Tag: prototype

The Future of Leadership

The future of Leadership (and also Management) continues to be debated. It is widely recognised that things cannot remain as they are. We are in a challenging era and we need organisations to be more effective (not necessarily efficient), to be better places to work and to be sustainable. Up until now, these have mainly not been attainable apart from in a few organisations. These few do, however, show that what we are all striving for is in fact possible. The question is, how on earth do we get there?

There are professional bodies that see themselves as the custodians of Leadership or Management. Are these the bodies to take things forward? In fact, should there be representative bodies at all? The problem is that we are trying to paint a picture of the future which a) obviously does not exist b) which we wish to be different from the present.

This means that if we use the current knowledge and models from any existing sources then we are likely to be interpolating in order to create the future. Even current management thinking tells us to be wary of this. Surely what we desire is a way of extrapolating from what we already know. Fans of Douglas Adams will only be too aware of how the ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’ was extrapolated from an exceedingly hot steaming cup of coffee in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (please read it if you have not already done so). If Douglas Adams had interpolated then he might have just created a frothy Latte rather than an ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’.

So what does this mean for Leadership? In terms of concrete actions, I am not entirely sure. However, to find out I believe that we need to paint a picture of the future which does not have to be complete fantasy. It should, however, not be limited by current thinking. This should maybe focus on organisational structures (or not), behaviours and the ways in which employees communicate as well as the requirements of organisations. The let us consider how we get there.

We should not throw away what we already know. Neither should we accept an interpolated future just because there are aspects that we are unclear about. If there are no Leadership and Management models then let us invent them. If we do not like the language used then let us create new language. Even if we cannot do that, let us experiment and create a prototype of the future which others can borrow or add to.

The danger is that this will be seen as too high a price to pay for creating a brighter future. What price are you and your organisation prepared to pay?

What makes a good idea?

Well, first of all, it is a good, no really great, idea to have a good idea! Sounds silly but many ideas are just that. I could have a really great idea about growing bananas underwater but something tells me that I would be wasting my time. When the go/no-go decision is a little less obvious we must be a little more logical about testing for a good idea.

Here are ten suggestions as to how to test your idea:

  1. What problem (or business pain) is your idea targeted at?
  2. Is your idea well formed or do you have more work to do?
  3. Do you understand why your idea will appeal to potential customers?
  4. When you tell people about your idea do they get it immediately?
  5. Do you have a prototype or have you conducted a trial? Have you received positive feedback?
  6. Have you costed your idea, what will you sell it for?
  7. How will you make your product or deliver your service?
  8. Do you have the necessary skills and resources or will you buy them (where from)?
  9. Have you checked that nobody has done this before?
  10. Do you wish to retain ownership of your idea?

You may well have further tests in an organisation specific context e.g. does this fit with strategy or existing products but these are a good starting point. It is always best to test your ideas to avoid wasting time in a commercial environment. If not you may simply be playing.

Calibrating your idea generation pipeline

Do you have an idea generation pipeline? Most large organisations talk about their ‘sales pipeline’. Without knowing all of the details we understand that a) the pipeline should produce a stream of sales b) the pipeline should ideally be full. Linked to this we also understand that to produce a certain volume of sales we need a given number of contacts, sales appointments or exhibitions to go to. To increase sales we simply tweak our pipeline and hey presto, something happens.

When it comes to ideas we are not quite so methodical. Ideas are random and come along whenever they feel like it, right? Well yes and no. A large number of random ideas will at some stage begin to feel less random but the actual ideas (or quality) might still be so.

Imagine a business based on ideas. DIY suppliers such as tool manufacturers consistently seem to be trying to catch our eyes with drills, screwdrivers, unbreakable gardening implements etc. Your sales and marketing department may tell you that to keep ahead of the competition you need to have 5 new products each year in production and ready for distribution. Now let us work from the other end. A typical idea generation session might generate say 1500 ideas of which 150 might be worth considering and 15 worth trying to mock up or create prototypes. This might lead to only 1 product. At least you know that you might need to run 4 such sessions or create over 6000 wacky ideas.

Then you must allow for some sort of customer feedback, production set up etc which means that your year timeframe has now become 6 months! At least if you can calibrate your processes you can actually plan getting an idea from conception to customer, and with feedback built into the system you will get better at it. Then, when your Sales Director says ‘we need a new product for this market, now’ you can estimate the effort and cost required and tell him how long he will have to wait. Remember, miracles we can cope with but the impossible takes a little longer!

The same concept can be applied to services although the ratio of wacky ideas to actual services will be different. Also, because there is little manufacturing involved, services can be brought to the market place quicker.

Innovation – the way it works

This is not the definitive guide to innovation. It is just one way, and it works. The process outlined below is for a single innovation project, not continuous innovation. That is a step too far for a newsletter.

To start with there will be some sort of startup event in which key stakeholders are seen to give approval. The traditional rallying call to troops is not appropriate here. Next you are likely to take stock of where you are in terms of skills and capabilities. Our Innovation Toolkit can help you to do this. The ‘end of the beginning’ is to set up the necessary infrastructure, define objectives etc.

If there are any skills or capability gaps then these need to be covered with appropriate training before entering a research phase. This includes market research, feasibility, trend spotting, reviewing legislation etc.

Next comes the idea generation phase. Although it sounds like chaos, the aim is to produce a number of options for products, services or processes but to then filter them down to a manageable number.

There will then be a period where ideas are prototyped, tested and refined. At this point (and not before) you can produce a plan for your new business venture and work with production and operations people to implement and roll out your idea.

Although you will be sitting down pleased with yourself at this point you need to do one more thing, ensure that the lessons learned (from success as well as failure) are captured for future use.

The pleasing thing about all this is that it is possible to successfully plan your innovation project. Good luck with yours.

Innovation – the people you need

How do you choose the right people who will support and nourish an innovation initiative? This article will attempt to provide you with a set of important roles together with some attributes of the people who should fill those roles. Here we are less concerned with titles or hierarchies and more concerned with getting the people who can help drive each critical role or task.

In reality, you will find people in your organization that will fit multiple roles; your goal is not to find an individual person for each role listed below, but rather to make sure your team covers each of the areas identified. Many times people can play multiple roles, especially in smaller organizations.

Connector Connectors have the ability to connect departments, organisations, and industries that normally would not be connected. Although they may be an expert in their own field, Connectors are generally people you’d describe as a mile wide and an inch deep. They know things about a variety of fields and industries and can connect them.

Collector The Collector holds the key position of collecting ideas and providing organised access to others who can help build the knowledge base and map what is already there.

Framer The Framer works with business functions and management to determine the appropriate evaluation schemes and frameworks teams should use to evaluate ideas fairly, transparently and consistently. The Framer can construct the evaluation frameworks which your team will use to evaluate your ideas, and ensure the evaluations are consistent and transparent.

Judge The Judge evaluates the ideas, using the Framer’s framework. Generally speaking there are many “Judges” for any idea – often representing business functions (sales, marketing, R&D), regions or other business silos. Judges follow the evaluation criteria set by the Framers, who worked with all the entities involved in setting the evaluation framework.

Prototyper Many organisations are comfortable with their new product development (NPD) process. Once they know what to make or offer they are pretty efficient at producing it. The problem they have is how to capture ideas and evaluate them. The people identified above fulfill this need; however, a key person you must have is the Prototyper. Between evaluation and development there is an iterative process-the Prototyper is the master who makes rapid prototyping a reality.

Measurer You get what you measure. If you want your organisation to innovate, you have to establish what you will measure to make sure this happens. These metrics range from quantitative, such as time from idea submission to launch, to qualitative, such as what was learned from a failing.

Storyteller The Storyteller is one of the most valuable roles in the organization. The Storyteller’s responsibility is to collect, keep, and tell stories about the organization. People respond to stories better than any other method of communication.

Lookout An important role in the identification of new trends and the analysis of those trends and the impacts they may have on your business is held by the Scout.
Scouts scan the future to understand how the industry is likely to change. What are the scenarios we might face? What technologies are in development that may affect our business? What might a competitor do that would upset our position in the market? What is hot in other industries that we might adapt?