Enterprise Innovation Blog

Is your problem Complicated or Complex?

2 February 2018 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 2 February 2018

Problems can be classified as being either Complicated or Complex (Wicked).

Complicated Problems are governed by known rules or laws such as the Law of Gravity, the second Law of Thermodynamics etc, and the outcomes are certain.

For example completing a 1,000 piece jig saw puzzle … it will take a long time of course but there is no doubt it can be completed if a player perseveres for long enough and follows the rule of ensuring every piece fits correctly with its adjoining pieces.

Complex Problems may appear to be similar to Complicated Problems in many ways however they are not governed by any known rules or laws such that the outcomes of Complex Problems are uncertain.

Hypothesis: The key to turning Complex Problems into Complicated ones is discovering the rules or laws which govern them.

Once a problem becomes complicated it can always be resolved providing enough resources are applied in accordance with the rules or laws.

Humans nearly always avoid situations of uncertainty … it is a basic survival instinct … it is a strategy which has worked successfully for mankind for a very long time.

Trial and error is the traditional basis for establishing what rules or laws apply in what situation. Prototyping is the modern term for this practice.

With many of today’s Complex Problems the cost of Prototyping is perceived as being excessive, in expenditure and / or political terms.

Machiavelli is reputed to have observed: Small problems are hard to see but easy to fix. Big problems are easier to see but harder to fix!

In an increasingly complex 21st century, with increasingly complex problems, not prototyping is no longer a viable strategy for humankind. In many cases if left unaddressed these types of problems will inevitably reappear in a much more severe form and possibly be irreversible. Not tackling identified complex problems such as climate change with thorough prototyping to establish and verify the rules or laws that are actually causing it fall into this category.

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s approach to tackling both Complicated or Complex problems, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile +61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Getting serious about Innovation...

18 January 2018 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 18 January 2018

Innovation is not a game … it’s extremely serious business. 

But so is sustaining any enterprise of scale in an increasingly dynamic, competitive and globalised 21st century economy.  And that’s why more and more managers / owners are actively looking at ways to make innovation a mainstream activity … as opposed to being just a ‘nice-to-have’ add-on to include in mission statements and tag lines in glossy corporate brochures.

It is well known that long established organisations nearly always insist that staff strictly adhere to policies and rules and in most instances will penalise personnel who do not follow the requisite guidelines … no matter how exceptional the context or compelling the logic motivating the offending cross boundary activities.

Despite the obvious challenges and risks involved, an increasing number of forward-thinking individuals and company managers are examining ways to develop a culture and processes where new ideas, (either from within or outside their organisation) can be assimilated into their existing structures and transformed into commercial realities.

If breaking the rules is a necessary feature of 21st century business strategy how can today’s managers manage this non-traditional approach in a way that does not stifle the very activity they are trying to encourage and / or put the existing business at risk?

At CTPM we have developed a framework for that express purpose and we call it the Empowering Innovation Framework (EIF) – see our 360 Enterprise Innovation brochure here  for more information.

We are also in the process of developing an online game to assist people to prepare themselves and their organisation to embrace innovation in a structured and disciplined way.  It is early days but the game concept is to use mountain-climbing as a metaphor since it presents similar challenges, risks and rewards for players.

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s plans for the online game or about our approach to Enterprise Innovation, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile +61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Innovation and Problem-Solving

20171213 Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 13 December 2017

Now that’s two words you don't often hear in the same sentence … but should we?

Well I would say we definitely should, although I must also confess it has taken me some time to come to that conclusion.

A very wise man once said words to the effect:“Small problems are difficult to see but easy to fix … whereas larger problems are easier to see but much more difficult to fix!”

You would have to say some things never change, although there would obviously be a lot more (in absolute terms) of both the small and larger problems to manage now.

It would also be fair to say a greater percentage of the problems we encounter in the workplace and society in general these days fall into the latter category.

However I would speculate most modern businesses together with today’s better educated / trained employees are well equipped to handle the smaller day-to-day problems that inevitably arise either informally or alternatively using some formal approach such as Root Cause Analysis (5 Whys) etc.

CTPM’s in-house research suggests that whilst most SMEs in this country are at least partially up to speed with Continuous Improvement / Lean techniques, virtually none have formal processes in place to address the larger and more intractable problems which are often imposed on them by uncontrollable external factors.

It has only occurred to me after nearly 12 months of applied research on introducing innovation into enterprises that in nearly all instances the word ‘innovation’ can be simply substituted with the term ‘problem-solving for other people’. 

Of course defining the term ‘problem’ depends on the context and can take many forms. It can relate to a customer’s problem … even if they are not currently aware of its existence.

For a great example of an ‘unknown’ problem, think of all the innovative products Steve Jobs at Apple developed over the years that we didn’t even realise we needed at the time … and now can’t imagine living without.

No matter how you look at it, the simple fact remains Innovation is always about discovering solutions to someone’s problems … i.e. Innovation is Problem-Solving for someone else!

And the bonus here is that continuous improvement problem-solving techniques such as Root Cause Analysis are already well understood in most modern organisations and as a consequence the techniques involved can be utilised to assist the implementation of innovation processes with minimal modification.

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s approach to Enterprise Innovation, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile +61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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The Problem with Innovation

23 November 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 23 November 2017

At a conference in Sydney last year on Disruptive Innovation, a high-profile presenter defined Innovation in just four words:  “Change that adds Value.”

At the time this was highly commendable given there were over 40 definitions in circulation as of 2013 (according to Wikipedia) and the following definition (over 10 times longer) given by Crossan and Apaydin is considered the most complete:

Innovation is: production or adoption, assimilation, and exploitation of a value-added novelty in economic and social spheres; renewal and enlargement of products, services, and markets; development of new methods of production; and establishment of new management systems. It is both a process and an outcome.

However since then we have come up with our own short and simple definition for enterprise innovation: “Innovation is: Problem-Solving.” 

Having said that we are reminded of Einstein's famous quote “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  So, are we going too far here?

We believe there are at least three types of problems which quickly come to mind when it comes to considering innovation in an enterprise or business context.

#1: Usual day-to-day problems that are addressed informally in an ad hoc way complying with traditional norms ... or more formally utilising a Continuous Improvement approach. It is important to note all new ideas created in this way are typically within the current boundaries of an organisation.

#2: Problems occurring outside the boundaries of an organisation which are typically someone else’s problems. That is you do not have to resolve them but they do in fact provide an opportunity to innovate ... should you be prepared to explore outside the current boundaries of your business. Unfortunately most enterprises explicitly prohibit this approach ... concepts such as KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) and risk averseness being the prevailing culture.

#3: Problems that often go completely undetected. They are the common ways things are done in a particular industry. Often they greatly inconvenience customers ... but everyone just accepts them as the norm. Think of a doctor’s waiting room ... How often have you turned up on time for your appointment ... and then spent hours waiting? These types of accepted invisible problems are often called compromises and can be the source of great innovation activity.

Of course Einstein had numerous break-through ideas or innovations over his life time and he certainly did not constrain his way of thinking in any fashion ... he might even have approved of our simple enterprise innovation definition!

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s approach to Enterprise Innovation, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile +61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Toyota Legacy Under Threat...

10 November 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 10 November 2017

Most practitioners are well aware of the founding role of the Toyota Production System in the Continuous Improvement movement.

There is seemingly not a single aspect, principle or tool that does not directly link back to the legendary auto manufacturer’s core ideas and thoughts on achieving Operational Excellence in the Manufacturing sector.

However, I believe there is another core car-making concept, originally conceived by Alfred P Sloan the long-time President of General Motors nearly 100 years ago, that should also be considered along side Toyota’s major contributions.

Consider this for a moment. If Continuous Improvement was the sole approach to manufacturing then (to use a vehicle metaphor) we would all still be driving Model T Fords … albeit with automatic transmissions, choice of colours, seat belts etc.

GM originally introduced the Annual Model Change in 1923. They had the foresight to appreciate the travelling public was actually seeking novelty and innovation in their chosen forms of transport and realised that if they just continued to produce an incrementally better car each year there would be a physical limit to the number of new vehicles they could sell.

The rest is history, as they say. 

Of course Toyota continues to be a leading carmaker globally and #1 in sales numbers here in Australia … but (I would emphasise) with new models coming on to the market at regular intervals!

CTPM have been at the forefront of Continuous Improvement training for SMEs in Australia since 1996 however we have become conscious that with an ever-increasingly dynamic and globalised marketplace, Continuous Improvement (which is a well proven vehicle to deliver Operational Excellence within business boundaries) needs to be supplemented with an approach that develops new ideas and opportunities outside the usual boundaries.

Since early 2017 in my role as Director of Innovation, I have been conducting applied research as the basis for developing an approach addressing this challenge. We call this approach 360 Enterprise Innovation which involves challenging the current boundaries of an enterprise and using the hidden talent of your people to identify and justify exciting opportunities.

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s new 360 Enterprise Innovation approach, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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How to identify Areas of Interest in Enterprise Innovation

20171101 Areas of Interest Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 1 November 2017

The first step on any Enterprise Innovation Journey involves coming up with a ‘good’ idea.

It seems some people are full of ideas (good and bad) but based on our experience, most actually need a helping hand to identify what we at CTPM call Areas of Interest.

Our 360 Enterprise Innovation logo is a clue to our approach. It is divided into ten separate segments. 

20171101 360 Enterprise Innovation Logo Webpage

The first six focus on extending what you currently do:

1. Customers
2. Products
3. Services
4. Distribution
5. Technology
6. Operations

The remaining four focus on teaming up with external parties:

7. Suppliers
8. Collaborators
9. Consultants
10. Competitors

CTPM use all ten segments as thought-starters when thinking about an organisation’s current and possible future activities. 

Of course with 360 Enterprise Innovation we are actually looking for ideas outside the usual activities undertaken by a business – i.e. a candle maker is always looking for better ways to make candles, however by rethinking their boundaries in the context of being an illumination supplier, the enterprise innovation concept of a Light Bulb becomes apparent.

Once employees have drilled down through to the relevant light bulbs, we use three further filters to finally locate the sought after Areas of Interest. These are:

  • Problems;
  • Opportunities; and
  • Compromises.

Of course Problems can be a rich source of ideas.  But in most cases they are within existing business boundaries and should be part of your Continuous Improvement activities.

Opportunities on the other hand are the naturally occurring Areas of Interest but are directly linked to an organisation’s traditional Innovation Strategy, that is either a:

  • NEED SEEKER – Engaging with customers to generate new ideas, for example Apple.
  • MARKET READER – Monitoring markets and competitors to create value through incremental innovations, for example Caterpillar.
  • TECHNOLOGY DRIVER – Depending on internal R&D to develop new products and services, for example Google.

However, Compromises can often present a massive opportunity, and they occur all around us and are usually accepted as the normal way of doing things within a particular industry.

For example every time I go to the doctor I seem to have to wait at least 20-30 minutes and often longer than my scheduled appointment time arranged weeks or even months in advance. The compromise in most cases is having magazines to read or a TV to watch (often with very low sound). Surely patients could be advised by SMS (or an App) of expected delays!

We have found when you start seeking out compromises within your industry, you start to see many enterprise innovation opportunities.  

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s new 360 Enterprise Innovation for your business to identify your Areas of Interest to ultimately turn new ideas into commercial realities, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Customer Centric 360 Enterprise Innovation

20171023 Customer Centric
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 23 October 2017

Australian enterprises often have R&D Teams focused on developing the next new widget or enhancing their current widgets. However we rarely find a structured framework within these same enterprises for developing the next customer centric innovation, i.e. one that will provide extra value to existing or potential customers.

McDonald’s recent innovation of providing ‘re-charging’ stations in their restaurants where you can sit at your table and plug in your laptop or mobile phone while you enjoy your food fits the bill here. It has nothing to do with the usual widgets they provide (Burgers, fries etc), however as a customer with many choices for fast food outlets, this innovation currently provides extra value compared to what you would find at a different fast food provider.

Sure, this will not appeal to every customer, however it does provide an extra benefit for some customers as experienced by our President Ross Kennedy when recently travelling from Wollongong to Newcastle for a family function.

Another good example of Customer Centric Enterprise Innovation that Ross recently came across while visiting a manufacturing site in Sydney, which was having a very positive impact on their business, was one all about making it easier for their customers to place orders.

The innovation here was to introduce Direct Data capability for customers, so instead of faxing or ringing orders through, they can simply link directly to their order system and transfer the order electronically.

Of course this technology is not new, however it was new for their industry sector, and has proved a big win with increased orders because of their customer’s ease to deal with them compared to their competitors.

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s new 360 Enterprise Innovation for your business to identify and evaluate the great ideas hidden within your staff, and have a real positive impact on your customers or potential customers, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Why is Enterprise Innovation so hard to do?

4 August 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 4 August 2017

With all the talk about how important Innovation is to industry and the Australian economy generally, it continues to amaze me that there are in fact very few standard processes or methodologies available to actually make Innovation happen at the business (enterprise) level.

After spending over six years researching the topic I certainly appreciate there are many ways that new ideas can be side-tracked and fail to reach the commercialisation phase. Of course I’m referring to Enterprise Innovation here as opposed to Start-up Innovation which is even more problematic.

Enterprise Innovation can be described as the development or introduction of new or significantly improved goods, services, processes, or methods – outside the existing boundaries of the business where as Continuous Improvement Innovation occurs within the boundaries of the business.

Following recent research, we compiled a list of 10 common ways that lead to new ideas in enterprises failing. They are:

  1. The innovation champion leaves the organisation, or moves to a different role with new priorities.
  2. Market pressures become an issue with falling profits, increased competition, or organisational cost-cutting pulling the focus to short-term profits.
  3. The Innovation team tries to do too much and doesn’t move the needle significantly on any one idea.
  4. Undermined by other business unit projects leading to the Innovation team being under-staffed, under-funded, under-marketed, or simply abandon them.
  5. Company mergers and acquisitions taking precedence, leading to internal innovation losing resources and executive attention.
  6. Organisational impatience grows as milestones or success measures are too ambitious, or too vague, so progress is not visible or concrete enough.
  7. Organisational poor staffing choices as either the innovation team is populated exclusively by internal staff that have no idea how innovation works; or entirely by innovation specialists / outsiders who have no idea how the company works.
  8. The innovation lab winds up serving as a showcase, meeting space, or visitor centre to highlight the fact that the organisation is “thinking about the future.”
  9. Executive support suddenly vanishes when it comes time to make a major investment in a project or new business.
  10. “Shiny new object” syndrome, when an innovation initiative is launched, goes through one project or cycle, and then lacks leadership with the time or incentive to keep things going.

CTPM believe all the complexities can be managed through what we call the Empowering Innovation Framework, which seamlessly embeds a formal system within the existing company structure utilising participating staff members. 

In fact we think we have come up with the ultimate solution to turning your new ideas into commercial realities and invite you to follow this link to view a recent webinar on CTPM's YouTube channel, to learn more about introducing Innovation to your business.

If you would like to know more about CTPM’s Empowering Innovation Framework, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Innovation - making it happen

30 June 2017 Innovation Blog
by Ross Kennedy, 30 June 2017

Do you realise that most companies incorporate Innovation into their Values, and promote the need for Innovation in their businesses, however very few, if any, have a framework and structured process in place to guide and nurture new ideas into commercial realities.

Based on our extensive experience over the past 20 years of assisting over 150 sites throughout Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Indonesia to successfully embrace Continuous Improvement using a framework and structured process, we have teamed up with Dr Andrew Connery, one of Australia’s leading exponents on the practical application of Innovation, to create an exciting Empowering Innovation Framework. The framework has been developed to assist companies strategically guide and monitor their Innovation initiatives to ensure the necessary disciplines are followed to commercialise great new ideas.

We conducted a free 30 minute webinar on this important topic on Tuesday 11 July. If you are interested in seeing the recording click on this link to view the webinar on CTPM's YouTube channel.

Innovation can take many forms, and is often confused with Continuous Improvement. The best companies know the difference and have their people investing at least 5% of their normal work time each week doing both.

Thomas Edison, the famous US inventor and innovator, didn’t achieve his Light Bulb without a very structured and disciplined approach. Without a structured and disciplined Innovation Framework your company could miss out on a lot of ‘Light Bulbs’ and be at risk of losing market share from a competitor who has developed the Innovation discipline to be successful – like how Toyota and their approach to Continuous Improvement negatively impacted General Motors and Ford, or how Amazon with their approach to Innovation will challenge many traditional retailers in the not so distant future.

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s Empowering Innovation Framework which embeds a structured system into organisations to turn new ideas into commercial realities, contact Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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The Impact of Company Culture on Innovation

9 June 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 9 June 2017

Peter Drucker, the much respected management consultant, educator, and author, often argued that a companies’ culture would trump any attempt to create a strategy that was incompatible with its culture.

Drucker also maintained company cultures are like country cultures: “Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you've got.”

CTPM have always embraced this pragmatic approach and since 1996 have overtly incorporated proven culture change processes into all our Continuous Improvement activities and usually describe the methodology adopted as encouraging each person to take  the ‘Hero’s Journey’.

With our latest Innovation methodology (introducing the Empowering Innovation Framework) we are addressing this issue from a completely different and more overt angle.

There are three major differences:

  1. The use of Creative Pairs (comprising a Creator and a Communicator) to drive the Evaluation stage of the innovation process.
  2. The use of teams of cross-silo Collaborators who are co-opted by the Creative Pair and answer directly to them, to provide any extra horsepower necessary to run experiments etc.
  3. The use of Senior Management Team members as the Innovation Mentors, to guide the Creative Pairs and ensure they get all the resources and support they require throughout their innovation journey.

These three key differences firstly acknowledge that the most creative and successful ventures in business (and the arts) nearly always spring from ‘dynamic duos’ albeit that the ‘partner’ behind the well known genius is often hidden (or not usually visible). For a great read on this topic check out thought leader and author Joshua Wolf Shenk and his latest book:  Powers of Two: Creative Pairs Finding the Essence of Innovation.

Secondly they recognise the increasing popularity in corporate management circles to press the concept of Mentorship (both internally and externally) upon their promising up and coming middle managers.

As a bonus, by linking mentorship with innovation, organisations can not only assist their ‘rising star’ employees gain attention and much needed skills  but also deliver some tangible results through the adoption of innovative concepts that historically were ignored or simply fell into the ‘too hard’ basket of day-to-day operations.

If you would like to know more about CTPM’s Empowering Innovation Framework which embeds a structured system into organisations to turn new ideas into commercial realities, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Is Innovation a realistic goal for Australian Manufacturers?

2 June 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 2 June 2017

In a perfect world all businesses would be innovative.

All companies would produce fabulous products that are not only fun to use and great to look at, but there would be no wastage, all inputs would be natural and sourced locally, and energy would be non-fossil-based.   

I could go on, but I think you can see where I’m going with this. The reality is that all companies can’t be mini-Apples, and there just aren’t enough Steve Jobs clones to go around.

So what is a realistic goal?

In the Continuous Improvement field the Toyota Production System (TPS) is always regarded as the gold standard and since joining CTPM, I have had the opportunity to read a lot (I mean a lot) of material on what makes Toyota so good, and there really is a lot that can be learned from the world-famous Japanese car-maker.

Interestingly Toyota itself sometimes claims to be innovative when it is probably not. By that I mean their success is by definition nearly always (some notable exceptions) incremental. That is lots of small improvements which cumulatively add up to producing a far superior product.

Innovation, as it is commonly understood, involves big leaps forward, often breaking existing rules and sometimes disrupting established processes and business models. And innovation in large companies always requires inspirational leadership from management totally committed to long term goals.

It is accepted wisdom that ‘in excess of 95% of all innovative projects do not even recover their costs’, so it would seem to any reasonable person that the whole idea is fraught with risks, and to be frank, not usually worth the trouble.

And like a lot of issues in our increasingly complex world, there is no silver bullet or binary solution.

However, what does seem realistic is a hybrid (thanks Toyota) approach.

That is combining Continuous Improvement with Innovation, that way most results will at least be implementable and often produce fast returns and improved ROI. 

You might even be lucky and come up with a real innovation in the process!

Plug here. CTPM have developed what we call the Empowering Innovation Frameworkwhich embeds a structured system into organisations to evaluate new ideas, and where feasible turn new ideas into commercial realities.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Innovators as Problem Solvers...

19 May 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 19 May 2017

Of course there are some people who would argue: “innovators create problems” but I recently came across an article online which said exactly the opposite.

And although I have never personally looked at innovation that way myself before, it certainly grabbed my attention and I will repeat the main ideas here.

The writer (Larry Myler, Forbes 13 June 2014) maintains there are in fact four types or levels of Innovators:

  • Level 1 Innovator is a traditional Problem Solver i.e. someone who fixes problems as they occur (reactive);
  • Level 2 Innovator is a Problem Preventer i.e. someone who plans for problems before they occur (pro-active);
  • Level 3 Innovator is a Continuous Improver i.e. by making numerous incremental changes many problems are simply avoided; and
  • Level 4 Innovator Creates a New Future by designing breakthrough products, strategies and business models.

It’s an interesting approach and in fact aligns with much of my current research which is looking at the similarities between Innovation and Continuous Improvement – our major focus here at CTPM Australasia since our inception in 1996.

From a CI perspective:

  • Level 1 is Reactive Improvement;
  • Level 2 is Prevention at Source Pro-active Improvement where you focus on the tail end of the Pareto Chart;
  • Level 3 is typical Pro-active Improvement where you focus on the biggest issues in the Pareto Chart; and
  • Level 4 is Innovation where the focus should be to look outside current boundaries.

Of course Continuous Improvement is very much a structured problem solving framework usually involving concepts such as Root Cause Analysis and using an iterative approach via Deming’s PDCA cycle.

As CTPM’s new Director of Innovation I have been developing what we consider a unique Empowering Innovation Framework based on my doctoral research on Innovation and 30 years industry experience.

It’s a seven step development program delivered over a 12 week period incorporating three half-day workshops supported by weekly meetings and it uniquely utilises three core principles:

  1. Senior Management guided;
  2. Creator & Communicator lead; and
  3. Fast Experiments.

When the program is completed, organisations will have in place a framework to capitalise on all the good ideas that staff, suppliers and employees accumulate over the years… but never had a vehicle to see through to implementation.

What’s more the new Empowering Innovation Framework fits seamlessly within your existing enterprise structure i.e. it does not interfere with underlying core functions - and there may be funding available to support the development program.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Do you have an effective Innovation Framework? 

28 April 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 28 April 2017

It seems Innovation is the mother of motherhood issues these days. It generally has become universally accepted within higher education circles and business, that innovation is an essential part of any organisation seriously interested in achieving long-term sustainability.

At the same time senior management usually understands this ‘strategic’ decision inevitably involves some type of trade-off of short term goals for longer term aims – certainly in terms of ROI dilution or profits.

We have found that without an effective Innovation Framework, often the innovative ideas generated through planned initiatives get bogged down in the countless departmental silos of the organisation.

The major challenge for all types of organisations (including Not For Profits) is to devise a framework that will enable much-needed new ideas to flourish ‘bottom up’, but will not interfere (in any significant way) with the efficient day-to-day running of their organisation.

Any approach adopted must be able to hurdle the traditional silo management structures, but at the same time enable collaboration with all the necessary stakeholders (within the various silos). 

This particular challenge has led to the development, in association with CTPM, of a unique Empowering Innovation Framework. It’s a seven 7 Step development program incorporating three half-day workshops supported by a series of 1-2 hour weekly meetings linked with on-going experiments. What’s more the new framework fits seamlessly within your existing company structure and there may be funding available to support the program.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Experimenting with Innovation...

7 April 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 7 April 2017

According to academic Michael Schrage, in his book The Innovator’s Hypothesis, cheap experiments are worth more than good ideas … and I would have to agree wholeheartedly with the MIT Research Fellow.

However the consultant / author / blogger also raised a few eyebrows elsewhere when he went on to discount the value of great ideas altogether.

To my mind this is a roundabout way of saying that there are a lot of inventors out there (throughout the world) … but not a lot of innovators. And it tacitly recognises that the ability to turn great ideas into great products or services is in rare supply.

One has to hope that the emergence of innovation eco-systems and accelerators (usually associated with universities) will change this situation over time. 

Unfortunately business schools and universities (including those in the US) to date have a woeful history when it comes to graduating successful entrepreneurs i.e. teaching students the necessary skills to not only identify great inventions or ideas in the first place but also the ability to commercialise them … with limited risk capital.

I add the caveat (with limited risk capital) to address the complete lack of early stage finance available to would be innovators in this country.

This brutal fact of business life here in Australia has led myself to develop, in association with CTPM, a unique Empowering Innovation Framework that is specifically targeted at SMEs i.e. the businesses who do have the necessary access to much needed resources, networks and capital to foster real innovation.

The Empowering Innovation Framework is a 7 Step training program delivered over a 12 week period incorporating three half-day workshops supported by nine 2 hour weekly meetings linked with on-going experiments. What’s more the new framework fits seamlessly within your existing company structure – and there may be funding available to support the program.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Talking about Innovation...

31 March 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 31 March 2017

"Most organisations in this country pay lip service to the notion of Innovation”. Fact or Fiction? Is Innovation the mother of motherhood issues in Australian business circles?

With some notable few exceptions, I find nearly all SMEs have absolutely no formal means of facilitating ‘bottom up’ new innovative ideas into their daily operations.

It must be conceded that Senior Management are usually much more comfortable discussing what we at CTPM call ‘candles’ (i.e. creating the better candle) rather than ‘light bulbs’ (creating a new illumination process).

So how does a Senior Manager embed an ‘Innovation Management System’ into their business?

Here at CTPM we recognise that organisations wishing to build sustainable long-term businesses in an increasing complex and dynamic environment must not only continuously improve their existing products, services and processes but also identify and embrace any opportunities to introduce innovative ones.

We also know, after providing training and consulting services to industry for over 20 years, the major challenge for any organisations of any scale wishing to introduce a culture of Innovation is how to embed an effective Innovation Management System that recognises the need of not disrupting the efficient running of the traditional business.

Here at CTPM we have come up with a ‘great solution’ to this ‘great problem’ (see Michael Schrage’s The Innovator’s Hypothesis).

Led by myself as CTPM’s new Director of Innovation, we have developed what we consider a unique Empowering Innovation Framework based on our extensive industry experience and my recently completed doctoral research on Innovation.

The framework is a 7 Step development program, delivered typically over a 12 week period incorporating three half-day workshops to establish a number of small Innovation Teams, supported by nine 2hr weekly meetings for each Innovation Team.

When completed, your organisation will have in place a formal system to harness all the good ideas that your staff, suppliers and employees have accumulated over the years but never been able to implement.

What’s more, the new framework fits seamlessly within your existing structure and funding may be available to support the development program.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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What is really Innovative? 

24 March 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 24 March 2017

If we accept innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay then it begs the question:

Is a small idea that makes a lot of money more innovative than a great idea that makes a lot less?

The short answer must be a resounding … Yes.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it addresses the fundamental difference between invention and innovation.  Inventions are novel or unique ideas or concepts but they usually do not include the means of commercialising the idea (I would say the really hard bit).

The fact of life is there are hundreds, if not thousands, of inventions being developed at any one time … and nearly always by people that do not have the capital or resources to bring their ideas to market.

The great challenge (particularly in Australia) is how to develop fledgling inventions within existing SMEs i.e. leverage the existing support systems.

Historically our country has been very poor at this activity.  Whether it is cultural, distance from markets, lack of capital or eco-system it is hard to tell … but the record certainly shows that despite all the native inventiveness, Australia has only built one truly great global company in over 100 years … BHP Billiton take a bow!

At CTPM we have spent the last two months putting together a framework that can be embedded within a SME that provides a conduit to enable smart new inventions to be evaluated appropriately (and cheaply) then fast tracked for commercialisation with Senior Management support.

We call the framework the Empowering Innovation Framework and with our first workshop in Sydney just this week, we will continue to refine and develop the framework based on the new findings captured along the way.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Light Bulbs vs Candles

10 March 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 10 March 2017

At the risk of sounding too academic I think it is always helpful to have definitions when trying to differentiate between ideas such as Innovation and Continuous Improvement.

So here goes:

Innovation: The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.

Continuous Improvement: A methodology based on achieving Operational Excellence by focusing on engaging and developing the skills of the frontline personnel.

The obvious difference (based purely on these definitions) is that Innovation relates to commercialising brand new ideas whereas Continuous Improvement focuses on achieving the best possible outcome utilising existing equipment and processes.

One of the best analogies I’ve heard to demonstrate this is:

A candle-making manufacturer could have improved its processes as much as they liked … but it would never have lead them to producing a light bulb!

For mature businesses this is a real dilemma (see Clayton Christensen) insofar that the existing revenue creating business must sustain the upfront costs of pursuing innovation … which at times does not deliver the desired results.

I often have to argue this point with senior managers particularly when they are very profitable producing the ‘same old same old’ products.

I usually ask them to reframe the issue … along the lines of:

Me: Do you insure all your operations?

Manager: Of course!

Me: Have you ever made a claim?

Manager:  No or hardly ever … (obviously some exceptions).

Me: Have you ever thought of dropping your insurance?

Manager: Never.

Me: What you’re telling me is that you are putting aside funds year after year to meet unpredictable negative outcomes.

Manager: I suppose so.

Me: It would also seem logical to expend at least the same amount on unpredictable positive outcomes.

I.E. treat expenditure on innovation the same as insurance premiums.

For any psychologists out there this argument addresses the bias all humans have to avoiding negative outcomes at all costs – probably a very sensible instinct in less complex times.

If you would like to know how CTPM can help your company strive for a Light Bulb, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Misconceptions about Innovation

3 March 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 3 March 2017

For a subject that gets regularly touted about by Prime Ministers and other important people it seems there is a lot of misunderstanding about the concept of innovation.

When recently putting together the content for an upcoming EXPLORE INNOVATION workshop on how to lead and manage innovation in a workplace as part of my role as Director of Innovation at CTPM, I quickly came up with 10 misconceptions.

My colleagues on the ‘reviewing’ panel (bless them) assured me 3 would be quite sufficient, so here they are in no particular order: 

  1. Innovation is often associated with a single high profile person, such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Reality: Innovation is nearly always a team effort and on-going extensive collaboration is usually essential.
  2. In mature organisations large cross-functional teams are best. Reality: Teams of two or three are optimal in nearly all circumstances.
  3. Innovation is usually associated with a single eureka moment and quickly delivers unimaginable riches to the fortunate inventor involved. Reality: The No.1 quality required in all innovator’s would be perseverance. Most successful innovations take over 10 years to finally deliver on their potential. The UK engineering genius (now Sir) James Dyson famously made 5,127 prototypes before finally perfecting his first cyclonic separator vacuum cleaner.

If you would like to know the other 7 misconceptions, contact myself, Dr Andrew Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Leaning towards Innovation

24 February 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 24 February 2017

When I first started with CTPM as their Director of Innovation at the beginning of the year one of my first jobs was to decide how the new practice would fit with the company’s existing business of providing Continuous Improvement workshops and training.

This lead to the obvious question: What’s the difference between Continuous Improvement and Innovation?

Of course many organisations who are seriously committed to Lean or 6 Sigma methodologies already consider themselves as being innovative.

According to Google (so it must be right) Lean is a systematic method for the elimination of waste within a manufacturing system. Lean also takes into account waste created through overburden and waste created through unevenness in work loads.

According to Google Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating quality defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process – from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service.

On the other hand (according to Google again) Innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay.

Personally I think the real difference is that with Continuous Improvement everyone is concerned at either improving quality, increasing production and/or eliminating waste within the existing boundaries or mission statement of the business.

And on the other hand Innovation is not constrained by the status quo or existing boundaries or mission statement of the business. For example at CTPM our mission statement for the past 20 years, was to assist manufacturing, mining and process industries to envisage and achieve operational excellence through our Australasian TPM & Lean / CI methodology. This year we are taking the innovative approach of expanding this to include Lean for Service Industries supported with the appointment of Rebecca Kennedy, and offer the new Empowering Innovation Framework to assist any organisation to look outside their existing boundaries for growth and improved profitability supported with the appointment of myself, Dr Andrew Connery who after more than 40 years industry experience in industrial marketing completed my PhD in Innovation and is now recognised as one of Australia’s the leading practitioners of practical and results driven Innovation.

We are in a world of rapid changes, as such, we believe all organisations should embrace both Continuous Improvement and Innovation at the same time.

At CTPM we believe CI&I is the future.

If you want to learn how your organisation could look at implementing Enterprise Innovation, contact myself, Dr Andrew M Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Innovative... to be or not to be...

10 February 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 10 February 2017

Ross Kennedy allocated me a seemingly simple task on my first day on the job as Director of Innovation at CTPM: Explain exactly how and why a company should become innovative?

I must say with over 20 years experience in the Continuous Learning space and being a recognised guru himself Ross needed some convincing.

But even so having spent six years researching this topic to gain my PhD you would have thought coming up with a decent response was something well within my grasp.

However it’s not that simple.

For starters most new companies and start-ups are already innovative in the sense that they are usually prepared to take on anything to get a head when they are establishing themselves i.e. they are open to new ideas and happy to write off any failures if and when they occur – basically the old tried and true ‘trial and error’ method of learning through experience.

Trouble is that once these fledgling entities establish themselves, and take on more staff, they tend to increasingly become more risk averse and try and stick to products and services that have proven themselves.

Of course in larger SMEs and corporations the ‘keep it simple stupid’ (KISS Principle) is well and truly entrenched and new ideas are actively discouraged. And as far as failing on a new project … it is the ultimate ‘career limiting’ move any ambitious manager could contemplate.

So why embrace innovation at all?

This is the only simple bit.  Companies like economies need innovation to survive long term, it’s the premise our whole capitalist system works on.

The minute organisations try and insulate themselves from the wider economy is the time they start to become vulnerable to external uncontrolled influences.  It may take years but recent history in particular shows that innovation is the only real driver for long term sustainability.

As you can see the challenge boils down to : How can we EXPLORE new ideas  but at the same time EXPLOIT our current profitable products and services (refer Clayton Christiansen). And not wreck the structure we currently have in place.

Of course that’s the hard bit.

Oh and by the way … surprise, surprise:  I have in fact developed an Empowering Innovation Framework to assist organisations to manage the transition which CTPM is rolling out in 2017.

Some US practitioners call this latest approach ‘guided’ or ‘controlled’ innovation but I have added some extra features that I picked up since working with start-ups here in Australia since 2001.

To find out more about the Empowering Innovation framework or how your company could be one of the first to participate in the rollout, contact myself, Dr Andrew M Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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Think people before tools...

2 February 2017 Innovation Blog
by Dr Andrew M Connery, 2 February 2017

A well meaning colleague recently emailed me a link to a small video on a major overseas software developer’s website introducing a tool to manage the whole innovation process – they probably thought that with my new position as Director of Innovation at CTPM Australasia I could do with the help.

Anyway, intrigued by the slick presentation I decided to delve deeper and eventually found a much larger clip on YouTube which endeavored to explain in far greater detail how the brand new ‘solution’ actually functioned. 

It was over 22min in length and had received less than 3,000 views since uploading in November 2014 but perhaps more significantly it had only garnered 7 ‘thumbs up’ and a single ‘thumbs down’. 

I’m thinking most viewers simply didn’t finish the clip or couldn’t be bothered. In either case it confirmed my own judgment that most people realise innovation is a ‘creative process’ and is simply too complex and abstract to be placed in multiple tick boxes.

CTPM Australasia have for many years used the mantra: ‘Think people before tools’ - which their presenters reinforce when delivering their popular Continuous Improvement workshops throughout the country.

I’m thinking this philosophy also applies for innovation and it will certainly become part of the documentation currently being prepared supporting my new Empowering Innovation Framework.

To find out more about the Empowering Innovation Framework or how your company could be one of the first to participate in the roll-out, contact myself, Dr Andrew M Connery via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email andrew.connery@ctpm.org.au.

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