Archive for the 'CEO' Category

Pixar: Space as an Instrument for Collaboration

Point: Design physical spaces for unplanned collaborations that spark creativity.

Story: One place to look for advice on designing physical spaces for creativity and collaboration is Stanford’s design school, the birthplace of design thinking as we know it today. (The term dates back to Herbert Simon’s 1969 book, The Sciences of the Artificial and was further explained by Robert McKim’s book, Experiences in Visual Thinking, but it was Stanford’s Rolf Faste and David Kelley who popularized the term and applied it to business.)

Now, Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft, co-directors of the Environments Collaborative at the d.school, have written a book, Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration that’s full of advice and case studies of these creative spaces.

David Kelley, founder of IDEO and of the d.school, writes in the book’s forward: “Regardless of whether it’s a classroom or the offices of a billion-dollar company, space is something to think of as an instrument for innovation and collaboration. Space is a valuable tool that can help you create deep and meaningful collaborations in your work and life.”

Example: Pixar
A real-life example of a physical space that encourages creative collaboration is the building that houses Pixar, the computer animation studio that created innovative, Academy-award-winning blockbuster films like Toy Story, Monsters and Finding Nemo.

As Walter Isaacson writes in his biography of Steve Jobs, Jobs designed the Pixar building to promote encounters and unplanned collaborations. “If a building doesn’t encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and magic that’s sparked by serendipity,” Jobs said. “So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.”  The front doors and main stairs and corridors all lead to a central atrium, where a cafe and employee mailboxes are located as well.

John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, confirmed the success of the building’s layout: “Steve’s theory worked from day one. I kept running into people I hadn’t seen for months. I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”

Action

  • Create open spaces and natural gathering places that draw people out of their offices and into the collaborative social space.
  • Organize entrances, stairways, and passage ways to intersect in ways that encourage random encounters and mingling (help people congregate rather than segregate).
  • Offer movable walls, whiteboards on wheels, lightweight movable furniture (put things on casters), and other flexible objects to encourage reconfiguration and organic development of the work environment.

3 Comments »Case study, CEO, Creativity, How-to, Innovation

Intuit’s High-Velocity Experiments

Point: Fast-cycle experiments let companies create the best product/service offering with the least risk.

Story: At the World Innovation Forum, Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit, described his company’s culture of high-velocity experimentation. Intuit uses an experiment-driven decision-making process throughout the organization. Rather than expect executives and managers to know all the answers, Intuit uses large numbers of low-cost experiments to test new product, service, and marketing ideas.

To illustrate how high-velocity experimentation works in organizations, Cook described how the concept works in Intuit’s 20-person online TurboTax unit.  In the past, this unit ran about 7 experiments during the annual three-month tax filing season.  Now they run 140 experiments.  Not only do they run more experiments, but they run each experiment on a fast cycle so that they can accumulate results and grow more knowledge during each season. Intuit created a weekly cycle for developing, testing, and analyzing experiments that lets each experiment create new information that feeds into the next set of experiments the next week.

Fast experimentation also improves employees’ sense of engagement and ownership.  In the past when the 20-person team did only seven experiments per year, the average team member might only have one of “their” experiments run once every three years.  But with new high-velocity approach, each employee creates and tests a new idea once every two weeks.

Paradoxially, running more experiments and getting more failures lowers the fear and cost of failure.  When a company runs only a few experiments — and every change or new product really is an experiment — then each experiment matters a lot more to the company and to the employees working on that experiment.  If an employee works for more than a year on a single big experiment, then the failure of that experiment surely has an impact on the employee’s career, even if the company professes to permit failure.  But if an employee works on many quick experiments that steadily improve organizational performance, then the success or failure of individual experiments matters little.

In Intuit’s case, 89% of experiments fail, and yet the online TurboTax unit increased conversions by 50% and successfully created a widely-lauded smartphone app that lets people do their entire tax preparation — from taking photos of tax documents, to automatically putting numbers in the right boxes, to electronically filing their forms — all on a smartphone.  The hundreds of tiny experiments let the TurboTax unit tweak and test many variations to come up with the best offering.

Action

  • Trust experiments rather than experts to find the truth in a dynamic and volatile business environment.
  • Teach individuals how to perform cheap experiments by finding and testing the key assumptions behind every new idea rather than building one big new product.
  • Use large numbers of low-cost experiments to both grow knowledge and improve employee engagement.
  • Create an accelerated cycle of experiments to reduce time-to-knowledge and time-to-market.
  • Coach executives to become experiment-seekers — to use experimentation as a key decision-making tool.

1 Comment »Case study, CEO, Customers, Growth, How-to, Innovation, New Product Development, Software tool

Mayo Clinic’s Collaborative Innovation Process

Point: Collaboration between doctors, patients, designers and lab technicians brings healthcare delivery breakthroughs.

Story: The inspiring origins of the Mayo Clinic illustrate the timelessness of collaborative innovation. Back in the 1880s, two brothers, Will and Charles Mayo, founded the clinic with their father, Dr. William Worrall Mayo, and introduced the concept of a group practice.  The Mayos sought medical breakthroughs by bringing together doctors, laboratory experts, and business people. As the younger Will Mayo said, “In order that the sick may have the benefit of advancing knowledge, a union of forces is necessary.”

Today, we have the fruits of many medical breakthroughs but need better ways to deliver the breakthroughs in efficient and effective ways.   Many chronic diseases, like diabetes, can be treated but depend on more than just a one-shot procedure in a doctor’s office or hospital.  For these conditions, healthcare delivery requires education and engagement between doctors and patients.  The quest for new breakthroughs in healthcare delivery calls for a new round of collaborative innovation, embodied by the Mayo Clinic’s SPARC unit.

The Mayo Clinic uses SPARC to develop new services for patients.  SPARC stands for See, Plan, Act, Refine, Communicate.  Mayo believes in a fast prototyping approach: a crossfunctional team of doctors, industrial designers, patient education experts, facilities people and financial analysts work together to create new ideas and test them in the “Hub.” The collaboration includes some of the usual healthcare and research leaders, like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, University of Minnesota, MIT, Yale, and GE Healthcare.  But it also attracts collaborators from industry, such as IDEO, Best Buy, Steelcase, Microsoft, and Cisco.

The Hub creates reconfigurable prototypes of patient check-in counters and examination rooms. The team that develops a new service can observe the prototypes in action through glass and via video.  “We take research out of the laboratory and translate it in a very quick and meaningful way right to the patient’s bedside,” said Dr. Glen Forbes, CEO of Mayo’s Rochester, MN campus. “That takes a lot of collaboration, because you’re crossing cultures and you’re often times crossing a lot of internal organization structures and silos.”

Most crucially, the Mayo Clinic engages patients to accelerate innovation.  “Our patients have a long history of participating in our research and education endeavors,” says Barbara Spurrier, Administrative Director, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation.  The Mayo uses ethnographic techniques to analyze the quality of doctor-patient interactions, survey patients for their impressions, and talk to patient’s families.  Human-centered design thinking ensures that the innovations aren’t just technically correct, they deliver higher quality of life for patients.

Action:

  • Find a gap between technology and society, such as the gap between the capabilities of a technology (e.g., a medical treatment) and the delivery of that technology (e.g., a patient’s compliance)
  • Recruit collaborators from both the technology side and the people side to bridge the gap
  • Create tangible and testable examples of innovations through visualization, modeling and rapid prototyping
  • Use both hard science and soft science methods to gain both objective and subjective feedback for further innovations

For more information:

Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation Partnerships

Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman, Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations, 2008

Evan Rosen, The Culture of Collaboration: Maximizing the Time, Talent and Tools to Create Value in the Global Economy, 2009

Glenn S. Forbes, M.D.

Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota partnership

No Comments »Case study, CEO, How-to, Innovation, open innovation, Strategy

Next »