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Archive for the ‘Catalyse & Train’ Category

Director’s blog: Can you really train people to be innovators?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

the director's blog on innovation - logo with text

More innovation please

Raising the level of innovation is becoming a critical need for businesses as they face increasing competitive pressures. A fundamental requirement for making businesses more innovative – in what they provide to their customers and how they do so – is to get their managers and employees engaged and able to effectively participate in innovation activities. This requires an internal system for innovation that establishes key elements of enabling innovation infrastructure such as strategy, processes, tools and supporting resources. And part of this work involves training managers and employees in innovation.

But can you really train people to be innovators?

I ask this question, as there is a view – and not an uncommon one – that innovators are born not made: “Just look at Steve Jobs, James Dyson or Jeff Bezos – they weren’t trained to make them the innovators they are!” Implicit in this view is the belief that when it comes to innovation ‘you’ve either got it or you haven’t’. If that’s the case then what hope is there for businesses trying to innovate if they don’t happen to have a Jobs, Dyson, Bezos or the like in their midst….?

Innovation is not just creativity

Let’s step back and review a few innovation basics: Firstly, people often mix up innovation and creativity. Creativity is about generating ideas. Innovation is about creating value from ideas. Ideas on their own have no value – only potential value which has to be realised. Certainly some people are naturally more creative than others and thus more likely to generate potentially valuable ideas. But being creative alone is not enough – we also need the skills to realise the ideas and transform them into value. That requires skills in idea exploration and analysis, development of new offerings and methods, project management, marketing and selling (internally and externally) for example. And ideas can be effectively generated by (less creative) people working systematically anyway (through effective brainstorming and other ideation methods). So innovation requires a mix of capabilities, not just creativity.

Not only a lone genius required

When talking about improving innovation in an organisation it’s important to remember that the goal should be to ‘institutionalise’ innovation – to enable regular and sustained innovation through widespread and integrated efforts – rather than the occasional spark of innovation enabled by a few individuals (who can have off days or can leave). People forget that Apple’s innovation success with its iPod, iPhone and iPad was the result of multiple innovations by many individuals with Steve Jobs being the orchestrator and very much the public face, but by no means the sole innovator – and indeed his orchestration was ineffective and inefficient at times (read the excellent biography ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson for details).

One of the earliest examples of effective institutional innovation was the Menlo Park laboratories established by Thomas Edison in 1876. This was one of the first large-scale research establishments and formed the template for R&D organisations for the next fifty years. Edison brought together more than 200 talented scientists, engineers and craftsman and overlaid a system of innovation that harnessed their skills in a structured and productive way with defined teams, extensive experimentation and record keeping. It was a highly productive operation and created more than 400 patents. Whilst Edison was very much the public face of innovation, it was very much an institutional rather than individual approach to innovation, with defined targets such as ‘a minor innovation every 10 days and a big thing every six months or so’.

Most innovation is doing existing things better

A more modern example in a services firm is that of AXA Insurance in Ireland which started up an innovation programme in 2000. Theirs was very much an experimental approach, learning as they went along. They found that they could generate lots of new ideas from their employees but they needed to apply a process to effectively screen and select the best ideas. One key insight was when they analysed the ideas implemented in their first few years of the programme they found that 80% of them were concerned with removing waste or improving existing services or ways of working. Only 10% were ideas for new innovative services. This finding helped demystify innovation in the business – employees realised that most innovation was in doing existing things better – incremental innovation – which they could certainly do in their daily work. That is a powerful message for all businesses: Don’t just look for the ‘silver bullets’ of radical innovation, spend most of your time removing the ‘rust and grime’ from your existing methods and processes and then ‘polish them’ to make them more effective. Industrial experience of Continuous Improvement, making use of basic techniques for measurement, analysis and waste elimination – often within a Lean programme – has shown the power of such ‘do better’ innovation. Training employees in these core techniques can make them more structured and effective in their work on process innovation.

So you can train people to become innovators?

You can indeed train people to be effective in ‘do better’ or incremental innovation – which accounts for the vast majority of innovation. But what about ‘do different’ radical innovation? This type of innovation is needed if a firm wants to leap ahead of rivals. And firms would certainly want a few silver bullets as part of their innovation armoury…

To help answer this question I’m going to use the example of the UK legal sector. Most observers would not consider law to be a natural environment for innovation and rather unkindly might jest that ‘lawyer’ and ‘innovative’ are two words never found in the same sentence… That might well have been true(ish) twenty years ago, but it’s a viewpoint that is increasingly out of date today. For the UK legal sector has been in a state of major change for the last decade, driven by a combination of deregulation, tougher market conditions driven by the economic fallout from the 2008 financial crash, and the increasing impact of the internet. The result is clients ‘wanting more for less’, new rivals, internet-enabled entrants and law firms recognising the need for major changes in both their offerings and their working methods. Many have embraced innovation in their services – often with a primary goal of efficiency and cost improvement.

Through Codexx I have worked with a good number of major UK law firms helping them to respond to these major challenges by applying innovation. This has taken the form of two different types of interventions:

  • Specific service innovation (aka ‘re-engineering’)
  • Improving a firm’s innovation capabilities

Service innovation – a focused environment for innovation

In my work with law firms since 2006 I have helped law firms re-engineer a total of 20 legal services using a Codexx approach called ‘Smarter Working’. This approach uses a small core team of fee earners and support staff to perform the re-engineering with the support of the Codexx consultant. We effectively establish a ‘micro innovation environment’ using collaborative workshops and with training in team-working, some basic Lean principles and creative idea generation methods. This has resulted in major redesign of services such as Commercial Due Diligence, Inquest and Clinical Negligence, to reduce costs by as much as 75% whilst improving service quality. It has also resulted in the development of new internet-enabled services. Looking back at this work over the last decade I can unequivocally say that you can train lawyers – or indeed any other employees – to be very effective innovators within a supportive environment for innovation.

Improving innovation capabilities

Other law firms have wanted to take a broader approach, not just focused on selected services, but to make their firms ‘more innovative’. Their goal was a firm that used sustained innovation to improve its services, its efficiency and thus its competitive differentiation and its attraction as a place to work for progressive lawyers. To help them do this I have applied Codexx methods and tools to help them establish a systematic approach to innovation and use this to drive innovation of new and improved services and working methods. This work included strategy development, an innovation process & support structure, change management and of course training for selected personnel.

From my experience a key strategic approach to establishing innovation on a firm-wide basis is to run two parallel missions: the first to build the required innovation system and the second to deliver innovation outcomes (e.g. improvements, enhanced services etc.). The first mission is key to long term innovation success; the second is key to delivering benefits early and to help gain buy-in through demonstrable early success. I have delivered training on innovation to selected personnel in a number of firms (often innovation ‘champions’ whose role is to spearhead innovation activities) and typically found lawyers receptive and able to effectively apply the new methods – generating both incremental and more radical ideas. Based on this, there is no doubt in my mind that these lawyers and support personnel can be very effective in catalysing and supporting innovation within their firm.

That is of course if they are given the ‘space’ for innovation.

The one proviso – space for innovation

So you can indeed train people to be capable of innovation. But they can only subsequently realise that capability and successfully innovate if the organisation allows them space to do so. ‘Space for innovation’ covers a number of key attributes:

  • Leadership supportive of innovation – not just focusing on today’s business
  • Time available for work on innovation – always a challenge for people busy running the daily business
  • A wide, but defined, frame to seek innovation in – innovation in a vacuum is rarely effective…
  • A supportive culture for innovation – valuing effort and recognising some failures as inevitable
  • Resources to support innovation (such as other personnel, methods, tools and budget)

Unfortunately these are not always put in place or sustained to accompany training for innovation – and then all the teaching in the world on innovation will have as much effect as trying to light a fire on boggy ground….

Alastair Ross

Director
Codexx Associates Ltd

Further reading

To read further about Thomas Edison’s approach to innovation and the Menlo Park research organisation, see a delightful and informative book on innovation: ‘Innovation – a very short introduction’ by Mark Dodgson and David Gann, published by Oxford University Press.

For more information on the AXA Ireland case study and effective approaches to innovation in knowledge intensive service firms  see ‘Innovating professional services – transforming value and efficiency’ published by Gower. https://www.routledge.com/products/9781472427915

For a case study on law firm re-engineering see: http://www.codexx.com/2015/a-story-of-law-firm-re-engineering-people-processes-profit/

 

Director’s blog: Using practice sharing to catalyse innovation

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

the director's blog on innovation - logo with text

 

Catalysing innovation by showing a better way

One effective approach to triggering innovation is seeing ‘a better way’ – that is a superior way of working (aka business practice) that is relevant to your business. Benchmarking has been a long-established approach for doing this by comparing your business against another in a structured way. Indeed, as part of Codexx – and previously when I worked at IBM – I have led multiple benchmarking-type assessments in business areas such as production, R&D, supply chain and innovation. These benchmarking assessments were effective approaches to comparing business areas based on models of best practice and performance and thus identifying practice shortfalls – thus driving focused improvements.

However, benchmarking comparisons cannot be so easily applied to more focused business areas as there may not be a relevant best practice model in place or a database to compare against. In this case a more tailored approach is required, that I will refer to as ‘practice sharing’. This approach is less focused on numeric performance comparison – and more on key practices. However unlike an unstructured visit to view another company – ‘industrial tourism’ – this is a structured approach.

 Benchmarking continuum

Introducing practice sharing

I recently led a practice sharing programme between two major industrial businesses – one based in Denmark, the other in Germany, focusing on the development of specialist production equipment. This was by definition a niche area that was key to both businesses’ competitiveness. This programme had its beginnings in 2009 as part of a re-engineering programme that Codexx was supporting for the Danish company’s production maintenance organisation covering eight factories. To help in overcoming resistance to change and to ‘open the eyes’ of the maintenance managers to the opportunities for improvement we included a ‘benchmarking’ element as part of the re-engineering programme. Because maintenance benchmarking tools in the market were overly focused in specific areas (such as cost or lean) and did not provide the wide enough view that was needed, we developed a best practices framework based on the ISO 8 Management Principles.

We used this to perform assessment visits to the maintenance organisations in aerospace, automotive, plastics and white goods manufacturers across Europe. These visits provided benefits for both our client and the companies being visited who received a comparative report and the opportunity to visit our client. Importantly the assessment team comprised the maintenance managers who used the framework to perform the assessment, supported by Codexx. This structured approach ensured that key relevant practices were reviewed and compared and the comparative practice scoring was used to define an improvement path and monitor progress using a number of subsequent self-assessments. The programme achieved its objectives of catalysing the maintenance managers to seek opportunities for applying new practices as part of the re-engineering programme.

 

Developing the approach

This success led to the Danish company deciding to utilise a similar approach, with the support of Codexx, to review their development of production systems, working with a major German company in 2013, with whom they has an existing commercial relationship – but who were not a competitor. We called this approach ‘practice sharing’, rather than ‘benchmarking’ to make the approach less formal and more in the spirit of learning rather than an audit – which helped in gaining the support and involvement of the German company. Codexx developed a practice sharing framework, again based around the ISO Management principles, using a similar structure and assessment approach to the maintenance programme.

This framework was tested with the China-based operations of both companies and then finalised. We then performed a practice sharing assessment in 2014. This was considered valuable by both parties and a subsequent practice sharing programme focusing on another area of production systems was performed with the same Germany company in 2015-16. The approach in these practice sharing programmes was similar:

1. A business area of interest to both parties was identified and a commitment to perform a practice sharing assessment was made.

2. A practice sharing framework was developed.

3. Each partner self-assessed itself against the practice sharing framework.

4. A 1-day practice sharing visit was made to each company, facilitated by Codexx. This included presentations on the development of the company, a tour of its operations and then a review of the self-assessment. The agenda was allowed to flex substantially to take account of interest areas that emerged.

5. A report of the practice sharing findings and outcomes was produced by Codexx and shared with both parties.

6. Each company took forward specific follow-up internal actions and agreed collaborations.

What are the benefits from practice sharing?

Based on my experience of working with this approach since 2009, I have seen the following benefits:

  • The approach provides a structure missing from an ad hoc visit that helps align and focus the discussion on relevant practice areas.
  • The self-assessment provides a clear and objective picture of current practices including areas for improvement which helps in focusing the discussion.
  • The programme provides a catalyst for improvement for each party.
  • It’s a time-effective and cost-effective process.
  • It’s not complex and is transparent to the participants and other users.

What’s needed for effective practice sharing?

  • Win – Win: Unlike benchmarking where your company is being compared to a model of best practice, with the comparison performed by an external assessor, practice-sharing requires a partner. To engage the partner, there needs to be the potential for benefits for both parties: the practice area to be examined needs to be relevant and each party needs to consider that they can learn something from the other.
  • A structure: A practice sharing framework is needed to provide a structured comparison and independent facilitation to ‘run the process’ with the goal of maximising and capturing the outcomes from the practice sharing. Both companies also need to agree to respect confidential information that might be shared in the programme.
  • Flexibility: The assessment visits need to be flexible and adapt to the interests of the participants. As a facilitator, I had to strike a balance between directing the discussion back to relevant areas whilst allowing deviations from the agenda that were clearly creating value. This is key, as the framework is in effect a ‘working hypothesis’ of what are the important practices. The reality will undoubtedly be somewhat different and thus the session has to seek to accommodate potentially valuable emergent discussions.
  • The right people: Both parties need to assemble a team of specialists in the area of interest that can participate effectively both technically, inter-personally and language-wise (for international comparisons, it is likely that English will be the common language).
  • The right attitude: Both parties need to be open and ready to ‘tell it as it is’, covering both strengths and weaknesses in their own practices. This is not a competition – it’s a collaboration.

I’d be interested in readers’ own experiences in this area – contact me here.

Alastair Ross

Director
Codexx Associates Ltd

 

Innovation in professional services – why, what and how?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

There are approximately 450,000 professionals working in businesses that come under the banner of ‘professional services’ in the UK alone. Within this group are lawyers, accountants, management consultants, IT specialists, architects and other professionals who provide services to businesses and individuals based on knowledge, expertise and intellectual property. In the USA there are about 400,000 practising lawyers and over 1 million accountants. Professional Services alone is reported to generate more than US$ 3 trillion in revenue globally and in the UK the sector employs almost 12% of the workforce and accounts for 8% of national output.*

So this is a key business sector and also one that is facing major challenges to both its business model and its operating methods from a combination of globalisation, regulatory changes, client demands and the impact of the internet and Information Technology. These challenges are driving progressive firms to respond through innovation in how they operate and the value they provide to their clients.

Responding with innovation
Many professional service firms would like to improve their innovation capability, but often do not know where to start or how to establish and sustain a culture for innovation. Some sectors such as law have enjoyed long term stability and have not needed to significantly innovate, but this is changing due to the new business pressures. This short article identifies some of the key approaches required for effective innovation in professional services and some of the common challenges encountered. It is based on our consulting experience with professional service firms over the past 10 years, together with insight from our academic partners.

Innovation farming diagram

Figure 1: Innovation – the farming of ideas

What is innovation?

Much time and effort can be spent arguing about what is and is not innovation. Whilst there is no ‘correct’ answer, it is key that there is a common definition and understanding across an organisation. In our experience the most effective definition is that innovation is anything that is ‘new to you’. This means that innovation includes incremental improvement as well as radical innovation. It also includes methods already in use elsewhere, (even within other parts of your business) that are adopted in your business. Whilst radical innovation gets the headlines, it is the much less glamorous regular small improvements that make up 95% of innovation ideas and can be massively powerful (witness Toyota’s rise to be the global automotive leader based on 50 years of Lean (i.e. incremental) improvement).

This inclusive definition of innovation is the most useful to business management who wish to establish a culture and system of innovation. Recognising the power of a high number of small ideas is at least as important as seeking the very few ‘game changing’ innovations.

At its simplest, innovation is about generating ideas and converting the best ideas to value for the business. We can consider a farming analogy for innovation (Figure 1), where an effective system and supportive environment are required to grow and harvest the best ideas. It is important to recognise that creativity alone is not innovation. Creative ideas that are not implemented do not result in innovation.

Innovation dimensions for prof services diagram

Figure 2: Dimensions of Innovation (Source: ‘Innovating professional services – transforming value and efficiency’ by Alastair Ross, published May 2015, Gower)

Where to innovate?

Firms have finite resources and need to best apply these resources, especially when it comes to innovation. But how should firms apply these resources when it comes to innovation—where should they focus? A useful model for innovation is one of ‘Innovation Dimensions’ as shown in Figure 2. This considers four ’dimensions’ where firms can innovate—where they choose to do so depends on their strategy and current practices. At the centre or ‘zero point’ of the circle a business is not innovating. It can innovate in any of the four dimensions—at a low (incremental) level or a high (radical) level:

  • Process
    A common area for business innovation is innovation in business processes which govern the ways of working. This has much potential in professional service firms where process definition and management can be lacking. Process innovation is an excellent way of engaging employees to come up with ideas for incremental improvements in their working methods. Bigger step change innovation can be driven through a re-engineering approach. Process innovation can involve waste reduction, reorganisation and ‘right-skilling’ of the personnel performing the process and the application of IT. The example in the model is of the insurance company QBE who applied 6-sigma improvement methodologies to process improvements in their business.
  • Offering
    Innovation can also be applied in the services provided to clients, either to improve existing services or create new ones. In the model, the example given is of the law firm Mills & Reeve who developed an iPhone App for their Divorce.co.uk offering. We have worked extensively with major UK law firms to help them re-engineer services such as Due Diligence, Employment Tribunals and Inquests to increase value and service to clients and reduce cost of delivery.
  • Market position
    Another way of innovating can be in the repositioning of the firm’s value proposition in the marketplace. To take advantage of deregulation in the UK legal market, the major UK law firm DLA Piper jointly set up a new vehicle, ‘LawVest’ to enable investments in new fixed price services for mid-sized businesses.
  • Paradigm
    The last innovation dimension is the hardest to exploit as it is quite simply the reinvention of the firm’s business model. The example given is that of IBM, who from the early 1990s, over a decade, transformed their business away from one based primarily on hardware to one based on software and services. The internet provides a powerful vehicle for firms seeking to develop new business models, enabling on-line services, with global reach and at substantially lower cost than personal services. Examples of new internet-enabled professional service businesses include crunch.com for online accountancy and freelancer.com for software and design solutions.

A system for innovation
If you want to have effective and ongoing innovation in your business, you have to proactively establish the conditions for it. Research and experience has shown time and time again that effective and sustainable innovation requires an holistic and systematic approach to innovation. This approach weaves together the threads of a number of key practices to create a strong and rich fabric of innovation capabilities. Exploiting these capabilities leads to long term superior performance. Best practice innovation thus requires an integrated system, (Figure 3) which is comprises seven key practice areas:

New Directions 18 - Figure 2Figure 3: The innovation system (Source: Codexx)

  • Leadership – Active support and encouragement from the top is key to innovation
  • Strategy – A clear business strategy is required to provide context and priorities for innovation
  • Process – A structured process to generate, explore, select and implement the best new ideas is key
  • Climate – The organisation’s culture and values can either energize or emasculate innovation
  • Resources – People time, methods, money and other resources are needed for innovation
  • Learning – Capturing and sharing learning across the organisation is key to effective innovation
  • External Linkages – No organisation is an island – ideas & resources from outside are key ingredients

The ‘Innovation System’ model is an effective way for a business to think about and develop their innovation system. We have helped a number of businesses improve their innovation system by using our ‘Foundations for Innovation’ (F4i) solution to assess their current innovation capabilities against 60 best practices underlying the innovation system model.

Innovation challenges in professional services—the ‘Top 6’
Innovation is difficult —for the simple reason that it is easier for any organization to continue ‘business as usual’ than to change. And innovation is about making change. Organizations that are effective at innovation are able to embed a culture that encourages ongoing change. So, many of the challenges that face professional service firms in innovation, apply to all businesses. But focusing on those common challenges that professional service firms face in our experience, together with comments made by professional service clients:

1. Poor supportive culture for innovation

“There is lip service to innovation at senior levels due to the difficulty of making the required cultural change.”  Partner, Law Firm
“People don’t want to take risky ideas to the boss.” 
Partner, Management Consultancy

Many firms effectively discourage innovation through a combination of leadership behaviours, organisational ‘norms’ (e.g. “more of the same has worked well for us for 20 years so why change?”) and resistance to change dominating the firm’s culture. A key challenge for professional service firms is that fee earners typically only value time that is chargeable, and therefore are disinclined to invest time in other activities (e.g. innovation) which will not be valued in their performance appraisal or bonus.

2. Limited understanding of client needs

“We’ve been in our functional silos too long and they’re too deep.” Manager, Business Services
“Our new offering was less successful as it took too long and had not enough client involvement.” Managing Partner, Law Firm

Engaging clients early in the development of a new product/service is an effective way of increasing the chance that the new offering will bring value to clients. Many new ideas come from firm’s clients or from an insight gained into a client’s business. This is why deep understanding of clients’ businesses is key to effective product/service innovation. However, many firms have a transactional relationship with clients and do not invest enough time and energy to understand their business challenges and so identify innovation opportunities

3. Insufficient resourcing for innovation

“Time is a big issue – we’re a cog of labour.” Partner, Law Firm
“Carving out real time for innovation instead of chargeable work is a major challenge.” Partner, Management Consultancy

The key resource required for innovation in a professional service firm is time – particularly the time of fee earners and key support personnel. Time is needed to reflect on the business, to gain insight from clients, to analyse existing methods and brainstorm new ones, to develop, implement and deploy new solutions. Few professional service firms have established dedicated ‘innovation teams’ armed with methods and budget who can be used to support innovation projects. Once an idea has traction, the other resource barrier that typically emerges is IT resourcing.

4. Poor innovation process

“By the time you get through all the bureaucracy the system will be obsolete or the idea will be dead.” Employee, Insurance
A core foundation for effective innovation is a robust process that links ideas with delivered value (e.g. a new or improved product/service, a new way of working or a new pricing model). This process must guide idea development, selection and investment using appropriate criteria, and monitor and support development and implementation. Whilst an innovation/new product development process is common in the industrial sector, it is less so in professional services. Its absence means that innovation ideas from employees can struggle to be heard and in comparison poor quality ideas can be pushed through if championed by a Partner or senior manager.

5. Ineffective execution
“People want to practice their legal skills. It’s seen as de-skilling them to ask them to be a project manager.” 

There is a distinct difference between creativity and innovation. Creativity may be required at the start of the innovation process (even if it is simply to borrow an idea from another sector), but it has no value without execution. Firms can be guilty of under-resourcing implementation – for new products this can include insufficient resourcing for marketing and selling the new offering. The ‘long slog’ of implementation can be less attractive for employees and managers than attending a few brainstorming workshops to generate new ideas…. Implementation needs to be a recognised critical part of a firm’s innovation process and resourced accordingly.

6. Resistance to systemization of work

“Current performance measures penalise efficiency and delegation.” Head of Knowledge Management, Law Firm
“Resistance is from middle management – senior management is supportive.”

A key innovation opportunity for professional service firms is in dramatically improving their cost performance by streamlining services and internal processes and ‘right-skilling’ work – with significant amounts of repetitive work being moved to lower skilled personnel, automated or outsourced. The use of ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ together with IT-enabled workflow means that work can be performed at a similar level of quality as before but at much lower cost. This frees up experienced personnel to take on higher value work and also to have time to spend on innovation and business development.

However, the flip side of this benefit is that these personnel will in the short term lose a significant amount of their work. This can create concerns about their long-term future and short-term compensation. Long-serving employees may also consider that the ‘professionalism’ of their firm is threatened by the use of semi-skilled employees now performing their work. But as I have said a number of times to legal partners – if they decide to buy a Porsche, they will expect high quality and high performance. But they will not expect that it will be built by the CEO of Porsche! They accept that it will be built by a semi-skilled worker on a production line, but following processes and procedures codified from the experience of the firm’s engineers…. This lesson equally applies to professional service firms. A key paradigm change for professionals is in separating their role into the two elements of design and delivery. A professional may bring more value to their firm by using their time to codify their expertise and supporting the design of new working methods) to enable it to be delivered by others or via an automated system) rather than delivering it themselves.

Getting started

Developing an effective capability for innovation is important in professional service firms as they seek to retain their competitiveness in an increasingly challenging global marketplace. Firms can learn from other sectors, but will need to ‘tune’ established methods for the services world.

Codexx has helped professional service firms improve their innovation activities in a number of ways, including:

  • Assessment of firms’ innovation health against our F4i innovation best practice model and developing an improvement strategy.
  • Training – of managers and employees in innovation approaches and methods.
  • Establishing key elements of an innovation system (such as a strategy, processes, resourcing).
  • Developing department/sector strategies using Strategic Road-Mapping to align innovation activities with market strategies.
  • Running user/customer/client collaborative studies to determine opportunities for value innovation.
  • Re-engineering existing services (and internal support processes) to improve efficiency and value.
  • Supporting the design and development of new service offerings.

We have seen that such approaches can yield major benefits for firms both in terms of increasing service value, reducing cost and giving the organisation increased competencies for subsequent innovation. The reality is that for many (most?) professional service firms, establishing effective innovation will be challenging, yet rewarding and ultimately necessary for growth in the new business environment.

For more information contact Codexx.

*This article draws upon materials in the book ‘Innovating professional services – transforming value and efficiency’ by Alastair Ross, Director of Codexx, published on the 8th May 2015 by Gower. For more information and online discount click here.

Look beyond your sector if you truly want to make step-change improvement

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

We work with a very broad range of clients – manufacturers in the UK, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, law firms, defence and environmental service firms in the UK – helping them identify and implement major improvements and establish platforms for innovation. We often hear the word ‘focus’ in the consulting industry – meaning the importance of specialising in specific sectors. The argument being that you can best advise when you are an expert in a sector.

At Codexx we are contrarians on this point. We believe that in seeking to bring innovation and radical new ideas to clients, ‘more of the same’ is not what is needed. The water of Innovation is more plentiful when you have a broad and deep well of experience from multiple businesses across multiple sectors to draw from. So we find we are better able to advise lawyers on how to re-engineer their services through applying process thinking and lean techniques from our  industry experience; better able to advise a defence services firm on client focus based on experience with other professional service firms and better able to advise manufacturers on new service offerings based on experience gained in the service sector. We are also best able to challenge conventional thinking when the paradigm that we follow is what makes a successful business – not how business is done in this sector. There is a difference!

Of course our consultants have expertise in multiple sectors, but ultimately the experts are the clients we are advising – they know their business best.  Consultants should not seek to become more expert than the client in their business – unless they wish to join it!  Success in a consulting relationship occurs when there is harmony and rhythm between the value provided by the client and by the consultant. If either player is out of tune or seeks to dominate, the harmony is lost. In helping clients innovate their businesses, we at Codexx believe that the consultant must focus on providing the key elements of challenge and provocation, energizing the management and employees, creative thinking, applying best cross-industry practices and driving the change process forward in a structured way. In addition, with the goal of helping clients sustain and continue the change journey, we always seek to provide skills transfer, so that the client’s own people can drive change forward on their own after we have departed.

So if you are a manufacturer seeking to improve your make-to-order response time,  don’t look at how your competitors do it, instead seek inspiration and ideas from how Amazon runs its order fulfilment process. If you are a law firm wishing to streamline your Probate process, consider how manufacturers are applying Lean thinking in their business processes. Or if you are a professional services firm looking to improve your innovation process, learn from how product designers apply a ‘stage-gate’ new product development process.

The business world is like a giant supermarket whose shelves are laden with business models and experience – don’t limit yourself to shopping for your change ideas in the local corner shop that is your business sector….

Codexx certified as CENTRIM partner for ‘Managing Innovation’ training

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Codexx has been certified as a training partner for the ‘Managing Innovation’ training course developed by Dr David Francis of CENTRIM (Centre for Research in Innovation Management) at the University of Brighton and Barnes & Conti Inc. This unique course provides training in key skills across the innovation cycle. It is based on research conducted by Dr Francis with over 100 innovative organisations world-wide to identify common skills that were key to effective innovation. Alastair Ross, Director of Codexx said: ” I am pleased that we are able to offer this excellent course to clients – as far as we know, this is a unique course, and complements our other innovation solutions. ” Codexx has worked with CENTRIM on a number of innovation projects since 2002.

Energizing Change

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