Tag: Innovation

The Entrepreneurial BA Practitioner Part 4: How Business Analysts Can Help Innovate

So, you don’t think you are an entrepreneur? You are not going to start a company or build a business from the ground up. You are not going to risk your livelihood or work crazy hours or wear multiple hats like an entrepreneur does. We suggest you think again.

Today’s business world is quickly changing. With all the emphasis on innovation, your organization needs you to be entrepreneurial. Maybe not be an actual entrepreneur, but your organization’s success and your career will increasingly depend on how you can help your organization adapt and grow and compete. Competition has always been part of business, but it seems to be getting more intense and dynamic. To illustrate this point, the average lifespan of a company on the Standard & Poor’s 500 list was 67 years back in the 1920s. Today the average length is only 15 years.

Perhaps the best way for most BAs to become entrepreneurial is by being an intrapreneur. We cited a definition of that term in an earlier article as someone who is:

“An inside entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur within a large firm, who uses entrepreneurial skills without incurring the risks associated with those activities. Intrapreneurs are usually employees within a company who are assigned a special idea or project, and are instructed to develop the project like an entrepreneur would.”

There is one part of this definition we don’t like: it is hard to be entrepreneurial if you don’t incur risks. So we would add to this definition that intrapreneurs indirectly assume risks on behalf of the organization. There might be financial risk if the new products and services we create lose money. There are product risks if the changes we instigate have defects. Additionally, intrapreneurs take personal risks within the organization, which could materialize if the products or services we work on don’t succeed. We will come back to that challenge later in the article.

Intrapreneurial Example. Our first stints as intrapreneurs came at the bank that we both worked at early in our careers. Much of our work was similar to a business analyst, but that term had not been invented back in the 1970s yet.

No matter what we were called, we were definitely change agents for the bank, reviewing department processes, procedures, “EDP” requirements, and organization structures. We recommended improvements and new services, both manual and automated. It was creative and a lot of fun.

We were both happy there as employees, and yet looking back we were expected to be intrapreneurs in the sense that we helped the bank move to new possibilities. We “disrupted” the status quo (to use the popular term in lean startup circles), and that disruption sometimes came at some organization risk when we recommended streamlining procedures that were overly controlling. We also took on personal risk when we made recommendations, although we did not view it that way at the time.

Bank management thought the organization risk was worth it because it helped the bank achieve better customer service, efficiency, and control. We took on the personal risk because we earnestly believed our recommendations were helping the company.

Why are intrapreneurs important? When organizations introduce new products or enhance existing ones, our guess is today they would all say they want to “innovate.” We feel that the intrapreneurial function is the most practical and repeatable way to implement many innovations. However, to think about “innovation” as being a uniform process is overly simplistic. In the article “The Innovation Strategy Big Companies Should Pursue,” Tony Davila lists four types of innovations, depending on whether they are top-down or bottom-up and the extent to which they are “breakthroughs” or incremental:

  • Incremental: Continuous Progress and Emergent Improvements
  • Breakthroughs: Strategic Bets and Strategic discoveries.

We have summarized these four types in Table 1. It is common to associate innovation with breakthroughs, given how often Apple and 3M are used as examples. At Apple, some of Steve Jobs’ major successes like the iPad and iPhone were strategic bets. The Post-It Note product from 3M is an example of a strategic discovery type of innovation.

We think it is important to also include incremental change as innovation since there are many more opportunities to accomplish this type in today’s workplace. Given there are more opportunities, most potential intrapreneurs would likely work on incremental innovations in their career. The particular type of innovation possible is also highly dependent on your organization’s culture. Armed with this knowledge, potential intrapreneurs can work within the organization culture and have better success by employing innovation processes that are compatible with the culture.

larson April21table1Table 1: Types of Innovation

Davila also notes that organizations today are least likely to have processes in place for “Strategic Discoveries.”3 To address this point, we assembled the following table with thoughts about how business analysis practitioners can best contribute to the various innovation types.

Innovation Type Prime Question Key Techniques/Skills
Continuous Progress What problem are you trying to solve? Root Cause Analysis, Consulting Skills
Emergent Improvements What problem(s) have we not addressed yet? Root Cause Analysis, Lean Six Sigma/Business Process Improvement
Strategic Bets What opportunity do you see with the strategic bet? Benchmarking, Business Cases (especially Feasibility and Cost-Benefit Analysis)
Strategic Discoveries What frustrates people today with the status quo? Brainstorming, Benchmarking, Observation

Table 2: Working with Innovation Types

Final Thoughts – Will my Company Support This? A writer on intrapreneurship, Dan Schawbel, has written an insightful article on intrapreneurship. He maintains that “Smart companies want you to become an intrapreneur because it fuels business growth and allows them to gain a competitive advantage in their industry.” We couldn’t agree more and at the same time realize this may seem a daunting proposition. . Many companies are not structured today to foster intrapreneurship, yet there are indications that organizations are moving in the right direction.

In the same article, Schawbel describes a recent study in conjunction with American Express that found that “58% of managers are either very willing or extremely willing to support employees…on a new business opportunity within their company.”4 That sounds like fertile ground for intrapreneurship if you ask us. Chances are your company would agree with this notion and support you if you want to move into that kind of role.

We will explore in future articles how people practicing business analysis can contribute as intrapreneurs.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

About the Authors:

Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, President and Founder of Watermark Learning, is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in business analysis, project management, training, and consulting. He has presented workshops and seminars on business analysis and project management topics to over 10,000 participants on five different continents.
Rich is a frequent speaker at Business Analysis and Project Management national conferences and IIBA® and PMI® chapters around the world. He has contributed to the BA Body of Knowledge version 2.0 and 3.0, the PMI BA Practice Guide, and the PM Body of Knowledge, 4th edition. He and his wife Elizabeth Larson have co-authored three books, The Influencing Formula, CBAP Certification Study Guide, and Practitioners’ Guide to Requirements Management.

Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is Co-Principal and CEO of Watermark Learning and has over 30 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes repeat presentations for national and international conferences on five continents.
Elizabeth has co-authored three books: The Practitioner’s Guide to Requirements Management, CBAP Certification Study Guide, and The Influencing Formula. She has also co-authored chapters published in four separate books.
Elizabeth was a lead author on the PMBOK® Guide – Fourth and Fifth Editions, PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide, and the BABOK® Guide 2.0, as well as an expert reviewer on BABBOK® Guide 3.0.

The Poor Business Analyst The Rich Business Analyst

barrett March3

I have had the opportunity to be a developer before becoming a business analyst. Why do I say opportunity? Well in truth, the word was carefully picked. I can honestly say that I found out what not to do as a BA as opposed to what to be as a BA whilst I was a developer.

My gripe is how can business users and developers, who are both stakeholders for the BA in IT areas, respect BA as a profession when some BAs’ practices do not contribute to what the end goal of business analysis strives to achieve, which is to provide value.

I believe there are poor BAs and rich BAs. Rich BAs are not rich by chance; they work hard and may have development areas similar to the poor BA.

Below are five habits I immediately identified from poor BAs:

  • BAs exhibit a just-take-notes mentality
  • BAs should not probe the business person to explain why they are saying what they are saying because they are the experts
  • BAs do not need to understand the business to be effective BAs
  • BAs need to a develop a document template, because it must be good as someone must have thought up the structure
  • BAs can stop learning about how to add value because they are senior BAs

Whilst you may think I am ranting and providing no positivity, I must say I become excited when I see a BA that does not think like the poor BA. They push boundaries for the conventional BA, and the value shines though in the form of happy stakeholders.

Below are five habits I immediately identified from rich BAs:

  • They ask advice from all sources, not matter how junior or senior
  • They use tools applicable to the problem they are trying to solve, and don’t just stick to standardized tools such as document templates
  • They are naturally interested in the domain where they operate
  • They probe business users to explain in fine detail if need be and identify anomalies
  • They ask how they can improve and remain open to criticism

I probably know that the poor BAs won’t read this, so why am I writing this? Well I think everyone has the potential to change, and I think we should have an improvement mindset. Perhaps you work with someone you identify as being in the poor BA category; instead of complaining behind their back or saying, well I am a rich BA, we should be looking at the root cause and working with them to improve.

For example, if the poor BA is not questioning the businessperson and looking for anomalies, maybe they have a confidence issue. We should work with them to improve that and immediately value will be derived, not only for business but for that BA’s life too.

I need to learn from my own words too; I am not the perfect BA and I have a lot of areas in which to improve. But as they say, you have to know you can improve to do so.

Let’s work together to improve the BA profession.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

The Entrepreneurial BA Practitioner Part 2: Entrepreneurial Traits of Business Analysis Practitioners

bondale July2

In our previous article, What do Business Analysis and Entrepreneurship Have in Common?, we outlined some high-level similarities between business analysis and entrepreneurship. Now let’s explore some detailed parallels between the two.

Assuming that business analysis has much in common with entrepreneurship, what specific traits do entrepreneurs have that are similar to people who do business analysis? While assembling a list we found the common skills and traits were growing and growing. Since there are so many traits in common between business analysis and entrepreneurship a table was the best way to properly summarize them. See Table 1.

What has always fascinated us about business analysis is the ability to change organizations for the better by contributing to new and effective solutions. You might say we love change. Doing BA work fuels both our need to be part of positive change and the same skills are also useful for an entrepreneur. Given that we co-own a training company, it is a good thing!

Entrepreneur Skill/Trait Business Analysis Skill/Trait
Ability to analyze and conceptualize
Innovation Analyzing, proposing, and detailing new solutions to meet business needs
Operate under uncertainty Creating order out of chaos (as we’ve said often)
Benchmarking and Reverse Engineering Same techniques
Problem-solving
“One thing I find myself doing a lot is problem solving. And I think entrepreneurs show their mettle with creative solutions to problems.” Warren Brown, owner of Cake Love and host of TV’s “Sugar Rush”, from Creating a Business You’ll Love
Defining business problems, , analyzing the root causes of those problems, and recommending solutions to solve those problems
Observation and experience.
“The most salient advice I’ve ever given an entrepreneur totals five words: ‘Get out of the building,’ to go where the customers are.” Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, from Creating a Business You’ll Love
Taking the time to observe subject matter experts and end-users in their work areas, following their processes and using the software. This requires the ability to ask questions, but remain neutral, as well as the desire to genuinely build trust.
Prototyping of New Products Creating both low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes
Business Skills
Planning Same
Research and Learning Same
Marketing Conducting market research, understanding product features (requirements) and benefits, and communicating those to stakeholders
Product testing
“…the hard work of discovering what customers really wanted and adjusting our product and strategy to meet those desires.” Eric Ries, The Lean Startup
Ensuring that all requirements and product features are tested.
Interpersonal Skills
Negotiation Ability to facilitate, negotiate, and work to achieve consensus.
Team building (larger enterprises/start-ups) Skills needed by senior BAs, PMs, or IT managers
Communication skills (especially listening)
“…another critical entrepreneurial trait is required for success: enthusiastic, persistent listening skills.” Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, from Creating a Business You’ll Love
Asking great questions and listening carefully to answers, both the content and affect of them
Influencing skills Especially needed to be treated as a trusted advisor
Intuition – “Do your homework, but trust your gut”
“Somehow I just knew – it was a gut feeling – that today’s modern woman was not being well served when it came to her pregnancy.” Liz Lange from Creating a Business You’ll Love (She went on to say she read all the industry magazines she could in order to find out who or what could help her.)
Based on experience, learning to trust your “gut feelings” and supporting them through research
Audacity
“I believe audacity is the most important trait for an entrepreneur.” Rob McGovern, founder of Career Builder from Creating a Business You’ll Love
Having the courage, whether it be for influencing stakeholders or to be entrepreneurs.

Table 1. Portions adapted from The Reluctant Entrepreneur by Michael Masterson

But whether you are a current BA and happy in what you do, an internal entrepreneur within an organization, or are thinking of striking out on your own, the skills and qualities in the right-hand column will serve you well.

Example. Both of us worked at a bank early in our careers and functioned as internal management consultants. Much of our work was similar to a business analyst, but the latter term had not been invented yet. We were change agents for the bank, reviewing department processes, procedures, and organization structures. We recommended improvements, both manual and automated. We learned the power of process modeling and how it contributed to process improvement.

We were both happy as employees, and yet looking back we were expected to be true intrapreneurs in the sense that we helped the bank move to new possibilities. We “disrupted” the status quo (to use the popular term in lean startup circles), and that disruption sometimes came at some organization risk and (to us at least) personal risk. Management thought the organization risk was worth it because it helped the bank achieve better customer service, efficiency, and control. We took on the personal risk because we earnestly believed our recommendations were helping the organization.

Conclusion. If you are a business analysis practitioner, you are in good shape to effect positive and innovative change in your organization. You are also a potential intrapreneur or entrepreneur. Look for more articles on types of entrepreneurs and the three important things entrepreneurs need to be successful.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

References
The Reluctant Entrepreneur by Michael Masterson, 2012, John Wiley and Sons
Creating a Business You’ll Love – Top Entrepreneurs Share their Secrets, 2011, edited by Ronnie Sellers, Sellers Publishing, Inc.
The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, 2011, Random House Inc.

About the Authors

Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, President and Founder of Watermark Learning, is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in business analysis, project management, training, and consulting. He has presented workshops and seminars on business analysis and project management topics to over 10,000 participants on five different continents.

Rich loves to combine industry best practices with a practical approach and has contributed to those practices through numerous speaking sessions around the world. He has also worked on the BA Body of Knowledge versions 1.6-3.0, the PMI BA Practice Guide, and the PM Body of Knowledge, 4th edition. He and his wife Elizabeth Larson have co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation.

Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is Co-Principal and CEO of Watermark Learning and has over 30 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes repeat presentations for national and international conferences on five continents.

Elizabeth has co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation. She has also co-authored chapters published in four separate books. Elizabeth was a lead author on several standards including the PMBOK® Guide, BABOK® Guide, and PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide.

What the 2015 Trends Mean For Business Analysis and Project Management

In January we wrote an article like we do every year about the upcoming trends in business analysis and project management. In this article we want to discuss what these trends mean for practitioners of business analysis. Below are the seven trends we discussed in last month’s article and a short description of each.

Table 1 Seven Trends

Original 7 Trends Short Description
Distributed leadership Leadership will become more distributed and will be increasingly as much about tapping into the leadership of those around us as it is about a single visionary, decision-maker, and communicator.
Design Organizations who start providing “logical” or “conceptual” design outputs as part of building apps and business processes will shrink the gap between business needs and functioning products and create better products faster.
Schizophrenic approach to certification Both the trend to become certified and the trend to reject certifications will play out in 2015. With the increased popularity in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), counterbalanced with the rise in the number of PMs interested in business analysis means that many practitioners will want certifications, while others will question their value.
Innovation and entrepreneurship To go beyond mere process improvement, organizations will need to become more entrepreneurial. Innovation centers and hubs are on the increase, and companies are investing in their own incubators away from their main operations to help spur the creative process.
Changing culture through Agile team training

Agile training will be geared toward entire teams rather than individuals. Agile is going to drive organizations to seek more effective ways to generate a change in project practice.
NOTE: we’ve expanded this trend to address the need to change organizational culture quickly. This is the focus of today’s article.

Balance in project governance Organizations will continue to struggle to find balance between the extremes of project chaos and centralized project governance. Ultimately some projects will require more governance and some less.
Making Agile work for organizations We predict that organizations will find a way to make Agile work for them by becoming more purposeful in how they choose to adopt it.

Helping organizations change – quickly. We believe that organizations are crying for new ways of doing things and that simply saying that they want to offer new products or services means ramifications greater than running a press release or having the CEO or agency head announce the decision. Many operational areas will often be impacted. People will have to learn new business processes, use new software, often buy new hardware, and sometimes report to new managers. They will have to learn how to sell, reorder, merchandise, and/or support the product or service. Often most challenging, though, is its acceptance, which requires changing the organizational culture.

Project managers will need to understand that the project’s focus has to be more than on implementing the new solution. Business analysis practitioners will need to help the organizations prepare for the change. They will need to work with affected operational areas to help them understand what the change means for them, the difference between their current world and how it will be different going forward. BAs and PMs have talked for decades about how slow it is to change organizational culture. We have used the analogy of trying to move a big cruise ship around in the ocean. Yet organizations need to find a way to change the culture more quickly.

Those who survive and thrive will have to be culture changers or contribute not just to helping organizations change, but helping them change more quickly. To help us understand this important concept, we have taken our 2015 trends and categorized them areas needed to enable change quickly. Those four categories are:

Distributed power. The first has to do with Power, the ability to impose our will—to get people to do what we want them to do. There are many ways people use power. We might threaten a punishment, offer a reward, or overwhelm them with what we know. We can use our authority, that positional power that comes from our place in the organization. (Well, some people can, typically not BAs or PMs). We can use all those forms of power, but none of them is affective as using our leadership skills, the power that we have within us to communicate our vision, to offer direction, and to have others follow us.

Distributed power means that organizations will have to accept that relying on positional power, in other words authority, will slow them down. The idea of power and decision-making in the hands of executives, directors, managers, or supervisors, or any one individual will cause delays. Going forward we expect that different people will take leadership roles at different times. Any individual might step up in a given situation, but not all situations. We’re saying that not only does leadership need to be distributed and more local, but power does as well. This might include, for example, the ability to reward people. Getting things done quickly will rely on decentralized project governance and self-organizing teams.
To use an Agile example, the scrum master might sometimes act as a leader. But if they do, it’s not based on their role, but on their ability to communicate with the team and the organization to remove impediments and resolve problems.

Practical solutions. Being innovative does not mean throwing out everything an organization does and starting over. Innovative solutions need to work. Organizations need to be able to implement them into their organizational cultures. Generally speaking, organizations are moving away from centralized project practices, one size fits all approaches in favor of choosing approaches best suited to each project. Top-down hierarchical communication is disappearing. Why? Because it takes too long to get anything done that way. Meetings need to be run more flexibly. Going fast are the old days of tight agendas where the meeting “leader” (usually us) controlled everything. Today’s meetings tend to be more informal, with neutral facilitators rather than meeting leaders, with participants scribing as needed, and where decisions are made more quickly.

Business analysis work is needed regardless of the project type. A rose by any other name is still a rose and business analysis is business analysis even if we call it systems analysis, business systems analysis, conceptual design, etc. We’re still doing business analysis when we manage requirements, do business systems analysis, design, logical or conceptual design, when we go about getting the detail needed, and whether or not it is done by BA, PM, designer/developer, part of the development team or someone else. And this work will not go away, regardless of the trend in development methodologies

Influencing without authority. Those who can’t influence will not add value and if they don’t add value, they will not succeed. Being innovative will require being able to influence those who don’t work for us. We will need to be collaborative and work through others to help organizations succeed.

The table below lists the seven trends and shows their relationship to the four categories. Each trend falls into multiple categories and each category contains multiple trends.

7 Trends Distributed Power Focus on the Practical More Business Analysis Work, Less BA Role Influencing Without Authority
Distributed leadership X X X X
Design   X X  
Schizophrenic approach to certification       X
Innovation and entrepreneurship X X X X
Culture changers needed X X X X
Balance in project governance X     X
Anything agile X X X X

Summary. The key to being successful in business analysis and project management is to understand that business analysis is not going away, but how we do it is changing. To be successful we will have to offer quick, practical solutions. If our current job is to elicit and document requirements, it will decrease in value. If we’re project coordinators or schedulers, our jobs will also decrease in value. We need to get out of the business analysis and project management assembly lines. We need to spot opportunities and use our influencing skills to encourage organizational change needed to take advantage of those opportunities

So here’s the bottom line –we will have tons of freedom to be creative to do the right thing for the organization. It’s going to be easier for those of us who want to make a difference in our organizations and in the larger professional community to be able to do so. And this is very, very good news indeed!!

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

About the Authors

Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is Co-Principal and CEO of Watermark Learning and has over 30 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes repeat presentations for national and international conferences on five continents.

Elizabeth has co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation. She has also co-authored chapters published in four separate books. Elizabeth was a lead author on several standards including the PMBOK® Guide, BABOK® Guide, and PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide.

Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, President and Founder of Watermark Learning, is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in business analysis, project management, training, and consulting. He has presented workshops and seminars on business analysis and project management topics to over 10,000 participants on five different continents.

Rich loves to combine industry best practices with a practical approach and has contributed to those practices through numerous speaking sessions around the world. He has also worked on the BA Body of Knowledge versions 1.6-3.0, the PMI BA Practice Guide, and the PM Body of Knowledge, 4th edition. He and his wife Elizabeth Larson have co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation.

Does a Business Analyst have a role to play in innovation?

Can you even imagine Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo jumping up-and-down on the edge of the soccer fields screaming “pick-me, pick-me”. Absolutely absurd right, people pay big bucks to have them on their team! This is how I feel when the topic of innovation comes up in business. I can see the value a BA can add because it’s as clear as day for me and the team, but no one else seems to see the contribution that a BA can make. We would love to scream from the rooftops that this is what we’ve have been trained to do; we have the toolset to tackle the challenge – we can add value, we are knowledge workers.

This is becoming a common occurrence for BA’s, when faced with the question “How can I take my business from being a commodity (widget) to being an integrator?”

A commodity/widget is produced to serve a specific purpose without any additional value add, and as such is easily replicated. A widget by definition is generic and non-descript.

The integrator not only serves the purpose at hand, but also explores and delivers additional value. Its aim is to continuously understand, adapt and deliver that extra bit, so that the consumer is always amazed and left wanting more. It’s the edge you can give to the business- keeping it a step ahead of everyone else.

As a senior BA, you are trained to identify and quantify the opportunity. You are able to:

  • articulate the opportunity,
  • identify which component it impacts,
  • how it impacts them and
  • list what would be needed to realize the opportunity at hand and its associated benefits.

BA’s can deliver the innovation magic by enabling and empowering the associated thought processes.

It is recommended that there is BA involvement from when the opportunity is in it’s infancy of being crafted and shaped.

Facilitation is an integral part of the BA tool box, how about combining facilitation with Random Word Association and Vision Boarding.

In the words of the innovation guru at my organization: “Remember that an integral part of innovation and the key to its success is fun, positivity and loads of ideas“.

In very simplistic terms, Random Word Association is a creativity technique that allows you stimulate lateral thinking by associating a randomly chosen word to the opportunity at hand. The word selected is an arbitrary word with no obvious connection to the opportunity: the audience is forced to think outside of the box. By no stretch of the imagination do I claim that there is a direct correlation between the first random word chosen and the ultimate solution that is chosen. The value of this technique is in the ability to get the participants to have fun while crafting a potential solution, and, to also get the cobwebs cleaned out in the minds of the participants. Cobwebs in these instances refer to the old way of thinking.

You will not achieve a paradigm shift if the association made is predictable; hence the need to randomly select a word with not intended association with the opportunity. The generation of a plethora of ideas allows for a greater selection of thoughts to be funneled into the actual filtering process.

In order to find a true gem of an idea there needs to be a proliferation of ideas. Make it a fun and inclusive process for both the generation and selection of the idea.

Now that the participants have managed to both articulate and select an idea from the Random Word Association exercise, I would recommend the use of a Vision Board.

How many times were you willing to bet that you had the requirements “down pat”, but there was potentially a difference in your understanding and what the business understood their requirement to be?

This is where you needed to validate the requirement to ensure alignment in understanding i.e. “To ensure that all requirements support the delivery of value to the business, fulfill its goals and objectives, and meet a stakeholder need”.
In keeping with the sprite of validating, Vision boarding allows you to validate the concept that was born from the Random Word Association exercise. It is a graphical representation of what the potential solution to the opportunity should look like. It’s a collage of images, words and sketches of what the participants feel the solution should look like. It’s also a novel and artistic way of visually depicting the elements and “feel” of the potential solution. Ensure that the vision board is a clear, uncluttered representation of how the participants envision the potential solution. This clarity of vision enables all parties to be on the same page. An ambiguity or misunderstanding can potentially be picked up at this point.

A word of caution here so as not to create false expectations or misconceptions, this is not a silver bullet. At no point in this process can you make any promises that this is what the solution will look like. But if you are restricting participants too early in the process, how can you hope to be innovative?

Sometimes innovation means looking at a problem differently and then making a slight adjustment to the existing solution. In other situations, it means a radical departure from the norm, turning the world inside-out.

I would hate to face a “Quartz Revolution”, by allowing our business to continue to believe that the status quo and the way things have been done in the past will allow us to innovate for the future. The Swiss watch makers were very comfortable with the traditional mechanical watches, and did not move to quartz technology. Economic upheaval and near collapse of the industry was caused by the short sightedness of the Swiss in this instance. Let us empower the business to view us as an integral cog of innovation and be part of the process of becoming integrators.

How will you know if it works, if you’ve never tried it!

Let’s get the conversations started!

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.