Port 2050: Vancouver scenario planning

Robin Silvester, CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, gave the annual address at the Vancouver Board of Trade and wrote an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun on the subject of long range planning and the implications of four future scenarios for the Greater Vancouver Gateway region.

The scenarios were part of a Port Metro Vancouver initiative called Port 2050 which I worked on earlier this year with strategy firm Adaptive Edge and the PMV leadership team. We engaged hundreds of stakeholders and PMV employees to co-create four different visions of how the Vancouver region’s future might unfold over the next three decades.

It is fantastic to see the scenarios in print, and to see how the Port has already used them as a tool to interpret recent events and to drive further future planning. Kudos to PMV!

Port 2050 participants agreed that we need to develop the policies, programs and mechanisms that allow us to adapt to local, provincial, national and global change. In fact, we had begun contemplating various avenues required over the next few years to allow all of us to do just that — to adapt to future and as-yet uncertain global events.

But then things changed. The Greece crisis. The Italy crisis. Monetary and market upheavals. The Occupy movement, and the questioning its early hours provoked in the public about fundamental and important issues. In a flash, global shocks and economic developments indicating that the changes and volatility we collectively envisaged in the Port 2050 process were real, and closer than we thought.

Robin Silvester, Vancouver Sun op-ed, November 23, 2011. Future Jobs Need Planning Now. (PDF)

Robin Silvester, Vancouver Board of Trade Annual Address 2011. A Time To Plan, and a Time to Act. (PDF)

Port Metro Vancouver: Port 2050 Summary Report (alt PDF)

Strategy vs. Business Model innovation

A post on the Innovation Excellence blog asks, “Is business model innovation just another name for strategy?” The author, John Steen, answers in the affirmative in the case of incremental innovation, but argues that radical business model reinvention reaches beyond the conventional strategy toolkit.

I think that strategy and business model innovation diverges when we talk about radical business model innovation. Why? Because strategy is still based upon conventional thinking about planning, prediction and measurement. Moving to very different business models needs the tools and concepts from innovation management rather than predictions and plans from strategy textbooks. Tools such as real options and the three horizons will help stage the innovation process to reduce downside risk and capture the upside. Innovation jams and lead-users might be useful to get new ideas on other business models. Stage-gate methods might enable us to trial new business models and scale up as some models show signs of being successful.

Five Dysfunctions of a Digital Team

When an organization’s external digital presence is inconsistent or incoherent, this is nearly always a symptom of deeper internal structural problems, such as:

Silos: The people responsible for digital work are isolated from the rest of the organization. They can’t get the information they need to support other teams/departments until it’s too late. The digital lead or team ends up becoming a quick-turn-around production team expected to blast emails without strategic input or considerations for member engagement. The digital lead may not be seated at a high enough level within the organization to be proactive, or the digital staff may be a sub-unit of an existing team that has a director who does not represent digital well for leadership or cross-team planning opportunities.

Personality Fit: You have the wrong person in the digital role—he/she may have some historically appropriate skills but otherwise brings the wrong attitude and is unable to work collaboratively with others. Digital work interfaces with all aspects of an organization, so the person responsible must be open-minded, solutions-oriented, and ideally a delight to work with. If your digital lead creates resistance, or seems conditioned to say “no” more than “let’s figure this out,” you are—at best—stifling the growth of your organization’s digital program. At worst, you are enabling the growth of a toxic environment around digital work, and your organization may spend years trying to recover.

Overload: The digital lead or team has too much to do and is unable to prioritize work. This is one of the most common conditions we see. Your leadership may have undue expectations for how long R&D or even basic online operations should take, and they don’t know how many requests are coming in from all angles. Often the digital team isn’t the right size to keep up with increasing demands, or the digital lead is unable to prioritize the work on their own. Sometimes, they don’t know how to say no to requests that are unrealistic or that don’t fit their vision (if they have one—see the next point). Leadership can exacerbate the overload by asking the digital lead to chase after new bells and whistles, which they may not have the confidence or experience to push back on.

Lack of digital vision: The underlying issue beneath overload is typically the lack of a framework to strategically prioritize resources for digital work. Every organization needs a digital vision to set a direction that supports the core mission and business goals of the institution, and to evaluate whether the inevitable new tools, creative ideas, and campaigns “fit” with the strategic approach and should be undertaken. Strong digital teams prioritize new opportunities—and kill bad ones—using a simple rubric of “viability and fit.” To measure viability, they need to be experienced and networked enough to know what’s going to work in the digital world, and empowered enough to stand up to people who don’t. To measure fit requires this vision.

Lack of organizational vision: The problem may not actually be with the digital team at all. A good digital communications or engagement strategy can’t compensate for a missing organizational vision or outdated theory of change, both of which have to come before you can establish a digital framework. If you can’t clearly articulate what your organization is specifically trying to change in the world, how to realistically achieve that change through your current actions, and how your supporters can play a meaningful role in making that change happen, then you’re just asking your digital team to create pseudo engagement with increasingly meaningless actions. It may be the toughest thing to do, but spend some time re-evaluating your overall game plan, offerings, brand story, and engagement model, and then re-evaluate your digital work to support that.

Great analysis and advice regarding challenges in managing and governing the digital function in organizations – by Jason Mogus (@mogusmoves) of Communicopia, Michael Silberman (@silbatron) of Greenpeace, and Christopher Roy (@christopherroy) of Communicopia and Open Directions. Don’t miss the followup piece on Four Models for Managing Digital.

Integrating Sustainability and Corporate Strategy

Integration of sustainability commitments into a company’s competitive strategy plan will increase the likelihood of ongoing funding.

More and more Fortune Global 500 companies are following this approach. Ben Packard, VP of global responsibility at Starbucks described his company’s rationale like this:

At Starbucks, sustainability and strategy are now integrated at the strategic planning level. The global responsibility strategy is driven at the enterprise, strategic planning, and annual operating planning level. One reason we do this is because the bigger costs of driving changes in our supply chain occur outside of the global responsibility budget.

The road to sustainability integration into competitive strategy is difficult. But companies such as Starbucks, UPS, Centrica, and Hitachi are employing three common steps to create “sustainability infused competitive strategies.” These steps include:

Seek natural ways to tie sustainability and strategy together

Connect sustainability to opportunity

Integrate materiality issues into competitive strategy

Good examples of how leading companies are ensuring corporate sustainability initiatives provide value and do not get marginalized.

Engineering Serendipity with Kris Krug

Kris Krug is a photographer extraordinaire, social media documentarian, and global nomad who splits time between Vancouver, nearby Galiano Island, and the rest of the world. He was most recently in the South Pacific, documenting videographer Chris Jordan’s film on plastic pollution in the oceans, Midway. We met up on one of the rare days when KK is actually in Vancouver, and had a conversation about life on the web and life on the road, and how he connects with interesting people and projects wherever he goes.

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I was interested in his perspective as input to my projects RedRovr — a site for fans to request artists, speakers, and performers to come to their city — and 99speakers, a site for finding and booking long tail speakers. But the more we spoke, the more universal his advice seemed.

I’ve condensed our conversation into four principles from Kris Krug for “engineering serendipity” in your life and work — a guide to stacking the odds of good luck in your favor.

1. Send out a signal

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KK makes a living documenting others with his photography, but he is also a pro at documenting his own life, activities, and work. He attributes this near-constant stream of tweets, location updates, blog posts, and photos with landing photography gigs, meeting up with friends old and new, receiving referrals from friends orienting him to opportunities or people in the area. KK lives more online than most people, but the principle remains — you need to communicate about what you are up to and interested in in order to be found.

2. Scan the horizon

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KK doesn’t just send out his own signal, but makes sure to maintain an awareness of what people in his orbit are up to — “persistent scanning of infinite noise.” This scanning is an opportunity for pattern recognition — whether that is seeing an emergent idea, person, or thing, or noticing that different people are looking for or talking about complementary things.

3. Reach out to people

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The flip side of scanning is actually acting on the patterns you see — reaching out to people you know as well as people you don’t — someone who is visiting your city, connecting people who don’t know each other, amplifying someone’s call for assistance, etc. KK is nonstop with this, which is a key ingredient to his success.

4. Give more than you take

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This principle underlies all the others — giving more than you take from any given situation. KK talks about going camping as a kid, where his dad would advise them to leave the campsite better than they had found it, whether tidying up a tent site or replacing a rock in a fire ring. KK extends this idea to relationships and projects, and tries to use any media attention or time he has in the spotlight to shine light on other folks doing great work. Beyond specific actions, it’s an attitude he tries to bring into all his interactions.

Despite all this advice, serendipity remains largely resistant to our efforts to engineer it — this is one of the qualities of serendipity. However, some have said good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity — and Kris Krug’s four principles are an excellent way of making sure you are prepared.

Thanks KK for a great conversation.

Why innovation resists codification

The latest book on [design thinking] is Designing for Growth, a “design thinking toolkit for managers” and it provides a pretty good snapshot of how people are thinking about the discipline right now. Namely, that the reins of design thinking lie firmly in the hands of executives. In this world, design thinking is shorthand for the process implemented in a more creatively driven type of workshop, one involving visual thinking, iteration and prototyping. In this world, you don’t have to be a designer to be a design thinker, and the process has been codified as a repeatable, reusable business framework.

This is all, arguably, fine. But mostly it unwittingly highlights the true tension at the heart of the design thinking debate. A codified, repeatable, reusable practice contradicts the nature of innovation, which requires difficult, uncomfortable work to challenge the status quo of an industry or, at the very least, an organization. Executives are understandably looking for tidy ways to guarantee their innovation efforts — but they’d be better off coming to terms with the fact that there aren’t any.

Helen Walters of Doblin on the challenges of integrating design thinking into business.