Monday, June 26, 2006

The New Language of Innovation

As innovation changes from a hard to a softer kind of process, so the language must change to reflect this. Below are a list of terms that we commonly use in our project teams or businesses together with a new vocabulary that we should all be coming to terms with.

Sales Pitch
As project become more transformational than transactional we need to be talking about creating a purpose not simply pitching an idea.

Many of us visualise the outcome but it needs to be vocalised also. We all respond to different stimuli so the desired outcome needs to represented in as many ways as possible to engage the whole project team.

When you are building something new and exciting then call your team something exciting. They are all creators in their own specialist field.

Demands very seldom work as intended. Create a dream and encourage others to buy in and follow it with you.

We all worry about the content of specifications and requirements documents. Consider the consequences of every action you take. Does it enhance the clients experience, does it add comfort, safety or fun?

Instead of cumbersome plan, create a story and storyboard to engage the team and encourage their contributions.

Your project needs to be run along business lines so run it like a business with your client as the major shareholder.

In line with the previous point, your management team are in fact a board.

Avoid these like the plague. If you must group people, do it according to the tasks that they are carrying out.

Abolish this, talking is all important to share knowledge and break down barriers. If you use technical terms, ensure they are understood by everyone.

Treat communications as if you were campaigning, make sure that everyone is convinced and understands the complex ideas that you are trying to get across.

Don’t dwell on accomplishing things. You have a dream to follow but remember if you are innovating then there will be some failures to learn from. Not accomplishing is not a disaster, you are undertaking an adventure.

These are damaging in large numbers. Encourage people to ask for advice or direction, not just question everything.

Doing should be replaced by learning.This way you have both action and the acquisition of knowledge.

Do not think linearly. You will be embarking on a journey and the path may twist and turn on the way.

If you are innovating you will be entering into uncharted territory on some occasions. Research cannot help you. Intuition must become part of your vocabulary.

Replace this with guidance, talking and a little intuition. No rigid procedures here!

A visitor could be a guest, but don’t take this too far.

If you take the time to create message then you want them to be remembered so focus on creating memories, a subtle but helpful distinction.

We often present our ideas and plans to people but in a collaborative environment we should be colluding or conspiring with all of our stakeholders.

If you are keeping records, make it interesting, richer and full of knowledge. The record of your journey through your innovation project is Your Story.

Service Innovation

This is not for those people who think that Innovation is about boffins in laboratories or selling technology from academic institutions into industry. As the UK becomes even more dependent on service industries a new type of innovation is emerging. Beware traditional gurus and business consultants, as there is competition out there.

I had the good fortune to be in the audience at a recent design event, where one of the speakers was Ralph Ardill, founder of the Brand Experience Consultancy. He is a designer with a track record of bringing life to some of the world’s leading brands such as Ford and Coca-Cola. Those in the know will already recognise him as being the person who led the project to design and build the Guinness Storehouse, currently the most famous visitor attraction in Ireland, and voted by some as the best in the world. Not many years ago it was an empty building within the perimeter of the Guinness brewery.

His foresight, and some may say creative thinking, led to Guinness buying into the idea of the ‘Pint building’, combining a tourist attraction, training and conference facilities, exhibition and retail space and regeneration of the local area. The multi disciplinary project team was pulled from many different business areas and was installed as a pseudo board to run the development project. Everyone, even the builders, were labelled as ‘creatives’ as each person had creative input.

Project structures were kept to a minimum, transparency was key and knowledge transfer was seen as high priority. Finally they defined their own language to avoid misunderstandings amongst the many represented disciplines.

Like many great innovation projects, the team managed to get their own space and define their own work environment but with specific targets. Add to that the vision and commitment of Guinness. The result, a bunch of right brained people led by (gulp) designers turned a leaking wreck into a major tourist attraction bringing in over 300,000 visitors per year at an average spend of 35 euros. Visit and see for yourself. Is this the future?