Archive for the ‘Services’ Category

Your innovation initiative – What’s the ROI?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

                                                                                                  © Roger La Salle 2010


Business is about profits

 I define business as “Creating Wealth through Profitable Transactions”.

 Like it or not, that’s what business is about!

 Indeed it’s the first duty of a CEO and board to work to the best interest of shareholders in providing a return on their investments. This is one of their fundamental responsibilities and by and large guides their decision making.

 Do you measure it?

 In many businesses precise metrics are employed to ensure workers are providing an adequate return on their costs, wages and all the attendant overheads. In fact the total cost of many workers these days is 50% or more of their direct salary.

In production we measure process efficiency, defined as output per unit time divided by costs. We then work to maximise the process efficiency, but we measure it.

In accounting, law, consulting and even contracted medical professionals, earned income compared with cost is measured. If you are not paying your way and in fact returning a profit, then unfortunately your time will be short lived. This is how it is in business and this is the way it will remain.

 There are some escapees

Strangely, senior managers, except perhaps the CEO, escape this direct measurement of performance (more will be said on this in future articles). In fact some complete departments deemed as essential also escape. accounts, payroll, and ITC may fall into this category as essential overheads whose costs must be amortised across other profit centres.

In the case of innovation initiatives and indeed complete innovation departments, the rationale behind the establishment of these is that “it’s the done thing”. If we are not being innovative we will not be able to retain our position and will soon be overtaken by smarter competitors. This is a great story and so true, but unfortunately the reality is that if the innovation initiative is not delivering quantifiable value then clearly it should simply not exist.

How does your innovation initiative measure up?

In the past many companies have embraced then later discarded their innovation initiatives once it became obvious that the costs were not being in any way justified by the outcomes.

The common defence for such departments when challenged is that “innovation takes time, but we will get the big one and all will be well.” Sure thing, how many times have we heard that one from would be innovators?

There is an old axiom in business and engineering: “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it”. This is so true.

Unlike perhaps the IT, accounts or payroll departments that are simply indispensable, an innovation department that is not delivering value does not qualify as one of these “escapee” and thus should not exist. Such departments are simply an unjustified business overhead.

The bottom line is do you have Innovation Metrics in place?

What is your planned innovation payback period and are the costs exceeding any expected returns.

Where to Start?

 The starting point, too often overlooked is embodied in the following four questions.

 What are you trying to achieve?

  • Where are you now?
  • How will you measure progress?
  • What outcome defines success?

If you intend to either embrace or continue with an innovation initiative then answer each of these questions, ideally with a single sentence. If you cannot do that, you are not yet on the first rung of the innovation ladder.

Finally, my next article will look at the time scale for implementation, and you may be quite surprised at just how short that can be in providing a positive ROI.

 **** 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.



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“La Salle Matrix Thinking – An update

Monday, July 5th, 2010

A Matrix Thinking updates  – big things continue to happen!


Stop Press:    1.       In late July Roger will again be visiting Colombia on a government sponsored trip to bring Matrix Thinking to more universities as well as speaking at several key industry events in three major cities. This is a 10 day tour and now also includes the provision of Roger’s books translated into Spanish for more easy assimilation by the Colombian student and business community.

2.         A few weeks ago Roger delivered a keynote to members of the People and Culture team at the National Australia Bank. The response was fantastic with an endorsement below coming from one of the banks very senior managers:

“Wow! Roger held an audience of NAB People & Culture team members spellbound with his insightful, action oriented approach to innovation. Applying lateral thinking, he sees opportunities everywhere and turns complexity and the threat of the unknown into exciting business opportunities. Without doubt Roger La Salle is one of the most inspirational speakers and writers of our time.”


Mr Jim Young,

Executive General Manager

National Australia Bank

People and Culture, Group Business Services


Following this Roger has now been engaged to deliver a series or workshops to this group, comprising in total some 5,000 people. This is a great endorsement for Matrix Thinking.

3.         Last year Roger delivered Matrix Thinking in India to some 140 MBA students in two streams over six days with an assessment at the conclusion. This year Roger has been engaged again but this time for 180 students in three streams of 60. This will include a formal assessment with marks being credited to the formal MBA course being delivered.

4.         Matrix Thinking is now available on the Deloitte Innovation Academy (DIA) web site. Soon and interactive matrix thinking portal will also be available. This is presently being developed by Deloitte Digital and will be a huge value add for DIA users.

5.         Finally after almost 12 months in gestation Roger’s new book, his fourth entitled “Innovate or Perish” is in printing and will be available within a week. Orders for this book that address innovation and metrics for the services sector are already in hand.

News Continues:

1.         In Europe Matrix Thinking was trialled in two companies with a formal independent assessment by a consulting group at the conclusion. The results were outstanding and matrix thinking is now being rolled out across a wide number of jurisdictions under funding from the Government. This is again a huge endorsement.

2.         Last week Roger delivered a keynote followed by a workshop for members of the Rotational Moulders Association.  This event was held in beautiful Queenstown in New Zealand. The whole conference and event was a huge success, no doubt due to the fantastic organising skills of the Association Executive.

3. Malaysian Television Evening news highlighted Rogers’s conference event in KL. This event was attended by some 350 CEO’s.

See the link:

4.         Roger has now formed a strategic alliance with “The Market Intelligence Company” in Sydney. This company has been in business for many years and is extremely well respected in gathering market research across a wide range of industry sectors. See the link on the “Links” page of this site.

5.         Due to increased demand Roger has now commenced formally assisting companies with the commercialisation and strategy development for new products and initiatives. This has been added to this site as an offering by popular demand.

6.         Finally the “La Salle Matrix Thinking Course Notes and Workshop Session Manual” has now been revised, refined and updated yet again. The new edition includes further information on KPI’s, Management Reporting, Value Chain players, Embedding Innovation and Innovation Circles. The manual now also has extensive content on innovating service industries, a must for most western economies that are now heavily service based.

                                                **** ENDS ****

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Open Innovation! – Is this simply “Opportunity Capture”

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Open Innovation! –  Is this simply “Opportunity Capture”

in another guise?

                                                                                                   © Roger La Salle 2010


Some months ago I sent out an article that mentioned “Open Innovation”, finally this is starting to get some traction, and it’s about time. However let’s not let the boffins turn this into “rocket science” as so many have done or attempted to do with innovation.

Keep it simple, that’s the message.

I recall speaking at a number of conferences and repeating that in reality innovation is really pretty simple, only to later be asked to stop saying that. If it’s simple, we can’t charge enough I was told.

Nice one I thought, but why make something that is fundamentally easy seem difficult?

 On Open Innovation

Open innovation is about looking beyond your own horizons and connecting with parties where the sum of the two is far greater than the individuals. However, in some cases people are wary of this model, and maybe for good reasons that may include:

  • Loss of control
  • IP and ownership disputes
  • Risk, both financial and career

These risks can be managed if there is first awareness and a collaboration model plainly laid out in advance. Too many collaborations can end up in disaster if the rules of engagement are not first well though through. Just ask many who have started a business as a partnership only to see it later fail in bitter dispute.

I also refer to a previous article I wrote on “Connecting the Dots”. May I suggest this is simply open innovation in another guise, so too is “Opportunity Capture” a subject I have been speaking on for years.

I include a brief extract from the article on “Connecting the Dots”. I wonder who may have connected these dots, as each connection is a business opportunity just waiting to be grabbed:

Physiotherapy and the reduction of carbon emissions?

  • The tooth brush and ceramic crystals?
  • Extruded plastic “core flute” sheeting and aluminium extrusions?

Going Forward

Even if the dots are marvellously connected many initiatives still fail in the gestation and commercialisation phases.There three ways of going about this most important phase:

  • One party takes the lead role
  • Joint venture
  • The “Outrigger” model.

Especially for large organisations it’s this latter model that I see as the one that works the best. Indeed IBM was a great exponent of this model when it decided to move from just “Big Blue” to developing and selling PC’s.

Ownership of a project, direct responsibility, fast nimble action and competent management is the ideal model. Further, this is a model where so called “disruptive” innovations can be tested without serious risk to the host body.

The Input

As with data processing, rubbish in equals rubbish out.

The key to success is first a good idea, all successful businesses start with a good idea.

This is where “Opportunity Capture” comes right to the fore. Call it open innovation if you like, but I have still yet to see a formal open innovation model that actually provides a structured search mechanism for an opportunity.

May I suggest “Opportunity Capture” is just that!

In conclusion

An extract from a past article on this very subject a few months ago:

Opportunity – the Next Wave

In addition to innovation, a new wave is starting to build, that of Opportunity capture and the systematic search for opportunities.

In this domain opportunity is defined as: “An observed fortunate set of Circumstances” ©RLS 2000

You can teach your people to become opportunists, teach the important things to observe and move your people from being mere operators to become opportunists.

There is little doubt the wave of “opportunity” is gathering momentum.

                                                   **** 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.

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Invention – Innovation – Opportunity – Is there a difference

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Innovation – Invention – Opportunity Capture – What’s the difference?

                                                                                                  © Roger La Salle 2010

 Change is the order of the day!

 There would be little doubt that businesses, whether large or small realise that in order to stay ahead of the game it is essential to be constantly renewing their offerings. Whether it is products, processes, services or simply the way you do business, change is essential.

 Long gone are the days when we could be complacent and expect things to continue as usual. If it’s not the internet and the rise of e-commerce, ever changing government regulation, the growth of credit cards, new technologies and materials, things are constantly changing. Further, the pace of change is ever accelerating.

 Many businesses challenged by the need to change have embraced “creativity” as a change medium. But what does this really mean – and can it be systematically applied to a business?

 I believe that “creativity” as a tool that endeavours to identify new opportunities is a little too generic. Just asking somebody to “be creative” really has no starting point.

 This is where the more focused approaches of Invention, Innovation and Opportunity Capture come to the fore. These are “hard tools” that are immediately applicable to any business.

 So what’s the Difference?

  •  Invention

 An invention, by definition requires an element of novelty in that there needs to be some part of the idea for which no “prior art” exists.

 Perhaps a good simple definition of Inventions is: “Products without precedent”

 Game changing inventions are often the result of Pure Research, such as the development of the semiconductor transistor, the laser, the early day vaccines that completely revolutionised medicine or new materials such as nylon, plastics and Teflon etc..

 Applied research, is work done to develop an invention with a clear target market in mind and is vigorously pursued by many large companies. But in this case, the outcomes are possibly best described as Innovations as their starting point was the knowledge of a real need if a solution to a particular problem could be found.

 The flat screen television is a classic example. Though the technology it embodies includes many inventions, the clear market aim was to “innovate” the large square box TV with the sure knowledge that a market success would be the result.

 How right they were.

  •  Innovation

 Innovation is best defined as “Change that adds value” and this is a call to action.

 This definition is founded on two important principles:

 There is nothing that cannot be changed in some way to add value, whether it is a product, process or a service, or simply the way you do business

Changing something that is already well accepted in the market place and making it even better is a sure way of almost risk free new business. Simply find any product, process or service that is in widespread use and make it better. In doing so you can almost guarantee that you will have removed the single biggest risk in business, that of market failure. Of course the flat screen TV is a classic example.

 The principles of Innovation are extremely simple, all that is needed are some simple tools and some people willing to explore anything you perceive to be in widespread demand – the outcome will be a clear winner in all but a few cases.

  •  Opportunity Capture

 This is what I like to refer to as the big picture as it encompasses both innovation and invention.

 Ideally with both invention and innovation we require a starting point, something on which to focus our attention.

 “Opportunity capture” offers just that, it’s the seed we need to spawns both invention and innovation.

 Opportunity, defined as “An observed fortunate set of circumstances” can easily be taught to people and systematic opportunity search methodologies can be put in place that not only teach your people to understand what an opportunity looks like, but moreover inspires them and provides the tools with which to search.

 Opportunity is the real game changer and perhaps a better term to describe what is presently referred to as “open Innovation, though even in that case the open innovation model still fails to put in place a systematic opportunity search mechanism.

 Where to from here?

 It goes without saying that the need to change is ever on us, research based invention is both expensive, risky and has in many cases has an extraordinarily long time to market.

 Innovation is both simple and relatively risk free, if done properly.

 The real secret that should underpin all change endeavours is that of structured opportunity capture, that’s the big picture.

                                                          **** 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.

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Service Innovation – the Next Wave

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

What is innovation?

Simply put, innovation is best defined as “Change that Adds Value”© La Salle 1999.

That is, take an existing product, process or service and innovate (or change) it in some way to add value, this is a very low risk way of business building.

A structured thinking matrix (or rectangular array of “Seeds” and “Catalysts”) for services had been developed that provides a rigorous way of innovating services.

What is less understood are the concepts of Service Efficiency and Quality in the service domain?

Efficiency and Quality in the World of Tangibles

In the world of tangibles, one of the best definitions of quality is “conformity to design”.

That is, decide what is it you wish to make and do it repeatedly without change to meet an agreed specification; and for many manufactured products there is absolutely no benefit to the customer in exceeding the specification or tightening tolerances.

For example, increasing the tolerance on the diameter of a 75mm long nail from say +/- 0.01mm to +/- 0.001mm would be of little benefit to anybody, but would no doubt cause all sorts of production problems and added costs.

In the manufacturing world, for the purpose of Process Innovation it is appropriate to define process efficiency as:

*Process Efficiency   =   Output/unit time ÷ Costs

*Consistent with the maintenance of quality.

Efficiency and Quality in the World of Services

In the services sector things are a little different.

Consider a call centre where the performance specification (or “Service Level”) states that staff shall always answer the phone within three rings.

Suppose somebody then finds a way to answer the phone every time, within two rings. This variance from the specification would be seen as advantageous to everybody, especially the callers. Indeed improving even further and answering after just one ring would be even better.

Unlike the manufacturing sector, in the services sector there is really no limit to the benefit afforded by improving service level (or quality of service). The important consideration is, at what cost, and what is the benefit to the customer.

Drawing an analogy from Process Innovation from the manufacturing sector leads to a useful metric for Service Efficiency as:

Service Efficiency    =   ­ *Service Level ÷ Costs

*The secret in the service domain is in properly defining “Service Level” as one of the key performance or quality measures.

Service Metrics are Essential

It is important to establish typically five metrics or KPI’s for key people and deliverables in your services enterprise and to use these as a basis to systematically “innovate” your service efficiency.

Without these properly defined and quantifiable metrics there is little point in attempting any sort of innovation at all.

Finally, even though the above metric for service efficiency refers largely to the service sector, remember that even a manufacturing enterprise has a significant element of service fulfilment in the interface with your customers. This too can be measured and innovated in much the same manner.

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