Last week top radio interviewer Tait Communications hosted the second ever Christchurch Innovation Skills event. Around 30 people attended the session, and like the Tauranga event which had occurred just two nights previous, representatives from some of the regions top manufacturers were in attendance.

Christchurch Innovation Skills.jpg

The goal of these sessions has been to trial an open, loosely coupled think-tank, with events now happening around the country. 

Tait Communications

This multinational company, with it's headquarters in Christchurch, was the perfect host for last weeks event. The company develops world-leading voice and radio technologies and is exporting around 95% of it's products. Founded by New Zealand electronics innovator and entrepreneur Sir Angus Tait, the founding staff produced the first generation of all-transistor mobile radios in New Zealand. Tait Communications has offices in six countries, and a network of distributors and dealers in another 150. 

Attendees

Companies represented at the event included ANZCO Foods, Mitton ElectroNet, Caliber Design, Holmes Solutions, Argus Heating, and Energy Light to name a few. 

QUESTION: "What is one innovation challenge your company faces?"

When registering for this event, we asked each person to answer this question, in order to form the discussion topics for the session. We then sent the 13 submissions received out to everyone who had registered a few hours beforehand.  

Upon arriving, questions were drawn on the wall and attendees were asked to vote on which submission they would most like to discuss. Submissions included:

  • How to rapid prototype food products for export markets
  • How will the adoption of the TTPA affect software patentability in NZ and the export of our niche products?
  • ROI
  • Technology licensing
  • We have ideas for the development of our products and processes but struggle to find time and resource to progress them.  What tools are effective with SME's and enable them to move swiftly with innovation?
  • Supporting our innovators - not turning them off with operational requirements / rigidity
  • Currently facilitating an innovation strategy for Canterbury Development Corporation.  So thinking about a range of challenges
  • Communicating the value of structured innovation processes
  • Highly competitive, well funded, innovative market place for search technology is emerging.
  • Spending enough time on innovation and balancing innovation work with existing product improvements and solving production issues.

WINNER: Communicating the value of structured innovation processes

Similar to Tauranga, Christchurch attendees chose a question focusing on innovation as more of a structured process. 

Stakeholders

These are parties we chose as being the most directly affected by the management of innovation.

  • Engineers & product developers
  • Sales
  • Management
  • Customers

Problems

This became a combination of communicating the value of structured innovation to stakeholders, and actually innovating in a more structured way. 

  • Communicating the tangible value of process is hard 
  • Culture within the company may not be open to change
  • Innovators within the company may not have the right team around them
  • Number 8 wire mentality makes us addicted to mediocrity - "She'll be right"
  • It's hard to assemble a talented team without money
  • Most innovators are passionate about their ideas, but aren't good at process
  • Creativity with boundaries is hard to 'sell' to innovators
  • The local Christchurch community is still largely operating in 'silos' (closed off, not collaborating)

Solutions

  • Be transparent - put up photos on a work social media channel so the entire company can see the process
  • Make time every morning to work on innovation-based activities
  • Create a separate space to innovate in
  • Adopt a consistent and transparent process with constant feedback - agile methodologies one example
  • Communicate value - sales challenge?
  • Change "engineering" titles to "product development"
  • Complete a structured innovation audit
  • Try and get in a global expert - sometimes projects which are ugly need to be killed and an outside expert can give valuable insight 
  • Collaboration - work with manufacturers to solve problems together
  • Be a little less focused on not sharing

The group agreed that process is necessary to maintain momentum, otherwise innovation is just hit and miss.

Recommended Reading

Event Likes & Changes - Net Promotor Score Feedback

After the main discussion we asked for 'likes and changes', and to act as an additional tool for gathering feedback we deployed a very simple Net Promotor Score survey. Extensive research has shown that an entity's NPS acts as a leading indicator of growth. A NPS can be used as part of a measurement framework that is tightly tied to customer happiness (read feedback and more info about the NPS in our previous blog).

Main points taken from NPS and on-the-night feedback:

Likes

  • Having the comments circulated beforehand
  • The fishbowl format
     

Changes

  • It would be great to have the ability to contribute non verbally to the discussion
  • Allow a maximum time a person can sit in the circle
  • If you have already spoken, you can't speak again
  • Use real case studies
  • Hold events monthly or bi-monthly
  • Bring in experts for particular topics
  • Hold future events on different days
  • Have the ability to view metrics gained from these sessions
  • Agree the topic upfront and have it communicated before registering
  • Possibly better having smaller events, but where the attendees have a specific interest in the topic
  • Increased diversity - different industries etc
  • Have people potentially pitch their products to the group
  • 6 people had attended the previous fishbowl

NPS of 15

Our Net Promoter Score of 15 (30 considered good, over 50 great, and over 70 excellent), reflects the very mixed feedback on the event.  This provides us with fantastic data so we can continue to hone these sessions.

The real responses to the survey, based on around half of attendees replying:

Overall the event was great, and we are now looking at how the Innovation Skills initiative can potentially address some of the issues raised.

Here are a few snaps taken from the day: