Business Innovation

Big Ideas from a Small Business

 

In this article for Forbes, Stephen Wunker reveals how this small business led the charge in innovation, safety, and customer service during the height of the pandemic.

You might not think of an auto body shop as a hotbed of business innovation – but you’d be quite mistaken. Consider the story of one small chain that shows how businesses can go on offense during the coronavirus pandemic, seizing the initiative to remake customer experience, business relationships, and competitive position. This is how one company made its Great Reboot happen.

Today’s Collision, a 64-employee chain of three auto body shops based in the Boston suburb of Malden, saw the pandemic happen at an unfortunate time. Boston had a relatively mild winter with little snow, and – sorry to tell you – auto body shops expect people to have more accidents when the weather is nasty. However, owner Bobby Cobb had a realization: if the winter was tough for his relatively well-capitalized company, it must have much harder for the mom-and-pop firms that were already just eking by. As the coronavirus hit and the plummeting level of road traffic foretold still fewer collisions, Cobb knew that shops across the industry faced dire circumstances. For him, this was the time to seize the initiative.

 

Key points include:

  • Changing the customer experience
  • Expanding your business partnerships
  • Seizing market share from weaker rivals

 

Read the full article, How a Local Business got on the Front Foot during COVID, on Forbes.

 

How to Deal with Innovation Derailers

 

If you have experienced great ideas die in the making and want to avoid this in the future, read on. Robyn Bolton offers a few expert tips on how to combat the problem of the ‘derailers’ in your midst.

Innovating – doing something different that creates value – is hard.

Innovating within a large organization can feel impossible.

In my work with corporate innovators, we always start with great optimism that this time will be different, this time innovation will stick and become the engine that drives lasting growth.

Within weeks, sometimes days, however, we start to be “loved to death,” a practice that takes one of two forms:

The Protector who says, “That’s not how we do things and, if you insist on doing things that way, you’ll get shut down.  Instead, do things this way”

The Enthusiast who exclaims, “This is amazing!  I would love to be involved.  And you should share what you’re doing with this person, and definitely tap into this other person’s experience, and I know this third person will want to be involved, and you definitely must talk to….”

Neither mean harm.  In fact, they’re trying to help, but if intrapreneurs aren’t careful, The Protector will edit their work into something that is neither different nor value creating, and The Enthusiast will suffocate them with meetings.

4 More Innovation Derailers

Being “loved to death,” is just one of ways I’ve seen corporate innovation efforts get derailed.  Here are the others:

Performances for senior executives.  Yes, it’s important to meet regularly with senior leaders to keep them apprised of progress, learnings, results, and next steps. But there’s a fine line between updating executives because they’re investors and conference room performances to show off shiny objects and excite executives.  It takes time for innovation teams to prepare for meetings (one team I worked with spent over 100 hours preparing for a meeting) which is time they aren’t spending working, learning, and making progress.

 

Key points include:

  • Evolve what you measure when
  • Use transparency to build support and let experience drive progress
  • Base incentives on the core business and innovation objectives.

 

Read the full article, 5 Innovation Derailers (And What To Do Instead), on Milezero.io.

 

How Hippo Survived and Thrived 

February 18, 2021

 

Tim Worboys shares the strategies behind the success of a leading US insurtech company.

Hippo, a leading US insurtech company, announced yesterday that they had raised $150M in a Series E round, valuing the business at $1.5B post fundraising.

As the global economic conditions continue to prove challenging due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic we are beginning to see a split in the market – some insurtechs are going public or successfully raising significant amounts of funding and others like Metromile are either having to lay off and furlough significant numbers of staff or closing altogether like Coverly. So why are Hippo in the former group and continuing to be so successful? In my view there are three key reasons:

Hippo chose a great “niche”

All insurtechs entering a product market have to focus on an initial country and product combination (a niche). This niche is critical as it defines the parameters within which they operate and hence significantly influences their chances of success. Hippo chose to enter the US homeowners market – this market has a number of key advantages that help increase their chances of being successful:

Large size –at ~$100B there is a lot of opportunity for new entrants. Even at a retention rate of 85% there is $15B of new business premiums to compete for in a given year. Hippo at ~$270M currently will only be looking for 1-2% of that per year so can focus on the type of business/customer/states that they wish to target and have a lower chance of challenges such as adverse selection.

 

Key points include:

  • Consistent growth
  • High average premiums
  • Simpler supply chain and less complexity of claims vs Auto

 

Read the full article, Hippo – getting a lot of things right – sustainable profitability the final challenge, on LinkedIn.

 

From the Negative the Positive Emerges

 

In this  article recently published in the El Economista, David Uriarte explores how COVID-19 has encouraged medical and social experiments on sustainability, the economy, and the management of companies.

One of the ways in which human beings have managed to advance our knowledge and civilization is through experimentation. Experimenting means testing in order to explain or understand the nature of reality. Experimentation is one of the building blocks of innovation . Experimentation is based on changing the things we normally do .

Experimenting is often expensive and time consuming. It also forces us to get out of our comfort zone and seek new realities.

Covid-19 is posing a huge humanitarian challenge with, for now, more than 1.5 million deaths. In addition to its profound negative impact, it is generating new processes of innovation and digitization, because we are forced to experiment, we are forced to do many things differently.

All crises generate experiments, innovation and knowledge. World War II inoculated us against fascist ideology and advanced technology to hitherto unsuspected limits.

You just have to walk through the Royal Air Force Museum in London and see what airplanes were like before and after World War II to get an idea of ​​this transformation.The sense of urgency and need to obtain a vaccine for Covid-19 has meant that a large amount of resources have been dedicated to its research and development. Thanks to this, new platforms based on RNA and DNA have been generated to obtain vaccines that may be used in the development of new vaccines in the future. With these technologies, vaccines can be developed more quickly because they do not require culture or fermentation and billions of people will benefit from them in the future.

 

Questions posed in this article include:

  • What happens to pollution in a city
  • What happens to an economy when millions of people cannot work
  • How do organizations develop if their workers are related only digitally

 

Read the full article, COVID-19: The Great Experiment, on El Econimsta.es.

 

An Investigation of Innovation 

 

Robyn M. Bolton makes a poignant observation on the popular approach to innovation and provides a few tips on how to punch out of the proverbial box. 

The definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results.”

This quote, often (wrongly) attributed to Albert Einstein, is a perfect description of what has been occurring in corporate innovation for the last 20+ years.

In 1997, The Innovator’s Dilemma, put fear in the hearts of executives and ignited interest and investment in innovation across industries, geographies, and disciplines. Since then, millions of articles, thousands of books, and hundreds of consultants (yes, including MileZero) have sprung forth offering help to startups and Fortune 100 companies alike.

Yet the results remain the same.

After decades of incubators, accelerators, innovation teams, corporate venture capital (CVC), growth boards, hackathons, shark tanks, strategies, processes, metrics, and futurists, the success rate of corporate innovation remains stagnant. 

Stop the insanity!

I have spent my career in corporate innovation, first as part of the P&G team that launched Swiffer and Swiffer WetJet, later as a Partner at the innovation firm founded by Clayton Christensen, and now as the founder of MileZero, an innovation consulting and coaching firm.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • The head vs. heart dilemma
  • A common scenario
  • Investing in innovation

 

Read the full article, Our Approach to Innovation is the Definition of Insanity, so Let’s Try Something Different, on Medium. 

 

Bringing Possibility into View

December 31, 2020

 

Susan Hamilton shares a thoughtful post on creative thinking and the pursuit of possibility.

September has always been my favorite month. The smell of new notebooks, the crispness in the still-warm air. A season full of unknowns, full of possibility. This year, the back-to-school season presents a different riff on unknowns to be sure, but I am still filled with a sense of excitement at the possibility that awaits.

People who are open to seeing possibility have a powerful competitive advantage. They notice opportunities others miss. They discover new ways forward that others may not have imagined or may have written off as impractical. 

Tony Petito was a man who saw possibility. 

While growing up in New Jersey, Tony’s love of theatre was a puzzlement to his family of plumbers. Undeterred, he organized extravagant musical productions, earning him a commendation from his town’s mayor. He went on to earn an MFA in directing from the Goodman School of Drama of the Art Institute of Chicago and pursued a theatre career in Chicago and New York. 

When he was offered an unexpected opportunity to work in management consulting, he took the leap. While it drew him away from the theater, his time with Booz, Allen & Hamilton took him on adventures across Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore and provided a secure life for his growing young family.

In Singapore, a community theatre approached him seeking an artistic director. Where others might have dismissed the role, imagining nothing more than staging Gilbert & Sullivan musicals for local expatriates, Tony had a vision. What if it were possible to transform that theater, leveraging its staff and supporters, to create a professional, international company?

 

Read the full post, In Pursuit of Possibility, on SusanMeierStudio.com

 

How a New Business Model Brings New Opportunities

November 27, 2020

 

Using the company Hoowaki as an example, David Summa shares an article that illustrates how business model innovations can drive new revenue streams.

In my last post, I wrote about business model innovations and how it can drive new revenue streams, especially in times of changing economic and cultural landscapes or declining performance. To help illustrate this point, I’d like to talk about a recent success with Hoowaki.

Hoowaki is a materials science company in South Carolina that for years has specialized in manipulating surface friction. They create novel surfaces that fall anywhere on the spectrum of slippery to grippy. Their business model generated revenue through paid R&D, followed by a promise of royalties once a product containing their technology reached market. However, many of their inventions, though remarkably better than what currently existed in the market, were not incorporated into a customer’s product. Only later did Hoowaki learn that they needed to help customers stand-up a supply chain in order to make their product, which may seem obvious today, but at the time wasn’t expected, nor did customers communicate this. As such, only half of the Hoowaki business model proved profitable.

In 2019, BMI began working with Ralph Hulseman and Hoowaki to upgrade its business model. We mined past work and identified application categories, mapped them on a value per square meter of material (high to low) and square meters per year (high to low). What emerged was an excellent roadmap for scaleup.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • Incorporating inventions into a customer product
  • Upgrading Hoowaki’s business model
  • The success of flipping the business model

 

Read the full article, The Swab Opportunity: An Example of Business Model Innovation, on LinkedIn. 

 

How Working from Home can Empower Innovation

 

In this post, Robyn M. Bolton explores how working remotely can improve company culture and accelerate innovation. 

The seasons may be changing but, for most, there is no end in sight for our new Work From Home (WFH) existence. The prospect of more months of working from the kitchen table, searching for a quiet spot for a Zoom call, and juggling personal and professional responsibilities on a minute-by-minute basis is frustrating and overwhelming for most.

It’s also raising questions about the future of work. Will companies still maintain large physical office spaces? What new symbols of power and status will take the place of the corner office? Will people need to relocate when they change companies? When, if ever, will co-workers gather together in person?

How will company culture form? Will innovation continue or stall?

It is those last two questions, about culture and innovation, that every single one of my clients, all executives with responsibility for growth and innovation at their companies, have been asking and struggling to answer for the past few months.

 

Key points include:

  • Accepting new situation
  • Empowering the introvert
  • Creating new innovation approaches

 

Read the full article, How to Transform WFH into the Best Thing to Happen to Innovation in Your Company, on Medium. 

 

Are You Preparing for the Post Pandemic World?

 

With a look ahead to a post pandemic environment, James Black provides nine questions to help you identify the potential possibilities and pitfalls.

While all eyes are on navigating the pandemic—and for retailers than also means navigating the critical holiday shopping period—smart manufacturers and retailers are starting to look ahead to envision how they will operate in a Post-Covid world. (This is not to say we are in a Post-Covid environment yet, rather, for how to strategically plan for when we are.) I offer up 9 questions as thought-starters to help you start thinking about the Post-Covid world.

    Purpose – Will companies come out of the pandemic with a renewed sense of purpose (for the company and their employees)? Recent McKinsey research show that employees that are “living their purpose” at work report higher levels of well-being.

    Opportunity – Given the short-term focus that has (rightly) dominated a lot of managerial thinking, it is critical for managers to seize the opportunity to anticipate what consumers needs will be. How can businesses get ahead of the competition more long-term?

    Supply Chain – Robust supply chains were a key enable of winning as the pandemic settled in. How can companies’ leverage this unprecedented opportunity to design more agile supply chains to be more responsive to new demand flows?

 

Remaining topic question include:

  • Organization
  • Innovation
  • Distribution

 

Read the full article, 9 Questions to Help You Start Preparing for a Post-Covid Environment, on LinkedIn.

 

Innovation Lies and Other Truths

September 22, 2020

 

Robyn M. Bolton takes a lesson learned from a fairy tale to illustrate truths.

I love stories.  When I was a kid, my parents would literally give me a book and leave me places while they ran errands.  They knew that, as long as I was reading, I wouldn’t be moved.

But there was one story I hated – The Emperor’s New Clothes

I hated it because it made absolutely no sense.  It was a story of adults being stupid and a kid being smart, and, to a (reasonably) well-behaved kid, it was absolutely unbelievable.

No adult would try to sell something that doesn’t exist, like the clothiers did with the cloth.  No adult would say they could see something they couldn’t, like the Emperor and the townspeople did.  Adults, after all, don’t play at imagination.

As a kid, this story seemed completely wild and unrealistic.

As an adult, this story is so true that it hurts.

The truth of this story touches so many things and innovation is at the top of the list.

I’ve spent my career working in innovation working within large companies and as an advisor to them.  I know what executives, like the emperor, request. I’ve said what the consultants say to sell their wares.  I believed all of it.

Now I need to be the kid and point out some of the lies, as I see them.

 

Lies identified in this article include:

Lie #1: Companies can disrupt themselves

Lie #2: If companies act like VCs, they’ll successfully innovate

Lie #3: We can pivot our way to success

 

Read the full article, The Innovator has No Clothes: Innovation’s 3 Great Lies, on the Mile Zero website.

 

Include an Ecosystem in Your Innovation Strategy

 

Sean McCoy shares a blog post from his company website that presents a case for and against spending resources on ‘innovation’. 

Innovation is hard. Most companies do not do it well. Long is the list of established market leaders that were The Disruptee instead of The Disrupter. But firms are not to blame. Most innovations fail period, regardless of who is doing the innovation. Innovation is a high-failure sport.

Nevertheless, conventional wisdom holds that large businesses should be more innovative. It’s even a famous imperative: Innovate or Die. But why should a firm that is organized around low-failure productivity embrace high-failure innovation? Why should a large company make innovation when it can buy innovation? 

The argument against ‘Make it’

There are many reasons why a large firm making its own innovation might not make sense. Finance departments balk at the lost capital that could have been allocated to a known winner. HR departments can be reluctant to promote high-failure entrepreneurs, knowing how poorly that will be received by those that receive the opposite treatment for a string of failures. Audit, Compliance, Legal, and Quality Assurance departments usually do not take kindly to bug-y minimum viable products, nor to operators who move fast and break stuff.

Innovation at a big firm is equally difficult from the perspective of the innovator. The large number of stakeholders slows down decision-making. Once decisions are made, the work itself takes longer than entrepreneurs would like, because a company’s processes involve many hands, and innovators want speed.

 

Points covered in this article include:

  • Making innovation
  • Buying innovation
  • Leveraging an ecosystem

 

Read the full post, Should your innovation strategy leverage an ecosystem?, on the McCoy Consulting Group website.