actuate = make innovation work


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ID Bulletins in English

Innovation Delivery - Spring 2011
Innovation in hibernation? - Winter '10/'11
Innovation Humus - Autumn 2010
Innovation Delivery - Summer 2010
Spring clean opportunity - Spring 2010


Blogs / Articles

The Flywheel Model: better and faster innovation results

"Univé Innovates" real case study

Front-end inspiration for innovation delivery professionals

Is there another way?

Innovation processes are not projects

Innovation process methodology

Optimistic entrepreneurship

Innovation humus

The valorisation intercity

Develop through light and space

French creativity


The Flywheel Model: better and faster innovation results

A large number of innovation efforts never become successful products or services. Rather than approaching an innovation project from a linear perspective, the process may best be considered as a wheel with a short, fast revolution. This flywheel approach results in a quicker and more sustainable innovation implementation.


In order to realise true innovation, it's essential to look beyond technical possibilities and the demands of the user. Intensive and frequent evaluation and optimisation of the demands and opportunities are required.


The Flywheel model advocates a short, fast cycle of enrichment. In the space of just a few weeks all the value experts are consulted as to how the idea can best be realised. By applying a number of these short cycles, the innovation has a greater chance of success. The experts, including the final user, are closer in line with each other and this interaction very effectively creates added value. The revolution of the Flywheel is repeated a number of times until it is spinning at full speed and a sustainable realisation of the idea is generated.


This is how the model works.

A successful Innovation Delivery process can be seen as a Flywheel; the axes of the wheel stands for the idea or concept, the spokes represent the value-experts and the rim connects the whole. The fast turning of the Flywheel encourages you to realise short experience cycles.


Product Development is often undertaken by several departments and sometimes even by several companies. The Market is also usually divided into a number of parties, such as end user, buying agent and trade and/or supply chain. Every spoke of our Flywheel represents one of these 'value experts'. The chance that a new product will be adopted by customers, in other words the chance of market success, is much larger if these different parties are closely connected.


When the front end of innovation comes up with an idea, it may already be translated into a concept. The letter C at the centre of the Flywheel Model stands for this pre-defined concept, and is the centre of the Flywheel and so, the whole of the innovation realisation process. By placing the concept at the centre, the front end and the back end (or realisation stage) are continually linked and customer demand is continuously taken into account. By doing so, we will be able to produce better insights and more successful innovations.


Every connection with a spoke in the Flywheel can be seen as a step in the process, falling under the responsibility of a particular department. Each stage can now be precisely defined, and after each revolution the organisation can choose to decide to get the next revolution going. The penultimate revolution of the Flywheel will end with the introduction of the new product on the market. What then follows is one last vital revolution, namely optimisation in the market. Once this spin has been completed, the innovation can be passed on to the existing line organisation.


If, at the start of the innovation process, there is a clear intention to realise a particular idea, the various parties can be consulted as a sort of reconnoitre. At each revolution, each stage of development, we can increasingly focus on the possibilities and demands, and so continually work towards a new solution. This kind of collaboration is of course far more interactive than that suggested by a linear stage-gate process.

A comprehensive front-end stage with adequate interaction will result in more in-depth insights into demands and possibilities, and consequently all the other aspects of the marketing mix. What's more, at each phase, we find out what the most appealing selling points are; information that can then be used by the sales team during the launch. Ultimately, successful innovation implementation will result in more sales, increased customer satisfaction and therefore yet more sales. The Flywheel gets to spin at full power and adds momentum to your growth.


Please contact us at pro-Actuate for a free full introduction to the Flywheel model.


"Univé Innovates" real case study

By Cock Meerhof, senior consultant Innovatie Univé-VGZ-IZA-Trias


Innovation delivery is an important part of innovation realisation, and we learned to appreciate this during a recent innovation process. Radical innovation has been taken seriously at Univé for the past four years. The normal paths we took concerning product development, in this case regarding insurance policies, have been discarded and new business sought, found and developed. Innovation is, after all, only true when a new, creative idea actually gets to market. However, innovation in a company that has risk avoidance in its genes demands a process that provides a level of certainty – and reassurance. During the idea generation phase, Univé used Gijs van Wulfen's FORTH method. It's a good, streamlined process with an almost guaranteed result. But then came the next phase...

As internal innovation consultant, I was able to develop and implement a new mobility concept. After extensive research into possible alternatives, a business case was developed which was then accepted by the director (and commissioning party). It was my task to then make the concept market ready, but to do this Univé needed partners. This was going to be a case of co-creation.

Each step of the innovation process, from idea generation to implementation, demands a different skill. Where conceptual thinkers are needed for the generation phase, it is entrepreneurs that are essential in implementation. We called on Ton Langeler to help us with our implementation stage, a die-hard expert when it comes to innovation delivery. And we followed his Flywheel Model as a guideline for our approach (experimenting and developing using short, fast revolutions making implementation faster and better). Thanks to the tight deadline we set ourselves, our enthusiasm and the speed with which we worked, we were able to gain the confidence of both our internal and external contacts.


Some of the lessons we learned during our innovation delivery process can be summarised in the following tips:


In short, delivery is of vital importance to a successful innovation, and a good process such as the Flywheel Model will prove its worth.


Front-end inspiration for innovation delivery professionals

By Gijs van Wulfen, author of 'Creating Innovative Products & Services', and founder of the FORTH innovation method.


The lack of clarity in the beginning of the innovation process led to it being called the 'fuzzy front end' of innovation. Ideas for new products and services could come from anywhere, be it inside the company through research and development, marketing, sales, the call centre or the online sales department, or from top management, the relevant line managers and enthusiastic co-workers. However, in practice, it's often unclear as to where real innovative ideas should actually come from. What's more, innovation research (Cooper, 2005) has found that only one in seven new product ideas are successfully introduced on the market. So what happens to the other six? It seems, they get stuck in the innovation delivery phase because of a lack of priority, lack of resources or simply because they didn't seem feasible.


So the front-end is fuzzy and the back-end isn't very effective. It proves that creating new products, services or even business models isn't easy - but that's exactly why I like it. Based on my experience at the front-end of innovation, my 3 C's, Connect, Customer, and Creativity, can smooth the innovation implementation process.


Connect

Once an innovation project has passed the initial front-end gates it becomes one of many. The big question is how to make your project stand out from the crowd and keep the decision makers' attention. I found the answer in the FORTH method. In addition to the core project team, I asked an extended team to join us. The extended team are invited on a personal basis, and represent top decision makers from the business side of the company. The main advantage is that they are fully aware of the progress made, and once you are part of a team you will support the outcome. So C number 1 is: connect top decision makers to your project in the innovation delivery phase


Customers

In innovation, the main struggle is often within the organisation itself. A lot of colleagues and managers have a fulltime job disagreeing on everything. In the FORTH method, we test new product ideas with customers straight away. And in the last step, we concentrate on four new mini business cases of our most attractive ideas. We use the 'voice of the customer' to justify our choices. I suggest you do the same thing during the back-end phase of innovation. Present your concept or prototypes on a regular basis to potential customers, and use their enthusiasm to get a higher priority and more resources internally. In short, use the voice of the customer.


Creativity

A lot of people associate the front-end phase with creativity and the back end with structured project management. But that's become history. The front-end phase in the FORTH method is highly structured, and during the back-end phase you need more than PRINCE2 to deliver the innovation project. Although the soul of the innovative concept is created at the front-end, you have to stay flexible and creative. More than ever, you need professional brainstorming tools and creativity to deal with complex feasibility issues.


If you are delivering your innovation, make sure you continue using front-end ideation skills during the back-end phase. Do so, and you will become an even more professional innovator.


Is there another way?

Winter is the season that represents the phase in the innovation cycle in which we look to the future and make plans for the new year. Gone away is the bluebird – but the winter wonderland is sometimes more of a winter wasteland. T.S. Eliot wrote quite positively about the winter in his anti-optimism poem. It would appear that the winter is a comfortable season with little need for great activity.


Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers...


‘That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
‘Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?


Eliot challenges us. When the end of a product life cycle approaches, only radical innovation can lead to a new life cycle starting.


We work for a number of industries that have endured a lot over the past few years. For instance, due to the opportunities presented by internet or because of pressure from clients looking at alternatives in low-wage countries. If these companies don’t do something, then they will die a slow death, as in the boiling frog syndrome. You have to be continually on the watch and extremely critical of yourself or else innovation will appear unexpectedly and become your competition. It’s why Wikipedia is not a Encyclopedia Britannica product, Google is not Yellow Pages’, Full Hybrid is not Ford’s, Super Mario is not Mattel’s and iTunes is not EMI’s. Companies such as Nokia and DSM have proved that radical innovation is possible. By thinking ahead, and acting ahead, they have produced shoots of new initiatives and taken them to flower. Don’t let yourself be surprised by Eliot’s ‘sudden frost’, which might disturb your grow bed.


Innovation processes are not projects

By Patrick van der Duin, lecturer in futures research and innovation management at Delft University of Technology

I often present my students with the following: choose one of these two clients. Client 1 knows exactly what he wants, how much it should cost and what the final product should look like. Client 2 has a vague idea of what he wants, can only estimate the costs and doesn’t know how long the project will last. A surprising amount of students opt for Client 1, but that could be because I teach at a university of technology. What I want to illustrate is that ‘Client 1 students’ are suited to project management and ‘Client 2 students’ are better off concentrating on innovation processes.


The distinction between project and innovation processes is exemplified in the North/South Metro Line in Amsterdam. As a project it has failed with both the time frame and budgets being hugely exceeded. Yet as an innovation process, the North/South Line still has a chance of success. Hopefully, Amsterdam City Council will still be able to share in the financial profits that the contractors will reap on the expertise they’ve developed in tunnel boring through weak ground in densely built-up areas. They have, after all, paid huge tuition fees to contractors who quite wrongly acted as if the North/South Line was a project. It is essential to distinguish innovation processes from projects. Those who judge innovation processes by the same criteria as projects will quickly advocate stopping them as, contrary to projects, the progress of an innovation process is often unclear. By putting projects and innovation processes on the same footing, many innovation processes will become prematurely stifled and the organisation will fall short of being innovative.


Innovation process methodology

The realisation of a new concept, or let’s say a developed product or business idea, is not the same as a ‘normal’ project. It’s not a case of carrying out a project with defined qualities and within a set period and budget. Innovation is by definition uncertain. It is after all something new and has therefore not previously proven itself.


Well-known project management methods such as Prince 2 cannot be applied point by point to innovation projects. Normal project management concerns producing quality according to pre-set specifications. The budget and time frame are ascertained and limited. Innovation activities are about increasing opportunities, the exact specifications cannot yet be accurately defined. During the process, you need to be open to suggestions that can create extra value for your customers. In a normal project, scope is the key focus. In innovation, the product concept (as defined by the customer) is the focus. Whereas fixed processes and documentation are used in projects, innovation stands on the interaction between individuals and concerned parties. A typical project process starts with definitions being made, followed by the subject and finally the building. Project managers follow a tight planning (plan-do-check-act). In contrast, innovation is more about the competences of the team: Seeing; Connecting; and Doing!


Optimistic entrepreneurship

Prime Minister Rutte is a lot more optimistic than T.S. Eliot. He recently spoke at the annual SME conference on the business-government-knowledge institutes triangle. Investment in knowledge has actually shrunk, with Dutch private sector investments in knowledge down more than 7 per cent in 2009 from 2008. “This might have negative consequences for the growth potential of the Dutch economy,” wrote Statistics Netherlands (CBS). And if Robbert Dijkgraaf’s warning is ignored, knowledge capital will decrease yet further (Robbert Dijkgraaf is president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and associate of ‘Innovation uit de Polder’). Rutte correctly states that the key to success lies in “knowledge, know-how and cash till”. Stop compromising. Start working together.


Dijkgraaf ascertains that taking knowledge to the market remains problematic. Cash tills only ring when customers want them to, so let’s not forget the market in the triangle. Innovate together and innovate from supply to demand.


Innovation humus

The sun is directly above the equator. It's 23 September and autumn has begun. The agricultural farmers have got most of their harvest in, and we hope you have also been able to harvest your innovation efforts. The first autumn storms have already raged, but as the days get shorter and sunlight weaker, there's a decreasing chance that brainstorms will rage with inspiring ideas. Depression sets in and it's raining in the Northern hemisphere. Of course, it's not that there are fewer opportunities in September. Enjoy the following old Dutch saying:

When March were the first month of the year then was September truly my name to bear. I am summer's last and autumn's first yet the fruits I bring make me not the worst.


The humus that forms in the autumn is the nourishment for growth in the following year. In a previous newsletter, we asked you how you thought Pareto would look at your portfolio. Why not now ask yourself how your innovations have been flourishing lately. Does the ground need some extra, albeit temporary, nourishment? Are your employees coming up with enough good initiatives? Are new ideas being embraced with enough enthusiasm? Get McKinsey's 3 Horizons down from the top shelf and see if the innovation pipeline is adequately filled and, more importantly, well mixed.


The valorisation intercity

You'll get to your added value station faster, if you add client value. The CBS recently published an article on the added value of banking. The conclusion indicated that the added value of the Dutch banking industry in 2009 rose by almost 50%. That would appear to be good news and, based on internationally recognised calculations, it would appear correct. But if you take a closer look, the explanation is sobering. The ECB dropped the rate of interest dramatically in 2009, which meant the difference between the interest on outstanding loans and interbank interest increased substantially. This is primarily why there was such a strong rise in the added value of banking. It wasn't the client, but the banker that was benefiting from the lower 'purchase price'. Just how happy the client was about the situation was not included in the calculation. If businesses or sectors asks themselves how much value they add for the client by, for instance, finding out which benefit a new product or service the client actually appreciates, then they will get to their target level of higher added value more quickly. What's more, they can also create competitive advantage in the long term. We've developed a system at pro-Actuate which enables you to quickly check new ideas at an early stage for their actual added client value. In so doing, you can decide in good time which projects will add sustainable value to your company.


Develop through light and space

He stares pensively through the window. It's getting dark, but not because night is drawing in. It feels muggy. A storm must be on its way. Alex Drift hesitates as he stands before the project committee. He's often referred to as the company's Gryo Gearloose, always full of new insights and applications, but today is just not his day. He's realised that his latest ideas, just like their predecessors, aren't going to get anywhere. The harvest has failed. Not one of his ideas has been worked through enough to justify a confident market introduction. It's a recognisable situation: finally, when it's time to start earning money with a new product, it turns out that there isn't actually much faith in the product after all. It's not unusual. Many companies have experienced product launches that have not or hardly been successful. The idea was good, but the implementation was poor. Research suggests that an average of 84% of new product ideas collapse before they hit product launch. When innovating, it's essential that an idea is developed in the right way, carefully managed but with room for creativity and the customer's input. Project management is at the root of successful innovation implementation. But not just any kind of project management; it has to be innovation project management. Just like the crops on a farmer's field, an innovative idea needs the right care, a rich, creative seed bed and the space and light for the needs of the users to come to fruition. We wish you a long, warm summer and a good harvest.


French creativity

If you're going to France this summer, make the effort to visit a local circus. The chances are that you'll be fascinated, if not inspired, by the creativity of the French. Many years ago, we went to see Cirque Plume. The show was a revelation in amazing acrobatics and riveting music. It was the predecessor to Cirque du Soleil, the infamous new circus. Last week, we visited Le Boustrophédo performed by a group of Toulouse artists. Again, the French surprised us with a radically revised performance. The show 'Court Miracles' had been developed by Clowns sans Frontières. This Neue Kombinationen (to coin Schumpeter's innovation theory) and the intensive closeness of the team has created a magical and evocative circus story. Creativity is encouraged by good collaboration and open communication. When directing theatre shows, where creativity is essential, a considerable amount of time is spent on developing the social structures and interaction between people and teams. Interpersonal skills are often more important than technical skills when putting a team together. Creativity can only come into play when a team has a common interest in the subject, is willing to help each other and is able to recognise the diversity of knowledge and culture within the team. A study initiated by pro-Actuate amongst hundred companies indicates that team chemistry is one of the seven most important factors of successful innovation delivery. Why not take a look at your team this summer through French-tinted glasses?