Some weeks ago, I received an Email from Joe Dager, inviting me to be interviewed for his fantastic and well-distributed podcast and blog business901.com. I read lots of tweets and quite some blog posts by Joe, whom I have been following on twitter since years.
He picked up my upcoming talk at LKCE 2013 on the Boundaries of Kanban regarding radical innovation, which is one of my favorite topics right now (more on that later). And in fact, he wanted to make that topic part of his blog and podcast universe. Reading the list of previous guests in his universe, I was more than honored and of course interested in how he can keep up such a continuous output of great content.
The answer is simple to speak out but hard to do: He is very professional, to the point and still very inviting, friendly and organized in everything he’s doing. I think in about one email and five minutes he had the topic set up with me. The way he prepares the interview is flawless, no junk, no confusion. But this again leaves him all the room for free thinking, great questions and also getting into the topic but also understanding the thoughts coming up in the interview. He simply uses the routine and the no slack format he creates to let valuable content emerge. He then uses the material of the interview for a clever multi channel strategy to create reach for the content produced. He creates a blog post upfront of the podcast publish to create the first buzz and only then publishes the podcast. The podcast itself is highest audio quality and also a lot of ‘ummms’ and ‘aaahhs’ and ‘eeeemms’ are edited out, so that the guest (me at least) sounds a lot more fluent and coherent than he actually performed in the interview. Nice. But although I now witnessed the process, I still don’t understand how Joe can do it, week by week! Awesome! Thanks, Joe!
To the topic: In the interview we pick up the question if the linear approach of Kanban fits highly non linear processes like Sales, Marketing or highly innovative product exploration. In short: I don’t think so. Kanban is a great match for most of what is going on in companies from product maintenance up to feature-by-feature innovation. And there is my tool of choice. And this part of the world is required. But when it comes to break through innovative product creation, it simply doesn’t fit what is going on. If you look at how gaming companies conceive new games: No Scrum, no Kanban involved. Would Apple rely on a linear process to come up with new categories? No way. The boundary for me currently is where the innovators dilemma sets in. Kanban is part of operational excellence, which is part of the analytical mind set that companies need to leverage the potential of their new products at the moment where the recipe is already discovered. But before that, when new potential problems need to be discovered, rather solved right away, no such thing as Kanban is required. Here, lots of going back is required, often. and again, and again to gain the right level of depth of understanding the problem space. These are completely different work conditions than in thosw where you need to come up with the solution in an efficient way and go on improving that solution. Kanban supports leveraging the right thing by doing it better and better. But as w/ many methodologies, finding the right thing to do is orthogonal to that. Right now, my answer is in the design toolkit like design thinking and design studio for this domain. And, don’t get me wrong: Companies need both: The repeatability of Kanban and the validity of Design Thinking et al.One could say, I am talking about a small spot, a small issue. But it is a spot that worries me, as it is the blind spot of most companies I meet nowadays. The blind spot that lets companies concentrate on excellence, on ‘doing things right’ and getting better by using an analytical mindset. A mindset that we are trained in since the 18th century and which is a huge achievement – for many things. But the very same companies need to train their intuitive, abductive thinking mindset to come up with new solutions, asking backwards from ‘what if”. And this, in no way is supported by any software development or change method I know of.
If you want to hear more on it, listen to Joe Dager’s podcast or visit the LKCE 2013 conference to listen to my talk. Also, I just saw David P Joyce talk answering the same questions, and coming to similar but still different solutions. Read more from him in his eBook offerings on Theories of Work or on his blog or try to hear him speak: Another brilliant experience.