innovation

Needed: Passion and Conviction

by Trudy on August 30, 2013

I went to see the film Jobs on the weekend. Like many, I am fascinated by the story of Apple from innovation and marketing perspectives.

(FYI I was an early business Mac user, and my first purchased home computer was a Mac, but I lost my way for a time and became a PC person, but have since returned wholeheartedly. Our family has gone from 0 Apple products to at least 11 Apple products in 3 years! And PROVOKE is 100% Mac based.)

The film, and coincidentally a documentary I happened upon the following morning, were reminders of a couple of points for all business leaders:

Steve Jobs’ brilliance came from two primary perspectives.

Passion for the user – he approached innovation from a perspective of what will improve the customer’s life. “A person needs to be able to play a song in no more than three steps.” was the brief for the iPod. Product development backwards from what would be user friendly for the customer. The product needs to fit the customer, not the customer fit the product. Many businesses forget this occasionally (frequently?). Steve Jobs got it early on and stayed compulsively committed to this perspective. We all can benefit from a dose of this kind of compulsiveness in our businesses.

Conviction – this is a person who met obstacle after obstacle, as pretty much any innovator/disruptor/visionary experiences when they are trying to change the rules. Yet he continued to push his vision and maintained his passion. He endured set backs that would have been enough to have stopped many of us, no matter how much we believed in something. He kept the faith, even when he was fired from his own company. He simply found other outlets to manifest his life’s work. It made me think about a key concept of cultural change, that when things get ugliest and most uncomfortable it is precisely the time to not give up, as that is the surest sign of the seas changing.

Two good points to keep in mind when we are having a tough day doing the right thing for the customer.

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Creativity and innovation is always a top of mind in PROVOKE’s world, and the world of many of our clients.

I was fascinated recently by an RFP that asked for “innovation”. I was intrigued and a bit excited by this invitation. The RFP then quickly added that the response needed to look exactly like this, in exactly this space, by exactly this date, in exactly this process, using this font size, no colour please, and so on. Ahh, there is the truth. Desire meets reality head on.

I believe that we all aspire to creativity and innovation in our work, yet so many have no idea how to do this, or more unfortunate, work hard to squash it like a bug. I am not being unkind; really, much killing of creativity is done quite ignorantly, through automated processes and habit. Let me explain.

We all have processes in at least some areas of our work that just makes it easier to manage the list of things to accomplish in a day. Most of us have too many tasks and not enough time to accomplish them. So we inadvertently structure things around us that work quite hard to beat creativity and innovation out of the norm of the day.

I cracked up at Jeremy Dean’s (PsyBlog) dark witty take on it in  “6 ways to kill creativity”. Mainly I laughed because it is so true. I encourage you to read it, but my favourite line was:

Remember that all these methods for killing creativity are best done with subtlety. You should say you provide support, freedom, resources and so on, but only do it halfheartedly. This will give you the appearance of a creative organization but you won’t produce the truly creative solutions which mark out the best.

If you have ever heard any of these things (or gasp, even heard them escape your own mouth), you may need to rethink your ability to invite innovation around you:

  • I want you to do something different, see what you can come up with that does not cost anything
  • You have capacity right now, I have been meaning to find some great ideas around X, this is a great opportunity for you (aka you have no experience), see what you can come up with
  • Within our current system (processes, rules, etc.), I want you to create something new
  • I know this or that is an issue, can you just find a way to work around them?
  • I want this to be extra great, can you have it to me tomorrow morning?
  • I don’t have a budget, but …….be creative

Oh my god, how would we ever make that happen?!

To all of us wannabe innovators, we need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Be clear about what you need/the specific goal, you will get a better answer
  • Give time, real time, not after hours time, to have the space to explore, ponder and ideate
  • Bring in varying voices – talk to as many people from all walks, perspectives, skills, this gives a wider perspective to work with
  • Remove as many obstacles as possible – old processes and rules provide old answers
  • And turn down nothing that comes to you without spending 24 hours to really consider it. Almost always there will be a germ of innovation that you can take away from any idea, no matter how outrageous it appears.

 

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But I Know it is a Great Idea

by Karen on October 14, 2011

Have you ever had a great idea, and maybe even had the opportunity to implement, but it didn’t take off like you expected or promised?  It has happened to me and I kept trying to explain myself to the audiences.  Why it was a great solution for the customer.  How it was good for profits.  How and why operations, sales and customer service teams should support it.  And, needless to say, always defending it to the executive team.

For years (yes years!) it just didn’t take off.  Was the idea ahead of its time?  Perhaps, but that still means it was not the right idea to implement and should have been pulled sooner.  Was the support team fighting it because it was new?  Perhaps, but that means the benefits weren’t compelling or the processes required to operate and manage it were too complex.  If it was truly a good idea, customers and employees would have pulled it through.

I kept pushing and promoting the service because the idea was grounded in sound customer research and I could see the long-term competitive advantage it would create.  However, the problem (it turns out) was that the service was just too complex for both internal and external stakeholders to grab on to.

In the end, we paired back the offering to its bare bones, stakeholders took to it, and then the users and buyers began pulling for the next level options. (I never said “I told you so.”)

The learning boils down to respecting and understanding the rational and emotional needs of your audiences. Make sure your audience is ready for your “great” idea, you just cannot push it and expect results.  And if it is too big to explain from the start, break it down into smaller bites.  If it truly is a winner, the stakeholders will move it forward.  Finally, move ego out of the way and admit you weren’t listening carefully enough and went too far in the beginning.  Ouch!

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Economic Diversity is thriving in Calgary

May 6, 2011

Last night I attended the Women Mentors & Friends event at the Calgary Petroleum Club.   I was drawn to the event because of the diverse and meaningful speaker line-up, but even more so by the format the club promised.  The goal for the evening was to provide a strong connection and dialogue between the speakers […]

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Bring your Team in Early

April 1, 2011

I attended a MRIA (Marketing Research and Intelligence Association) luncheon last week on how insight, research and judgment work together to support branding initiatives.   The presenter shared her experience and perspective and challenged the audience on numerous approaches.  The presenter is a big fan of getting everyone involved in research and in particular, group insight […]

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