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Everything listed under: systematic innovation

  • Tracking the long-term impacts of innovation training

    What are the long-term impacts on learners who have taken training in structured innovation? What do they recall from the course? What is the long-term effectiveness of a systematic creativity training with regards to building-up creative confidence and creative confidence in learners? Did the learning journey to the creative side of life inspire some former learners to pursuit creative careers?

    My colleague Dr. Brian Hunt and I investigated these questions in a new research study that is part of my research program “Teaching and learning creativity and innovation”. We will publish our complete results in a conference paper titled “Training Businesspeople in Structured Innovation: Tracking down Long-Term Impacts” that I will present at the ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) Innovation Conference in Vienna in two months. Today, allow me to share some of our interesting findings here.

    Background of the study

    Our new research builds on two earlier papers that introduced the course content and pedagogical design of a training program in structured innovation, and then mapped out the  learner’s emotional journey through an experiential training course in business creativity (these findings were published in this previous article on Uncovering the Innovation Learner's Experience.

    To investigate the long-term impacts of innovation training, we contacted 400 former learners via email and social media and collected 53 usable responses. The mean time that had passed since the respondents completed the course in structured innovation training course was 4 years, in spans varying from 1.5 to 11.5 years.

    The respondents were almost equally split between male and female, with ages ranging from 24 to 69 years with a mean of 33. 

    What are some of the findings that we uncovered on the long-term impacts of structured innovation training?

    Finding 1: Structured innovation training can anchor creative confidence and competence

    Taking a well-designed training program in structured innovation improved both learners’ creative confidence (self-belief in one’s creativity) and creative competence (knowledge and skills in the fields of creativity and innovation) in the long run. Almost 80% of the former learners confirmed that they consider themselves to be more creative than their colleagues at work (creative confidence) and to know more about creativity and innovation than their colleagues (creative competence).

    Many comments echoed the notion that “everyone can be creative” and that “you can systematically create creative results using methods and tools”, underlining the themes of creative confidence and competence. One former learner said: “I now truly believe everyone is creative, I look at people around and especially myself very differently. I have a lot more confidence in thinking out of the box and pitching ideas. And with the belief, ideas flow.” Another respondent voiced surprise on “how little other people know about business creativity”.

    Finding 2: Structured innovation training can inspire more creative career paths

    Our data confirmed that being exposed to experiential innovation training encourages roughly half of the learners to pursue careers in creative industries or more creative business functions, or even to start their own creative ventures.

    One former learner said: “I left the corporate world and joined startups in order to be able to create and try different approaches instead of being stuck with corporate compliance”. Others said the training “helped me to launch my startup instead of working in a big company. I work on innovation because of it”, or “inspired me to pursue a career in indie game development where creativity truly thrives”.

    Others said the training helped them to approach their existing job responsibilities more creatively and successfully. One former learner stated the training “has given me a wider perspective and know-how in how to approach creative team building and brainstorm or knowledge accumulation process”.

    Finding 3: An enjoyable learning experience can enhance the recall and application of innovation know-how

    Given that on average four years had passed since the learners took their innovation training, we were pleasantly surprised how well they recalled innovation methods and thinking tools as well as key creative principles taught:

    • Many explicitly remembered X-IDEA, Thinkergy’s innovation process method X-IDEA that formed the structural backbone of the innovation training program: “I remember all the stages of X-IDEA and their significance along with tools used in each stage like jotting down as many ideas as possible on post-its, merging them together to combine ideas, etc.” Others praised X-IDEA’s effectiveness as follows: “A systematic innovation process is always effective when going through an innovation project – hence, a systematic process with a focus on productivity is key”; and “we had our final idea and thought it would not have been even remotely possible to come up with such an idea with the convention thinking process”.
    • Other course graduates recalled and applied the TIPS (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) profiling method. (“I understand myself more with TIPS and apply it to I work with people”; “My most memorable moment was when we leaned about our TIPS profile and how our type relates to and interacts with others”.)
    • A number of former learners recalled important creative principles, such as moving from idea quantity to idea quality, thereby transforming wild ideas into novel, original and meaningful concepts: “One main insight I gained was never to judge and kill any ideas at the beginning. They can lead to potentially become the big idea.” Others noted that in the context of a structured creative process, a “crazy idea can become a practical one” and that a “wild idea creates innovation”.

    Finding 4: Course application and appreciation is most intensive at the upper and top management levels

    Interestingly, those former learners who now play leading roles in their organizations voiced the highest long-term appreciation of the innovation training’s usefulness and creative effectiveness. While middle managers coordinate teams and work “in the business” with a focus on efficiency and “getting things done”, top-level leaders work more strategically and creatively “on the business”.

    Conclusion: Our findings suggest that an effective training in structured innovation with long-term impact on the learners should follow these course design tips:

    1. Make learning fun, enjoyable and creative (“The course was in a complete different style than any other lecture. The different approach led to a different way of learning and unfolding creative potential”.)
    2. Design “sticky” activities and memorable moments (“fun activities”, “laying flat on floor”, “balloons and paper airplanes”, “the alien game”) into the creative learning journey to aid long-term knowledge recall .
    3. Teach useful knowledge and skills with a focus on practical application. (“The way of X-IDEA was very practical and logical”.)
    4. Build-up and anchor the creative confidence and creative competence of learners through realistic innovation practice cases. (“I’m more creative and I always think out of the box”.)

    Do you want to build-up your creative competence and creative confidence with a structured innovation training?  Do you want to learn more about our systematic innovation method X-IDEA? Or find out what’s your preferred cognitive style and your TIPS innovator profile? Contact us to learn how our team of certified trainers can unbox the thinking of your people with a long-term impact.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • Why using one creative process stage leads to dull ideas

    When you “brainstorm” for ideas with a team, do you typically deliver conventional ideas that —if you’re honest— you could have got without dedicating extra time? Well, the reason you ended up with these ordinary low-hanging fruits doesn’t mean that you and your teammates are not creative. Rather, it means that you used an ineffective process — if you used a process at all.

    Most innovation process methods don’t allow you to move beyond the “obvious” ideas — the ones everyone else in your industry also thinks of first — because they use only one creative process stage. Today, let me explain how you can move from ordinary ideas to extraordinary ideas by adding a second creative stage to your innovation process.

    The unspoken problem of most innovation processes:

    Most innovation process methods have only one creative process stage. For example, the classic Creative Problem-solving (CPS) model labels this creative stage “idea finding”; the models of Bragg & Bragg, Clegg & Birch or VanGundy call it “idea generation”; and the popular design thinking method names it “ideation”. In all these process methods, this sole creative process stage is directly followed by a stage used to critically evaluate the ideas and select the best ones for further implementation.

    “That’s precisely how we always do it, too”, you may be saying. “So what’s wrong with that?” Well, you’re likely to end up with a low number of ideas that are all safe, sane and set.

    What causes the problem?

    When generating ideas, innovation project team members are supposed to follow four ground rules of ideation suggested by Alex Osborn, the famous advertiser and inventor of Brainstorming and other creativity techniques:

    • #1. No killing of any idea. Defer judgment.
    • #2. Go for idea quantity as it breeds quality.
    • #3. Shoot for wild, crazy, funny off the wall ideas.
    • #4. Combine and improve on ideas.

    Unfortunately, it’s difficult to comply to these four ground rules if your innovation method has only one creative process stage. Why?

    Why using one creative stage isn’t enough

    If idea generation is going to be followed directly by evaluation, how likely are you adhere to all ground rules of ideation? Quantity over quality, no idea too wild or crazy?

    Most probably not. It’s highly likely that your inner voice of judgment dismisses any wild idea the very moment you think it — and you won’t write it down. As such, you end up with fewer ideas overall — and most of them are ordinary or even boring.

    There is another problem related to using only one creative process stage: Suppose that against all odds, you had really mastered all your courage to adhere to the ground rules of ideation. If there were only one creative stage, would you be likely to select any wild idea for further in-depth evaluation?

    No way! You would kill all wild ideas right at the beginning of the critical evaluation phase, as you regarded them as useless to resolve your innovation challenge.

    Interestingly, a wild idea is often the seedling of a truly outstanding idea. That’s why we need to have two creative stages to make an innovation process really work and move beyond the same set of conventional ideas.

    The solution: Move from one to two creative stages

    Thinkergy’s X-IDEA innovation method is designed to move beyond conventional ideas by introducing a second, distinctively different creative stage, Development. In X-IDEA, the creative process flows as follows.

    • First we investigate the innovation project case in the Xploration stage to gain novel insights into what our real challenge is.
    • Then, the first creative process stage, Ideation, emphasizes idea quantity. Here we make an effort to produce hundreds of raw ideas (including many wild and uncommon ones) in a playful, fast and furious atmosphere.
    • In the second creative process stage, Development, we take our time to transform idea quantity into quality. Here it’s our job to design and develop a smaller portfolio of two to three dozens of novel, original and meaningful idea concepts.
    • Next, we evaluate the pros and cons of our idea concepts in a critical and realistic stage,Evaluation. Now we’re finally allowed to judge our ideas, but not before.
    • Finally, we take Action on those ideas that we selected for real-life activation

    How exactly to does the second creative stage work?

    In the Development-stage, we discover, design and develop to turn idea quantity into idea quality:

    • First, we discover intriguing ideas within the large portfolio of raw ideas generated during Ideation.
    • Then, we use these intriguing ideas to design realistic idea concepts through refinement, combination and transmutation.
    • Finally, we develop these designed concepts further by looking for ways to add even more value to them.

    Just like during Ideation, we also must follow four ground rules in the Development-stage. While ground rules #1 and #4 stay the same as before, two rules are changed compared to Ideation to reflect the altered objective of the Development stage:

    • Rule #2: Go for quality, and take your time.
    • Rule #3. The more meaningful, the better. Shoot for valuable, useful, realistic, meaningful idea concepts.

    Lesson: A creative process can unfold its magic only once it consists of two creative stages. Continue using a conventional, ordinary innovation process method with one creative process stage if you only want conventional ideas. Or switch to an unconventional innovation process method with two creative process stages (like X-IDEA) if you want to get unconventional, extraordinary ideas.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about how the two creative stages of X-IDEA may help your innovation teams to make the leap from ordinary to extraordinary ideas.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 26 May 2016.

  • Turning Critics into Allies with Rapid Prototyping

    Want to know one of the success secrets of global innovation leaders such as Google or Apple? They all heavily use a technique known as rapid prototyping. “We make a lot of models and prototypes, and we go back and iterate. We strongly believe in prototyping and making things so that you can pick them up and touch them,” says Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief designer. “We make lots and lots of prototypes: the number of solutions we make to get one solution is quite embarassing, but it’s a healthy part of what we do.”

    What is rapid prototyping?
    Rapid prototyping is a powerful idea evaluation and activation technique that every wanna-be-innovator should want to have in his toolkit. Prototyping can be used for real-life testing of products, services, processes, and experiences and works at all stages along the value chain (e.g., development, marketing, distribution, sales).

    What are the main benefits of rapid prototyping?
    In rapid prototyping, you aim to evaluate the potential of an idea and enhance its disadvantages by using one of several methods to make the idea more visual and tangible. The objective of rapid prototyping is to detect the flaws of an idea early and then to quickly find solutions to “fix the bugs”. Thus, you plan to fail earlier in order to succeed sooner.

    Probably the most important thing to understand about this method is that rapid prototyping follows an iterative approach that is based on trial and error and the principle of negative feedback. Thereby, you first develop a prototype using the one of the seven methods that we discuss below. Then, show your early prototype to other people and ask them to tell you what’s wrong with it and how they would improve it. Thereafter, quickly build a better prototype by using all the sensible tips for improvement, and once again expose it to the critical scrutiny of other people. Continue this process until you arrive at a prototype that can represent a meaningful value proposition and can be turned into a tangible innovation deliverable. As such, prototyping allows you to unknowingly make those eternal critics to become your allies in creation.

    How exactly can you do rapid prototyping?
    At Thinkergy, we distinguish eight ways to bring rapid prototyping into play. Here are the four most popular methods:

    1. Sketch out your idea. The starting point of prototyping is to draw a simple sketch that communicates the essence of your idea. Alternatively, make a collage by combining photos, drawn elements and written text that you cut out of a newspaper or magazine into a picture that gives meaning to your idea.
    2. Build a simple model or mock-up. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a prototype is worth a million words”, believes IDEO founder David Kelley. The second option for prototyping (that often expands on the first one) is to build a simple model of your idea that is made of paper or carton-paper, paper-mâché, modeling clay, or any other materials that you glue or tape together in a quick and dirty way. After gaining some initial feedback, go through several iterations of more and more sophisticated and realistic models and mock-ups using more realistic materials before arriving at a final prototype mock-up version.
    3. Act out your idea as a role-play. An excellent method to rapidly prototype an idea for a process improvement or service innovation is to create a short role-play to bring out the benefits of your idea.
      Devise a storyline that clearly explains how your idea adds value and caters to a resolution of your challenge. For example, in a process innovation project, stage a role-play showing first the old process with its major shortfalls and then how you correct those with your redesigned new process idea. Or act out your idea for a new service —say, a temporary office rental service that offers high-end offices by the hour— and show how it creates meaning for small business owners or entrepreneurs. Or in a customer experience design project, role-play an idea for a memorable WOW-experience.
    4. Build a test-website. Build a simple website to test your idea by seeking online feedback from users on your value-proposition. Then, rapidly prototype your website using the user feedback to improve its value from iteration to iteration until you arrive at a version that you can take. For example, Google rapidly prototypes new solutions as beta-website before officially integrating it into its alpha-website; many novel value propositions that created in the past years (such as Google Insights or Google Trends) have been enhanced along this path.

    Aside from the aforementioned four methods, you could also do rapid prototyping by developing visual test designs of your product ideas with the help of CAD-software tools, creating a photo story (for example, of your idea for a new nightclub-service that specializes in matching singles), shooting a video clip (e.g., on how to improve the chaotic passenger flow at peak times in some BTS stations), or by testing different tag-line in online ads In brand and corporate image design projects to learn through the clicks on the online which slogan resonates most with your audience.

    Conclusion: Rapid prototyping is a powerful, highly effective technique to quickly turn a great idea into a tangible innovation. But be warned – rapid prototyping is hard work, as emphasized in the famous quote by the first master of prototyping, Thomas Edison: “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly, a ‘genius’ is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”

     
    © Dr. Detlef Reis 

  • How to become a more fluent creative thinker (Part 2)


    Two weeks ago, we discussed how your inner critic prevents you from being a fluent creative thinker, leading you to produce only a few, typically ordinary ideas in an Ideation effort. This is because your inner voice of judgment dismisses any uncommon or wild ideas, thus stopping you from producing a lot of ideas. Today, you’ll learn why your inner critic is wrong, how to gain control over your idea-killing inner voice of judgment, and how to train your mind to become a more fluent creative thinker.

    A new creative thinking exercise:

    In order to give you a hint on how to effectively overcome the reasons of fluency, let’s do a new creative exercise that builds on the previous one. Two weeks ago, I asked you to come up with as many ideas as possible in two minutes on “How to make good use of an empty plastic water bottle?” Now, write down on a piece of paper as as many ideas as possible for this slightly modified creative challenge: “How to NOT use an empty plastic water bottle?”

    Here are the things you can NOT do with a water bottle I came up with in 120 seconds (I recorded the ideas):

    An empty plastic bottle can NOT be used: 1. to drive. 2. to shoot at people. 3. to run. 4. to cook food. 5. to create something new. 6. to make someone laugh. 7. to dress someone up. 8. as food. 9. as a watch. 10. as a phone. 11. as a computer. 12. as a calendar. 13. as a bag. 14. as a house. 15. as a shoe. 16. as a weapon to kill people. 17. as a health device. 18. to help people make money. 19. as a way for entrepreneurs to know what’s the next big thing. 20. as a fitness device. 21. as a water pool. 22. as a transportation means. 23. as a tool to learn in university. 24. as a tool to learn in school. 25. as a toy.

    How to silence the inner critic?

    With the previous exercise, we’ve given our inner critic permission and time to do what it likes to do most: telling us what doesn’t work, what’s nonsense or just plain ridiculous. But is our inner critic right? Can we really not use an empty bottle in the ways described above?

    Let’s pick some examples and apply some creativity. An empty plastic bottle cannot be used:

    • as a shoe. Well, in Africa, people turn empty water bottles into flip-flops.
    • as a watch. Fill one bottle with sand, connect it to a second one, and turn it into an hourglass. Or stick it into the ground, and turn it into a sun watch by using its shadow to tell you the time.
    • as a fitness device. Fill it with water, sand, or stones to turn it into a dumb-bell.
    • as a computer. Recycle the plastic and use it as input material for cheap computers (just think of the “one laptop per child”-project).
    • as a way for entrepreneurs to know what’s the next big. Pose the empty bottle-challenge as a warm-up exercise at a futurist convention. Then, turn them loose on the question: “What are impossible business trends that cannot happen in the next years?” Next, have the futurists brainstorm on how each of the impossible trends might materialize. Finally, harness your insights on new business opportunities and emerging trends on the fringes.

    So what have you learned from this exercise? If we make an effort, we can come up with ideas for making each “cannot use” comment of our inner critic into a “can do” idea.

    How to become a more fluent creative thinker?

    Here are eight tips that help you speed up your divergent thinking, amplify your creative outputs, and gradually evolve into a more fluent creative thinker:

    1. Follow the ground rules of Ideation: Whenever you generate ideas, remind yourself and other ideators to comply to the ground rules of Ideation: #1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment. #2. Go for quantity, because quantity breeds quality. #3. The wilder the better. Shoot for wild, crazy, silly, zany, off-the-walls ideas. #4. Combine and improve on ideas.
    2. Set an idea quota: In a real Ideation session with a team, set an ambitious, yet achievable idea quota. For example, with a group of eight people, push for at least 250 ideas in one hour of brainstorming.
    3. Silence your inner critic: Whenever you hear your inner voice of judgment dismissing an idea, scream “Shut up” and jot down the idea.
    4. Silence others: If another team member judges one of your ideas in a brainstorming session, remind him to comply with ground rule 1 of Ideation.
    5. Practice, practice, practice: Generate ideas whenever you have an opportunity, be it in an real brainstorming session or unofficially on a personal challenge in a boring meeting. Creative thinking is a skill just like learning a language or playing golf — the more you practice, the better you get at it.
    6. Play word associations: Get a start word, and then use it to quickly come up with more words by using the sentence “When I think of the word ___, I think of the word ___.” For example, say our start word is money. “When I think of money, I think of bank. When I think of bank, I think of stock market”. Then you go on: Wall Street, New York, Big Apple, fruit, orange, juice, drink, party, music, and so on.
    7. Create a word concept map: This is a free association exercise similar to the last one, just that you engage in concept mapping. Think of one word that you write into the center of a piece of paper (say: light bulb). Then, come up with related words that you write clockwise around —and connect with a line to— the start word (creativity, idea, Edison, electricity, lamp, light, illumination, candle). Finally, add more words around each of the related words as they pop up in your mind (illumination: Eureka, subconscious mind, breakthrough, luminous being; lamp: cord, switch, stand, shade, Pixar; candle: flame, fire, matches, wax, etc.).
    8. Get into a rhythm: One way to become a more fluent creative thinker is to follow a rhythm of suggesting ideas. For example, suggest one idea every 15 seconds. Don’t panic if you don’t come up with an idea in each interval, but playfully embrace the time challenge to speed up your ideation pace. Here are two playful ways to practice rhythmic creative thinking to boost your creative fluency: use a virtual metronome while coming up with ideas; or step forward and backward following a steady rhythm while playing word associations.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 1 September 2016.

  • How to become a more fluent creative thinker (Part 1)

    How much of a fluent creative thinker are you? What is standing in your way to becoming a more fluent creative thinker? How can you boost your creative fluency? Let’s seek answers to these questions in today’s column as well as the next.

    Setting the scene:

    At Thinkergy, we draw upon four psychological parameters (that E. Paul Torrence and other cognitive psychologists formulated to measure individual creativeness) to objectively assess the quality of the work and the outputs in an Ideation session: the qualitative criteria offlexibility, originality and elaboration of ideas, and the quantitative criterion of fluency of creative thinking. While all four parameters affect the performance of individuals and groups during Ideation, the latter is the most important one. In order to explain these four parameters, let’s do a little creative exercise as follows:

    As I type these lines, I’m looking at an empty plastic water bottle. Let’s frame a simple creative challenge: “How to make good use of an empty plastic bottle?” Now, get a piece of paper and a pen and take two minutes to come up with ideas for this creative challenge.

    Here are the ones I came up with in 120 seconds:

    1. Recycle it. 2. Use to water flowers. 3. Use it to water the lawn. 4. Use to store tab water for a water shortage. 5. Refill it with water. 6. Refill it with lemonade. 7. Refill it with iced tea. 8. Refill it with wine. 9. Refill it with beer. 10. Use it to throw at someone who annoys you. 11. Use it to hit someone who attacks you. 12. Fill it with sand. 13. Fill it with stones. 14. Use as a dumbbell, filled with water, sand or stones). 15. Use it as a piggy bank to store coins. 16. Use it to capture rain water. 17. Use as a flower pot. 18. Use to fill a bath tab. 19. Use to flush the toilet. 20. Use it to splash water at other people celebrating Songkran (the Thai water festival). 21. Use it to cleanse Buddha statues in a temple at Songkran.

    How flexible is your creative thinking?

    Flexibility is the first parameter we use to check on the quality of idea outputs. It is based on the variety of different categories of suggested ideas. For example, the ideas 4-9 all belong to the same category (refilling with a liquid). Overall, the more categories you have, the more flexible a creative thinker you are. Depending on how strictly you categorize, we can distinguish 10-15 different categories in the example above. How flexible a creative thinker are you?

    How original are your ideas?

    The second parameter used to assess the quality of our idea generation efforts is originality. Here we measure the relative degree of “uncommonness” of raw ideas (how rare is an idea compared with all responses in the overall population). For example, if you have three groups brainstorming and an idea pops up in each group, it is not original.

    While we have no comparison here, I guess “throw it at someone annoying you” or “use it as a dumbbell” are more original than, say, “recycle it”. Probably about five of the ideas above are more uncommon and thus more original.

    How elaborated are your ideas?

    The third and arguably most important assessment criteria of idea quality is elaboration. Here, we look at how developed or embellished an idea is — meaning how many words it has. For example, in the example above, ideas #14 and #20 are much more elaborated than idea #1. Here note as a rule of thumb that the more elaborated an idea is, the more interesting it becomes.

    How fluent a creative thinker are you?

    Fluency is the sole measure used to assess the quantitative performance of an ideation effort. Thereby, we simply count the number of ideas in absolute and (if the numbers of members differs between teams in an innovation project) relative terms. The more ideas you can come up with in a given time, the more of a fluent creative thinker you are. How many ideas did you create in two minutes on how to use of an empty water bottle? Did you beat my 21?

    If you’re like most people, you probably have created about 10-12 ideas in the given time interval, which is a sound performance. In all likelihood, you could have easily had a higher score, but you secretly judged some ideas you thought instead of letting those ideas simply flow onto the paper. Am I right?

    What stops you from being a more fluent creative thinker?

    Why do so many people struggle to come up with a high number of ideas during an Ideation effort? What prevents fluency of creative thinking? It all comes back to judgment.

    Most people don’t produce a lot of ideas because they secretly judge an unusual or even wild idea as soon as they think it. Their inner critic (or “inner voice of judgment”) instantly reacts to an unusual or even wild idea with silent comments such as, “This is impractical”, “This is crazy”, “People will laugh at you”, and so on. This violates the ground rules 1 to 3 of Ideation formulated by Alex Osborn, the inventor of Brainstorming: #1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment. #2. Go for quantity, because quantity breeds quality. #3. The wilder the better. Shoot for wild, crazy, silly, zany, off-the-walls ideas.

    Interim lesson: Judgment slows you down during Ideation, leading you to produce only a few ordinary ideas instead of a large pool of normal, interesting and wild ideas. What can we do to silence the inner critic who impairs creative fluency? What cognitive strategies and creative exercises can help us transform ourselves into more fluent creative thinkers?

    Come back in two weeks from today, when we will discuss these questions with the help of another creative thinking exercise. And contact us if you want to learn more about how using creativity tools and a systematic innovation process such as Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method may help you to become a more fluent creative thinker.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 18 August 2016.

  • Business model innovation: It’s all about the money

    Last month, I presented a research paper at the International Society of Professional Innovation Management’s Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal. When looking at recent trends in innovation research, I discerned one popular topic at this year’s ISPIM conference: business model innovation. Today, let’s discuss what business model innovation means and why it’s valuable, then look at examples of “classic” innovative business models before exploring applications in a real-life innovation project.

    What is business model innovation?

    Business model innovation is one of roughly 15 modern innovation types that the innovation literature distinguishes. Innovation experts look at this concept either through a wider, more global lens or a narrower, more focused one:

    • Through a wider lens, business model innovation is a synonym to what the majority of innovation experts (including myself) call strategy innovation. In a strategic innovation exercise, a senior-level innovation team aims to create meaningful strategic action ideas that allow for prolonged, sustainable growth, ideally in a newly emerging, uncontested market space. 
Their ideas typically can play on all levels: generating novel, original and meaningful value propositions; finding cost-effective processes and structures to produce these value propositions; exploring new channels, networks, platforms, and business models to deliver them to the market; and magnifying new value propositions with impactful brand, image and campaign designs.
    • If you look at the concept using a narrow lens (as I do), business model innovation simply means coming up with novel, original and meaningful ways to get paid for a value proposition that you release to the market. 
Here the scope is more narrow: we just focus on the profit model, as opposed to the “do it all in one go” approach of a more abstract strategy innovation project. The following looks at business model innovation through the narrow lens.

    Why is business model innovation useful?

    Compared to using a plain-vanilla way to get paid, creating an innovative business model can help you make more money from a meaningful value proposition by increasing revenues and/or profit margins. It can also differentiate your product from those of competitors using more traditional business models. Finally, it can extend your market presence by tapping into new customer groups that —for economic, lifestyle or convenience reasons— prefer payment schemes deviating from the industry standard.

    What are famous examples of business model innovations?

    Many books on business model innovation describe a number of already “classic” business model innovations. Here are three examples to make you curious to look for more:

    1. The “hook and bait” model reverses the pricing structure between the durable and disposable parts of a product. A company sells the durable part at low cost (or even a loss) to enjoy recurring revenues from disposable parts sold at a premium. Gillette popularized this model with razors (baits) and blades (hook). Other examples are printers and cartridges, or more Nestlé’s Nespresso cheap coffee machines and pricey coffee capsules.
    2. The “freemium” model offers a basic value proposition for free, with access to premium offerings by charging a membership fee or premium. Example of companies using this model include the business networking platform LinkedIn and the music streaming platform Spotify.
    3. The “subscription” model gives you access to a value proposition (often content or services) after you subscribe and pay for a periodic membership. Think of pay-TV channel packages or Netflix video-streaming.

    How can you do business model innovation for your business?

    Before you begin, ensure you have a truly novel, original and —in particular— meaningful value proposition at hand in the first place. Why? Business model innovation is one of the innovation types used to leverage an existing value proposition. Leverage is a neutral agent: It can help you increase revenues and margins if your value proposition is meaningful, but can harm your finances and reputation if your value is lousy.

    With a meaningful value proposition in hand, you can aim to monetize it in novel, more profitable ways:

    • First, take some time to explore alternative business models used in different industries and markets.
    • Then, run an ideation session to come up with ideas for the challenge: “How else to monetize this value proposition in the market?”
    • Next, discover interesting ideas to design into realistic, relevant and valuable idea concepts through elaboration, combination and transmutation.
    • Finally, evaluate all the concepts to find the most suitable business model, then take action to implement it.

    The Business Model Matrix is a creativity technique that I’ve created for Thinkergy to support ideation in business model innovation. The matrix contains four categories related to business models:

    • activities (what else could we do?);
    • business models (how else could we get paid?);
    • variations (how else could we charge for it? What variables can we twist in what ways?); and
    • business model trends (What new models are others using?).

    Each category lists many sample elements that allow you to connect the dots between different matrix elements, making it easy, effortless and enjoyable for you to come up with ideas for new business models.

    For example, you may ‘organize events’ or ‘educate clients’ (activities); you may ‘auction off’ or ‘charge a reservation fee’ for a value proposition that is short in supply and high in demand (business models); you may charge a fee ‘onetime—periodic—ongoing’ that is ‘flat—increasing—decreasing—progressive—degressive’ (variations); or you may provide certain values for ‘free with a requested donation, as with shareware’ (business model trends).

    To give an example, Thinkergy is planning an expansion into the US market using a licensing model with a one-time upfront certification fee, regular sales-based royalty payments, and a periodic re-certification fee.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about that cater to business model innovation-specific thinking tools in X-IDEA, our systematic innovation method and toolbox. When would now be a great time to start an innovation project to create innovative business models to monetize your business?

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 21 July 2016.

  • How do you prefer to think, work, interact and live? (Part 1)

    Wouldn’t it be great if you understood what made everyone on your team tick — including yourself? That's why we've created a people-oriented innovation profiling method that I call TIPS. It’s based on my observation that people orient themselves towards one or two of these four dimensions: Theories and knowledge (T); Ideas (I); People (P); and Systems and processes (S).

    The preferences you orient yourself toward determine which of 11 innovator types you match most closely. In addition to this, there are four other variables that describe your preferences, and which will help you understand thinking, working, interacting and lifestyles — both yours and those of your team and organization.

    Understanding what drives behaviors at work

    The four TIPS Preferences with their three different expressions represent fundamental differences in people’s thinking style, work style and lifestyle preferences based on their preferred TIPS preferences. The preferences are: Figure vs Fantasy; Brain vs Brawn; Fact vs Feeling; and last but not least, Form vs Flow.

    It is important to note that each preference comes in three expressions: e.g., the three expressions of the fourth preference “Figure vs Fantasy” are: (a) Figure, (b) Figure & Fantasy, (c) Fantasy. These different expressions signify the major differences of people’s preferred style of thinking, working, interacting and living.

    Moreover, the different preference expressions can also help to better understand and manage the conflict potential of people according to their TIPS Innovation Profile. We explain the essence of each preference in the following paragraphs.

    How do you prefer to think?

    The Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychologist Roger Sperry tested the functioning of each of the two hemispheres of the neo-cortex (the powerful “outer shell” of the human brain) independently of the other in split-brain patients.

    In his resulting split-brain theory, Sperry noted important differences between the two cognitive functioning of the two hemispheres: the left hemisphere is said to be more analytic, rational and logical in nature, while the right hemisphere is more creative, holistic and intuitive.

    According to their thinking preferences, people are categorized in one of three groups: those who prefer to engage in cognitive activities related to analytical thinking (such as rational reasoning, numerical calculations, analysis, among others); those who enjoy practicing creative thinking (such as using your imagination, creating ideas, or creating metaphors); and those who feel comfortable in both analytical and creative thinking (integrated whole-brain thinkers).

    In Thinkergy’s TIPS Innovation Profile, we capture this notion with a preference called Figure vs Fantasy, which tracks whether people are more left-brain or right-brain-directed thinkers. If you’re a leader or manager, this preference helps you to identify who in your team is an analytical “number cruncher” (Figure); who is a more creative “dreamer” (Fantasy); and who is an integrated whole-brain thinker (Figure & Fantasy).

    What is interesting to note that left brain-directed thinkers tend to follow a linear-sequential, step-by-step approach in their thinking and aim to produce a specific solution, while right brain-directed thinkers prefer following a heuristic, more radiant and holistic cognitive approach that is more vague and open-ended.

    Moreover, Figure persons tend to be more critical thinkers who look to find the underlying problem when confronted with a challenge, while Fantasy persons prefer to take a positive, optimistic look on everything and look for the hidden opportunity in every challenge.

    Questions: How about you? Do you prefer to predominantly engage in analytical thinking? Or do you enjoy creative thinking and know how to use your imagination? Or do you see yourself as an integrated whole-brain thinker who feels at home both approaches?

    How do you prefer to work?

    While working on his theory of psychological types, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung noticed that some people preferred to focus their attention on details, while others tended to have “their head in the clouds” and to focus on more abstract matters.

    The second TIPS preference, Brain vs Brawn, checks the see whether people prefer to work as abstract conceptual creators (Brain) or as practical doers (Brawn). Of course, as with our first preference, there are also people who don’t mind working both on the details and on more abstract concepts, and who excel at flexibly switching between the small and big pictures (Brain & Brawn).

    Brawniacs put their work focus more on operational matters and tend to focus on the small picture (or pictures), while brainiacs enjoy looking at the big picture and prefer to work more on strategic issues. The former get satisfaction from completing a task due to their pronounced orientation toward short-term results, while the latter get it from achieving a goal (typically more medium- to long-term in nature).

    What is interesting about this TIPS preference is that brawniacs like to manage and execute, while brainiacs prefer to make and create. This helps you to understand why in most mature organizations, the practical doers and not the abstract thinkers tend to rise to the top of the hierarchy. We discussed this phenomenon in two earlier articles (“The creator-manager dilemma” and “The brainiac-brawniac scheduling conflict“).

    A final point worth mentioning: most brawniacs pride themselves as being specialists and love to give lots of explanations about their work, while brainiacs tend to look at themselves as being generalists who prefer to ask many questions.

    Questions: Are you a person who stands firmly with both feet on the ground and likes to take care of the details? Do you prefer to work “up in the cloud” on more conceptual, abstract challenges? Or do you enjoy flexibly shifting between detail-orientation and conceptual work?

    In the next column, we will look at the other two TIPS preferences, which will help you to understand how you — and the people around you — prefer to interact with others and live in this world.

     

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 

  • Mastering the Art of Ideation

    “How can I get better ideas for a problem that I face?” is a question I am often asked these days. First of all, remember that generating ideas with the help of creativity tools is just one part of the creative process. In order to do proper thinking, you first need to understand and define your challenge. Then generate ideas. Next, develop these into meaningful solutions or value propositions, which you then evaluate in order to find those vital few solutions that really deserve being brought to life. At Thinkergy, our proprietary systematic innovation method X-IDEA captures all these essential steps in the five stages Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation and Action.

    Back to our initial question: Idea generation is an art. And effective ideation depends on the situation you are in. How important is the problem or challenge that you face? Do you have to solve a problem alone, or can you tackle it in a team? And how much time do you have at hand?

    Let’s capture these different contexts in a four-field matrix. On the vertical axis, we distinguish two basic scenarios related to the number of people involved – you’re alone, or you work in a team on the case. On the horizontal axis, we cover the other two aspects. First, decide if whether or not a resolution of your challenge is very important for you or your organization. In the former case, commit sufficient time for the ideation. If the importance is low to medium, than you can cut down your time investment. In result, we end up with four quadrants that suggest you different ideation approaches based on the respective situation.

    Scenario 1: The Notebook.
    Here you work alone and you need some ideas for a challenge that is not highly important – for example, “How to provide meaningful rewards for highly active participants in a training session?” Start to ideate by listing down at least 25 ideas to your challenge in your idea notebook (buy one if you don’t have one yet – and make sure that it is unlined, blank paper). In addition, use some simple creativity tools (such as Free Association, Word Association Chains or Concept Mapping) to generate some associations that may trigger further ideas. Go on until you reach a number of 50 ideas.

    Scenario 2: The Eureka Seeker.
    You have already worked for some time on an important individual challenge that you face – say, you are a scientist or a Ph.D. student and need a great idea to solve a tough conceptual problem. As you continue to explore your challenge, collect ideas that come along in your idea notebook. You also may apply some creativity tools such as Metaphors here. In addition, take some time out to engage in imagination exercises (like envisioning yourself in a perfect world where your challenge is resolved), and take notes of any new ideas and insights that may occur to you in result. For example, Albert Einstein used this technique extensively to collect “jigsaw puzzle pieces” that became part of his theory of relativity, thereby imagining himself surfing on a ray of light through time and space.

    Finally, if by now you still feel that none of the ideas that you have noted down is the right solution, then you might activate the process of incubation (which was subject of the last article in this column two weeks ago). Let go of your challenge, work on something else, take amble time for relaxing activities and incubate on the solution – and with luck, you will experience your personal Eureka-Moment and get the breakthrough solution to your challenge. Sure, all of this takes time — but aren’t you happy to invest time in an important personal endeavor?

    Scenario 3: The Brainstorming Session.
    In the third scenario, you work in a team on a challenge of medium importance, like saving costs in face of a temporary economic downturn. Send out an invitation for a 2-3 hours brainstorming meeting to your team member, wherein you brief them about the challenge and ask each member to bring in at least 10 ideas. At the beginning of the session, remind everybody of the four ground rules of ideation, then Brainstorm and do Pool Brainwriting to add to your initial ideas. Thereby, ideally integrate some other creativity tools (like Metaphors or Random Word) to broaden the scope of your ideas. After you have created a sufficient ground stock of ideas – say at least 300 raw ideas – start to turn them into meaningful idea concepts by combining and improving on your most promising raw ideas.

    Scenario 4: The Idea Circuit.
    In the last scenario, you look for meaningful ideas for a really important challenge that your company faces – like a new product development, customer experience design or strategy innovation project — that is of critical importance for the medium- to long-term success of your firm. Here, your best bet to get some really good ideas is to send your team into a full-fledged idea circuit over the course of one day. Thereby, you expose the ideators to 8-10 creativity tools to great a large pool of raw ideas (here were talking about four digit numbers) that you later develop further into meaningful value propositions. If you have no in-house ideation expert, it really pays to hire an experienced ideation and innovation company such as Thinkergy to facilitate the session and to take care for the process and the selection of effective creativity tools that light up the imaginations of the ideators and stimulate out-of-the-box ideas. It’s like when you have to undergo an important surgical operation — you just want to make sure that the doctor selects the right tools and knows how to handle them to get the job right.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis