Change my title – Change the Outcome!

May 26th, 2020 by Roger La Salle

By Roger La Salle

 www.innovationtraining.com.au

 www.matrixthinking.com

So, what’s my job?
It’s very interesting how a job title or the very name of a department can become a burden that can stymie its very purpose.
 
Having worked in companies, both large and small in more than 29 countries, it has become apparent that this issue is not confined to the Australian psyche alone. It’s people in general and it’s hard to lay blame.  People may be blindsided by their very title.
 
To put this into context, some years ago in speaking with the Chief Technology officer at one of Australia’s largest companies, the question was asked of him “What’s your job about?” This was a question that would seem to have an obvious answer, “To work to find the newest and best technologies for the business”.   In fact, his answer was entirely different and one that had everybody surprised. However in hindsight it was clear his insightful answer was no doubt the very reason this person had such a high level and esteemed position.
 
His answer was simple, “To develop my people”.
 
In other words, despite being the Chief Technology officer, he did not see himself as the chief purveyor of new technology or the best “propeller head”, he’d leave that to his people. Instead he saw his task as working to ensure his people were well educated, trained and equipped with all the tools that might enable them to discover the best opportunities and technologies for the business.
 
It really is impossible to argue with such an insightful response from a man with clearly a true understanding of his role.
 
What about Innovation?
Not surprisingly, many large companies have an aversion to accepting ideas from outside the business, and some for very good reason. The opportunity McDonalds presents for any and all comers to try and sell them their new gadget or gimmick hoping to avail themselves of the vast McDonalds distribution network is enormous. If McDonalds opened their doors to external ideas they would literally have to employ an entire department just processing and rejecting ideas.
 
Of course, not everybody is a McDonalds. What we have observed with many companies is that, like McDonalds, so called innovation departments and managers are indeed reluctant to explore ideas from outside the organization. These people see themselves as true innovators and to embrace externally sourced ideas, perhaps even with the open innovation model, may question their very role. After all, isn’t it the role of the so called innovation experts to be the source of innovations? This would seem to be a logical statement of their purpose.
 
If this is a mindset that can pervade the space of people with the innovation tag, we may reasonably pose the question, “Just what is the role of the innovators or innovation departments – to innovate or to simply find solutions?”
 
Further work was conducted on the subject with a startling outcome.
 
If the title of the people was changed from “innovators” to “solution seekers”, their mindset changed. With the job task now repurposed to be the wider search for new opportunities, new horizons were soon discovered. No longer did they fear their very purpose being questioned if they were seen to be looking outside the narrow confines of the title “innovators”.
 
It really is amazing how such a simple change of title can change an entire mindset and produce such vastly different outcomes.
 
What’s the message?
When we work with people and companies to help them set meaningful KPI’s the first question we always ask is “In simple terms, what is your job aimed at achieving?”
 
For example, if you operate a factory your job title may be “Production Manager”, but in fact what you are aiming to achieve in production is: “To make the most of the best for the least”. We see here the job function is not so evident in the title.
 
Aligning people with the requirements of the task, rather than their job title is what’s important. With that achieved, the secret it to then give them some tools for widespread opportunity scanning and let them loose. You may be amazed at the outcome.
                                                        **** END ****
Roger La Salletrains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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Is ISO 9000 killing your innovation?

May 2nd, 2020 by Roger La Salle

                                                        By Roger La Salle

                                                                                    www.innovationtraining.com.au

Innovate or Perish?

Embracing innovation is paramount in these days of rapidly changing business landscapes and technology development.  The Covid-19 virus of course has been a catalyst for great and urgent change.  In fact some companies have seized the opportunity to create new and better ways of doing business.  One wonders why it has taken this disruption to drive such innovation.  Surely there is a lesson in this for us all?

Indeed innovation is the engine of change and in the absence of innovation even great businesses can fail, Kodak possibly being a poignant example.

The innovation message is clear but many companies that are required to abide by the stringent reporting regime of ISO9000 may in fact be operating at a disadvantage.

Is ISO9000 the answer?

ISO (International Organisation for Standardization) was founded in 1947 with the aim of bringing some international standardisation to manufacturing quality and traceability.  Many companies have embraced the teachings of the ISO regime and many suppliers demand their subcontractors be accredited. There is little doubt there are benefits, at least in the short term.

Some studies have even tried to establish a direct link between improved profits and ISO Certification, but this link in many cases is questionable.  Some argue that increased profit came before adopting ISO. Embracing ISO simply allowed companies to do business with more major companies that demanded their suppliers be so certified.  Indeed it may be argued that this is a positive feedback system guaranteed to ensure the growth of the ISO regime.

Either way, ISO these days remains firmly embedded into manufacturing worldwide.

So what’s the catch?

Studies done by Harvard Business School and others have shown that ISO9000 may come with a “sting in the tail”.

The research indicated that in the years immediately following ISO implementation business outcomes improved with reduced defects, less waste and rework, improved quality and more repeatability in terms of all processes. Customers, especially the bigger ones, loved this and were eager to see all of their suppliers embrace ISO9000.

Of course in the wake of this many others followed suit, or were pushed into accreditation by their upper tier customers. However, after several years of working with the system and order dictated by ISO, innovation of these accredited companies collapsed.  No longer was there so much free thinking and an ability to step outside the boundaries dictated by ISO.

The study revealed that within five to seven years at the most, innovation output plummeted and businesses stagnated as companies became slaves to the ISO regime.

What’s the message?

ISO9000 accreditation may be necessary and indeed essential, especially if you are a supplier to the majors, but beware its downside.

The more system and rigour you bring to your organisation, the greater the need to implement some systematic means of innovation as a cultural part of your organisations DNA

“Innovation Circles” need to be established, much along the lines of the famous Japanese Quality Circles established by Edwards Demming in Japan in the 1950’s. These Quality Circles are credited with lifting Japanese manufacturing quality from pure junk to the very best in the world.

What’s the Message?

Embrace “Innovation Circles” of course, but avoid the downside constraints of ISO reporting.

You can do this by having your “Innovation Circles”, people trained in the art of innovation working in an entirely separate business entity. An entity decoupled from the “mothership and not ISO accredited”.  New initiative, products and ideas can be can be conceived and tested in this uninhibited space, and only if successful, passed to the mothership” for commercialization.

                                                            **** END ****

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Innovation- Invention – Colaboration

May 2nd, 2020 by Roger La Salle

                                                                                      By Roger La Salle

                                                                                      www.innovationtraining.com.au 

www.matrixthinking.com

Open Innovation, the term used when companies and people literally open their problems and issues to the world looking for advice and solutions is possibly the most obvious form of collaboration.

There are a lot of issues with this so called open innovation model, a prime one of course is ownership of IP. This has the potential to be a minefield if not properly understood and managed.

However, before we go too far down the path of collaboration and open innovation it may first be useful to agree on what we even mean by the word innovation. Innovation, a word that seems to have been corrupted by so many, achieving nothing more that turning the simple into the complex!

It can be argued that Innovation is the basis for all things new and better, but what inspires innovation and new ideas? More to the point, what is the link between an innovative or inventive idea and an outcome?

If we think of innovation when applied to building a business and making money, which is probably what inspires most innovators, then we need to think about the risks in business.

In most cases when an idea is being pursued and a technology development is being undertaken, whether it be an IT solution, new App, a tangible product or a new service, in essence there are only two risks that need to be considered.

The first is what we may refer to as technical risk, which means can the technologist achieve the desired outcome?

In science and technology, for the most part the technologist will deliver a solution or at least will be able to give some insight as to the risks involved. For example if we were to ask the technologist to give us anti-gravity boots they would easily be able to assign the risks associated with achieving an outcome. Of course in this case the risk would be enormous.

On the other hand if we asked a clock to be developed with hands that were in fact LED strips that were clearly visible in darkness, the answer would be that this is achievable with no technical risk.

In short, technical risk is something we can generally measure and assign a degree of risk.

However, assuming I did achieve the technical outcome with my innovation, the real questions to be asked, and the ones that too many innovators and even large companies get so wrong so often are “can I sell it?” – “will there be a market?”

Market risk is without doubt out the single biggest risk in bringing new products to market.

With this in mind we may be able to coin a definition of innovation that has the effect of reducing market risk and with that we can explore the opportunity landscape to hopefully create successful innovation.

When we look at some products from the past, Google, the i-Phone, MasterCard and Visa, Nokia, Seiko, the IBM PC and Windows, one thing these all have in common is that none we first to market. Indeed all were followers of some prior art and yet all these were great successes. In short the secret to mitigating market risk is to find a product or service that everybody is buying and simply change it in some way to add value.

Thus a definition for innovation can follow.

The common synonyms for innovation are improvement or advancement. Further, if we take it that people buy things because they see value for money, then perhaps the best definition for innovation is “Change that Adds Value”. Indeed this derivation and definition was coined in my book “Think New” many years ago. This definition has now been adopted by many organisations and innovation practitioners worldwide.

Whereas innovation may be about making changes for improvement, inventions are more about novelty. Novelty of course is an essential ingredient to a successful patent application. Having said that, there are many innovations that do contain elements of novelty and are thus also patentable. Indeed one may argue that there are few absolutely new inventions, though a few that may fall into this category might be the electric light bulb, the transistor device, the atomic bomb, RADAR and the LASER.

Given that we may have a better understanding of innovation the task now falls to the creation of innovations. How does one do that and why is collaboration so vital to successful innovation outcomes?

The secret to this comes from three elements, all essential ingredients that underpin successful innovation:

  • Observation
  • Knowhow borne of experience
  • Connections or collaborations

Observation

The key to finding opportunities for innovation lies in observation. That is, looking at the way people interact with the world, with products and services and finding the gaps and value added opportunities. Of course the idea embodied in the relatively new concept of Design Thinking asks one to look at the customer. However the fact is that from my reading of this methodology, what it fails to do is to ask how one looks at the customer. Furthermore it should also ask you to look at the customer’s customer. For example, is the retailer your customer or the purchaser and user of your product? The packaging industry seems to have worked that one out, for example in attending to supermarket shelf storage space and customer convenience in opening and storing products!

Indeed there are five things that Design Thinking seems to miss in exploring customer behaviour and the way people interact with products and the world. These are in my book “Think Next” published over a decade ago.

  • Predictable activity
  • Widespread activity
  • Repetitious activity
  • Comparative activity
  • Trends

If we explore our customer with these five, what I refer to as “seeds” of opportunity, the game gets a lot easier. It’s further made easier if you then use the eight thinking triggers I refer to as “Catalysts” to stimulate thoughts about these seeds.

This is what I refer to as “opportunity Capture”.

Knowhow borne of experience

Young children are often very good at seeing what to them appears obvious, whereas people who have been doing the same thing the same way for too long often seem prone to overlook the obvious.

The young, the uninitiated and those untarnished with tradition are often very good at seeing what may be possible, but what they lack is knowledge and experience in looking at how such opportunities may be addressed and what seems sensible and may be possible.

This is where experience and an older head is so valuable in innovation outcomes.

There is a great saying, “knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom comes from experience and experience comes with age”.

Below are some examples that may illustrate the point of why knowledge borne of experience is so important.

  • The inventor who correctly realised that the lead on a hairdresser’s hairdryer was a problem is a case in point. His solution was to have a battery operated hair dryer. What his lack of knowledge failed to identify was that even a car battery would not have had the capacity to run a hair dryer even though the idea may have had merit. As it happened the inventor did toil away at this innovation for far too long and spent quite a lot of money before acquiring the knowledge that at this point in battery development, his idea was simply impractical.
  • A building company with very large innovation teams, in fact four separate teams, which were trying to find ways to identify if scaffolding that had been put in place and certified as safe was subsequently moved by subcontractors, and perhaps rendered unsafe. They had been wrestling with the problem without a solution. When the problem was put to an older head the answer was simple, something the inexperienced innovation teams had never even heard of. Tie the scaffolding to the building with “Tamper Tape” that fractures on movement. This was a great solution, but one that the young innovators were simply too inexperienced to have even considered.
  • A fellow who proposed a warning device that alerted parents if a child had unfastened their seat belt. This was nice in theory, but what was overlooked was that many cars already have a “person sitting on the seat but seat belt unfastened” alarm. Perhaps an easier solution could be a seat belt clip latch that requires stronger hands to undo, or maybe a two handed operation action much like a safety interlock on a power tool. We refer to this as “re-question”. It asks you to explore the real issue and decide what is really the ideal or best question to be asked in addressing a problem?

In my world we refer to the type of connections from problem to solution as “connecting the dots”.

One of the great skills of clever entrepreneurs and innovators is to see the linkages between seemingly unrelated issues. This is where broadly skilled technologists and open minded thinkers come to the fore.

For example, suppose I run a lumber business, the business of cutting up trees to provide timber for the building industry. What possible connection does that have with mathematics? Perhaps none you may think, or certainly the old fashioned timber manager may have thought. But in fact linear programming, quite an old science these days, when employed in that industry can optimise the way timber is cut to provide massive additional profits. But in the closed non-collaborative model, such knowledge may never be acquired.

Similarly,

  • The technologies developed in putting a man on the moon. How could that possibly connect to the business of pots and pans? The answer – Teflon coating
  • Clocks and radio paging, is there a connection? Indeed there is. Imagine having a clock equipped with a radio paging receiver to receive time signals and thus keep perfect time and even update for Summer Time changes. Such clocks were developed in Australia long before we had cell phones with perfect time
  • The packaging business and home insulation? Of course, use bubble wrap as the ideal insulator. It’s light weight, cheap, easy to install and with fire retardant grades also available.
  • Optics and home insulation? Of course, use a reflective coating on one side of the bubble wrap to reflect radiated heat.
  • Physiotherapy and the reduction of carbon emissions?
  • The tooth brush and ceramic crystals?
  • Extruded plastic “core flute” sheeting and aluminium extrusions?

The reader can ponder the latter three, but the connection in each of these cases has spawned real businesses.

There is an endless list of these seemingly unrelated disciplines that can be connected with appropriate knowledge and collaboration between disciplines

Indeed this is why the new paradigm of “Opportunity Capture” is now emerging as the preferred approach to the more narrow discipline of traditional innovation.

There are endless examples like this which goes to show that perhaps inexperienced people may have great value in identifying possible innovation opportunities but really fail to deliver when it comes to real and viable outcomes.

Connections and Collaborations

There are few cases where one individual or even one organisation can solve all the problems and go from mind to market with an idea without assistance, or perhaps better said, collaboration.

Possibly the best example is in the auto sector. Auto makers are really just assemblers of parts made in most cases by third parties. No auto maker can make all the chassis components, the body work the paint or the rubber, the bushes, shock absorbers, alternators, windscreen wipers, the complex electronics, the air conditioners and even something as simple as the seats and the seat belts. Of course tyres, bearings even engines parts are provided by collaborating third party suppliers.

Collaboration and finding the best parties to assist you on your innovation journey is essential whether it is in the design, the engineering, the manufacture, the business planning and even the sale and marketing. Indeed even the very largest manufactures from food to cosmetics usually outsource their packaging and even advertising campaigns. Collaboration at its best.

Collaboration is definitely the name of the game when I comes to successful innovation outcomes.

       **** ends ****

Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panelist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast

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Where are We headded?

April 18th, 2020 by Roger La Salle

                                           By Roger La Salle

I’ll set the scene by citing the words of two people, words uttered within the past few months. If these are the commonly held views of our economic intellectuals, I really do fear for our future.

  1. Chief Economist of one of our very biggest banks.

 “The notion that we need to make things in the country to prosper is a complete myth.”

When challenged on this point, the answer given by the speaker was to the effect that the service providers simply provide other services to service providers and the money circulates and when they need to they will buy computers and technology products or manufactured goods. No mention was made of just where these technology products come from and that the purchase of a technology product by a service provider means money exiting this Ponzi scheme circular service loop and going off-shore

2         A senior economics writer for one of our bigger newspapers, in conversation.

Words to the effect of:

It’s really very simply. The accountant pays the consultant who pays the internet company who pays the lawyer who pays the school teacher who pays the doctor who pays the cleaner who pays the hairdresser and so on. Money circulates around the loop and everybody gets paid. It’s simply a 30 day cycle.

Ignorant I may be!

With interest rates at an all-time low, unemployment higher than it’s been for many years, exports of minerals tanking, the auto industry in exit mode, manufacturing in most sectors almost bliterated and our education OECD ranking in decline, despite our “Building the Education Revolution” why should we be concerned. The economists (not one of whom I think predicted the GFC even five minutes before it happened) tell us all is OK. Our Debt to GDP ratio is low compared with all the basket case economies, so “don’t worry, be happy”.

What value are services?

Wealth is created when things are created, including physical products, agricultural products, mining, music, dance, literature and the like.

As for services, in essence there are possibly just two services that actually create wealth for Australia, these being the export of education and inbound tourism. The rest simply circulate the wealth of people trading tangibles, which of course would include products of the arts such as music, dance, literature, film and art etc.

Trucking and transport is a service, but it creates no wealth in itself, nor indeed would it even exist if somebody else was not creating something that needed to be transported. Transport is just a service that in essence “clips the ticket” of the creators.

Of course many services are government funded, police, hospitals, education to a large extent, the military and so on. Where does the money come from to fund these?

Further, in the case of many services that are not government funded, such as accounting, book keeping, call centres operated by the banks and Telco’s and even web and industrial design, these too, like our manufacturing are now being exported to low labour cost countries.

Thus, not only is our manufacturing in decline and being exported, so too are many of our services.

A paradigm shift is needed

If Australia does not find a new way of stimulating and encouraging investment in technology and manufacturing, I see no escape from disaster other than a recovery in commodity pricing, increased agricultural exports, more inbound tourism or educational exports.

Failing the above, all of which as a technologist I find unpalatable, we need to find a way to rekindle our technology and manufacturing sectors. But then again, even if we do develop some great new ideas, why make anything in Australia when if you choose a low cost labour market such as China, your profits will be far greater.

There can be little doubt that, like Japan, as China and India move up the Quality Curve more and more of our manufacturing will relocate.

What now?

A paradigm shift in thinking is needed, no longer can we tinker at the edges, and as one of our past politicians once said of Government razor gangs, “at the end of the day, all we really do is simply tinker with the tea lady.”

 In the technology sector, no longer is this acceptable.

There is sincere endeavour!

Nobody would doubt that governments of all persuasions in any developed country make serious attempts to assist researchers, inventors, innovators, technologists and entrepreneurs.   There is a myriad of assistance programs, too many to mention, and always new ones being rolled out seeking yet new ways to assist.   But alas, if you look at most indexes of Australia’s innovation ranking you will find us near the top OF THE BOTTOM.

The intentions are good. Unfortunately the outcomes seem none too impressive, especially considering the sums of money used to subsidise industry, research and innovation.

Innovation

Innovation, the act of changing something to add value, is what it’s all about and there is no end to the ways one can innovate. Having said that, if one retains a fixed mindset when attempting innovation, the constraints imposed serve to limit the ability to really think “outside the box”.

The overriding mind-set within government seems to be about subsidies. Provide grants and tax incentives for people to spend more on innovation in the hope, and it is little more than hope or blind faith, that this will inspire successful outcomes. Maybe it will, but at what cost? What is the return on this investment and does it really inspire innovation or simply fund a vast number of consultants all taking a good sniff of any funds doled out?

Grants for research and innovation are provided to selected applicants, often those that have the right idea at the right time and better still, the right story or perhaps “pitch”.

Despite the experts that governments employ to assist in selecting grant funding recipients, this really is hit and miss. It’s trying to pick winners from a vast field of triers all heralding their innovation or research as that most worthy of funding.

How often do they get it right, or perhaps a better question may be, what is the return on this funding investment? I am not privy to such a figure and wonder if any reader may know?

However, I would venture to say, the ROI would be vastly in the negative, despite the sincere endeavours of our bureaucrats.

Invert the model

Inversion, or thinking of things the other way round, is one way of looking to inspire new paradigm thinking.

Think for a moment what would happen if, instead of the vast subsidy spending that Governments provide (many billions of dollars per year to be sure), we removed all such funding (or significantly curtailed it as total removal may destroy pure research) and instead rewarded successful innovation endeavours.

Imagine the inflow of entrepreneurial funds from both local and overseas investors if we were to provide a tax holiday of perhaps five years on income earned from newly commercialised innovations. Imagine too the income for government from people employed in these new industries paying tax on their wages.

I suggest such a sea change in innovation strategy would have a vastly positive and lasting effect and largely remove wasted government investment in innovation.

Of course the naysayers may say this is too hard to audit, but let me suggest counting revenue on widgets sold would be a lot less prone to error, or even exploitation than the present system. A system where non expert public servants are expected to conduct reviews of complex projects in short order so as to fulfil audit requirements. This is an almost impossible task, even for an expert in the field.

Do the Sums?

Unfortunately, I simply do not have the time nor resources to do the sums, but if ever there may be a body of research worth doing it may be in looking at the impact of such a policy. A policy that I believe would save the government vast amounts of money and at the same time stimulate investment and create industries and new employment.

Is this a silly or entirely unreasonable proposal?

                                                      **** ENDS ****

Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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It took less than four hours!

April 16th, 2020 by Roger La Salle

By Roger La Salle

                                                                                                        www.innovationtraining.com.au

                                                                                                        www.matrixthinking.com

It isn’t that hard or expensive

Last week we had a great example of a success story with a company of several hundreds of people that exports all over the world. The company took our advice, and after just four hours of training, yes just four hours from a standing start, they set up two competing innovation teams.

Two months later, they have achieved two astonishing breakthrough innovations.

Their presentation to top management and the Board is in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see who takes out their inaugural award.

What they did

One team used the “Process Innovation Matrix” and worked on several products all made by the same process. The outcome can be used with many of their other products, numbering over 50 “skews”.

It is estimated this will reduce the product cost in time, rework and rejects by close to 25%. This is huge on a product that sells for as much as $2,000.

All this by one small team with the application of our applied innovation to their process.

The second team used the “Product Innovation Matrix” and innovated (Changed to add Value) a simple nut and bolt assembly that is targeted to remove six hours of machine down time for their customer every three months. This for machines that can cost in excess of $100K per day to operate. What a win with a patentable new initiative that will lock them into their customers for a very long time into the future.

This reminds me of a blog we did many months ago, it was titled “A tiny change can make a big difference”. Certainly true in this case

What’s the message?

A small amount of training and a simple approach to innovation and the formation of competing teams does deliver real value.

As they say, Innovate or Perish and realise that it’s not expensive, it’s simple and it works.

                                                      **** END ****

Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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Innovation – But i it a good idea?

March 26th, 2020 by Roger La Salle

By Roger La Salle

                                                                                                        www.innovationtraining.com.au

                                                                                                        www.matrixthinking.com

Even the best ideas can fail

All new business initiatives start with an idea. Yet even some of the best ideas fail in fulfilment, often for the wrong reasons. How often do we see companies go to market, with great enthusiasm and the best ideas, only to be overcome by circumstances and unforeseen forces?

One early example may be the death of the superior Betamax VCR of the 1970’s compared with the VHS. The reasons VHS won are varied, but what was clear is that Betamax had superior audio and video quality, yet it failed.

How good is this?

Any business serious about innovation has a process that provides some sort of rapid idea first pass assessment, the aim of course being to quickly find where to best focus development and commercialisation efforts.

Indeed, an axiom we always teach is to “Fail fast and Fail cheap” as experience has shown us that too often companies persist with a new initiative far beyond what is commercially sensible. Perhaps the endeavours to introduce two way paging, may be an example. This was a product brought to market at the time when mobile phones were becoming small and popular, in particular when the fabulous NOKIA’s phones were starting to flood the market.

The Diffusion Model with Weighted Scoring

Diffusion is the term given to a new product and explores the rate at which it will diffuse into the market, somewhat analogous to a dye being poured into water. It differs from market penetration which asks what the size of the market is, but rather it asks the rate of market uptake.

An overlooked success indicator

To run a product through the Diffusion Model only takes a few minutes with many of the questions asked being unique. These questions have been developed and refined over years, questions we have never found in other tools, including:

  • What will be the consequences of us adopting this technology if it not does not work?

Unfortunately, the 737 Max might be a present day example and is one reason airlines don’t fit all their fleets with one brand, for example use both Boeing and Airbus

  • How difficult will it be for the market to understand this product?

The facsimile machine is a good examples with these needing to be sold in pairs to opposite, usually geographically separate, places at the same time.

Diners Card, the first credit card, was a classic example of a product the market and in particular vendors and shop owners simply failed to understand.

What now?

First pass assessment is vital, but number on the assessment list is never to fall in love with a new idea and be driven alone by passion and enthusiasm.

“Enthusiasm is a dangerous thing unless modulated by good judgement and common sense.”

                                                      **** END ****

Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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A simple exercise in thinking – 50% of people get this wrong!

February 24th, 2020 by Roger La Salle

By Roger La Salle

               www.innovationtraining.com.au

               www.matrixthinking.com

Why do only 50% of people get this right?

Alternatively, 50% get it wrong; and we have conducted this exercise many times.

Background

A couple of week ago we conducted a three day intensive training workshop in Malaysia.

Three full eight hour days many seem a stretch, but the feedback was sensational with many participants scoring the workshop 10/10.

The topic was innovation (of course) and the “Commercialisation of Technology”.

The attendees were split into teams (simulated companies) and asked to explore various questions and problem solve. The aim was to show how different people view the same problem from different perspectives.

The Exercise

Consider a race between two people where there are two laps of an athletics track.

On the first lap they will both walk, on the second lap they will both run.

In this case one person wins, let us say by ten seconds.

Assume in the exercise that nobody gets tired, no matter which order the laps are conducted.

The question:

If we now reverse the order of the legs to that on the first lap they run then on the second lap they walk, will the winning distance between the first and second place be different.

Not only were the teams asked to answer the question, there being only two possible answers, “SAME” or DIFFERENT”, but they were also asked to prove their answer using a real experiment in the conference room as we watched.

As expected the participants were split with their answers, but the exercise was a huge “ hit” with everybody involved and looking on during the simulation; and as it happened, cheering when their correct answer emerged.

A great and entertaining exercise in thinking.

                                                      **** END ****

Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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February 4th, 2020 by Roger La Salle

Incentives do help!

By Roger La Salle

                                                                                                     www.innovationtraining.com.au

                                                                                                        www.matrixthinking.com

The ideal purpose of incentive schemes is to allow staff to share in the success of the business with greater success translating to greater bonus payments. The same should apply with the quest for innovation, perhaps more so than most other business activities, because it is well understood that companies that don’t innovate, don’t survive.

1.                 Traditional incentive schemes

Traditionally incentive schemes, usually referred to as bonus schemes fall well short of the mark. These reward people for years of service with perhaps 1% pay bonus awarded for each year of service. The aim of this is to encourage good people to stay with the business.

There are a number of problems with such schemes that render them somewhat obsoletes including:

·        It also encourages poor performing staff to stay

·        It does not reward endeavour, just longevity

·        It must be paid even in times of bad business outcomes

·        Staff expect it as a part of their salary and thus is it not treated as a bonus so it does not work to “incentivize”

2.               KPI’s based incentives

Incentive schemes are ways to reward people who meet certain agreed KPIs. Such schemes are very common but less than ideal for a number of reasons including:

·        Meaningful KPI’s are hard to set for certain job functions

·        Clever operators can manipulate KPI outcomes to achieve KPI rewards

·        They do not align all key positions as one key position may be motivated to  achieve a good KPI by working to erode another department managers KPI. There are numerous examples where this is done

·        Such a scheme seldom trickles down to the bottom rung of workers.

3.               Performance against forecast EBIT

This approach seems to be the most equitable and easy to implement method and has been seen to work well in major organizations. With this method every member of the organisation benefits. Indeed, why should just top management and senior staff alone be incentivized? Success in business should be a team effort with team rewards.

With this approach a target EBIT is set for the forthcoming year. Staff do not necessarily need to know the quantum or forecast actual dollar EBIT figure, perhaps instead just a mark on a barometer graph updated monthly to show progress.

If the target EBIT is met then all staff receive a bonus payment related to their seniority or rank in the business.

For example a senior or “C” level executive may receive a 25% salary bonus for meeting EBIT targets, the next level down, perhaps 10%, the next lower level 5%,  down to the bottom level of perhaps 3%.

In this way all staff are engaged with the business and are incentivized to work towards ever better EBIT outcomes.

The percentage payments as bonuses can also be linearly linked to the business performance against that target EBIT. For example if the EBIT actually achieved is double the EBIT target then bonuses are accordingly doubled.

Such a scheme is easy to implement as well as incentivizing and rewarding everybody.

                                                      **** END ****

Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panelist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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Beware the overly zealous innovator?

October 29th, 2019 by Roger La Salle

                                                                                                        By: Roger La Salle

                                                                                                        www.innovationtraining.com.au

                                                                                                        www.matrixthinking.com

Define your goal and stick to it

How many times have you been involved with an innovation only to find the developers and engineers adding features that were never in the original brief? This happens all too often with the downside of increased development cost, increased product cost and increased time to market. Worse still, researchers going off on a tangent to explore some curiosity of little value to meeting original product specification?

Mitigating Risk – the market is a risky place

Time to market is critical in these days of turbulent markets, rapid prototyping and ever emerging technologies. Marketers often get it wrong with new products, so the earlier you can achieve market validation the better.

With any new product it’s usually a good idea to launch with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). That is a product that meets the initial requirements but may lack all the possible enhancements and “bells and whistles” that usually come with extra development cost and increased time to market. These can come later to keep the market involved. Just look at Apple and Microsoft with continuous product churn with the new or updated versions always adding enhancements to the previous.

The idea is to test the market with the MVP and then use innovation “Change that Adds Value” © La Salle 1999 to continually upgrade the product with new and better applications and features. This is what innovation is all about, and one car manufactures exploit to the fullest.

Car makers release a model, then each year add features, which of course could have been added at the start but at the expense of market validation for a new model; and of course the opportunity to innovate to win ongoing market engagement.

Not only do car makers innovate features, but as time progresses, the new models grow in size and cost. Further, as the updated model grows to become prohibitively expensive for new market entrants, they release a smaller new car. They then use the same trick to migrate these people up the value chain with ongoing enhancements and size.

The Honda Accord, a micro car of the 1970’s soon grew to be a saloon with the Civic coming in under it for the newcomers. Now the Civic too has grown to be somewhat of a saloon but as the Civic grew in size and cost Honda introduced the sub-compact City, and so it continues.

What’s the Message?

Make sure your developers stick to the brief

Beware that surprise curiosities don’t hijack the agenda

Launch and test the market with the MVP.

                                                                 **** ENDS****

Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panelist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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How do we handle an “Orphan”?

September 18th, 2019 by Roger La Salle

                                                                                           By Roger La Salle

                                                                                           www.matrixthinking.com

                                                                                         www.innovationtraining.com.au

Non-core business

How often do we come across companies who identify or develop a new product or opportunity, only to discard them as “non-core business”?

This is quite common in the world of corporate innovation. To be fair, this is understandable and typical of the way KPI’s drive executives to remain focused on trying to reach their often demanding targets.  

So the Orphan?

Technologies that are not seen as core business are often referred to as “Orphan” technologies with some businesses actually plying a trade in identifying and trying to find appropriate businesses to purchase orphans.

Alternatively, whilst many companies boast an Innovation Department that is perhaps best described as inwards looking in trying to develop innovations that may align with core business, other business have a different approach. These businesses, looking to find new fields of endeavour, actually have a full time staff position that works at looking for orphans to purchase. This is not a silly idea and is really just an “inversion” of the innovation department.

Perhaps “having your cake and eating too” may be a good approach as many companies have fallen for the trap of failing to embrace non-core innovation.

The most common example of course is Kodak and there are many others.

Many years ago a company in Melbourne manufactured and sold 28 million matches a day. It discarded research into the Butane lighter as non-core business, despite a warning from their sales manager that this was a mistake. In fact he asked the Board to open their eyes to their real business of “flame on demand”, not just matches. Alas, history told the story. They no longer exist in their own right and were taken over and merged with another brand.

Again the Outrigger!

I have mention this in recent blogs and I raise it again, this model needs to be taken seriously.

An example:   We were working with a company in Regional Victoria of late, a company that specialises in precision laser cutting that used their skills to develop a wonderful product in their own right that they could sell direct to end users. This was a great initiative in moving them from being a “dependant supplier” to an “independent supplier”. In other words, a company with a product of its own to sell, not just a service of metal cutting to companies that may come through the door.

Our advice to this business was to employ the outrigger model and create an independent entity and employ a young dynamic hungry entrepreneur to take charge and let them run with this as a new business, whilst they remained focused on their core business, which is already successful in its own right.

What’s the Message?

Overlooking or discarding non-core business may be seen as opportunities lost, but beware of the common trap of chasing too many rainbows, only to find none.

Think carefully about how you manage non-core assets or developments. There may be “gold” there for the taking and the outrigger model may be the best low risk approach.

                                                                 **** ENDS****

Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panelist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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