Monday, May 9, 2011

Before they decide to ‘Research’

We recently presented at a colloquium at Philips Innovation Campus. One of the topics of interest was the life cycle of a challenge. Questions which were asked inspired me to write a bit more about the management of challenges, way before someone starts logging time against them. Or in case of collaborative innovation, well before the challenge starts showing up all over the place.

In short - it’s good to know the directions, especially before getting onto a free way.

So what do the best organizations do before they start putting in their time and resources on research?

They start with a “Challenge Inventory” and few good practices around it.

1)  Does your organization have a place, people and process to log a challenge? If not, you need to start here.  It could be a simple form with set of people as owners. The mode could be via your intranet website or even email.

2)  Now the best way to make your employees know that such an inventory exists, is to ask your employees to submit a challenge, the best challenge wins a prize. You must also tell what they should do when they think of a challenge in future.

Note that   it’s all about challenges and some more challenges, here we are not taking about the solutions.

It is best not to.

A challenge could be anywhere from very complex to not so complex and could be on high end technology, to just a process hiccup.

Examples are ...
  • Our competition’s turnaround time for a repair call is 3 days while ours is 7 days, and we don’t have additional budget for our services division.
  • Our current adhesive on the belt takes 2 hours to dry, but the print on the package fades a bit when exposed to the heat used for drying adhesive.
  • For a re-launch, we want to replace our yogurt’s artificial flavor with a natural ingredient.
Never strike off an impossible looking challenge like “Our hybrid should accelerate similar to our best sports model”

Also when you store them in central place, all can access and leverage the previous efforts on the similar challenges.

3)  Prioritize the challenge inventory list with a set of relevant filters at that point of time. Never fix these filters upfront. The example of the filters could be ‘Natural ingredient’ (for the new launch). When you apply such a filter, all the challenges which have natural ingredient in it will go up the list and help you attack the problem from multiple directions.

Even open up a completely new possibility.

Above steps should be aimed at identifying your top X challenges and top Y domains at this point of time.  Once you do, you are armed with the information you need for initiating collaborative innovation and make an impact.

ideaken helps organizations draw up collaborative innovation strategy, benefit from open innovation and leverage co-creation.