Stop Asking The Customer To Jump Through Your Hoops In some ideation sessions that I’ve been a part of when attendees start the description of the idea with “the customer needs to” or “the customer should” or “the customer will,” I inwardly cringe. Typically, the rest of that sentence usually is asking the customer to…
Recognizing the future is tough but not impossible.
Many people say that predicting the future is hard. It is – there are few of us who can take the myriad signals and drivers of today and successfully map them to a tomorrow which may happen.
Although, personally I believe that everything that we have envisioned will happen (no matter how crazy it might seem right now), we just don’t know when. As I’ve said, being a futurist is like being a meteorologist, you are usually always right, just at the wrong time.
The room was hushed.
The presenter had completed a very thorough presentation of using their tool to develop a robust innovation program, with all the fixings: the goals were clearly set out, the right people were involved at every level of the organization (yep, they had not one but two executive sponsors), the plan to reward the inventors was fully fleshed out and funded, the processes used to capture and review the ideas was set, a plan to funnel those ideas into the product or patent pipeline was nailed, and the marketing plan to communicate everything was detailed out. The program was launched, ran well with only a few minor glitches, and both the prototype and patent pipelines were full of interesting ideas. Employees had enjoyed the program, competing and collaborating with each other to know out some fantastic ideas, which were now sitting, ready to be built in the product pipeline, and invention disclosure forms were being filled out for some of the more far forward thinking ideas, so that they could capture the IP even they weren’t able to build the products immediately. News of the program had leaked into the press, and even analysts were looking at the company in a new light – could they innovate their ways out of the doldrums they seemed to be in.
Thinking About the Future Leads To Startups and Innovation
We get this question a lot – why do you focus on these three things on your blog? Well, if you ask me, innovation is all about attempting to predict the future – looking at the market, at trends, both mega and micro, and coming up with high level scenarios to determine the state of the world, the market and the company itself in that future. We look at startups because typically they have a lot to teach these enterprises: speed of development, innovative ideas, new technologies, etc. – we look at these startups not only as possible acquisition targets (although personally I prefer innovating from within, I understand a balanced innovation program of both internal innovation and external innovation – or even tapping into open innovation, is probably the best solution) we also look at their business models to determine if any of it can be applied within the organization. For example, are there places within the organization which could be better served with a more of a Lean Startup model, or some of its elements? Would we be able to bring more innovation into a specific process by introducing more of an agile methodology into the process?
Back before I came to the US, I worked for a cable company in Canada who was part of a consortium which launched the first high speed internet access trials in Canada. Think something like, Xfinity – all of the cable companies in Canada got together to form something we called Wave (along with a funky fresh Silicon Valley inspired logo) and we built a whole new infrastructure to launch this brand new service. We needed to do everything, from upgrade the plant so that it was two-way (try to get a typical cable guy to understand that when you disconnect the cable for a neighborhood for “just a minute” you are actually killing off their livelihood instead of just interrupting their All My Children episode) to build servers and content to serve over that network, to taking customer service people who were used to talking to cable TV customers and turn them into PC and network technical support.