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Innovating by Fusing Reality and Virtual Reality: Joe Pine #3DXForum

Point: Looking at the opposites of everyday constraints yields new opportunities for innovation.

Story: Companies typically see time, space and matter as constraints. That’s not surprising — those three elements define the boundaries of our everyday reality. But what if we  saw them not as constraints but as malleable resources for innovation?

That’s the mind-bending proposition Joe Pine presented at Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Forum. Lest you dismiss Pine as a wide-eyed dreamer, recall that his book, Mass Customization, introduced a seemingly impossible paradox when it was released in 1992, but that concept is now so widely implemented that it’s a de rigueur business practice.  The fusion of opposites provides opportunities for innovation.

So how do we utilize time, space and matter for innovation? Pine lays out the steps in his latest book, Infinite Possibility. The way forward, Pine says, is to play with the opposites of time, space and matter, namely no-time, no-space and no-matter.  Whereas time, space and matter constitute our usual realm of Reality, no-time, no-space and no-matter constitute a new realm of pure Virtual Reality

If we fuse reality and virtual reality in various mix-and-match combinations, then we can come up with a host of new products, services and, most importantly, customer experiences.  Using these three dimensions, Pine details an eight-realm new universe (“multiverse”) that pairs eight combinations of time vs. no-time, space vs. no-space, matter vs. no-matter.

Let’s start by exploring a realm that is only one step removed from reality, what Pine calls “Augmented Reality.”  Compared to reality, which has time, space and matter, Augmented Reality has time, space and no-matter.  The “no-matter” condition refers to the information that is overlaid onto reality.

Here’s an example: say you’re driving down the street in a city unfamiliar to you. You are in a real space and in a real time. But, you can use a device to overlay information (“no-matter”) onto that current reality. That is, you can use a GPS navigation aid to show you where the nearest bakery is.  The GPS gives you data (“no-matter”) that you can’t see yet in the real world (a bakery around the corner a few blocks away). With that information, your reality is augmented — you can navigate to the bakery and get the cupcake you crave. 

Companies can apply these concepts to new product development. For example, what new products or enhanced experiences could you create in Augmented Reality? Dassault Systemes’ CEO Bernard Charles demonstrated one such product, 3DParis.  With this app, you can stroll the streets of Paris and see an overlay of your current street in olden times — 2000 years of Parisian history showing you how the street you’re walking down looked, say during the time of the French Revolution in 1789.

That’s a playful consumer app; the same principles apply to hardcore business operations, such as airplane repair.  Consider an app that lets mechanics point an iPhone at a distant airplane on the tarmac and get an immediate overlay of the maintenance and repairs that need to be done for that specific plane. 

 

Action

  • Look for ways to virtualize your product, service, or business along one or more of the three dimensions of time, space and matter.  Break the constraints on the “when,” “where,” and “what.”
  • Consider ways to replace or enhance the matter of a product, service, or business with data, graphics, and manipulated versions of reality

1 Comment »Growth, Innovation, New Product Development, Opportunity, Social Media, Software tool

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

Learning Across Industries

Point: To successfully apply another company’s best practices, select a company that matches your organization on essential dimensions.

Story: RailTex Service Company (now RailAmerica) was experiencing fast growth and wanted to know: “How have other companies handled fast growth?”  Could lessons learned by other companies be applied to our organization?

Railtex was already at the leading edge of railroad industry, so limiting themselves to learning from other railroad companies would be too restrictive. So how did Railtex find suitable companies in other industries to learn from?  Railtex first listed the features of its situation and then identified companies that matched those features.  That way, the lessons learned would be more likely to apply to Railtex as well. Railtex listed the features:

  • growth by acquisitions
  • independent managers run each line business
  • incentive-based compensation
  • a team concept
  • senior executives at a remote location.

Bob Lende, Railtex’s Vice President of Finance at the time, found that Luby’s Cafeterias paralleled Railtex on all the listed features.  Luby’s had 100 cafeterias and was adding one a month.  Railtex expected such growth as well.  Railtex contacted Luby’s executives, who were proud to talk about how they handled their growth.  The lessons were applicable to Railtex because Railtex found a match with Luby’s in size, type of growth, and management style.  Both were growing by adding geographic locations in a franchise-type way.

Action:

  • Decide what it is that you want to learn.  For example, do you want to improve a process?
  • Choose a learning partner.  You don’t have to limit yourself to other companies in your industry.  Rather, choose companies that have succeeded in accomplishing what you want to accomplish and look for company features that match your company.  Like Railtex matched Luby’s Cafeterias, look for firms that match your company on features like size, budget and culture.  The more features that match, the easier it will be for you to adapt the partner’s lessons to your situation.
  • Decide what you can offer the partner in return. What does your company do well that you can teach others?
  • Go with a goal. If you will be visiting another company, go there with a goal in mind. A goal will help you focus your observations.
  • Share your findings throughout your company. By reporting what you have learned, you’ll not only be spreading the knowledge throughout the company, but you’ll also be clarifying and defining the key learnings for yourself.

No Comments »Case study, Growth, How-to

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