Innovation Thinking

Business Playground unleashes business creativity

Dave Stewart (formerly of the Eurythmics) has turned his attention from music creativity to business creativity.

Speaking on BBC2’s The Working Lunch , Dave Stewart outlines how all businesses must become more creative if they are to even survive the next 10 years. No business is safe or immune.

I have just received a copy of Dave Stewart’s latest book Business Playground and will review it shortly.

iPad frenzy begins – What can businesses learn?

Today is the day that the media frenzy for Apple’s latest toy, the iPad, reaches new insurmountable heights with its launch in the US.

What can we learn from the iPad that you can apply to your business?

Here are some of the traits that strike me:

  • design thinking – it looks beautiful
  • usability – it looks easy and fun to use
  • innovation – it may redefine the computer – will separate keyboards become a thing of the past
  • game-changing – digital or ebooks may finally have THE portal device that could make them mainstream. I suspect the Kindle will look primitive in comparison
  • anticipation – Apple created a buzz before Steve Jobs announced it in Jan 2010 – we knew they had some sort of tablet on the way but no-one knew what it would look like or its name (e.g. iSlate anyone?)
  • evolution – look back at how the iPad evolved from the ipod (first incarnation was clunky looking but functional). The ipod Touch and iPhone developed the touchscreen that was necessary to roll out the tablet iPad
  • crowd-sourcing –  the real value of the iPhone and ipod Touch emerged from applications developed by external developers. Apple resisted releasing the developer tools initially but since then applications (both free and paid for) within iTunes have flourished. These will also be available for the iPad
  • stubbornness – nobody asked for the ipod – we had perfectly good walkmans. Apple just showed the way.
  • never resting on their laurels – Apple could have sat back and basked in the glory of the ipod and iphone. They are still selling by their millions. But no, they pushed forward with the iPad to change the game once again
  • building new markets – the publishing industry may be changed beyond measure. Magazines and books may be consumed in new ways.

What have I missed?

Manchester sparks further innovation with FABLAB launch

 

FABLAB as an institution is news to me but it sounds like a fantastic idea and – even better – they’ve recently opened their first UK based FABLAB in Ancoats, Manchester.

FABLABs offers a mini hi-tech factory where people or companies can design and create pretty much….. anything using latest 3D machine cutters and technology. There are now over 35 FABLABs in existence across the globe in as varied locations as Afghanistan, Russia and Columbia. The first FABLAB was set up in Boston, US by Neil Gershenfeld (as featured in the above short video). 

What is really exciting about FABLAB as an innovative concept is:

  • accessibility to latest cutting edge technology for local individuals, companies, community projects and kids – for FREE!
  • local problem-solving capability for local businesses, individuals etc
  • hands on education – for kids. (For everyone involved).
  • global connectivity of ideas – a global video network allows ideas and knowledge to be spread between FABLABs
  • empowerment of local manufacturing rather than outsourcing the manufacturing process overseas – typically to the Far East
  • environmental benefits of local manufacturing (see point above)
  • democratisation of creativity given the ease of access and low barriers to entry (cost, accessibility and available technology) to design and manufacture.

There have already been some local Manchester success stories using the Manchester FABLAB including the Sky Baby folding travel cot and the Crackit Bat ultralight beach cricket bat.

With the aim of empowering anyone to make anything anywhere – I can only wish FABLABs every success!

Being the Best in the World (in the right sector and at the right time)

I was deeply saddened by the news that an ex-client of mine was placed into administration this week. A large multinational manufacturing business with over 200 UK employees based in Ellesmere Port. What makes this news particularly saddening is that the company was the best in the world at what it did –  but there was a (known) problem…

It was part of a global group who were the world leaders in manufacturing newspaper print. It served a severely declining sector. What turned out to be the wrong sector.

I have another client who is the best in the world at providing sound equipment for film and music studios. They have a growing pipeline of orders as cinemas continue to evolve and grow their offerings, such as the recent 3D Avatar movie (for which they incidentally supplied the audio equipment). They had been through some tough times over the past 5-10 years when the movie industry was in the doldrums but now they are in the right sector at the right time (again).

All industry sectors have their peaks and troughs. Look at the dot.com boom and bust. Who would have thought the banks could have got themselves in such a state? We have neither the time nor the ability to gaze into crystall balls but we can:

  • Strive to become the best in the world in our chosen niche
  •  Look out for changing trends in customer behaviour or practise
  • Avoid deluding ourselves if we spot that external factors (e.g. competitors, trends, government policies etc) are moving against us -then take action
  • Stay nimble and flexible so that we can change direction, reinvent etc as necessary
  • Watch cash – you never know when you might need that buffer
  • Never feel comfortable. Never bury your head in the sand
  • Listen to your customers and team
  • Continually reinvest in that next killer idea for a service or product

There are disproportionate rewards for those businesses that can become best in the world in their sector. The trick is to remember that things never stay the same and that you must continually invest in seeking that next best in the world product or service. Reinvention. Always.

Design Thinking for Business – Lessons from Apple’s ipad

We are tentatively emerging from a painful recession yet the masses (myself included!) are salivating over Apple‘s latest creation – the Apple ipad.

It’s a snip at just $499 but we seem to forget that most people already have perfectly decent laptops or PCs at home. Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that millions of these things will fly off the shelf once released later this year – but why? What is it that Apple have become so masterful at that they can create a roaring demand for something that people don’t (truly) need?

For me, there are 3 key traits of the ipod – iphone -ipad:

  1. Design
  2. Experience
  3. Simplicity

Underpinning all 3 is the willingness to strip commonly accepted everyday items down to their bare bones and to start again – true innovation thinking.  They did this with the mp3 player, the mobile phone and now the laptop / netbook.

So what lessons can we learn from Apple’s approach to business?

  1. Design thinking = fantastic user experience = Salivating customers / owners = Mad raving fans. How cool is the stuff you make or the experiences your services provide? Are your prospects salivating…?
  2. Build the fire and the heat will come People will always pay for or reinvest in beautifully designed stuff and experiences (we’re not rational beings! we even purchase or change service providers when we already have something that functionally achieves the same objectives). In a crowded and fast moving market, Apple just shifted the goal-posts…again
  3. KISSKeep It Simple Stupid. Apple constantly re-engineers products to reduce complexity and get back to basics
  4. Mix old with new to help transition customers from what they’re used to – see how the ibooks are made to look like normal paged books as you thumb through the pages to help transition traditional book reading purists. Experience is everything (for everyone)
  5. Keep adapting and driving forward. It would have been easy for Apple to sit back and keep tweaking their iphone. Instead they took the riskier option. Today it’s more risky to play safe.

What’s your take on the launch of the ipad and ensuing media frenzy? Why has it captured everyone’s attention? As entrepreneurs, business owners and ambitious employees, what lessons can we learn from this?

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