Focus on Capability 0

Overview 1

True breakthrough innovation comes from thinking outside the box, rather than incrementally improving what you already have or know. So are you focusing on telephone technology, or communications? ... trains or transportation? ... shipping or delivery? ... or something else entirely? To foster innovation, focus on the capability. By definition, innovation implies a focus on real customer needs, "the successful creation and delivery of new customer value in the marketplace" [Carlson, 2006]. 1a

Next, what is a capability made of, how do you innovate it, and which capabilites provide the most leverage?1b

What is "Capability"? 2

Collective IQ diagram
Collective IQ diagram
Click to enlarge
Source: see Engelbart's Bootstrap Paradigm Map for whole series of slides unfolding.

Where to start? Regardless of which capabilities you focus on for innovation, it helps to have a deeper understanding of what capabilities are made of and how they improve. Early on, Doug Engelbart recognized that most capabilities rely on a variety of interdependent capabilities, all of which make up what he called our capability infrastructure. For example, the ability to solve a problem collaboratively depends on our ability to communicate with language, to use acceptable conventions and methodologies for working together, to identify opportunities, plan, implement, etc. 2a

In fact, our innate abilities are augmented by a huge system of cultural practices, paradigms, procedures, customs, methodologies, and the like, which Doug termed the Human System, as well as a formidable physical system of artifacts, facilities, tools, media, machinery, and so on, which he termed the Tool System. Combined, these form our Augmentation System. For example, our ability to write a memo is possible because of Human System elements such as a learned understanding of the language, what a memo is for, and how to organize and unfold the information, as well as Tool System elements such as authoring and distribution tools, media, etc., all operating as an integrated and seamless Augmentation System. So a capability is dependent on many other capabilities, each of which relies on our innate abilities augmented by our Human-Tool Augmentation Systems. To change a capability, you make changes in its Augmentation System. 2b

Watch a video of Doug presenting these concepts (fast forward to 34:48).

Innovating vs. step-wise improvement 3

Our current capabilities came to us through centuries of gradual changes in our Human and Tool Systems co-evolving one from the other. For example, the printing press was invented, and for centuries more and more pockets of people around the globe gradually learned to harness it effectively, with enormous reverberating political, economic, and societal transformation, which over time in turn inspired improvements of the printing tools, facilities, media, and so forth. So that's how capabilites generally improve, through co-evolution. If you change an existing tool or practice, and toss it into the mix to let co-evolution take its course, it could be many years before the full potential is realized, held up by some degree of ad-hoc aimless co-evolution, and even failure -- history is littered with inventions that either did not augment capability, or de-augmented capability, and the third world is littered with failed development projects that did not take the Human System or appropriate technology into account. If you pull one thread in the Augmentation System it's hard to predict what will come of it. 3a

On the other hand, to revolutionize a capability, to innovate for dramatic capability improvement, you can jumpstart and accelerate the co-evolution proactively. So, focus on capability, engage the end users and other stakeholders up front, start outside the box with a clean slate -- forget about how things are done now, think about what we could do if we weren't limited by today's technologies or practices -- paying special attention to opportunities in both the Human and the Tool Systems, and pioneering the co-evolution of the two. 3b

Why Collective IQ? 4

Like isolating genes in a DNA sequence, Doug thought through a capability hierarchy for solving world problems, and isolated and targeted the primary collective capabilities that every grand challenge depends on: (1) collective IQ; and, (2) our collective ability to improve collective IQ. He realized that if we could elevate these two for special focus, they would feed off each other, and we'd be increasingly smarter and faster at addressing all the other challenges we face. 4a

So regardless of which capabilities you and your organization are focusing on now, Collective IQ warrants special focus in every organization, in every part of the organization, everywhere. This is the cross-cutting capability to solve important problems collectively, effectively, and on a global scale. Collective IQ is a measure of how effectively people can leverage their collective smarts -- whether it's preventing or putting out fires, coming out with better products or services, or improving quality of life somehow, somewhere.

Be aware that however low or high our Collective IQ is now, it is probably not high enough. The complexity and urgency of challenges we face today are increasing at unprecedented rates, literally exponentially. Thus we need to get dramatically smarter and faster at how we work together to address important challenges, and to do this we need in parallel to get alot smarter and faster at how we improve how we work together.

To fast-track this effort, Doug designed several powerful innovation accelerators into his strategy for bootstrapping the innovation, much of which can be applied to any innovation initiative, but which offers extra special leverage for innovating Collective IQ => when you can harness what you innovate to become faster, smarter innovators, you get a compounding return on your investment. 4b

Thus, focus on Collective IQ is at once crucial, time critical, and the single greatest point of leverage for any organization, initiative, region, nation, or planet -- wherever Collective IQ matters. 4c

See About Collective IQ for a breakdown of component capabilities that enable our Collective IQ capability. 4d

Further Inquiry 5