeah, that's it. A lot of people are innovative, but sort of subconsciously, and I guess that's what I try and point out is to innovate wisely is to do it in a conscious way, with knowledge in mind. So they're, they're really taking full advantage of their innovation by understanding, although the knowledge.
And learning cycle that goes on with innovation and making sure that's really fully embedded within their organization. You got a system that manages the new information. So for example, you've, you've done some research and you've identified an issue you want to embark on and you want to solve. And so you've put all your energy into that, but in the process you might've identified some other thing.
What's our existing system, too, that we have that we can use to manage that new knowledge. Is it enough? Do we need. Something different, a different tool set to be able to share or create, I guess, create, then share the knowledge. Um, yeah. And then if there is a gap there and you need to go and have a look at your knowledge management system, but part of the process is to do kind of a survey.
All of your project participants to see what they think about your work projects and how they think that the knowledge she's going to be managed. And if, if the system is good enough, for example, that, for example, the question could be, you know, do you trust our knowledge management system? We'll be able to cope with this new knowledge or.
Is it good enough to share the new knowledge? And if that comes back with a resounding no, it's not. Then you've obviously got a problem and you need to go out there and fix it. And I have, uh, uh, come across an organization that I worked with called ACQC for short it's American. Process quality, something around that.
Anyway, they do benchmarking around process processes, but also knowledge management processes and knowledge management systems. And they can do audit of your system to work out where the gaps are in your system compared to like. Organizations around the world and they have over 10 years of data in the databases that they do this benchmarking against.
So then, then that can then highlight where you need to improve in your knowledge management process and or systems. And as you've stressed through your framework, that it doesn't stop at one place. There's just keeps going. And I like one of the phrases you use, are you learning from your lessons? I've come across so many people, so many organizations, they, yeah, they, they try to learn from the lessons.
And I guess my, the process of developed helps you think about all these things in a systematic way. So it really does point out right at the beginning, you need to be thinking about how you're going to critique this project at the end. And do you have enough resources and. Systems in place to be able to do that thoroughly.
And do you have enough budget? Do you have enough time to be able to do that properly? Because it will, it will inevitably come up with a new problem that you need to work on or, you know, hopefully, and it's not an innovation without really new knowledge. You'll have some new knowledge that you then want to properly embed within your organization or at least track.
It is getting embedded, um, within your organization. So I guess if someone like me, like the process will help them plan for that appropriately. And then the process also. Involves surveys to then test that it is being used. That knowledge is being used and there is chatter and energy behind it. So I guess it's how you measure that it's been being used and people trusted.
They won't, if they don't trust it, they won't and use it. So it's kind of together. The other aspect that I can provide organizations as well is using thematic medic analysis on those. The spreadsheets on those databases of lessons learned, whether it's on a project or a whole bunch of projects, you can do analysis on all the words that are in there to come up with themes and relationships to them, help the organization focus on, on what they really should be learning.
Cause there'll be lots of lessons, right? So too many. And I think that's half the problem. There's too many. Too, too much. So let's the analysis, break it down and come up with the top three and then work out a plan to make sure it's fully embedded. That, that actually makes sense. Cause I think that's the biggest problem with any size innovation or project or concept is it just becomes all too much.
I've developed a couple of products to help them with that. The plan is what I call it, which is like an innovation on a page. It can be presented as an innovation on a page. So it's like a dashboard type approach to communicating how you're going to influence your idea. And by you, when you use this in a plan approach, the process is I send the person a whole bunch of.
Carefully crafted questions to help them feel in that, you know, plan. And it goes through each step of the way. And the normal cycle to help them really think about the relationship between innovation and the knowledge. So, so then that creates that plan, which is an innovation on a page. Um, and it just helps them step through and think about what is the next step and what do I really need to be doing here.
And then that can be a communication tool then to, to others a bit like. You know, the business canvas type of approach, but this is like an innovation canvas approach. That's really nice. Yes. And the example that [00:33:00] you sent us earlier is excellent and would make it very clear. I can see how that would work.
So if someone say in a smaller organization that has been tasked with doing it very easy to show around the team, To get involved and maybe make their own contract. Absolutely. Absolutely. So I guess the base product that I have it. You can engage in that process for less than $200, that if you want to do it as a team and you want me to help the team, then it's a little bit more, um, uh, and then even better than that, I guess he's doing it in a workshop talking environment.