1. Design Thinking: a pathway for innovation

    January 4, 2012 by


    If you are a design engineer, process engineer or even someone just interested in understanding how to facilitate innovation in your organisation you have probably heard of the term “Design Thinking”.

    Design thinkers use a number of tools to facilitate innovation processes e.g. mind mapping, sketches, and rapid prototypes, and brainstorming to build on the ideas of customers and the design team.

    Design thinking can be broken down into the following four stages:

    1. Defining the problem
    2. Creating and considering many options
    3. Refining selected options
    4. Picking a winner and executing the solution or design
    Design thinking is used to solve complex problems as described in the clip below which explains how a design team developed two revolutionary prototype pint glasses for reducing injuries resulting from glassing attacks.

     
    Our next Best Practice Report which is programmed for publication in February 2012, will cover the subject of “Design Thinking” in detail.

    If you are not already a BPIR member this is an excellent time to consider joining and enjoy the many BPIR membership benefits.

    A 20 percent discount is available this month only when joining (offer expired).

    Ahmed Abbas
    BPIR


  2. Quality and Innovation for Growth

    December 29, 2011 by
    eCubed Building Workshop
    The NZGBC 5 Green Star Rating
     
    Right specifications, right time, right price and customer satisfaction. We hear these phrases everywhere and any in industry because as it is important that an organisation’s financial policies and marketing strategies are well designed and established, it is also essential for  organisations to have  an clearly defined quality system and follow it but is that enough?

    Years ago the demand of customers was for quality products and services but now in the present information age, customers are more aware of quality  and can often find a choice of “quality” suppliers. Therefore organisations need to provide something additional in order to delight the customer. That’s why delivering a service that is unique to each customer is becoming more important than delivering a standard solution.  In other words, organisations need to offer innovative solutions instead of trying to cut the cost of goods or services if they want to stay in business.

    One of these organisations is eCubed Building Workshop Ltd a leading sustainable building services consultancy with offices in Auckland and Wellington. eCubed specialises in green buildings design and have a strong commitment towards customer service. In 2010 one of their buildings was certified by the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) as New Zealand’s second six-star building, with a rating of 83 points. It is currently New Zealand's highest rated Green Star building and  received a record four out of a possible five points for innovation. Due to eCubed’s focus on innovation and customer service they have won 9 awards since 1999.

    Below is an interview with eCubed’s Director Patrick Arnold talking about his journey with eCubed Building Workshop Ltd.

    Ahmed Abbas
    BPIR.com


    When eCubed Building Workshop director Patrick Arnold was young, he was angry at how New Zealand houses were damp, inefficient and cold. So, he developed a service to change that, even if it was only one house at a time.

    The entrepreneurial building science graduate teamed up with fellow building science guns Quentin Jackson and Barbara Joubert to form the Wellington company Building Workshop. The company offered technical services such as thermal, daylight and energy modelling.

    As the green building sector grew, the team realised they needed an engineering component to offer a whole solution to customers so in 2005 it merged with Auckland engineering consultancy eCubed.

    A typical project? "We get asked in by an architect who will have a concept sketch of a building which could be anything from a couple of lines on the back of a napkin to a full computer drawing. They'll say – this is what I want to do. What do you reckon?"

    Sustainable design was optimising the building and making sure it would work, Arnold said. The building science aspect meshes with the engineering side to assess the design, using computer simulation before building begins to make sure the design team is on the right track.

    "Once the building is complete and operational, we can go in again and do things like energy audits and post-occupancy evaluation to provide more feedback on how things actually worked."

    eCubed Building Workshop is trying first and foremost to be the best at what it can do. "If we end up taking over the world that's great – as long as there's no drop in the quality of our work."

    Why did you become an entrepreneur?

    "A couple of reasons. Firstly, my previous work experience had been in London on OE in a nine-to-five office job and I was determined not to work for `the man'. More seriously, the larger, more traditional companies didn't really offer the opportunity to do building science as a career per se."

    What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?

    "A lot of the construction industry in New Zealand has a very short-term focus, particularly on upfront capital costs. So to start off, we had to really educate the market, and industry in general, as to what we did and why it was worth it.

    "We were lucky in that we were doing this at the same time as the natural tipping point occurred and a lot of what we were talking about became mainstream.
    "Recently we've also had a combination of the [global financial crisis] which has tightened everybody's purse strings – unfortunately sustainability in construction is still often seen as a nice-to-have, which makes it one of the first things to go when money gets tight … coupled with certain political frustrations."

    Name one thing you've learnt while in business and from whom?

    "This is going to sound like a cop-out but we all learn things every day from the other directors, the staff, clients and even the hard way – from our competitors.

    "Learning (or at a corporate level, research) is fundamental. As soon as you stop learning or doing research or creating innovative solutions on projects, it's probably time to stop and have a think about what else you could be doing."

    What are your business and personal goals?

    "When I was younger (and probably more naive), I was really quite angry at how New Zealanders' houses were cold, damp and inefficient. I wanted to provide a service to change that – even if only one house at a time. Nowadays I'm less angry but I've extended my focus to all buildings and making sure they work.. .

    "As a company we're focused on trying to be the best rather than the biggest, so we're very focused on the quality of our work. This means we don't like to walk away as soon as the mayor has cut the ribbon, but prefer to stay involved, monitoring the building to make sure it's behaving and learn from it."

    Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

    "Don't be scared to be bold, but be prepared to be patient."

    Article source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/6191136/Hatred-of-cold-homes-motivated-entrepreneur


  3. Innovative employee rewards and recognition schemes

    May 31, 2010 by

    David Harvey, managing director of U.K. research company Business Intelligence (BI), writes [1] that employers are turning to innovative approaches for rewarding their staff.

    In a recent BI survey of small and medium-sized U.K. enterprises a large majority of respondents reported that recognition was as important to them as pay and benefits.  BI’s research identified the following key practices that helped maximise the value of organisational rewards:

     

    • Promoting the value of rewards; communicating all the aspects of an individual's reward package was seen as being essential in creating a better appreciation of the value that the package actually represented.

    • Being innovative; often it was not the most costly perks that employees appreciated the most.
    • Giving control to employees; self service using Web-based flexible benefit "menus" helped to minimise costs.
    • Delegation of payment options to line managers; enabling IT systems so that line managers were able to analyse and devise pay policies which improved local performance.
    • Introducing health and well-being programmes; the provision of gyms, health checks, on-site medical and dental services, health advice, and health-education sessions was shown to cut absenteeism and to raise performance, while contributing significantly to profitability.
    • Improving loyalty through engagement strategies; e.g. allowing staff to work on their own projects, or to qualify for superior perks.
    • Introducing employee recognition schemes; these underpin performance based cultures.
    • Consulting employees; to find out which rewards they value most.

     

    [1] R10723 Harvey, D., (2008), The morale high ground, Director, Vol 61, Iss 7,pp 60-65, Institute of Directors, London

     

    Members can click here to read the full article.

     

    Neil Crawford

    BPIR


  4. Learn the five secrets of innovation

    March 11, 2010 by

    Have you ever wished that you or your staff could be as innovative as Steve Jobs of Apple or Larry & Sergey of Google? Well, the good news is innovation is not an inherited characteristic – it is a learned skill that all businessmen can develop.

    Mark Tutton, CNN.com reporter. reported that researchers say anyone can learn to innovate like Steve Jobs. Coming up with brilliant, game-changing ideas is what makes the likes of Apple's Steve Jobs so successful, and now researchers say they have identified the five secrets to being a great innovator Professors from Harvard Business School, Insead and Brigham Young University have just completed a six-year study of more than 3,000 executives and 500 innovative entrepreneurs, that included interviews with high-profile entrepreneurs including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Michael Dell, founder of Dell computers.

    In an article published in December's Harvard Business Review the researchers identified five skills that separate the blue-sky innovators from the rest — skills they labeled associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and discovering.

    One of the men behind the study, Insead's Hal Gregersen, told CNN, "What the innovators have in common is that they can put together ideas and information in unique combinations that nobody else has quite put together before."

    The researchers describe this ability to connect ideas as "associating," and say it's key to innovators' ability to think outside the box. But they add that the secret to how the great innovators think is the way they act.

    "The way they act is to observe actively, like an anthropologist, and they talk to incredibly diverse people with different world views, who can challenge their assumptions," Gregersen told CNN.

    "For them, everything is to be experimented upon — for example, if they walk into a bookstore and they're used to reading history they might try psychology. All these behaviors are powerfully enhanced by a capacity to ask provocative, challenging questions of the world around them." Because the ability to think differently comes from acting differently, Gregersen says anyone can become a better innovator, just by acting like one.

    "Studies have shown that creativity is close to 80 percent learned and acquired," he told CNN. "We found that it's like exercising your muscles — if you engage in the actions you build the skills."

    To improve your questioning skills, Gregersen recommends identifying a problem and writing nothing but questions about it for 10 minutes a day for 30 days. He says that over that period the questions will change, and so will your understanding and approach to the problem.

    To build your observation skills, identify a business, customer, supplier, or client, and spend a day or two watching how they work so you can better understand the issues they have to deal with.

    Mark Ventresca is a lecturer in strategic management at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School, and he agrees that innovation is not an inherent trait, but a set of skills that people can learn.

    He told CNN that one key to being a better innovator is building a diverse network of contacts.

    "Data says that people who have more varied connections hear more diverse information, and see patterns before other people," he told CNN.

    "They are able to put together something they hear from a conference they were at last week with a briefing they're at tomorrow and come up with a new idea."

    He says the goal is not simply knowing lots of people, but knowing people from varied backgrounds, who work for different companies, in different industries, have different skills, and deal with different issues, so that you are exposed to varied ideas.

    When it comes to developing your ability to innovate, Ventresca recommends simply setting aside 30 minutes a week to talk with a contact you wouldn't normally talk to — for example someone you met at conference six months ago.

    Ventresca told CNN, "If you do that every week, that's 52 conversations in a year taking up 26 hours of time. 

    "Say 10 of those yield something interesting, and two of those 10 let you do something new and valuable — by investing just 26 hours a year you've come up with something pretty remarkable."

    FIVE KEYS TO INNOVATION

    Researchers say they have identified five skills that drive innovation: 

    Associating: The ability to connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas from different fields. 

    Questioning: Innovators constantly ask questions that challenge the common wisdom. They ask "why?", "why not?" and "what if?" 

    Observing: Discovery-driven executives scrutinize common phenomena, particularly the behavior of potential customers. 

    Experimenting: Innovative entrepreneurs actively try out new ideas by creating prototypes and launching pilots. 

    Networking: innovators go out of their way to meet people with different ideas and perspectives. 

     

    Best regards
    Robin
    Dr Robin Mann, Commercial Director and Part-Owner, BPIR.com Limited,
    r.s.mann@massey.ac.nz