1 Jul 15|Innovation

The possibilities opening up to businesses at this time of incredible change are exciting, though it will be challenging for some to release old beliefs.

The possibilities opening up to businesses at this time of incredible change are exciting, though it will be challenging for some to release old beliefs. In order to see the possibilities and seize the opportunities, our eyes must be wide open.

The Front End Innovation Conference in Boston focused on innovation and collaboration, in particular on topics such as Front-End Development, Creativity, Technology, Software and Software development. I am an innovation tragic, and with speakers the calibre of Seth Godin (business and marketing guru) and Tom Kelley (IDEO) I made the trek to Boston to soak up as much I could.

A variety of terms have been used to describe innovation over the last few years. We have sustainable, incremental, disruptive and destructive innovation. One that was repeatedly used at the Boston Innovation Conference that resonates well was transformational. After all, isn’t that what innovation truly does? It transforms?

We have entered a time period where the consumer is the boss. With a plethora of choices, why wouldn’t they be? And we know the importance of the Tribe (and our reliance on those who share similar thoughts and interests) is growing as is Conscience Purchasing (with more consumers considering the social and environmental implications) and Connectivity (and the growing importance and influence of our networks). So how do we take all of these elements and write them into a business plan? Well actually, we don’t.

There is a distinct movement away from writing the traditional sixty-page plan – the one you spend hours putting together with five and ten year projections, then slip into the bottom drawer until someone reminds you it’s time to look at it again. What is preferred is a Business Model Canvas. The Business Model Canvas is a visual, agile and simple template that allows you to strategically develop your ideas/products/business. And whether you’re planning incremental or transformational innovation will determine which Model Canvas you go with. In either case, it’s important that you’re prepared to pivot.

Strategy is definitely valuable but prototyping and testing your product, idea or service are worth more, and this is where pivoting comes in. Pivoting is the new business agility – when you need to, turn a little! Tried it and the client isn’t reacting? Pivot. Trialed it and the client has a problem with it? Pivot. Traditionally we measured our progress against our (dusty) business plan and if there was a misalignment, we felt the fault was ours. How could the plan, which was constructed on a number of sound assumptions, not be accurate? Change the plan. Pivot. Until you find the right match. Pivot. We talk about flexibility but we’re not really walking the talk. And if you pivot to the point where you’re dizzy, go back to square one.

It’s tough to be in business. More than one business guru has told us that a business designed for success in the 20th Century is inevitably also designed for failure in the 21st Century. The Industrial Economy is over and we are heading into a Service Economy for a Connected Community, so much so that we are being offered a multitude of services for free. Google are currently trialing air balloons that allow free Internet access via satellite transmission. They are managing to keep them in the air for 200 days in spite of the nay sayers. The plan is to have enough of these in the air to provide worldwide, free Internet access. Imagine what that would mean for isolated communities, for medical practices, for education, for your Internet provider!

Networking is integral to the Connective Age. HR positions are set to be filled not by those with impressive University qualifications, but by those with impressive networks. Seth Godin is an advocate of ‘date your client’. As the lines between work life and social life continue to blur, we want to know whom we are doing business with. We want to connect.

Significant transformational innovations have a slow diffusion rate. In other words, it will be a while before you reap the benefits. But if you go back and plot the growth of the last product or service you offered, you would find that from ideation to execution, it took a while to reap the benefits from that as well.

Students at the Singularity University in California invest 80% of their time in looking towards the future, yet how many businesses spend even 20% of their time or resources doing this?

Here are some questions you can ask at your next board or team meeting or ask yourself, if you are a one-person operation, to test where you’re at:

  • How much time do you spend looking forward?
  • When was the last time you talked to and observed your clients? Out of the office? Really listened?
  • How do you improve your client’s experience of life? What value do you add?
  • Can you move/react quickly and effectively?
  • Does your “culture eat strategy for breakfast”? Do you have the kind of workplace people want to spend time at?
  • Are your meetings productive? Do people contribute or roll their eyes and watch the clock?
  • Have you got the right people on your team?
  • What is your core competency ability? What is your strength?
  • Are you authentic? Do you do what you say you will?
  • Are you giving it 100% or holding back? Why are you holding back?

The good news is you don’t have to make radical changes to your entire business. What you do need to do is give permission to take even a little of it to the edge.

We have entered a time period where the consumer is the boss.

We have entered a time period where the consumer is the boss.

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