Having taken on the role of interim R&D Director at ComAp we spent the year further developing R&D, the product and project portfolio, the processes and, most importantly, the people. As well as launching several important products, we planted some seeds for the future which I’ll be able to discuss as they bear fruit in due course. I was delighted to hand R&D across to Radim Girgas at the beginning of 2016 and I moved across to look after product management. I remain on the Executive Team as Product Director.

Also on the advisory board of a small Cambridge consultancy.

Meanwhile the work helping Cambridge academics to engage more effectively with industry moved into its final year. This has continued to be fun and rewarding, working with some brilliant people and exciting technologies.

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Trends in Megatrends

December 31, 2014

An article written with Rick Eagar and Camille Demyttenaere of Arthur D Little, building on some work done in the last quarter of 2014: http://www.adlittle.com/sites/default/files/prism/The_Trends_in_Megatrends_9.pdf

Two cycles of a couple of days each, tucked away in the Leicestershire countryside working with the senior and the middle management teams of a long-standing client. We reviewed the strategy and the business plan and its implications, renewed the cohesiveness of the teams, overhauled the teams’ working practices and refreshed links between the teams and with the Board. It has been both fascinating and rewarding to work with these teams as they have developed over the last few years and to see the evolution in maturity and effectiveness of the teams and their members.

After five years of working with them I think they’d benefit from a change in their facilitator’s perspective to take them further so I have stepped aside and suggested they find an alternative facilitator to offer them different things. It won’t be the end of the relationship because I hope to continue to provide informal coaching to the Chief Exec and others, and have been invited back for specific workshops in future. But definitely a sense of losing touch with a community of friends.

I so enjoyed working with the team that when they asked me to join as R&D Director I jumped at the chance. The role is part-time and interim to enable me to continue my consulting activities in parallel.

You’re bogged down in IT, you can see many ways in which innovation can support your colleagues in other functions across the company. But how do you get traction to broaden your remit to add the value that you’re sure is there?

  • Build your senior sponsorship to clear blocks and ease the way
  • Rebalance your current portfolio of activity to get the space to do so (reassuring colleagues they’ll still get the ‘narrow’ IT support they expect)
  • Change the culture and beliefs in the team (or divide people into teams to deliver the ‘traditional’ and the ‘new’)
  • Look at corporate processes to find the leverage points for the most effective innovation interventions
  • Find some examples from outside about how others are innovating to address the sorts of problems your colleagues face – so painting a picture of a possible future

Our client did the first three and we (I worked alongside a Cambridge consultancy specialising in innovation) helped with the last two.

Next steps for the client are to find opportunities for quick wins and continue the process of building understanding across the company of how the innovation team can help, get commitment to investment (and returns), and develop the capability of the team to deliver.

Earlier this year, worked for a small infrastructure company helping them to refine their strategy and optimise the synergies between their service provision and their use of assets under management. I also worked with the Executive Team to revitalise their team performance, working with their personal aspirations and their team role profiles to explore new ways of working more effectively together in the context of the new strategy. With the Executive Team aligned, I then worked with the service teams to build their picture of how they contribute to the whole and how their careers might unfold inside the company. The end result is a re-enthused and more effective team at Executive level with functional teams now aligned with the strategy and working well together.

Having done a first ‘definition and scoping’ phase with the Czech controls company (concurrently.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/rd-new-product-development-process-design-portfolio-development-and-organisation-development/) we then went on to a ‘feasibility phase’ which finished at the end of March. One of the most rewarding assignments I’ve ever done, with a great team from the client – a team that put in an amazing amount of work in parallel with ‘the day job’. We developed draft roadmaps and roadmapping processes for markets and products, processes for technology strategy and for new product development, a new organisational structure to support the new processes and the change management plans for the transition. We not only did the designs and tested them, we also built a team of enthusiasts for the new ways of working, each of whom will be key advocates as we move forward.

We finished the phase with a formal ‘stage gate’ meeting chaired by the Managing Director to present the results, to confirm feasibility and to present plans for the next stage. So we’re using a stage gate philosophy to design and roll out a stage gate process.

Now we begin the implementation phase.

Idea generation

April 17, 2014

Working alongside a leading Cambridge innovation consultancy, contributed to idea generation for radical new ways of ….

Nope, can’t talk about that one.

Working with a specialist innovation consultancy (my fourth collaboration with them), we used their proprietary tools for structured innovation to identify several minor and one breakthrough innovation opportunity for a Midlands-based industrial machinery manufacturer serving very mature global markets. By conducting a formal functional decomposition and then mapping out the performance implications for their products we were able to show a promising and radical new innovation direction for the firm, together with a number of minor quick wins.

Now, what’s the risk trade-off? Product cannibalisation? Shift in business model as well? Defensibility? And if it opens up a new segment, how best to exploit that? Decisions, decisions…

A swift review of practices in Cambridge University and elsewhere to understand the keys to success in secondment and other forms of staff transfer between academia and industry.  A fascinating exploration of the whys and hows of a whole variety of relationships between Cambridge and its partners, I’ve extracted several key messages that will help the University to design their new secondment programme, due to start in early 2014.  Interesting also to see how industry gets the best value from the research they fund with the University and how best to get result embedded.  The big wins seem to arise when academics develop a deep understanding of the realities of their industrial partners and then find new and very rewarding opportunities.  Some see it as lucky serendipity – but the best people manage for it.