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.

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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.

 

Just finished the first phase of a really rewarding project working with a Czech controls company, a global leader in their field, helping them to refine their R&D and NPD processes to underpin their new market strategy and to think through the organisational implications.  We worked up draft designs for their budgeting, R&D and NPD processes and, over the next few months, we will roll these out in conjunction with a revised product strategy.  They are adopting roadmapping as a way of planning and co-ordinating platforms and products across their markets and developing project management processes for projects of all scales – from platform development to a quick customisation job.  We also worked through the organisation and change management implications for roll-out.

 

Working within a youthful company with a strong corporate culture of innovation and responsiveness, it’ll be fun to develop new ways of working and prototype them via their multidisciplinary task force.  That’s next.

What are the primary technologies needed by the UK rail supply chain to respond to the Rail Technology Strategy?  What capabilities can be imported from adjacent sectors?  And what actions might be taken to strengthen the supply chain to enable ‘UK plc’ to develop a world-class railway and compete in international markets?

I subcontracted to the Arthur D Little / WS Atkins team that addressed these and other questions for the Engineering Innovation Team – the reports can be found at www.futurerailway.org/eit/Pages/Strategic-Programmes.aspx

Complex issues, technology projection coupled with evolving business models, sector strategy meets innovation strategy with government, industry and corporate players, creating a picture of a possible future, and all this among many stakeholders of widely varying viewpoints.

Working alongside a specialist innovation consultancy we identified and characterised directions for radical innovation for a European sensor manufacturer.  We gave them a portfolio of options, helped them choose the most promising and then worked up some candidate directions for them.  One of the criteria was the defensibility of new IPR embodied in the chosen development direction – so the lead they’ll build will be sustainable and all the more valuable.