28 February 2011

The Twelve Truths of Innovation

I perhaps should have started my posts on innovation by defining what innovation is. Here are twelve truths about innovation that I hope will help you in coming out market leading innovations.

The 12 Truths
  1. Innovation is more than a creative idea
    • It is about converting your intangible creative ideas into providing tangible business value.
    • Know what are valued by your customers. Your customers go by rational thinking of cheaper, faster, better, safer, easier and never-fail(trust). However, he also go by emotional value of look-good, feel-good, high-status and fashionable. He also decides by significance and meaningfulness like pro-life, pro-health, pro-community and pro-environment and justice. In fact, stickiness increases from rational, to emotional to significant value.
    • The present thinking is about creating a wow-experience that they may ask for more. See Innovation Defined.
  2. Innovation is must – see the facts.
  3. Innovation is more than a product
    • know the ’much more’ to bring your offering to new height.
    • Customers don’t buy products. They buy them to achieve their effects. They pay for outcomes and wow-experience. They want holes not drills said some guru. We could go higher. They want to stick things together – holes, screws and nuts are but one way to stick them. Go further to satisfy the real needs of customers. That is how you differentiate.
    • Innovation types include: 
      • The front-end: method, solution, product, service, customer experience, branding. 
      • The back-end: processes, management, supply chain, network and business model game rules.
  4. Innovativeness can be measured – know the levels.
    • There are incremental and there are disruptive or radical.
    • Understand where you are on the S-Curves of technology and market.
    • Innovation is measured by how much you achieve a win-win, a breakthrough, from a compromised situation.
  5. Innovation need not come by chance but by design on demand.
    • Learn the systematic innovative method – BVITS.
  6. Understand your offering don’t not just take off
    • It must grow with Market Life Cycle or die.
    • Different stages of the life cycle require different kinds of innovation.
  7. Innovation need not come solely by new technology
    • Know how to create a New Market without Competition by understanding the multi-stage and multi-touch points of the experience creation process.
  8. Not get caught by Disruption.- It can be Predicted.
  9. Innovation must follow a process – know the keys to build one
  10. Don’t Do it Alone – know the new ways.
    • Get customers, suppliers, partners and other involved in your innovation.
    • Work with, ride on others production, distribution and other channels as well.
    • Stand on their shoulders and not step on their toes or provide the shoulders for others to stand on.
  11. Innovation must be measured – execute With Balanced Scorecard
    • Without measurement, there is no learning and no control.
    • Innovation is about execution too.
  12. Innovation must be sustained with Culture and beats the one-off success.
    • We need the culture and the environment or the ecosystems to sustain innovations.
    • One off innovation is one-off. It will have it success and also its death.
    • Sustainable growing companies have a innovative culture where innovation flourishes.
Here is a mind-map in the 12 truths of innovation.
If you want to know more, perhaps you can sign up in one of courses through NUS Extension.
Bvotech Copyrighted 2011 Feb.

27 February 2011

Understanding The Smartphone Battle – Rise of Apple & Android & Fall of Nokia & Others

The title is actually wrong.

If you think the battle is about smart-phone, then you will fail to understand the rise of Apples & Android and the fall of Nokia, Microsoft and the Symbians. This is also where Nokia and others get it wrong. It is the battle above the smart-phone. It is more about serving the needs of the social networked people and creating a wow-experience. A not too good description but better than smart-phone is the term ‘media device’.
Our innovation worldview is shaped by our experience.  Nokia, Microsoft, etc are all well known innovative companies. They are good innovators and great executors.  But how could such innovative people miss the the changing trends? They are shaped by their past experience and are blind to the change. Their past mindset can’t grasp the new changes.

Their History Explains their Worldview Mindset and Forecast their Success or Demise.

Nokia got their success by riding on GSM adoption (Motorola was late to GSM), coming out with great ease of use, reliability and incremental innovations (if not too many). Their tag-line is great – “connecting people”. But their mindset is phone based. Linking up SMS to create a mobile email-like system is great. But the world is using email. Making the phone smart by incorporate PDA-PIM features is great too. But the world is going social media network. Adding features to link to the new media is great too but just not natural.  Have a separate team to focus on SYMBIAN, a consortium effort is great. But standards are often by-passed by more useful and widespread market trend. The rise of iPhone and Android make a mockery of SYMBIAN. We wasted much time on standards ( I can’t even recall the name!) to get the web display on a small phone screen!

RIM stated from paging to messaging to email devices and then add a phone link. Since the world then runs on email, they got good success and become the smart-phone of choice for corporate business use. However, the social media is much more than email and PDA.

Microsoft approaches the phone from the PC mindset. From PC-Window to CE-Window, Smartphone Window. Taking all the time a PC centric mindset. Which is fine but they see Smart-phone as a subset of PC-Window, a sub-standard PC-Window experience – ending up as a PDA-PIM device and miss the rise of the social network. Window-7 is supposed to change that. But typical of Microsoft engineering and technical orientation, you can do it but with  relatively (to Apple) difficulty and lack of depth (i.e. no wow experience and actually leaving me a pit disappointed with all the marketing hype. I gave the HTC WD7 away.  A side lesson – branding is not about blowing horn through big marketing budget. If the experience is not matching the message, more marketing is more disappointment). You can do it but you don’t get a wow experience. MS and Nokia think they can win by sheer size! Unless there is a drastic change in mindset, they are just going to continue to loose their market share.

The Apple Story
Most engineers don’t get the secret of Apple Success. They think it is a feature war. We keep hearing that their new devices will have more features than Apple’s such as cameras, usb, multi-tasking, flash etc etc. Features are means to an end. But itself, more features means more choices means more confusion. See my posts on Choices could be Bad – Dummies are right!

Apple’s secret of success is about satisfying a need with a wow-experience that ask for more. I always tell people that iPod is not just a mp3 player and Apple did not get into the mp3 player market. iPod is just a delivery mechanism in the offering of $1 a song on the go. Apple’s ipod business is a game changing music business model. Instead of paying $20 for a CD with 16-20 songs that you don’t particular like just to get the 1-2 songs you like.  Apple itunes, ipod and partnerships with the music suppliers provide the wow-experience.

After iPod comes iTouch. The nuisance in the iPod music experience is the need for the PC, even if it is Apple. If only iPod can have iTunes within. That device is called the iTouch. Now that iTouch can connect to the Net, why not just add a phone function so that we can do away with the phone (Nokia or Motorola?). That is called the iPhone. With iPhone, comes a common complain … can the screen be a big bigger then I can finally get rid of the PC? Then come the iPad. The success is history. Oops! .not yet, they are continuing to out sell others in the time others are still trying to come out and iron out their offerings.

Google – Androids
Google’s mission is about organizing the world information and making them available universally. It is naturally that from PC, they will move other platform. Doing Android and making a platform that is widely adopted by others is great for Google but not so good for the Android based suppliers. They are killing each other to differential themselves while Google get his Android platform revenue and great market share. An excellent strategy to fight Apple. Apple vs Google could be a good topic for another post and we can draw many good lessons from it. Will try to write it in future.

The History of Smart-Phone Competitors

Lessons Learned
  1. Our worldview determine our long term success or failure.
    1. Disruption is not just about technology. It is about our mindset of needs, business values and experience.
  2. We need to Discover and Create The Leading Business Worldview
    1. There is a tip – find out the significance and meaningfulness
    2. Be aware that we are the product of our past experience and we are likely to miss seeing the thing that we should not. Hence, always be humble and get people from different backgrounds to participate in our planning.
  3. With the right Worldview, innovate and execute the new business model, creating wow-experience that ask for more.
    1. Wow-experience is a multi-steps process.
    2. Get the purpose right first. See that the means are just ways to achieve the purpose. Make the process simple, effortless and fulfilling.
    3. Apply the MinMax Principle to create your differentiated unique advantage.
      1. See Choices could be Bad – Dummies are right!
      2. Differentiated and High Payoff Innovations
    4. Apply the BVITS thinking to help you think and discover the myriads of possibilities. See BVITS ideas generation.
Bvotech Copyrighted Feb 2011.

17 February 2011

The Basic Thinking Framework 5W1H

In an earlier post Yin-Yang Thinking Framework - Innovative and Critical, I covered the Chinese key thinking frame work of Yin and Yang. There is a more fundamental thinking framework than the Yin-Yang Framework and that is the popular 5W1H making up of Who, Why, What, Where, When and How.

Understanding of A Thing
If we claim we understand something fully, we must be able to provide answers to the 6 questions. Failing which, we must admit we don't understand it well enough. This 6 Questions guide us as to where to search for the answer.

Which of the 5W1H should we cover first?

In the study of taxonomy, the classification of things, we will come across the work of Ranganathan's PMEST method of classifying all things:
  1. Personality—what the thing is primarily “about", a Name or an Identity.
    1. This is considered the “main facet.” 
    2. To the 5W1H thinking, this is the Who & Why giving rise to the identity of the thing.
  2. Matter—the material of the object … What
  3. Energy—the processes or activities that take place in relation to the object … How
  4. Space—where the object happens or exists …Where
  5. Time—when the object occurs… When
The order is then Who-Why, What, How, Where and When.

It is probably a good order to follow. Name the thing first, describe it, know how it works, find out where does it exist and when it exist. Is there a life cycle over time? e.g. life cycle of a mosquito.

The identity of the thing, the purpose, determines the behavior of the thing. If we know the purpose, we can predict its behavior.

Great thinkers and Innovations Begin with keen Observation
We know that different people in the same situation will have different point of views. But there are people who see more things than others. The experts can tell more than the lay people. But lay people can become experts through training. A good business man see opportunities in his visits that are often missed by the lay people. The 5W1H provides the framework for helping us to observe well.

Purpose is Key
Observation can tell us the Who, What, Where and When but is not able to tell us the Why. This is the restriction of Science - Science can't tell why because Science is by observations.  To know why, we must probe, guess and ask. Even then, the true correct answer lies with the creator or maker of the things.

Lessons from Apple iPod (or iPhone and iPad etc for that matter).
When apple entered the mp3 player market, they were very late and yet iPod made the waves and the profits. Why was that so? The answer lies in the order of the 5W1H. mp3 makers make mp3 per se. Apple has a higher purpose(Why) of fulfilling the dreams of many of paying $1 for the song you like instead of $20 for additional 16-20 songs that you don't but forced to do it because it was the economy of the CDs then. Apple saw a higher purpose and define the What needed of good-songs, iTunes of song selection-purchase-download, the mp3 for playing the song and the how of digital copy protection, the acquiring of technology and know-how and the subcontracting of work, to ensure the making and distribution of the iPod in where and at the right time(when).

Apple repeated the same formula in iPhone. iPhone is not just a phone just as much as iPod is not just a mp3 player. iPhone is a social connection media device with mobility through the internet. Nokia and other move up from plain phone to PDA-PIM smart phone. Apple had done more by connecting to the cloud with its branded easy of use and wow-styling experience. Apple's competitors are just competing on the what and how and are missing the blue-ocean profitable market.

Let summarize here, 5W1H enables us to know a subject matter better and Why is the driving force among the 6. Pay attention, even though it is most difficult from observations, to the WHY - the identity and purpose of the thing.

From A Thing to a System of Things in a Context
Is 5W1H sufficient? My answer is not completely, depending on what is your thing. It is important to see your thing, your subject of study, as a system interacting with elements in a Context or the Environment. There are key things to watch out for:
  • System has a purpose - identity
  • System has sub-components working in sync to achieve the system's purpose. (sub-optimization is bad. Keeping the flow and harmony is key. -- lean methodology)
  • System interact with the elements in the Context.
  • System boundary and System Context interaction are key too. (Man-Machine Interface is a key winning formula for Apple).
  • System must FIT the context in which it exists to have optimum.
So, iPod is just a subsystem in the Apple’s system of personalized musics on the go. iPhone is just a subsystem of the Apple’s system of social experience through connecting to the Clouds computing. Breadtalk don’t just sell bread and Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee. To beat Apple, there need to be a higher dream. Androids (Google, HTC, Motorola, Samsung …), Nokia, Microsoft and the rest are just playing in the path that Apple has walked. What is, or even, why is iPad? What do you think is the answer?

Now, what is your innovation about? Can you answer the 5W1H, the system concept and its fits to the context.

These System Thinking, 5W1H and the Yin-Yang thinking framework are the foundational parts of my BVITS innovation thinking method. Check it out to improve your thinking and innovative skills.

BVOTECH Copyrighted 2011

05 February 2011

Understanding Chinese in One Minute

The Chinese have more than 5000 years of history. They are spread all over the world. People staying in the China mainland are not the only way to define who are the Chinese. The Chinese culture, traditions and beliefs are spread throughout the world with the people and shared by those in the mainland and those in the rest of the world collectively known as Overseas Chinese (华侨).

A recent book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" written by Amy Chua, now known as the Tiger Mother,  created a lot of interests about the traditional Chinese parenting and education methods. Some even accused her of not even a Chinese or she does not represent the typical Chinese parenting tradition. Instead of arguing about her, we should dig into the ancient Chinese literature and history and let them tell us the Chinese is like.

I think the shortest and most representative ancient Chinese literature is 三字经 The Three Character Classics. Here is a good site with English translation. It is written the thirteenth century. It is simple, 3 character phases. It is short - about 1200 characters. It is designed for kids. It is widely taught being the required reading for primary school kids over the centuries.

It is an amazing book. It covers almost everything. It is a simple wikipedia! It is a curriculum for education. Here is why:

It has five sections:
  1. Basic Knowledge about Man, Development and Relationships. 
  2. Maths, Science and Sociology.
  3. Index to the Classical Must read Literature and their purposes.
  4. The History of China - from beginning to 13th century. (later editions extends to present time)
  5. The Past Heroes as our models.
The purpose of the book is about teaching man how to live well on earth - a harmonious, righteous and useful life.  The book emphasizes 'education and learning' from a young age. It teaches the young to make effort in learning and be hardworking.
It begins with men as basically good but warns that if not educated and developed well, they will go astray. It ends with "Others leave a fortunes to their children, but I only teach my children one bible. Diligence brings rewards, fooling around is no use. Take heeds and be vitalized.

On parenting, the most famous verse is v3、养不教,父之过。教不严,师之惰。子不学,非所宜。幼不学,老何为。 Just feed and not teach is the wrong doing of the father. Teaching without discipline is the laziness of the teacher. Children not learning is not right. Not learning from young then what will become of old?

All are to learn from young and live them out when older and stronger; bringing benefits to the king and the common people; build reputation,  bring honor to parents. Create a bright future and provide wealth for the future generations. (v46 幼而学,壮而行。上致君,下泽民。扬名声,显父母。光于前,裕于后。)

The moral values are love, righteousness, good manners, wisdom and integrity v10 ,,, 曰仁义,礼智信。此五常,不容紊. The classics are to teach us morale values, love and righteousness, self-control and managing others, understand the saying sages and understand good manners and music; know the good and bad, right and wrong. Understand the beginning and the ending. The past heroes teach us about diligence in learning, learning from young so that there is no regrets in later life, not allowing poverty to stop us from learning, learn about vision and determination and watchfulness.

The way to grow is to learn and learn the right thing well. Put in the effort now to enjoy the fruit of the later.

I hope your interests are stirred up to know about the Ancient Chinese Wisdom. Click the link.

Lim Liat copyrighted 2011