By Patricia Jacoby
Senior Editor, Marketing
Frost & Sullivan

To continue to address your desire to learn, grow and innovate, Frost & Sullivan recently created a week’s worth of virtual content which was presented live by a select group of speakers from the upcoming event. Each 30 minute presentation was followed by a 30 minute interactive virtual roundtable discussion exclusively for Growth Innovation Leadership Council members.

Here are the essential insights from all the presentations:

Day 1: Driving Product Discovery and Innovation with a Smart AI Strategy
Sridhar Solur, Executive Vice President, General Manager, Chief Product Engineer
SharkNinja

Sridhar Solur examined how Shark Robotics, maker of intelligent advance navigation robotic vacuum cleaners, leverages AI to drive greater consumer satisfaction through data harvesting and analytics.

Sri shared that his employer, SharkNinja is focused on implementing strong ideas to help companies that are being disrupted. Most recently, he worked on putting robotic products into the marketplace. As Sri stated, “we are moving to a world where things are done BY YOU to a world where things are done FOR YOU. For example, the SharkNinja revolutionary IQ Robot Vacuum not only vacuums for you, but goes the extra mile to empty the refuse into the trash can.

Sri also noted that, historically, new products and technological developments often occur around times of upheaval and recession. Examples included AM radio in the 1920s, television in the early 1950s, the internet in the 1990s, and mobile devices in 2000. Accordingly, with the current health crisis, we are entering a new era that will no doubt precipitate and accelerate changes and transformations in many industries. The acceleration of telemedicine is one clear example. More people working at home is another clear trend.

Other key insights included:

  • Deep learning, 5G, and computer vision are among the trends to watch in 2020 and beyond
  • We will move from people-to-people interactions to more people-to-machine interactions
  • A new era of robotics and machine intelligence will include ambient interfaces; AI will be a big part of this
  • As we move to more mobile experiences and edge computing, strong security continues to be paramount

Growth Innovation Leadership Council Member Discussion

After the presentation, there was an exclusive members-only discussion facilitated by Richard Sear, Partner and Senior Vice President, Frost & Sullivan. Essential take-aways from the discussion included:

  • When working on AI and technology integration, “it’s not all about managing the technology, it’s about managing your mindset”
  • Sri believes that 8 to 10 months is a reasonable timeframe for most transformation initiatives
  • Look at your company’s key strengths and analyze how to utilize IoT and edge technologies to expand or improve on them
    • For example, SharkNinja transformed from an appliance company to shipping vacuum robots into the marketplace
  • As technology continues to evolve, security is as important as ever. Applying the evergreen principles of the Privacy Authentication Integrity Nonrepudiation acronym is critical, especially as we move to edge computing

Day 2: Success Story: From Concept to Commercialization
Hector Barea, Senior R&D Engineer and Product  ​R&D Manager
Tupperware Brands Corporation

The Tupperware company, which had over 2 billion in sales in 2018, had 92% of their sales outside of the U.S., making it a truly global company. Current Tupperware products include the MicroPro® Grill, a Nano Nature Water Filtration System and even a Nutrient Delivery System for NASA! This webinar session covered the challenges of developing globally sourced new products, from napkin sketch to product launch.

Hector presented a quick but comprehensive primer on new product development. He offered practical tools to help members with initial concept development, R&D, new product development, proof of concept work and design, all the way to the industrialization process. Hector pointed out that completely different mindsets, skillsets and tools are needed for R&D versus mass production, and briefly discussed all of these components in his presentation.

Hector shared a colorful “Framework from Concept to Industrialization” slide showing the dozens of potential tools available for product development and distribution. These included everything from “Blue Ocean” to “Action Learning” to “Crowdsourcing” approaches. Yet, Hector warned against “death by a million tools” and noted that he uses Design Thinking to help identify and solve the right problem. He also recommended TRIZ, or Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving, an international system of creativity that includes a model based technology tool for ideation, and endorsed Six Sigma as an effective tool for process improvement.

The importance of choosing the best problem definition up front was emphasized. As stated, “the more time you can spend in beginning, the better for planning” and later outcomes.

Growth Innovation Leadership Council Member Discussion

Essential take-aways from the discussion included:

  • As you begin to gather ideas, ask: “Can we make these?” “Will the customer buy it?” “Is it in our business realm and can we get good ROI?”
  • When it comes to creating a go-to-market strategy, look at the marketplace first and consider consulting your sales force first too, rather than waiting until the end of the process. This can be especially useful for unique new products
  • It’s important to balance critical customer feedback with company expertise and quality filters
  • Sometimes cost will kill the original idea, but a similar product can be made less expensively
  • Finally, meeting customer’s unmet needs was a key product development strategy noted by members

Day 3: How Nike Broke the 2-Hour Marathon
Sean McDowell, Former Vice President of Design, Innovation & Sustainability Converse,
Nike

It can be very difficult to innovate while reporting quarterly growth to investors. This discussion focused on tools to identify and set big hairy audacious goals (BHAG) for the company. Sean McDowell explored Nike’s strategy and shared what it took for his organization to design a shoe that helped to break the long-standing 2 hour marathon record.

According to Sean, to win big in innovation, organizations need to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) that are measurable and meaningful to the business. Sean told the story of how he led the Nike team to break the 2-hour marathon record through extensive data analysis, testing, product design, determination and innovative thinking. These efforts culminated in great commercial success with Nike’s AlphaFly running shoe, powered by a carbon fiber propulsion plate design and a new chemical formula for Zoom X Foam, which provided great energy return.

As noted, many small decisions can sometimes add up to a large impact.  To achieve the goal of breaking the marathon record, Nike analyzed the challenge and concluded that they needed a 4% improvement overall. They realized this could be broken into smaller goals and achieved with a 1% improvement in footwear, a 1% improvement in apparel effectiveness, a 1% course improvement and a 1% improvement in athletic performance, adding up to a 4% cumulative improvement. Specifically the runner would need to gain ¼” per stride.

Nike worked with Eliud Kipchoge, one of the world’s finest marathoners, who ultimately achieved their innovation goal when he broke the 2-hour marathon record in Vienna, finishing in 1:59:40, while wearing the Nike prototype AlphaFly sneaker.

Growth Innovation Leadership Council Member Discussion

Essential take-aways from the discussion included:

  • It’s easy to do small innovations, sometimes you need to think bigger
  • It was Sean’s decision to attempt to break the marathon record; he believes innovation goals are often set too low and recommends “shaking up the ecosystem” by bringing in people with diverse experiences, from other industries with other areas of expertise
  • Nike doubled down in 2008 and after 9/11, when other organizations were running scared
  • At Converse (also owned by Nike) the budgets are smaller, so they took a different, more customer-focused approach and talked to consumers…the #1 Gen Z goal was sustainability
  • To encourage a culture of innovation, start by brainstorming big issues, aligning all leaders, consistently meeting and then set and reinforce tangible goals
  • Be ready to show the business analysts the cost of not innovating, i.e. the 10 to 20 year impact of doing nothing, losing market share and/or going out of business!

Day 4:  Selecting the Best Metrics for Your Product Development and Innovation Team’s Success
Karen Tilstra, Ph.D., Co-Founder; Cecil Wiese, Innovation Catalyst;
and Matias Meirelles van Vliet, Experience Designer
AdventHealth Innovation Lab

The key objective of this session was to answer critical questions including: How do you gauge if you are doing meaningful work and doing it effectively; if both you and your projects are effecting change? How do you act differently when looking at specific versus portfolio metrics for success? The participants learned about what it’s like to develop project-specific measures of success, and garnered ideas on how to standardize portfolio metrics along with goals in order to measure the effectiveness of the innovation team.

Three diverse innovation speakers from AdventHealth discussed different innovation initiatives launched at the AdventHealth Innovation Lab. Founded in 2012, there have been over 700 projects conducted at the lab to date. It began as a 24-7 initiative dedicated to including all employees and making “innovation everyone’s job, every day” via a design-thinking, open door approach.

Eschewing the usual traditions of immediate data gathering and analysis, the AdventHealth CEO instead endorsed a “big picture” learning approach at the lab for the first 18 months after launch. The philosophy was that a strict focus on data gathering and analysis sometimes obstructed the full reality of what was happening, what problems needed to be fixed, and what issues required innovative solutions.

The presenters shared stories of innovation projects that led them to unexpected places as they often uncovered issues that were not a part of the original project scope and/or focus. Throughout, they shared the lesson of “shifting the lens” and following where the facts, data and employee experiences were taking them, even if this led to a complete shift in their innovation focus.  This often led to measuring evolving metrics and following the human dynamics and input rather than just the numbers. In their own way, each made the distinction between “measuring for management” versus “measuring for learning.” (the preferred objective)

One example discussed was the problem of long patient waits before being released from the hospital. This was often due to patients’ needing blood drawn by phlebotomists before they were discharged; the phlebotomists were very busy and were often not immediately available. The issue was resolved by training all nurses to draw blood; and patients were happier. Shifting the lens a bit wider, the CEO observed that not only was the specific, patient wait problem solved, but the nurses and phlebotomists were working together as never before–improving and effectively resolving a larger issue.

This story and other similar innovation experiences shared helped illustrate the importance of achieving effectiveness over efficiency and adaptability in innovation. As noted, data doesn’t solve all the problems; it is just a tool that often needs to be balanced with qualitative analysis and contextual observations too. All agreed that data should be used to illuminate big and small issues, not just support small-scope analysis.

Growth Innovation Leadership Council Member Discussion

Essential take-aways from the discussion included:

  • To help gain executive buy-in for innovation initiatives, educate your leadership teams about problems and expose them to painful patient or customer experiences; this can help elicit empathy and foster openness to innovative solutions
    • Example: at AdventHealth the surgeons were dissatisfied with lighting in operating rooms so the innovation team had the doctors’ work directly with the surgical lighting company. They invited them to watch as doctors performed surgery on cadavers and allowed people from the lighting company to do so also, so they could experience what the end users did, i.e. insufficient lighting
  • Encourage a top-down learning mindset; communicate that learning metrics can and will shift
  • Look for operational cost savings your innovation initiatives and solutions might bring and share them with leaders
  • To help foster innovation, create low barrier, easy access innovation labs that all employees can participate in, contribute to and learn from
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