Puzzle missing a piece

Tools and Processes for Problem-Definition [Case Study]

What tools & processes do members use in formulating the question that becomes the issue/problem to be addressed? Unfortunately, too many projects fail, and problems continue due to the wrong insight/issue/question being used as the foundation for the project’s scope.

Derek Munn, CSR
Typically CSR was good at answering the question but not formulating it. They responded to issues. They now take a broader look. They start with a patent search (to see what’s changing in their functionality) and do a functional analysis / Evolutionary Plot (see example below) to see where opportunities are. Having established a horizon Ideal Final Result for this functionality, they step towards this in small chunks that the organisation can handle without getting dysfunctional.

The Evolutionary Plot above shows across known elements as to how a product naturally evolves where the white spaces are. An effective tool to identify opportunities. 

Gerard Rummery, ResMed
Through Design Led Innovation, they now address the emotional issues as to what is in the patient’s interest and what we are really trying to address emotionally. They use a 4 quadrant diagram to visualise their projects to management, as shown below:

They start with observations to obtain insights and now do it themselves (rather than have an external provider undertake the focus groups) to ask the why of the why etc.  They then use Post-it notes on walls to group these insights into patterns or frameworks.  They then look at the imperatives, i.e. what are critical patient considerations and where are the contradictions and why? They then get into what they are good at, i.e. developing solutions that address these imperatives. Finally, they use modified Agile Software to deliver the solution that breaks the project into small increments/sprints. At the end of each sprint, they reassess their direction and have enough flexibility to modify if things are not working out/progressing as they should.

John Maclay, Hargraves
Gave an overview of two tools from the Systematic Innovation toolbox as shown below:

Problem definition: You start with the Original Problem, go broader to answer why it is you want to solve this problem and then narrower to address what is stopping you from solving this problem, utilising Perception Mapping (next) to clarify these issues.

How do organisations counter the risk aversion that exists in their organisation? How do they balance innovation and risk-taking against typical risk-averse management structures? What are some of the practical tips in achieving step-change management and pitfall avoidance?

The key thing in addressing risk is to remember that people make decisions/approve and not the company/business. Typically they have everything to lose in doing something different, so the focus has to be on “what’s in it for me.”

Aaron Bilstrom, Suncorp
Within their sector, failure is always financially adverse. The degree of risk aversion is dependent on the top level of the organisation. It becomes a balance with the positives based on leveraging those activities that reach out to the customer. They find change agents (generally a vociferous group) and leverage these. They have a group working on a changed business model for the future that has Leadership support. Introducing small experiments that influence the cultural side as business support systems are not readily changeable. Substantial change is either driven from the top or is permitted by the top.

Peter Cebon, Melbourne University
There is a need to recognise that risk is fundamental to innovation, and those risk-averse and successful organisations evaluate things very carefully and manage these risks. Typically, organisations are scared of doing something new.

a) managers often talk about that it is safe to fail. Those that talk this way can’t manage the risk, and as a consequence, step-changes tend to get avoided as there is no crisis forcing them to consider this step-change. Risk management needs to be managed through innovation governance by those strategically responsible for delivering corporate objectives and not by those who do it/execute it.

b) the focus needs to be on having a conversation on the outcome of not innovating and what this means to any objectives/plans that the company might have. The simplest way of doing this is:

  • project the business forward based on whatever growth criteria are agreed to without any innovation over the next period (3-5 yrs or 5-10 yrs). This is the BASELINE
  • look at whatever strategies are in the plan and expected growth rate from these. This becomes the ASPIRATIONAL LINE
  • the GAP is the risk of NOT INNOVATING
  • adjust whatever projects exist for risk and be realistic as to when and what they will deliver, and there will be a GAP to the ASPIRATIONAL
  • this GAP shows the effect if the organisation doesn’t do something fundamentally different and take some step-changes/change business models etc   

The conversation then focuses on the level of risk of managing the future by the old rules rather than the risks of innovating with those held responsible for delivering the company’s objectives/strategies being accountable for the innovation outcomes.

To learn more about how we help leading organisations embed innovation, contact us.

We thank participants in the Step-Change Commercialisation group for sharing their experience with our community.

Scroll to Top