Process vs. Frameworks

An automotive company I was working with wanted to integrate more digital services into its vehicle range. The company could see more digital firms entering its market that understood the value of customer data, and how it can be collected and managed to create value. Concerned that it faced disintermediation, the company wanted to build its own digital service capability to strengthen its direct relationship with customers. Over several months the innovation unit worked intensively with a startup partner to build a new service and eventually produced a working prototype. So far, so good.

The problems occurred when the team took the prototype back into the business. Concentrating the prototype development work in the innovation unit had helped the team make rapid progress, but had left other divisions of the business on the periphery of the project, or in some cases not involved at all. So when the innovation unit tried to make the case for the adoption of their idea, they met both practical challenges related to aspects of product development and engineering they hadn’t anticipated, as well cultural challenges from colleagues who didn’t feel invested in the success of the project having not been involved until now.

I call this the Innovation Transfer Problem. It occurs when companies attempt to turn a concept for an innovation into the strategic, commercially-viable product or service they want to take to market. At this point, the emphasis in the innovation process shifts from a focus on creative activities to the management of change within the business necessary to make the new product or service a success.

Making the transfer work can be tricky. This piece from the World Economic Forum Agenda highlights some of the challenges. The key to success is to avoid approaching the transfer as a linear activity. Instead, firms need to take a framework approach and identify the factors that will shape the successful commercialisation of the idea so they can be anticipated earlier and integrated more effectively into the project. The process-led approach applied to many activities can be a further challenge here. Processes can be incredibly valuable in business. They enable speed, efficiency and scale. The trouble is that they are designed to be repeatable, so when the goal is innovation – to create something new – repeatability can be dangerous. For the organisation attempting to innovate, following well-defined process can blind them to factors that are unique to the innovation project and will be crucial to its success.

A good example is procurement. Most large established companies have well-defined procurement processes. However, for  companies attempting to collaborate with startups and scaleups to stimulate innovation, those processes can become a barrier to forming a business relationship, rather than an enabler. Often they are designed to facilitate relationships with much larger companies, or created to enable the provision of established, recognised services, rather than the creation of something new. With the Tech London Advocates I had the chance to explore the issue in a panel we held back in the summer. You can read a summary of the discussion here. By engaging the procurement team early in the project and treating it as a truly strategic component of the project, then it becomes possible to shape aframework that’s appropriate for the goals the company wants to achieve and is workable for a corporate and startup alike.

Making a change is rarely easy. It means being willing to think and act differently. But by being open to a wider range of inputs, the possibilities can be transformative.

Cut outs #21

White Arrow courtesy of Hello I’m Nik

The most innovative startups in the World? The World Economic Forum thinks so.

How to deliver Agile at Scale. A nice perspective on some of the challenges and considerations for applying Agile in a large organisation.

And staying on the Agile theme… How Agile methodology can help in turnaround situations.

Expanding into new territories: Lyft buys largest bike sharing company in the US.

What it takes to manage innovation: an in-depth study from CapGemini.

Few industries are experiencing as much change as retail at the moment. Here’s a round-up of the factors shaping the industry.



Cut outs #20

Archways by Chris Lu, Unsplash

The State of AI: An extensive study on where we’re at, led by the founder of Songkick and a Venture Partner from Point Nine Capital.

Being human: How realistic do we want robots to be?

We learn the most when things go wrong: corporate innovation and 132 of the greatest product failures

Bad behaviour in the Platform Economy: what does it mean and why does it matter

Creative tension: why too much team harmony can kill creativity

Why your attitude is more important than your intelligence

Big names, big ideas: The Creative Leaders 50


Cut outs #19

Northern Lights by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Mood music: Can music listening trends be used to predict economic shifts

Making diversity work: Some good insights into the challenges and rewards of building a diverse workplace

VR & Learning: A great application of VR technology to help children learn about the environment

Why Fail: We hear lots of talk about the importance of failure, but what do we really gain from the experience. Some personal reflections from an entrepreneur with experience

Accelerators & Incubators: Rising in popularity and abundance. Some perspectives on how they work in consumer markets

People don’t change

When I had my first foreign language lessons at school, the first thing everyone did when they got their hands on a dictionary was to look up all the rude words.

Yesterday I was at a party and a friend was telling me about the new Amazon Echo he’d just bought. The first thing he did once he’d got it all set-up was to find out what rude words it could say.

The technology changes, but people don’t.

The more I know, the more I realise how little I know

Horizons: there’s a lot to explore

When I started my MBA in 2014, I had a naïve idea that when the course ended I’d be ‘complete’. I’d graduate with a knowledge of business and enough career experience to make me the ‘finished article’ – ready for anything the business world could throw at me.

Actually, the more experience I gain, the more I realise how little I know and how much more there is to learn.

Now, hardly a day goes by without me talking to someone who gives me a new perspective or insight I hadn’t considered before. They could be a professional with 30+ years of experience, or a student fresh out of school, experts with reams of qualifications and people who’ve learnt their craft on the job. There’s always something to take away from the conversation that I didn’t know or that makes me think differently. So perhaps one of the best lessons I’ve learnt is humility and the value of openness.

And maybe that’s what being ready really means.

Cut outs #18

Some predictions for 2018. In no particular order…

2018: a year of reckoning from Forrester

Five innovations that will change our lives in five years from IBM

Separating hype from reality in marketing, data and technology from Edelman Digital

Predictions for journalism in 2018 from Nieman Lab

Key trends in digital for 2018 from Ogilvy

A future forecast for 2018 on technology, media and design from R/GA

8 ‘overly confident and mostly pessimistic predictions for 2018 from The Atlantic

And finally… some ‘entirely serious’ predictions from Wired