Archive for the Tag 'innovation process'

Lencioni: Arguing for Innovation

Point: Teams that create the best innovations know how to disagree about ideas without interpreting the disagreement as a personal affront.

Story: “I feel good when I see that engineering, advertising and manufacturing are really surfacing and talking about their differences,” said the VP of Technology at a successful $100 million firm.  “It’s my job to keep the dialectic alive.”

When we see companies moving swiftly, anticipating changes in the marketplace and developing new products or services to meet the change, we’re tempted to think of the company as moving in harmonious agreement toward that new product or service.

But the surprising fact is that companies that innovate the fastest are actually those that invite debate over ideas.  It’s not aPatrickPhoto destructive conflict, but an airing of different views on a topic.  Whereas conflict based on personality differences is destructive, healthy conflict focuses on refining a proposed idea. Healthy conflict gets a team out of group-think. It tests and challenges assumptions. Team members share different points of view.  As Patrick Lencioni, speaking at the 2009 World Business Forum said, “productive debate over issues is good for a team.”  Disagreeing on issues make things uncomfortable but it builds clarity. “If you don’t have conflict on a team, you don’t get commitment,” Lencioni said.  “If people don’t weigh in, they won’t buy in.” When team members challenge assumptions and point out the flaws of an idea, they improve the idea; the end result is a more robust idea.

To ensure that the conflict stays at the level of idea, not personal attack, Lencioni advises using a team assessment.  Using an instrument like Myers-Briggs, team members learn their own communication styles and the styles of others. Knowing each other’s personality style helps avoid personal conflict. If you know that Joe is generally quiet or that Jane always bulldozes in, you’re less likely to take offense at what is actually that person’s communication style.

Action:
* Don’t suppress or circumvent conflict – the best ideas are forged during the “working out” of such conflicts.
* Give the team an assessment tool like Myers-Briggs to help member understand each other’s styles communication styles, strengths and weaknesses
* Encourage healthy debate.  Peter Drucker recounted  how Alfred P. Sloan, legendary CEO of GM, handled this:

“Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here,” Sloan said. After everyone around the table nodded affirmatively, Sloan continued: “Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”

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How Boston Scientific Accelerates Innovation

Point: Capture, share and reuse knowledge to make R&D engineers more productive

Story:

At Power to Innovate 2009, Boston Scientific’s Randy Schiestl (VP of R&D) and Jude Currier (Cardiovascular Knowledge Management & Innovation Practices Lead) described how Boston Scientific is redesigning its innovation processes. The goal: to accelerate time to market, increase the productivity of innovators, and reduce costs and risks.

Boston Scientific is an $8 billion company committed to delivering innovative medical technologies that improve the quality of patient care as well as healthcare productivity. The company has a broad portfolio of 13,000 products. The new products in its pipeline include drug coated stents, bare metal stents, catheter and bio-absorbable technology.

In the past, Boston Scientific drove innovation from business strategy to technology development to product development. In this staged approach, engineers created technology-driven products that were then shown to business units and customers at the prototype stage. The trouble with this process was that the later groups often found gaps or risks in the proposed product late in the product development process. As a result, the company had to spend more money than expected putting out fires while trying to hold to a launch schedule.  Boston Scientific decided to change its innovation process to bring more knowledge and resources into the earlier stages of innovation.

As part of the new innovation process, Boston Scientific began bringing in key “voices” into the innovation process earlier. By getting these voices — the voice of the customer, the voice of the business unit, and the voice of regulatory bodies — earlier, the company uncovered its knowledge gaps and risks much sooner. The second part of Boston Scientific’s innovation process redesign gave employees access and pointers to relevant information, whether that information resided in a document or in the tacit knowledge of an expert. The goal here was to reduce the amount of time engineers spend looking for knowledge. Schiestl said engineers spend 30% of their time looking for relavant knowledge. To improve upon that, Boston Scientific used Goldfire (innovation software from Invention Machine) to capture, share and reuse knowledge.  Goldfire’s semantic technology automatically categorizes concepts can and ties relevant intelligence to specific innovation initiatives. For example, engineers used Goldfire to identify past research and then validate whether that research could be repurposed. The result: Boston Scientific engineers who used Goldfire spent only 10 percent of their time researching intelligence, compared to 20-30 percent by non-Goldfire users.

Boston Scientific’s new innovation process illustrates what Mark Atkins, CEO of Invention Machine, called an innovation intelligence ecosystem.  This ecosystem represents the aggregate of information, communities, and processes that collectively contribute to innovation. Here’s how it works: using innovation software like Invention Machine’s Goldfire, companies capture and reuse information and intellectual capital created by employees as well as by external sources. Goldfire further enables collaboration by accurately reconstructing a user’s past thinking and research process, making it visible and explicit to other users. Employees avoid reinventing or duplicating research already done, thus saving time and improving innovation productivity.

Boston Scientific shared two examples of its success using Goldfire and the company’s new innovation processes. First, the company improved the design of cardiac stents to reduce a patient’s injury-response to the device. By combining knowledge from across the innovation ecosystem, the company mapped key clinical knowledge about heart disease and how different heart artery conditions affect the patient outcomes with different stent designs.

In the second example, Boston Scientific used Goldfire to solve a technical problem in manufacturing that was reducing product yields.  Using Goldfire, Boston Scientific found that previously undocumented thermocapillary effects were leading to clogged spray nozzles. By understanding the physics of the cause, Boston Scientific was able to make a simple change to the manufacturing line to eliminate the clogging and thereby improve yields.

Action:

  • Uncover all the “voices” that have a say in the success of innovations (the voice of the customer, voice of technologists, voice of manufacturing, voice of regulatory compliance, etc.).  Connect key people and communities in a more collaborative, sharing-oriented environment
  • Identify, organize, and access information (internal and external) needed by these communities to do their innovation-related work.
  • Develop knowledge and innovation processes that find and resolve knowledge gaps or risks early in the innovation process.

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