ZenStorming

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Posts Tagged ‘Innovation Metrics’

When Success is Bad – The Math Behind Why Failure Is Essential

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2013

We all know Murphy’s Law: “Whatever can go wrong, will.”

But, what happens when the right things happen for what we think are the right reasons?

Or, restating in a slightly different way:

In any system there are ways of achieving the correct result through a combination of known and unknown means.

As any product developer will tell you, there are times when you test a product (or code) and it works.  You get excited. You decide to show your results to others. You do everything the exact same way you did last time, only this time, it doesn’t work.

Not. At. All.

How does this happen?

Let’s imagine a product as a mathematical expression: A+B+C=X (eq.1).  A, B, and C are things that we know, things that we do to bring about X which is the result we want to have happen. Let’s call this the “Success Equation”.

The equation for some undesired outcome could be depicted as: A+B+C+W=Z (eq.2). W is some known wrong step or condition that causes Z, which is an undesired result. We can call this the “Devil We Know” equation.

Now, when working with a product prototypes we actually only know what we know.  Sounds obvious right?  Another way to say this is:  We don’t know what we don’t know.

What this means is that the REAL equation for our product is very often: A+B+C+D+E+F=X.  (eq. 3) This is one of many versions of what I’ll call the “Devil We Don’t Know” equations.

A, B and C are known and are BOLD in the equation.  D, E and F, are grey because we don’t even know these variables exist.  Nevertheless, they are a part of the equation and if they all come into play, X occurs, so we’re happy.

And that’s a problem.

Why?

What happens if D, or E, or F, or some combination of these disappear?  We could get the formula A+B+C+E+F=Z, (eq.4) .  What gives?  We’re doing everything right, just like we were before, and getting the wrong result!!!

And it gets worse…

If n=”The number of variables we don’t know, but when all are present result in success”, then there are 2(n)-2 possible permutations of possible failure modes. In other words, if there are two unknown variables, then there are two possible failure mode combinations; 3 variables translates to 6; 4 to 14; and 5 unknown variables could lead to 30 possible failure modes!

Which brings us to the main point of this post.

Failure in the product development process is a necessity!

Why?

We ultimately want to get to the Success Equation (eq.1).  We want to be able to know that every time we do A and B and C, we get X.

The best way to get there is to convert every “Devil We Don’t Know” equation (eq.3) to a “Devil We Know” equation (eq. 2). And that only happens through testing, experimenting, failure, and learning from those failures.

So the lesson from this Law is this:  Next time you’re testing a product and it works as expected, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your product is working perfectly.  Test. Fail. Test again! Avail yourself of digital tools and novel testing techniques (and people that like to break things) to create failures and learn from them. Find out what you don’t know.

Fail early, fail often, fail to learn, fail to succeed.

Oh, and this Law needs a name. Any suggestions?

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Posted in Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Metrics, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Innovation Never Sleeps, But It Does Nap…(Trends in Innovation)

Posted by Plish on December 29, 2008

One would think that innovation is first and foremost on everyone’s minds in the corporate world of the United States. Turns out that not only is it not front and center in the minds of US web surfers it actually is seasonal.

When searching on the word “innovation” in Google trends, I found that searches on the term “innovation” dip in the summer months and drastically dip in the month of December.

innovationtrend

Perhaps even more telling is that when search volume is normalized the United States doesn’t show up in the top ten regions for searches.

innovationcountryrankings

Different search terms could skew the results so I checked “creativity”.

creativitytrends

This shows the same Summer/December dips. The good news (or bad depending how you look at it), is that the US did make the top ten regions for search volume.

regionrankcreativity

Also of note is that the general trends for search volume and news references are going down and up respectively.

What about “entrepreneur”? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Case Studies, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Research, Trends | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Finding and Grooming Innovators

Posted by Plish on November 25, 2008

Good article here from the Harvard Business Review.

In general, the article is right on.  I’ve personally (and unfortunately) seen much of what this article says must be done (or its lack thereof.)  I disagree, to some extent, with the section on giving innovators responsibility and the reward structure.  The argument is made that once innovators are found they should be given a chance – rewarded if they succeed and not given another chance if they fail. 

Since the article discusses “finding” innovators, I can see the rationale behind the need to give them a chance.  On the other hand, if a company has to “find” innovators, is it truly a company with an innovative culture, or a company that is efficient at keeping positive cash flow? I would argue there should be a difference. Perhaps not in the needed result but in orientation and execution.

In line with this is my dislike of the “one-strike-you’re-out” rule that most companies mentioned here seem to use.  By definition within the article, innovators are those who take risks.  A high risk project might fail- it’s what makes it high risk!  Having said that, risking once is relatively easy.  Risking twice or thrice after a former failure takes guts and courage.  The approach in this article cuts true innovators off at the knees. 

If somebody fails, (or as I prefer to say, “Increases his/her experiential database”, which coincidentally increases odds of future success!) analyze the situation, learn, cross-pollinate and keep moving forward!  What do I mean by cross-pollinate?

Any Innovator that is turned loose will innovate – new products, processes, systems, sub-systems will be developed in the course of any project.  Odds are HUGE that something developed during a “failure” can and will be used somewhere else in the company and perhaps with even greater payback than the original project had! That person should be rewarded not barred from future attempts.

What are your thoughts?

ARTICLE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Sustaining innovation, many agree, is crucial for a company’s long-term success. But truly innovative people are rare: They have excellent analytic skills, never rest on their laurels, and can identify the solutions likeliest to win over top leadership. They are socially savvy and can bring a diverse group of constituents into alignment. They tend to be both charming and persuasive.

The right talent-management procedures can help in spotting potential innovators. Reuters, for example, interviews candidates one-on-one and gives them complex, real-world scenarios in which they must reach and defend decisions, accommodate new information, and convincingly sell their point of view. Starwood and McDonald’s require would-be innovators to lead cross-functional teams in developing promising ideas and then to present those ideas to senior management. One global industrial products company in the UK insists that they do a stint in the sales department.

Developing breakthrough innovators requires mentoring and peer networks. Mentors provide insight into the motivations, goals, mind-set, and budget constraints of managers in a variety of relevant functions. At Allstate, for example, the CEO coaches and supports the mentors themselves, sending a strong signal about the importance of the program. Peer networks provide a sense of solidarity and a uniquely fertile environment in which to exchange ideas, impart information, and instill hope.

Companies that excel in developing innovative leaders often remove them from revenue-generating line positions and plant them in the middle of the organization, where they form “innovation hubs,” with easy access to influentials, more autonomy, and broader job responsibilities.

Practices like these keep companies open to new ideas and prepare them to respond nimbly to innovation from elsewhere in their industries.

Posted in Case Studies, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Metrics, problem solving, Research, Uncategorized, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Latest on Innovation Metrics

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2008

InnovationLabs has published a white paper on innovation metrics.  While intriguing in its breadth, I’m not totally sold on the proposed metrics contained therein.  Too many of these metrics can be “padded” so that when it comes times to performance reviews people will be rushing to fill their quotas of “customers seen” or “ideas generated” just so they can claim they’re innovative.

Many of the other metrics are based upon  “what was done”, or “what was the return on x project”.  While necessary to somehow measure, these types of metrics lag and are like reacting to a fever of 105F after the person’s fever dropped to room temperature  becaue he/she cooked.

Thoughts?

Posted in Creativity Leadership, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Nature of Creativity, patents, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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