Innovation Consulting

Innovation Consulting

In this article, Robyn Bolton guides the pursuit of innovation through various storms.

Everyone knows about brainstorms but did you know there are three other types of storms that can blow you to your innovation destination?

Questionstorms

First introduced in The Innovator’s DNA, these storms happen at the start of an innovation effort and seek to surface all the assumptions, expectations, concerns, and actual questions currently locked in individuals’ brains. 

The value of this session is that it makes the implicit explicit, removes hidden agendas, eliminates guessing games, and establishes a culture of curiosity, exploration, and learning versus demands and fear.

You run Questionstorms just like brainstorms – give everyone 3-5 minutes to silently write a long list of thoughts.  Then, give everyone another 3-5 minutes to turn each thought into a question and write the question on a sticky note.  For example, “We need to realize $250M revenue in Year 3 to make this work” becomes “How might we design and run an innovation function that generates $250M in Year 3?”  Then, each person reads their sticky notes to the group before placing them on a wall.  The goal is to ask 50 questions before you start grouping and prioritizing.

Intuition-storms

I first learned about this storm from IDEO and am genuinely surprised by how effectively they re-energize teams and propel the work forward.  These storms happen after the first phase of a project, usually the research phase.

An Intuition-storm’s value comes from its ability to pull the team out of the minutiae of the previous weeks and months of work and back up to seeing the big picture.  In the process, they rapidly synthesize insights that may have gotten lost in the more traditional left-brained approach of gathering and summarizing details. 

Again, just like brainstorms, start by posing the big question that the project intends to answer, then give people 3-5 minutes to write down their answers.  Too much time and they may dig into documents and details, too little time and you’ll get recency bias in the responses.  Then go around the room and share.  Once everyone has shared, discuss the elements in common and the unique ones.  Be clear that this isn’t about getting to THE answer, but about tapping into the full of everyone’s experience, expertise, and wisdom.

Brainstorms

By now, we all know what it means to brainstorm, and we’ve all probably been part of one or two brainstorming sessions.  But do you know where it all started?

In the mid-nineteenth century, “brainstorm” was a colloquial term for “fit of acute delirious mania; sudden dethronement of reason and will under the stress of strong emotion, usually accompanied by manifestations of violence.”  Not exactly the type of thing most businesspeople aim for.

However, in 1939, advertising executive Alex F. Osborn got so frustrated with his employees’ ability to generate creative ideas for ad campaigns that he developed a new approach dubbed “organized ideation.”  This approach, later renamed to “brainstorm” by his employees, was governed by four rules:

  • Go for quantity
  • Withhold criticism
  • Welcome wild ideas
  • Combine and improve ideas

 

While the methods and tools for brainstorming have evolved over the past 80+ years, it’s a testament to Osborn’s approach that the rules have not.

Read the full article, 4 Storms that Accelerate Innovation, on MileZero.io.

Robyn Bolton shares a post on where innovation happens and why.

“Innovation happens in the gaps.”

It’s a statement so simple yet so profound that as soon as my client said it, I wrote it down.* 

It’s not sexy to innovate in the gaps. 

Most people and companies believe that innovation must be something entirely new for the world.  That innovation is all about filling a white space, thinking blue sky, or swimming in a blue ocean.  That innovation must be free of constraints, that it must be pure creation.

Most people will argue that CEOs rarely get on the front page of the Wall Street Journal because their company introduced something better than what exists today.  Innovators rarely win design awards for an improved version of an existing solution.  Scientists and engineers are rarely celebrated for receiving improvement patents.

Rarely.

Steve Jobs made the front page for the iPod, an MP3 player that offered better storage and user experience than the dozens of MP3 players that existed before it. 

Charles and Ray Eames were named “The Most Influential Designer of the 20th Century” by the Industrial Designers Society of America, and they’re best known for designing chairs.

Thomas Edison is hailed as the inventor of the electric lightbulb when, in truth, he significantly improved a decades-old product that was too expensive, too unreliable, and too short-lived to be commercially viable.

It’s necessary (and profitable) to innovate in the gaps.

Gaps exist because of real and perceived constraints.  Innovation thrives in constraints because it is the constraints that drive creativity.

In the gap between what is and what is good enough lies a problem that needs a solution.  That solution, something new that creates value, is innovation.

In the gap between what is and what is delightful lies an opportunity that wants a better solution.  Innovation can deliver that solution.”

 

Key points include:

  • Innovation through improvisation
  • Identifying the constraints
  • Customer engagement

 

Read the full article, Innovation Happens in the Gaps, on MileZero.io.

Robyn Bolton shares a well-balanced post that explains why 95% of new products fail and how to do the right things in the right ways at the right times to ensure success. 

Most people know that 95% of new products fail within three years of launch.  It’s often cited as evidence of big companies’ inability to be innovative, keep up with changing consumer demands, and respond to the nimbleness of start-ups.

Naturally, companies don’t want to fail in the market, so they try to get better at listening and responding to customers, more comfortable investing in unproven but potentially market-defining technology, and more willing to question and change their business models.

Yet, the market failure rate stays essentially the same.

“Ah-ha!” the experts proclaim, “if companies are doing everything right and 95% of innovation projects are still failing, that means that projects are launching that shouldn’t be.  That means we must get better at killing projects before they launch!”

Suddenly, Fail Fast becomes the corporate mantra.  More projects start because it’s ok to fail.  More projects get killed, a mind-boggling 99.9%, according to one study.  Fewer projects get launched. 

Yet, the market failure rate stays essentially the same.

Why?  Why does the market failure rate stick stubbornly at 95% if companies are doing all the right things, including killing 99.9% of ideas and projects before they even get to market?

Because it’s not enough to do the right things.

You must do the right things in the right ways at the right times.

Here are the three most important ones:

 

Key points include:

  • Right Thing #1
  • Right Thing #2
  • Right Thing #3

 

Read the full article, 3 Things To Do in the Right Way at the Right Time for Innovation Success, MileZero.io.

 

 

Robyn Bolton reflects on lessons learned as a child that she brings into her field to help problems solve and drive innovation. 

Innovation is all about embracing the AND.

Creativity AND Analysis

Imagination AND Practicality

Envisioned Future AND Lived Reality

Looking back, I realize that much of my childhood was also about embracing the AND.

Mom AND Dad

Nursery School Teacher AND Computer Engineer

Finger paint AND Calculus

A few years ago, I wrote about my mom, the OG (Original Gangster) of Innovation.  She was what most people imagine of an “innovator” – creative, curious, deeply empathetic, and more focused on what could be than what actually is.

With Father’s Day approaching, I’ve also been thinking about my dad, and how he is the essential other-side of innovation – analytical, practical, thoughtful, and more focused on what should be than what actually is.

In the spirit of Father’s Day, here are three of the biggest lessons I learned from Dad, the unexpected innovator

Managers would rather live with a problem they understand than a solution they don’t.

When Dad dropped this truth bomb one night during dinner a few years ago, my head nearly exploded.  Like him, I always believed that if you can fix a problem, you should.  And, if you can fix a problem and you don’t, then you’re either lazy, not very smart, or something far worse.  Not the most charitable view of things but perhaps the most logical.

But this changed things.

If you’ve lived with a problem long enough, you’re used to it.  You’ve developed workarounds, and you know what to expect.  In a world of uncertainty, it is something that is known.  It’s comfortable

Fixing a problem requires change and change is not comfortable.  Very few people are willing to sacrifice comfort and certainty for the promise of something better.

 

Key points include:

  • Keeping things in perspective
  • The importance of letting go
  • Standing up when others are sitting down

 

Read the full post, Dad: The Unexpected Innovator, on MileZero.com. 

 

 

Robyn M. Bolton makes a poignant observation on the popular approach to innovation and provides a few tips on how to punch out of the proverbial box. 

The definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results.”

This quote, often (wrongly) attributed to Albert Einstein, is a perfect description of what has been occurring in corporate innovation for the last 20+ years.

In 1997, The Innovator’s Dilemma, put fear in the hearts of executives and ignited interest and investment in innovation across industries, geographies, and disciplines. Since then, millions of articles, thousands of books, and hundreds of consultants (yes, including MileZero) have sprung forth offering help to startups and Fortune 100 companies alike.

Yet the results remain the same.

After decades of incubators, accelerators, innovation teams, corporate venture capital (CVC), growth boards, hackathons, shark tanks, strategies, processes, metrics, and futurists, the success rate of corporate innovation remains stagnant. 

Stop the insanity!

I have spent my career in corporate innovation, first as part of the P&G team that launched Swiffer and Swiffer WetJet, later as a Partner at the innovation firm founded by Clayton Christensen, and now as the founder of MileZero, an innovation consulting and coaching firm.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • The head vs. heart dilemma
  • A common scenario
  • Investing in innovation

 

Read the full article, Our Approach to Innovation is the Definition of Insanity, so Let’s Try Something Different, on Medium. 

 

 

Przemek Czerklewicz has been invited by the Hong Kong University chapter of ShARE (a global organization that connects students with international clients for pro bono, socially responsible consulting projects) to speak during their series of online training sessions. 

The training will take place on October 12th between 7 and 8.30 PM Hong Kong time and will be titled:”Breaking into Innovation Consulting: What to Expect and Where to Look”.

He will speak to young, aspiring consultants about how innovation consulting differs from traditional management consulting, what are the key success drivers in the industry, how to prepare for the role and where to look for first opportunities. 

 

For more information about the announcement visit the post, Virtual Training Series, on LinkedIn. 

 

 

This article on Sean McCoy’s company blog explains why long-term forces and trends are forcing many heavy industries to reshape value chains, change economics, and disrupt business models.

Digital technologies are making it possible for firms to expand their offering and meet new customer needs and serve new customers. For a manufacturer or heavy industrial company, this means companies that were not your competitor yesterday are your competitor today and tomorrow. The executives at GM and Ford lose many hours of sleep wondering if and how Google and Apple will eat their lunch.

Competitive intensity is also increased by changes in the cost of resources and location economics. Those changes are drying up some profit pools, increasing competition at the remaining ones. Low-cost manufacturers in China used to win on price, and domestic manufacturers on speed. For years, low-cost manufacturers have been re-shoring production as rising labor costs in China neutralized the cost advantage. Now, low-cost manufacturers can win on price and speed. The producers that stayed domestic are finding themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Even if your market is stable, disruptions in other markets can dry up other profit pools, driving competitors into your space. When oil prices tumbled and oil companies needed less metal, metal companies and mines serving the oil and gas industry looked to other sectors that need metal, e.g., construction, utilities, ship builders. As a result, the mines and plants serving those industries had to deal with price pressures and declining volumes, hurting ROA.

 

Read the full article, Responding to competitive pressures in heavy industry & manufacturing, on the McCoy Consulting Group website.

 

 

Ian Tidswell provides an infographic that provides the details of the key 6 steps to creating and capturing value in MedTech, from offer design through market access and reimbursement approval to new product transitions.

Success in the Medical Technology industry requires constant innovation. However, capturing a fair share of the value (pricing) from that innovation throughout the product life cycle is especially challenging given multiple market access hurdles, constrained healthcare budgets and diverse stakeholders.

 

The steps illustrated include:

  • Pre-launch – market access with value recognized
  • Communicating the values 
  • Gaining effective value access
  • Segment and target buyers
  • Incentives align channel
  • In-market – value delivered and captured

 

View the detailed infographic on the Een Consulting website. 

 

 

C.V. Ramachandran discusses what it takes to institute digital transformation successfully by engaging a holistic approach that provides support for every part of a company’s value chain.

Big data, machine learning, connected vehicles, industry 4.0, robotic process automation, blockchain … No matter what industry you are in, you have surely come across these popular buzzwords in recent years. These are the phrases that define digital transformation, a modern industrial revolution that has the potential to dramatically transform companies and economies all over the world. 

A variety of companies are leading the way, with Amazon, Netflix, and Walmart being some of the first to spring to mind. But these are major corporations in information intensive industries, who have been leading the charge in digital disruption. More broadly, according to a recent McKinsey survey, only about 30% of digital transformations actually succeed.

 

Read the full article, Digital Transformation: It Takes a Village, on LinkedIn.