Weekly bits of interest – 28 February 2011

Developments and articles of interest from the last week:

  • Dr John Steen from the University of Queensland writes about the challenges of searching for the right people to talk to in organisations when innovating. “It seems that personal contact can build trust and empathy in a way that electronic communication can’t. If the personal connections aren’t made, then the electronic networks just don’t seem to work very well.”1
  • Innovation expert Michael Schrage looks at the ethics of using unconventional ways to sell an innovative idea. “A small innovation team in a large confectionary company figured out a clever way to “personalize” their company’s trademarked candies. Their boss, however, was more skeptical than supportive. Instead of going over his head at work, the team went behind his back at home. His philanthropically active wife was happy to use their technology to customize candy for her charity fundraising. The results delighted her. The project stayed alive. Sometimes, the boss’s spouse can be more persuasive than a spreadsheet.”2
  • The US publication Government Technology lists its 25 top doers, dreamers and drivers in public sector innovation. Each year Government Technology identifies 25 people in the US from government, academia and the private sector who share a willingness to challenge convention and find new answers to long-standing issues.
  • The UK National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is looking at how to encourage the take-up of green initiatives at scale. Mark Griffiths writes about the project and what is known about diffusing innovations. “Scale-up, or diffusion, or adoption is tough. But it is ultimately what matters – a good idea that sits in a pocket of glorious isolation is not enough to meet the challenges out there.”3
  • In this post Jeffrey Baumgartner looks at the key factors for successful brainstorming sessions, including asking the right question, no squelching of others or their ideas, and an enthusiastic facilitator.

As always, please feel free to identify any other developments or articles of interest in the comments below.

  1. This quote is not covered by the Creative Commons licence or Commonwealth Copyright. From John Steen “Are You Too Scared to Ask a Good Question” 24 February 2011 accessed at http://timkastelle.org/blog/2011/02/are-you-too-scared-to-ask-a-good-question/
  2. This quote is not covered by the Creative Commons licence or Commonwealth Copyright. From Michael Schrage “Unconventional Ways to Sell Your Innovative Idea” 23 February 2011 accessed at http://blogs.hbr.org/schrage/2011/02/the-golden-rule-of-innovation.html
  3. This quote is not covered by the Creative Commons licence or Commonwealth Copyright. From Mark Griffiths “Spreading green ideas” 23 February 2011 accessed at http://www.nesta.org.uk/assets/blog_entries/spreading_green_ideas
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1 comment

  1. Hi Team. I just wanted to add to the article by Dr. John Steen this week because any article that espouses the value of people and relationships gets me excited.

    I’m a fan of old and new “virtual team” technologies and of course reckon we should be using them and learning to use them well, but at the end of the day (more often than not), its people and their relationships that are the difference between winning and really winning.

    On a few occasions in my career I’ve been fortunate enough to lead a team of business analysts. These guy’s (and gal’s) were problem solvers, solution designers and project managers. End to end innovators.
    A philosophy that we used (designed with and by the BA’s) was that at least two times a year, every BA (and I) needed to spend time at every site, meeting with as many people as possible (all if ...

    ... possible); hearing them helping them directly.

    We were really conscious about our objectives.

    o Understand the pain points / pressures / fears

    o Understand how “real” these were

    o Naively search for opportunities to improve

    o Find solutions / fixes / wins that we could deliver quickly and intimately to as many “people” as possible.

    o Build trust and friendships. The vast vast majority of folks are just good folk almost all of which genuinely gave a rip at some stage in their careers and deep down wish they could feel like that again !

    This approach delivered several benefits, including:

    o Knowing who to talk to for help and advice etc.

    o Being trusted and in turn supported when we needed peoples help. (when the big ticket, real change, scary and complex jobs came around; we weren’t alone.)

    o Influencing changes to thinking. Teaching system, process and innovative thinking both through working together; and through direct education (explaining concepts, directly training; or arguing for direct formal training on behalf of people)

    o Helping people bring the innovator out of them by ACTING and ACTING QUICKLY on promises. If there is one thing that will kill a culture of innovation it’s asking for buy-in and not acting on it. (That said we were always dead strait about how big a job was and where it might sit in the priories list. But we always found something they valued that we could deliver.)

    o Getting the right feedback throughout the organisation. Right through the chain of command.

    o BIG returns through direct costs savings, improved safety, improved productivity (some that were taken out of the business and others that relieved pressure or were re-deployed), etc.

    Much of what we had achieved was only achieved because we broke down resistance and worked together with the business at a personal / intimate level. Worked with people not with titles.

    Of course the crunch here is that we need to be prepared to spend the bucks, but If well executed, by the right people, the payoffs are a heck of a lot better than bank interest !