Remember that first meeting of the innovation team? I remember in one organisation I was first asked by my boss to represent the department on this pioneering project that had been funded but upto now had made little impact. I was told that although I was not really au fait with the product there were plenty of people on the team who had worked in that area. We met near the Brighton Factory at a local hotel, we all sat under in the shade and introduced ourselves...most people ending "...and I don't know why I have been assigned to this as I know very liitle about it." So that sinking feeling began to crush my spirit of optimism. The next morning at the kick-off workshop, based on project management techniques, one person stated "I understand this assignment. We should do X." Most other people said that they were okay with this "so let's get planning" which is what we did. Needless to say it did not take long for the project to unravel, although it took far longer for it to die.
It was this sort of experience that led a group of us to question the way projects were being started , planned and managed.... resulting in a different answer: Design @ The Edge.
Many years earlier I had seen some of T. J. Allen's work on Innovation which highlighted the time spent on experimentation in the design and development process
This table taken from his book Managing the Flow of Technology puts the experimentation time as 77.3% of the total which deserves some thought and attention. Throw some other points of view, such as:
What is the link between models and innovation?
Schrage explains that models, prototypes and simulations are useful for representing ideas in tangible form. This allows people to play around with the idea as represented by the model, discuss its features, and bounce new ideas off each other. Schrage points out that it is this creative interaction between people and models that gives rise to innovation.
Therefore, how innovative and successful an organization is depends very much on how well people “play” with each other around prototypes and models. There are right and wrong ways to behave when playing: depending on the innovation culture of the organization, some ‘wrong’ behaviours can stifle innovation. It is thus important for managers to be alert for signs of unproductive organisational behaviour around prototypes.
Major John R Boyd's rationalisation of his superior performance as a fighter pilot in Korea in his briefing
Boyd applied his intuitive understanding of energy maneuverability to the study of aeronautics. In the 1970s, he helped design and champion the F-16, an aluminum manifestation of everything he knew about competition. Then he focused his tenacious intellect on something grander, an expression of agility that, for him and others, became a consuming passion: the OODA loop.
Observation; orientation; decision; action. On the face of it, Boyd's loop is a simple reckoning of how human beings make tactical decisions. But it's also an elegant framework for creating competitive advantage. Operating "inside" an adversary's OODA loop -- that is, acting quickly to outthink and outmaneuver rivals -- will, Boyd wrote, "make us appear ambiguous, [and] thereby generate confusion and disorder."
The product of a singular, half-century-long journey through the realms of science, history, and moral philosophy, Boyd's ideas both augment and challenge conventional thinking about organizations and conflict. Boyd himself, a cigar-smoking maverick, enjoyed distinctive unpopularity in official Pentagon circles. But even among critics, his OODA loop was much harder to dismiss.
The concept is just as powerful when applied to business. The convergence of rapidly globalizing competition, real-time communication, and smarter information technology has led to a reinvention of the meaning and practice of strategy. What do you do in the semiconductor industry and other sectors where the time advantage of proprietary technology is collapsing even as the cost of developing it explodes? Companies in manufacturing, telecommunications, retail -- in nearly every business -- are discovering that fashion, fad, and fickle customers require constant vigilance and adjustment. We operate in a video-game world where time is compressing, information goes everywhere, and the rules of the game change abruptly and continuously.
Waldrop's Complexity, 1996 introduced me to a new world of chaos and complexity which combined with Team Talk, Teams and Technology, The Wisdom of Teams, Shared Minds, Creative Team Leaders together with wide-ranging talks with people from many professions and across the globe made a creative potage from which what I now call Design @ The Edge: Tools and Technologies for Accelerating Innovation.
So, What about that sinking feeling?
We realised that the "people in the room", i.e. the project team were playing to old functional rules meaning that progress meetings consisted of functional presentations by one person in turn to the team, many of whom deciding that it as they were not accountable for that bit would go off and do emails, etc. returning when something of direct interest (i.e. might impinge on their function's work) might be coming up. As projects got a little more complex the product functional interactions meant unexpected effects were appearing catching the team unawares. As Michael Schrage put it:
We took one project that had a team consisting of members who were rarely in the room together, where everyone thought that a supplier (not present at team meetings) would solve it all- the supplier did not have the right expertise available so failure was about to surprise the team-and got them to make quick prototypes of their concepts and in half an hour proved none of them had a chance of working.... panic!
Picture Uploaded on by PhillipC. Used with thanks under CC.
We invented Design Space for them and at the next meeting had all the internal functions around the octagon in the same room for 2 days to develop a common vision of success... i.e the user experience aimed for (including the smile on the face). We used Design Space to create must-haves and better-ifs for each of the eight faces- converted these into filtering criteria for ideas and then another list of ranking criteria for concept comparison. We also introduced Maslow's hierarchy in the form of Design Pyramid to evaluate what was already on the market including our own and where there were gaps that could drive concept generation.
In order to stop people using suppliers as reasons for going slow we also described a Design Fast Action model that allowed us to sneak in Boyd's OODA loop thinking.
All this enabled us to accelerate the speed of the project through the funnel; this included realising we could not hit the launch date (fixed) for all the must-haves so we split the project into two and intended to do the straight forward "hold the line" solution winning us enough time to do the full solution. We remained with the first solution project team all the way supporting them on a Design Journey until the ramp-up stage(end of feasibility in funnel-speak). It is sad that the project leadership allowed the team to be distracted from pushing on with the second solution and the team reverted to previous learned habits so missing the market window as the top team did not appreciate that the first one only slowed the market onslaught for a while. The adoption of design behaviour into the innovation process is a cultural change and as such needs a great deal of senior management sponsorship and active support.
An interesting strategic aspect is that we had spent a year or two building and rehearsing emerging design technologies.. so called hard tools to support the rapid iterations (Design Fast Action) needed to catalyse significant changes in speed to market; Design @ The Edge encompasses soft tools which, coupled to new design technologies...
catalyses and supports new innovation and design behaviours- which I will discuss in another blog...