People make products, from the moment someone starts taking action and follows up on an idea until an innovation made it into the market and beyond.
It is simple but we still forget it. We are involved in following processes, complying with regulations, thinking about solutions, optimizing backlogs, completing our daily chores and forget that the most important levers for successful innovation lies with those who are creating them.
This site approaches the topic innovation from a simple concept that emerged some years ago in a discussion between a couple of thinkers (namely Hilmar, Markus and Pete) at Sonova.
Introducing stars to road
Two quite simple concepts – How mature are your ideas? – are the foundation:
- Ideas mature into products from stars to road and beyond.
- Ideas mature from a business, a technological and – most decisively – a passion or commitment side.
Know how to shape the future offers six fields of expertise. You may be well advised to add intellectual property as a seventh field.
Teams and collaboration
Working in teams has been studied by psychologist over quite a long period of time. One important take away of these studies may well be that collaboration creates teams and thus that people have to invest into the team by working together rather than just leasing collaboration and split-up work: Collaboration – Buy or Lease?
Sadly enough, team work and collaboration are not simple topics. Conflicts, personalities, past experiences make it sometimes difficult to work productively in a team. The story of Bill & Chuck – and how they fight ideas into the market shows two stereotypes of persons, who go through a lot of trouble to push their ideas into the market and prevent that the “super-brain” called team forms well. You could also review the – slightly – exaggerated story of why Joey taped a picture of a cake to his wall and learn about difficulties ideas face when meeting people.
You would expect that a more agile way of working could do the trick. At least the agile manifesto stresses the importance of teams and interactions. Basically, creating software products is all about a feedback loop between team and stakeholders.
Reality however shows a rather inconclusive picture: Agility, Common Sense and Agilista Failings, Agile IS All About Process, and The big thing about SAFe all point towards a pitfall: Agile frameworks like Scrum and SAFe teach how to create well oiled garbage-in-garbage-out machines. They focus on process and backlog. Agile process frameworks may be an extremely helpful addition for an interaction driven team. They are however fatal for an artifact based team. Agile conversation or requirements engineering takes a closer look at these two team setups. Agility should bring management and employees closer together, we don’t need no Seagull Managers.
The Team Squeezer or the story of an agile transition introduces the concept of a burn-out system. The Team Squeezer is just one of many possible burn-out systems in which the worst of all team disorders: Featuritis, emerges. Participants of the burn-out machine game @ agile breakfast in Zürich had the opportunity to experience such a burn-out system and the Story of Rahel in UX in a burn-out system tells you the fate of any UX person.
Studying burn-out systems could be valuable for an organisational psychotherapist – if this profession does not exist yet, it probably should. From our side, being involved in product developments without the power of therapy, it is still insightful: The patterns the burn-out system exploits to thrive are in many situations anti-pattern of effective team work. Burn-out systems show us the the dark side of teams and thus tell us what to prevent.
Processes and tools to help collaboration
From an organisational point of view, It is about creating a culture, where ideas can spark, gain momentum, and mature and where organisation can decide about killing and curing, as outlined in four skills of innovative companies.
How to create effective collaboration is a widely explored field of study. Having said this it should be obvious that this blog can not claim to provide the Answer to successful collaboration – it may be forty-two for that matter. We can only bring one or two pieces to the puzzle. Some of them may prove worthwhile for you, others may not. It is for you to judge.
In an innovation process, some explicit points like a speakers corner, an innovation circle and more, see agile innovation from Stars to Road, can change how collaboration happens. The Stars to Road agile innovation toolbox lists some techniques we find valuable. Obviously, some tools are specifically suited to assess and work with maturity, e.g. Maturity tools for product owners. Grok – negotiate – build up finally is the pattern, successful development teams apply in one or the other way: Grok the market, negotiate value versus cost and build quality.
There are techniques that touch points of high potential.
- Sense-making, inspiring purpose or giving teams a common goal is something Powerful Stories are meant for. The case of a relevant UX problem gives a glimpse of a real life development where such a story made a huge difference.
- Powerful stories usually result from hard work. They stem e.g. from an understanding of customers, users and fans. Thus a team meets with users to create great products. And in this process the team experiences the future so it can kill or cure an idea. It is all about getting reliable feedback about what the future will bring! The user experience flow from stars to road outlines how ideas mature from a user perspective.
- Forming a team needs investment, this has already been stated above. You can increase productivity with a Speed Creation session. In addition, simple things like a team wall for agile knowledge management can really serves as a team booster. You could also consider slowing down, going for a walk and letting the brain do the work in a dialogue in the park. When working with partners you might find Lean Agile Procurement (lets collaborate with our partners!) and interesting approach.
- Money and time is always shorter than ideas. Focusing on the essentials is what keeps a team sane. User story shopping – a sports event management system gives a glimpse on how user story mapping and story shopping can help. In the same team, the following five or one guidelines for the minimal viable product helped to keep the development in time and budget. The one guideline, by the way, is to have a deep understanding why stakeholders are going to love the solution. Knowing such things helps in making the hard in-out decisions.
A last remark: People invent things with a specific purpose in mind (the purpose of …). If you use something for a different purpose it may well not work.