Posts Tagged ‘Process Innovation Matrix’

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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Are you asking the right Question?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Innovation is about finding better ways of doing – What?

As we know, a good definition of Innovation is “Change that adds Value” and embracing this term opens the way to make innovation a relatively straight forward exercise, providing you are asking the right question.

How many times do we solve a problem and even implement a solution, only to then realise had we asked a better question we may have come up with a much better solution. How many times do we convene a meeting without having a specific one sentence idea of exactly what we wish to achieve in that meeting?

Being able to crystallise an issue to a single sentence question is so important, but few people implement that valuable practice.

Have you found the best question?

To put this into context, let me pose the question, and have you think of the answer, before reading on:

  • What is the specific purpose of a written job application?

The obvious answer is to get the job, but this not correct.

The sole purpose of the written application is to get an interview, to get in front of the people making the selection.

With that clear purpose in mind, the written application takes on a different form. Indeed, what you leave out is just as important as what you include. You should lead the reader to a point where they wish to speak with you to learn more. This is quite a different approach from writing everything you can think of in the hope that will win you the job. The written application never wins you the job.

The above is a simple example of making sure you have a properly defined objective, and that it’s the correct objective.

Too close to the problem

To cite another example, recently a workshop was undertaken in a large multinational trading bank, the team came to the session wanting to resolve the question – “How can we reduce the cost to businesses wishing to raise a Letter of Credit (LC)?”  This seemed like a sensible question and was workshopped by the group for a time until they came to the “Re -Question Catalyst in the Innovation Matrix.

So challenged to “Re-question” the group digged deep searching to find the real reason they wished to lower the cost? The answer that crystallised was, so that people would be more willing to use their LC facility.

In fact, the real and best question to ask was, ”How can we inspire businesses to raise more LC’s”?

On investigating this different issue it was soon realised that the cost, maybe $20.00 was irrelevant. Why would that be a “show stopper” for somebody wishing to raise an LC for perhaps $500k or more.

The real reason people were adverse to raising LC;’s was the time and effort involved. The process was just too complex and time consuming. Yet the bank in its daily work transfers multi-millions of dollars around the world with little more than the click of a mouse. So why are LC’s so complex?

The better question, the real question was “How can we make it easier for clients to raise LC’s”? With this question in mind the workshop was continued based on a Process Innovation Matrix.  An answer was soon found.

There are countless examples of this, usually caused by being too close to the problem. Just ask any design engineer.

You can be sure almost without exception, after a complex design is implemented, and maybe even marketed, the next embodiment of the same product will be much simplified. Why, because having done it once, better designs questions and issued can now be resolved.

So what’s the solution?

The classic method of questioning with the “why” “why’ “why” challenge is one way of trying to drill down to the best question.

Another way is to have somebody quite remote from the issue present in any meeting that addresses a problem. You can be sure that a person NOT skilled in the area will ask some very interesting and challenging questions. This always helps in drilling down to the real issue and the best question.

Most often when a group of people comes together to investigate a burning issue, a solution will be found, just make sure the best question has been asked, a question that leads to the best solution.

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