7 May 2019

Transformational innovation comes from a deep understanding of WHY change is necessary in the first place. In other words, defining the problem we’re trying to solve.

Transformational innovation comes from a deep understanding of WHY change is necessary in the first place. In other words, defining the problem we’re trying to solve.

The global picture is important context for defining that WHY. The world’s population continues to grow, age and urbanise, shaping the future of all aspects of the housing value chain: from the impact of the sand shortage on building materials innovation through to the changing expectations of customers around smart home technology. Meanwhile greater global connectivity gives us access to the largest ever range of ideas and tools to help deliver transformation.

For housing associations, a foresightful approach to innovation is an effective mechanism for balancing immediate local needs with the fast changing global picture. Before you embark on your transformation journey, always:

  1. Scan the horizon
    Explore and understand the macro trends shaping the global environment. How are STEEPL trends evolving? Where are there examples of innovation from other countries, sectors and businesses that could be applied to the challenges faced by housing associations?
  2. Get to grips with the SO WHAT
    Which trends and changes most impact your business and sector, and how will they evolve over the next two, four and eight years? It’s helpful to align the first time horizon to your existing planning cycle. Taking the long view now will help to mitigate the risks of unexpected developments in the future.
  3. Align around the NOW WHAT
    Identify, agree and prioritise the innovation platforms for your business. Focus first on the most meaningful in the context of the big WHY. A good understanding of your own organisational purpose will help you to prioritise next steps.

Starting with WHY rather than HOW will, among many other benefits:

  • form the foundation of a vision for the future of your organisation
  • help to foster alignment across your stakeholder group (within and beyond the business) by identifying shared goals
  • allow broad platforms for potential innovation to be identified and agreed (customer experience, sustainable materials, business model design)
  • provide a ‘guide’ for innovation as it progresses i.e. is the WHY still being delivered?

Finally it’s really important to resist the temptation to rush to solutions. Activate your curiosity and take the time to explore the changing global context if you plan to deliver sustainable and meaningful innovation.

Eleanor Winton

Eleanor is Managing Director of Forsightfully

Eleanor is Managing Director of Forsightfully and works closely with businesses facing the 'new normal', a business environment that presents new opportunities and new risks at a faster pace than ever before.

“We more frequently fail to face the right problem than fail to solve the problem we face”