Posts

News Flash: Innovation Is No Longer Just a Specialist’s Job. Now Here’s How to Involve Your Whole Workforce Instead

StrategyDriven Innovation ArticleThe classic method of segregating innovation to a single department, or to a process led by specialists, just isn’t fast enough any longer. What’s needed is a culture in which innovation is the mission of everyone, everywhere, every day. What’s not understood is how to do it.

Most innovation methods don’t actually result in innovative solutions. Research finds that just 5 to 15 percent of innovations are successful at large companies. Most business leaders would have greater odds of success if they went to a Las Vegas casino and gambled their innovation investment on one big bet. But companies pursuing innovation as their core business strategy realize 50 to 100 percent higher profit margins than those who pursue low cost, high quality and fast delivery strategies, or simply doing whatever the customer says.

Yet now, with Innovation Engineering – a data-driven, reliable system for creating fresh ideas and successfully turning them into reality – companies can transform innovation from a random act to a reliable science. Innovation Engineering is validated in real-world practice, and has been the launch pad for more than $16 billion in growth and system improvement projects.

Every existing innovation program preaches the importance of embracing a childlike, creative spirit. This works for the 15 percent of the work population who have a right brain creative thinking style. But it doesn’t work for the 85 percent with a logical left-brain thinking style. And without the 85 percent who are logical, there’s virtually no chance a meaningfully unique innovation will become reality. Left brainers are critical to accomplishing the engineering, finance, production and operational work that’s required to make meaningful change happen.

Innovation Engineering methods and tools are designed to engage both left and right brain thinkers. Projects are focused with clear, motivating strategic missions that speak to both project vision and boundaries. The result is an unleashing of a culture of “whole brain” thinking.

The following are some of the essential practices of Innovation Engineering:

1. Create systems that enable instead of control. The word “system,” especially in connection with innovation, creates a vision of being controlled, constrained and restricted. That’s not the purpose of Innovation Engineering. It’s a system designed to enable innovation by everyone. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a renowned systems specialist, observed: “Ninety-four percent of problems are caused by the system — 6 percent by the workers.” In fact, 99 percent of companies have no system for innovation. Often, leaders don’t believe the people in their organization can innovate, or they blame their people for a lack of innovation. In fact, the problem lies in their lack of an embedded innovation system. A new mindset is needed to embrace the discovery of ideas, methods and tools for working smarter.

2. Generate a multitude of ideas to end up a big idea. Invite teams of workers to free-associate around a problem or challenge. The more ideas you create, the more big ideas you end up with. For example, a business selling Christmas trees, who needed to find a profitable way to dispose of leftover trees, generated a multitude of ideas, such as pine needle tea and pine oil extract. The notion of creating great ideas by first creating lots of unrealistic ones is a viable approach to innovation.

3. Discover and develop “meaningfully unique” innovation. Innovation Engineering’s definition of innovation is precise: meaningful, in that it has an obvious value to the customer – that is, customers would willingly give up their existing behaviors for it; and unique, in that it’s genuinely original. Often it offers a quantifiable advantage that you can put a number on that shows how much better it is versus the existing alternative.

4. Analyze potential “death threats.” Key issues that could keep an idea from succeeding, in Innovation Engineering termed death threats, must be resolved through disciplined systems of discovery, instead of the old “declare and defend” approach. The term denotes the emotional intensity that matches a fear of unknowns inherent in innovation. It enables honest conversations about critical issues without igniting defensiveness. Instead of saying, “Your idea can’t work,” others are taught to say, “There could be a death threat with this idea.” Defining a challenge (such as a regulatory barrier) as a hypothetical concern moves it to the less confrontational third person. Death threats are examined by creating “What if?” hypotheses and experiments.

5. Add define and discover phases before the classic develop and deliver phases. To enable speed and success with innovation projects, include disciplined front-end phases to get clarity on the entire idea before entering the “develop” stage. Innovation Engineering designers have found that adding these phases increases development success by up to 250 percent. Two big decision points occur before develop and deliver where bulk of the investment (60% and 30%) is made. The define stage involves laying out the entire idea, as opposed to a sequential system of hand-offs from marking to R&D to production and sales. The discover stage involves problem-solving to reduce uncertainty and address the project’s death threats.

6. Know that patent owners reap the rewards. Patent filings in the U.S. have grown exponentially. While ideas alone aren’t patentable, the methods or the proofs of innovative ideas are. The importance of technology ownership is significant. The U.S. Patent Office found that, on average, wages are 42 percent higher for those employees who work in intellectual property intensive industries versus non-intellectual property intensive industries. Filing of provisional patents now take hours, not weeks, and doing so is a no-brainer.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert ContributorDoug Hall is an inventor, researcher, educator and craft whiskey maker. He is founder of the Eureka! Ranch, Innovation Engineering Institute and Brain Brew Custom Whisk(e)y. He’s been named one of America’s top innovation experts by Inc. magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Dateline NBC, CNBC, CIO Magazine and the CBC. His new book, Driving Eureka! Problem Solving with Data Driven Methods & the Innovation Engineering System (Clerisy Press,Oct. 16, 2018) describes how to transform innovation from random acts to a reliable science. Learn more at doughall.com.

Important Lessons You Can Learn from Past Successful Products

In business, success is never a one-time achievement. You want to reach the level of success you aim for and then stay at that level – if not advance further – to remain successful. It is not uncommon for businesses to revise their objectives every few years; some even do it every year.

Maintaining success is often more difficult than becoming successful in the first place. You now have something to lose as the leader of the market. In this article, we are going to look at the important lessons about maintaining success from products that were successful on the market.

Always Listen to the Customers

The moment you stop listening to the customers is the moment you will start failing on the market. Just because you have a successful product, doesn’t mean you can keep customers happy without doing anything. This is a trap that may businesses have fallen for in the past, and one that you should never fall victim to today.

You only need to look at the iPod 6th-Generation review on ArgyllFreePress.com to know what I’m talking about. The iPod was one of the most successful lines of products on the market. The iPod 6 is at the top of that long history, offering incredible performance to people who didn’t need an iPhone.

Unfortunately, there were some important market demands that the iPod didn’t meet. The lack of better DAC and the fact that some apps will not even work on the iPod disappointed some avid fans of the product. Apple failed to listen to its customer base, turning the iPod 6 into a mixed bag of success and failure on the market.

Learn and Innovate

Success is often considered the most dangerous comfort zone of them all. Once you are successful – or see yourself as being successful – you start feeling more and more comfortable about the position. It doesn’t take long before the lure of being in a comfort zone gets to you.

We’ve had so many cases of market giants being defeated because of this issue. Toyota took over the American market from GM. Samsung started winning in Asian markets with new and innovative products. The same occurrences can even be seen in competitions between small businesses and startups.

Be Flexible

There is no sure-fire way to maintain success. You can’t have a strategy and expect it to remain effective on the face of market changes. You can’t be stubborn and stick to the old ways when there is a certain need for change.

Be flexible. Being flexible is one of the most important keys to maintaining success. It goes hand in hand with the need to learn and innovate; the business has to remain agile and you as the entrepreneur need to promote that agility.

The only thing that must never change is the “why”; the main reason why you entered the market in the first place. It is the heart of the business. Stick to your principles, use the tips we covered in this article, and stay successful for longer, even in today’s volatile market.

How to win contracts as a start up

Can you really compete?

The ‘solution’, is in the question, what will win the contract? Considering many new startups set up in business because they believe they have a new, better and more innovative solution – it really is the driving force behind the growth of new start ups.

If you are a new or very small business you have a lot of strengths, which larger players do not have. Often a new business is set up around the development of an innovative product or service, which isn’t currently offered in the marketplace, therefore giving you one USP right from the start.

Turnover does matter, but how much should you worry?

If you have a turnover of £100k and are trying to win a £500k contract, it can and does happen, but often the winning bidder really has to consider their strengths and weaknesses and what is required to win and get over the financial turnover minimum requirements, for example.

An opportunity such as this can make or break a business and if the business fails, then the contract is not being delivered. Therefore, we are to risk and how it can impact the chances of win rates/ winning contracts.

In some situations, and, if your brand ‘feels’ larger, your business stability, size, financials may not be assessed. This is often the case if a small or medium enterprise (SME) is buying the product or service, even if substantial sums are involved. These are often a good route to try and win new business or to grow a new business.

But with an innovative product or solution you can still sell it into large corporations and the public sector. Sometimes this is due to product and the lack of risk involved in the purchase. E.g. a consultancy service.

The expertise will be assessed which is more important than financial stability, for example, of an individual. There may also be significant risk due to a larger organisation buying from a new business or smaller business but another reason for a purchase despite this risk is due to lack of competition or simply the values involved not requiring finances to be assessed.

Innovation and price are imperative

The first piece of software which Thornton & Lowe developed, which was largely for my own in-house staff to use, we thought it was worthwhile putting a little marketing focus behind it. Our first formal sale of the product was to Scottish Southern Electric (SSE PLC), a large corporate organisation.

The product was without references, without many users other than my staff but due to the solution being aligned to their requirements, the price point in the market and I believe we put more time and effort into creating a compelling bid, I was able to start off selling the software with a very large and recognisable client.

There will always will be many ways to grow a new start business, which all need to be weighed up in terms of profit, sustainable growth, deliverability, competition and importantly the client’s requirements.

These can be tried and tested but if there is a good product there will always be a way of selling it even into the most formal of procurement requirements.

Staying Ahead Of The Game In Your Business

StrategyDriven Innovation Article
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Business can be a very fraught environment. There’s a lot of stress and pressure, which makes it hard for people to consider certain parts of their operation. Over time, this can have a serious impact on your business. So, it isn’t worth letting things go. It’s important to make sure that you remember to keep your business on the rise when it comes to the technology and tools that you use. Getting left behind in this area could also see you left behind when it comes to business. To help you out, this post will be going through some of the best ways to make sure that you’re staying ahead of the game.

If you want to stay of ahead of the game when it comes to business; you have to stay ahead of technology. Of course, not a lot of people find this field to be that interesting. But, knowing what’s going on gives you some major resources. For one, it will mean that you know exactly what you need to be buying to get the best deals. It will give you insider knowledge of an industry that your business will almost certainly rely on. And, it can help you to make sure that you always know what’s around the corner. There are loads of resources to help you with something like this. One of the best ways to stay ahead is through a forum, like the LinusTechTips forum. Loads of YouTube channels have their own sites like this, and they can be very helpful.

Next, once you know what you need to buy; you need to know exactly how to use it. Now, depending on your industry, you’ll be getting different types of tech. So, learning how to use it could take some time. This is especially true for anything involved in manufacturing. Whether you work with plastics and use scientific injection molding, or you work with metal and use CNC lathes; a course will be the best option. This will give you the wealth of knowledge that you will need to not only do your job but be confident to fix problems as they come up. You can do the same when it comes to computers, too. You just have to make sure that your training is kept up-to-date to make sure that you’re not missing any new trends.

One of the hardest parts of this process for a business is updating and upgrading the equipment that they use. Thankfully, when it comes to manufacturing; most machines will be able to be used for years. But, computers are a different story. Computers don’t age well at all. So, it’s hard to make sure that you keep them in the best possible working order. One of the best ways to solve this problem is by not buying your computers at all. Instead, you can borrow them from another company. That way, when updates come out; you’ll be able to get your hands on the latest tech, without the expense.

Hopefully, this will give you a good idea of what needs to be done if you want to stay ahead in the world of business and technology. All modern business relies on technology. And, without it; most businesses can’t run. So, it’s important to consider keeping your computers as up-to-date as you possible can.

The External Factors Affecting Your Business

Try as you might, you will never really “own” your business. It is too much part of a bigger network that is too far beyond your control for that. While there might be plenty of directions you want to take your company in, you’ll also be subject to the whims and plans of your fellow humans, who all too often (it can feel like) have plans that are out of sync with your own. Here are just a few of the ways your business can be affected by external factors, to which you only have a passing, observing role.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article
Photo courtesy of Pexels

Political
A thriving economy relies on there being not too many things rocking the boat. You can see the way the stock market reacts whenever an announcement or decision is made; sometimes it gets a boost, which is its way of saying ‘we approve!’, and sometimes it takes a nosedive, at which point everything gets a bit nervous. With Donald Trump, for instance, no one – including quite possibly Donald Trump – is quite sure which way the economy will go. That one is just for time to figure out, but down the line it could have a knock on effect to your business. A good economy means you’re in the best possible position to succeed. Also, you’ll notice how things can get a bit twitchy whenever there’s political unrest, more commonly when it’s overseas. A destabilised China, for instance, can have effects that spread across the world, such is the way all our economies are interlinked.

Your Business Partners

It’s all good and well keeping your own house in order. It’s all good and well operating at full capacity, with the books in order and things slowly progressing just fine and dandy. But how many other businesses do you rely on for your success? You’re probably more wrapped up in the well-being of other companies than you think. For instance, how does the software you rely on influence your success? You might want to look at a service such as software escrow, which would give you access to the software you depend on should the software company fold. Elsewhere, you could face major difficulties if your suppliers unexpectedly fold. You can’t stop that from happening, but you can make sure you have the contingency plans in place so that you’re able to handle any temporary setbacks relating to stock and so forth. Essentially, it’s important not to be too reliant on any other single company.

Trends

You’re at the top of your game at the moment, right on the cutting edge of what’s new and fresh. You’re part of a movement that is going places! Only, it’ll only be going places up until the time when it’s not. Take a look through history and everything that was once ‘hot’ ended up being pretty ‘not’ in the end. You only need to look at what passed as fashion twenty (or any number) years ago to see that things really do change. Did the people wearing the clothes back then think they’d one day look so lame? Of course not! Did Blockbuster think there would always be a demand for home videos? Probably! Trends come and go. The important thing is to realise that ‘trendy’ doesn’t really mean anything, and that you shouldn’t be relying on it for your success. Always make sure you’re looking to the future, especially if the industry you’re in is prone to change.

External Innovation: Good

Not every external factor is bad, of course. In fact, all the ones listed above can be good if the cards fall nicely enough. This positive change also extends to innovation, which as we all know is essentially what’s making the economy thrive in recent years. And it looks like it’s here to stay. Innovation is creating new markets, new products, new services, new just about everything, and it’s happening all the time. Every year, there are new services that help to streamline businesses and make them less dependent on other factors. You should be keeping your ear out for the developments that will aid your business. Everybody else will, and to not do so you run the risk of falling behind. Make sure you’re reading up on all the best business online blogs and reading your industry magazines; it’ll keep you fresh.

External Innovation: Bad

With that being said, not all innovation will be there to give you a boost. In fact, sometimes it’ll come along and put you right out of business. This has been happening for centuries, with new products popping up that resulted in massive shifts in the economy. We see it today, with Uber versus traditional taxi companies. No matter who you are and how successful your business is, you should always be ready to face oblivion. It’s the way innovation works. If you’re worried about an emerging company or trend, then look at diversifying your business – but do it well in advance. The number of jobs that may be lost – and industries taken of – by robots in the coming decades should be an eyeopener for many business leaders.

Environmental Factors

Sometimes, the factors that affect your business has nothing at all to do with other humans. It’s all about that grand old mother earth, our home. We think we know a lot about the environment, but we don’t – and unfortunately, we’re about to know a whole lot less once climate change really gets underway. A changing climate will affect a lot, from how things are produced (if they’re able to be at all) and how they get around the world. It’ll also bring more extreme weather, so making sure you have business insurance and cloud storage will be essential.

Predicting The Changes
You don’t know what will happen in the world, because no one does. But you can be prepared by keeping on top of global events – not just what’s happening in your industry, but in all the industries that branch out from your own too. We’re all connected in the end!