Yesterday, I went to the NESTA event ‘Engaging Communities in Public Service Innovation in Scotland‘.
After good food and discussion, the afternoon was opened by Campbell Christie of the Christie Commission (Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services) telling us about the work of the Commission to date.
There is still a time for submissions, and he was seeking evidence on the following:

  • The effectivenesss of multi-function outcome-focused teams;
  • Co-production, working together (cf.  NESTA report);
  • More general use of outcomes e.g. for governance, budgets, professional standards, performance.

There was then a panel session chaired by Stian Westlake – Executive Director for Policy & Research, NESTA.
On the panel were:
Karyn McCluskey – Violence Reduction Unit, Strathclyde Police
Jim McCormick – Scotland Adviser, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Alex Massie – The Spectator
Lorraine McMillan – Chief Executive, East Renfrewshire Council

The questions were many and varied, and the panel offered wide-ranging insights and experience without rants or rambles. In my experience, panel sessions often fail and NESTA deserves credit for this one’s success.

Karyn McCluskey told of the power of re-perception, thinking about violence as a disease.

Gordon Hall of the Deming Learning Network asked a ‘systems thinking’ question about the need to move from top-down command and control, based on its submissions to the Commission. This got nods of agreement from the panel but not the discussion the topic warranted. Some of the experiences quoted during the afternoon sounded  like co-production and personalization were being grafted onto the existing silos, and not part of a move to an outside-in organization, with  its attendant simplification.

From an Argenta point of view,

  • Our approach to developing ‘creative intrapreneurs’ found resonance in discussion.  For us, an intrapreneur is an employee of a large organisation who has many of the characteristics of the start-up entrepreneur in that he/she has the desire and the skills to turn invention into innovation using the resources and capabilities of the organisation, despite the rigidities of behaviour and process that are commonly found in large enterprises.
  • The need to ‘build capacity in a short time’ is certainly  a familiar challenge.
  • Alan Drummond was delighted to hear that Lorraine McMillan had been a physicist concerned with technical innovation in a previous life!

    For me, the highlight was the question from Jim in the audience about changing from care to empowerment, based on a partnership of equals, and the honesty of Karyn McCluskey’s reply. The concern was the lack of urgency throughout the afternoon. The sign that we are making progress will be when people stop talking about ‘service delivery’, the killer indicator of pre-defined ‘push’ rather than user-centred ‘pull’.

    ‘The ambulance down in the valley’  was relevant to more than the discussion on early years investment.

    A Fence or an Ambulance
    by Joseph Malins (1895)
    -a poem about prevention –

    ‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
    though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
    but over its terrible edge there had slipped
    a duke and full many a peasant.

    So the people said something would have to be done,
    but their projects did not at all tally;
    some said, ‘Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff, ‘
    some, ‘An ambulance down in the valley.’

    But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
    for it spread through the neighbouring city;
    a fence may be useful or not, it is true,
    but each heart became full of pity
    for those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;

    And the dwellers in highway and alley
    gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
    but an ambulance down in the valley.

    ‘For the cliff is all right, if your careful, ‘ they said,
    ‘and if folks even slip and are dropping,
    it isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
    as the shock down below when they’re stopping.’

    So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
    quick forth would those rescuers sally
    to pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
    with their ambulance down in the valley.

    Then an old sage remarked: ‘It’s a marvel to me
    that people give far more attention
    to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
    when they’d much better aim at prevention.

    Let us stop at its source all this mischief, ‘ cried he,
    ‘come, neighbours and friends, let us rally;
    if the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
    with the ambulance down in the valley.’


Off to Dumfries yesterday in the Toyota. Lovely run. Please don’t tell people how beautiful Nithsdale is, I don’t want it full of tourists (not true). My object was a workshop on Business Storytelling given by  Bill Gemmell and Alison Smith.  It was a  useful session; practical information, thought-provoking exercises and a range of  fascinating folk there.

We talked about triggers in business stories. Bill had diagnosed that my own website uses an ‘Alarm’ trigger. Correct diagnosis, but perhaps not the right trigger for most people starting out on major projects. ‘Lust’ was an obvious one for Cream O’ Galloway ice cream but there were much more unexpected stories about the people involved, their approach to farming, and Made Fair ice cream.

This got me wondering about engineering and Lust.  There is a popular romantic appeal to engineering in Britain, but it is generally seen as conflicting with business success. “The only thing Brunel did that made money was the Great Eastern”, and the popular perception of Concorde as a technical success but a financial disaster. Where does Innovation stand in relation to romance and lust? My own experience of heroic struggles in engineering, getting people to change their ways and e.g. use modular design and build, is that it is not good for the bottom line (or the blood pressure). Working in organizations with a high level of process capability doesn’t have heroism, just extreme focus and professionalism at a terrifying speed.

So is innovation “Naughty but Nice” to re-use a phrase? Should engineering kill the romance (and lose good people coming into the profession)?

This, on the day that Bristol Cars went into receivership. Try to de-construct  your own attitudes to the brand, the company and the cars. Me, I thought about George. He used to drive Bristols for the works racing team, and I haven’t seen him in a while.

The New York Times had a good article on the death of “the wizard of Sony” Nobutoshi Kihara  with a lovely quote about teaching people to build exceptional products “Anyone can find out the common sense things, and my role is not to teach common sense.”

Links from that article took me to the IEEE Oral Histories Collection. Plenty of romance there.

A few posts ago (here) Brian was describing using an influence matrix with a group of Naval Architecture students. He said, ” … they concluded (correctly) that there is stakeholder gridlock. Every stakeholder is waiting for another stakeholder to change first. A profound insight for a student group, and a situation that is rare.”

Here’s another example of a stakeholder impasse. Take a look at this stakeholder commitment chart from an innovation booster in which the UK-based problem owner and participants were exploring a new business model and how it could be “sold” to the rest of the multinational company.

Fig.1 - "We'll never get France on board"

This tool requires you to a) list your stakeholders, b) rate their impact on what you’re trying to do [note that impact of (FR) is much higher than (IT)], on a scale of 1-10, c) gauge the desired level of commitment required from them to move forward on your proposal, then d) gauge their actual level of commitment. The distance between the desired and actual levels of commitment gives you a nice visual of how difficult moving your stakeholder from d) to c) is likely to be.

After carrying out this exercise we invite participants to brainstorm ways of reducing the difficulty of getting the stakeholder on board, or of reducing their impact on what you’re trying to do. This is what they came up with:

(Dislaimer: I apologise for the way in which the French are referred to in this exercise and this does not in any way reflect how I perceive the French, with whom we have worked for many happy years. Bear in mind that you could substitute any other nationality, department, business line, competitor, etc. in this kind of stakeholder tussle and get similar levels of rudeness.)

Fig.2 - "How to get the French on board"

This is also in line with an extensive study completed in 2006, (“Silence Fails” by VitalSmarts) which gives  five core reasons why projects fail, one of which they call “project chicken”:

“This costly game resembles the lunatic practice of driving cars head-on as a test of nerves to see who swerves out of the way first—or who is more “chicken.” The corporate version is played when project leaders fail to admit they may fall short on deliverables and need more time. Instead, they hope some other group that has problems will speak up first. Whoever speaks up first will be blamed for causing the delay, but everyone who is behind will benefit.”

There are two ways I can think of to deal with this kind of situation.

  1. In the case of the above innovation booster, the team with the idea for a new business model ended up developing and implementing their idea “underground”, by creating a ring-fenced project that was able to operate below the multinational radar until the idea had reached a state of maturity, for which it has proved far easier to gain buy-in.
  2. There are a couple of critical questions we ask when we are scoping a problem or opportunity with a problem owner: “What are you, realistically, in a position to do?” and “Do you think there is a solution to this problem?” These are helpful in surfacing the existence of intransigent stakeholders and ultimately helps us decide whether there is an opportunity worth pursuing or not.

Work smarter not harder

It is Friday, so some subversive thoughts inspired by David Gurteen’s Knowledge Cafe on ‘conversations’ in Edinburgh last night. Use at your own risk. No liabilities accrue to David (or me).

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Douglas Adams

A tiny Google Android team has just wiped the floor with a 1500-strong Symbian team. Think of all the deadlines, deliverables, missed weekends that the Symbian team suffered to no effect. Maybe a few conversations, or 25 of them allowed to fly, would have been a much more effective use of time.

As Clayton Martenson has pointed out about 95 percent of new products fail in the marketplace. Think of all the family life damaged by meeting launch dates for failures. Perhaps a few conversations with potential customers would have moved some of the 19 failures into the 1 success category.

We have known (scientifically) for nearly a century that longer hours do not result in greater output. This is true for short-cycle repetitive manual tasks, let alone ‘knowledge work’. Robert LaJeunesse “Toward an efficiency week – correlation between shorter workweek and higher productivity”  documents this  clearly. Spending time in conversation may be the most effective thing to do.

A story from Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week is an illustration of the mismatch between time on task and work done:
“In October 1948, a group of Boeing engineers gathered in the Van Cleve Hotel in Dayton, Ohio. In a Friday meeting at neighboring Wright-Patterson AFB, they were told the company’s contract for a turboprop bomber was to be canceled—the same goals could be achieved by hanging jet boosters on the Convair B-36. Over the weekend, the Boeing team developed a better, pure-jet proposal based on new engines, the aerodynamics of the XB-55 medium bomber and the use of inflight refueling. Aerodynamicist George Schairer bought balsa wood, paints and tools from a hobby store and built a scale model to accompany the proposal, which was presented to the U.S. Air Force on Monday. The model, now part of the Museum of Flight collection in Seattle, is recognizably a B-52. Not only was it a successful bomber, but the last successful such program that USAF executed, despite total expenditures in the high tens of billions of dollars. The B-1B is at best a compromise; the B-2 unaffordable to upgrade or support; the supersonic B-58 was an inflexible widow-maker; and the B-70 and B-1A were scrapped before production.”

It’s good to talk. Work Smarter not Harder. Enjoy your weekend.

If you want to know more about conversations, Paul Pangaro’s talk to PICNIC ’10 is a good use of your time.

Thank you, David Gurteen for a stimulating Knowledge Cafe.

[A word of explanation about the picture. The big circle shows a network analysis of users / customers and a cluster of marketeer / business valuer, technical innovator, and UX / service designer. The yellow arrows show the interactions between this cluster and lead users to enable co-creation. The background to the circle illustrates a customer journey with touchpoints, pain points and moments of truth. The normal linear format for a journey has been changed to circular, reflecting the blurring of product, services and service. Some version of crowdsourcing is in there somewhere. ]

So, we have had Part 1: Power to the Brand, and Part 2: Power to the Process.

This is now-ish, or really-quite-soon. The surrounding ecology is complex with Web, Innovation, Enterprise, Capitalism 2.0. The 3D printing presses are rolling (not literally of course).
Users and customers were never isolated, but now they can start interacting with each other about products and services  more than they ever used to. News travels far and fast – certainly bad news.  User expectations keep going higher (thank you, Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive).
Marketing has changed its focus to Value-In-Use, and  looks at Service, not services or products. Not surprisingly Value In Use has massive overlap with Quality In Use or ‘big’ usability.    Clay Christensen, in Milkshake Marketing, says that “It’s time for companies to look at products the way customers do: as a way to get a job done”
The User Experience (UX) / service designer  interacts with clusters as well as individuals, and understands the Typology of Crowds (Nicholas Carr).  People-watching becomes netnography.   HCD becomes subsumed into User-Centred Innovation. User participation becomes co-creation.
Technical innovation draws on a global network of partners.
Table-stakes for large and medium corporations have become a formal innovation programme with metrics, trained staff and an increasing spend profile.

Bringing together the viewpoints for technical innovation, a business value, and UX / service design looks to be the next challenge. Taking a data-centric view may be the way to crack this.

Lots of questions come to mind.  Can the viewpoints have a mutually understood set of success criteria? Can they use and trust each other’s data? Will the safety element in Quality In Use expand to link with Information Assurance? Can UX people help to put a monetary value on experience changes? Can purpose branding be made to work, and to link with technical innovation? Can business models evolve to support concurrent disruptive and sustaining innovation? Can organizations provide attractors that allow the silos between these viewpoints to dissolve? The working context looks web-based, but the richness of interaction required between participants really needs face to face interaction with sticky notes. How do we balance real-world and remote interaction?

‘Teh interweb’ arrives and brings complexity in its wake. The MSM has no effective answer to GoogleAds. The High St. under-estimates the threat of online shopping. B2B starts to build online auctions, market-places.
Marketing becomes more automated, cost-effective, and targetted (right-hand side of picture). The long tail becomes tractable. Marketing types worry over how refined segmentation and demographics might need to become.
The R&D lab has been stripped out. It makes greater use of sub-contractors and outsourcing. Faster, better, cheaper, but the same approach. What is this ‘design thinking’ they ask?
The Human Factors lab has gone. Staff are people-watching to identify opportunities for innovation, or doing useful Human-Centred Design (HCD) on real projects.  Good standards, tools, methods.  An iterative lifecycle uses personas, user trials (not experiments), remote trialling and logging, and web analytics (left-hand side of picture). Users are treated as numbers of individuals, and the interaction with users is fairly rich.  The extent of user participation is variable, but co-design is real. No perceived reason for it to be co-ordinated with marketing analysis. The staff do have a key to the R&D lab, are allowed to run workshops with techies, and get invited to meetings.
Product support has become outsourced and off-shored to a call-centre.  Customers and users listen to music and get a call number.
Corporate staff worry about how to use innovation as a discriminator rather than endless cost reduction.

A good set of interviews with Harley Manning of Forrester discuss the linkages between User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX), and help to make the bridge to where we are going in the next post.

The heyday of old-style marketing: broadcasting to the target demographic, a short tail that is ignored, and clipboard market research.  Users are treated as a segmented collective, aggregated into statistics.
Traditional corporate R&D labs perform the product development, with all the strengths and weaknesses that they bring.  Development follows the traditional ‘V’ shaped waterfall lifecycle.
Old-style Human Factors; the scientists are busy. Actually, they are pretty fed up with being ignored.
The customers and users have real-world Dunbar numbers of social networks. Otherwise the ecology around product development and support is pretty simple.

(Acknowledgement: Thanks for the UX People Templates)