Friday, October 27, 2006

Business Burping

What on earth are ‘Business Burps’ you may be asking? It was a phrase I thought of whilst ... burping. Can you remember as a child when you first let out a burp after gulping a fizzy drink? Wasn’t it a bit exciting (as well as a little bit rude)? Weren’t your parents just a tiny bit embarrassed?

Well Business Burps are a little like this. They have the following characteristics:

  • Something unexpected happens following a period of high energy
  • There is excitement
  • There is resentment on the part of competition i.e. that’s not fair
  • There is some embarrassment on our part to exploit the situation
  • The event is likely to be totally ‘left field’

A recent example of this is Borat, the sixth most famous man in Kazakhstan. For those who are not familiar with Sacha Baron Cohen's character visit the officialwebsite. This is viral marketing at its very best. It is embarrassing, offensive to the Kazakhstan government (at first), completely unexpected and well thought out (Borat has his own website, mySpace etc) and many, if not most, people are talking about him.

So what has this got to do with ‘Business’. First of all Borat is business for his creator. Secondly his appearance is at odds with what has gone before. So if, like many businesses, Sacha Baron Cohen had adopted ‘Best Practice’ we would have just got yet another mediocre comedy film. Instead we got the product of ‘Next Practice’. Like Borat, our new business ideas must be the product of ‘Next Pratice’, a ‘Business Burp’. Not only should your idea be different, its method of delivery or production should be future looking too. So when you are next considering a strategy of innovation or business growth or ‘burping in the boardroom’ then consider
the following:

  • Is your idea unexpected (for the marketplace)?
  • Does the energy exist to see it through?
  • Does it have the impact for competitors to scream ‘its not fair’
  • Can you avoid the fear and other barriers that could stop you exploiting the situation?
  • Can this be delivered through new processes or working practices that make it even harder for competitors to copy?
  • Are you forward and outward looking?

To find out how your business can be helped to burp, contact us now.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Innovator's Toolkit

This article came about as a result of a presentation made recently. The aim was to assist business people and entrepreneurs by telling them what would happen when they were innovating, what it would feel like, what the cost would be and what impact there would be on staff, family and friends. This is information not readily given out by consultants and business support organisations. The ideas are all captured in a document entitled ‘How Innovation Works’ which is currently available in PDF format on request.

So what is first? Well, rather like installing a new IKEA kitchen, you need a case for actually doing it. In the case of the kitchen it is simple – we have no room, it is a health hazard etc. In many businesses it is a case of ‘we do this or go bust’ but there are less extreme reasons. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to do this?
  • What will I achieve?
  • Am I willing to take the risk?
  • Are my stakeholders with me?
  • Am I prepared to change?

Note at this stage you might not know what you are going to do but you will know why and that you have given yourself permission to carry on..

Rather like building that kitchen you will need some tools and a map. The first tool is a new brain! Not literally, but you will have to think differently.

“Hallo Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?” “Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.” (Winnie-the-pooh)

Rather like Pooh and Rabbit we must adopt different modes of thinking. We will need to work with new tools, try out ideas, manage new staff and face new competition. The ideal model to follow is that of a modern terrorist organisation but without the flawed ideology. Think how they are managed and resourced, how they gather intelligence, how their networks are set up. You will need to consider one or all of the following:

  • Team working
  • Is management too hands on?
  • Is there a desire to win?
  • Do you know how to win?
  • Do you look inwards or outwards?
  • How do you manage external relationships?
  • Do you have the appropriate culture?
  • Do you get the best from your employees?

All of these things can be measured with our Innovation Toolkit.

Once you have the tools you will need some (metaphorical) space to work in. To create this consider:

  • Strategic barriers
  • Organisational culture and networks
  • Corporate culture
  • Learning ability
  • Process and structure

Is it hard to do? Well if you consider that you will have to come up with ideas, transfer knowledge, think in half a dozen or so different modes simultaneously and ‘herd cats’ then you have some idea of the task ahead. It is all perfectly possible and many have travelled the path.

It is possible to define a methodology to follow and plan both innovation projects and continuous innovation. The ‘How Innovation Works’ document will shed more light on the topic if your are interested.