Look for Positive Deviancy within your Community

Positive Deviance (PD) is an idea which is based on the observed principle that in any community there are people who adopt unusual and successful approaches to problems that beset the whole community. These people are the ‘positive deviants.’ The PD approach was developed by Jerry and Monique Sternin with the charity Save the Children in Vietnam in the 1990s. They worked in villages where 64%... Read More--

The Chinese Takeaway Lesson – Repetition gives Clarity

Speaking at the Chief Innovation Officers Summit in London, Chris Loughlan, Head of Innovation at the National Health Service, told a story about a quality improvement technique borrowed from a strange source but now adopted in hospitals.  Say you go to a Chinese takeaway restaurant and order two spring rolls, one duck in ginger and an egg fried rice.  The Chinese assistant will repeat the order... Read More--

Put Your Very Best People on Innovation Projects

Many businesses make the mistake of giving innovation projects to junior executives. It seems natural to hand innovation opportunities to enthusiastic and promising upstarts. But generally it is the experienced heavyweights who can overcome all the process and political obstacles that will occur. In September 1999 Lou Gerstner, CEO of IBM, read a line buried deep in a report which said that current... Read More--

Make Your Own Products Obsolete – Before Someone Else Does

The fear of ‘cannibalisation’ has prevented many a promising idea. And yet it seems clear that if you do not cannibalise your own product line with better, cheaper, faster, more effective or more appealing products then your competitors surely will. American radio manufacturers dominated the radio market in the early 1950s. They knew about transistor technology but did not develop it as... Read More--

Every Problem is an Opportunity for Innovation

Sometimes you can snatch an innovation victory from a problem or a potential business defeat. Japan Railways East is one of the world’s largest rail carriers. During the 1980s they constructed a new high-speed railway line running north of Tokyo. This involved drilling a long tunnel under a huge mountain, Mount Tanigawa. Once the tunnel was constructed the company encountered problems with water... Read More--

Try Perpetual Beta for Continuous Innovation

Whatever your product or service think of it as a piece of software. Now put it into a state of perpetual beta.   This is a term used by software developers meaning that the product is never fully finished. Although it is released, the software remains in a permanent state of advanced development and customer testing. A key part of its development is iterative improvement based on user feedback.... Read More--

What can the Edinburgh Fringe teach us about Entrepreneurship?

Have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe?  It is a remarkable experience.  The Fringe is the world’s largest annual Arts Festival.  There are some 3000 different shows featuring comedy, theatre, music, dance, magic and improv.  There is no selection committee (in their terms it is unjuried).  Any type of performer with any type of act can participate.  This means that it has become an experimental... Read More--

Should you base your Innovations on your Competencies or your Customers’ Needs?

Should you base your new product or service development on your technical expertise, the things that you are good at, or on the needs of your customer, even if those needs are in areas where you have little or no strength? How should you go about new product development? Where is the place to invest your precious and limited resources? Ideally you should build new products or services that play to... Read More--

Expand your business by looking for a distant relation

Most businesses look for new opportunities in obvious places, adjacent to their current position. They typically ask two questions: 1. What new markets can we sell our existing products or services into? 2. What new products or services can we sell to our existing customers? These are perfectly valid questions. You should ask them and you explore the possibilities that the answers bring. But don’t... Read More--

Overcoming a Blame Culture

A culture in which people are blamed for their failures and mistakes is highly damaging for innovation and for learning. If staff are worried that the finger will be pointed at them for trying things that don’t work then they will not try them. And if people are scared of recriminations they will not own up to errors and mistakes which means that an opportunity for improvement and learning is missed. This... Read More--