How to Build a Process for Innovation with Stephen Walker

[Webinar Replay] How to Build a Process for Innovation with Stephen Walker

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[Webinar Replay] How to Build a Process for Innovation with Stephen Walker


Euan Pallister 00:11 

A very big welcome to all that have joined today! A very special welcome to any newcomers too. Welcome! Sorry, just get my words straight! A very special welcome to any newcomers! We trust you all enjoy this event, and we would encourage you to use the chatbox and the Q&A box to express your questions and thoughts throughout the session. My name is Euan Pallister. I am the Commercial Director here at Innovolo. Joining me today is our very welcomed guest speaker Mr. Steven Walker. Few can say that they supplied a high-tech labor-intensive UK-made product to China.

Yet after winning a global Internet auction, that’s exactly what Stephen did.

This was the iceberg tip of a 30-year career in management providing the drive enthusiasm and leadership to make extraordinary things ordinary to share his valuable insight with the world. Stephen co-founded Motivation Matters Limited in 2004 and is the author of The Manager’s Guide to Conducting Interviews. He gives talks and workshops across the UK and has dozens of business magazine article articles to his credit. Stephen’s unique journey began in 1989 when he discovered that conventional people management theory was wrong. He spent 15 years experimenting with people to discover what succeeded and what did not.

Today, I will be handing you over to Stephen who will make his presentation for 20 to 25 minutes before we move on to a short presentation by my colleague and brother Bradley Pallister. Welcome, Brad! Brad is the Operations Director here at Innovolo. After Brad’s presentation, we will move on to a Q&A section where the floor will be open to attendees to unmute and ask questions. Before we start, we have been having several questions about who Innovolo are.

And so just very briefly to explain who we are; Innovolo exists to accelerate the product development delivery for internal R&D teams across a very broad spectrum of industries. As you know, R&D can be a large and risky investment. One way to get that cost down and speed it up is to outsource elements or of it or in some cases, all of that. There are two ways that we deliver speed and cost reduction to our client’s product developments. Firstly, we can offer a monthly fixed low-cost subscription package and offering our clients total control while enabling them to use our task delivery team for an unlimited number of individual product development-related tasks, i.e., CAD drawings or market research or prototyping or testing, etc. Alternatively, we offer a Corporate Services package which includes a provision of an onsite, product development manager who is fully backed by our off-site task delivery team, giving our manager the tools to deliver your product development requirements perfectly, whilst remaining flexible and extremely cost-effective. And I have mentioned this before, due to the confidential nature of what we do, I am sure you will understand I am unable to give examples of the clients we work with now, but they span across a huge range of industries and sectors from utility companies to medical construction, life safety, automotive, chemical, security, horticultural you name it.

And so that is enough of Innovolo! The subject of this event is How to Build a Process for InnovationI am going to hand you over now to our guest, Stephen. Thanks for coming Stephen, we appreciate having you here! Over to you, sir. 

Stephen Walker 04:05 

Thank you very much and Hello, everybody! Can I say that I love these webinars that you do? I have come to several of them. And I think they are fantastic. I always learn a lot and hope to learn a lot today to be honest. So, fantastic! Keep up the good work. I really do love them. Right. Enough of the promo. Let us try sharing the screen. You can see the presentation, I hope.

So How to Build a Process of Innovation from The Ground Up:

I can just enrich what Euan said about me. I am a design engineer by first training, an electronics engineer. And that means that I have been involved in innovation for my entire career. Although I did discover in 1978, that people do not obey the laws of physics, which was really a shock to a shy young engineer. So, I moved over to operations to being able to experiment on people to find out what makes them want to work and what does not. And over that time, I discovered lots of things that did work and a lot of things that should work but do not! I was critical about this innovation pyramid. And I hope we like the Lego models. As a management consultant, we use a lot of Lego models. So, it really is just a pile of the functions in any organizationSo, the products or services, the technology, the industry, the business processes, management, I do not think it adds anything to anything in terms of creating a triangle like that. And I do not think the physical representation does anything to the process or to its understanding, I think just that big mass of stuff is not helpful to me. But maybthat is just me. So typical process, well, you will notice, I have got one. So first, someone gets an idea. The idea comes out often in historically in the design department, maybe the marketing department, or sometimes, as you said, on one of your webinars, the HiPPO, the most important person in the room has an opinion. And that is what everybody agrees. So, we go charge enough to develop whatever that was. So, the idea gets formulated. And then it goes to the first evaluation, usually the great and good sit on that committee. And they decide whether it is the thing that they want to go forward with or not. And if they decide to go forward with it, then they produce a prototype, do a trial run of whatever the software might be, or the process might be. Once they get to that stage, and as a different style of evaluation, they have now got a much better understanding of what this thing is going to cost, what it is going to do. And probably an inkling, hopefully, an inkling at least of who is going to want to buy it. Because at the end of the day, if you are innovating something you’ve are going to want to sell it. So, the question that I learned when I was engineering director was from my Chairman, who banged on all the time, about what is our route to market.

And that is what he always asked, what is our route to market?

do not care if it is the best mousetrap. We are not known for selling mousetraps. So how do we get it into the mousetrap suppliers? So, once we have done that, and it gets past that hurdle, then you go into the full-blown implementation and hopefully take it out to the market and make some money. If I can give an example, here, we as a company, we are asked to quote for supplying all the spare parts for a national central heating company. So, they wanted everything from copper pipes to boilers to central heating controllers. Now, we did not have a central heating controller in our range, because that was not our market. But we had similar technology, similar electronics. So, we designed the central heating controller. And I have to say, it was amazing. My team designed it, and it was a lot cheaper than anybody else’s had more functions than anybody else’s. And it looked an awful lot better than anybody else’s. But we did not get a contract to provide the spare parts. So, we were then faced with this great example of design. And the question came up, what is our route to market? Well, although we were in the DIY sheds, although we were in the electrical contractor outlets around the country, we were not in places like plum base. So, the sheds want you to have a whole shelf, they do not just want one isolated product in there. They are not interested in that. And plum base does not know us from anybody. So, we decided even though it really was a great product that we would kill it said that sometimes that is the right decision to make.  So, innovation for me is not a managed process, but a management-enabled process and it is a subtle difference. There. 

So, we have all heard of skunk work projects, I am sure. Now, these things are often poorly funded and done almost in secret, usually, though, with a powerful sponsor just to remove any roadblocks that might come up. And this type of innovation is easily carried out by people who are passionate about what they are doing, they have got this idea, and they are going to drive it through. And it sometimes can be revolutionary. I know of a company that used to make ruggedized laptops, this was a few years ago. And they used to charge 5000 pounds for these ruggedized laptops. And this is a long time ago, this is 2030 years ago. And their market was the time between somebody introducing the latest microprocessor. This so they could get that into their product. Before the main suppliers, IBM, HP, all those people came out with their process that came out with their product. So, what used to happen was the engineers used to go in and sleep on the floor in the lab for three months. Literally, they did not leave. And that is what they did. Those people were passionate, they were determined. And that was how they created their market. Now you need to enable that sort of process by providing resources. But you do not want to be in there doing management reviews all the time. Because that kills the passion that kills the energy. And it stops people from getting on and doing stuff. So, what I recommend, and what I have always tried to do when I have had the responsibility is get the staff people and give them some spare time, say 10, or even 20% of their week, now half a day a week to go and do these side projects. Now apart from anything else, it is very good at creating bonding between different teams. But it allows them to provide their expertise to these sorts of skunk work-type projects. So let me give you an example of that, a company I worked at, was kind of a last-ditch design Skunk Works project, the company apparently was on the border or going bust, I always seem to join companies in that situation. And they came up with this high volume of a food processing machine. It was in the business was in food processing. And it was such the high-volume machine that invented the category. Nobody else in the world did this and the company sold in 139 countries around the world. But nobody else did this. And for the first three or four years, they had the market entirely to themselves before everybody else caught up. Now that was a genuine skunk Work Project, it really was. Nothing was documented, it was just put together. So, when it was successful, there was a lot of work to do to bring it up to speed. But that made that company succeed for 10 years. In fact, it was sold twice on the back of their sales. So great, great product. But normally, these kinds of projects, skunk work type projects do not tend to be processed, they tend to be products, they tend to be processed, so you do not get people coming up and inventing a pyramid. But you do get people coming up and saying we have got to find an easier way to move these stones. So that is the kind of process improvement that comes up by giving the people the power or the authority to experiment. That is how you get the sorts of ideas coming out those ideas always there but getting them to come out is the big issue. But you do need to lay down a few untouchables, but as few as possible. So, for example, if your product is landing planes in the fog, you need to know that it works. And that has been aged properly and that it has been produced safely and everything else. So, there are these pillars that cannot be changed, everything else can be changed. So, managing this innovation process, which is so full of energy is like managing steam. It is such high energy that the touch of any container, in a management evaluation, just turns it to no water. So, the only way to manage this sort of thing is with a puff of air. You kind of suggest that this might be a better thing to do or not. It is a very difficult process to manage. And I had ants in my stomach the whole time. You also need to be careful that if everybody is doing experiments across the company, that they are not conflicting. So, this is not a management evaluation process either. But drive it down to the lowest level so that people can have a forum to talk. And just make sure they are not conflicting with one another typical example and this is a process improvement, Flexitime for frontline people. So, I hate the idea of people doing 804 work in Flexitime, because it just does not work for me. I like to know who is going to be there, so I can start all the stations. But that is not what happened. The work we were doing came through a course in dribs and drabs. And we had a definite process involved. So, the people decided themselves that they would work Flexitime, and they adjusted their start and stop times to match the flow of work. Now, if you have ever managed any sort of process like this, you know just how much time is lost, waiting for work to be done. So, they did that productivity continued to climb, that is how you end up selling stuff to China by raising productivity. So that was so much a great thing. So easy to do but required trust. Are you going to tell me that some of those people use that Flexi-time to take their kids to the dentist, who cares? You know, the productivity was going up so fast, I really did not care. So rather than a triangle or pyramid of areas in there, these kinds of management-enabled process improvements tend to be using a subset of resources. And they will do all sorts of strange little things. And these people’s innovations are usually evolutionary, do not expect them to invent a pyramid, right to expect them to invent a way of moving stones. And typically, they will deal with the core processes that are reused across products and services. Year after year, they are relevant for a very long time. And the combinations of ways of putting things together resources, the ideas are unlimited. You know, if you are employing 50 people, you got 50 brains in now how many are you using? Use them all, for heaven’s sake, you are paying for them. So let me give you an example. Imagine you could reduce your core process costs by 10%. Every year, every year? How would you think that would benefit your company? Ready to hear how to do this? Let us do it. Today, well, he will first day in your new job, you have got all these great ideas about creating a better environment for people to make a big difference. So, you turn up to your team. So, it is such a small team today. And naturally, they are bending over backward to hear your great ideas. Not because frankly, the previous two, three, or four bosses have all had great ideas, too. And probably the even number of bosses ago, they all had the same idea. And then it got changed the next time and I have seen it all before they know better than you do. They know that if they just go as slow as possible, it will blow over many bodies like that when you are managing them. So how do you get over that? Okay, well, I will just say go over it right, we need to get an agreement that people will do their best. I do their best, different to a lot of things. And together, we can work out how to improve the best together. Now constancy of your behavior, as the manager is going to make them believe you. And they will, they will take time to accept this. And I found through experiment doing it so many times that the time constant for this is about nine months. So, two-time constants, 18 months, and you have got about 80 90% people on your side, but you must be consistent. You must keep doing the same thing. And they will test you. So, if you say Do your best, and I will help you be better. Then what happens when something goes wrong, and they fail? Well, that was when they missed the deadline. And you are getting the heat. You go in and shout at him. If you, do you fail the test of constancy and they knew you did not mean what you said. Why would they trust you if you do not just carry on doing what you said you do? So, they will test you and you must pass the test. You must take the heat. Okay, these days, it is called employee engagement. It was called morale and I got interested in it but now it is called employee engagement. You can charge more money for that. But it is not about software. It is about people, people trusting people. And what people really want from their job is three simple things. Money is third. First, they want recognition, they want to be noticed. They want to be noticed that they have done something good. But equally, they want to be noticed that they are having a hard time. So, I am giving a shout out. And if they are having a hard time, but notice, go and say or what went wrong there? How can I help? How can we do to stop that happening? Again, it is important to notice that we recognize they want advancement, because they want to make a bigger contribution. You know, they want to contribute more for heaven’s sake. So, managers Get out of the way stuff on your stopping them contributing more, give them that advancement, give them more opportunity, and third money. You know, you need money to live. But that’s not why people go to work, and what they do there. The money must be fair. And after all, if your people are better than everybody else is, why aren’t they? I deserve better money. One of the tools to this is gamification. gamification is not a pinball table in the canteen. It is about creating a game now what is the difference between a game and real life? Okay, those of you that play video games and things, know that you get killed so many times when you just come back and you start again, don’t you? So, in real life, if you miss your KPIs, two or three times what happens? Okay, now you are on a performance improvement contract, Miss that again, and you are out the door. So, you do not get to continue living. But with a game, you can keep trying. So, create a game, which lifts people’s performance steadily. work with them to improve that. If they fail to make it, that is fine. It is just a game, keep going up. They are not stupid. They know, there are KPIs behind that. But there is something about putting that intermediate level of a game in there, which stops it being threatening, because there is nothing like stopping people thinking by threatening them. That really is not the way to behave. team building, okay. Oh, that is too much about team building. But for me, the essence of team building is what’s not team. So, there is a reason why football players on the field or wear the same colour strip. So, what’s not team is what is important, you need to define the boundaries of what is not needed to treat people with respect, because we all have a divine spark, we are after all, not the same as a stone, we are different, we have that divine spark. So, if somebody fails to do what you want, if their performance is below par, it is not because they are a useless individual. But you need to sit down and explain how their behavior did not suit, how the behavior was not supporting the company in the pursuit of its objectives. And that is what you do have nothing wrong with a person is their behavior focus on the behaviorSo, valuing the person is quite important, and you need to value them for what they will do, not what they just did. So, I am dead against bonuses, lumps of money for something they have just did, I find to be completely wrong. It is treating them now as a performing monkey. I do not like that at all. But if someone is shown themselves to be capable of doing good work, then paying them a good salary. That is the important thing, value them for who they are, rather than what they did. All sounds simple, of course. But in fact, when you are doing these 10 things, it is not done in a nice sequence like this. It has all done jumbled up and people are at different stages. The environment itself, your company or organization is in a different stage. So, I call it the maze, because you need to do the right action at the right time. If you want to get it right, the best thing to do is hire a guide. Okay, all right. So, all these ideas are coming out, you cannot stop them, they will come out so fast and furious. But of course, most of them will be crazy. Most of them will not work. But it does not matter. Because it is goodSo, you need to learn to fail Faster, faster, faster, faster, the more failures the better. So, you need to celebrate failure. And the only bad thing is if you hold on to your idea, even though it did not work. So do not hold on to an idea that does not work, move on. And do not forget minimum oversight all the time. You need to push the oversights far down the organization as you can. When you do get something, you want to implement, then that is the time for your Management Review. But do it fast. Do it in real time to maintain the speed. So that is the time to do it to make sure that those pillars that I talked about are still there will still work, it will not crash the airplane. But as it turns out, taking people’s ideas and asking them to be creative is a huge positive factor for employee engagement. It demonstrates trust. So, what are all these things do? Well, it moves you up the hierarchy if you like Maslow’s hierarchy. And you get a group of people that are truly outstanding. And that means that the people that have performance and outstanding level, which is way beyond good, I mean, people talk about good employee engagement, but it is not outstanding is certainly possible. And these people know that they can face any challenge. And when they do not have competing competitor organizations. They compete with themselves yesterday. And they compete with what the universe says is impossible. This is a self-adjusting organization, adapting itself to meet the circumstances.

And as you said, Euan, and that is how you sell a $1.50 item to China. So, you do it because these people would not accept it was not possible.

Thank you. That is it, folks. 

Euan Pallister 26:32 

Excellent. Thank you for that. Stephen. That is awesome. Bradley, over to you.  

Bradley Pallister 26:37 

Well, that’s great insights, as they have been very helpful. Thanks. Well, obviously, we are in the business of innovation. And a lot of people think, or, you know, come to us, and say, well, a job in innovation must be the most fun ever, right? Well, is, we would love it, love it. But successfully in integrating innovation into your business, and really reaping the benefits is no easy task. It must make good business sense is not for the faint-hearted. And as one of my ex-colleagues said once upon a time, you got to have big crowds for that. But I would like to talk about dinosaurs today. But while dinosaurs dominated the earth, for millions of years of irony, they just could not see what was happening around them. It was so focused on being the biggest and the worst on the block, that they could not keep up with the changing landscape. And what happened? Well, we know what happened, they are no longer here. Do not be a dinosaur. 

So, here are my few thoughts on how to make sure that your organization does not become a dinosaur.

Well, my wife and I recently invested in a baby invested is probably the wrong word. But we are pleased with that investment anyway. Because innovation is a messy business. It is loud. It is messy, involves a lot of emotion. He needs constant attention. And like a baby, you hope and pray that it will grow up one day. And to foster and nurture an innovation or a culture of innovation, you must take the initiative to communicate your expression expectations to the rest of you know if your employees and like a baby, your innovation, your culture of innovation will grow once it is accepted. So, you need to make sure that everyone is aware of what is expected of them what they are expected to bring to the table. And once you share those expectations, aligning them with your goals and objectives as a company is plain sailing. And as Steven said, innovation is a management-enabled process. So, you need to put in, so as business owners and leaders you need to put in place systems and structures that support innovation. Also, you need to have something in place to evaluate that whole innovation process. If your company is large, to kind of siloed and rigid in its operations. to diversify, you might want to set up something like the skunkworks, some separate department that focuses entirely on innovation, because obviously, you need to make sure that that is appropriately resourced as well. And then we have got the issue of red tape, you have got old policies and procedures, that kind of rest on a river of red tape, you need to cut through it by identifying it and removing it. Do not let policies stifle innovation and progress. There should not be anything standing between the strategy coming down from the top and that strategy being executed by your staff. The management and employee relationship needs to be as smooth as a baby’s bottom, quite simply, is, but innovation is all about creative thinking, isn’t it? You know, innovation is born is always born out of a challenge. You know, we have got COVID hit us. And the increase in innovation globally is phenomenal. But his willingness to do the unusual, the really, spurs innovation. And the innovation is really the kind of wheelhouse for a lot of or most startups, the startups are faced with a mountain of challenges daily. And to survive, they must adapt to the changing marketplace. There is a larger corpse is a lot more challenging, because they have got well-established and proven systems and then you get some big curveball like COVID come in and they are floundering. So, it needs teamwork. every entrepreneur knows that his or her team can make or break a company. You need to ask yourself, what do you want? Do you want an army of willing volunteers to help build your empire? Or are you just happy with a band of rebel’s band of rebels who will blow the entire mission at the first sniff of failure? Sure, you will get some hiccups on this journey of innovation. You will get some hiccups, and you will get teething as well. teething is inevitable. Again, a bit like the baby. That has not happened yet, because he is quite young. But a cohesive and concerted effort towards building this culture of innovation will ensure that it happens with a lot fewer hiccups and burps. Everyone has got strengths. Everyone has got weaknesses. And the different you know what my strengths and weaknesses are, you know, they are different to what your strengths and weaknesses are. But if they are paid correctly, everyone in the team can contribute 100%.

But as business owners and leaders, we need to just remember that it takes two to tango. There needs to be a give and take between the entrepreneur and his or her team. But at the end of the day, as leaders, you need to ensure that you work together. And together being the operative word. To move the company forward. You need to leave from the front. It is not rocket science. You basically need to find the best person to handle the job. And, importantly, do not let seniority get in the way the leader must set an example for the rest of the team is really the only way to show staff that taking risks. And thinking outside of that box will reap rewards and big rewards if it is done right. Now, once your staff or one of your staff members, starts working creatively and is innovative in his or her work, it will be easy to motivate the rest of your team to do the same. Remember that creativity breeds more creativity Well, you do not want it to go completely. You know, you want to keep your strategic goals and objectives in the forefront of your mind, and you need to hold people responsible, you know, hold them accountable. You need to task your staff to be innovative. And once you do, so make sure that they follow through. But they need to also have the freedom and the power and the autonomy to implement their ideas, experiment with them. Sure, you will probably get some failures, but let them do it, give them ownership and make it make a champion and innovation champion within your organization makes a huge, huge difference. That champion must convince others to take these calculated risks and work a bit. Alright, sometimes quite a bit outside of your comfort zone. And I think it is important to note as well, that, you know, this is all positive stuff. But while you and while you must involve everyone in the team, everyone in the company employees, top management customers, the shop floor cleaner, whatever, quickly, on this journey, you need to ask that questionwhere is the passion? Because you need to select people who care and are truly passionate about your company, the product, and the effort. And the quicker you kick disbelievers off the bus, the better. Because it is this this this thing is too important for any naysayers to derail it. So, how would you get them on board? I guess is what you know, this is what Stephen does, in that, you know, keeping people motivated and making sure they are on board, making sure they are passionate about what they do. And really, I think you need to reward that performance and that passion, and the, you know, what they put in employee, your staff effort at creativity and innovation should not go unnoticed and unrewarded, do not keep it a secret. You need to show your people how much you appreciate them. And I would say as well, to encourage collaboration, you need to take advantage of the diversity, the diversity you have got in your teams. And that is not just the normal, diverse diversity that we hear about every day. But we need to think about the different skill sets, we need to think about the different experiences you have got in your team, we need to think about the different personalities you have in the team. And you need a team of those people up. And then maybe even try having teams competing to bring in new ideas that can generate the quickest ROI. Or maybe it is not the ROI you are going for. But whatever it is that is trying to get you to your end goal and objective. reward that. And I just have begun on a bit here. Sorry about that, gents. And ladies, but I think what you need to be is open-minded about this whole thing. And you need to be courageous about going outside of your company’s four walls for help. And we just need to bear in mind that you are bringing in external help, which will lead to fresh perspectives, and ultimately, more robust outcomes. So little sales pump here. But at Innovolo. We do not come with a single skill set. We bring all the skills and more importantly, I would say the varied perspectives needed to drive your business forward and to help you launch your product quicker, faster, and more successfully than ever before. 

Euan Pallister 39:51 

Thanks, Bradley. That was a very interesting analogy around the baby. I had a funny feeling that might come up That’s excellent. No, thank you, Stephen. Thanks, Bradley some really good content they are being shared. I think there has been some comment around being a lot of a lot have been spoken about people. And Stephens covered off a lot around the process. But I think they are also quite a few questions that have come in while I have been speaking, particularly around the process. So, I think that is where we may get some value around the process now and will not be able to answer them all. I am afraid today, there are quite a few there. But we will answer as many as we can. And then any, that we cannot answer, we will do so after the event. And obviously, a recording will be made available. Perhaps we will just crack straight into the questions. start at the beginning. There is a question here that the only drawback I have regarding an innovation process is the stigma that a process must be kept to 100%. And there is no room for flexibility? How can you help us to go at this in a flexible and adaptable approach? Stephen Bradley, it volunteers for that one. 

Bradley Pallister 41:19 

Looks like he is on the edge of your seat. So go for it. 

Stephen Walker 41:22 

Now get excited. Um, for me, it is a management-enabled process. So, you know, if you feel an innovation, if you are into innovation, why don’t you innovate the innovation process? That makes Why not? It is obvious. So yeah, whatever works, frankly, bearing in mind the pillars, you know, you need to make sure you know, the product or process, whatever it is, does do what it says it does, and all those things. And I love the idea of external help. I mean, when I was involved in that sort of thing, we were using a German supplier to design parts, we are using an Australian supplier to design parts to compete against, you know, a British company that had been flogging the same thing for 90 years, we thought was about time they had a competitor in their market.  

Euan Pallister 42:17 

that is good. Say, we are speaking, you have been speaking about a management-enabled process. And the process really, especially in innovation is the people as net as it is getting those people in the right position in the right frame, frame of mind and in the right, kind of position to be able to project those ideas forward and take them forward. Has the athlete been empowered to take them forward? You are going to comment on that, Bradley. 

Bradley Pallister 42:47 

I think that kind of answers that other question, which is, the title of the webinar was about building a process of innovation. But the content seems to be mostly about peoplenot processes. Well, is one in the same, quite frankly, if you do not have the people on board, you are there is no point talking about processes. And you agree with that statement? 

Stephen Walker 43:18 

Well, I do. I mean if people are not on board, whatever process you have got, they will not work it. So reluctantly, and there is no point you are wasting your time-wasting everybody’s time, just clear off and get the next manager. 

Bradley Pallister 43:34 

And its build the process of innovation? Well, there is no silver bullet. I do not think personally, there is no serious silver bullet to creating that process for innovation. But I think if we look at the value pyramid, and start, I can share this later, but then start climbing that you will find that at the bottom and the top. You got people at the bottom, and then at the top, you have culture, both related to people. So, it comes back to people again, both at the beginning and at the end of the process, if that makes sense. 

Stephen Walker 44:26 

I think so. 

Euan Pallister 44:29 

That is good. We have got a couple of other very related questions here. Under to create this innovation process, do we need an in-house team committed to the job? 

Stephen Walker 44:45 

I think it is a bit like climbing Mount Everest, you could do with a guide. someone that knows how to do it. So, but it is having that guide who just not doing it for you. So, I keep talking without keeping the Management Review as far away as possible, you know, really managing, managing the energy very, very carefully. Because unless you manage it with a, you convince that steam that high energy steam, and then you have lost it all. As you said, Bradley, you know that that creativity is so important. And anything you do to put a stricture on that just freezes it, stops it, and kills it. And why would anybody go forward with a daft idea? If they are going to get restricted? It just does not make sense. You have got to create that great environment. Yeah, it is difficult to manage.  

Bradley Pallister 45:46 

I love that. I love that analogy of climbing Mount Everest, because Yeah, sometimes you just need someone to take the baggage day. Yeah, you know, you are not, you are not going to know everything. And you might, you might know your industry inside out. But let us just take product design, because obviously, that is what we do. Let us just take that as an example. Do you know how to do CAD drawings? Do you know how to design for manufacturer or for accessibility? or any of these other things? Okay, how do you know how to test your product in a market? How do you know is compliant with all the relevant British Standards, you cannot be expected to know that? So, let us bring on a team of guys that can kind of take all that baggage. So yes, you may need someone in-house. And we do work of kind of sweet spot if you would like is working with organizations that have an R&D team already set up in-house, and we can help them and carry their baggage, you know, we can guide them up the mountain. But you always need, and it goes back to was saying earlier is you always need someone internally to be that innovation champion, someone who is really married to that initiative really going to drive it through a major happens. And it has got to be at board level. 

Stephen Walker 47:35 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. What would that major food processing machine? That was the end? It was beyond that because he knew the company had run out of money. No question. It either succeeded, or the company did not? Absolutely. But yeah, I take the point. Also, the previous question about innovating the process innovating the innovation process, because you do what is needed. I mean, who knows what combination of things you need to pull together for this innovation. If you are just innovating the same way repeatedlythat is very boring. And you will soon find that you cannot see your competitors behind you. Guess why you cannot see them behind you. So, you have got to keep going. And yeah, I think no company, no company I have ever worked in certainly is big enough to do all the things itself, you must bring in people from the outside. That is the only way it works anyway, works quickly. 

Euan Pallister 48:41 

There is that there is a comment on the Q&A, from someone saying is being neurodiverse. And thinking outside the box. I have done things differently, but have a similar process, if you have the result does not matter. Exactly what he is saying. innovate your own process and result. 

Stephen Walker 49:00 

 Yeah, just be careful, you are not blind. So, the great thing about being older, of course, is that you know, all these things that do not work. The bad thing about being older is that you know, all these things that do not work. And the trouble is what did not work 30 years ago might work now. So, you must realize that you know, all that stuff that you have learned might not actually be true. So, you need to go and check it out again every now and then. So do not be blinded by what you have learned. Yeah, childish ignorance can sometimes innovate enormously. 

Bradley Pallister 49:36 

Expert naïve creativity! 

Stephen Walker 49:38 

good but much better phrase. Yes. Absolutely. And I say ask the questions. What if, what if and that is why all these things tend to come out. I think. 

Euan Pallister 49:56 

There’s a great advantage in experience of it to have older members of the team and very much so. But there is also as you just saying, you know, do notdo not get locked down to that things are changing so fast in the world, the markets are changing, products are changing, technologies are changing, materials are changing. Customer’s consumer habits are changing, everything is changing around us so fast. We cannot get stuck in, in our past experiences necessarily, can we?  

Stephen Walker 50:26 

no, that is right. I mean, in my first job, the company developed the VCR. You remember those who might have read about them? I do not know. So. And we were one of the companies that were developing the VCR before they were available. And we had a skunkworks team, if you like advanced projects, I think it was called. And, yeah, they had this thing working. But we were a mass manufacturer of domestic electronics. And the way we manufacture was to make them sloppy if you like. So they were, the holes were big so that they could be screwed up and fit together. We did not do this tight, tight manufacturing Tottenham’s nonsense that the Japanese came up with. So yeah, the electronics was a piece of cake to us. But the mechanics, nope, could not make this thing work for longer than 20 minutes. It just felt a bit because we were not good at making decision mechanics. So, we lost, or we lost that market we just could not go into it was not us. We did not have the processes; we did not have the skills. We did not know who to buy these things from we were not in our market at all. We could not take the market. 

Euan Pallister 51:42 

That is very helpful. We got time for maybe one or two, one or two other questions. We got a couple here that are very similar. What are the main steps we need to check off for a good innovation process are any key points? Bradley, Stephen, that you really should not miss? When are you building a process?

Stephen Walker 52:04 

Well, will anybody buy it? I think you spoke about the market analysis. So, I think that is essential. Sooner or later, you know, probably once or twice through the innovation process, you need to go to that kind of market overview. And you could end up with a great product that nobody buys. 

Bradley Pallister 52:32 

Yeah, that was what you were saying earlier, wasn’t it? You know, what is your route to market? building, building that business plan early on is quite crucial for that productDo not be too narrowed up by it. But have a plan and be ready to fail it fast? That is what I would say. 

Stephen Walker 53:00 

That is kind of a shuffle there is not there? So, what will it do? What do you want it to do? Or what it costs? How cheaply Can you make it? So yeah, there is negotiation or whatever you like to call it going on there. But you could, you could negotiate the six months, probably just better to get on with it or decide to kill it. Fast. 

Euan Pallister 53:21 

Now, that is right. A great point, obviously, right at the beginning, you need to obviously carry out your market research, do not just go by what he shares, guys are saying that there is lots more to it than that normally. And so, get your market research done, do not miss that piece. And then once you are into developing the product, obviously you have got various stages of iteration as you go through the development process. Right from ideation, through to, you know, testing and certification and out to market. You have got all those various stages of development at really at every stage gate, there needs to be a mechanism there where you just sent check it, you know, are we still in line with what the markets telling us? Are we still in line with what our customers want and be prepared to adapt the features of the products adapt they the end cost, manufacturing cost and a target that you may be looking for, and all sorts of areas, you know, just keep your eye on the ball throughout that process? It is very easy to grow arms and legs to the product, is not it and get excited by it and you know, develop a real baby. But really, you have got a very high chance of the kind of over-engineering something if you could do that. Got to keep your eye on the ball. 

Stephen Walker 54:47 

Speaking as an engineer, we need reining in 

Euan Pallister 54:52 

Yeah, yeah, and I think certainly with a lot of R&D teams that that would be typically the kind of background of the personnel that we will be, we will be developing a product. And so that will always be their kind of the bent of the team is kind of going in that direction, and the product will kind of grow arms and legs. But to be specific at the beginning of what you want, and then just keep your eye on that ball through each stage of the process is probably quite important. Is there anything else? That is crucial to the development process? 

Stephen Walker 55:30 

Well, I think you must start and end with an idea in mind, with a market in mind. And as you say, just as you get nearer and nearer to it, you really need to make sure that because you are nearly there, you do not lower the barrier too much. And, and almost great success is still not a great success. You do have to be critical with this as a barrier, and you either get over it, or you do not need to be hard, frankly. 

Euan Pallister 56:04 

Yeah, no, that is very true. Good. And we’ve kind of running out of time. We have got quite a few questions, still there so that we will answer those following this webinar. And hope that is okay. So, I would like to just thank you very much again, Steven, I think this event been good. Very, very interesting. And, yeah, I just hope there have been some good, valuable key takeaways for everyone. And we would like to remind everyone as well that the next event is coming up in the middle of next month, it is not far away, and to look out the invites, and you got any final word, Steven, before we, before we wrap up? 

Stephen Walker 56:48 

Thank you very much. It has been a real pleasure working with you too. And, and Bronwyn and I think it is a great thing. And as I have enjoyed a lot of your webinars, I am sorry, I can enjoy this one in quite the same way because I was alongside. Yeah, I am passionate about what I do. And, you know, let us talk about the UK for a minute. You know, Brexit is done. COVID is on the run. Let us make some money. 


Euan Pallister 57:16 

Yeah, totally agree with that. We have all got a huge opportunity ahead of us, I think you say COVID. You know, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel very much. Brexit here, and we’ve, you know, manufacturing is certainly on the increase in terms of support from government. You know, we have got excellent opportunities ahead for pretty much every industry sector, really. So, innovation is at the forefront there. So, we like to hear everyone’s storiesSo, if anyone wants to, wants to jump on one of these webinars, give us a shout. We will be glad to. Glad to talk about it. So, thank you very much, Steven, thanks for your time. Thank you, Brad, for your contributions. And thank you everyone for attending. All the very best for the future, and goodbye for now. 

Stephen Walker 58:14 

Thank you. 

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