Comedy and Innovation are Bedfellows

See-through-eye-of-the-customerMany comedians are gifted with the same ability that good innovators have. Jerry Seinfeld is a great example. Jerry has the ability to see everyday things from a different angle. I prefer to think of it as “through a different set of eyes” to most people. Once he strips bare the everyday “nuance”, the humour unravels fast. He almost always looks at the problem the “nuance” created or could create.

Innovation requires the same skills. Looking at problems through the eyes of someone else. Looking at it with a fresh mindset. Looking at simple things.

Is Innovative thinking a Trainable Skill?

Yes, I think so. Here are tips to advance your innovative thinking:

Firstly, whose eyes will you be looking through? It should be the customer-set that you are hoping to capture. This may not be the customer-set you communicate with today. Crawl into the mind of this customer-set and try to imagine their thinking on the topic you are exploring.

You have to talk with an enquiring mind to understand their thinking. A great way to do this is to ask about problems. Ask why up to 5 times to really understand issues.

Secondly, new and naive people in the customer-set are just as valuable as the experienced and learned. It’s a fact that new “learner drivers” notice the annoying features of a new car far more than the experienced driver. With experience, the brain glosses over the everyday issues and nuances. These experienced people cant always see the simple nuances that annoy new drivers. They ignore the everyday bug-bears. So interview the young and naive as well as those with money.

Thirdly, a foreign designed object that looks foreign will provoke a lot of questions. My belief is basic needs around the world are fundamentally similar. It’s the environment that changes and this drives an additional layer of needs. Moving objects from one environment to another highlights this layer. Grab a lunchbox from Japan and see how it compares with yours.

At the Shanghai Boat Show a few years ago , I was puzzled why so many (not all) of the large cruising boats on display had a single engine. Were the Chinese not aware of the major benefits of twin engines? Yes they were aware; but no, they didn’t need them. Most buyers wanted large karaoke party boats. This meant small engine rooms, small galley kitchen and a huge below deck karaoke room. This customer-set found it easier to hire a karaoke boat than to rent a nightclub room.

You have new “eyes” what can you see?

Firstly, keep observations very simple. Don’t over complicate requirements or problems. Keep each one simply isolated from another. Don’t combine 2 problems together. Look at the very basics with fresh eyes and think about the problems you can see.

Here is a funny excerpt from Seinfeld:

Kramer: Mmm… Nice wallet.
Newman: Wallet.
Jerry: What?
Kramer showing Jerry the contents of his pocket
Kramer: Nobody carries wallets anymore. I mean, they went out with powdered wigs. Yeah, see here’s what you need. Just a couple of cards and your bankroll.
See, keep the big bills on the outside.
Jerry: That’s a five.

The humour is in the simple nuances. Could Kramer design an innovative wallet? Yes, if he wanted to…

Now you are in the final phase of this simple journey.

You have all the small nuance problems listed.

Now brainstorm solutions. Have as many team members working creative solutions. (see my other blog on the power of having quirky people on your team).

  • Use a principal that one solution for one problem is inadequate.
  • One solution to 2 problems is fair.
  • One solution to 3 problems is good.
  • More than this and you may have cracked it.

In the Kimberley Kruiser project we had documented over 160 problems. The core solutions were less than 30. Thats a nice ratio.

Practice will make you perfect

The only thing that will make you better is failure. Big failure is all to obvious. Its the small annoying mediocre failures that cost even more as you may persevere hoping that the innovation will pan out. When the don’t, you have lost a lot of time. We always undervalue time and over value the expenses we are trying to save.

Save yourself a lot of money and gain the experience of my failures. As a bonus you will get trained in the practical Innovation of your Big Ideas.

Read all of Bruce Loxton’s blogs on Innovation, simplification and be inspired to do the impossible!

Looking for Growth.

Looking-for-Growth

Looking at the Same Old – gives the Same Old.

You have to work on “today’s business” to bring the money in. Generally, the same activities and operations as yesterday. It can be hard to find the time to tackle serious innovation for growth, especially if the heat is on for immediate profits.

Start by creating a circuit breaker from the “same old”.
I had the benefit of listening first hand to Jack Welsh when he was working a merger with Honeywell. (it didn’t eventuate). One question was how he would do the people integration. His reply was “I turn the business on its head and spill jobs every 3-4 years to avoid the “same old” syndrome”. “We lose some productivity in the turmoil but we sure get some motivated people looking for profitable growth”. Now thats a big circuit breaker!

Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker means things have to look differently tomorrow compared to today.

  • Change job roles (if you don’t someone may do to you)
  • Move all the offices around simplifying some processes
  • Change the entrance to the business
  • Change the uniform completely
  • Be as big and bold as you can afford

Then embark on using innovation for growth…

Don’t do a Kodak

kodak-and-fujifilm-sales-over-time

Kodak failed for simple reasons.

  • They didn’t want to canabalize their profitable existing film business for “digital”
  • They couldn’t see the recurring revenue astray were getting from film.
  • They didn’t diversify fast enough (too little, too late)

What’s interesting is the board took advice for this big step. Kodak had invested in the digital patents. They had the future in the palm of their hands. So they took lots of professional advice on how to move forward.

  • Prominent photographers, both commercial and artistic gave opinions on the future of digital photography to the board.
  • Digital specialists described the time delay before the digital image was of high enough resolution for a quality print.
  • Overall, the conclusion from the experts was it would be a long time before there would be a future for digital photography in the professional space.

Can you see what is wrong with their picture? An educated board listening to very experienced professionals, many of whom had digital experience?

The professionals were not the “growth” customer set. The Mums and Dads were the growth set. There would be a thousand more digital photos taken of family than a professional one.

They couldn’t think of how to make recurring revenue from this new media. So they abandoned enforcing the patents. The rest is history.

The professionals were right, of course. They would continue to use film for many years past the digital introduction.

As Stuart Loxton reminds me: “technology is always “over hyped” in the short run and always underestimated in the long run.

Who is your growth customer set for tomorrow?

  • Look at competitors who have grown quickly. Are they more active in a different customer set?
  • Dont block out customer sets as “unprofitable” yet. (Remember Kodak)
  • Stay with the process to be clear where the growth is.
  • Don’t move on until this is clear.

What will you sell to this Growth set?

  • Map your revenue to the “age” of your products or services. Do this in a big ticket way.
  • Estimate the growth you are getting from the product age map.
  • Do you have the product(s) for growth?

Innovate for Growth

  • A structured journey of the problems the growth customer set is having with competitors and your products.
  • Strict observance of the voice of the customer. Avoid recommended solutions, stick to the problem definitions.
  • Turn the problems into solutions using our innovation process (see other blogs)

Every Client deserves Innovation

Innovation can shift the needle on growth.

There are management decisions on timing:

  • Loss of profit on legacy products.
  • Change management of processes.
  • Marketing investment.

Doing the Impossible

On the other hand, you could achieve all this without a drop in profits in the short term!

Read all of Bruce Loxton blogs on innovation, simplification and doing the impossible.

 

Response – can it be over the top?

Response-time-to-call

Its hard to go over the top when you simplify communication

Younger people respond faster and with more brevity.
However, you may get 3 letter acronyms that take a few seconds to process. Once learned, they are fun.

This form of communication is usually short but maybe sometimes obscure!

Simplifying a business can be started with simpler communication. Lets start with email and break a few rules to get to “simple”:

  • Unless it’s a policy, don’t “CC” the crew. This loads up their inbox and takes more time.
  • If it is policy, keep the CC list as brief as possible.
  • Unless you are handling sensitive legal documents, abandon the footer disclaimer.
  • Keep your footer short with no images and best contact phone number.

Continue reading Response – can it be over the top?