Good health

I had a great time speaking at the Adaptive Lab event Enhancing Innovation in Health Care alongside Adaptive Lab’s Mark Priestly (who was presenting the research behind the event) and Ollie Smith from Guys and St Thomas Charity.

The theme of the presentation was “Mythical Problems”. The idea is the to sum up the absence of product/market fit which lies behind so many failed innovations.

The team at Adaptive has done a great job editing the video. Have a look!

 

Decisions decisions

Billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates

Buffet’s annual letter to shareholders is famously both candid and amusing, with a particular brand of humility: “here are all the dumb things I did on my way to being a multi-billionaire”.

Obviously the force behind Berkshire Hathaway knows a few things about investing. This year Bill Gates particularly highlighted the section from page 23 onward.

Aside from the views on the efficient allocation of capital with regards to taxation (which is surprisingly interesting), Buffet looks at how to know when an investment is worth making, particularly focusing on how vested interests can distort the market. He focusses on an early mistake to stay in the textiles industry for the wrong reasons, and which took decades to overturn:

“…[the] capital withdrawals within the textile industry that should have been obvious were delayed for
decades because of the vain hopes and self-interest of managements. Indeed, I myself delayed abandoning our obsolete textile mills for far too long.

“A CEO with capital employed in a declining operation seldom elects to massively redeploy that capital into
unrelated activities. A move of that kind would usually require that long-time associates be fired and mistakes be admitted. Moreover, it’s unlikely that CEO would be the manager you would wish to handle the redeployment job even if he or she was inclined to undertake it

“…[At Berkshire Hathaway] ….we are free of historical biases created by lifelong association with a given industry and are not subject to pressures from colleagues having a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. That’s important: If horses had controlled investment decisions, there would have been no auto industry.”

In Unthinkable, we discuss exactly these issues of course. It’s very close to being at the heart of why such decisions are so difficult to make at a human level. We also talk about the incredible value of real case histories – not those of the “conquering hero” variety. The great attractiveness of Buffet’s letter this year is that it shows us how much can be learn from mistakes openly shared.

 

Facts not opinions

We’ve been lucky enough to have Hugh MacLeod provide the illustrations for the book, and damn fine they are too. I won’t ruin that surprise.

However, I was reminded this morning of just how close in thinking much of Tom Fishburne’s work is. As an innovator in a big business, we know many clients can feel like this:

Garden of innovation (the threat to the idea).

Or this:

Or this:

Start managing innovation the same way you manage media budgets and the Christmas party, and you can guarantee the sort of brutal attack Fishburne envisages will come about. If you try and make yours just another project, you can be sure it will be managed like one – which doesn’t work for doing new things.

The only way to fight the opinions of those more senior, or disruptive, is facts. And the innovator must dedicate themselves to finding the real facts at the heart of their business idea.

What Fishburne doesn’t allude to in his fantastic cartoons is just why the nurtured idea is about to be exposed to the knives and barbs or colleagues.

And the answer here is simple: money.

If you can run your innovation effort out of petty cash, no-one will ask those question or take a swipe at you. It’s when large outlays are required, and more importantly, grand projections made that critics will circle.

Prove them wrong, and do it on a budget.

But that’s not to say that your don’t want criticism. Exactly the opposite, you should seek it out. And be your own worst critic.

All too often the adversarial process of getting and keeping budgets can convince the innovator to be bloody minded in the pursuit of their original concept. Keeping your idea away from the most sectarian and political forces may be wise, but never shelter an idea from criticism entirely. This is how your idea will grow. We’ve seen over and over again, that ideas which only ever get praised, rarely get any better, or indeed see much success.

A final Fishburne

innovationfunnel

 

What we’re saying is see the teeth in the picture above as your friend. If you are tough (not pointlessly critical) as you progress thorough every stage of assessment of the idea and build of the proposition, the process will make you (and your idea) stronger.