Advanced Innovation Toolkit for Government and Business (Harnessing Antifragility in a Nonlinear World)

Advanced Innovation Toolkit for Government and Business (Harnessing Antifragility in a Nonlinear World)









By Nicos G. Sykas, Strategy, Communication and Innovation Consultant

In today’s non-linear world defined by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, both private and public sector need new, multifunctional tools to innovate more effectively.

I have developed a new Innovation Model which helps organizations generate exceptional ideas and actionable insights and transform them into more sustainable innovations. This unique method involves the combination / conflation of ideas, concepts, symbols, codes, image schemas, elements, features and capabilities from the four basic types of innovation: product, process, organizational and marketing. This interactive process creates novel connections, multiple perspectives and diverse combinatorial possibilities. By overseeing the nature of the interconnections amongst the four innovation types we can zoom into the interface, focus on different aspects, iterate through all possibilities, discern alternatives and increase the probability for breakthrough innovation.

This dynamic tool uses a set of discovery skills which can be coded as follows:

– Explore, observe.

– Perspective, viewpoint, focus.

– Ask the right question; define the problem.

– Mental elasticity, fluidity, flexibility, adjustment, modification.

– Associations; connect multiple concepts; integration.

– Recognize patterns; meaningful interpretations; separate signal from the noise.

– Lateral thinking; use of metaphors and analogies.

– Concept direction – set new directions.

– Develop several options.

– Fit & diverse; adaptability to change.

– ‘Convex’ tinkering.

– Experimenting / testing.

– Validate assumptions / hypotheses.

In his book Antifragile: things that gain from disorder Nassim Nicholas Taleb –the leading global authority on Risk Management– states that «Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shock and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems».

The structure of an innovation should be such that it benefits from volatility, variability, disorder, randomness, uncertainty and time by minimizing exposure and harm from negative (unfavorable) asymmetries and maximizing exposure and gain from positive (favorable) asymmetries (more upside than downside from volatility and randomness). Exposure modification is a critical parameter in the design of ‘antifragile’ innovations.

In the new Innovation Paradigm I propose, exposure can be modified with the help of a number of creative techniques including: Rebranding, repositioning, differentiation, diversification, adaptability, agile design, modularization, reconfiguration of the various elements / parameters of innovation, scale up and down, homeostatic creativity, step change, concept leap, un-design, sub-elements, removal of fragilities, optionality, metaphor, conceptual blending, viewpoint shifting and analogical mapping. This is the first time, on a global basis, that antifragility properties are embedded in the architectural design of new innovations.

The interdisciplinary / cross-cutting tool outlined in this article:

  1. Aligns all key stakeholders for faster innovation.
  2. Encourages collaboration, interaction and co-creation (cross-fertilization of ideas and disruption of ‘silo thinking’).
  3. Follows a more holistic, polyparametric approach, using more than 100 evaluation criteria and success factors across all stages of the innovation cycle.
  4. Can be applied across all domains (Public Services, Social Innovation, Smart Cities, Road Safety, Education, Scientific Research, FinTech and RegTech Innovation, Reputation Management, Economic Diplomacy, National Security System, Nation Branding, Political Campaigns, Cyclical Economy, Risk Management etc.) and at all levels, sizes and scales (new Products and Services, Startups / Spinoffs, Small and medium-sized Enterprises, Large Corporations, New Business Models, Horizon Europe Program etc.).
  5. Can turn Cyprus into a Regional Innovation Hub and attract Foreign Direct Investment.
  6. Is presented analytically in an Innovation Toolkit which I have prepared (a 100-page practical Guide) titled ©Innovation to the Fourth Power.

Criteria for Startup / Spinoff success include among others the following:

– Good product; quality. Most startups fail because they have the wrong product.

– Value-creating insight. Real solution to a real problem. Does it solve a painful problem, meet a need or create customer value?

– Test and validate the ideas with customers; timing, customer readiness.

– Τhe idea should be genuinely original, unique, inspiring, singular and impactful.

– The concept should be distinctive, simple, clear and instantly understandable, meaningful, contextually relevant, and engaging / likeable.

– Multi-directional, configurable, modular, adaptable, elastic, agile.

– The idea must be practical / realizable; ease of implementation.

– Customer metrics. The closer you can define your target market and customer profiles, the better you can integrate this data into your sales forecast.

– Iterate your way to product / market fit. Continually developing your product and business model to ensure the widest and deepest possible growth in terms of users.

– Differentiated branding, product / market fit and successful advertising during both launch and growth phases help startups / spinoffs bridge the “Valley of Death”.

– Strategic Positioning, Unique Value Proposition (USP), Slogan.

– Validate the business plan.

– Realistic and well-documented assumptions; a complete value chain model.

– Is there a gap in the market? Show where you are in the competitive landscape; danger of being outcompeted.

– Does it provide a sustainable competitive advantage?

– Innovation is inherently uncertain. In a startup we need to increase exploration, randomness and variability.

– Strategic planning and risk assessment; mitigation measures.

– Antifragile Innovation (resilient, future-proof, gets better with time).

– Strong team. Growing the human resources and decision-making capacity of your firm: Ensuring that your talent and governance structures are continually evolving to meet growth requirements.

– Securing finance – make sure you have the financial resources to grow, either using organic cash flow or external financing.

– Avoid capital-heavy investments (like property); invest in market share and market growth.

– Friendly business ecosystem. Culture of creativity and innovation. Regulatory framework that promotes innovation.

– Entrepreneurial Infrastructure – Incubators, Accelerators, Innovation Hubs, Co-working Spaces.

– Expected results and impacts; direct and indirect, short- and long-term impact; have potential for longevity.

– Added value – local, regional, European impact.

– Scalability with global outlook; expand and diversify.

– Does the new Innovation / Business Model synergistically create economic, social and environmental value?

Transferability in other policy areas, disciplines and purposes. Metaphors and analogies can be used as creative mechanisms for transforming and transferring innovative ideas / results from one context and situation to another.

– Funding:

  1. a) Invest before: Friends & Family, University.
  2. b) Invest after product and traction: Accelerator, Angels, Seed Money, Funding Agencies, Venture Capital, Private Equity, IPO.
  3. c) Alternative Tools and Types of Funding: Co-investment facilities, Crowdfunding.

– Intellectual Property. Regulatory aspects. Standards. Protection & Valuation; includes patent, brand and license management. A strong IP infrastructure is the key to innovation.

– Identify and overcome cognitive and emotional biases: Eliminate prediction errors in order to improve intuitive judgment and decision making on behalf of startupers and potential investors. Such biases should be addressed in the design phase (conjunctive and disjunctive errors) as well as in the use of the innovation.

In summary: We need connectivity and clusters to harness scale and specialization. But we also need the right tools to harness antifragility and produce a multiplicative effect on innovation impact, startup success rate and public policy outcomes.