To illustrate the power of our approach we have brought together some examples that we have worked on singly or collectively.
Selecting the right staff has to be a top priority for any business. We built from scratch an engineering and technology consultancy rising to a complement of two hundred professionals in Malaysia and India. Using interviewing techniques to explore candidate Capacity, Achievement, Relationship Skills and Technical Capabilities in some depth. We explored examples to understand the individual contribution and help select the best players for the future.
For innovation projects in particular, we sought those folks from our internal teams keenest to contribute. We also tried to get a spectrum of views as well as people with a good understanding of the area or topic but specific expertise doesn’t always seem to be necessary. Ensuring that senior or voluble team members don’t dominate is crucial to elicit the best contribution from all team members. It is a key role for the coach to ensure all members feel comfortable to make a contribution and to manage behaviors that tend to exclude others. Indeed the coach must ensure all do make an input. We have practical approaches to ensure this key element operates in our workshops.
Communication is paramount between us and our customers of course and also crucially between the customer’s teams and their stakeholders, defining starting points for innovation, goals, red lines etc. This ensures the exercise is grounded and away on the correct foot. The team or group working on the innovation project needs to feel their contribution is really valued if you are to sustain them for the next challenge. We’ve seen that it is all too easy to neglect this aspect: it risks a rapid dissipation of energy within your prized minds.
From Internal to External
Business transformation seems often to come out of the blue especially to those being transformed. We had six weeks to develop a plan for CEO review for the transformation of a team of about one hundred carrying out R&D for internal customers into a business operating on a commercial basis with its internal and to be found external customers. To fail in the planning or execution meant break-up or sell off. Neither were palatable options for those closest.
The task required a lot of emotional energy and the use of creativity tools for forge the new future and to define what the products and services should be. The plan was successful: it was tested in open forum with the company leaders and CEO. Its execution was similarly tested yearly and also successful even turning a profit in the first year. It showed the power of using emotional energy and directing that with creativity tools to define our new future. Those tools were nascent then but went on to be refined and further used around the globe.
When innovation turns survival mode into a success story
Food security is becoming more of an issue with food retailers worldwide as we source our food from more distant locations. ‘Home grown’ is gaining ground as consumers become more discerning in their choices, but there are still plenty of challenges in the UK for the food manufacturer. When a food manufacturing company wanted to change direction because of adverse market conditions, through no fault of their own, it was risking three generations of the family livelihood. The same people that had not foreseen the crisis in the food industry were counselling the family with more of the same advice. This led to them sinking deeper into financial meltdown. What was really needed was a new approach – a new perspective that was not hindered by conventional thinking.
The ‘holistic innovation’ approach was to challenge accepted norms in the market place. It would introduce new ways of thinking that demonstrated a number of initiatives that would turn their low priced commodity product (which would traditionally depend on wholesale market forces) to new high priced high value branded products which are now stocked and sold by ALL of the major food retailers. It was a significant paradigm shift in their business thinking that would increase their turnover to over £36 million in less than 5 years from a negative position. In the face of adversity this family business was prepared to change their perspective and accommodate a new mindset, an holistic approach, using our innovation tools. It is still a major success story today.
Ceramic metal bonding holds its own unique challenges because of the difference in coefficient expansion of the respective materials. When a high technology company involved in adhering ceramic tiles to metal (part of a NASA project) reviewed the possibility of major expansion in manufacturing capability, they were offered significant financial input from a corporate customer, with a view to ramping up their capacity to increase volume sales.
Expert teams with significant domain expertise were challenged both technologically and in a commercial sense by introducing new but significant elements into the review, utilising the innovation matrix tools. The holistic innovation approach facilitated a new perspective and explored knowledge gaps in relation to the challenges that were presented. The outputs from the sessions resulted in a significant reduction in financial capital risk, opened up new hitherto unexplored markets, and produced new products and patents that would give them a compelling competitive advantage. The owners of this company were relieved they had made the right decisions using our holistic innovation process.
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For more examples of innovation see:
www.allansamuelconsulting.com or www.strawberryfields.com