So you’re innovative, Now what?

Over the weekend, between home projects, I started reading “The Corporate Startup”.  The one standout comment so far was the authors’ definition of Innovation: “The creation of new products and services that deliver value to customers, in a manner that is supported by a sustainable and profitable business model”.  This suggests several things to me:

First creativity is not necessarily innovation.  One can be creative but not necessarily creating value to a customer, e.g., Rube Goldberg

Second value is in the eye of the customer, so maybe a new and novel approach that doesn’t reduce cost or produce more effective results but provides a more entertaining or satisfying experience is of value. Pines & Gilmore highlighted this idea in their book in 1999.  Examples of experience multiplying value are demonstrated by such corporations as Apple with the IPhone, etc. Where style and experience are often the major differentiating factor IPhone verse Windows Phone.

In earlier research I came to the conclusion that value for customers is manifested in at least one of follow three categories:

  1. Efficiency, reducing costs or time
  2. Effectiveness, producing better results
  3. Experience, enhancing enjoyment or prestige.  Consider how Rolex, Apple, DeBeers, etc. positions themselves and products

Lastly a sustainable and profitable business model, is a fantasy.  A look at the Dow Jones 30 over the years indicates sustainability is ecosystem dependent.  As it changes a business needs to change its business model to remain profitable.  U.S. Steel and U.S. Leather Company are entities that are no longer included in the top 30, their offerings and business models no longer enable these firms to continue as before.

In some cases companies tried to be “creative”: six colors of pens.  But those efforts failed to reach a tipping point in the experience category, neither did these enhance the other two categories.  So the musing for today are your company’s efforts creative or innovative?

 

CAD for Enterprise(TM) R and D

Picking up this morning where I left off a few weeks ago on learning Tensors well enough to integrate ontology and taxonomy concepts to create a coordinate system for the Enterprise Design System I’m building based upon the Zachman Ontology.   This week I’m looking into converting Organizational Structure concepts into a vector.   I’m reading an excellent book on organizations: “The Connected Company”, Dave Gray.  Reminds me of von bertalanffy insights on systems levels building higher behaviors & attributes at each layer.

 

Internal Transformation

Past week has been working on internal transformation projects for my firm.  A classic case of eat your own dog food.  The interesting situation is everyone is excited to participate and help in the transformation.  –makes the task 1) easier 2) much more enjoyable — and confirms that I joined a awesome company, with awesome people.  Revising Business Model and putting into place a strategic execution system to ensure alignment with Biz Model, Designing, building, and implementing a client acquisition system to improve getting and keeping desirable clients.

This morning’s insight

A part of a good strategy is knowing what not to do; besides what to do.  I see too many companies run off the rails by going after the wrong type of business, markets and clients. Or trying to be everything to everyone, thus ensuring you’re nothing to everybody.

Faster to Market is not always the best policy -not what you think

Received a humorous, but truthful, comment on yesterday’s post.  A colleague of mine pointed out my poor grammar: “Brian I love this! Can I be your blog final editor though before you post these – the grammar errors are killing me 🙂.”  The comical excuse is that “I’m an architect or engineer, not a lit. major….”  or the neurological excuse: Asperger’s Syndrome.  –No, I haven’t been officially diagnosed, but those crazy online quizzes suggest I should.  Other’s chalk it up to calling me, whatever reason, a typical scatterbrain genius. Yes I’ve got a high IQ, but that nor any of the other explanations are valid excuses for not trying to improve.     

However, the plain fact of the matter is I’m always 100 miles ahead in my mind to what I’m writing down. Two of my mentors at Microsoft once commented separately: “Brian, you’re going to have a difficult time here in that you can go from A to Z in seconds in your head while others are having trouble just getting to B on paper”.  This causes me to skip words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs.  This post is an example I’ve had to go back several time to ensure I haven’t skipped something, etc.  Those that follow my word may already notice the long, well extremely long sentences….well punctuation are just friendly suggestions like road signs right 😉  The results of which is a reliance on proofing software which doesn’t always catch everything or an editor. 

As such I’m often in too much of a hurry to get my ideas down before these vanish from my current thoughts then push it out there. [Faster is not always better]  

What I’ve been doing about such 

A few years back I rejoined Microsoft’s MCS organization in an interesting role “IP Development Architect”.  The mission for such was basically empty my head of experience on various EA topics, develop approaches for the field to use to help our clients**. Basically as one of my mentor’s called it “being a brain on a stick for sale, lease, or rent”  

I took that role as a challenge to improve my writing and presentation skills; similar to the reason I took a role at IBM to learn marketing, sales, and become more outgoing (I’m an extreme introvert though you’d never know it).  During the years that followed I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends and colleagues point me to resources to help, as well as technical and grammatical editors to patch up my mistakes.

During that time I started investing in books (e.g., Peter Ingle’s Organized Writing Course, Nancy Duarte’s and Martin Sykes/Nick Malik’s books on presentations, etc.) that have taught me to put together great structure to my writings and presentations.  I actually get people asking me to do such for them or critique their work(specifically not grammar); which I’ve gladly done for many.  So I guess I’ve overcome some portion of my communication gap. 

This next twelve months with the help of my colleague, yes I’ll gladly take you up on your offer, I’ll work on the grammar portion of my writing.   

             

 ** I say clients rather than customers because I’ve always believed the company should establish long term relationships rather than transactional sales. Given the company’s strategy pivot to cloud services, I hope they are successful adopting such a philosophy.  The consequences of not doing so will be a loss of renewals in a future that depends upon good service and strong relationships.      

Philip K. Dick was right but may be wrong also

For those who are not Science Fiction fans, Philip K. Dick was a writer of notable insight to cultural trends.  His books have later been turned into blockbuster movies: BladeRunner, Minority  Report, Total Recall,  and Next to name a few.  His books had a dystopian perspective to these, where governments and social agents become tyrannical.   I will not dwell on that forecast of the future of society is this post.  One interest concept I thought interesting was his focus on media.  More specifically how the media would change.  Though the movie adaptations only hinted at it media, print for example, changed from a primarily word based format to more of a graphical based one.  Well the saying goes “One Picture…”

When moveable type was created it did two things. First it made production of information cheaper.  Thus distribution of information increased and was made available to lower income people. Second, it changed the cost ratio between text and graphics.  When books were hand drawn, the cost of graphics was on a par with text.  This ratio changed only slightly over the years until the application of computer technology.

What is interesting about this was that prior to the movable type revolution much communication was through pictures and other symbols.  Dick’s prediction of the future was a return to graphical communication and a reduction in text.  This inferred a lowering of grammatical literacy within society as a whole.  Having just complete several Government RFP response marathons where reply instructions were specific about writing to an 8th Grade level that would seem to prove Dick’s point.  However, I took a few steps back in considering such.

What came to mind were presentations and proposals I’ve seen and participated in over the years.  Many times I was privy to executive decision-maker sessions.  What struck me over the years was how these sessions have changed.  Initially presentations and proposals were fully of textual information.  A slide or page was filled with paragraphs of descriptions and opinions.  A little later after spreadsheets had become the go-to business tool, these became filled with tables of data and charts.

Then as graphic software became more capable presentations in many companies became more simple and focused.  A term which was not originally meant to be complimentary became popular code for these presentations to executives: “Big Animal Charts”  I suppose this was because someone thought reducing issues down to the simplest concept was similar to old children’s books; “See Spot Run, See Tiger run…”   A sort of arrogance was hidden in this comment lay just below the surface.  That is “I’m the expert and you’re not.  I have fancy jargon”  While jargon is useful to shortcut the communications process, its also an inhibitor for those that are not dedicated to a particular discipline or domain.  What many proposers and presenters forget, myself included, is that the presentations and proposals are not about me but about the audience.  So any means to make understanding easier for the audience is good.

Now I get back to my most recent RFP and presentation efforts.  After writing my technical responses I ran a reading level analyzer.  The results didn’t shock me.  The text was rated at Ph.D or beyond.  A far cry from the 8th grade level requested.  After significant effort I managed to reduce it down to 12th grade reading level. There I was stuck and required assistance from team mates, who thankfully jumped in.  What I found interesting beyond the reading level issue was that when I presented similar or more complex material I used very little text, choosing to use pictures, diagrams, and charts.  When I asked several audience members if the material was too complex and I should simplify it, thinking the words needed to be “dumbed down” I got a surprise.  They hadn’t even read the words, instead they got all they needed from the charts and spoken words, even though I used very technical jargon.

Which brings me back to Mr. Dick’s forecast of the future of media.  That graphics would dominate communications in the future.  Interesting points to consider: Look at Steve Jobs presentations, Nancy Duarte’s books Slid:eology & Resonate or books on Storyboarding –Hollywood’s go-to method to organize and present complex information.  All of which rely on graphics.  May be Philip was right in his forecast of the rise of graphics but others were wrong in thinking that graphics is dumbing down the communications.

Crossing the Chasm revised

Interesting perspective on where the chasm is now.

http://cognitiveworld.com/article/crossing-cognitive-chasm-circa-2017

Morning’s Ponders and Tool Suite Rational

Prior to jumping into finishing writing the technical approach for an RFP response this morning I spent a little time reflecting on the past few weeks of work.  I’m a big fan of Covey’s approach to analyzing your time to gain insights and understand patterns that could help you become more productive and enjoyment.  Yes I said pleased.  In a day when everyone talks about work-life balance as though these are separate things, I’m wondering if I’m the only one that gets enjoyment out of my work.

Must work translate into drudgery?

That seems odd.  I’m a woodworker, initially to assist my wife’s real estate projects and create items specific to what we need around the home, then it became a hobby.  As I participate in other social media sites around woodworking and makers, the pattern seems the same.  Then I find some others taking it a bit farther and creating businesses around their passion (e.g., Stumpy Nubs, The Wood Whisperer, etc.)  It appears woodworking has gotten a resurgence in popularity.  From their online appearance it seems they are have a passion for their work.  May be I’m reading into what I see in their public appearances and activities, but I continually see signs of real enjoyment in their participation in the craft.  Marc Spagnola,  The Wood Whisperer, has a science background and he uses it daily to expose the science behind the craft, right down to using the scientific method and experimentation to discovery such.  On his video blogs you see him and his wife Nicole banter back and forth.  To me its clear they are enjoying not only success in their business, but the process.

Which brings me back to this morning’s musings.  Do others also enjoy the process of their work like I do?   As I’m about to get back to writing the technical approach, I find myself excited about the process.  I really, no love, the entire process of discovering new methods and figuring out how to solve problems.  This is probably why I had gravitated to Management Consulting and Information Technology.

With that bit of personal insight, like always, after I closed out work last night I when back to working on the next section of my CAD for Enterprise ™ Design Tool suite.  My thoughts around this as a worthwhile endeavor is that there are plenty of technology corporations creating tools for what is the equivalent of CAM for Enterprise.  This matches what happened in the physical product industries for decades, lots of industrial automation technology while Architects, Engineers, and Designers continued to use manual methods and slide rules to accomplish their work till the computer technology became mature enough to be applied.  I’m seeing this as a similar pattern.  Last night I did a quick inventory of the “tools” I’ve built throughout my career to aid/automate various tasks around Enterprise Design, some I.T. oriented, some financial, some business management.  Then I looked at a tool I created in MS Access decades ago, B.A.S.E. ™ (Business Analysis System and Environment), it enable me to work in multiple functional domains on an engagement and reuse the information.  That goal I’ve continued to work on throughout my career.  A few weeks ago I had a brief exchange with my mentor regarding integrating various information domains.  With his encouragement and the involvement of others in their respective fields it looks like I’m close to creating the infrastructure that would support such a tools suite.

In the meantime I continue to create various point tools that will eventually snap-in, like the B.A.S.E. ™ product I created which had a similar idea of point tool modules.  This along with my question-based methodology is the goal I’ve set out to accomplish.  –and yes the point tools can be used in stand-alone mode; and yes I have shared these to others over the years (some on the Office Templates Online under the brand Intellectual Arbitrage Group which appears to have been syndicated on multiple sites as free downloads).