Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your fortnightly newsletter on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.
LIVING OVERSEAS BOOSTS CREATIVITY
A CRITICAL SKILL FOR EVERY INNOVATION MANAGER
I work and correspond with many innovation managers and innovation consultants. Twice in recent months, I have spoken such people who lack what I believe to be one of the most critical skills for anyone charged with supporting an innovation initiative of any kind: the ability to listen!
While the ability to listen is a highly desirable trait in anyone irrespective of her career, it is arguably critical in an innovation manager.
In Order to Develop an Innovative Solution....
In order to develop an innovative solution, you need to fully understand the problem you are trying to solve or the goal you are trying to achieve. Albert Einstein is credited with saying that if he had 60 minutes to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and five minutes solving it. (note: I have not been able to verify this statement with a source, if you can please let me know!). Surely the first step in defining any problem is listening to the person or people explaining it!
Yet, in most corporate situations, the idea manager should not be listening to a single person describing a problem. She should be asking many people about the problem, its reasons for being and its consequences (see Turning Problems into Challenges in the 7 July 2009 issue of Report 103 at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/report103/archive.php?issue_no=20090707 ).
The innovation manager who does not listen cannot expect to understand a corporate problem and the effect it is having on employees, suppliers and customers. And while she may offer clever solutions, the solutions are unlikely to address the true problem and so are unlikely to be true corporate innovations (we define corporate innovation as the implementation of creative ideas in order to generate value, usually through reduced operational cost or increased income).
Collaboration Does Not Work Either
Business innovation almost never occurs in isolation. Rather it is the result of collaborative problem solving, idea generation, evaluation, testing and implementation. It is virtually unknown that all of these actions can effectively be performed by a single individual. Moreover, research consistently shows that collaboration via diverse teams is the most effective approach to creativity and innovation.
Clearly, then, if an innovation manager does not bother to listen, she cannot be an effective collaborator. The act of collaboration requires not only sharing your knowledge, but learning from other people's knowledge.
Ordering Clients About
To some extent, an innovation consultant who lacks the ability to listen to others can order clients to follow certain actions in order to build and run a standardised innovation structure. But without understanding the client's true needs, that structure cannot be modified to meet those needs.
But Don't Worry
Don't worry. This article is not about you! I am sure you are a fantastic innovation specialist who makes it a habit to listen to clients and/or colleagues carefully in order to implement effective practices.
On the other hand, if you are hiring an innovation specialist, either as an innovation manager employee or as a consultant charged with helping your firm implement an innovation initiative, make sure the person you hire has good listening skills!
WHAT'S YOUR PLAN B?
“Plan B” is a term that refers to a secondary plan to put into action in the event the primary plan (plan A) does not work out. It is also the name of various medications, at least two music groups, a magazine and several organisations. But out interest is in the original term.
As we have frequently noted in Report 103, the implementation of a highly innovative new idea is a risky endeavour. If the idea works out, it is highly profitable, tends to make employees feel good about their firm, makes stakeholders happy and often generates good press. That is great.
But, if it fails, the same idea can result in lost income at best and demotivated employees and missed opportunities at worst. (Of course failed ideas need not result in such disaster! See http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/nobadideas.php )
However, a more frequent problem with highly innovative ideas is that they are not given the opportunity to fail! I have heard many stories from people about management committees being unwilling to authorise the implementation of radical new ideas precisely out of concern of risk. No matter how much the idea champions promote the idea, the financial people see only the cost of failure.
This Is Where Plan B Comes in
Whether you have to present a radical idea to a committee or simply put it into action yourself, having a plan B is a great way to mitigate risk. Plan B will probably be less innovative than plan A. It should be designed to minimise financial or reputation damage that could result from a failed plan A.
For instance, if you plan to introduce a radical new product, plan B might involve reducing production quantities of the new product if certain targets are not met. Those production facilities could than be re-organised to manufacture another product.
Being Creative with Plan B
Even though your plan B may be intended to be less radical than plan A, you should use the same innovation process methods for developing plan B as you would for plan A. This would probably involve running ideas campaigns on “In what ways might plan A fail?” These ideas can be evaluated for likelihood and consequences. Those ideas which are perceived as real threats can be combined into categories and form the basis for one or more ideas campaigns designed to identify plan B options.
However, when evaluating plan B ideas, you should give high marks to low risk ideas, even if they are not very exciting. Remember, the point of plan B is to have a safe alternative if plan A does not work.
If you are creative with your plan B development, one of two things may happen.
At the very least, you can present your plan B as an escape route to be implemented should plan A not work. This can demonstrate that in spite of the potential risk of plan A, you have allowed for failure and can implement an alternative plan that will minimise financial loss. Of course, if you are a decision maker yourself, you can feel more confident about launching a highly innovative new concept, knowing that you have a fallback in the event things do not work to expectation.
On the other hand, you may find that in looking for a plan B, you actually develop a concept that is even better than your plan A! In this case, you may decide to drop plan A and run with plan B instead.
Not every idea needs a plan B. But if you are implementing a highly innovative idea whose failure could have substantial unpleasant consequences for your firm, you really should have a plan B. And perhaps even a plan C!
SOUTH AFRICA'S SECOND INNOVATION SUMMIT
South Africa’s Second National Innovation Summit is taking place on 18-19 August in the Maropeng Conference Centre in the stunning Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Gauteng. Following last year's highly successful summit, this year's event, entitled “Innovation by Design” focuses on South Africa's need to grow a culture of innovative futures thinking amongst private, public and academic sectors by contextualising ‘What, So What, Now What’.
Speakers represent the country's top names in Innovation, including my friend
(and South African representative for Jenni innovation process management software),
Itha Taljaard and many others.
The Key note Speaker is Ms Naledi Pandor, the Honourable Minister of Science and Technology. The Master of Ceremonies for the two day event is Ruda Landman, a well known television presenter in South Africa.
More information about the Second Innovation Summit, including registration, is at http://www.innovationsummit.co.za/ .
INNOVATION IN YOUR LANGUAGE
We are delighted to announce that Jenni innovation process management web application now is now available with a multilingual interface. This means that Jenni can now communicate to your employees in any language on Earth. And, thanks to our streamlined localisation tool, we can deliver Jenni in your language, or choice of languages, very quickly.
As a result, if your firm is a multinational one and you want an innovation process management application that everyone can use irrespective of their language skills, Jenni is your best choice – if not your only choice!
Jenni is a service that provides your firm with an innovation process and a web based platform for managing it. Jenni comprises an application your employees access over the web and a human innovation coach you can access by telephone or e-mail.
The result is a turn-key innovation process management (IPM) system that you can have operating in your firm in no time and for a low, predictable monthly subscription fee. And the more you use Jenni, the more you profit through the implementation of innovative product, service and process ideas that increase income, reduce costs and make your clients happier.
Global in Scope
Our clients include financial institutes, chemical manufacturers, food manufacturers, utilities and media companies in the USA, Europe, Australia, Brazil and Africa. They have used Jenni to develop new products, repackage existing products and reduce operational costs through improved efficiency. The result is cost savings far in excess of the cost of Jenni.
We are so sure that Jenni can enable your firm to generate new income opportunities and cost savings through innovation that we offer a unique guarantee: if Jenni does not pay for itself several times over in your firm, you can cancel your contract at any time and without penalty!
Want to Know More?
If you would like to know more about Jenni, its multilingual options and how it can help streamline your innovation process, visit http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/index.php to learn more and fill in the contact form to arrange an initial discussion with me.
ARE YOU AN INNOVATION CONSULTANT?
If you are providing innovation services such as consulting, training or coaching and want to add a great idea management software solution to your portfolio of products and services, contact me (or +32 2 305 65 91 or Skype Eurojeffrey) and let's talk about how Jenni can help your clients innovate better – and help you gain new clients.
You benefit from our generous commission programme, marketing on the popular www.jpb.com web site (over 150,000 page hits/month) and collaborating with a fantastic global team of innovation, marketing and sales experts ( http://www.creativejeffrey.com/about/index.php ). In addition, by packaging your services with Jenni, you can provide your clients with value added innovation services that help them increase profitability.
It's a fantastic win-win-win scenario for your, your client and jpb.com!
LATEST IN BUSINESS INNOVATION
If you want to keep up with the latest news in business innovation, I recommend Chuck Frey's INNOVATIONweek ( http://www.innovationtools.com/News/subscribe.asp ). It's the only e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on all of the latest innovation news, research, trends, case histories of leading companies and more. And it's the perfect complement to Report 103!
You can find this and every issue of Report 103 ever written at our archives on http://www.creativejeffrey.com/report103/archives.php
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Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner and is published on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
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