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Apr 29
Innovation #6

This is the final post on innovation for now. It doesn't mean I've run out of ideas and thoughts but this completes the overview.


The Innovation Journey

Innovation involves more than one type of thinking and it has a general flow about it. The model below is one I like because is shows how we need to do both divergent thinking and convergent thinking in both the problem understanding portion and the solution creation portions of the problem solving.


problem.png


So we start with an initial idea of the problem and we diverge and explore to understand it better. This is divergent thinking and research. As our understanding improves, we can refine down to a specific problem definition. This is convergent thinking.

So unless the problem is one we have seen before, fully understand, and know exactly how to solve, we have to do some divergent and exploratory thinking.

A common mistake I see in projects we get after someone else has already had a go at it and failed is that they did not do the divergent thinking. The focussed on coming up with a solution without understanding the problem. Or they applied a solution they understood to the problem without looking at the problem closely enough to see if that was a good idea or not. Then all their efforts focus on how to fix the under-performing solution.

Once we have narrowed the problem down it is time to look at solutions. Depending on the problem we might need to do some divergent thinking and explore the range of solutions available. Then we can select and implement a solution.

And of course, if it doesn't work, rather than trying to tweak the solution. Take what you have learned and redo the process to see if you missed something. This should be a much faster iteration unless you missed something major. And if you did miss something major you now have a better understanding for the next pass.


Unknown Unknowns

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Sometime you do get caught out because in your exploration you didn't know something and were not even aware it existed to be known. The dreaded Unknown Unknown. This is the Unconscious Incompetence problem.

The quickest way to get to Conscious Competence (you know what you need to know and how to use that knowledge) is to get an expert to advise you. This is another area where Australia's very low collaboration gets in the way of Innovation. We don't get help when we need it. We will looks stuff up online but getting another person to teach us what they know that we need to know is not a strong point.


Cognitive Bias

Think of these as bugs in our thinking. The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli documents 99 different biases that can cause us to come to that wrong conclusion with great confidence.

Rolf Dobelli.jpg

Some examples are:

  • Confirmation bias (giving more creed to people who agree with you)
  • Ambiguity Effect (avoid looking at things if we can't assess the chance of success up front)
  • Anchor bias (let just one element dominate your focus)

Being aware of how we can be irrationalise can help us to avoid these thinking bugs.


Do we always have to be reasonable?

As it turns out, it can be necessary to be unreasonable, at least occasionally!

Progress sometimes requires us to go against the flow.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to his environment. The unreasonable man persists in adapting his environment to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man".

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw.jpg

So that should give you a few different ways to think about how to innovate. But again I emphasise, progress will require you to partner with others to innovate that first.


Ray Keefe

Successful Endeavours


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Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

Successful Endeavours website: https://www.successful.com.au/

Ray Keefe's LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/raykeefe/ 

​ 


Feb 12
Innovation #5

Now that we have looked at innovation (see previous posts), including some ways to stimulate it and the need to be better at collaboration; I want to look at some ways to get more from what you already do, and how to improve partnering with others.


Use your wiring

Personality types and thinking styles have both strengths and weaknesses. If we understand ourselves then we can do better. Especially when we realise the type of thinking needed is a type we aren't the strongest at so we can get help.

If you haven't done it, do a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. There are plenty of online ways to do this for free. One example is https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test . Then read up on what that means. Once you have that, here are some things you can consider to improve your capacity to think differently.


Mix people with different wiring

  • Big picture vs detail oriented
  • Open ended vs clear pathways
  • Talkers vs mullers
  • Logic vs values


But don't let logic drive everything. If your instincts aren't happy with something then stick with it until you work out why that is.

einstein2.jpg

“Logic is a mechanism for coming to the wrong conclusion with great confidence".

Albert Einstein


Broaden the pool of people

  • Use the widest audience you can
  • Ideas can come from anyone
  • Ask someone from a different discipline
  • Ask someone much younger or older
  • Ask the cleaner, receptionist, admin clerk, family, …



Use collaborative thinking tools

​There have been multiple tools created over time and many can be used freely. Here are some examples:

  • Six Thinking Hats (Edward de Bono)
  • Practical Innovation (Frank Connolly)
  • Innovation Matrix (Roger La Salle)

de bono.jpgconnolly.jpgla salle.jpg

One of the tools Frank Connolly teaches is called Reverse Brainstorming. I really like it because it turns the problem on its head. Instead of saying “how can we improve this?", ask “What can we do to make it worse?". This is a very effective way to understand the problem better. You can apply it to anything.

Remember, innovation is not about technology or invention, it is about making a change that makes something better. ​


​Ray Keefe

Successful Endeavours


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Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

Successful Endeavours website: https://www.successful.com.au/

Ray Keefe's LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/raykeefe/ 




Jan 15
Innovation #4

In this post we will look at some techniques that are used to improve innovation, creativity and problem solving capability.

The first point I want to make is that overseas innovation models often don't work well here in Australia. One example being Open Innovation https://www.openinnovation.eu/open-innovation/. It isn't that the concept is flawed but rather how the Australian culture works. And as pointed out earlier, you can't solve a problem you don't understand. So let's look at Australia based on OECD statistics.

  • last for collaboration
  • last for public research commercialisation
  • average manager is at 30% of OECD average
  • bottom 1/8th for funding availability

And financially bankruptcy takes you out of the game so the USA start up models struggle to be able to operate here.

Yet we are ranked well for:

  • problem solving
  • creative thinking
  • innovation (when you factor out the collaboration component)


So the first point is that innovation on its own isn't enough. You also have to be able to execute the solution. So our struggle is that we don't partner well with each. We make great mavericks but need to be conscious that we need help with collaboration.

​So let's look at some of the ways people can improve collaboration and increase the outcomes from innovation.


Pair Programming

  • One programmer writes code
  • The other watches
  • One is in pure linear mode (the writer)
  • The other is free to move between linear and pattern matching mode (the observer)
  • As a team, they innovate as they go

computer.jpg



Kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning "change for the better" or "continuous improvement." It is a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process.

This is one of the techniques used for onboarding a new person.

  • The beginner is sent to just stand and watch what is happening
  • They watch for a long time
  • They get bored and tune out
  • Their linear mode goes offline and pattern matching takes over
  • And they come to an innate understanding of the system operating before them

So sometimes​ we need to put the logical part offline so the pattern matching part can come to the fore and we learn faster and better.


Innovation Spaces

You have to leave a space and mindset that anchors you to the linear mode when you are looking for a breakthrough. So here are some ways:

  • Go to a different part of the building
  • Or go outside and take a stroll
  • Henri Poincare (Mathematician) wrote everything he knew on paper and went for a walk, returning when he had the answer.
  • There is a reason high tech companies create aesthetic internal spaces and play areas - it provides opportunities for pattern breaking
  • It provides stimulation for innovation
  • As well as a healthy mindset
  • Most people feel better if they can see something green (a tree) - fully partitioned inner offices aren't good for innovation
  • Distracting your linear mode allows the pattern mode to engage with the problem
  • Talk it out with someone else, especially if you are an extrovert. It won't get you out of linear mode but will help you clarify your thinking. Sometimes they don't even need to listen if it is mostly for you to process.

It pays to understand your learning modality and personal preferences when selecting ways to help yourself innovate. Auditory learners will have the biggest challenge because sound is distracting so use headphones or ear buds. And don't listen to songs, use instrumental music, nature sounds, even noise.


The Innovation Formula

Dr Amantha Imber who founded Inventium https://www.inventium.com.au/ wrote a very useful book called The Innovation Formula.

Lightbulb.jpg

It's in my library. One of the big take aways for me in that book is that you can design your space to assist with innovation. Background noise levels is one of the areas to consider. Too quiet and you don't get stimulated, too noisy and you get too distracted and fatigued.


Dr Amantha Imber.jpg

She has also told here a story as a female founder, so if this topic interests you then I recommend checking that out at https://enterprisinggirls.com.au/video/girl-founder-dr-amantha-imber-my-story/ and she also hosts the podcast series How I Work https://www.inventium.com.au/resources/how-i-work-podcast/.

 

Ray Keefe

Successful Endeavours


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Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

Successful Endeavours website: https://www.successful.com.au/

Ray Keefe's LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/raykeefe/ 




Jan 07
Innovation #3

Previously we looked at the two primary types of innovation, disruptive innovation and incremental innovation. And then how our brains work​ and ways to take advantage of that. Now we are going to step back and look at the most important question, “what problem are you trying to solve"?


ball.png


You will see lots of words here that could describe why you want to innovate, to change things:

  • Goals
  • Success
  • Profit
  • Solutions


One of my pet peeves is the idea that you come up with an idea, do a start up and become the next unicorn. Do you know how many unicorns there have been? I think the answer is five so far in the history of Australia but there is some flexibility in the definition so let's just say 'not many'.

Technically Atlassian is not a unicorn because it took 16 years to get to $1B turnover but they are a good example of an Australian success story. And they did it by solving an important problem, how to help teams work together better using online technology.


Instead of an idea, solve a problem

Rather than try and come up with a new idea, I usually find it more practical to think about how to solve a problem.

So what problem do you want a solution to that needs something to change (requires innovation)?

Here are a few non-technical ones I think about:

  • Genuine gender equality
  • Equitable world trade
  • Remuneration for contribution models

And some that have technology intersections:

  • Climate Repair and Resilience
  • Clean Energy
  • Recycling
  • Health and Wellbeing

Once you have a problem in mind, you can to work on how. This is the WHAT / HOW paradox. You can try and apply a HOW you know to a problem, but that is usually a mistake. It is best to understand WHAT the problem is, then go looking for a suitable HOW.

If the only tool in your toolkit is a hammer, you will treat every problem as if it were a nail.

Abraham Maslov


Abraham Maslov.png


You can't solve what you don't understand

It is also important to spend the time to understand the problem.

“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution".

This has been attributed to Albert Einstein but it isn't certain he specifically said this. However it makes a lot of sense and also fits with his mindset. He definitely said both of the following:

“It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

einstein 1.jpg

“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them".

einstein 2.jpg

Albert Einstein.

So this is one technique my business, Successful Endeavours, uses to solve problems and innovate toward solutions. Think differently, look at the problem from multiple directions, understand why the solutions at hand now are not adequate.


Solving the unsolvable

Several times a year we get a project that has had other people work on it before. Right at this moment we are delivering a solution to a product design that three other businesses have worked on before us. Our client has made 10,000 units and they don't work. So this is complex because we don't want to scrap 10,000 units. That is neither good for the environment nor the bank balance. So we actually have a harder problem to solve than the three businesses that worked on it before had. We have more constraints. We have elected to fix the problem by only changing things that can be done without altering the physical product that already exists.

Fortunately, the product has a Bluetooth beacon in it that runs the software and we can update the software in the already made product using this Bluetooth link. And we can also get how the App uses the data from the Bluetooth beacon. We have spent six weeks investigating the problems and doing minor changes and only two weeks delivering the final solution which we handed over yesterday (that is the day before I wrote this). It doesn't work perfectly because that isn't possible given the constraints we have, the original design concept being flawed and the electronics design didn't connect a critical link in the product that would have allowed an easier solution to two of the problems.

Looking through the documentation and project correspondence we can see that none of the previous three businesses were prepared to question the design concept they were given to execute. We succeeded where they failed, not because we were smarter, but because we spent time analysing the problem and determined one of the problems was the design concept itself.

 

Ray Keefe

Successful Endeavours


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Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

Successful Endeavours website: https://www.successful.com.au/

Ray Keefe's LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/raykeefe/ 


Dec 07
Project Management

Casey Tech School is pleased to offer a new masterclass on Project Management​.

Learn how to manage your time, allocate tasks, and help your team work together.


 



Nov 24
Perfecting the Pitch

Casey Tech School is pleased to offer a new masterclass on Perfecting the Pitch​.

Learn how to design and deliver an effective pitch with five easy steps: know your audience, keep it simple, show how/why, make it interesting, and act confident.​


 



Oct 27
Ask An Expert - Dr Kate Robb (Marine Biologist)

Dr Kate Robb is the Founding Director and Head of Research at the Marine Mammal Foundation, with over 17 years experience researching dolphins. Hear about Kate's journey to becoming a marine biologist, and how you can become a marine champion.  


 



Oct 27
Ask an Expert - Dr Mei Cheah (Obstetrician & Surgeon)

Dr Mei Cheah is a skilled female specialist Obstetrician, Gynaecologist and Laparoscopic Surgeon based in the City of Casey. She has worked in many areas of medicine and surgery, including Neonatal Intensive Care at Monash NICU before commencing her specialist training in Obstetrics & Gynaecology in Victoria. Hear about Mei's journey to becoming a doctor. 


 



Oct 27
Ask an Expert - Paul Skevington (Robotics)

Paul Skevington is the Vice President of Research, Development and Manufacturing at Rex Bionics. Hear about Paul's experience designing rehabilitation robotics as an engineer. 

 



Oct 27
Ask An Expert - Jackie Bondell (Astrophysicist)

​Jackie Bondell is the Education and Public Outreach Coordinator for OzGrav - ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery​, and holds a Masters Degree in Astrophysics. Hear about Jackie's journey to becoming an astrophysicist.​ 


 



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About this blog
Casey Tech School is a shared learning facility that delivers high-tech, leading edge courses to students from 23 secondary schools in the Casey region.