Posts Tagged Innovation

You need to hire for Innovation

Innovation is a topic very close to my heart and a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending an excellent workshop delivered by Dr Anne Stevens the VP of Design at Kone elevators.

The session was hugely insightful and very educational… and whilst I’m not going to share the details verbatim, I thought I would share some of the very thought provoking statements like:

“The same old thinking gets the same old results … you need new thinking to get new results”

“Creativity must be present at every level of every technical part of the organisation”

“Even a mature innovative team need a coach otherwise it’s easy to innovate badly”

“A common mistake is to just let people loose with innovation”

“No great website is conceived by more than three people”

“Passionate creatures do not follow scripts”

Towards the end of the session Anne went on to share what she looks for when recruiting innovative people for Kone and how these qualities differ from the traditional qualities that many businesses still seek today:

Traditional Qualities Innovative Qualities
Knowledgeable Imaginative
Pragmatic Enthusiastic
Risk adverse (No, can’t do that because) Let’s have a go
Process Champion Visionaries
Comfort Zone Trailblazer
Conformist Explorer
Specialists Creative Minds
Leadership Stereotype Passionate Creatives

This really was an excellent session that struck a chord with me, which qualities do you look for?

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Is Apple losing the plot??

If you read my blog you’ll know I’m a fan of all things Apple but of late I’ve been noticing a few things starting to go slightly wrong:

When I connected my iPad to my PC for an update last night the update was a whopping 500meg allegedly only to fix a small security vulnerability.

Speaking of security vulnerability the marketing would have you believe that apple devices are free from the things that are the menace of Windows devices.

Then during the update iTunes hung, not the first time it’s happened on a few occasions now, and then I couldn’t upload my IPad purchases to my PC.

This got me thinking back to last week when safari crashed several times on different sites on the iPad, and the reception on my iPhone is still inferior to non-apple devices.

So, is it me??? or could it be that Apple devices and software are becoming too complex or are they putting quality behind innovation, when in fact most of us just want things to do what they promise.

But then again we let them get away with it because we’re hooked and we love them….

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You need to hire for Innovation

Innovation is a topic very close to my heart and a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending an excellent workshop delivered by Dr Anne Stevens the VP of Design at Kone elevators.

The session was hugely insightful and very educational… and whilst I’m not going to share the details verbatim, I thought I would share some of the very thought provoking statements like:

“The same old thinking gets the same old results … you need new thinking to get new results”

“Creativity must be present at every level of every technical part of the organisation”

“Even a mature innovative team need a coach otherwise it’s easy to innovate badly”

“A common mistake is to just let people loose with innovation”

“No great website is conceived by more than three people”

“Passionate creatures do not follow scripts”

Towards the end of the session Anne went on to share what she looks for when recruiting innovative people for Kone and how these qualities differ from the traditional qualities that many businesses still seek today:

Traditional Qualities Innovative Qualities
Knowledgeable Imaginative
Pragmatic Enthusiastic
Risk adverse (No, can’t do that because) Let’s have a go
Process Champion Visionaries
Comfort Zone Trailblazer
Conformist Explorer
Specialists Creative Minds
Leadership Stereotype Passionate Creatives

This really was an excellent session that struck a chord with me, which qualities do you look for?

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Predicting the future with Super SaaS, Gamification and a Crystal Ball

Predicting the future of technology and business software development has never been more difficult, do I play safe and follow where others have gone before (and enter the world of ever increasing patent infringement!), or do I try something different with possibly higher risk?

I’ve been a follower of SaaS and Cloud since the very beginning and often reflect on where it will go next. I’ve said before that I believe Cloud will change our industry forever and now that bandwidth has caught up it offers some clear benefits. However, despite a decade of trying, real success is still limited to just a few vendors. But predicting Cloud adoption is the easy bit… how will SaaS develop in the future?

Some of the architectural patterns and technologies which were state of the art a few years ago are rapidly becoming long in the tooth and new breed of technologies and tools are emerging… Should I be restricted by the current world of SaaS, or should I go in pursuit of “Super SaaS” the next generation of SaaS?

To understand this better we first need to cut through the huge amount of noise, hype, and ‘snake oil’ from software vendors to understand where we are headed. But for the sake of simplicity let’s say SaaS its defined as accessing applications via a web browser running on a server in someone else’s datacenter.

So what might Super SaaS look like? Will browser based software stand the test of time? Does browser based software really deliver the claimed benefits? Are browsers really platform independent? Is the browser experience good enough for users of the future? Will the on-device ‘Appstore’ style connected applications accessing cloud based ‘back ends’ continue to evolve at lightning speed? Will we see a blend of both in a hybrid style approach? or will something else emerge in the meantime?

Questions, questions, questions… but no answers… so here’s a thought, what if we look at the real innovators of the computing industry… no not the Cloud or SaaS application vendors, but to the online gaming vendors?

Online gaming was with us long before online business software. How many of us remember playing Doom way back in 1993, the granddaddy of many of the networked multiplayer games we see today.

The gaming industry were using the web as a platform long before anyone else, they introduced online forums before anyone else, they had online chat before anyone else, they had monthly subscriptions before anyone else, and they embraced the concept of communities before anyone else. All of which are only now being touted as unique innovations in the world of business software today.   

So, In the gaming industry why are the most successful games still ‘on device’? Why aren’t more successful online games delivered via SaaS? Is the desktop really dying? Is Client Server an obsolete architecture? Is multi-tenant the only answer? What of the Social Cloud?  and can collaboration work outside of the cloud?

Things have moved on somewhat since the Doom years, and we now have Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) in which a very large number of players interact with one another within virtual game worlds.

The technology behind most MMORPGs is interesting, whilst they use the Cloud and the internet to facilitate play, they aren’t SaaS applications; these games are deployed using the more traditional client–server system architecture. The server software runs in the cloud and generates a persistent instance of the virtual world that runs continuously, and players connect to it via desktop client software.

Let’s have a look at this example, my son’s favorite online experience: World of Warcraft, is a popular online multiplayer game with over 12,000,000 (Twelve Million) subscribers as of October, 2010 and the fastest selling game of all time:

Why have the likes of Blizzard Entertainment chosen this model? Well quite simply the cloud isn’t powerful enough to provide the experience that players demand. They want high quality graphics and immediate interaction, a millisecond delay and they’re dead… not good! 

So the online vendors have chosen a deployment model that provides the best possible experience to the player by harnessing the processing power and performance of 12 million desktop PC’s to run the game locally, and backs this up with the processing power of some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

This isn’t a SaaS application whereby the user runs everything from the cloud, but does go one step further than SaaS by harnessing the combined power of the desktop and Cloud and it shares many characteristics of SaaS at the same time:

  • The software is downloaded and installed from the Web
  • Players access the game via an online identity and account
  • The game is consumed on a monthly subscription basis
  • Upgrades are controlled from the server when purchased to allow access to certain areas of the game
  • Updates are rolled out online to all users (and cleverly using each user as a peer to peer server for mass updates)
  • It facilitates multi person (player) collaboration
  • Game data are backed up automatically

So one might imagine a world where the Cloud and SaaS and the Desktop all come together to provide a better experience for the user, why would you rule anything out?

Continuing with the game theme for just a little longer… looking to the future, here are some really interesting developments which are present in gaming software today that might someday transfer to business software:

  • Social interaction and in-game culture within the game – it’s here already
  • The ability for players to sell an item to each other for in-game (virtual) currency.
  • Bartering for items between players for items of similar value.
  • The purchase of in-game items for real-world currency.
  • Exchanges of real-world currencies for virtual currencies.
  • Team working for parts of the game. These tasks usually require players to take on roles in the group, such as those protecting other players from damage (called tanking), “healing” damage done to other players or damaging enemies.

Tomorrows business software user is todays gamer, so wouldn’t it be good to transition some of these ideas from games to the world of business software? I’m sure Business Software vendors would love their software to be as addictive as games like World of Warcraft. Well, it may all come true one day… enter stage left the new buzz word in computing ‘Gamification’ …

Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, or reading web sites.

Food for thought? Yes indeed, but enough for one post… more later…

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Innovation is the conversion of ideas into cash and Invention is the conversion of cash into ideas.

Do you work in the Innovation business or are you an Inventor… do you know the difference?

I was intrigued when I originally wrote this post way back in January after reading a story that defined the meaning of innovation as the execution of an idea, whereas creativity was having the idea in the first place. Most people I speak to would instinctively lump these two things together and call them innovation. So, I went off to the web to check this out; here I found a number of meanings. A couple that jumped off the page were…

 “Innovation can be described as the result of some amount of time and effort into researching (R) an idea, plus some larger amount of time and effort into developing (D) this idea, plus some very large amount of time and effort into commercialising this idea into a market place with customers”.

Being from an R&D background, this strikes a chord with me as it combines the idea and the delivery, and more importantly it goes further to look at commercialising… I wonder how many companies put all of their effort into the first two parts and forget the last and arguably most important part?  I have to say that I’ve seen this happen on more than one occasion.

Building on this point, I came across another thought provoking statement…

“Innovation is the conversion of ideas into cash. Invention is the conversion of cash into ideas.”

How many businesses set out to innovate but end up inventing? How many people remember the £40 million ATP Train innovation or invention? How many businesses really turn ideas into cash?  How many innovations end up costing the company a small fortune? And how many great ideas have gone down the pan because a company couldn’t commercialise them?

Back in january, I was watching this youtube video posted by Dennis Howlett, It’s a chap called R “Ray” Wang presenting how a major software vendor had failed to commercialise some great ideas.

Why does this happen? Did they get it wrong from a customer perspective? Did they work with customers to see if the original ideas were valued before they went on to deliver them? Did they fail to commercialise them? Do the company see this as a failure? Or was it actually a ‘share of voice’ Marketing and PR success despite the ideas not being widely adopted? Plenty of food for thought, and only the vendor themselves will know the answers.

Is the secret behind innovating to ask customers what they want before you start?

Controversially, I would have to say no to this question, well not entirely anyway… Whilst, I would advocate speaking to customers at all times and involving them through the process to add value, you can’t always rely on customers as your only source of “innovative ideas”. What’s more the customer will most likely be focused on today’s issues as opposed to looking for step change innovation. Henry Ford’s classic quote (where would we all be without good old Henry Ford and his horse), sums this up nicely…

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.”

To be really successful in business I believe you have to continually innovate and generate new ideas, not by relying solely on customers to tell you what they want, but by understanding how your customers work, what they need today, and where they are headed in the future.

In my experience the best and most successful innovations are the ones where you deliver something that the customer didn’t know they needed but can’t live without. But they don’t come along by accident, you have to be prepared to sow the seeds and nurture the idea, which takes patience and resolve, and it could take years.  

And what happens when you run out of ideas?

Go visit a bunch of customers!

cross posted @ here

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