Tag: resources

Resources vs. Resourcefulness

Resourcefulness v resources in InnovationI must admit to having a large bee in my bonnet about this topic. If you think of Innovation as a purely human activity then it is possible to innovate successfully amongst any groups of people, in any country in the world – in fact anywhere.

Before you run away to base your latest innovative enterprise in Tibet there are one or two issues to consider. First of all there is the subject of resourcefulness. People the world over are creative. They solve everyday problems in unique ways. I have trouble changing a bicycle tyre with tools from a cycle shop, can you imagine changing a car or even a truck tyre with just basic tyre levers and some soapy water? Who can accomplish this? Teenage boys in Malawi. Trade embargoes have brought countries such as Iran and Cuba to their knees but cars, trucks and factory machinery soldier on. This is old stuff right?

Not so! Motor manufacturers have left the production of prestigious prototypes to Indian design studios and Mexican factories produce high spec components for the US aircraft industry.

This is a long winded way of saying to the so called developed world ‘watch out’. Resourcefulness abounds. Innovation is like a race run by humans. Some of us have a head start, some have good running shoes and some do not. Those still at the starting line are simply strapped for resources. When they finally get them, they are more than capable of running faster than everyone else. Why is that? The people that are left behind have had years (centuries) of having to think creatively. As they have developed, they have not overburdened themselves with education systems that strangle creativity. Cultural systems have allowed knowledge to be collected and passed down through generations. Creativity and Knowledge is a very powerful combination indeed.

Anything is possible given the resources! Who are you backing to win the Innovation race?

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Innovation Weak Points – Where Are Yours?

innovation weak pointsIn many cases it is our starting point that is a major weakness. Have we got our Innovation Strategy right? At what point do we commit energy and resources to bringing a new idea to market? Often the test is whether the new idea has potential for creating value for the organisation. Unless you have started a business from scratch, providing resources for your new idea may remove resources (people, money, materials) from other areas of your business. The question you must ask is not just ‘will it work?’ but ‘can we get it to work without any damage being done to our current business?’. Our Innovation Strategy is thus firmly tied to our long term objectives. Have you identified your innovation weak points?

Do you go with all of your new ideas if they look like they will work? How do you select which ones to work with? Selecting idea needs to be ruthless carried out. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does it work?
  • Is this aligned with our objectives and company values?
  • Can this be scaled up or transferred to a different cultural setting?
  • Does this help or hinder our other activities

In short our inventors must develop some business capabilities!

New ideas are complex. They are often generated to solve a problem but to get an idea to market may provide further challenges. A new drug may cure a disease but it may have side effects, be expensive or difficult to package or have a short shelf life. To create value you need to show how your new idea will create value for your customer perhaps through time, cost or efficiency savings. You cannot simply say, ‘Here is the new wonder drug’ and expect hospitals to be placing orders immediately.

How high do you set the bar when testing your ideas? Do you use objective or subjective tests? It is better to have a mixture of both and ensure that all of the criteria that you identify are met. Another way of testing is to use existing customers. They are often flattered when you think they are worthy of trialling your very latest innovation! But, not everyone does this!

A huge potential problem area is the window in time where your idea or prototype is turned into reality. Your development team throw the idea over the wall into production and think ‘job done’. Until you are selling gizmos buy the lorry load, everybody should still be contributing although the balance will change. You will need more human resources than you thought and also more cash. There is also a danger of stagnation as your new product or service falls into the gap between development and production. A highly motivated and charismatic leader is needed to ensure to see things through.

Do you have everything you need to get your new idea into the market? Have you considered external partners, especially if this might improve your success rate? Even if you have, how ready are you in terms of a) people b) protecting intellectual property? Sometimes the ‘missing ingredient’ needs to come from elsewhere.

Even when you have considered all of the above, have you spent time looking at the culture of innovation within our organisation? If innovation is a separate entity rather than embedded completely within the business, how do you cope with this? Do employees rotate through the innovation function and if not does this create tension? How is the learning from the development process captured and then disseminated? Just ask yourself, does the way we do things round here help our hinder our innovation efforts? You will be surprised at the impact that small changes can have.

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Where Are The Instructions For Creativity?

This article was inspired by a dialogue that I had with someone who commented on one of my blog posts. The post was about the resources that were required for Creativity. The person was looking for a definitive manual, a list of everything that they would need and the steps that they would need to go through. He wanted the instructions for creativity. On reflection, my reply was probably less than helpful, but in a roundabout way, I indicated that no such thing existed.

I still maintain that this is the case and if anyone tries to sell you such a manual then beware, however, what they really needed was something to learn from, perhaps some case study material for a situation similar to theirs.

Putting together a creative system is a little like putting together flat pack furniture but without the instructions. If you have a reasonable skill level and knowledge of how such things are assembled then your furniture will grow out of the pile of pieces. If you are at the other end of the spectrum then you will be screaming for the instructions!

But what if the instructions do not exist, simply because every time the furniture is built by different people the result is different (but still a perfect piece of furniture)? What you need then are not instructions but an example of how the pieces fit together and a list of the tools required so that you can construct your unique item of furniture.

This is why we have components and tools to help you use creativity in business but the instructions are not included.

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