We are a consulting agency working with startups and multinationals in Europe and Asia. If you want to deliver effective innovations, we can help refocus your culture, weaponize your team and spark gentle revolutions.
Two weeks ago I had to rent a car from Hertz. It was one of the blandest experience I’ve had with a customer desk in a very long time. This is not a rant on Hertz or this particular team. I could guess that my customer experience by all their standards had been amazing. The process was smooth and I’m sure it checked all the quality control boxes, or customer satisfaction KPIs they had. I just tend to have an obsessive frame of mind in regard to building added value as a brand… or not.
But there was one thing that was absolutely baffling to me. Let me explain…
Most of innovation programs that I encounter are still organized as R&D programs. We often call that the innovation pipeline fallacy. It’s mostly due to the fact that most organizations don’t get that innovation is not R&D, and that consecutively innovation doesn’t fit in a pipeline.
During the past few years, whether discussing mentoring programmes or cultural transformation with large corporations, I am faced with a disproportionate belief in “tools”. I think I need to clarify that it is not because as consultants we use tools that we sell tools. A keynote from Frédérique PAIN I organized recently for one of our key customer, confirmed what I’ve been seeing for years: too many French and European companies have a disproportionate belief and trust in « tools » and methodologies. Our common Western culture and history of engineering development and thinking put a strong bias toward reproductible, documented approaches to problems.
Discussion with a corporate customer yesterday over dinner. I realized that I gave only 2 public keynotes this year (3rd soon) vs about 8 private ones on ´sensitive‘ innovation topics for industrials, banks, etc. There is a market shift there. More insights, less BS?
Not sure that traditional innovation conferences can get there. Which means delivering focused keynotes in context of a) a specific market problematic and b) a specific company culture. Which is interesting for us and small consultancies in general I guess…
As a matter of fact, I also realized that I couldn’t find a single interesting innovation conference to attend this year as a guest (seems I’m not alone).
Truly the rarest resource we are looking for (as consultants who have been doing this gig for more than ten years) are not tools or methodologies. It’s staying on the edge of things and refreshing our point of view. Which is also what we end up selling to customers (methodologies are commodities).
Have you been to an innovation conference or a business event that didn’t plain suck recently? If so, please pretty please, give me a hint. : )
When I wrote the “Mentoring by FabMob” white paper, I was already hinting at an example of use of mentoring to facilitate the cultural integration in the case of acquisition of a new entity. I do not wish to go into the well documented difficulties that large companies face when they are merging or acquiring, how people issues come into play, and how the integration of different ways of working, thinking, communicating can put a real spanner in the works. Even though we all know it is a challenge, still very little M&A really work on the cultural aspect, and very little use mentoring as a tool for creating real human connections for a faster blend of cultures.
To somehow follow-up on yesterday’s post, another question that I find extremely revealing about the strategy of any company is: what’s your key innovation metric?
Here again, no room for big formulas or complex constructions. If you have to gauge if your company is doing well on innovation, what would you look at and measure? The intent is not to ask a trick a question. That being said, the question packs a deep context:
What does innovation mean to you?
How do you define « doing well »?
Do you have a global or a symptomatic metric?
Over what cycle or at what frequency are you measuring?
Are you giving a lagging, on-going or leading metric?
Imagine your company has one of the most advanced big data platform you can think of in your market. Imagine you have access to an unparalleled level of insights and forecasts about who your customers are, what they want, and how they think.
Here comes the question I’d like you to ponder for five minutes and really think about: What would you do with this analytical power?
Don’t settle for general non-opposable answers such as « Improving the value we deliver in key segments » or any other BS. Give me something real. A real breakthrough you would be able to implement because you’d have enough data to convince your board and unlock the biggest investment your company will make next fiscal year.
What. Would. That. Be?
Most senior managers I ask this question to are not able to give a convincing answer on how they would use « big data ».
That makes sense. Most of the time this dream of technology is a magical pony you think you should chase for fear on missing out on the next revolution. It is also a way to convince yourself and your team that you’re not responsible for where you are right now. That there is a something to blame that is beyond your reach.
Alas, for good or bad technology is a neutral agent. It has no purpose by itself. Even if you become the best at « big data » it doesn’t mean you’ll be the next Amazon or Google. These companies had plans before tech.
Just assessing every day how the narrative on startups has been reversed in Europe from « This is how we’re going to save the economy! » to « What is this mess? ». The message we’re not changing entrepreneurship a Startup Weekend at a time seems to be getting through. This also correlates with the growing number of tech clusters and incubators in Europe that get in touch with us.
As always the swing of the pendulum will probably go too far back on startups. But as an optimist contrarian, I trust it’s time to get back in there even more actively.
One key step would be to stop trying to nurture projects at a local scale. This leads to cities miles away from one another to compete together to nest more startups than the other. That they would want to do that is understandable (local jobs, etc) but that states and the EU promote it, is madness.
Every new startup or tech company that enters a market faces the risk that it will be hacked and its technology subverted beyond its goal.
Frustrated Tesla owners openly repair and hack their own cars:
Great example of DIY problem solving to get around the exorbitant Tesla repair prices by @Stealthwater From door handles to headlights, his Model S had wear & tear issues, but the official repair cost was five times the price of fixing them himself.https://t.co/LfA4gKvj9C
I’m still in the ongoing process of waking up a few of my customers (and the readers of this blog) on why the Chinese market is such a specific and fast one. Three years ago, I was pointing the inexorable move of the Chinese government toward clean energies, and forecasting that by 2020 they would export green tech and electric vehicles to Europe and the US. And we are getting there.
At the moment, my concern and major interest is the huge disconnect that has built up between consumers and retail brands in the West and how they deal with the Chinese market, as a digital monster.