It is becoming widely recognised that when people buy products or services they are really buying an experience. What people buy has attributes that are associated with functional consequences that have psychological (emotional) consequences that are ultimately tied to underlying personal values [Gutman, Reynolds and Olsen]. In short that’s an experience either anticipated or realised. Experiences may be intrinsic in either a product or a service but, more often, the best experiences will arise from a combination of both. 

So, if you are a provider of either a pure product or service then there is an opportunity to improve the overall experience for your customers by adding the missing half of the equation. In this article I will be focusing on value-add services for products. If there is sufficient interest I might write an extension piece to consider productising services. In either case, the main goal is to take a holistic view of the customer journey and the touch-points along it. These all provide opportunities for learning and potential improvement.

“To understand the man, you must first walk a mile in his moccasin.” – Native American proverb

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Lean is often regarded as simply targeting cost reduction through the elimination of waste. A quick-win approach may focus on eradicating the prime culprits in a piecemeal fashion at the tactical or, often, operational level. However, this was not the original intent and the need to regain a more strategic perspective seems obvious. For a more impactful and sustainable result a broader systems thinking approach should be adopted; one that integrates Lean principles with those of project, program and change management.

“Improvement usually means doing something that we have never done before.” – Shiego Shingo

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation
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There are a number of ways to approach commercialisation. Personally, I am repeatedly drawn to the utility of the Human Centred Design [HCD] drivers of Desirability, Viability and Feasibility. In my mind this model succinctly underpins much of the innovation process and consequently provides an excellent platform for thinking about commercialisation. I’ve mentioned before that the single most important takeaway from the Lean Startup movement ought to be that the business as a whole needs to be modeled, prototyped, iterated and validated. This concept dovetails nicely with the HCD framework above since both the Lean Canvas and its progenitor, the Business Model Canvas, focus on three main areas that ostensibly address each of these three overarching themes.

“Commercialisation is about more than just turning Intellectual Property into products. It’s about creating markets. Unless companies embrace the broader view… they are limiting their opportunities” – Grant Steinberg, Entrepreneur

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

In various blogs and news-feeds recently, both Blackbird Ventures and Sydney Seed Fund have estimated that, of the perhaps 1000+ startups formed this year in Australia, only 10% are attracting external funding and the percentage is much lower for the very early stages entrants. Part of the reason for these figures seems to be attributable to the growth in the number of people giving entrepreneurialism a shot whilst at the same time failing to adopt any kind of robust commercialisation process.

“There’s really nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself” – JS Bach

As a musician, this quote makes me smile. I recognise that having a framework is not enough but I do believe that not using one at all is a recipe for disaster.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

I had an interesting conversation yesterday where an observation was made that the market is flooded with doers but what it really needs is more thinkers. That got me thinking about what mind-set and behaviours a person needs to bring to the table and, equally as important, how projects and activities should be set up in the first place.

I am constantly hearing stories of situations where project drivers are not clear and where ownership is confused. I have encountered a fair few myself. Commonly, there is an imperative to ‘just get it done’ with only scant attention paid to the measures of success and the level of enablement provided by the operating environment.

 

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

A project can be anything that requires multiple steps to complete. It’s a managed process that takes you from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and if ‘B’ is a better place than ‘A’ then the project has probably been a success. Sometimes a project can be accomplished with a simple task list and a single person. Sometimes it needs multiple teams in multiple locations collaborating in a variety of ways to realise something quite complex. On other occasions, several projects must to be orchestrated in such a way that they converge to deliver a shared program goal.

The more complicated your situation, the more important it will be to avoid the project killers that I will identify below. Regardless of the context of your particular project(s), these things can almost certainly send it off the rails or, at the very least, make life pretty uncomfortable.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

Over the past few months I’ve had several conversations around the topic of the Minimum Viable Product [MVP] and prototyping as though they are, in some way, fundamentally different beasts. Personally, I see one as a subset of the other and view them both as part of a necessary continuum that helps maintain alignment and reduce risk during the new product development journey. Initially, you want to be sure that you’re building the right thing. Later, you want to deliver reliable functionality that makes good on the promise. In my mind, an MVP is simply one kind of prototype that happens to be focused on customer-centric issues related to desirability and viability.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

Have you ever taken a design for a physical product through to production? If you have then you’ll appreciate the need for a solid and useable Bill of Materials. Have you ever tried to develop a maintenance program for a physical product or system? If so, then you’ll know how pivotal the Bill of Materials [BoM] was in helping you define the modularity and level of spares inventory required. I believe there is an underlying assumption made by businesses struggling with the transition of a new product into production and deployment – that the development BoM is automagically transferable without rework and review.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

A few days ago I enjoyed a high energy weekend mentoring at the Lean Startup Machine workshop in Sydney. Around 65 participants formed 12 teams to explore their startup business ideas and make sure they were properly focused on delivering value. Not surprisingly there were quite a few discoveries and changes of direction. The final outcome was impressive with some well-crafted pitches delivered in style and validated in a variety of ways including that all-important cash commitment. Startups aside, I believe the underlying ideas have an important part to play in any innovative endeavor regardless of scale.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

I had an interesting discussion last week where a very capable manager was complaining about being stretched and not having sufficient time to capture the process. Critical information was trapped in the heads of key personnel and this made it difficult for new staff to get up to speed without impacting those experts. Also, many process and ownership related problems resurfaced on a regular basis because there was never time to capture the outcome of the previous debates. Focusing solely on business-as-usual [BAU] is a trap. Few companies want to simply maintain existing performance; most want to improve it in significant ways.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

In a recent article in Management Today, Lynda Gratton offers three keys to building a sustainable working life – deep mastery, building a posse of associates and being part of the ‘big ideas’ crowd. In principle I have to agree and, in fact, these ideas seem pretty obvious at first glance. It makes perfect sense to keep up to speed with the latest thinking and to position yourself to be part of the conversation. It also makes perfect sense to build and maintain a responsive network of colleagues and advisors – who’s going to argue with that? But it is the idea of ‘deep mastery’ being an essential component for success that made me think twice.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

Music has many rules. Most of the time these rules provide invaluable scaffolding that supports the development of emotive ideas. Sometimes, however, the familiar framework gets in the way and stifles creativity. My jazz guitar coach often used to espouse the virtues of deliberately limiting your options to encourage a creative fluency. He’d say things like “now you can only use the D and G strings” or “riff on 3s, 7s and 9s only” or “play a substitute for every other chord”. It’s tricky of course because it means you’ve got think more instead of relying on well-rehearsed patterns. Having said that, the result is usually worth it. They say that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ so why not consider deliberately constraining your choices and see what that inspires for you.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

Organizations are complex systems that encapsulate interactions between people, processes and enabling infrastructure. It might seem reasonable, therefore, to manage innovation within organisations using some of the key principles that emerge from systems thinking and other disciplines associated with multi-disciplinary design. However, this is not as commonplace as might be expected. I suggest that integrating systems thinking with other change and project management techniques is key to ensuring a well-rounded approach that covers all the bases critical to successful innovation.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

It’s pretty easy to observe expenditure, velocity and resourcing. It’s easy to measure these things and create impressive charts and graphs. It’s easy to set targets for manufacturing cycle-time, mean-time-between-failure for a product and response-time for a call centre. It’s pretty straightforward to assess customer opinion, supplier conformance and an increase in sales. So what?

Well, if you’re measuring these things and not doing anything about the insights gained you are just ticking boxes. If you are measuring these things and they do not align with a coherent vision or game plan then it is difficult to determine what the best response should be.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

According to Wikipedia, strategy is “a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under uncertain conditions”. Something most of us need to consider on a regular basis right?

Interestingly, I read recently that only 44% of strategic initiatives are successful and that 58% of projects are not well aligned to organizational strategy [PM Network, April 2014]. To me, this suggests a lack of proper focus.

Creating an implementable and coherent strategy should be a critical front-end step in any innovative process; and by ‘innovation’ I mean any change that adds value.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

I was recently involved in a research project looking at complexity in project/program management. I will briefly share my views on the subject here.

For me, complexity is a function of having many elements interacting in a multitude of ways with the level of complexity increasing exponentially with increases in either factor.  By elements, I am referring to the full range of contributors – technology, people, information, processes and other enablers (eg finance).

Some elements that come to mind as especially important contributors to complexity in this context are: diverse stakeholder interests, ambiguity in objectives, geographically dispersed locations (incl. timezones, regulations etc), cultural/linguistic differences, novel technologies or solution architectures, the degree to which legacy systems are being modified or replaced, deployment scope (incl. volume and locations),

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

There are a number of ways for generating great ideas. The key is to create an environment for divergent thinking and most often this is down to the types of questions that get asked.

Every time there will be an underlying theme that can be explored by applying the right levers to get “out of the box”. Typically the theme will be a product, process, service or experience. There may be a specific problem to solve or you may be exploring the landscape for opportunities to add value through change (in a nutshell – ‘innovate’).

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation
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This week I thought we’d take a look at what I believe to be the seven biggest mistakes related to dealing with risk (and opportunities):

1.    Ignoring it – this is the biggest mistake of all – if you do not have a process to anticipate and manage risk properly then something unexpected can cause delays, overspend or worse. There are five simple steps: Identification, Assessment, Design Response, Implement Response, Review (and adapt); ignore them at your peril.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation
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The risk associated with developing and deploying integrated systems has many dimensions – complexity, novelty, speed, technology, social, political and others. The greater the risk the greater the need for some form of overarching governance and the adoption of risk mitigating approaches.

High levels of complexity are best addressed using a systems approach to compartmentalise the requirement and develop a modular solution architecture that minimises and clearly defines interdependencies.

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation

I have recently been engaged in some quite animated discussions where the other party was confusing several common terms so I thought that, this week, I'd share my views on a few of my favourites...

Invention – is the creation of a product or introduction of a process for the first time. This does not necessarily mean that it is useful on its own and it often needs to be incorporated into a wider system to realise its potential. [eg light bulb, steam engine, wheel]

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AuthorTrevor Lindars
CategoriesInnovation