Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Innovation , Invention and Collaboration

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Innovation – Invention – Collaboration
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.

Possible 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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Business Insight – Is it Innovation or Research?

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Is it Innovation or Research?
By Roger La Salle
Setting the scene!
To preface this article the following TED talk may be worth a watch, (although I did give this link in the last article). This talk shows some of our energy problems and is a real laugh as you get into it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg1lFjRKKHY

A little one sided
The ABC in Australia recently screened a program on the virtues of home battery power storage. Unfortunately they failed to once mention that with present technology there is absolutely no financial payback for such a system. Further, even a 10kWhour battery would have insufficient power to cook a single large family roast dinner.

Of course the charging of batteries can be from solar panels but no mention was made of the cost of these or the need to keep them clean or that in Australia even the most sun drenched place has only 36% of full sun hours. To their credit the program highlighted the great benefit of off peak charging from the grid.

No doubt that in the fullness of time local power will be the order of the day. How long it takes us to get there is anybody’s guess but one thing is certain, whilst this technology is being rolled out, with vast subsidies, power prices are being forced up and tax payers worldwide are footing the bill whether or not you embrace this technology. Much the same of course can be said of the power from the ever growing array of wind farms.

On the positive side one may think this will eventually lead to the extinction of the ugly, expensive and fire prone poles and wires – not so.

More poles and wires are being installed every day to support the growing farms of wind generators, again subsidised by the taxpayer.

Personally, I am all for renewables, but at what cost and who is driving this agenda and what is the effect on power hungry industries such as aluminium manufacture or smelting and the like. Is this agenda killing industries in developed countries, industries that make essential products that are not then removed from the face of the earth but simply relocated to lower cost countries with the nett effect on carbon emissions being the same or more likely, even worse.

Can it work anywhere?
Presently I am involved in a project that uses battery power, supplemented in some small way by the grid, but this is a commercial application with real payback, a positive value proposition. That makes it workable and different and we don’t need any government subsidy to make it workable.

Innovation – the way forward
Anybody that knows me recognises I am a champion of innovation, but in the commercial world innovations need to stand on their own legs.

Innovation is about “change that adds value”, otherwise it’s called research.

**** 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 and 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. www.matrixthinking.com

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Business Insight – Remember KISS – now it’s MIC

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Innovation – is it KISS or MIC?
By Roger La Salle

Remember KISS – Well now it’s MIC
As innovation seems to grow ever more complex it seems we now also have “Scientific Innovation”, “Science Based Innovation”, “Creative Innovation” (this term seems to reek of repetition) and now the “Psychology of Innovation”, presumably the latter being a term coined by the technically challenged.

Some time ago I wrote an article entitled “Onions” and suggested that the purveyors of the art of innovation seem to be forever inventing new terms to describe the simple art of changing things to add value – the true definition of innovation. I first coined this definition in a book I wrote some 15 years ago. Fittingly, many others have now adopted this definition, but that has not stopped the flow of new invented terms to keep the innovation consulting space alive and well.

No longer is it KISS (Keep it simple) now it seems to be MIC (Make it complex).

Can increments be really called innovations?
Some operators in this space shun incremental innovation, indeed they even fail to recognise this as true innovation suggesting that the term should be reserved for major things.

Each to their own opinion of course, but personally I would call any change that is made for the purpose of adding value and thus winning new or more markets is innovation.

Similarly, changes though slight, can have a profound effect. I just wonder where those types of innovation fit into the landscape of the big change thinkers.

Some examples, insignificant in the context of major change, but dramatic in effect.

• The hollow point bullet
• Winglets on the tip of aircraft wings
• Sterilization preceding surgery
• Shatterproof glass
• Star drive headed screws
• Serrations on the blade of a knife, and so on.

Maybe only big changes are innovation!
Minor changes can have big effects, like those mentioned above that can be easily developed, but that should not diminish their status as innovations.

Still others though minor in the context of change can present high technical challenges, but the challenges, alone should not be what allows them to wear the badge of true innovation. The Harrier vertical take-off jet fighter would be one such innovation. Simple in nature but immensely complex in development.

KISS
In my view those pushing these new terms of “Scientific Innovation”, Science Based Innovation”, “Creative Innovation” and the “Psychology of innovation” should remember the old axiom, Keep it Simple.

In short don’t be led astray by the ever growing layers being added to the innovation onion. Keep it simple, identify the opportunity and then innovate, or in simple terms, make changes that add value. The tools of innovation are the power that drives these changes whether they are large or increments – who really cares, it’s the effect that counts.

**** 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 and 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. www.matrixthinking.com

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Paris – so who’s paying?

Monday, December 14th, 2015

So who’s paying for Paris?
By Roger La Salle
The fallout
The Paris Climate Summit has been and gone. From my understanding of the outcome, it seems there is a determination, though as far as I can establish somewhat voluntary, to rein in carbon emissions to replace fossil fuels with clean energy. Perhaps that’s the good news, but who’s paying?

New jobs and investment in renewables
Research, defined as something that entails “technical risk” (in other words there is no guarantee of an outcome) is generally an activity confined to research budgets in very large organisations or government funded bodies.

Innovation, on the other hand entails far less risk. In essence if we treat innovation as I have defined it as “change that adds value” or bringing better things to market where people are already customers – clearly the risks are far reduced. Indeed it’s this low risk profile that inspires companies to innovate rather than research.

Innovation and the profits it brings is the lifeblood of business and if there is no clear path to market and almost a guarantee of a successful outcome who would bother; only the foolhardy or cashed up governments and corporations in for the long haul.

Jobs for the future
It’s with this background that I query the questionable exuberant statements of political leaders of all persuasions on the outcome of the Paris talks. This is not in any way to question the need or otherwise to rein in carbon emissions, that’s not relevant to this article.

What is relevant is the so called jobs that will be created that will generate new wealth and a future for economies that invest in so called renewables.

Why not in the past?
Why does it take a Paris outcome to make this suddenly real, the answer is simple – subsidies.

It seems that these new jobs that will fill the spaces of factories presently laid waste by the expense and lack of a positive value proposition of renewables, will now be filled by well-paid workers all by and large subsidized by the taxpayer.

This is job creation by subsidy on a grand scale and with economies of all nations now in a somewhat parlous state, one must ask the question, “Whose paying and how can we afford it?”

Innovation is the answer
On the back of Paris many stock markets tanked, the cost of living will undoubtedly rise as we see these subsidized jobs kick-in and that together with a rise in power prices will inevitable see a fall in business confidence, so maybe tough times ahead?

Now, like never before it’s definitely, “Innovate or Perish”.

**** 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 and 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. www.matrixthinking.com

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Innovation Statement – there is another way!

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Where are we headed?
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. As I understand it, formerly employed as a bureaucrat in the Department of Treasury and Finance in Canberra, so no doubt well versed in economics.

“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 obliterated 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, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of four books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian 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. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 28 countries and licensed to Deloitte for their Innovation Academy. www.matrixthinking.com

****** END ******

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Metrics For Managers

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Metrics for Managers
By Roger La Salle

Measuring work performance is vital to ensure we are making good decisions.

Indeed, there is an old saying: “if you can’t measure it, don’t change it”.

This particularly applies to process innovation where the cost benefit of changes can usually be accurately quantified before they are ever made.

Do Innovation Managers deliver?

As for innovation management the same applies.

If you are investing in innovation then it is important to understand the return that investment delivers. That is real returns and not abstractions like “It’s important to be seen as innovative”! Further, the return should ideally be forthcoming within 18 months. If this is not happening then it may be time to entirely review your approach.

Measuring the Cost benefit

It is interesting that in many businesses the cost benefit of most employees can be accurately measured.

In processes of course this is easy, so too in accounting and law and consulting where people are expected to bill typically 70 to 80 percent of their time to a client at a rate of at least double their actually cost. This is easy to measure with time sheets.

Abstract job functions

But what of the managers of:
• Products
• Categories
• Sales
• Marketing
• Communications
• Finance
• HR
• and so on, and what of their subordinate staff and executive assistants?

I am often amused when I see the English version of “The Office” with people silently poised over computer keyboards. One wonders just what value each and every one is delivering and moreover if and how it is measured?

Senior management!

As you career develops you may reach the dizzy heights of senior management or even get lost in the bureaucracy. Apart from some KPI’s that can usually be met by clever operators, there is usually no real measure of the return on investment that you or even your position delivers. What would happen if you or that position was no longer there? Would somebody take up the slack, perhaps the business may well proceed as normal?

In the case of very senior positions, perhaps those people making several millions of dollars per year, this is an interesting question.

One answer may be to explore the value and accuracy of decision making. For example if one person at the top can make just one better decision than a person that may have been passed over for the position, that single better decision may be worth millions, or even billions.

Steve Jobs was a classic example of a great decision maker.

More work to be done on this!

The bottom line is that we need to find proper ROI measures for all positions to be sure each and every staff member is delivering at least twice what they are costing.

More will be said in this is coming months.

Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of four books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been 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. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries and licensed to Deloitte, one of the world’s largest consulting firms. www.matrixthinking.com

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The “Third Eye”

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

“The Third “Eye” © Roger La Salle

Too Close to see the business

Often those of us involved in business are simply too close to daily issues to see the potential for real value adding innovations and opportunities or indeed to appreciate some of the things our businesses and people do really well.

Even in the case of business plans, which seldom play-out as forecast, the so called independent “third eye” to review the plan before it is finalised is always a good idea.

The transfer “catalyst” of the “Opportunity Matrix” thinking platform asks us to see if we can transfer this so called “third eye” used on business plans to other aspects of our business.

Following this idea we may implement a formal “third eye” across the business on a periodic basis.

“The Third “Eye” innovation initiative.

Network with a group of your peers and allow them a tour of your facility to review in their own minds what you are doing and how you go about your business.

This does not have to be limited to just the physical or operational aspects of your business but can include your telephone answering technique, your staff presentation and manner, your business card presentation, your signage and even the overall presentation of your facility.

For example, would you prefer to attend a dentist or a restaurant whose premises were beautifully maintained with lovely gardens as you enter, or instead one where the gardens were a mangled mess with absolutely no interest in presentation at all being shown by the business operator?

Obviously, the clean and beautiful presented premise inspires confidence.

With your network now briefed conduct a tour of your business and ask each person to take a note pad with them and write down three things that they individually observe that you do really well.

Also ask them to write down three things that they believe are lacking or need attention and can be done better.

Thus we now have 3 plus 3 innovation initiatives we can explore in an endeavour to innovate or improve our business.

The cost is nothing

A “Third Eye” tour need only take a few minutes and will provide invaluable third party or “independent third eye” insights. More importantly it will assist in identifying your strengths and weaknesses.

This simple third eye can be a real innovation eye opener and can be done at no cost at all.

Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of four books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been 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. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries and licensed to Deloitte, one of the world’s largest consulting firms. www.matrixthinking.com

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Big “I” or Little “i” – What’s it to be?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Big ‘I’ or little ‘i’ – What’s it to be?

© Roger La Salle 2010

A revealing statistic!
In a recent book called “Creating Wealth” by Lester Thurow some interesting statistics are cited.

“…..In the 1920′s the life expectancy of a publicly listed company in the USA was some 65 years, by the 1990′s this figure has fallen to less than ten years. Of the companies forming the original list of the Standard and Poor’s Index, only one, General Electric still survives today, and to do so GE has had to constantly re invent themselves to remain relevant.”

Innovation versus Invention
Interestingly, some of the less initiated in this business often use the word innovator interchangeably with inventor. This is often done in a polite and misguided endeavour to differentiate the person in question from the classic stereotypical inventor, represented as some excentric weirdo with fuzzy white hair wearing a white dust coat.

In fact innovation and invention are different.

Whereas innovation may be defined as “change that adds value”, invention may be perhaps best defined as something “new, novel and without precedent”.

Notwithstanding the above, most inventions are in fact created by making improvements to existing things. Indeed there are few totally new inventions.

However, whereas novelty is an essential part of an invention, novelty is not an essential part of an innovation.

Big ‘I’ and Little ‘i’
When it comes to understanding innovation further, some texts refer to so called big ‘I’, and little ‘i’.

The former refers to big or disruptive innovations that totally change the landscape of a business, its products or the dynamics of the market. In contrast, little “i” refers more to incremental changes or improvements to businesses and products.

In theory, or more likely with the benefit of hindsight, many thinkers and writers on the subject refer to big ‘I’ as essential for businesses to survive for the longer terms. The push is for businesses to “disrupt” themselves and radically change for the better following in the footsteps of companies cited as case studies that have successfully done so.

Rear Vision is a wonderful thing!
NOKIA is one exceptional example of a company that successfully migrated its core business from timber to electronics. They did this after they saw the growing resistance to the use of the dwindling natural timber resource and the emergence of the new mobile phone business with almost unlimited market potential. This is a wonderful success story operating on the big “I” model.

General Electric is another company that has reinvented itself to become strong in the financial sector. However, in doing so GE took the safe option in that whilst creating its new enterprise it did not turn its back on its traditional engineering business, instead it used its brand strength to underpin the new endeavour.

Many texts refer to these case studies as a blueprint for the future and an endorsement of big “I” as the means to renewed riches as companies model themselves on the NOKIA style of rebirth. Unfortunately, all of these case studies are just that, studies in hindsight of a few “stars” that have successfully crossed the bridge to new horizons.

Rear vision is a wonderful thing, but if one looks at the history of disruptive pioneers you will find the path littered with the corpses of those who dared to be first with disruptions but failed, as is so often the case. The problem is that these pioneers are seldom heard from.

Consider some of the so called disruptive technologies that have either failed, or undergone a very difficult and expensive birth.

The ill fated COMET jet passenger airliner, a revolution in its day, plagued with technology problems whose ultimate solutions enabled Boeing, untarnished by the pioneering COMET failures, to win the world market for passenger jets. Concorde is another example of a technology before its time. Ultimately supersonic passenger transport will become commonplace, but not to the benefit of the Concorde pioneers.

Even the ubiquitous computer took many years to be adopted by the greater community. Indeed had it not been for the development of both word processing and spreadsheets, computers today would be little more than scientific novelties and platforms for games.

So too the computer mouse which was a complete novelty when first conceived in 1968. In fact it was some 13 years before this disruption in the way we use computers was actually commercialised.

Similarly for the internet, this was possibly one of the most disruptive technologies of the 20th century and has revolutionised the way business is conducted worldwide. But it was the application developers, not the creators, who have won the rich spoils offered by this disruption.

Failure is more the norm
There are countless examples of pioneers who failed with disruptive ventures and seldom rate a mention in the end game. Unfortunately, too often we are encouraged to follow the path of the very few successful winners who steal the limelight, as they should. But be warned, these people are few and far between.

What about little “i”
The “incrementalists” are the little “i” operators and there would be no better example than the car makers. Incrementally these people release face lifted new models with perhaps just one tiny added feature almost annually. They do this for no other purpose than to render your current model obsolete and to keep you continually upgrading to the newer one.

The cell phone and computer games companies are also wonderful exponents at this art, and what abut Microsoft? None of us can even use all the features of Windows 98, yet we still get a new, non backward compatible supposedly more featured version every couple of years. Indeed Microsoft even today, still owns this market and drives it through incremental innovation.

There can be no doubt that little “i” is far easier to manage than big ‘I’; and little ‘i’ carries far less risk.

So what is it to be?

For my money, little ‘i’ wins pretty well every time. However, if you do wish to have a go at investing in a disruption, use the tried and tested “outrigger model”, as discussed in my previous insight, as this certainly mitigates much of the risk.

**** END ****

Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of three books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been 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. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries. www.matrixthinking.com

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