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Innovation and the customer – don’t presume the outcome

Innovation and the customer

The customer defines what successful innovation is by its implementation and use. The issue is, they may not know what the solution or outcome looks like beforehand.

A problem with asking what the customer wants is that they may not know, or they have a preconceived solution in mind that may not be viable or effective, or it may be even undesirable or unsuitable. There is a problem of unlimited choice being a hindrance to decision-making. Be cautious of the “if money was no object…?” or “In a perfect world…?” questions as they can be paralysing due to the questions being unstructured and limitless. 

Freedom in creativity and innovation is best defined within a discipline. An example could be this: a skilled dancer can move freely, fluidly and with unbounded creativity because of years of disciplined training and structured practice. A skilled person will know what boundaries to push though and what rules can be challenged. If I tried the same free expression through dance I would probably break something, most likely myself, I certainly would not enjoy the experience and I can guarantee it would not be a pretty sight.

Determining customer needs without prejudging the result or outcome will better define what a solution will look like. The needs assessment has to be done with a great deal of care and skill, without an agenda or preferred outcome in mind. Do not lead the customer into giving you the answer you want to hear. 

If you apply the assessed needs with innovative processes then a solution that is beneficial to both the customer and the innovator is possible, but it may be entirely different to any preexisting solutions you or the customer may have started with.  

Paul S Allen

Barbed Wire


Innovation is not just about developing new Intellectual Property; it is about better ways to do the ordinary.

It is about improved process and/or product.

Innovation should solve a problem – i.e. I had to repair ski boots because a binding was broken, I used a coat hanger, paperclips and a pair of pliers to fix it

The innovation process starts with a question. Why do we do this? What is the problem? There has got to be a better/easier/more efficient way than this?

A good question could be “if I was the customer what would make my experience better/easier?”

“How do I improve this process to provide better service to my customers?” Jack Welch


” how do you give people better value  everyday?” Jack Welch

Innovation should be a culture not the sole domain of the business owner, all staff can be innovators. It is a trait that should be encouraged to be part of every position within the organisation.

Leadership/ownership/innovation is all interrelated

  • Reward innovation
  • Collaborate
  • Be open to change
  • Encourage thinking about the task not just doing the task
  • Fear of change will inhibit innovation
  • Ego will inhibit innovation
  • Ingratitude will inhibit innovation
  • A lack of acknowledgment will inhibit innovation
  • “we’ve always done it this way” attitude will inhibit innovation

You need to encourage an atmosphere of creativity, ownership, open thinking.

There is a need to have an understanding of what can and can’t change, while not being afraid to challenge the norm or traditions.

Truly successful innovation reaches it maximum when it is entrenched in routine everyday infrastructure. (telephone)

At some stage in history the totally routine and mundane or mediocre was ground breaking innovation.

Innovation is a natural part of human existence we all do it in some way, or at least we should.

Innovation in the workplace happens when a person in the daily routine says to themselves “there is a better way to do this” then goes on to design that better way. It could be In a simple design change to a document or form, it could be a redesigned work station. If it means an improvement, or more productivity then great.

There is of course the balance of whether the process should be changed. It is this balance of innovation that needs to be managed well.

There may be very good reason for the status quo, there may well be legal requirements that need to be adhered to.

But even with these compliance issues the process for the innovative mind should be encouraged.

Paul S Allen


More on Innovation here – Innovation Success – Celebrate the Ordinary – Innovation to the Mundane

“if you hang out with weird people you will become weird; if you hang out with dull people you will become dull” Tom Peters.

Caught by the Nets

Review: The iPad, Good For Business?

The iPad seems to be a great tool but is it a business tool that could be used as a shared device with others?

This is not a review of the features, as good as they are, but about the function for the purpose of business.

Primarily, I can see the iPad being used as a social media tool/diary/email/note taking device. As it is linked to an iTunes account it is ideally useful as a one-person-per-iPad device. Is it a useful business tool? Absolutely, I can see the day where most people in an office or other workplace would have one of their own as it could speed up efficiencies in meetings with appointments being made and synced with desktop or shared calendars.

All notes related to the meeting would also be at the fingertips so that no paper is wasted or lost. With apps like voice recognition software it could be used for dictation. Voice recording and video would be excellent tools for conferences and meetings. Creating reports on the fly would mean that there would be more accuracy when recording and reporting events.

The questions are…

1. Wi-fi only or wi-fi/3G?

If a person is traveling slot then I could see that the 3G version would be very useful. If a person is mainly based around the office then the wi-fi only would be just fine.

2. If you issue an iPad to an individual, can they use it for their own purposes as well as for the business?

This would be the same policy for both personal issue of laptops as well as tablet computers.

As the iPad is a great social media tool, policies related to the use of social media should apply to the use of the iPad as well.

The use of social media should be encouraged where there is a positive benefit to the organization.

Tweeting and face booking from events should be encouraged as it is a good way to interact with a wider audience. It should been done in such a way that people would rather be at the event than just reading about it online. It is a teasing tool to encourage participation.

Would I like one? Again the answer is absolutely, the benefits of this piece of equipment are large and would help in many areas of business life.

Paul S Allen

Taieri River

Taieri River, Middlemarch, Otago, New Zealand


Innovation Success

“Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” – Thomas Edison

All to often, innovation is seen to be the most important part of the business model, but it is not until the innovation has become so routine and entrenched in everyday life that it is truly successful. I have said in a previous post truly significant innovations even after a short time will appear to be invisible and mundane, and they should.

So if you are an innovative person make sure you work alongside people who are able to commercialize what you do. It may mean that you have to give up some control and share profit.

Keep innovation happening, but be realistic in the commercialization potential of the creation you have just made.

Paul S Allen

Why A Half Empty Glass Is A Good Thing

Is the glass half full or half empty?

There is no need to stress about the answer or what it means, but it is an opportunity to think differently.

Here are ten reasons why a half empty glass is a good thing.

  1. You have already enjoyed the first half
  2. You only want or need a small drink
  3. The glass could be very large so half a glass could be a big drink
  4. You have had enough to drink
  5. Half a glass is not equal to an empty glass
  6. You are saving the rest for later
  7. There is room for a “top up”
  8. You have not finished yet
  9. You have enough to share
  10. You know when to stop

We often see this cliché being used as a description of our perception, whether we have a positive or negative outlook on life. What we need to realise the answer has more than two options and these options can be positive, negative or neutral in nature.  (The cliché also assumes that it is a drink, it could be the perfect measure for an ingredient in a recipe or anything we want it to be)

When a problem is presented do not just look at the linear solutions, look at the possibilities that could exist. Allow your brain to be creative and think out of the box. For all the problem scenarios that exist there are many solutions waiting to be discovered, innovation exists in how we provide the solution.

Paul S Allen

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