Innovation is a Cultural Action

Having a strategy in business is critical, but a business without a focus on innovation and an understanding of how to do it efficiently and effectively won’t survive. This articles talks about innovation being based on a truth and how it can be done efficiently and effectively. There is a huge amount of information about Innovation out there, please read it all, but more importantly TAKE ACTION. Take small action not grand plans, actual innovation can’t be planned, only the frameworks, funding, people and physical resources, the outcomes can’t be planned.

Innovation Culture is a Strategy

Below is from the Huawei Europe Innovation day in Paris, this is the only example I have first hand, as I was invited to attend. What’s really impressive here is the commitment to innovate being backed up with money and not words. #HuaweiHID

Innovation is Based on Knowns

Innovation is about building on something you already know to be true, even if that truth is just geographic, cultural, brand bases, technology based, time (date relative) or customer based.

A truth in time is essential for innovation to succeed, always test your truth to ensure its not a perception, a lie or a dream

Karl Smith

An example of a truth may be drawn from quantitative or qualitative data. For example “customers do not buy when the journey to buy is more than three clicks”, “in the cluture of xxxxx country, this product won’t sell”, the next big thing is 5G “our 4G product will sell well in 5G as its just about speed”.

Once you have a truth there are three ways to respond to it, either by Progression or in Counterpoint and rarely but interestingly sometimes by Accident. As its very easy to get wrapped up in ownership over value principals, someone not involved also needs to conduct Triage (prioritisation, relationships, backlogs) and Due Diligence (similarities, copies, brands, people, etc.) at this point to avoid waste.

Progression Innovation

In Progression Innovation, the most common way in business and technology you need to set what your values are then look at what are the success factors currently delivering value to your organisation.

EXAMPLE: If your value is P&L then shipping millions of low margin high complexity products is not a success, especially if you have not properly understood the supply chain costs and risks, you may be working for free. Your innovation attributes should then included a full lifecycle cost, margin and profit valuation.

EXAMPLE: If your value is Market Penetration, then your innovation attributes need to include regulatory, tax, political, killer product

Counterpoint Innovation

In counterpoint Innovation the focus is taking any truth and seeking to invalidate it and reviewing the by products of that invalidation as a starting point for a new branch of thinking products or services. Just think if you could go back in time and get their touch screen mobile to market in 2001 when it was ready instead of waiting till 2005 for the iPhone. How different would the world be now. Counterpoint invention allows companies to think this was and to discover hidden catalysts for invention.

Accidental Innovation

This is perhaps the one most organisations hope for, like the invention of a new stronger glue by 3M that was a failure. In fact it let you stick things and remove them constantly without much degradation in its effectiveness as ‘sticky’ but not bonding enough to be a glue. The product Post-its.

Quick Innovation

I have seen various posts focused on tightly structuring innovation that include top level components of Incremental, Disruptive, Architectural and Radical, to me these all sound expensive and time consuming. There are much quicker ways of doing innovation, in fact it can be done to a level of confirmation to proceed or not in just eight hours.

The following film shows a process for quick innovation based upon both Progression Innovation and Counterpoint Innovation both exposed through the Innova8™ process.

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True Leaders grow up Emotionally

It’s very easy to get turned off by this message as someone who is in a leadership position but you’ll never achieve what you could and should if you don’t persevere. After all True Leaders do persevere, its built in, otherwise they would have run away years ago.

As leaders we often review our actions against our intent, sometimes we are assured we did the right thing, other times we accept we did not and more often than most people want to admit we bluff our way through and hope no one noticed (they always do).

Success is measured in many ways

Success comes in many forms focusing on the bottom line without context to staff, clients or culture is the quickest way to end your business opportunities.

Sales, sales, sales, sales!!

Unfortunately this is not leadership and usually indicates a total lack of connection, sales in the form of new business is about building a new relationship, it’s a kind of dating having someone on the side asking if a contract is signed often destroys the relationship before it can begin. This is not the only woeful practice the 1980’s and 1990’s it still seems to drive the most shocking behaviours that for clients would send them running for the doors but internally in organisations are considered the way to success and elevation.

Success is often accidental

Leaders can just sometimes be fortunate the smart ones declare the team effort, the naive (to the pressure it creates to be right all the time) that it was all them. Regardless of how we articulate success, there is a constant drive to do new things, exciting things, to innovate and drive the organisation’s vision on. Unfortunately the people capable of original thinking are infinitesimally rare and even if the leader of the organisation had the first original idea, it may be their only one, in their lifetime.

Leading success requires different thinking

Moving forward requires a different kind of thinking then, it needs to focused on the in house team (please don’t be too hard on in house people many of them have spent years being told to tow the line and now they are being told to rock the boat instead of hide under it, they are institutionalised) and where often needed subject matter catalysts (people who don’t want a job, but want to do good work) from outside. No matter what kind of work you do, you need the voice of your customers/clients/users etc., opinionated (pushing an internal agenda) staff don’t and can’t speak for them, you need the real thing.

The next thing a True Leader needs is an open mind, remember;

If you always do what you have always done, you’ll always have what you always had. Can you maintain the past and still have a future?

Well, not exactly, you may not have the past or in fact a future if your customers or potential customers have moved on and you have not. 

A leader will listen to many voices and make a decision about what to do, great leader will accept that there are people with better knowledge and experience and use that to decide, their next best action. More they will be willing to accept that not only do they need help, but it will need other peoples playbook to deliver whatever is needed. All too often people take other people’s ideas and expect it to work for them, it rarely does. And often it will create more damage than good.

A Leader will listen and absorb the useful inputs from others a Great Leader will set aside pride and act on those inputs, using other people’s skills and knowledge. This is the reason consultancies and subject matter expert services exist.

Unfortunately ego and pride are the most common failure points in companies and no amount of marketing or technology can fix the inability of company leaders to accept that they cannot be the experts in everything and that they should not try.

Even companies that employ consultancy services may only do it for personal validation rather than fixing problems.

Growing up is painful

In all these experiences true leaders will recognise that growing up is painful and that

the only thing worse than learning from a bad experience is not learning from a bad experience and having it again when it could have been avoided completely

It is the emotions that drive some of humanity’s greatest achievements and worst experiences. Great achievements are often born from chaos where the environment is the catalyst to create something new, conversely the same is true of awful experiences. The pivot point is the person and their mental model, human capacity and connectivity and their relative maturity in shared constructs like society, communication, democracy, wealth etc.

As leaders in business, just as a leader in your personal life your maturity through relevance enables you to set value and principles around how you work with people, see their inputs and drive towards innovation, cultural cohesiveness often projected into digital convenience.

No one has arrived but true leaders know they are working on themselves, they are aligning to a common understanding of cultural context, values which then set expectation on self and others. I’ve said before and it still true, true leaders lead from the front and don’t expect others to do what they won’t themselves, they grow up emotionally and encourage others to do the same.

Growing up Emotionally for leaders means fixing insecurities by converting them into securities

In all this there is a huge amount of work to do on ourselves but the impact on colleagues is amazing. They change from working to supporting, from time focused to outcome focused because you changed from being the boss to being a colleague and a mentor.

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5 User Experience (Customer Journey) lies, damn lies and absolute myths

1. Anyone can do user experience, nope!

I meet a lot of people claiming to do user experience, process and deliverables aside, they don’t have a usability background so they cannot do user experience.

User experience is a solution capability based upon usability principles and research findings not design aspirations

User experience is a solution capability (not all usability people can do user experience) based upon the experience of conducting usability testing and user research. Usability testing and user research provides the standards and experience of the user that is needed to understand their perspective, elicit the correct (there are wrong ones) requirements in workshops or testing and represent them in projects.

I met (in 2006) a UX expert, I’m always worried when I meet UX experts, because I am a UX expert. Anyway she was moving from Razorfish into the freelance world for the big bucks and working a large project for Honda cars through a digital agency. Unfortunately she did not know how to use any software apart from word, so I checked her out sure enough she was a PA at Razorfish not a UX architect as claimed.

This happens so often it’s shocking, my favourite one has to be the PHd student I met working as an accessibility consultant repackaging W3C guidelines as work for several agencies. What I love about this guy is he does public speaking and has even done UX London and people wonder why I’m not interested in these conferences!

There are loads more fakes some of them milking huge daily rates from major companies, as these companies don’t do any checking it’s their own fault, but it makes me quite sad that clients and employment agencies can’t tell the quality from the junk.

Not only is the user experience world full of fakes, I’d go as far to say that of the people I’ve met in the last 13 years involved in UX;

80% (8 in 10) of UX people are fakes and have no idea what they are doing

These fakes can certainly sell themselves and get work (now in some very senior positions) because the clients did not then and still don’t know what they should be getting out of a user experience professional.

2. User experience can be learned from reading books, nope!

Absolutely read books, but read lots of them, but don’t quote them like the Bible that’s a bit odd. But reading about someone else’s experience does not mean you have any or in fact really understand the context or scope of those experiences.

Do some testing and research, I’m seeing a great deal of roles advertised for UX researcher or UX workshopping this is a great concern as the priority of discovered requirements and their interrelation is almost impossible to communicate in written documents. This critical project information should always be available.

Separating UX research from the UX solution activity may make sense for IT activity but for User Experience Professionals it does not

I assume this was a bright idea of someone who doesn’t actually know anything about UX regardless of their job title.

3. User experience is an IT activity, nope!

User Experience is not an IT process, it starts in the business area before IT is involved

I know a lot of company IT departments have tried to subsume User Experience into their IT process; user experience is considerably less effective this way.

User Experience leads the projects speaking for the End User Stakeholders (customers) as the Business Stakeholders speak for the Business

User Experience fits better into Agile DevOps, Change Management, Operations or as separate Standards Authority within organizations.

4. User experience is a design activity, nope!

Not exactly no, it sets the project brief and requirements then latterly gets involved in research first before creating solution concepts, user testing concepts then defining the final solution.

If there is no research, user experience solutions are not possible

5. The cost of user experience is going down, nope!

Perhaps a better understanding is that the market is flooded with willing bodies, the quality goes down and so does the price because people find it difficult to sell invisible clothing (the kings new cloths) even to people who like the colour and the cut, so accept a reduced price.

So the value of the job title is going down.

User experience should provide major cost benefits and advancements to companies who wish to stand out from the crowd, provided they find people who know how to do UX correctly.

This is the same problem that Agile is going through, people have picked up the language and use one or two of the activities incorrectly but don’t exceed the current status quo because they don’t know how to.

Great Agile is fast and accurate, flexible and delivers usable software and change, just as Great User Experience should provide the experience that customers want and allow them to interact with the client, accurately and often.

Great User Experience delivers increased transactions, interactions and communications towards relationship building.

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