Posts Tagged ‘kpi’

Do You Connect the Dots?

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Do you Connect the Dots?
© Roger La Salle 2009

How do you operate?

Have you ever worked in a company where the boss or your manager hordes information? Unfortunately this is not all that uncommon. The old saying goes that “Knowledge is Power”, and those of us that are insecure in our abilities or feel threatened by those around us try to remain in control by hording information.

In fact I know of one company where the Managing Director actually leaves notes lying around with incorrect or inaccurate information. The aim of this of course is to retain power by keeping the troops in the “dark” or better still, confused. Can you believe that?

The question is: what’s your modus operandi?

Many businesses have embraced innovation and opportunity capture as an essential business tool to survive and win in these days of ever increasing information flow, market intelligence, and speed to market. There are many innovation/opportunity models including that of so called “Open Innovation”, and what is best described as internal or “Closed Innovation”.

Closed Innovation

In this case the company has all its innovation endeavours conducted and held tightly within, there is little sharing of knowledge and little interest in eliciting the assistance of outsiders to enhance their innovation initiative. Indeed the managers of these tightly controlled programs use their skills to drive the innovation program. Unfortunately, they may be missing a lot.

Open Innovation

In this case, though the business remains in control of its destiny and direction it enhances its innovation initiative by making connections to a seemingly disparate groups of outsiders and companies all looking to expand their horizons by building on combined know how.

These days, there are so many diverse technologies and specialties that it is simply impossible to have a grasp on what is happening on all fronts, thus the connected model has great merit.

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 in the open innovation model, broadly skilled technologists and open minded thinkers come to the fore.

For example, suppose I run a lumber business. That is 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 model, such knowledge may never be acquired, or if it is, only by word of mouth with other operators who may have long since acquired the technique.
Similarly, the technologies developed in putting man on the moon. How could that possibly connect to the business of pots and pans? Teflon coating is the answer.

• Clocks and cell phones or radio paging, is there a connection? Indeed there is. Imagine having a clock equipped with a radio receiver to receive time signals and thus keep perfect time, and even update for Summer Time changes. Such clocks are now available in Australia.

• The packaging business and home insulation? Of course, use bubble wrap as the ideal insulator, it’s light weight, cheap and easy to install and fire retardant grades are 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 an open innovation approach that encourages a wide search horizon.

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.

What’s the Message

Managers in the open innovation space do not need to be great technologists, as perhaps with the closed model. Instead they need to be great net-workers, able to build bridges between people and companies. This is quite a different skills set to that of the managers operating in the closed model.

Thus, stay open minded, expand your horizons and embrace the art of formal opportunity search, where the reach is unlimited.

**** 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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Move your people from Operators to Opportunists

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

How many people really understand the difference between being an operator and an opportunist?


People are usually hired by businesses to perform a job function, usually defined in a job description or specification. Indeed the performance of many job functions is measured by key performance indicators (KPI’s) and bonuses are often tied to achieving these.

However, is that sufficient?

In these fast moving times, with new and better products, processes and services at every turn, and the unforseen market turbulence of recent times many business have recognised the need for change. Formal innovation programs have now been established as a means of equipping people with the tools that may enable them to go beyond their designated job function to add extra, perhaps even breakthrough, value to the business.

In addition to the innovation endeavour, a new horizon of “Opportunity” has now emerged as a means to move staff from operatives to opportunists, and the business risks in doing so are virtually non existent.

What is an Opportunity?

Unlike the dictionary, which defines the work opportunity as “fortunate intersection of events” – which is essentially “luck” and leads you nowhere in the opportunity search, a better definition of the opportunity is:

“An Observed Fortunate Set of Circumstances”© RLS 2000

Indeed, opportunities do not occur in nature, opportunities only occur though human observation.

Take the realisation of gravity as the force that pulls everything towards the earth. Gravity has been in place since the birth of the planets but it was not until 1665/6 that Isaac Newton made the observation that all things fall to the ground that led to his understanding of gravity and his gravitational equations that even today underpin much of physics.

If we accept this definition for the word opportunity, and its key word “observed” we can actually work to teach our people the fundamentals of observation that routinely result in an opportunity.

Can you teach people the art of Opportunity Capture?

Essentially the search for an opportunity requires just five fundamental observation criteria and eight ways of working on each and of these observations in order to explore new and different wealth generation activities for your business.

Opportunism does not have to be a matter of luck as many people may think. In fact the systematic search for an opportunity is perhaps a more reliable way of finding new business horizons than some of the quite abstract creative thinking techniques or innovation programs. Further, the beauty of opportunism is that it is largely market driven, and of course markets are the key to business growth.

Where to from Here?

Whilst innovation and its techniques may be one way to think about ways to build a business, remember, opportunism should also be embraced and perhaps be given some considerable weight in you business development program. If you can move your people from operatives to opportunists the outcome for the business will be extraordinary, and the risk in doing so is virtually non existent.

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