Applying the 3H Perspective

by Paul Hobcraft

Having different perspectives and voices will enhance your innovation activities; they provide diversity, stimulus and greater options for you to consider the future innovation journey. How do we set about engaging with all these different voices surrounding innovation?

The three horizon framework

It is really useful for managing your innovation activities, drawing out the often conflicting voices within the organization on how to take innovation forward. The approach can unlock you from just being caught in the present, to one of envisaging a future that then allows you to begin to build different capabilities, competencies and capacities.

Find out more here and here and here on the three horizons framework. You will find  I have provided a considerable overview in different posts that build on the thoughts around the 3H thinking and why I place such value in it for innovation’s evolution.

Applying the 3H perspective

The 3H framework offers a perspective that accepts the need to both address the multiple challenges that occur in the first horizon, foster the seeds of the third and, allocate appropriate focus and resources to manage the transitions from one to another.

What makes the model valuable to innovators is that it ‘accepts’ that competition is restless, markets are evolving, and that change is a constant. The three horizons approach offers the methodology for constructing plausible and coherent innovation activities projected out into the future. It looks for emerging winners.

The 3H is simply not a planning tool

If you use this 3H framework well it is providing a valuable evolutionary perspective that dialogues can be formed around. This can lead to better decisions on where to focus and what resources to apply can be based on a more plausible and coherent set of activities projected into the future. It brings you to that constant searching for emerging winners, those that can potentially change and challenge your existing business but evolve it in clear ways. The 3H is a dialogue mechanism to help frame the evolving journey and allow you to move towards it in a better structured way.

The three voices that need to be in the same room

The need is to discuss the challenges in horizon one and nurture the seeds of the third. It is not an either/or, good/bad discussion. You need those robust discussions to form fresh perspectives.

The key is in listening out and becoming adept at managing these conversations between the ‘three separated voices’ of the three horizons you need to work across. These are:

• You have the voice of today, the voice of the manager(s) responsible for delivering todays result that are more concerned with managing the existing, maximizing returns and keeping the organization going efficiently and effectively.

• Then you have the second voice, the voice of the entrepreneur, the one eager to experiment, try out new things, explore and extend, accepting some aspects will not work

• Last we have the third voice, the voice of the aspirant, who is looking to build a different vision, believing in different, more pioneering ways and visualize things in their ‘mind’s eye’, far more aspirational, that can seemingly on first ‘take’ look to be totally incompatible to the reality of today.

Synthesising these different voices

The different voices involved can be highly engaged, all wanting to add their perspective, you need to listen to them. You need to search for common ground, growing recognition and sometimes realization, that these are not so much separate voices, but actually ones that can all be combined, to provide a far greater outcome when they can ‘see the same future’ but through their own specific voice.

It is the combination of these different three voices that need to come together and help frame the innovation journey. It is by applying and using the three horizons framework and its methodology you can draw out and advance better outcomes for your future innovation activity.

Change does come from different experiments and explorations

It is partly through the treatment of innovation, feeding into the system a rising wave of future innovations that alter positions. Staying stuck in ‘just’ incremental to serve the existing conditions in the market seriously constrains you for the future, you stop growing, exploring, being curious and experimental.

You need to encourage experimentation, testing, prototyping, accelerating the learning and then being ready to scale what holds promise and abandon what seems not too. For this you need all the voices within your organization seeing the future, so they can consciously work towards it, even when it might seem vague and not fully clear. The 3H framework draws out discussions, it helps project into the future.

Just always remember, the present is already in decline.

Look out, do not stay locked in. Entrenchment limits your options to break out, as much as you might feel it needs defending, as its providing your present day core.

Encourage all three voices in any innovation discussions!

image credit: Colin

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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Find him @paul4innovating

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