Monday, 28 June 2010

ExSer HQ Sessions - growing to maturity

Last Thursday I attended an ExSer XQ session in Almere. This one was titled "does better customer insight lead to better service innovation". See here for info in Dutch.

ExSer is a Dutch organizations that attempts - since halfway 2009 - to increase the interest and knowledge about Services Innovation in the Netherlands. The XQ sessions are aimed at improving the knowledge of Services Innovation as a profession. Each HQ session features lectures from business, academics and consultants so that these groups learn to from each other. At least that is the idea.

I won't discuss the details of the presentations here as my focus for today is that I noticed that the public that comes to these types of events is maturing fast. An ever growing crowd of practitioners from business shows up and has lively discussions. Considering the three blood groups separately I noticed the following:
  • As said, the business community is growing and maturing. They tell practical stories about pragmatic projects - in this case from KLM - that illustrate very well that companies, especially larges ones, are actively seeking ways to improve customer experience, which starts with ... understanding it. Naturally, this often starts from marketing, but there are participants from e-business and government and financial/insurance organizations front and back-offices too.
  • The consultancy community seems to fall apart in two parts, the pragmatic service design community that focuses on designing experiences and the psychology/subconscious/anthropology/sociology based consultants that often base their approach on the ideas of a their specific theory/guru and follow their method.
  • The university representatives thus far seems to come from a design background. They focus on the experiences part of product usage, but seems to find it very hard to loose the product completely.
So how mature can we say the ExSer community is today. Well, I'll leave you today with two observations:
  1. On the positive side, I notice that the Services Innovation public has moved on from IT-based services, to human-related/centered/experiences focused. That is good news, as this means most have moved on from the idea that software and web-functionality are services and embrace the idea that for services there need to be humans involved.
  2. On the negative side, I notice that universities are still unable to shed their design/product/statistiscs/engineering past and move on into the services realm of interaction/co-creation/complexity and pattern. It will be interesting to see when the first one makes the jump into the unknown.
This leaves us with the consultants. Well, I think I said almost enough about them above. Let me finish with the observation that the consultants seen to get along well with the business community. That's natural and good don't you think?

Friday, 18 June 2010

The end of the BHAG, whats next?

Remember the BHAG? - the BIG HAIRY AUDICIOUS GOAL - introduced by Collins and Porris in their article Building Your Companies Vision and later in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. They define a BHAG as:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.
—Collins and Porras, 1996

What has happened, I rarely hear the BHAG word these days.

Well to me it seems quite simple. A BHAG is simply defined as a goal for the organisation. That doesn't resonate very well with today's mantra of open innovation.

But worse, goals seems to be so fluent and dynamic these days! Who still dares to define a long-term goal?

Still the world seems full of potential BHAG's: poverty, aging of population, the looming food crisis, the looming energy crisis, global destablization to name just a few. These are however not BHAG's that can be handled by a single organization. For that a whole network is needed. Hence my idea that the next big thing could be BHANG's: Big Hairy Audicios Network Goals.

I really like the HANG part :-) What do you think?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Open Innovation. What is it?

Lots has been said about innovation here already. That it is about the effect, not the "thing", that it is a value-system game, not a sales game, etc.

In that light, actually nothing new can be said about Open Innovation. It is with us now for a couple of years and has quickly become the "A New Kid on The Block Tzunami". In the last 24 hours only, 9.840 new pages with the combi "open innovation" appeared in the GoogleDB. The top 2 are very instructive:
  1. The Apple exception: where open innovation theory breaks down
  2. Using open innovation to meet ambitious carbon emission targets

The 1st is about the closedness of Apple that seems to rebunk succesfully what the Open Innovation Mantra demands companies to do. The 2nd is about "Green ICT" and tells us that without opening up and collaboration it can't be done.

These two examples IMHO illustrate how broad interpretation of terms leads to confusion between "imparative" and "use wisely".

Last weekend I came accross Hermann Simons' book Hidden Champions again and realized that whereas Apple itself is surely not hidden anymore (it never has BTW), it is still a Champion in Hiding. But what does it hide? The products itself, not the underlying technologies. Lots of small bits and pieces leak (are leaked?) in the months before every product introduction. Quite often these are about cooperations, designs, technology-sourced, etc. In fact Apple buys most of its components on the open market and only keeps private what they consider core. That seems to be very much in line with what the Hidden Champions do. Herman notes that the attitude to outsourcing R&D is (quote p 181, table 8.1)

Negative, with in-house R&D seen as critical for protection of core competencies

And for outsourcing noncore activities

Positive, owing to variability of cost and quality, continuing relationships with supplies

That is exactly what Apple does. Their core is product development & marketing. That is why they source their hardware components and develop their own architectures and sofware frameworks.

Looking at the Open Innovation phenomenon in this way explains most of its popularity. Every organisation can be good (read: can declare something to be core) at a few things only. All the rest must be sourced otherwise.

IMHO opinion that large volume of sourcing of hardware and sharing of ideas - which is today too easily called cooperation - is what comprises the bulk of the Open Innovation Tzunami. It also explains most of the activities described in the 2nd story on meeting Carbon emissions.

One thing however keeps on nagging me: how many product-based companies are making some of the lethal errors, f.e. by confusing technology leadership and product leadership. Or by confusing collaboration with total openess. How many hidden or public Champions will become extinct as a result of the IO Tzunami?