Category Archives: Innovation

Lucyinnovation blog has moved house

Lucyinnovation blog has moved house. It now lives at lucyinnovation.co.uk

It’s moved because its been spruced up.

If you follow this blog, and want to keep following, you need to go to lucyinnovation.co.uk and scroll down to Follow Blog by email and sign up again.

I know that’s a pain. I’m sorry its clunky and not very innovative, but I hope you choose to keep reading….

Lucy

@lucyinnovation

Lucy@lucyinnovation.co.uk

Because not all the smart people work for you…

british_library_00_1492524cLast week I went to an event about Open Innovation in Public Services at The British Library.

Open innovation involves collaboration with partners and networks to share the risk and reward of developing new ideas. It is an innovation model that is used in the corporate sector and there are an increasing number of public and third sector organisations starting to ‘do’ open innovation.

It’s a good idea, as Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems said “Because not all the smart people work for you”

We heard from five speakers

Vicky Purewal Head of Challenge Prize Design at Nesta spoke about her work to grow the field of challenge prizes.

A challenge prize offers a reward to whoever can first or most effectively meet a defined challenge. The challenge prize concept dates back hundreds of years; canned food was a solution to a problem back in 1795 when the French military offered a cash prize of 12,000 francs for a new method to preserve food.

Challenge prizes as a way to solve problems has seen big growth in recent decades. The challenge prize model is effective in seeking ideas from a wide audience, it is more flexible than grant funding for an idea or project as there are less strings attached and the concept of winning a prize is filled with excitement as opposed to obtaining a more sobering ‘grant’ type of funding.

The design of the challenge prize and process, including the setting of clear goals and context is crucial to the prizes success. Check out some examples of challenge prizes run by Nesta, the NHS and the X Prize Foundation.

Carl Reynolds, (introduced as a Doctor and a geek), spoke about NHS Hack days.

A hack day is a gathering of a diverse group of people for at least a whole day (sometimes more) to work on a specific problem. There is an element of competition, prizes and a commitment to develop the solutions once the day is over. Hacks originated from software developers so usually involve a technology solution.

Carl’s had identified that the poor use of IT was making NHS staff jobs harder and their work less efficient, so the focus of the hack day was to ‘make NHS IT less bad’.

Given that they were starting from a fairly low benchmark, getting some key people together for a hack day to address this challenge was seen to be achievable at a relatively low-cost and risk. After all what could be a worse outcome than the current situation? Things could only improve.

The NHS hack days involve doctors, patients, healthcare experts, technology and software developers and designers. The first one was in May 2012. 120 people attended over two days, eight judges selected the best ideas and there was one overall winner. There was a range of solutions that you can see here.

Heather Niven from GeniUS York spoke about the open process they have piloted to solve the City of Yorks strategic and operational challenges.

In response to massive public sector cuts York Council identified that they could not continue to deliver their services using their current business model.

They developed an open innovation pilot giving staff and local people the opportunity get involved in solving some of the challenges in their local communities. They developed an ideas platform in a record quick time of 3 days. They launched challenges on the platform for a short time period and involved an online community of staff and the public to suggest solutions.

This pilot has repositioned innovation as a priority and turned York Council from a ‘big tanker to flotilla of active networked organisations and individuals’.

Heather spoke about what they had learned; the need to go at a slightly slower pace, the value of getting input from outside of the organisation, how brave senior managers had to be to open up and the shift in culture required to help staff to get involved.  Heather’s ultimate tip for anyone setting something like this up is  ‘be brave and proceed until apprehended’

Jenny Parkin from Camden Council spoke about their Innovation and Development Fund

The Innovation and Development Fund is designed to engage with residents and staff to facilitate and build capacity for innovation in the borough of Camden and help communities make things happen in their local area.

The funds criteria is for ideas that address socially engrained problems in new and different ways, ideas that positively change current practice and demonstrate financial sustainability in a way that is new to the Council.

Asking the outside world to come and help deliver services is a cultural shift and the approach to the fund has been an iterative one of learning and making changes at each funding round. Jenny shared some of the learning about the importance of communicating the opportunity to a range of audiences and the making the process as simple as possible. Jenny highlighted the value of the shift in culture and approach required and the learning journey the Council had been on as much as the end results.

David Townson spoke about the Design Councils’ leadership programme that supports public sector clients to improve products and services.

David spoke of the importance of design as a framework for innovation and how all innovation should originate from an understanding of your audiences and the challenges they face. The real innovation is how you help them solve those challenges.

Getting closer to your audience or customers helps you gain insights that you would not get just sat behind your desk. David spoke about sending Barking and Dagenham Council teams on ‘service safaris’ and forcing people to go to where their customers were and experience what they experienced to gather real information. Following service safaris teams visualised, sketched and prototyped their ideas.

At the end of the process the teams have a sketchbook of ideas and have engaged with their customers, providing insight and a better understanding of the problems that their communities face.  Only when you have an understanding of the real problems your customers are facing are you in a position to solve them.

Open innovation is now part of the Barking and Dagenham training programme, creating a cultural shift, a different approach to problem solving and more importantly providing more effective services.

How do I start doing Open Innovation?

There are many ways to develop open innovation to help your organisation develop better products and services. If you are considering this there are five key tips to consider.

  1. Be clear on your end goal.
  2. Build good relationships, seek to understand your audiences, whether staff, customers or the public
  3. Communicate clearly at every stage, keep people in the conversation, listen and respond to feedback
  4. Be open about what is working and what is not and learn from it
  5. Just start. You won’t have all the answers and that is exactly the point. The value of open innovation is finding solutions with others.

How could your organisation use an open innovation model to develop better fundraising and services through challenge prizes, hack days or an open innovation programme?

Pillows, helmets and hygiene

Dave Brailsford, Team GB Cycling Performance Director attributes much of his teams’ recent Olympic success to incremental improvements.

The principle of incremental improvements across the cycling team came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

This concept of incremental improvement or ‘aggregating marginal gains’ in sport is not new, but it has not been included into every element of a training strategy with such conviction before.

GB Cycling’s training included rigorous training schedules to improve physical fitness, a carefully planned diet, a series of marginal technical improvements to equipment and working with psychologists to adopt a winning mindset (which included reducing the number of racing days but competing in those fewer races with a focus on winning).

Brailsford also highlighted the importance of other things that might seem of little importance, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away, training in different places and being scrupulous about hygiene so as to reduce the chances of getting ill.

“They’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference.” Dave Brailsford

The team also looked to worlds outside of cycling for answers. They hired Formula One engineers to model the aerodynamics of helmets and bikes, the “pillow” idea apparently came from the Royal Ballet and the emphasis on hygiene is the result of talking to surgeons about avoiding illness,  (Rumour has it that Brailsford had someone to continuously clean the door handles in the Olympic village lest germs should get into the camp)

For me, the team’s success is about the sum of the parts including; the dedication of the cyclists and the coaches, the physical training schedule, the best equipment, working with psychologists to ensure that cyclists were focused on success and the hard work and constant striving to be the best that they can be.

In addition to all of the above, the GB cycling team were doing something different to their competition, and I think that also contributed to making them outstanding.

Dave Brailsford and his GB cycling team bought home 7 gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. Tell that to anyone who doesn’t see the value in incremental innovation.

What tactics can you borrow from the GB cycling team and apply to your fundraising?

Has anyone else cried a lot this week?

I have spent a lot of time in the last week crying at the telly. Who knew that the achievements and disappointments of the Olympic athletes could have such an emotional impact?

My first Olympic emotional moment was when I saw Roger Bannister carrying the Olympic torch across the finish line of the Oxford track where 58 years ago he became the first runner to run a mile in under 4 minutes.  Roger is now 83 and you can see his somewhat slower stint on that famous track and an interview here. 

The story of the first four-minute mile

On 6 May 1954 Roger Bannister ran the first ever mile in under four minutes. This, at the time was an incredible feat as athletes had tried to break through this time barrier for years and years. Some experts even said that it was physically impossible, that the human heart would explode under the pressure to run a mile in under four minutes.

There are several things that I love about this breakthrough story, firstly that Roger wasn’t a professional runner, he was a medical student and he just ran for 45 minutes every day. Secondly, he believed absolutely that he could run a mile in under four minutes. When asked how he did it he said, “ it’s the ability to take more out of yourself that you’ve got”.

Within 2 months of Rogers’ record, Australian John Landy set a new sub four-minute mile record. The next year, 37 other runners ran miles in under four minutes.

In fact, since 1954 hundreds of runners have broken this record. There were no great training breakthroughs, human bone structure, lung capacity and heart performance didn’t suddenly improve. So what happened?

Roger believed he could do it; he focused and did better than his best. Rogers belief raised the bar enabling others to also believe they could do it. I think that belief was absolutely key to Roger achieving his breakthrough success.

So when I saw Roger carrying the torch last week I welled up. For me Roger Bannister is much much more than a person who ran the first four-minute mile.

Roger Bannister showed others that something that ‘experts’ had believed impossible was possible. By doing this he allowed others to believe that they could do the impossible too.

Apply this principle to your fundraising or other areas of your life where you want to make great achievements. Next time you are attempting a seemingly impossible task, remember Roger.

Do what he did;

  • focus on what you want to achieve
  • believe in yourself
  • take more out of yourself that you’ve got
  • and make it possible.

First published as a guest blog by the Fundraising Detective.

 

The London Olympics flash mob at Wimbledon

In the Olympic ticket fiasco I somehow managed to get Centre Court tickets for the first day at Wimbledon.

Warned about airport style security and long queues we arrived early. A rare thing happened; the sun was shining so we decided to sit outside. We went up to Henman Hill or Murray Mount (whatever the hill at Wimbledon is called this year) to see if there was any other Olympic coverage happening on the big screen.

The people next to us said that they heard that there was going to be some ‘special surprise guests’ at 11am so we stayed, placing bets that it would be, (and really hoping that it wouldn’t be) Cliff Richard singing ‘Summer Holiday’.

Then someone got up and started dancing. It looked a bit weird. Then we realised she was one of the main dancers from the Opening Ceremony the night before. Then lots of other people started dancing. Then more. And more. Then we finally caught on that the ‘special surprise guests’ were this flash mob. They were awesome. You can see it here.

The dancers were excellent. It lasted about 5 minutes and then everyone went back to ‘normal’ as if nothing had happened. Apart from the cheers and whoops and laughter from the crowd.

I’ve never seen a real live flash mob before. It was really exciting and weirdly emotional. And although we were only watching in awe, we still felt part of something. All of us on the hill shared a unique moment. I felt part of something special. I was practically in tears with excitement about the day. And I was not alone. It was incredible.

So in fundraising we know that people take action based on an emotional response. So would it make sense to use the flash mob concept to engage groups of supporters in an emotional way when asking them to consider taking action for a cause?

I found these flash mob examples;

A way to get people to take their seats at a charity dinner and dance.

A way to get a campaigning message about recycling across.

Has anyone used the flash mob concept in their fundraising or campaigning? And if so what were the results? I would love to know.

Do you check your mobile when you are on the toilet?

At the Institute of Fundraising Convention last week there was a lot of talk around technology enabled giving (or TEG, yes, we have a delightful new technology enabled acronym) and in particular the use of mobile.

Heralded as the most powerful device ever invented; enabling us to access life’s essentials from money to friends to pizza, our mobile phone is a device which the majority of us do not leave home without.

There were some interesting stats from The Mobile Mindset Study, including;

  • nearly 40% admit to checking their phone while on the toilet. (*and that’s just the people who admit it. Personally I bet its more)
  • 63% of women and 73% of men ages 18-34 say they don’t go an hour without checking their phones.
  • 73% say they felt panicked when they lost their phone
  • 24% said they check their phones while driving.

We also learnt that 80% of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone. In fact globally more people have access to mobile then they do to clean drinking water.

In developing countries most people will only ever access internet on mobile phones (which was somewhat ironic as I didn’t have an internet connection in the conference session) meaning that globally mobile is going to be an increasingly important channel.

In 5 years mobile users will overtake desktop users. (a friend of mine actually had to explain the term ‘desk-top’ to a young person recently, who was baffled at the whole concept of a computer belonging to, or being static on a desk…..)

Mobile has also changed consumer behaviour in that people are constantly connected, and continually juggle and filter information. People have developed continuous partial attention disorders (CPA for acronym fans), a new condition which disables a person from concentrating on one thing for longer than about 10 seconds (in severe cases).

So, given all these stats, it was interesting that in a digital fundraising session when the audience were asked how many websites are mobile responsive one hand went up. And only four people knew how much of their web traffic came from mobile. (Most organisations get 10-15% of their web traffic from mobile and the number is increasing) And only one or two organisations had surveyed their online audience in the last 2 months. (there was significantly more than four people in the room in case you were wondering)

We know fundraising is about building relationships, understanding and connecting supporters to the cause, and making it easy for them to get involved. We also know that almost everyone is carrying the internet in their back pocket; connecting them to the world. Yet it doesn’t seem that we are developing our communications to ensure they are accessible to these growing audiences? Why not?

So to summarise the key messages on mobile fundraising;

  • mobile is becoming more and more important to engage with multiple audiences
  • use of mobile is growing fast
  • make your content is accessible for mobile
  • you cannot pretend that mobile isn’t happening
  • if you can’t help people give on mobile you are missing out

Or perhaps I got a warped view because all the people in the room were not putting their hands up because they were CPA suffers and really stressed out at not being online and connected? Possibly. In a funny way I kind of hope so.

Are you still useful?

This week I went to ‘Overturn’ the MA in Innovation Management Degree Show at Central Saint Martins. Who even knew you could do a MA in Innovation?

Innovation expert Max McKeown (taller than I expected) delighted the audience for over an hour with a great presentation and some rather interesting innovation discussion featuring;

  • If anyone wanted or expected future to be exactly the same as it is now
  • How washing machines have made women in America fat
  • Pondering over to what extent past experiences affect our behaviours

Pretty intense stuff for a school night, but the observation that really struck a chord with me was;

If you have been with your firm for less than 6 months then you are still useful.

You are still useful because new people have enthusiasm that something can change. New people bring diversity as they are external to established systems and can see where change could make improvements. New people ask questions. New people challenge ‘the way things are done around here’.  Six months were how long it took for a person to stop being new, to stop asking the challenging questions, to stop believing that something can change.

The next question was how long we thought it takes for a new person in an organisation to get listened to.

There was a range of answers. All over 6 months.

So there we go, organisations employ people for their skills and experience to get the job done as well as their potential to ask questions and drive change. For the first six months they tend to do that, question and challenge, as time goes by they challenge less until they are one of the team, conformed to the status quo. That is just when they start to get noticed and gain influence. But by that point it is too late.

Sound familiar? Or not? Love to know your views.

P.S. Central Saint Martins Kings Cross Campus in London opened last September.  It is an awesome building, part of the regeneration of the Kings Cross area. Find a reason to visit if you can.