Posts Tagged ‘Opportunity’

Over the Horizon

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Over the Horizon vision
Roger La Salle
Which Horizon?

McKinsey’s sometime ago defined what they referred to as the three horizons of growth in business. In summary we may call these Horizon 1, or what we are doing now and in the very near term.
Horizon 2 refers to what are going to be our actions for the medium term and Horizon 3 refers to the long term future. This is what I prefer to call “over the horizon” activities.

Although the first two horizons occupy most of our time in many businesses, Horizon 1 gets by far the greatest attention.

The Facts

Indeed recent studies have shown that in fact Horizon 3 attracts less than three percent of executive time. In many businesses of course one wonders if Horizon 3 gets any attention at all, especially in these days of tight economies with many businesses literally fighting for survival.

Of course embracing innovation is one way to work to continually move your customers products and services to a better place and the formation of innovation teams is the best way to implement this. However such teams usually focus on Horizon 2, that is what we can be doing in the short to medium term.

Horizon 3

Horizon 3 is the one that the senior executives of a business need to pay more attention to; but like it or not the distractions of the office environment are not conducive to Horizon 3 development.

Most businesses of course from time to time have off site executive retreats. In most cases these focus on reports from business units and discussion of the issues and problems of the day and what can be done in the short to medium term to enhance the business and overcome any immediate issues at hand.

Perhaps had KODAK being looking to the longer term several years ago its ongoing business demise may have been somewhat different.

So too with the US auto industry that suffered in the wake of the Japanese attention to quality and cars more appropriate to the times than the oversized, overpowered all too heavy typical US built autos. Of course the list goes on of businesses that have failed to see the longer term big picture and have subsequently gone to the wall or been forced to take emergency corrective action to avoid catastrophe.

Exploration of over the horizon activities at such retreats is however where much of this valuable executive time should be spent. If you are in fact doing this it is quite unlikely your competition will be doing the same.
Use proper tools

There are several tools that can be employed to good effect to explore long term predictions. These are not the abstraction of the so called “Futurist” but deliver quite a rigorous process that can be plotted on a graph and used to good effect to anticipate the future and allow you to best position yourself to be at the right place at the right time.

What now?

The bottom line is to recognise that too little attention is paid to over the horizon planning with day to day reactive tasks taking most executive time.

Put your executive team to work and look at the longer term, few business are doing that.

To do so will put you in a commanding position.

**** 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 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 one of the world’s largest consulting firms.

Roger La Salle
Innovation – Opportunity – Inspiration
Conferences – Key Notes – Workshops – Facilitation
Twitter @rogerlasalle
Mobile 0418 370 828
Office + 613 9842 7267
Fax + 613 9842 2260
Sponsor – INNOVIC Next Big Thing Award

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ROI for Innovation – The low hanging fruit!

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

ROI for Innovation – The low hanging fruit!
© Roger La Salle 2010
Business Units need to provide a return

In my previous article I challenged innovation practitioners to examine the return on their innovation investment. If your innovation initiative is not providing returns greater than its cost, then the very existence of the program needs to be questioned.

Having said that, one may well ask what is an appropriate time scale to obtain this return? Months, years or maybe even a decade as we wait in vain hope for the breakthrough initiative that seldom ever comes!

So let’s examine the possibilities and find the low hanging fruit.

If you can have an early win with innovation then you can be sure more budget will be forthcoming and still greater achievements can be obtained.

Where to start?

Essentially there are just four ways in which innovation may be tackled:
• Product innovation
• Service Innovation
• The broad landscape of systematic opportunity capture
• Process Innovation

The first three above mentioned approaches herald the introduction of innovated products, services and perhaps the implementation of a new captured opportunity. Without doubt it is with these that we can build the top revenue line of a business. Put simply, this is really the only way to build a business. Businesses grow on increased revenues and by no other means.

Having said that, the implementation of any of these involves some degree of risk, technical in the development phase, but much more significantly, risk in the market place. Will the market be as large as you forecast? Interestingly if you embrace proper innovation practices market risk can also be largely mitigated, but of course never completely removed.

With the above in mind, perhaps the early innovation initiative should be focused on the one with the least risk, Process Innovation.

What is Process Innovation?

Process Innovation is about finding better ways to do whatever we are doing. Process innovation, unless it means tinkering with the sales process or sales model really carries little if any risk and in my experience I have found that there is almost always room for process improvements.

Further, any improvement in a process translates dollar for dollar to the bottom line, thus measuring the gain compared with the cost or perhaps the ROI is relatively easy.

Governments both state and federal push process improvement, Lean, Continuous Improvement, 5S and Six Sigma as their way of encouraging innovation in businesses. They do this I believe because these are somewhat tried and tested methods but also because improvements can almost always be made and cost benefits determined with little downside risk. Furthermore the benefits of process improvement are easier to understand and articulate.

However, even so, these extremely simple methods are still somewhat shrouded in a mystique that makes them unnecessarily complex, much more so than they need to be.

For many large multinationals with subsidiaries in Australia, unfortunately there is neither the opportunity nor appetite for innovation except in processes. Consequently this is where the bulk of attention is paid.

In the case of utilities such as water, gas and electricity where this is little scope to actually “innovate” the product there is still scope for service innovation and opportunity capture. In such organisations that are largely process driven and with many people doing the same thing, the gains possible from process innovation are almost unlimited.

Keep it Simple

I like to keep things really simple and in process innovation there are really only two things that need to be addressed:

• Costs – how much does each and any activity cost in cold hard cash, from telephone bills to rents, interest, labours and raw materials, including the cost of work in progress?

• Cycle Time – how long does each activity take? This includes the process of getting an incoming order into the system right though to collecting the money from the customer.

If the above two are addressed in a systematic manner, consistent with the maintenance of quality, the process innovation business is pretty straight forward. It simply commences with an activity that maps and measures where you are now with each process and then works to make improvements in the two above mentioned places.

This is not rocket science and is very low risk.

So what’s the time scale?

With process innovation leading your innovation initiative it should be possible to make real cost benefit gains within six months at the most and, of course as stated, any savings go straight to the bottom line.

But I emphasise again, removing costs or improving processes does not build the revenue line, however the extra funds provided by such improvements can now be applied to where the real business building action can take place, product and service innovation and of course “opportunity capture”.

That’s where the real game is.

**** 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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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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Rising interest rates, maybe ‘tightening of belts’ – is this an opportunity?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

With inflation in Australia above the Reserve Banks targets, interest rates have risen yet again in an attempt to slow the economy and dampen demand. Is this a “show stopper” for business, or can it be viewed as an opportunity?


The Reserve banks uses interest rates as a questionable means of dampening demand and so slowing the economy, but in the last “sledge hammer” approach to economic control under Paul Keating when interest rates reached the dizzy heights of 17% and more, our balance of trade remained in the negative and consumers were still spending. Eventually, after many businesses “went to the wall” demand did damped and inflation slowed – but at what cost?

The ready availability of credit cards and the “must have it now” culture is one of the reasons that the impact of rising interest rates has little immediate effect on slowing the economy.

Notwithstanding the above, one thing is certain; as interest rates rise people do become more discerning with their expenditure. For the first time in perhaps more than a decade people now look twice at bills and purchases and compare alternatives with a little more rigour than before. Churn in now on the increase, and this is where the opportunity lies. Now is the time to win customers from competitors and increase market share.

Innovation is not the only answer.

Many companies embrace innovation (best defined as “Change that Adds Value”© La Salle 1999) of products, processes and services as a means to drive change and as a way of ever improving their offering and moving both their customers and businesses to an ever better place. Opportunism is perhaps another way of thinking, a way that is seldom even touched on by traditional innovation initiatives.

What is an Opportunity?

The dictionary defines the word opportunity as a fortunate intersection of events” or something similar, unfortunately such a definition is not a call to action for it fails to show one how an opportunity may be found.

Perhaps a better definition is:

“An observed fortunate set of circumstances (© La Salle 2002).

This simple definition underpins an entirely new search endeavour for business development and has the effect of moving the mindset of staff from that of merely operators to opportunists.

Make Opportunity your opportunity!

There are five important search criteria for finding an opportunity. People need to be skilled in the use of these and to work through the simple opportunity stimulants to find new unthought of initiatives. Not only does this work for businesses, it is equally valuable for personal, job and career development.

Be assured, opportunities are abundant, perhaps more so now in times when people are reviewing spending patterns.

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