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Why companies can’t innovate?

04/10/2012 Leave a comment

 

Image representing Salim Ismail as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

 

A few weeks ago I heard Salim Ismail speak on innovation. For the most part those who attended the talks were amazed – and fair enough if you are hearing about nano technology and 3D printing for the first time it would be amazing. By no means am I saying that I am a know-it-all, actually the opposite, I love learning about new technology and seeing how humanity can improve.

 

The talks did highlight something very profound for me. It is very difficult for large corporates to innovate. These big companies are just plain stupid at being innovators. In every area of business within a large company the driving force is to be operationally efficient, this is sometimes confused with innovation.

 

The thing you learn quickly in the digital / online space is success is based on clearly identifying the problem and then building a solution that matches. Success is not just measured by how much money the company has made, which is the typical way companies think.

 

It’s really simple to prove as well, think about how you and your team or business is driven by top management. Is the motivation to learn, discover and make mistakes or are you driven to “deliver”, it’s all about delivery! How can we deliver faster, more efficiently, use what we have better and please and maintain relationships.

 

Big companies also don’t lack vision, as we might think, instead they have the amazing idea, but the idea fails because the red tape forces it to fail. The top management are to slow to see the value of the vision, and only really get on board after the opportunity is gone.

 

A major point of Salim Ismail was that corporates need to embrace disruptive innovation and get their organisations to do some of that. It means allows the experts they have hired to do what they are good at. Just make sure that they are good at innovation. What I find is that teams that are bad at innovation are excellent at execution or delivery, but that is not what you need now.

 

So how do we do it?

 

As with anything, the first step is to identify the problem, in this case, for a company to have the honestly to realise that a barrier exist. The Church of Christ has the next thing you need – a solid understanding of being autonomous. Clayton Christensen puts it well by saying “… for disruptive innovations to be pursued effectively, they require autonomous business units”. Most business have those team or units which at the first sniff of innovation, will find it a remove it like a cancer. This is way to build that innovation, you need to have it protected from such, for the innovative team to be save from the crazy doctors who are blind in the business.

 

Next, incentivise the team man! How simply is this, motivated people are further driven to succeed when they are given more reasons to. It’s not always about money but the pride of recognition, and offering value for value works well.

 

I also have a buddy at the office who is like a Nazi about testing everything. he has a point, yes Goolam does. You have to test everything you are doing, including this entire idea, if you are too lazy to test or too busy to test then you are bound to fail. You also need to take the innovation and ensure that it still does mean the requirements for the shareholders, at this stage you don’t want to go into production and then run a loss just to show your innovation. VW’s Buggatti Veyron is an example of this, amazing production car, so much so that even Top Gear called it the best car that we would ever see in our lifetime, the only issue is that VW runs a loss when it sells it. It cost more to produce the car that VW sells it for. So make sure you are testing your innovation so that it works and it’s affordable.

 

Finally, just think – while sitting in for the talk, Salim asked groups of people to explain how the world is changing and how it would affect us. This question came a day after he showed proof of the changes in the form of amazing innovation from all over the world in nearly every field. Every group could see the changes, could explain the impact, except one. One guys stood up and said “nothing is going to change in our world!” I sat there shocked, where have you been for the last two days, have you even listened to one word spoken. The speak just said everything is going to change and here you stupid person can’t even answer the question you’ve been asked.

 

There are lots of stupid people in the world, so make sure, you don’t have stupid people leading your business. If you do, then this blog is a waste of your time.

 

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Efficient vs Effective

12/07/2012 Leave a comment

Work Life Effectiveness

Work Life Effectiveness (Photo credit: Mike “Dakinewavamon” Kline)

I often wonder why somethings fail and somethings succeed in life. It may sound like a profound and deep question but really at the most basic level, why do somethings succeed and some fail?

How about from a marketing point of view? It’s an interesting question because looking around at some of the brands out and the efforts made to market, you almost think that some just completely waste their time. Forgettable becomes an understatement and I’m forced to ask myself, has the objective been met.

Objective can be subjective depending on who you ask, some believe their little world is all that exists and on a larger scale that may be so, if you are Apple or Google! but if you are not, then interdependence, leadership, guidance, and trust become very important.

It’s also the case of “quick verses quality”, or more simply, “efficient verses effective”.

What’s the difference?

Those wanting to be efficient see it as the driver or purpose, you often hear the words streamlined or automated which are great if used correctly. But being efficient should never take the place of being effective. I could from a religious point of view explain this with ease by simply looking at how over time, very little has changed in the format of Christianity or any religion actually, why? Well because while we have had many enhancements, they do not always present themselves as effective.

Let me elaborate: a preacher could tell to you just read your bible on your iPad and that’s his sermon. But would it be effective in carrying his message to you, his tone, his zeal for the matter? What about those without iPad or those who cannot read. In an effort to be efficient, the preacher would have failed to be effective.

The secular world is just the same. So what’s the point of this? While we may think being efficient is the way to go, we have to understand that if what you are doing is not received as you intended then all your efforts on efficiency have been wasted because you were not effective.

Rather make an effort to make objectives higher than yourself, set goals just little beyond your reach so that you get out of the comfort zone and actually try. Instead of just wanting to be first in the class, try to be best in the class.

Cheers.

“The YES man” vs saying “NO”

09/03/2011 Leave a comment

There is no designer on earth that can tell me he / she automatically does not become a “YES” person. At the very basic level within business, whatever you do is about pleasing the client and for the most part it’s ok because your client tends to relax around you knowing that they can share their ideas without too much of a challenge from you the designer.

But there will arise an occasion where you have to move away from being the client pleaser to being the person that says NO. At this point the client is no longer your friend and what you have to do is almost be weary of every step you take. It is never as simple as just saying NO.

It sometimes proves to be a real headache as in most cases, Designers are almost always in a subordinate role and whether you are the biggest corporate or the little man on the side-walk – the general rule in business is that the client is always right. It’s clear to me from working in different industries that being able to gently tell a client NO, is almost an art form. You don’t want to lose your client!

The other important note is that not all clients are deaf to advice, but if that one instance of “NO” is not handled well it could lead to your client having this negative perception about you and we all know perception becomes reality with people. It should also be made clear that sometimes your “NO” is actually an attempt at understanding the “WHY” from a client. What I sometimes forget as a designer is that clients are paying and imagine if it were myself paying for a service and the company tells me NO! That would not be a great feeling!

We should also consider such things as project status, what I mean to say is that it’s a very different situation if you are telling the client “No” when they are still briefing you in or at the early stages of the project to if the project was half way through and a problem arose. If you really think about it at the early stages, you could actually dish out the bullshit to tell the client no and they would buy it. If however you have started the project it would make more sense to be honest and ensure you deliver all the facts to the client.

With all of this “NO” talk there are simple guides that we could follow to help the client absorb what you are saying:

1. Say NO, but always offer an alternative – it makes you look useless as a designer if you say NO and then just leave your client hanging.
2. Say NO, but say it nicely – remember perception could kill your relationship with the client, so listen to the conversation and ensure that what you are saying cannot be perceived as you have disregard for the client.
3. Say NO, but still assure the client of your skill – This will help if you are going to work with this client in the future. It’s almost an assurance that you as a designer are good at what you do, however on this project the circumstances were against you.
4. Say NO, but show the client you are thinking about the end result – You want your client to know that you have their best interest in mind with the choices you make as a designer. I’m hoping clients would be more accepting of  a “NO” if they are aware that you are looking out for their best interest.
5. Say NO, directly and clearly –  Don’t beat around the bush, you want to ensure that everyone is on the same page, thus allowing to customer to do what they need to and still have time to do so.

Personally, saying “NO” is never easy and it’s even more difficult to remove the stigma of – you are just a designer that says “NO” for everything –  from your client’s mind. Whatever you do just be tactful.

Design Indaba 2011 – Done and dusted

28/02/2011 Leave a comment

It was lovely being in Cape Town last week, the beautiful weather, the friendly people and of course the fish and chips! The Design Indaba this year has seemed to be a bit disappointing.

Just a very quick overview on the Indaba 2011, there were plenty of speakers, who lacked a certain presentation skill, they might have had the very best subject matter, but their presentation let them down with the exception of Robert Wong, Oded Ezer, Michael Wolff, Mark Shuttleworth, Charlie Todd and Alberto Alessi. These truly were the speakers that inspired me to think about how I can add value creatively to improve the world we live in.

With no respect to any other speaker, it just seemed that the quality of speakers from years gone by has drifted and no to mention that in this every changing world where Digital has become pivotal it amazed me that the Indaba had such a small showing as far as digital goes.

This was the biggest disappointment to me.

The setting of Cape Town International Convention Centre was great, the creative on plasma and other displays was also sadly disappointing, with this irritating Absa promo clip that they kept playing and not just playing they kept playing it a million times a day.

Heads Up guys – We are creative people, WE GET BORED easily. I hope next year has a few more and importantly, better display advertising.

Ok enough with the disappointments, but really people attend this event looking for that dare to be great moment, with the notion that they will be inspired by the wonder and amazement of industry experts.

I certainly believe the highlight by far was Robert Wong, such an excellent speaker, just a pity he was the practically the last speaker on the last day.

I see this event as having such potential and I really hope next year is up to scratch.

 

Design Indaba 2011 | A better world through creativity

24/02/2011 Leave a comment

The mother city plays host to Design Indaba 2011, leading with the caption of creating a better world through creativity. It’s two days in with the big DI party this evening and really I’m sitting with a lot of mixed feelings about the speakers – don’t get me wrong, I have all the respect in the world for these men and women, just at times it seems difficult to identify how some of their work is creating a better world through design.

I absolutely enjoyed Michael Wolff, simple – plain – to the point. He makes a good point in highlighting how design can bring value to people.

The other two people who I enjoyed were Charlie Todd and Alberto Alessi. Charlie Todd who has almost made a living out of being different through humor. His creative flair to causing trouble is an inspiration.

Alberto Alessi for me, rescued a disappointing day 2. Day 1 started on a massive high and left the delegates wanting more on the same power level. Several speakers on day 2 were good but again it was more about the wow factor which was lacking. Alberto Alessi went through the family business history and displayed what makes his skills so unique.

So what remains?

The DI party and day 3 for me and then it’s back to Jozi.

Creative sessions, brainstorming, workshops – making it work!

20/08/2010 Leave a comment

Brainstorming, Creative Sessions and workshops

Brainstorming, Creative Sessions and workshops

Most creative teams –  no I lie – all creative teams, have some kind of brainstorm or workshop with the aim of creating ideas, however this can sometimes hurt instead of help.

It’s not just about getting an idea, I mean think about it, anyone can get an idea, it about how you take that idea and make it a reality. A lot of the time in these brainstorms, the people involved have no idea about how things actually work and because I’m in Digital I will use this as an example.

When you brainstorm about creating a game, the digitally minded people would think about the follow through and implementation, the finer details. the marketing guys will brainstorm how pretty and perfect the game must be, but that’s were the thinking would end.

If the brainstorm does not cover all aspects it will fail. An idea is just the start in fact it’s the very small part of the bigger picture. The sad thing is that in a brainstorm or workshop all we really do is share ideas instead of actually discuss them – but this is why we have a brainstorm to find solutions, not share our thoughts and leave it there!

The ideas we have are to create solutions, and so during this entire process we should be weary that at the end of the brainstorm we should have a solution or at least be very close to it.

The other problem is that people don’t talk, no matter how stupid the idea sounds or how insane it looks, put it down – we are all unique and we think differently and so when you think something up, put it down so other can apply themselves and who knows your insane idea might be made logical by another person.

At this point we have to learn about not being precious – take your emotions and throw it out the window, get down and dirty with everything and be objective. If you’re precious about an idea you came up with, you will leave the session in tears.

During this objective stage, think about whether your idea is out of the ordinary or not, what makes your idea better than your competitors? Please, please, please, I beg you, please think about your audience and not yourself. What you think is hot and wonderful is almost never the case with the audience.

Every marketer loves using animation on their website. Every internet user with a slow internet connection, hates flash. So forget yourself and think about your audience.

Don’t live in the dark ages and be a fool – if you are designing a mobile solution – stop and realise that mobile does not just mean cellphones! Tablets, iPad’s, Steaks and more are all mobile, tiny laptops, very big touch screen phones, these are all mobile. So when you sit down to brainstorm mobile – think about the future and be intelligent in your session.

Finally, just challenge yourself – once you grounded an idea and a solution, look at it objectively and you will then have a solution that works.

Digital Integration in business

05/08/2010 Leave a comment

History and experience are great teachers, they lay out things so clearly that really you have to be pretty stupid to not see a pattern or trend. Some time back I recall how I.T. was kinda the left out area of businesses. In a world where making money is everything, spending large amounts of cash on I.T. infrastructure seemed far from everyones mind. That believe was short lived and in today’s world, I.T. is crucial for a business to run well.

Businesses realized that if they want to be competitive, they needed to adapt quickly to the changing environment and put in place measures to ensure that as the technology advanced so did their business.

Easy to see and easy to understand – yet here we are living in the “Digital Age” and we somehow cannot apply the simple principle to digital. Now don’t be confused Digital is not I.T. and I.T. is not digital – the two may overlap because of software or technology being used but in business they are uniquely different.

Digital can be described as the glue of business, it fits in everywhere – emails, instant messaging, LCD screens, holograms, touch screens, web, mobi, bluetooth, USSD and really the list could go on – these are digitals channels in use that all sit on Digital as a platform.

I.T. may have to physically setup the touch screen, but it is the digital team that will look to create an experience for a user or consumer. But wait, you are probably thinking, isn’t that marketing’s job – not exactly.

This is then why I say that Digital needs to be the glue in business, Digital ties in with everyone, making sure I.T. get the right hardware software to create the purpose and ensuring that the marketing aspects are carried out correctly.

The example leads to to this: “If you are a business you need to integrate departments to create an effective product or solution”

While at TEDx I used the example about Checkers and Woollies – You could go to Checkers and buy a can of beans, they would be pretty cheap and that’s great. But then you have to get home, open the beans, wash them, cook them, add in salad and whatever else you like to have with your beans. Its interesting to note that you could also get the beans in Spar or Pick n Pay at about the same price, not much between the three.

You could also go to Woollies in which case you can buy the bean salad already prepared. Yes it would cost more, but thats because it has more value. Woollies has already washed the beans, cooked it added in the salad and so forth. All you have to do is open and enjoy.

This is so true in business – it’s does not matter what industry you’re in, there are always competitors and of you are not integrating your departments, then really you have no edge over your competitors. Don’t wait until its too late to realize that Digital needs to be in every piece of your business because at that point you’ll have very little chance of recovering.

Cheers
EJC

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