For this session our Eastern Leaders 2021 programme participants were joined by Paul Taylor, co-founder at Bromford Lab, an innovation hub that brings people together to conceive, champion, and carefully develop new approaches that have not been tried before. Paul has extensive experience in strategy development, marketing, communications, customer experience and product design, and is a regular speaker and adviser on innovation.
Paul set out some approaches for our participants to identify any potential barriers which may affect their EL2021 project launches and offer some expert advice on driving a successful project to fruition. Many of these insights could apply to other individuals, groups or teams looking to launch a new initiative, and we are sharing some of Paul’s knowledge and expertise with our wider network.
“Innovation isn’t about ideas. It’s about the right solution, for the right people, at the right time.” – Paul Taylor, Bromford Lab
Identifying the right people for the solution you are trying to propose is absolutely imperative, but the timing of that idea is crucial. If the first time you introduce an idea isn’t received well, it might not be the idea that’s wrong, but the timing, or the people weren’t the right fit. You won’t know how your idea or initiative going to be received without testing it and putting it out there in the real world, and it’s important to get it out there and tested quickly at the beginning stages, so you can get some initial feedback on it. Something that was tried two years ago before the pandemic might be ripe for taking forward now. Conversely, know when to give up or when the timing is not right and when to change direction.
You don’t need to find a solution for everybody
One mistake people often make is to think too generically and try to find a solution for everybody, but you only need to solve the problem for the people who really need it and who it will really make a difference to. It’s common to think that because something has been tried before it won’t work this time, but the timing may not have been right before, so don’t get disheartened.
The features of a good idea:
Pauls discussed several key elements which make up a typically successful idea, three of which are detailed below:
- The cost of the solution should be less than the cost of the problem, not just financially, but time and convenience-wise as well.
- There should be no easily available alternatives that are ‘just good enough’ – there are so many products on the market that ‘do the job’ effectively and people are familiar with them, so tend to stick with these products.
- The risk of your idea should be manageable – if you are aware of the risks you can take steps to negate them.
Hopefully when you put your ideas into actions things won’t go wrong, but sometimes they do, and it’s important to understand the difference between the innovation stage, where things are less serious, and the implementation stage. There is a difference between the values of innovation (for instance, openness, diversity, experimentation, play) and values of production (i.e. quality, precision, success, dependability). At the ideas stage, you might be playing around with ideas, and everything feel very experimental, however, when it comes to applying these ideas into a real-world environment, this becomes more serious, and you need to get things right.
Understanding the different stages and overcoming barriers
Any barriers and frustrations you might be facing in the initial stages of your idea or proposal are very natural experiences to be going through at this stage, and it would be more unusual if you were not facing these issues at the beginning.
One example might be the possible barrier of not acquiring enough data during the research stages, however, some of the best research you can create is organic, by simply talking to people, either the phone, or knocking on people’s doors, to get some initial feedback. Starter organisations are very good at testing out a hypothesis and creating a mock-up of a product to see if it has potential to gain legs. Larger organisations might apply the same technique. Amazon, for example, usually start by moving backwards, creating a press release of a product or service they haven’t yet marketed and gauging the reaction from their employees and customers. This a good way of finding out how people might react to the idea, or to see if the cost of creating the solution is greater or less than the problem.
“For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong” – H.L. Mencken
A lot of the issues we face in this world are quite complex, and when dealing with complex problems, there is a danger that we can try to make solutions too simple. It’s important to learn to live with ambiguity, and to understand that we may not know how this idea or situation will turn out, and that’s OK. This might feel difficult, as when we take ideas back to our own business, generally, they want to see the answer and the solution clearly before agreeing to take it forward. But it’s important to be aware that when we live with ambiguity and accept that we don’t know all the answers immediately, we tend to end up finding more workable solutions later down the line.
This blog takes excerpts from the Eastern Leaders 2021 Programme Masterclass ‘Moving ideas into Action’ with Paul Taylor. If you’d like to learn more about the Leadership Development Programme with Greenacre Consult, or would like to contact Paul about the work he does with Bromford Lab, please feel free to get in touch.