[Webinar Recording] How to use COVID-19 to Jumpstart Innovation in Your Business with Mark Wardell

Rather than try to pretend that the world we are living in hasn’t changed out of all recognition, successful organisations are using COVID-19 as a springboard.

Clare: Hello everybody, good afternoon and thank you so much for joining us today. We’re going to be talking about how to use COVID-19 to jumpstart innovation in your business.

My name is Clare Forestier, I’m an independent host and emcee and I’m really excited actually to be moderating today’s session for innovative product development and design services company.

We’ve got really fascinating presentations and conversations coming up in the next hour. Obviously you’re going to be commenting in the chat about the things that you hear and the things that you’ve got to say around the subject and but there are about 700 of you joining us today, so if you have got an actual question that you would like me to specifically put to the speakers, please put it in the Q&A section. Actually, if you see someone’s already asked the same question just I think you can just Mark with a tick, I think um which ones that you know if I was one you were going to ask and then I can see which ones are really popular and make sure that we definitely get to those.

So, we are going to get started pretty quickly. Lots to get through we’re going to be hearing first of all from Mark Wardell. So, Mark has developed quite a reputation as a leader in business advisory. He’s president of Wardell International and he’s had some really amazing success in helping entrepreneurs grow super impressive businesses. He’s going to share some of the secrets that he’s already shared actually in his seven published books. He’s also a regular speaker at high-level events and to the media. So, we’ve got a real coup in actually getting him here today.

So, I am going to ask you to start please Mark.

Mark: Well thanks Clare, with that introduction I will do my best.

So, Robert Frost has this really beautiful poem, ‘The road less traveled’. You probably know it and in it, he talks about the benefits to his life, well how his life is better by essentially by not following the crowd. I can’t help but think of how well that analogy fits for the time right now and for business in general. You know, Warren Buffett has this for the great quote he says “Be greedy when others are fearful”. No, I don’t think it means greedy in the bad sense. Like he’s talking about looking like when everybody’s running one way out of fear, you know they’re the herds going that way, maybe we should stop for just a second and try to figure out why?

Okay because oftentimes when people are buying, they should be selling, oftentimes people are selling, you should be buying right. Many of the world’s most successful businesses just to prove this fact were started during recessions. We talked about we have General Electric, Disney, FedEx, Microsoft. Like the list goes on of all these kinds of businesses. Well, let’s start by taking a look at what’s actually going on right now because I know that times maybe looking tough right?Maybe times look – the future looks uncertain and you’re worried about stuff that’s going on. Stuff like Chicken Little, the sky is falling. COVID-19’s the biggest global event and challenge of our lifetime. But listen, if history is right, now I’m going to talk about this for a little bit. But if history is right, this also is the opportunity of a lifetime for you and for those that can see it. So, sure okay business activity is down 49.1% globally according to Reuters. World Bank says we’re expecting a major global recession, IMF calls it the steepest downturn since the Great Depression. World Economic Forum says you have 18 months to recover. But what does it actually mean? Well, what people are worried too, right?

This is not what you might expect or might have thought. This economy right now didn’t happen from a subprime loan or some kind of negative thing that happened to the economy.

We had this thing called the coronavirus that swooped in and pulled people out of their businesses, separated people, and really has done some bizarre things as to what’s going on. So, people are worried, like their lack of confidence, they’re risk-averse, they’re cocooning which means they’re staying at home. Sometimes they have to, sometimes they want to. Tied to their family, tied to their home, tied to the local community. Are they going virtual, looking for ways to connect? They’re very health-focused, very concerned about their personal safety. As I said Chicken Little says, “The sky is falling.”But here’s the thing: let’s say you’re in a boat and you’re on the ocean and the waves are coming in and the storm and so forth. Can you do anything about the storm? The answer’s “No, you can’t but if you understand the storm…”, you kind of connect with that. So, if you understand what’s going on, there are some things you can control. You can control the rider; you control the set of the sail. If you want to go in the direction of the wind, maybe you can go there even faster. But there are things that you can do. So, while things may look bad and there is a storm raging, I mean well, there’s a storm that’s raging.

But if we look closer at that storm, we’ll see it’s not quite so simple. Sure, business is down 50%, and eating out is down 80.7% globally. But people are still eating.  Groceries are up 14%, entertainment is up 13%, and household supplies are up 3%. So, they’re all kind of strategies that are going on inside this. Those are current numbers for right now but you wear those numbers and watch those numbers because they have a big impact on the decisions you can make going forward, and you can use these things. I’m going to talk about that today. Your business does not have to die from this, in fact, your business can thrive in this. It’s absolutely possible, the first little history lesson for today. Let’s learn a little bit about history to help us understand that process.

So, back in 2010, this is interesting, back in 2010 Harvard did a study. They did a study of the three previous recessions to that time period, 1980, 1990, and 2000. They discovered some interesting things. First of all, 80% of the businesses that you know went into that recession, had still not regained their pre-recession growth rates three years after. In fact, 17% didn’t survive the recession at all. But 9% of those companies didn’t just recover in three years after the recession, they flourished, they exploded, they dominated their business. They became what we called 10x businesses – they’re multiplied ten times and they beat their competition.

So, in analyzing this outcome they discovered four different strategies for dealing with the recession that people –  four different strategies and approaches that these businesses took to deal with that recession and I want to go through them with you to help you understand and think about your own situation. So, the first strategy was what they called the prevention-focused companies. These companies focused on defensive moves, primarily cost ready but saving money everywhere they possibly could. Cut, cut, cut that was their whole focus. They created this kind of psychological experience inside that business of focusing on survival. This was a survival approach, good and bad but mostly this created pessimistic attitudes inside the company and even resulted often in customer dissatisfaction.

Because if you’re focused on survival, you’re often not paying attention to the things that got you successful in the first place. This created the lowest probability of pulling ahead when times get better so that Prevention-Focused Companies had the least success of all these businesses, which is interesting. The next category was what we call the “Promotion-focused companies”. This seems logical, these are the people that focused on offensive moves, like acquisitions and hiring, and so forth. They just doubled down on investing and growing their company. You think that would work well but it actually ultimately created these kinds of unrealistic expectations people sometimes ignore the early warning signs and because it’s hard to tell how long, in fact, it’s almost impossible to tell how long a recession is going to be when you’re in the middle of it, easy to look back right? But in the middle of it, they often had trouble surviving the recession because they spent too much money. They weren’t prepared to be able to survive long term.

So, this group had actually the second-lowest probability of success post-recession. The third group, these were the pragmatic companies and they did a healthy combination of both defensive and offensive moves and they actually had better results from the previous two. But the ones with the best results are most interesting. They call these “the Progressive Companies”. These had this optimal combination of defensive and offensive strategies. In particular, they focused on operational efficiencies linked to defensive stuff. They didn’t just cut, cut, cut, cut. They thought how do we make things better? How do we save money by changing our processes, our systems, our policies, our methodologies?

You know, what changes can we make, the run demote, lean, and so forth… write three or four constraints, these kinds of things. They invested, they invested in research and development in Marketing and assets essentially these were the innovation companies and they had by far the best results than everybody else in the whole process. Interesting, huh? So, listen, innovation – obviously it’s critical. In fact, it’s so critical that the companies that fail to innovate are the ones that eventually die off. Deloitte says half of the S&P 500 companies will be replaced in the next 10 years because they will not innovate. So, you know, innovate. Companies like Blockbuster Video and they’ve declared bankruptcy in 2010, they’re a huge company.

Kodak was the largest film company, bankrupt in 2012. Toys-r-Us more recently in 2017, you might remember them. These are all companies and their big long list of companies that have lots of opportunities to innovate, in fact, people even inside the companies we’re like screaming “We need to innovate, need to change”. But they’re so focused on what they have what was working for them at that moment. Because sometimes if you in the middle of stuff things, things are working right? So, you just focus on what’s working at that moment and then all of a sudden you get whacked over the head by the world, by a virus, by stuff, by other companies innovating. Right?

So, innovation is critical to your survival there is a right way though and a wrong way to innovate and Bradley is going to talk more about this later and I’m excited too. But I want to talk for a second what Jim Collins, you might have heard of him. You might have read his book – a great book, there’s another book he wrote called ‘Great by Choice’. that I really recommend. So, you should check it out. In that book, he has this idea that he calls firing bullets before you fire cannonballs. Cannonballs, and I’ll explain what I mean: so, imagine that you’re in a boat, I’m all about boats today apparently. So, imagine that you’re in a boat, you’re on a ship and you see a pirate ship out there coming towards you. You go “Oh, gotta deal with it”. So, you reach down and you pick up with a cannonball and yet you load the Cannonball in your Cannon and you fire the cannonball and you miss. Uh oh, you look down, no more gunpowder, what are you gonna do? Pirate ship comes, takes over, sinks your boat, all is lost. However, what if instead you know, what if instead, you fired a bullet you missed? Then you recalibrate and you fire another bullet and you miss but you’re closer.

Then you fire one more bullet and you hit. Then you take your cannonball you put it in the cannon to fire on the same trajectory as the bullet, you hit, save the day, all is well. This is how successful businesses apply innovation, there are tons of examples of very well researched books, I recommend you check it out. But this is how successful businesses innovate. This thing you might have heard me talk about before called the Value Pyramid is a way for you to understand how to apply innovation in your business in a way that fires bullets and not just fires cannonballs. So, the quick overview, the Value Pyramid itself is a framework for sustainably growing any business. As you climb the Value Pyramid from the owner to people to systems to culture-driven businesses, you move up the value of unit your business becomes more resilient, becomes more scalable, it becomes more valuable, stronger, healthier, all the good things that you wanted to climb steadily up you need to do this in a predictable steady fashion. The concept is applicable to all aspects of business and especially to innovation.

Because at the owner-driven level, all the innovation in a company is coming from an owner. There’re limited resources for innovation when it’s all coming from one source – not how smart you are, I’m sure you’re smart but no matter how smart you are, you’re still one person. There are many facets and aspects to your business especially as it grows it’s impossible for R&D and innovation to come from one person and to be successful, it can’t be done. So, then smart companies realize that. They have to get other people involved and become a people-driven business. You know people in the company that contribute in with their ideas but helping the business grow and they have more and more ideas to help the business innovate and all that’s well and good. So, you need to understand it, those two levels you’re trying to firing cannonballs. Because you don’t have a process, you’re kind of firing cannonballs, and here’s the problem, one more problem with cannonballs. If you hit, this happens sometimes to business all the time I know probably seen it too. You fire a cannonball and you hit. You think “I know what I’m doing”, right? You think I can do it. I got it made, I figured it out. I’m smart enough to be the person that could just grab cannonballs and just fire randomly.

But here’s the thing, sometimes you’re gonna miss it. So, if you get lucky and hit the first time around often those are the companies that crash and burn eventually because they get this or the invincible Superman idea, that they can just do it every time. So, I’m telling you you’ve gotta fire bullets every time and that’s what a system-driven business is all about. You’ve got process and procedures built-in, you’ve got a research and development system in place. Collecting ideas and filtering ideas, creating virtual prototypes through testing and those are bullets you’ve got a methodology for how you go through innovation inside your company. If you do that, if you just do that, you’re top ten, twenty percent. If you really want to go all the way, you want to try to build what we call culture-driven businesses.

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Where you’ve got innovation built into the environment and those are the innovative companies that you really are impressed by. 3M, DuPont, GM, Google, Intel. All these kinds of innovation-focused companies have built an innovation culture, where there’s a continuous improvement tied into that process. I’m going to stop for a second, Bradley’s gonna take over. I’m really excited because he’s gonna you know kind of talk to you about some really great practical ways that you can develop some of these ideas right inside your business.

So, I’ll move on for now.

Clare: Thank you, Mark, thank you. So, yeah. Obviously now is the time to introduce Bradley. So, Bradley, Bradley Pallister from the Innovolo group and he’s the co-founder and operations director. He is the ideas man essentially. He’s a project manager who’s become a creative and is behind the methodology of Innovolo drive for systemized creativity and actually also their proprietary product development platform-as-a-service. So, you’re now going to be talking about how to jumpstart innovation. So, please take it away Bradley.

Bradley: Yeah, so, thanks, Clare. So, yeah there’s obviously a lot of them there’s gonna be a lot of people on the call today, who’s potentially got their whole product range and possibly redundant now. Their customers are no longer buying them and they’re left with a whole load of dead stock. So, how do I think about innovation, when I’ve got all that warehouse full of dead stock and my whole product range has been taken out underneath my feet. So, what we’re going to do, is just going to go through a whole series of ways you can jump-start innovation in your business.

So, the first one is about customer focus. I think in the example that I’ve just given there, where your product range is essentially redundant, you’re not getting the sales that you used to be getting. What you need to look at, is what hasn’t changed? What hasn’t changed is the fact that your customer base, those people that know you, that like you, that trust you, they trust your brand, they trust your promise. Those people haven’t changed. Everything else may have changed but those things, those customers, they haven’t changed. This is hugely, extremely, extremely powerful and so often overlooked. The only thing that has changed really is their needs. So, here’s a quick way. It’s a really quick and easy way to jumpstart innovation. So, you just think about those people that know you, like you and trust you. If you just take the example, you know if you’re in the construction supply industry, for example, have a think about what’s in the back of their vans.

Or if you’re supplying nursing homes, what’s in their supply cupboard? Or maybe they’re engineers, just have a little think about what’s in their toolbox? What products are they using, what tools are they using? Now just take that sort of those analogies and apply it to your own situation in your company. Think about your customers right now, what are they doing? What are they buying? What tools are they using? Then this is probably an action point of like all the attendees here to takeaway here is, you want to make a list of the products they’re using that they’re not currently buying from you. It’s really important that you do this because every one of those things are potential big windows of opportunity for you and your business.

So, that’s something that you can use immediately. You can really get some traction there but in the longer term, innovation is a bigger thing and it’s all about making something unique and that could be your product and your service. But essentially, it’s how you get the edge over your competition. So that list of products you’ve just made, you want to just look at that and look at how you can make your own solutions. They’re different from what everyone else is offering. So, what I want you to do is to get a bit of paper on the left-hand side, make a column saying product, and list all those products that are in the back of the van, in the store cupboard, in the toolbox. The whole list of products and then beside it, three more columns, and at the top you want to put better for the first column, second column faster, the third column cheaper.What we need to do is for every one of those products, simply go through and get ideas of how you can make that product faster, better, cheaper – really, really, powerful. This is essentially what Mark was talking about, the Value Pyramid. When you really get your team in and you go around that go down that list with your team and get them involved. It’s a simple way of doing it but it’s a system and that’s the introduction of systematization in your company, really, really powerful.

So, that was the first one, customer focus.

Now, the second one is discovering new trends. Now in the last few months, trends everywhere have been completely bucked. We’ve seen trends, long-standing trends and then they’ve just gone completely haywire up or down or no one really knows what’s going on. But the important point is that you need to look beyond what the media is saying, look beyond the headlines to find out exactly what is going on in the world.

You got to bear in mind that the media always focus on the negative stuff because its clickbait. It gets interest, but as a business owner, you need to look past that and look at the facts and the data. Facts and data set you free every time. So, there’s a lot of resources available to help you filter all that negative stuff out and really see the wood for the trees. So, we’re gonna be sending you a few links out on a on an email after this webinar with some resources and websites and that sort of thing that you can use. But there’s just a couple that I want to really point out here.

So, the first one was an infographic we put out just after the crisis hit us and it’s a real eye-opener really. It shows some of the dramatic impacts that particularly around the e-commerce space that this virus has created. There are some items you never expect just suddenly show up in popularity. So, I mean for example, there are bread makers. That’s gone up by 632%. Like who would have thought that bread makers, bread machines would have suddenly become so popular just because of the virus?

Mark: Amazing.

Bradley: It’s bizarre. So, really important that you monitor these and see what these of them see what the trends are out there. So, there’s a really, really interesting useful resource out there called explodingtopics.com. It’s a website that constantly analyzes search terms and things that people are searching in google and it spots and highlights fast-growing trends and that could be on a weekly basis or six-monthly, five-yearly. So, you can get a really good understanding of how these trends are working. But the good point about it is that you can get a feel for what people are searching for, way before it hits the headlines. Really, really powerful, so I’ll send over the link on that later on. So, there are a few other sites. Again, I’m not going to go into them now because we’ve got a lot going on there.So, that’s the second way to jumpstart innovation, discovering new trends. Now moving on to the third and my personal favorite, I think a way to jumpstart innovation is carrying out what we call in of ‘ideation’ workshops. Now, this is a topic that could span a whole webinar on its own, and the good news is, we will be doing this in the next few weeks. So, we’ll update you as soon as we can on that. But just a few key points I’d like to just take you through for running an ideation workshop, call it a brainstorming session but you want to really make sure this is done in a systematic way to get the most benefit out of it. So, I’ve just got a couple of points here. So, the first point and probably one of the main points is, you invite the right people. You don’t want to get too many there you want to just get an optimum number of between 8 and 10 people. You need to get enough so as plenty of variety of ideas coming in, but not too many that people feel kind of uncomfortable about speaking out.I think in our experience, the best ideas come from the most unlikely sources. So, you know most businesses have them, these people that have the wacky ideas, the weird and wonderful things that keep just coming out. Weird little saying as I have and most businesses have got them. I kept getting accused of it when I was employed. But you just need to think in your staff, out of your staff members, who have got those sorts of qualities? It might be one of your drivers, it might be a receptionist or a cleaner, it might be our accountant. I know that sounds a bit funny because accountants are generally dry and drab and whatever but actually, they may come out with some of the best.

So, you just really need to think about who’s gonna stimulate a lot more ideas and what you’ll find is it may start off a bit slow but one idea will start stimulating another one and another one, another one and another one. This is where the magic starts to happen and I think Clare this is something that you probably back me up on, is this that it will start becoming really important to designate a facilitator.

Clare: Well yeah definitely, you need someone to keep control and to make sure that someone who’s maybe quieter or not coming up with it, is coming forward and you’re using what that one person told you to draw on the other person and keep control of it, yeah definitely.

Bradley: Yeah, it can be a pretty busy job when it’s done right. So, 3rd point on this workshop is you need a suitable location. So, traditionally that would be a meeting room or a boardroom with plenty of room and possibly you know loads of whiteboards and whatever. That doesn’t really happen at the moment. But you don’t want the magic to stop. So, there are other online tools that you can use, Viima boards, and other ideation workshop tools that are online. Again, we’ll share a link to this in the follow-up email. You need to make sure that the ice is broken. Make sure that everyone feels liberated to share whatever ideas they’ve got and this is one really important point, is don’t ever take any ideas off the table.Take them, however wacky or weird or wonderful they are, put it on a sticky note, put it up on the board every single time. Because sometimes those ideas are the best and those ideas are likely to make the biggest changes in your organization. So, that’s just a real small taste of how to jumpstart innovation, the ideation workshop. So, the next method is to look at some other live examples out there of how other companies are using innovation and kind of use that as a way of stimulating your own ideas. Mark, do you want to go for that?

Mark: Absolutely, I just want to add to what you said a little bit and then I think maybe you and I both have some ideas. We’re gonna banter around about some t maybe an example competition or something. Europe and UK versus North America. So, innovative organizations have 22% faster growth rates than their peers. So, that’s not a little, right? That’s a major, major change. So, just to kind of add what rather than saying a little bit like innovation does begin with understanding your core competency. That’s just a concept I just want to talk about just for a second. So, there are these two concepts of core competency and Market position that are key to understanding how innovation works. That ties exactly into what Bradley’s been talking about.So, the market position is just the answer to the question “Why should I buy from you as a customer?” “Why should I buy from you?”. You say “Oh, it’s because I’m faster, I’m cheaper, I’ve got better customer service”. Whatever, right? Core competency is just the other side of that same coin that says this is what I’m really good at doing. In fact, I could be better than any of my peers maybe even world-class doing this thing and then you focus on that thing. That’s where innovation, that’s kind of a place where you can begin with innovation. So, understanding your customers just exactly as Bradley had said look in the back of the truck, understanding their needs, and then understanding what you’re good at and then focusing on what you’re good at, how it connects is that hopefully makes a little bit of sense. Like something, big examples would be like for example with Nike.

Like Nike is clearly a product innovation company and a Marketing company, that’s their core. They don’t actually make shoes, really, barely at all. They outsource all that stuff. They focus on designing really great shoes right or Costco which is a big-box outlet here in North America their core competency is purchasing. They know how to purchase really really well, innovative creative mix of product and so forth that has customers constantly wanted to come back in and see what’s on the shelves. So, that’s innovation from their perspective. One last quick example would be Apple, which is the design company. The design company really, think of it as a computer company but it’s a design company and they use that competency to attack all kinds of software and hardware things.They even disrupted the music industry because they’re great at design. So, with that being said, Bradley let’s rock.

Bradley: Okay, let’s go.

Mark: So, here’s my first idea. This is a New York company and they use drones; this is interesting to spray disinfectants in theaters. So, they create these drones, they figured out how to put this spray device onto these drones, fly them around the theater and spray the theater so that people are going to be able to come in.

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That’s my first one, your turn.

Bradley: That’s a good one. Okay so, bring it back to the UK with Hampshire County Council who have developed a mobile unit. They mix is road surface materials and ingredients on-site and traditionally they’ve always been off-site. Now it’s brought right on-site and far more efficient and way quicker completion times.

Mark: Yeah, that’s good. Okay, back to my starting point. Okay, so this is a company that use ultraviolet light on airplanes and they’re figuring out how to roll down the aisles of the airplane and use all the ultraviolet light will throw disinfectant and kill the virus. So, they’re you figuring how to run down the planes for a quick turnaround to be able to sanitize and disinfect the planes.

Bradley: That’s cool, so I’m jumping over to Europe into Poland and just picking up on your point about the virus and that sort of thing. The company in Poland who have created this smart delivery boxes, so they’re contactless package deliveries. That’s brilliant you know the amount of gloves that delivery drivers must get through is crazy.

Mark: Yeah, I’ve heard about that, it’s pretty cool. Okay so, that’s so again this is understanding what they’re good at and what they’re what the customers are looking for and understanding the environment, it’s amazing. Okay, here’s a US business that converted snowmaking machines. So, they lots of mountains over here and there sometimes the snow doesn’t fall the way you’d like it to, so they have these giant machines that trade snow so that people can go skiing. So, they’ve converted some of these machines to be able to spray disinfectants. So, that you can go into a factory or even playgrounds and spray the whole playground quickly and just disinfect the whole place on a daily basis. I thought that was kind of cool.

Bradley: Yes, that’s so cool. That’s kind of using machinery they’ve already got and just adapting it to the current situation. That’s a fairly quick win, isn’t it, Mark?

Mark: Absolutely, yeah.

Bradley: So, it’s not necessarily – innovation is not necessarily a new product it could be an adaptation of an existing one.

Mark: Yeah but it all comes because of understanding like these ideation workshops that you’re gonna put on for people. Like you get your head into this stuff, you understand the market, you understand your customer, you understand yourself, understand some of the trends which we’ll talk about a little bit and all of a sudden ideas fall and you get these ideas.

Bradley: Yeah, they come out of everywhere. I mean everyone’s seen masks everywhere now. So, Luly Yang they’re a designer wedding-dress company and they do wedding dresses and uniforms. So, they’ve come up with a designer facemask and sold out immediately.

Mark: Okay so, here’s a how about a service company. This is a tour company obviously struggling right now right for tours and holidays and so forth. So, they’ve tried to print these virtual tours and online gatherings to get people to be able to kind of go online, you know make a few dollars but also get them interested in where that where the future might take them and capturing people kind of in a first stage then eventually they can lead them into future customers as well. So, virtual tours and online gatherings is kind of a new service this company designed.

Bradley: Yes, that’s cool yeah. So, picking up on that is, you know innovation is not just about products, its services. How do you want to innovate your business model? Maybe find some new revenue streams? There’re so many different ways we can make this work for us, there’s so many windows of opportunity out there. I’m just picking up on that service innovation you just told us about there. There’s this wedding planner they’ve come up with social distance wedding packages. I haven’t looked into it; I don’t know how it works but –

Mark: How do you kiss the bride? I’m not sure how that works.

Clare: Such great ideas there, guys and I’m particularly – you got another one? Oh okay.

Mark: I gotta have one more. Okay, so this is a company in the U.S. called emitted energy, and what they have done and do is create these infrared thermal detectors that can detect little e cracks and problems or defects in welding. They’ve adapted that technology to be able to read body temperatures, so they can body temperature scan people. They’ve produced and this goes back to the bullet thing, which I think we have got to remember that firing a bullet and having the system that we’ve been talking about. So, they produced an MVP, they build them all high produced MVP, showed it to Amazon. Amazon thought it was awesome, purchased them for every Amazon store, then they went into production. Okay, beat that one.

Bradley: Yeah, let’s wrap up with these examples… so everyone knows about Dyson and how quickly they produced ventilators, incredible feat actually. Sorry, Mark, it was a British company that time. No, but yeah, they sold 10,000 of them to the government before they even started production and that’s incredible. But just picking up on that emitted energy one and there’s a similar – on a similar sort of train of thought. There’s a new device out there for access control. So, it will recognize your face, facial recognition but it also takes your temperature as well before it will let you open the door.Mark: Amazing.

Bradley: Yeah, so even if you’re meant to be working in that office, you won’t be there if you’ve got a temperature. So, loads out there.

Clare: I’m gonna have to rush you on, because there are too many great examples here and I know you’ve got other points that you’re gonna be making and I have to say it’s all very well, the inspiration is amazing. But it’s pretty hard to start on this road isn’t it? Some of the questions coming in now, you know where do you start when you start to have great ideas? How are you gonna keep the momentum up? Because bringing your product or great idea to market is not quick and easy, is it Bradley?

Bradley: No, it’s not and that’s kind of why we’re in business actually is to help client’s kind of, you know, hold their hand through that process. It is a minefield and there’s a, there are lots of things that can trip you up and that’s what we’re there for is to try and help you through this journey and help you bust through that barrier basically. So, there’s a lot of different obstacles that come up and I see Clare trying to push us through, sorry Clare. But there are some main obstacles that keep on coming up time and time and time again.

1. Time

Probably the first one would be time; we’ve got no time. Everyone’s in a whirlwind, we all get sucked into it and things get postponed when we’re busy and they’re normally things that actually have the most long-term benefits. Tasks like Marketing and keeping up with that and of course innovation and making sure you’re one, two, three, four, five steps ahead of the competition is simple; there’s a simple reason behind it and although they’re massively important, are they urgent? Well no, they’re not until you know COVID-19 virus suddenly rolls in and then oh shoot yeah it’s suddenly very, very urgent and we need to push it through as quickly as we can and I would you know what? I haven’t got any ideas.So, this is my point about – you need a system for generating these ideas on a constant basis, bring them through like a production line. You need to make it urgent, if you don’t make it urgent, you’ll just keep on putting it off, putting it off, putting it off, procrastinating until there’s no more tomorrow. You can make it urgent by making it – someone in your organization, make it their specific job role. We can go through this in a separate session but it’s really important that you have someone in your organization that is dedicated and committed to innovation. That can really kind of make sure it happens because otherwise it’s not, it’s not gonna happen and a lot of businesses on the call today, they won’t have that personnel available to dedicate themselves to announce obviously where we can come in and help you project manage that and we can guarantee you will get ahead and you will innovate.

So, that’s the first one, on time.

2. Focus

The next one is focus; it’s very hard to keep a focus and you need ideally a dedicated innovation suite or area, where you gather your team together to work on the projects and brainstorm and really get all these ideas flowing and bubbling and all this fun stuff. But you need to get out of the office and go somewhere where you’re not distracted by the day-to-day functions of the business. Really come off-site and get just open your mind out to the number of amazing opportunities that are out there. So, I spoke about one person being dedicated to innovation and that is true. But that person will need a lot of support from the rest of the team as well. I would recommend a weekly scrum meeting as a minimum to really get going, get them around in a huddle and make sure that the three scrum questions are answered. What have you just done? What are you about to do? and What’s getting in your way? So, really quick those three questions each person, go through them, and really just keep this ball rolling.

So, that was the second one, focus.

3. Method

Method is the third one. So, people that worked with me before would be probably laughing here. It’s one of my pet things about systems and that sort of thing. Innovation typically is the perception out there is it’s just an idea thing and it just comes off the car and just no one really knows what’s going on. Actually, it’s really really important to have a system for it and this goes right back to what Mark was saying in the with the value pyramid. Where you’ve got the owner-driven business, you’ve got the people-driven business and then the third step, system-driven business. That’s where you’re gonna start really climbing and gaining a lot of value in your business. So, again you know, systematize it. Make sure it happens, get a system running and you’ll reap the benefits.

4. Resources

So, the fourth one, sorry, is resources. Especially in the smaller business, you don’t have the money, you don’t have the staff, you don’t have the tools. We don’t have the skill sets to get this innovation rolling. Obviously, we’re looking at it particularly from a product development angle and it does, it needs a very wide variety of different skills. You’re going to need legal skills for the IP search and protections. You’re going to need technical engineering, electrical/mechanical. You’re going to need brainstorming soft skills; you’re going to need Marketing skills to sell the concept to your clients.There are so many different skills and business owners are not – businesses, how can they get all of that in one business? Well, the simple way to do it is, have one person dedicated as I said. Someone that’s got overall responsibility for the innovation effort in your company. They’ll have to obviously draw on others in the team to you know father specific skills. But really get one person to take overall responsibility and they can manage it. Obviously, if you don’t have the needed skills then (this is a bit of a shameless plug) but here we go, we can help so… That’s me done I think, Clare.


Clare: That’s great, thank you. Thank you so much. We’ve got so many good questions coming up and you’ve about ten, twelve, thirteen minutes to answer those. So, they’re kind of on different themes actually.

Q1.  People working from home is putting the market in decline.  How should we be innovating around this?

I mean one that’s interesting is raising that service industry theme. Because obviously you know we’ve got an organization here that’s asked a question, you know I think Perry Morren says, in our industry, servicing the office fit-out market obviously people now going to be working from home and that set to continues effectively for a lot of people.So, it’s putting their market in a decline. How should they be innovating around their product markets or product ranges rather, is it going to be you know something they just have to hold tight or someone else’s ask in the service industry, is it about focusing on the customer journey more? I think maybe that’s a Mark question.Mark: Or for both maybe?

Clare: Yeah, well I’ll give you one each.

Mark: Yeah, no it’s good. So, going back to the core competency thing, right? So, you got to think to yourself, what are you good at? What are you really really good at? Why did your customers buy from you in the first place? Try to expose that to yourself a little bit and dig around and ask your customers these questions, ask your key salespeople these questions because they’re very tightly connected to your customers. Does that have to do with customer service? Do you provide outstanding customer services that have to do with the fact that you’re always able to get stuff right on time exactly when they need it? Was it because you had a really interesting mix of products? Like what is it that makes customers want to buy from you? That’s where you start your thinking process. I can’t tell you exactly what’s gonna happen with the trend, I know that some kind of social distancing will continue.So, there may be products or services you can provide that are gonna help support the social distance, things that are gonna support communication but understand who you’re selling you to specifically and what their needs are and talking about it is gonna help. I know that’s a bit of a vague answer but the ideas come when you really concentrate on what your core competency is, like what are you good at? If you’re great at getting stuff done quickly, then double down on that. What other needs can you provide for them that resolve immediate problems in a moment, that’s the thing. Any comments or additions to that Bradley?

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Bradley: Yeah, no, what do your clients actually trust you for? Because they still got that trust in you, leverage that to your advantage.

Mark: Yeah and we may not have the precise answer for where you should go right this second but I can guarantee with a little bit of time, a little bit of thought and a little bit of discussion, the answer will come for sure.

Clare: Definitely, that’s true. Yeah as you say, keep asking those questions like what are we good at and how can we change as the way forward.

Q2. How to overcome the emotional problem where a business owner gets an idea and wants to push it through regardless?

Okay, another question which is an interesting one is, how do we overcome the emotion problem where the owner of a business gets an idea and wants to push it through regardless of the ideas of any others and regardless of unit potentially advice suggesting it’s not a good idea. How do you work with those kinds of people?

Bradley: Sounds like a Value Pyramid one for you there, Mark.

Mark: Yeah, well it’s a bit of both actually. Because it’s helping to bring people from the outside can often be quite helpful. An outside third-party perspective can sometimes keep people online, people get the conversation directed because it’s true that even if the owner doesn’t mean to be like that and this happens with my company and I’m sure it happens with you Bradley as well. Like you want it very much, you try very hard to be inclusive with your people but sometimes just because your name is at the top of the Org chart, people just sort of default to you. So, that’s a culture shift that you have to make inside the organization. The people become yes man or yes women, they just sort of going yes, okay whatever you say. Suddenly becomes the default answer inside your business.

That’s dangerous, that’s a problem because then you start to fire cannonballs as I talked about before. Right, everybody was “Oh well, he said it so that’s where we’re going”. That’s very very dangerous inside a company. We need to shift that perspective. We need to focus ourselves on systems and processes and we need to manage and drive the systems and processes and have a culture, that’s the key to succeeding in these kinds of environments. So, if you sometimes bringing someone outside Bradley’s workshops, you know our coaching, these kinds of things can help to shift the company on track. But really focus on systems, that’s the answer to that question.

Clare: Okay, thank you. Another one on the ideas from this, slightly from the other way.

Q3. I have loads of ideas in my head but find it hard to execute on; how can I get the support?

So, this guy, Bill. He says, “I’m a wacky ideas person”, sounds like you Bradley – and he has loads and loads of ideas, all sort of stuck in my head, I want to keep them going. But he finds at the getting and the keeping them running once he’s introduced is not his speciality. How can he get the support in to get the up and running going better?Bradley: Brilliant question and I think a lot of business owners would relate to that. I think what we found is that you need to prioritize your ideas. You need to come up with a set of criteria where you run each idea passed, and really just prioritize them. The others you can put on the back burner. The further the ones that come out at the top, just keep engaging with your team on those top three or whatever. I think I was only talking to one of my brother-in-law’s actually over the weekend and its very very similar question. I’ve got all these ideas, what should I do? He was asking for a bit of help. I was like well “You’ve got too many ideas; you need to whittle them down. Otherwise, you’re not gonna get traction on any of them. You need to wear them down to something a bit more manageable and really hone in on how you’re gonna make money out of it.” Add anything to that Mark?

Mark: So, ideas have a different impact on the company. Which I think is where you’re going with that. So, like some ideas might be to fix a little piece of the company and make it a little bit more efficient. Another idea might be a whole new product line which requires a whole new target market. Another idea might be like – ideas can have different impacts on the company and they can be significantly different impacts on the company. So, what Bradley’s saying just to follow up on what he’s saying is, you know when you’re filtering and organizing and structuring those ideas, understand the cost for you to be able to implant that idea and bring it to life and numbers and understand the reward or the results the positive impact on the company and really take a hard look at those things and that will help you to filter out some ideas, that might be tremendous ideas but maybe it’s just – you know it’s gonna cost you too much money. It just doesn’t make sense right now to implement that idea, even though it seems really really exciting. You know you don’t want to fire cannonballs before you fire bullets. So, that’s really important.One more small thing I’ll add from – let’s flip it around from the owner’s perspective or a leadership perspective/ I just was thinking about this when you’re talking um you really want to make sure you acknowledge all the ideas that come forward to you. Because if you do want to build that culture of excellence where people do contribute ideas and they feel safe contributing ideas, because if people suggest an idea and then you just ignore it or you don’t even have to say anything negative to them. If they don’t get any kind of feedback inside, remember I talked about you know you’re a leader in your company. You just are, you can’t escape the leadership chairs just where you are. So, if you don’t acknowledge that idea, they’re gonna stop coming. People will just go on it was a dumb idea; I shouldn’t even say anymore, and they just go back to their work and you start. Sometimes those two ideas are the greatest things in the world.

Bradley: Right, absolutely. I do want to pick up on the –

Clare: We’ve got a few minutes left, it’s fine.

Bradley: I was gonna pick up on the question that Marie put on the questions there. So, he’s put on their ideas people don’t always see the weak points of their ideas. Perhaps because they tend to be the green light thinkers. Comes back to having a system really and he’s put Marie has put another point on there. How do you build a sounding board that doesn’t just kill innovation? and I think Mark has just answered that question, is never turn down ideas. You know, keep them coming, keep them coming. You’ve got to really get your staff engaged in that whole idea. You know generation but going back to his first point about not seeing the weak points of their ideas.

You need a system and one way we do it internally is, again we have set criteria that we run every idea past and that helps us to prioritize them. So, we don’t turn them away exactly. But it kind of maybe drops down a bit in the priority. I don’t know if that helps with that question or point there Mark.

Clare: We’ve got probably about three minutes left guy. So, I thought it might be a good idea to just sort of with you guys, to sum up. I give you 90 seconds each.

Q4. If I have an idea that I want to bring to market, what are the three things I should be doing?

What if you have got an idea now that you want to bring to market, what are the three things you should be doing? Bradley, I’ll come to you first.

Bradley: Why do you have to pick on me?

Clare: Mark’s the guest.

Bradley: Okay so, three things you need to do if you came to me with an idea. So, you need to assess whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. So, again going through that criteria. We can help you set the criteria in your business if that helps. So, on the email that we sent after the webinar, there’ll be some links. We’ve set up our whole company around these criteria. So, we would be more than happy to share bits of that as well to help people move forward in this crisis. So, prioritize your ideas. The second point, get your team engaged. Really really important, get your team engaged.As Matthew Gardner has just put on the chat, have an innovation framework. That’s exactly what we’ve done in Innovolo. We’ve built a proprietary innovation framework where you know, we’re assessing every idea for feasibility for the commercial opportunity, for technical viability, a whole load of different queries and that is what kind of prioritizes all of our ideas. We can very quickly see which ones we want to push forward and which ones we don’t. Tim Douglas has also put a comment on, using about the Edward de Bono six hats thinking and I totally agree with that. It’s a great system and that will help you systematize your ideation.

Clare: Great, Mark do you want to add something there?

Mark: I’ll try to add sort of before and the end or something because I think you did a really great job of putting it together. So, before part is – we’ve discussed this before – but really understanding your market position and why people buy from you and making sure this idea corresponds to that idea. Second core competency what you’re really good at, making sure the idea is tied into your core competency. When businesses wander away from the core competency that’s when they really struggle very often. Then now leap over to the other end, so you go through then you go through that filtering process and that structuring process and then coming out of that I really encourage people to create what I call a virtual prototype.A virtual prototype is well document. When you finally decide you want to do this idea, you document it really really, really tightly. Because the virtual prototype and then you can share that and you can leverage that and maybe even create an actual prototype as you go down the path. These are all little bullets that you can fire that are not going to devastate the company as you get closer and closer to the big cannonball that you have to fire at the end. So, a virtual prototype which is a clear description and documentation and drawings and whatever it is the way you’re trying to accomplish, test that as much as you can before the actual prototype. Which then you test as much as possible, if I didn’t go to market with the virtual prototype, that’s what Dyson did.I mean you know you can actually go to market with the virtual prototype before you even build a thing if you do it properly. So, those are some thoughts to help you kind of filter through that process and the last thing I’ll say is people, in this environment that we’re in right now most people react right now what we’re talking about you this whole thing which I’m very appreciative of Bradley, you know, inviting me to participate in to try to encourage people. This is about not being reactive; it is about being proactive. This is about taking what appears to be something that is terrifying for some and actually seeing it for what it is, a tremendous perhaps a lifetime once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that’s in front of you, to be able to take advantage of what’s happening and to successfully grow your company.

Clare: Thank you so much. Thank you, Mark, perfect place to end. Thank you so much to Mark and to Bradley, really good conversation, really interesting points raised and to all the people who ask questions, thank you so much because it all really helps when you’re we’re hearing is that what it is that you’re worried about. So, before I leave you just to tell you about Innovolo’s next event which is on the 19th of June. So, pretty soon. It’s called ‘Escaping the Dragon’ and it’s a really hot topic essentially the practical supply chain alternatives to China.We’re going to be talking about how to successfully and sustainably transition your supply chain out of China, where it has become necessary to do that. So, watch out for more information coming from Innovolo about that and we will see you all hopefully on the 19th, thank you very much, everybody.

Bradley: Thank you.

Mark: Thanks a lot.

About Mark Wardell

Founder and President of Wardell International, Mark Wardell has developed a reputation as a leader in business advisory by helping entrepreneurs successfully plan, execute, and manage sustainable business growth.In addition to offering comprehensive business consulting services through his company, Mark regularly shares his business advisory expertise through many channels.

He is a published author of seven business books, frequent contributor to several top national publications including Profit Magazine, The Globe and Mail, and CGA Magazine, and a speaker at high-profile business events and on televised programs including BNN’s Money Talk with Patricia Lovett-Reid.

Mark continuously strives to expand his business expertise and maintain his position as a business advisory authority by researching, networking, and exploring new ideas among successful professionals.

Prior to founding Wardell International in 1999, Mark’s career included time as a business advisor for a major California-based consulting firm, an entrepreneur, a professional musician and a national level gymnastics coach.

About Bradley Pallister

Co-founder and Head of Innovation at Innovolo has worn a whole load of different hats since he started out in the wonderful world of work. Mostly because of life’s circumstances rather than by design. But as a result, he has a unique ability to lead multi-disciplinary long-term programmes and to navigate some pretty complex product development and innovation challenges alongside his team.

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