A Framework for Innovation 🪜

Introducing the Mobius Loop framework and the Open Practice Library a framework you can use to build your own!

A Framework for Innovation 🪜
The Open Practice Library, based on the Mobius Loop

Issue No. 31

This is a project by Jeremy Brown. I'm a journeyman sharing insights on leading product & engineering teams, building products, and exploring technology.
I will also share occasional updates on my overall project as I build this newsletter and "The Retrospective" (a live show and podcast) in the open.

Last week, I talked about how we can innovate by following an algorithm of rapid experimentation, which is rather like a hill-climbing algorithm.

I made the point that how we work is likely to drive innovation than being a genius (or hiring a bunch of geniuses).

This week, I want to share a framework you can use within your organisation that will help you build your own "innovation algorithm".

I believe this framework can support many different process philosophies from Agile to Lean and, yes, even Waterfall!

💬 In this issue, I cover:

  • 🪜 A Framework for Innovation
    • ♾️ Introducing the Mobius Loop
    • 🔃 Building On Mobius - The Open Practice Library
    • 🛠️ Building On The Open Practice Library
    • 🏗️ Create Your Own Practice Library
  • 🔦 Highlight of the Week

A Framework for Innovation 🪜

I'm a big fan of frameworks as they help us organise how we think and work.

♾️ Introducing the Mobius Loop

I have found the Mobius Loop is a fantastic framework that captures this innovation algorithm loop I've described.

The Mobius Loop is a navigator created by an open-source community to visualise a way of working that focuses on generating outcomes by working in a continuous flow of innovation from discovery to design to delivery.

The following is taken and abbreviated from a blog post by Gabrielle Benefiel, the Mobius Loop creator, that explains it well.

Mobius is connected with three main parts.

The first Mobius navigator featuring the Discover, Decide (Options), and Deliver maps.

Discovery: to understand why and generate the Outcomes. Options: figure out how to deliver the outcomes. Delivery: put your ideas to the test, run experiments, and learn what works and what doesn’t.

These three parts are connected with the Mobius Loop. The name Mobius comes from a discovery by two German mathematicians to describe a surface with one continuous path, the Mobius Strip.

The Mobius Strip, the inspiration for the Mobius Loop

The Mobius Strip is a good metaphor for how continuous learning evolves and how external needs and internal delivery are intertwined.

The idea is to create a continuous flow of value to the customer.

As you move through the loop, you will progress from discovery and analysis through delivery and learning. The key elements to stay focused on are:

Understand why - Why are you doing this? Explore the current situation and what you are trying to achieve before jumping to solutions.

Outcomes over outputs - Maximize outcomes, not outputs. Outcomes are the compass to steer your efforts.

Find the simplest path - Cut through complexity. Experiment and find the simplest path to reach the desired Outcome.

Continuously learn and adapt - Delivering outcomes is only the beginning. Learn early, learn often, and adapt based on what really happens.

🔃 Building On Mobius - The Open Practice Library

Tim, one of my colleagues in Red Hat's Open Innovation Labs, suggested we adopt the Mobius Loop to help our customers understand the practices and ways of working we were proposing.

We started to collect our practices into a "practice library" for our team to use with our customers and for our customers to experiment with and adopt. This went on to become The Open Practice Library.

Through our work, we realised that a category of cultural and technical practices was missing in the Mobius Loop, so we added a layer called the "Foundation" to our downstream version of Mobius.

Practices can be mapped to one of four parts of the loop:

The Open Practice Library builds on the Mobius Loop by adding a "Foundation" layer
  • Discovery - practices to help define target outcomes.
  • Options - practices to help identify the path to the right outcomes.
  • Delivery - practices to put your ideas to the test. Learn what works and what doesn’t.
  • Foundation - Cultural and technical practices in the foundational layer that accelerate and maximise how we go around the Mobius Loop.

Through many fantastic contributions, the Open Practice Library has grown significantly.

🛠️ I've Built My Own Open Practice Library!

You might have noticed that I've regularly referred to various practices in the Open Practice Library (and the links on my site point to my own library).

The Open Practice Library is a collection of many different practices.

An overwhelming collection of them, in fact.

This is thanks to the vibrant community of folks that have contributed over the years.

I wanted to create a more opinionated subset of practices that I feel are relevant to how I work and coach teams to work.

So, I built my own "downstream" version of the practice library as an opinionated collection of practices. I built it first and foremost for me.

This doesn't mean that my selection of practices is the best selection. Far from it.

However, I have experience using them, and they fit logically together.

While you can level many criticisms at Agile frameworks such as Scrum, they are a great way for teams starting out to get going.

I always say Scrum is a great place for teams to start, but if they are still doing Scrum by the book in six months, they are not using the full power of their retrospectives to evolve how they work for their circumstances.

In the same way, as scrum provides a jumping-off point to adopt Agile, I plan to provide some breadcrumb trails for teams to use to navigate the loop in future posts.

However, these collections of practices are meant as a starting point that should be adapted over time.

👉 Check it out here! 👈

🏗️ Create Your Own Practice Library

One thing I've noticed in every place I've worked is the lack of a clear set of practices for the organisation.

I've seen people use some of these practices (and others) in their workshops or adopt them into their team's ways of working.

I've seen some ways of working clearly documented, of course, but these are usually things like how to do status reporting, use Jira or GitLab, etc.

But I've never seen an organisation provide a starting point for a set of practices teams can use, especially for discovery but also for navigating our options.

Usually, efforts to document practices focus on going around the delivery loop and how to use tools. Even where an organisation does great discovery work, it often focuses more on tools than teaching a cohesive set of practices.

So you end up with some bright spots where folks bring what they've done before or try what they've read about in blogs and videos.

I think that providing a good starting point for "how to work" in various situations that folks can build on top of is one of the ways that you can raise the performance bar of a whole organisation.

Creating your own practice library sets a standard and shows what good work looks like. This helps everyone improve while still allowing room for new ideas and experiments.

If you want to build your own set of practices or already have one, consider using Mobius and the Open Practice Library. They can help explain how your practices fit together and work.

💬 If you had some thoughts while reading this, I would love to hear them in the comments.

🔦 Highlight of the Week

I guess you can call me a fan of the ideas and framing of leadership by David Marquet!

This quote felt appropriate in the context of innovation - our job as leaders is to release the inherent talent in others.

Our world’s bright future will be built by people who have discovered that leadership is the enabling art. It is the art of releasing human talent and potential. You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position, power, or fear, but a human being’s genius, passion, loyalty, and tenacious creativity are volunteered only. The world’s greatest problems will be solved by passionate, unleashed “volunteers.”