How visualisation could have helped the Brexit debate

Use visualisation in your change programmesThere are still many conversations going on about the recent referendum. Regardless of who was right or wrong, how could the whole process have been improved. How could we make sure that voters had a better understanding of what they were voting for? How could the politicians have better communicated their ideas to us all?

One possible answer is visualisation. This does not mean we all have to meditate whilst listening to whale noises. It simply means that someone needs to create a descriptive representation of what they are proposing. What would life be like, feel like, smell like. What would day to day living be like, how would things stack up for workers, teenagers, the elderly or unemployed. The aim is to create something that everyone can relate to.

Those campaigning in the recent debate could have created a vivid model of the future that they were proposing. Also, the electorate in general could also have used something similar to work out what sort of future they wanted and then matched this to what they were being sold by the Remain or Leave campaigns.

Such methods are positive, building methods and may have prevented some of the negative campaigning. It is also much easier to see any common ground between your ideas and those espoused by others.

So how can we do this? Story, modelling, music, video, metaphor are all useful and one or two could have been used effectively rather than shouting at each other.

A simple example is house hunting. We can all wander around with house particulars featuring dimensions, details of kitchens and man caves etc but it soon becomes apparent where we can compromise or build so that there is a vision that everyone is happy with.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Engineering Innovation

Gripple LimitedThe above is a deliberately ambiguous title. Does it mean that Innovation can be engineered or is it highlighting Innovation for Engineers? The answer is actually yes to both.

For a long time I have been promoting a system that can measure Innovation potential and help develop an Innovation blueprint for organisation in any sector. Now it is time to focus on engineering and manufacturing. In the current economic climate there are organisations that will sadly fail and there are organisations that are doing well both in terms of Innovation and long term sustainability. For a good example based here in the UK take a look at Gripple Limited, a Sheffield based company that is both innovative in its leadership, products, structure and the adoption of shared ownership.

Many businesses would like to copy Gripple but cannot, why? The reason is simple. We can copy buildings, products and manuals but we cannot copy what is inside the heads of employees. Truly innovative companies share certain traits but the sharing of knowledge, the creation of ideas and the frameworks that help to make up company culture are different.

For this very reason I have created Engineering Innovation in order to help businesses in the Engineering and Manufacturing sectors to work in ways similar to Gripple. The aim is to create businesses that are truly innovative and sustainable using concepts that are reasonably familiar to to those who work in these sectors. The programme is based on three principles – UnderstandModel and Build. The first principle provides a framework for understanding the innovation process, what is possible, becoming used to living with ambiguity and defining the scope and resources for the journey. The second builds a model that shows where a business is in terms of its ability to innovate, identifying what it is good at, the quick wins needed to help generate buy in, and where scarce resources are best targeted. Finally we build the organisation that will create new products, services and processes based upon the work done so far. Note we do not destroy, merely transform and enhance to produce ‘total innovation’ that pervades every part of the organisation.

Why is this approach unique? For an in depth answer please get in touch. But in a nutshell, Innovation is a strategy based on humans, their behaviour and the way they communicate and interact and is very little to do with shiny gizmos and gadgets. It can be defined in terms of outputs with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) but is much better modelled using drivers for human behaviour such as those that promote, creativity, good leadership etc. This is what I have done and this soft engineering approach appears to be unique. Does it work? Yes!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Creative Conversations

Creative ConversationsThe organisation of the future will not have a hierarchical structure chart like most of today’s organisations. It is most likely to resemble a Twitter or social media connection map where people and functions are connected by many lines and importance (if it is measured at all) is determined by the number of connections or conversations that take place.

These connections are not simply routes for passing data such as telephone lines, these are routes where data, information and knowledge flow backwards and forwards. These are multi level conversations and they are key to Innovation.

Currently such conversations do exist but not throughout organisations. They are often identified as ‘water cooler’ or ‘coffee machine’ conversations and many backward thinking managers brand them as gossip or a waste of time. In some cases they do have a point!

Why do we want such conversations in the first place? Ideas tend to come into being when problems are aired amongst groups of people. They then get refined as part of conversations and solutions created or retrieved from the rich banks of knowledge that exist in our heads, libraries and computer systems. Conversations are something that we are used to having, after all we are social creatures.

So how do we make these conversations mainstream and encourage them? First of all the attitude of management must change to allow a whole range of things to happen. We could encourage conversations around the water coolers but Health and Safety issues might prevent too many gatherings. We should identify a) where people converse b) for how long c) for what purpose d) how we capture results. If conversations are short then having white boards or flip charts near to our coffee machines might help but for long exchanges then we might need more seats around our desks or a number of small ‘islands’ in our buildings where impromptu conversations might take place.

Employees also need to know that it is ok to have these conversation and that they can be continued using other modes of communication if need be. They should also be encouraged to eavesdrop on conversations that might be of interest to them.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

How Culture Affects Customer Service

customer serviceCulture can have a huge effect on customer service. This can manifest itself in many ways but this week I have been on the receiving end of some poor customer service yet again.

This time the offending company was a courier company who shall remain nameless. I had ordered some sportswear online and was excited to receive an email the following morning telling me that my goods were with a courier and they supplied parcel tracking information. During that day I tracked my parcel from arriving at the depot to going out for delivery.

Later on the status of my parcel changed. Apparently a card had been left because nobody was at home. The next day this also happened which was strange because although nobody was at home, no cards were left. Since I had no card I did not have the contact details for the courier!!

Being fairly resourceful I tried to find contact details by searching the internet but all I found were bulletin board posts by disgruntled customers. Finally I did find a number but for the wrong part of the company. The person answering the phone was very helpful and gave me 2 further freephone numbers.

At last I could talk to someone who knew something about my parcel! A nice chap told me the name of the courier and gave me his mobile number. He also revealed my suspicions that the parcel depot left the phone off the hook because of the large number of complaints. These, he said, were mainly because of the couriers themselves.

I called the courier on his mobile and arranged delivery for Saturday morning. He was very helpful and polite so  I asked him where the cards had been left. ‘I did not leave any’ he said ‘because I could not get into the security gate and that was the only option I could tick on my PDA’.

So we have overworked couriers (they are given too many parcels to actually deliver at any one time) with dodgy systems in place who seem not to trust the rest of the organisation causing huge numbers of complaints that cannot be heard because the people they do not trust (and who don’t trust them) leave the phone off the hook! Wake up guys, your customer service will not improve until you start talking (as opposed to shouting) to each other. And Mr MD you have your part to play in this too.

Just one example of how poor culture can affect a business. And to fix it? Get couriers to talk to the rest of the company in a meaningful way and stop the huge number of complaints so that the phones can be put back on the hook and used in the way in which they were originally intended.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

The Power of Language in Innovation

innovation languageWe are all aware that innovation has its own language conventions rich in buzz words. At first glance this may seem like a harmless dialect that simply reflects the nature of the work we are undertaking.

Innovators, after all, are trying to communicate the promise of something that may not exist yet, and sometimes that requires some (over) optimistic decoration. Innovation is about extrapolation not interpolation and so we do have to rely on ambiguous statements.

The metaphors and other language used could signal something more important. Maybe the language is used because of a lack of hard data, or the fact an idea isn’t yet properly formed.  If we recognised this fact then perhaps we could use these communication tools only when they’re effective (or, more importantly, not when they are ineffective). A more effective use of language might allow us to gain get buy-in on important projects.

Research has shown that where people lack hard data/information, they tend to use three types of language to describe innovation concepts.

  • Metaphor is the substitution of figurative language for literal language.
  • Hyperbole is exaggerated language used for emphasis or effect.
  • Revisionist rhetoric is the simplistic, inaccurate, or self-serving characterisation of events to create or support an argument.

You can see in the wordle above some of the most common words or phrases that are used. Are you using these in your own communications? Below are some suggestions to anyone interested in communicating the potential of an idea:

Recognize how you are using metaphor. Metaphor can help focus attention or highlight key aspects of an idea in a universal way. Be careful though, a metaphor can also signal to others that you haven’t thought through your idea. Some people do find that businesses that consistently use descriptive approaches report a degree of frustration and lack of buy-in for their ideas. Metaphor should be used to supplement, not a substitute, for hard facts.

When you have a potentially good idea but lack evidence, begin with experimentation or prototyping. People are often likely to begin their pitches by putting their energy into speculative communications (using descriptive language rather than hard data), and fail to gain the personal or organisational support that they need to take their idea forwards. It is more likely that people gain support by investing in models or prototypes to demonstrate their ideas and then follow it up with descriptive communications.

Learn when to use metaphor effectively.  In many large organisations, people tend to bounce ideas off one another and gain feedback from colleagues. Where there is a lack of data, it is possible for ideas to travel far and wide as metaphor or stories.

Put hyperbole and revisionist rhetoric in their place. When communicating why an idea has potential, it might seem obvious why you should avoid hyperbole or rhetoric. Surprisingly, there are important situations where such language can be constructive. These are informal meetings or briefings where people understand that language is not intended to be taken literally. These are mostly high trust environments where language and ideas are used as springboards for creative thinking.

Language is an important of the management of innovation, but it must be used wisely.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin
My Innovation Handbook is FREE for you!
Simply enter your full name and email address in order to receive a copy of my Innovation Handbook. You will also be subscribed to my monthly newsletter. You can amend or cancel your subscription at any time by clicking on the links in the newsletter.
Thank you for subscribing
If you have signed up in order to get a FREE book or report then you will shortly receive an email giving you the URL of the page for downloading the PDF file. If you do not receive such an email within a few minutes then please get in touch and a copy will be emailed to you directly.
Need a simple guide to Innovation?
Enter your details below to grab a copy of my Innovation Handbook and receive regular news and tips on Business Creativity & Innovation.
Thank you, please check your Inbox
You will shortly receive an email giving you the URL of the page for downloading the PDF file. If you do not receive such an email within a few minutes then please get in touch and a copy will be emailed to you directly.