Innovation process 101 – Sculpting and Smashing!

1smashedIn martial arts you use your strengths, then allow your opponent to over extend their attacks grabbing that energy for your advantage. Corporations have unique skills in building processes and analyzing markets to produce accurate probabilities. This is also the root of the “paralysis by analysis” trap. Innovation is about understanding probabilities. The key for larger companies is grabbing agility and high risk courage from the start-up while increasing your chance of success with your broad assets.


Corporate incubators can rapidly build and understand the processes of others, build in market factors and understand the best opportunities for innovation. There is strength in large operations organizations that is often undervalued by product groups and R&D. The challenge is how to use the strong analytical power while not burdening innovation.


We all enjoy creating and process teams are no different. We enforce process as a way of validating the process, good process covers all situations right. What if the creation of process is not for use but for change? What if you can build a culture in your analytical teams that is about documentation with the intent to break the existing process? I have a term for this, Sculpting and Smashing!


                                          Sculpting – Design and document the activity of the target segment or persona.




                                          Smashing – Break that process through automation and innovation to eliminate wasted                                                                                                             activity or entire steps. Basically add ease or productivity that create value.


Sculpting and Smashing is fun, it leads to a very full idea funnel that leads to solid innovative features and products. What is amazing is experiencing business analyst get energized. Teams often do retrospectives or plus/delta sessions without optimizing a process immediately. What if that learning can become positive immediately, what if you change the culture to one where learnings are quickly institutionalized in a positive manner then celebrated.


For example:


Culture of innovation requires, breaking down the Moonshots.

Successful work fails, great innovative companies always fail forward! Experimentation and failure is the result of taking predictive risk or as I like to say, “Thinking outside the box working inside


Break down the flow or your product into each area and innovate within each before bringing them together. What helps is to have first the Crazy moonshot vision like say driverless cars. Now you can break down every step of driving and automate it!


A recent capital equipment company I worked with was passionate about staying ahead of a market where they already lead. As the company expanded internationally the CEO and I spoke of how to build innovation proactively when the history of the company was winning through rapid response to any RFP. The moonshot thinking was complete automation, the steps were: First automated with operator, then automated with operator outside as observer, followed by automated from a distance, and lastly only to give the equipment a task then read a report of the results.


OK so the last two steps are still quite a bit in the future but the process accomplishes three things.

  1. Build trust in market that this moonshot is achievable in steps. Building trust is important for the partnership with the market.
  2. Take steps that you can achieve that build confidence in your own capabilities, learn, and fail forward at a reasonable pace.
  3. Be agile to changes in the market, in technology and the Moonshot goal itself.


We followed a hybrid IDEO/Blue Ocean footprint by breaking down the core product into the various systems, Mechanical, Fluid, Control, Power Systems, Usability and finally company support services. Taking a look at all the systems they begin to optimize, (Sculpting and smashing). The customers were excited about each idea however they had expected incremental innovation from the company.


Where the market sat up and applauded first was on the company services improvements. Not to say they were insufficient but the market just shocked to see them step in and listen to their customers business issues and be willing to be a true partner. The back story on this innovation is that a customer service agent speaking with a customer captured a comment about the equipment being like his new car and send him an e-mail on how it is.


In a market where the pain of downtime is great and a product already outfitted with sensors only connected to the operators’ panel it was a simple task to have a capture of sensor output and use data sent. Customer reaction was overwhelming. Users would pre-order warn parts and be confident planning big projects, now the company was building a trusted relationship based on data sharing. The camel’s nose was under the tent, the first step to the moonshot.


The opportunity would not be identified without understanding how the market consumes the product, understanding the wear cycle of parts and pain of the customer. All this through the data and experience of an established producer with a focus on innovation and optimizing patterns.1smashed

Tim Bates