Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Conflict Resolutiom: It's not about personality

By: Ciaran Nagle, Global Marketing Manager, OND LLC

Personality Clash. It's an unscientific term for something we see very often and yet understand very little. It's a major cause of firings and the second-biggest factor in resignations (the biggest factor is neglect, but that will be covered in another post).

It's commonly evinced in phrases like 'I don't get on with him/her', 'we don't see eye to eye' or the brutally honest 'they can't stand each other'.

So why is it that two, often very talented and highly-motivated people, can't work together in the same team? Some people think it's an inevitable 'Alpha Battle' in which the office's dominant characters vie for supremacy and control. But we've all witnessed dozens of situations where ambitious execs work co-operatively too. These are by far the majority. Something else must be going on to cause the type of hostility we see in these internecine clashes between otherwise civilised people.

Science can throw a light on this. Method Teaming is a science that understands how different people's 'Intellects' combine to form the perfect team. In this context 'Intellect' is not how intelligent you are. It is how your intelligence is channelled. We each have one of only four primary Intellects and these will stay with us throughout our life. If we are lucky, we will find ourselves in a work team where our unique Intellect (our primary Intellect plus all the secondaries) is a natural fit with the Intellects of our colleagues. But if not, we may find that our Intellect jars with others and there are two of us who are trying to do the same job. This is a natural cause of conflict.

According to Method Teaming the problem with a 'personality clash' between two employees is not that they can't stand each other. It's that they can't understand each other. A Method Teaming Intellect Profile (MTIP) carried out on both of them would illuminate how and why they are trying to occupy the same space. Once they understand each other's Intellect and natural motivations - the unseen drivers that fuel our sense of purpose - they would realise that the other one is not trying to be competitive, but is simply being pulled in a particular direction by their underlying strengths and talents. Cue a tearful meeting to work things out and distribute responsibilities.

Method Teaming in Action                                

We are rarely able to report on occasions when Method Teaming is used within a corporation to resolve conflict. But one of our trainers recently brought Method Teaming into play in the course of some long-running family tensions. Here's her story. If you don't speak Method Teaming, skip over the technical detail and absorb the rest:

A Tale of Two Brothers. How Method Teaming® healed a breach in a critical relationship, making a team stronger.

Our subject is a large, close-knit family. It is a team bound by blood and a commitment to help one another.  A series of minor misunderstandings, layered with frustration allowed mistrust to fester.  From mistrust rose factions threatening the family health. Sound like a team you’ve been on? What to do?

Central to our story are two brothers, Juan and Tomas. I had the opportunity to create a Method Teaming® Intellect Profile for each.  What I learned, then shared with them and the family, changed everyone’s perception of one of the brothers, for the better.  The trust gap was closed.  Going forward, decisions were made differently. 

The brothers were close in age and temperament.  Both highly intelligent and driven.  They chose the same profession.  Though not competitors in business or even in the family, neither aimed to best the other.  But on one issue they continued to butt heads: meeting the needs of the extended family.

Juan was seen as unreservedly generous.  Whatever was needed, calendars were cleared, wallets opened, no questions asked. Tomas was seen as resistant, less responsive and generous. The timing wasn’t convenient, he always seemed to say. He was known to grumble, “You’re making me look bad.”  Did he want to help or not?  It was hard to tell.

Siblings and spouses talked quietly behind the scenes, albeit never maliciously, as this was against family code. Their objective: find a productive way to deal with this divide. Their informal decision? Ask less of Tomas. Strife lessened, though an uncomfortable, unspoken undercurrent survived.

Was it an accurate read of Tomas’ intentions?  Could the trust gap be closed with deeper understanding? Small fissures can crack open big objects under stress. How many small, misunderstandings result in preventable blow-ups that threaten or derail critical work in our teams?

Let’s consider their profiles.  As a Method Teaming consultant, what did I see?

Since Tomas’ behavior was perceived more negatively, let’s begin there. 

  1.  Motivators.  The SOC is above the horizontal bar and above the Ind.  Tomas puts the needs of others ahead of himself.  The IND is above the bar, as is the TRA, indicating Tomas is highly motivated to ‘make a difference.’ These are supported by the evidence.
    1. His profession requires consistent empathy.  He was highly regarded, garnering many awards and a large, loyal clientele.
    2. He served as President or Executive Board member of his company, a large school as wellas multiple national and international professional societies.  He taught classes around the world and wrote chapters in textbooks.
  2. Natural Behavior.  Right facing C means Tomas likes to have structure, systems and plans.  The evidence:
    1. His calendar, combining family, social and professional obligations is planned over 18 months in advance.  Given the variety of highly responsible roles he manages, this is critical to his success and our story.
    2. His profession is a regular target for lawsuits.  Repeatable systems are critical.
  3. Cognitive Structure:
    1. Combining Intuitive C+2, attentiveness to people and their needs, with his Motivational pattern, Tomas will be concerned when he can’t meet his commitments to others. When asked to juggle plans or resources on the fly, he is convinced he will look bad to someone.
    2. Combining Pragmatic C-2 with Conceptual C+2 magnifies things.  Tomas is hyper attentive to creating detailed plans to ensure success.  He hates problems, which must be dealt with now especially those causing his intricate plan to derail.  
Knowing this, are you surprised that Tomas seems unresponsive when asked to ‘drop everything,’ to help a member of the extended family?  Couldn’t you predict it?

How about Juan?

There are interesting similarities. But there are also two material differences. 

  1.  Natural Behavior: Left facing C.  Juan doesn’t rely heavily on plans and systems, at least outside work.  He likes to respond to one-off situations with new approaches.
  2. Cognitive Behavior: Conceptual U-1.  Need a new plan?  No sweat.  Juan can create them in volume, on demand.
Need someone to devise a plan to meet an unexpected problem? Juan is a natural.

Working hypothesis:  Give Tomas more time to plan how he is going to help the family and he will do so, in equal measure to Juan. 

The result: Tomas was ecstatic that the family finally got it!  Yes, just give him some warning. He wanted to help all along.  It took time to convince the family.  Building trust takes time.  It is the hardest element to build in a successful relationship, and the easiest to destroy.  It has happened. Tomas now initiates and funds major family events.  This forces the rest of family to block their calendars much further in advance than they would otherwise.  However, they tell us, “It is always worth it.”

Do you have a 'Tomas' in your business team, someone who is high capable but never seems to give of their best? Method Teaming will help you identify the cause and show you how to fix it. It might be something very simple, but if you don't know how to look for it, it will continue to fester and cost the rest of the team dear. Build your entire team with Method Teaming. Get all the parts working together like wheels in a well-oiled machine.

(With thanks to Susan Duralde.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Innovation Inside the Box: A Systematic Approach to Link Innovation and Marketing Strategy

Innovation Inside the Box: A Systematic Approach to Link Innovation and Marketing Strategy
By Drew Boyd, Executive Director of the Master of Science in Marketing, University of Cincinnati 

Back End of Innovation Conference Keynote: 2016
The thesis of this talk is that Creativity is a skill, not a gift. This practical advice starts with a promise from Boyd: “I’m going to teach you how to use your brain to innovate anyway you want.”
He then discussed the origin story of the “think outside of the box” mythology. When you send people outside of the box, the mind suffers anxiety. The mind works better inside the box, he says, with constraints.
He then quoted Beatle Paul about “templates” for songwriting. All artist use patterns, he claims. But the artists don’t want you to see the patterns. Patterns boost the creative output. “Innovators and inventors use patterns, too, and they are embedded in the products and services you see everyday.”
The method is Systematic Inventive Thinking—and there are only five patterns. “Innovation follow as set of patterns: Subtractions, task unification, multiplication, division, attribute dependency.” 
Using these patterns you can move from solution to problem, rather than problem to solution.
To use this method, start with an existing situation, and then apply one of the five patterns from above. This thinking tool will yield a virtual product, then vets if it is desired and feasible. At this stage, an idea is born.
Let’s we examine the Subtraction technique. Here’s the method: remove a component, then visualize the new prototype, identify user needs, and then adapt as needed based on the factors of “the closed world.” Taking each piece out and thinking about the possibilities opens up new paths of innovation.
This method forces you to create combinations that you wouldn’t create on your own.
Task Unification is the next method we explored. Here you assign an additional task to a component and walk through the remaining steps of can we and should we do it.
We used “How we can keep consumers in grocery stores longer?” as an exercise. We listed all components, chose one, and then create ideas quickly, with time constraints.
The exercise demonstrated the effectiveness of the technique. Many new ideas were generated. The constraints forced new thinking, new potential value.
Boyd then gave many examples of the five techniques. The book explaining these methods is called Inside the Box.
Many of the innovators were excited about this technique, which works backwards from the empathy-first methods so popular today. Boyd claims that these methods improve the efficacy of brainstorming exponentially.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric, and also serves as VP Innovation at Hunter Fan. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

BEI Opening Keynote: Human Evolution of Innovation

Human Evolution of Innovation
By Kevin Ashton
Ashton opened the conference by taking a picture of the crowd and publishing it on Twitter, which he remarked was revolutionary a decade ago.
"Innovation moves from ridiculous to miraculous to monotonous at light speed because we forget how exciting the present moment can be," Ashton taunts the audience. 
The driving question is how do we get from ridiculous to monotonous so fast? How did we get to here?
This story begins with a Hand Axe, a rock, the first human tool. Early humans—“many species of humans”—made and used these tools. Axes were the first general-purpose tool. The technology didn’t change for millions of years.
Contrast that rate of innovation to all of the changes from 50,000 years ago onward. This timeline is roughly 2,000 generations of humanity.
“What happened 50,000 years ago?” Someone decided to make the hand axe better—and it was the change that changed the world. It took 20,000 develop a spear, and “10,000 after that point, we domesticated our first animals. Five thousand years ago we had the first writing—and the first iPhone came 5,000 years later.”
Is there a process that says that innovation has sped up? “The answer is no," says Ashton. Population numbers have grown from 25 thousand to 7.5 billion in the same time. "When we invented agriculture there were only five million of us, and 50 million when writing was developed.” Enter the idea of knowledge workers.
Ashton does not believe in the “myth of overpopulation,” he says, “What you see here is, the more population we have, the more we can sustain. We have more calories and more food than ever.”
“I encourage you to step back and think about innovation as how the human race thrives and survives.”
In a letter Mozart described his creative process, and here is a paraphrase: “all of my best music comes to me in a moment if I am in a good mood and by myself—and it comes to me fully formed and all I have to do is write it down.” The timing of this letter was the ideal, Romantic alternative to the rise of Darwinism, ushering in the role of the Genius (defined by Ashton with a wry grin as “a special kind of white guy who has flashes of inspiration.”)
Ashton then debunks this myth of genius—as the letter is a fake, written for sociopolitical reasons. Creativity is not magical and special. It is open to everyone who wants to work hard.
Ashton then revisited the Wright Brothers story. What is the problem of flight? “Balance.”
Then, the Wright brothers took their knowledge of bicycle balance and applied it to the problem of sustained flight, hence, “how to fly a horse.” In 1900, they fly a glider, a prototype, fly it, and made some incremental changes. They added propellers as a later phase in solving the problem.
There was no magic moment. “They took a step and then another step, and very gradually solved the many problems until they have something that works.” This is how human beings create—not in a flash of genius.
Failing is a skill—you need to find a way to mitigate risk and learn, he claims. Hence, the team that created the parachute used a mannequin to test, evaluate, and learn. “You can’t fail smart if you get fired, die, or end up in jail.” Later, another inventor demanded he demonstrate his parachute himself—and died in a bad landing. The lesson: go slowly as needed and manage the pressures for speed and glory.
“Which brings us to the iPhone, which did not appear out of nowhere,” Ashton said. The iPhone lineage goes back to touch pads, track pads, and the LG Prada. “The reality is that a whole bunch of different things converged, all of these incremental steps were taken and put together—and that is how innovation happens.”
“Each time you invent a new tool, you invent a new category—think about that. The hand axe had to happen to have the spear and the spear had to happen to lead to the domestication of animals. The same story is true in your work,” claims Ashton.
Don’t forget that “milk is a technology and cheese is a technology.” Today we have gone from a hand axe to traveling to different moons and planets, into outer space.

 Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

BEI 16: Opening Talk by Julie Anixter, Executive Director of AIGA

Opening Talk by Julie Anixter, Executive Director of AIGA
 Back End of Innovation Conference

Julie Anixter began the conference with a slide on the innovation journey. The first step on the journey is Ignored—and goes all the way to Continuous (Here are the stages: ignored, initiated, systematized, embedded, continuous).
The questions set forth are where are you? Why did you come to BEI?
Some crowd answers: learning, networking, tips and tricks, success stories, transitions into digital, because this is the hard part (the back end of innovation), because I volunteered.
Anixter encouraged the community to get to know one another and benefit from exchanging experiences: “You have entered into a tribe of very serious people and you can really benefit by getting to know each other.”
Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN, VP Innovation at Hunter Fans, and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Talent Management: How to turn mediocre innovations teams into superstars

The last time you recruited a bunch of people, you did everything by the book. You chose a great recruitment company to supply the résumés, you thought deeply about your job descriptions, you made sure the management team allocated time to the process and you checked out the candidates' references. It should have worked. And yet all those bright, switched-on people who wowed you at the interview are now walking around with their eyes half-closed and spending too much time at the water cooler.

I've been hoodwinked again, you're thinking, I must be so naïve.

Well take a deep breath and a glass of self-confidence. Because it ain't so.

Those ambitious, bubbly workers you hired are still as ambitious as they were on the day they signed. They still want to change the world. Or at least make their mark on your team.

But it's true that they're frustrated. And it's not because of anything you've done wrong. It's because nobody knew how to read their talent and make sure that it was put to use.

But, I hear you say, you've looked at all of their skills and experience and ensured a close match with the role requirements. Isn't that the same thing?

Not exactly, according to science.

It seems that, when it comes to complicated stuff like career, life goals and 'being all that we can be' our minds work on two principal levels. The top level is our skills and experience. This is very important. But it's a layer that is typically accumulated from the late teen years onwards. The skills and experience layer usually begins in college and we continue to add to it throughout our career. We think it's deep but actually it's fairly superficial.

Beneath the skills layer is another layer that is far more fundamental to our being. This layer is made of our natural strengths and talents. It's our mind's DNA. This layer causes us to use phrases like 'discovering my purpose'. But it's so deep-seated within us that it's like the Earth's tectonic plates - they formed the planet as we know it but they're completely invisible to the eye.

What has happened with your team is that, when they joined you, they hoped that this would be the place where they could find contentment and put their talents to use. Instead they were asked to put their skills to use. And that's a different thing.

All is not lost - you can fix the problem without losing anyone.

Other firms have faced this problem before. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)*, for example. They found many employees were doing the wrong job for their talent. When they fixed it by reorganizing their teams, they found that employee engagement soared as a result.

"Method Teaming provided a valuable and powerful insight to ensure the right people were 'on the bus' and even had the 'CORRECT seats on the bus' for the success of the organization but as important for their individual success and happiness in their careers." Bret Perkins, Director, Technology Services, HPE

The answer lies in recognising that your employees are still the superstars you always thought they were. They are simply playing out of position. Teaming science is a new human science, developed in businesses, that can precisely identify the natural strengths and talents of all your staff. It can also pinpoint the exact role where those talents want to be harnessed and put to work. When that happens you find that you suddenly have a mission-perfect team. All the members of the team know both their own and each other's natural strengths. They know where they fit individually and they know how to get the best from each other. They are like the gears in a machine, effortlessly interlocking with other gears for greatest efficiency; both doing their own work and maximising the capabilities of the entire engine.

When you put people into the position where they can use their natural talent you've helped them find their purpose. That's when mediocrity disappears and all of your superstars shine the way they were always supposed to. That's talent management worth the name.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Six Innovations Pharma Marketers Should Pay Attention To

When we think about innovation in the pharmaceutical industry it is difficult not to also take a look at technological advancements, which includes mobile and electronic devices. These mechanism allow health care providers and practitioners the ability to not only do their jobs more efficiently and at a faster rate, but open the gates for more research and development, fostering more pharma innovations.

With that said, let's take a look at six innovations pharma marketers need to pay attention to in order to better serve HCPs and patients.
Precision Medicine
Precision medicine is an approach in pharmacy that takes into consideration variables how different factors affect individuals differently.

mHealth Sensors
mHealth is a generic term that is used for mobile phone related usage in healthcare. Without a doubt, you’ve heard the term “there’s an app for that” several times by now because truly there’s an app for everything these days.

3D Printing
3D printing is perhaps the most disruptive piece of technology in healthcare. It seems as though there is nothing that cannot be 3D printed.

Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence defines computers with the ability to learn. This is a concept that scientists have been trying to achieve for years.
Nanotechnology is the coming together of engineering and science to create microscopic instruments that are between 1 to 100 nanometers large.
Virtual Reality
Virtual reality or VR is no longer solely about video games. Healthcare has been using virtual reality for research and healthcare procedures for years but the amount of technology companies transforming research into VR applications practically are scarce.
For a more detail look at each innovative processes moving the healthcare industry forward, head over to the ePharma Summit blog.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pivoting Profitably

By: Don Cresswell, SmartOrg

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
 - Robert Burns

New product development and innovation is an exercise in forecasting the future and adapting to the ever-changing present.  When you conceive of a new product or an innovation to improve an existing product, you necessarily make assumptions about the future of your capabilities (including your technology and your productive capacity) and of your potential market.

You cannot truly foresee the future.  Your predictions are only estimates.  As time passes, you discover that some of your assessments have been correct and others have been mistaken.  The key to the success of your product development and innovation is your ability to recognize what is different now from what you predicted and to pivot from your original plans to adapt to the present reality.

Two Stages of Forecasts

At the beginning of a product development or an innovation project, you build your forecasts in two stages.  The first stage is building forecasts on product descriptions and market data.  You create a description of the new product using the assumption that it will be successful, both in production and in the market.  You then test this ideal “if successful” version in the market by comparing it to existing products, consulting surveys of market demand for your proposed improvements, and asking potential buyers their opinions.  From this market information, you create initial sales projections for the product and evaluate whether it will be financially viable.

The second stage happens when you have your product development plan in place.  The product development plan imposes real-world limitations on your ideal product, based on where you believe your technology will be and what production resources you will have when you introduce the product.  These factors of technology, capacity and timing change your ideal product description to a more realistic version.  You then have to test this new version against market information again to revise the sales forecasts and reevaluate the financial viability of the product.  If the sales forecasts indicate the product will fulfill your financial goals you go ahead with development.

From Forecast to Development

As development progresses, you learn how the product will function in the real world.  Prototypes and alpha units help answer whether the product will meet its performance targets and whether it will meet its production cost targets. 

As the achievable characteristics of the product become better understood, you can test the actual market response and learn:

·         Is there a need for a product with these actual performance levels and features?
·         What are consumers willing to spend on this product?
·         What features/performance levels would induce them to spend more?
There are a number of ways your plans can go wrong when your assumptions meet reality:
·         The product can’t do what the initial specifications called for
·         Consumers need more performance or different capabilities than initially assumed
·         Production costs are more than initially assumed
·         Consumers won’t spend as much as initially assumed
When you find your plans have been derailed by problems like these, where do you go from there?

Which Pivot Is Profitable?

When what you are doing (or are planning to do) won’t work, you have to look for something that will work and pivot to that course.  In product development, your alternatives include:

·         Adopt different production methods or cost structures
·         Specify different feature sets
·         Target different market segments
·         Employ different sales structures
·         Cancel this development project and redirect your resources to better projects

How do you choose?  Which pivot will be profitable?  There are several steps to evaluating whether any potential pivot will rescue your development project, and which ones are most profitable:

·         Identify areas where pivoting can yield an upside.  The first step is to look at all of the areas of your project where making a change can make a significant impact on its ultimate success.  Which factors have the biggest uncertainties affecting the project outcome?  Which ones can move the project farthest and fastest to the upside?  Which ones don’t make much difference?

·         Rapidly model and re-model alternatives.  Make sure you have a way to model the project outcomes from changing each of the most important factors.  You need this to tell you what the impact of each change and each combination of changes will be on your project’s financial viability.

·         Evaluate the cost and difficulty of executing each pivot.  Understanding the practicality of each change helps determine whether a given pivot is possible to execute under real-world constraints and how much each pivot strategy changes the project’s cost structure.

·         Forecast profitability and present value of each pivot.  Assessing projected increases in returns against changes in costs, you can evaluate the profitability and the net present value of those pivot strategies you believe are achievable.  This lets you compare strategies and choose the pivot that has the biggest upside.

Benefit of Pivoting

The Monte Hall paradox says that if you choose a particular door of the three the host offers you on Let’s Make A Deal and he then opens one of the other two doors to show a worthless joke prize, your best strategy is to switch your choice for the other unopened door.  This is mathematically sound: you had a two-in-three chance of choosing incorrectly when you made your initial choice, and you have a one in two chance of choosing correctly once a losing door has been opened.  You increase your odds of winning if you switch because you have newer, better information than when you made your original choice.

Pivoting has a similar benefit.  The experience of carrying out development and performing market testing yields real-world data about your project and product.  This newer, better information supports better decisions about future courses of action.  Don’t cling stubbornly to your initial assumptions and projections if reality has told you they’re not correct.  Always be prepared to pivot to a new course if the evidence tells you it’s the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Artificial Intelligence is Seeping into Our Lives

Once the stuff of science fiction, artificial intelligence is increasingly becoming part of our everyday. New uses for this futuristic technology are launched each week, often so subtle that you will only find them if you seek them out. These practical and specialised AI applications are helping brands personalise their offering, improve efficiency and simplify consumers’ lives.  

The master of the algorithm, Tinder’s latest update makes it even more likely you’ll meet your match. Its Smart Photos feature will swap your profile picture depending on the preferences of who is looking at it. For example, it will change if your potential partner prefers seeing full-length photos, or ones with your pet. The feature is said to improve over time, but it has already led to a 12% increase in matches. 

Ebay also hopes to find you the perfect match – but with more of a focus on your home than your love life. Its new Ebay Collective site, dedicated to art and design, features image recognition technology that lets shoppers select an image of a room to find matching products. Using this tool, the auction site aims for a level of curation that is ordinarily only found in physical homeware stores.  

Despite its benefits, many consumers are understandably cautious of this rapidly advancing technology. The Hiro Baby app, which offers on-demand advice and support in response to parental queries, retains a human-assisted element to reassure apprehensive consumers. Users receive personalised feedback and product recommendations that are derived through artificial intelligence, yet approved by a real person before being sent. 

Similarly, Baidu’s medical chatbot is not designed to replace doctors, but simply to speed up the diagnosis process. Patients answer a series of questions, which become more personalised with every response, to create a detailed account of their symptoms prior to doctor referral. These personal assistants use messaging services to provide a familiar interface that helps connect with patients individually.

How artificial intelligence will develop in the future is uncertain. This month President Obama pushed his support for AI, making it a key focus of his guest edited issue of Wired magazine and unveiling a plan for ensuring government regulations develop in tandem with the technology. 
Yet one thing is certain: if artificial intelligence can deliver the practical benefits it promises, without the distractions, it will likely be here to stay. As Obama put it, AI “has been seeping into our lives in all sorts of ways, and we just don’t notice”.   

Brought to you by Stylus Life, creativity and innovation news from around the web.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Applying Lean Startup in Large-Scale Organisations

FEI Europe 2016 presentation by Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of Innovation Accelerator, World Food Programme

The World Food Programme (WFP) have a big goal - Zero hunger by 2030. Currently 1 in 9 people are chronically hungry, and (as shown in the diagram below) although we are reducing global hunger, it will take more than what we're currently doing to meet this goal. Innovation is required.

image from conference presentation
WFP is a global not-for-profit in 82 countries and has 1,122 Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Partners. Bernhard took us though a few of the projects they have running, demonstrating how the innovation they can be looking for in a project is not necessarily the latest technology; reasonably low-tech solutions can have a bit impact in this sector.

The learnings they found on using Lean methodology in this large organisation included:

image from conference presentation
Another key message Bernhard conveyed was the importance of working on the ideas that have the most impact. One challenge they've found at WFP is that startups in this space only have limited awareness of what may be the real problems on the ground and sometimes an issue can be fixed with very little effort if you find the right model. Working with startups in this space has helped them all learn off each other, and solve problems faster.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr Claire McGowan is CEO for SODA Inc. (SODAinc.com), a Founder-focused incubator and Wintec company based in Hamilton, New Zealand. Claire has trained as a life scientist, worked in venture capital and investment banking, and built and sold several businesses, including IPMarket.com. @clairemcgowan @Soda_inc @IPMarket

What’s your innovation definition?

So many organizations set out to innovate, but lose their way close to the finish line. All of the time, money, and energy invested loom over them like an ominous shadow of failure ready to overtake the whole scene.

What happened? There was so much momentum, good will, collaboration, and then—the painful, public crash into the wall.

What is this wall? The revenue expectations of the business may have not been formally expressed on the front end. Pressure builds. You see it on the faces of coworkers in the hallways. Things tighten up. The market has shifted. Competitors have gained ground. All longer-term projects need to shorten their cycle or cease.   

The scenario above happened in many companies and departments at companies who are starting their long journey to make innovation a formal discipline.

A lot of tension gets created, and if harnessed correctly, it can be useful, creative tension. It would be a mistake and inauthentic for any organization to try and create rigid tools, processes, metrics, and even a definition for innovation without having experienced some of its transformative power first-hand.

If you are trying a new working mode, outside of the existing paradigm, think of the first trial or two as a learning investment. You may stumble upon revenue or insights that lead to giant leaps of both money and inspiration; however, embrace this tension at the right moment. You have arrived. Now is the right time to begin discussing befitting innovation definition for your organization.

Do it too prematurely and you risk a bad fit, which ends up worse than a bloated software implementation that no one adopts after spending too much money and time on it.

Do it too late and you lack the formal constraints to drive meaningful business results or cultural changes.

When you are ready to have a filter to sift innovation, consider drafting a formal definition. While it is easy to draft an MBA-like set of Innovation criteria to please executives, this may not be the curative needed to catalyze your organization.

Still, the starter set of a definition, the baseline, contains these three points. Must be own-able. Must create a sustainable competitive advantage. Must be based on new market insights.

Yet, there is a problem with this general prescription. If you already suffer from a cultural bias, the baseline may only inflate an already chronic tendency.

Consider a company that jumps with an engineering solution to every synapse in their industry. After seeing their development costs rise while adding only flat or negative growth for years. Also, the firm may be damaging their brand equity by release me-too products or following tech trends without adding anything new to the market.

Adding a tenet to a definition of innovation such as “must create an irresistible product experience” could cure a world of ills.

There are many types of tonics for similar problems that can be embedded into an innovation definition. The point: live into it and create a custom definition for your organization.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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