Acting Innovatively Section: OLL3
The purpose of the online learning is for you to develop your own learning. There are a number of tasks that you should complete before you undertake the next section. You can work through this section at your own pace. It is expected that you would take up to 3 hours to complete this section. You must complete this section before you move to the next section.
Watch the video “When ideas have sex” You will need to make some notes for the next task.
This video give you an indication of how ideas interact and produce innovations
Read the article “When ideas have sex ”. Then answer the questions in your workbook.
This reading enhances your understand of how ideas interact and produce innovations.
When ideas have sex
In this video Ridley opens by pointing out that despite all the threats and fears we have of impending disaster we seem to not only survive but also grow and improve our lives. The threats never quite materialise, of course bad things to happen from time to time but overall life is much better for us today than 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. Paradoxically, we also don’t quite get all of the predicted good things either. The predictions of the internet when it first became available have not quite happened the way we expected. The good news is that we tend to get more good stuff than bad.
Ridley argues that the reason for the slow but inexorable growth towards a better life is the result of us sharing ideas, and we are doing this in ways never considered before. By sharing and combining we are moving the entire human race slowly towards a better life.
What we are doing is to draw on everything around us; exchanging ideas, providing support and cooperating. This fits very much with the emphatic argument we have pushed in this programme that innovation takes place in a collaborative environment and not in isolation. However, the notion of exchange is not something new; trading in materials and objects and therefore ideas is older than farming. The exchange of ideas is not necessarily direct exchange either. The creators of mountain bikes were not a large bike manufacturer but a small group of bikers who wanted something different. Rap music was around for about 20 years before record companies realised there was market. When SMS was added to phones, it was teenagers that discovered how to use it effectively, the phone companies had no idea what it was for. This demonstrates that not all innovation is necessarily high tech, and most of it definitely does not come from large high tech organisations.
The fact that some of the threats and good things don’t occur is because not all of the ideas about innovation are necessarily feasible. We mentioned earlier the need for all the pieces to be available before the innovation emerges. Essentially this is why some predicted disasters and good things do not occur. Apart from the critical factors of being able to communicate ideas and cooperate, is the skill of making ideas work. To do this we need to identify the ideas that are most likely to work.
Ridley suggests that the division of labour along gender lines may have influenced different innovations. What do you think? Write your answer in your workbook.
Watch the video “Conditions affecting Innovation ”. You will need to take some notes. Then answer the question in your work book.
Innovation is influenced by many things. This video show some of the factors that affect innovation
Read the article “The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving”
This article shows how structured problem solving can reduce costs and save time.
The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ)
While unstructured problem solving is common there is evidence that structure problem solving saves time and reduces costs. Innovation is the result of finding different solutions to problems. In the late 1940’s Altshuller devised a series of principles for solving problems innovatively. What is discovered was that that over 90% of problems could be solved using solutions that are already available. We highlighted this earlier where we look at how creativity is primarily a remix of existing ideas and solutions. Altshuller noted a pattern around which problems are solved. He classified this pattern into 5 different levels.
Level one were problems that can be solved within the area of the problem and the solution was rarely if ever innovative. Around 32% of solutions were at this level. Level two problems often needed minimal changes or improvements and often used known methods within the broader field. The changes were mostly compromises, rather than structural. Some 45% of problems fell into this level. Problems at a level 3 were solved by utilising solutions from outside of the area the problem existed. They required fundamental changes to existing structures as contradictions existed between the improvements being sought. Approximately 18% of solutions were in this category. Level 4 problems required major restructuring to most parts of the system. Essentially new inventions were a key component of the solution. Some 4% of solutions were in this classification. Level 5 required a total reconstruction of the system using new and pioneering inventions. This level used rare scientific discoveries and consisted of just 1% of solutions.
What Altshuller demonstrated was that firstly most solutions already exist, secondly that you can most of the times you just need to rearrange things to find a solution, and thirdly life changing innovations are extremely rare. A key approach in solving problems was to identify the contradictions or factors that were preventing a system from working and then find a compromise between the ideal solution and the contradiction by following the 5 levels, starting with the lowest level, level one.
An example of the principles of Altshuller can be found in the development of mobile phones and the emergence of smart phones. There were a number of contradictions around early mobile phones that lead to changes in their shape, size and functions. The main contradiction was that people wanted both long battery life and multiple functions. However, at the time it was not possible to have both. Nokia championed the longer battery life with some mobile phones not needing recharging for 4 or 5 days. However, this compromised features such as a camera, touch screens and weight. In the end the consumers choose features over battery life and consequently smart phone killed off efficient phones. Nokia eventually went out of business.
Open the presentation “Knowledge push and Need Pull”. Listen to the commentary. Then answer the question in your workbook.
This presentation looks at the process of innovation from a different perspective.
Read the article “Developing a solution ”. Then answer the questions in your work book.
Once you have generated a number of ideas you need to think about how you will implement them. If you have been vigorous in your generation of ideas you would have far too many to use. The starting point is to create some boundaries. If you do not have boundaries than the ideas generation process becomes endless and you soon run out of time. Time was one of the external factors we look at as a barrier to acting innovatively in the previous task.
Maslow (1943) produced a hierarchy of needs that remains a classic today. This notion of needs is the first boundary that needs to be set. There are multiple variations on how to do this and what these needs might be. For this programme we are going to look at two broadly defined needs. You need to think about what need the problem is solving. You would have already started on this when you developed your ideas around the problem. However, now is the time to focus those needs more sharply.
The first need that you might consider is if the problem is one that is related to an everyday problem. This is a problem that has clearly defined factors and is generally tangible that requires a specific solution. This could be something like a change in the ordering process with a supplier, or a piece of equipment can no longer meet demand.
The second need is one where an opportunity presents itself and should be utilised. There is not clear resolution because the end user is not aware of the usefulness of the resolution. Many of the things we rely on today are the result of this opportunity need. Today the idea of flying to both near and far places is normal. Yet in the 1920’s this was never considered as possible, let alone normal. There are people today who grew up, got married and had children long before mobile phones became endemic. This sort of need is about utilising newly developed technology or new knowledge.
A third need relates to the thoughts and feelings of an individual. This is where value is obtained through the expression of ones thoughts.
In order to ascertain the context of the need there are four critical factors that need to be established. They are the importance of the need, what initiated the need; exactly what is the outcome being sought and how might you structure the solution.
The answer to how important the need is must be answered before any solution can be implemented. All businesses have finite resources and these resources need to be directed to the most appropriate solutions. The only way to ensure that this happens is to determine how important the solution is to the business. Note I said the solution, it is easy to see problems as important but it is the solutions to those problems that often have a greater effect. You can sometimes delay solutions to some problems. However, one a solution is enacted it changes the business in some way. Questions around time, skills and control are needed to be asked and answered.
Identifying the cause of the need can help frame the solution. It helps to know who is involved in the problem; is it customers, staff or both? Is the problem clearly identified or are there other reasons that you have not seen that are causing the problem. One technique you could use here is the 5 whys. This is where you ask the question why five times to the problem until you find the underlying cause. However, this tool is really only effective with fairly simple to moderate problem.
You need to apply some parameters to the solution. These guidelines determine the scope and structure of the solution. You might determine what the budget is to spend on developing and implementing the solution. This can be quite decisive because a solution may dramatically increase your profits, but if you do not have the money now to pay for the solution you cannot implement it.
The last factor is how you are going to present the solution. What physical form will it take? There are hundreds of tools online that you can use to present the problem, ideas and solution. Do you present a flow chart of build prototypes? Whatever the decision is it must be in a format that is easy to understand.
This case study was introduced in the SDL1 for this Unit. It applies the concepts in this task and will continue to be part of the next few tasks.
You run a small online business selling small items that fit in an envelope. Previous you ran your business from a large garage in your garden. Each you would print the orders on separate sheets. The taking one order at a time you would collect the items from the shelf place them in an envelope before sealing the envelope and placing the item in the postal collection box. It took no more than 2 minutes to complete the order.
However, your business has grown and you now run your business from a large warehouse. You still print each order on separate sheets but due to the size of the warehouse it now takes 3 minutes and 30 seconds to complete each order separately. This additional 1 minute and 30 seconds means that over 15% of orders are going out a day late and you cannot catch up. Customer complaints are beginning to affect your rating online.
The ideas ranged from employing extra staff, putting popular products close to the front of the warehouse, introduce a catalogue system so staff know exactly where products are, baskets or trolleys to collect items, changing the delivery times, prepacking items and many others.
Type of Need
This is an everyday problem that requires a specific solution.
Importance of need
Extremely high, this sort of business is reliant on high levels of customer satisfaction, price differentiation is almost impossible to achieve as online retailing is very transparent. If the rating drops below 93% of 4.5 stars then sales will drop.
Cause of need
The need was caused by the relocation to larger premises. While moving meant the number of products sold could double, it also created several logistic problems this being the main one. We used the 5 whys tool.
There were three parameters, one was cost. Moving the business had used up the cash reserves and until sales increased through more products there were no funds to spend. The second parameter was time, the solution had to be found and applied within two days. The last parameter was that the solutions had to be viable at least until sales and therefore profits reach a level that cash reserves were replenished and there was enough to consider alternative solutions.
You need to answer the question in your workbook.
Watch the video “Assessing solutions ”. Then answer the questions in your workbook.
This shows you how to develop your ideas into solutions
Read the article “What Happens If No One Likes The Ideas ”. Then answer the question in your workbook
Not all ideas are accepted. This article explains why some ideas are not accepted.
What Happens If No One Likes The Ideas?
You can waste a lot of time researching and developing solutions to problems only to have every idea rejected. This is not quite as rare as you may think. Unfortunately many good ideas get reject for all sorts of different reasons. You may recall in Unit 1 we looked the various misconceptions and myths around innovation. We also considered the notion about having everything in the right place at the right time.
It is the myths and misconceptions that probably end most ideas. People do not like change and have a strong attachment to the status quo. We are social creatures that rely heavily on rules and regulations as these tell us how to behave. New ideas often seek to change those rules and regulations which end confusing people. Also it is much easy to stay with what you know on a social level, even if the cost is higher than the new idea.
However, resistance to your idea may not be for these reasons. The cause of the resistance may lie with you. You need to be able to clearly demonstrate the value of the idea to the key decision makers within a business. Even if you are the owner, your staff may resist the idea if they cannot understand the purpose and benefit. Your customers too may also reject the change even when it brings benefit to them. Some supermarkets use to tell their customers how much cheaper their groceries were than other supermarkets. If they were more expensive they would give the customer a voucher to redeem next time they went shopping. You might think that shippers would welcome this; they didn’t. In particular they did not like being told they could have save money by shopping somewhere else even if they got a voucher for the difference.
For a very small number of people it is not that difficult to keep going when their ideas are rejected. Yet, for others it is not so simple. It sometimes takes courage to keep creating when your ideas are rejected or are started only not to be finalised. Despite these difficulties we still need people to be creative, today more than ever as the rate of change continues to accelerate and we need more solutions to the problems that other solutions create.
You should undertake further reading on the topics in this section. We recommend that you read the following:
Leadbeater, C., (2009) We-think. Profile books
Michanek, J. & Breiler, A., (2014) The Idea Agent, The Handbook on Creative Processes, New York: Routledge
We also recommend you watch the following video:
The next section is Unit 2 SDL 2
[i] Adapted from Michanek, J. & Breiler, A. (2014) The Idea Agent, The Handbook on Creative Processes, New York: Routledge
Introduction to the module
Welcome to this module on innovation. The module is designed to be used either individually or within a classroom setting. The module takes a non-technical approach to innovation and looks at setting innovation within small every day businesses. It explains what innovation and isn’t and how you can develop your skills and abilities to become better business owners. You will find the module will challenge your thinking around innovation in preparation for either starting your own business or developing an existing one.
This module can be used as a standalone module on innovation or as part of the Student Business e-Academy programme on Business start-up.
Download here related workbooks before starting the course:
All workbooks in this course please submit to email@example.com (MDX students), firstname.lastname@example.org (UMA students) or email@example.com (UNIST students), upon finishing the assignments.
Dr. Simon Best is a Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University, with interests in micro and small business start-up and development. Simon’s first career was 15 years as a chef; this was followed by two years as a Market Researcher and then 28 years as self-employed business owner. During his time as a business owner, Simon started businesses in Australia, Papua New Guinea, India and Viet Nam. Simon has extensive networks across many countries. Currently Simon leads the Enterprise development hub – EDH@MDX as well as lecturing in Entrepreneurship and small business development.
For discussion and course related questions visit the FORUM.
- Lectures 20
- Quizzes 11
- Duration 60 hours
- Skill level All levels
- Language English
- Students 75
- Assessments Self
UNIT 1. What is innovation?
- Lecture 1.1 What is innovation? Section: OLL 1
- Quiz 1.1 Quick Quiz U1OLL1
- Lecture 1.2 What is Innovation? Section: OLL2
- Quiz 1.2 Quick Quiz U1OLL2
- Lecture 1.3 What is Innovation? Section: SDL 1
- Lecture 1.4 What is innovation? Section: OLL3
- Quiz 1.3 Quick Quiz U1OLL3
- Lecture 1.5 What is innovation? Section: SDL2
UNIT 2. Acting innovatively
- Lecture 2.1 Acting Innovatively Section: OLL1
- Quiz 2.1 Quick Quiz U2OLL1
- Lecture 2.2 Acting Innovatively Section: OLL2
- Quiz 2.2 Quick Quiz U2OLL2
- Lecture 2.3 Acting innovatively Section: SDL 1
- Lecture 2.4 Acting Innovatively Section: OLL3
- Quiz 2.3 Quick Quiz U2OLL3
- Lecture 2.5 Acting Innovatively Section: SDL 2
UNIT 3. Levels of innovation
- Lecture 3.1 Levels of Innovation Section: OLL 1
- Quiz 3.1 Quick Quiz U3OLL1
- Lecture 3.2 Levels of Innovation Section: OLL 2
- Quiz 3.2 Quick Quiz U3OLL2
- Lecture 3.3 Levels of Innovation Section: SDL 1
- Lecture 3.4 Levels of Innovation Section: OLL 3
- Quiz 3.3 Quick Quiz U3 OLL3
- Lecture 3.5 Levels of Innovation Section: SDL 2
UNIT 4. Managing innovation
- Lecture 4.1 Managing Innovation Section: OLL 1
- Quiz 4.1 Quick Quiz Unit 4 OLL 1
- Lecture 4.2 Managing Innovation Section: OLL 2
- Lecture 4.3 Managing Innovation Section: SDL 1
- Lecture 4.4 Managing Innovation Section: OLL 3
- Quiz 4.2 Quick Quiz Unit 4 OLL 3
- Lecture 4.5 Managing Innovation Section: SDL 2