The Power of a Model

Last week the awesome Dr. Amantha Imber, founder of Inventium and I ran the first part of the 2012 Leading Innovation Program. It’s a great program we run over six months exclusively for heads of innovation from non-competing corporates. We figured that people heading up innovation don’t really have a peer group they can connect with, and that there would be value in bringing them together for four workshops over a six-month period.

Turns out we were right, and our first run last year went very successfully, so we’re going around again this year.

The program teaches best practice innovation for a large organisation, and last year we had it organised into six modules. This year as part of the preparation Amantha and I sat down to see if we could crack a master model – something that captured the whole program.

We wrestled a bit with the six modules, separated a couple and ended up with nine elements of best practice innovation organised into a 3 x 3 matrix. It was a nice piece of work, but the program is essentially the same content, we’ve just organised it differently.

Strange thing happened though when we ran the workshop. The participants kept referring back to the model. At the end when we asked what was the biggest thing that people were taking away from the first day, our model kept popping up. We even have one participant who wants to take it back to his leadership team and use it as a diagnostic tool for looking at innovation in their organisation.

Which begs the question, why are models so powerful? How come the same information in a matrix is so much more engaging than as a list? And I have to say I’m not really sure. I think part of it is that when we get a lot of information, it’s a challenge not just to absorb it, but also to order it and to understand the relationships within it – a good model does that. It also provides a context, and helps us work out where to file the knowledge in our brain.

Whatever the reason is, I know that a good model makes everything else better. It’s one of the competitive advantages that anyone who has learned the Thought Leaders’ “Pink Sheet” methodology has – the skills to create great models.

Love to hear your thoughts and experience. When have you experienced the power of a great model? You can leave your comments below.