Suppose that every organisation had within it four teams, each of which had a specific task. People on these teams would have other roles as well, but would work together as a team for the specific role of that team. The focus of each team would be distinct, and it is important that this distinctiveness is preserved. The rigidity of this team structure might surprise those who believe that creativity should be free and unstructured.
Team one is the values team. The role of this team is to find and figure out values that matter. Values might be permanent or temporary. Values might change. There might be trends. There is a certain amount of sense in asking focus groups, etc. to indicate their values. Such a process is usually not very productive, because people are good at pointing out what is wrong, but they are not so good at designing new needs and possibilities.
It may be useful to try out values designed by the design team on focus groups to see if such values are acceptable or desirable. This is different, however, from asking the group to come up with values.
My book Six Value Medals would provide a broad framework, but within this framework there would be a need to design specific values. Another book of mine called Supertition could also be useful in the design of values.
Values might arise from social observation. Values might be triggered by changes in technology. For example, the development of mobile phones creates a whole range of new values and possibilities.
Technology might even create negative values, and then there will be a need to get rid of the negative values.
For example, there might be a growing need to look at ‘privacy’ and ‘tranquillity’.
• How can you be undisturbed but not detached from the world and those who need to contact you?
• How can the value of dieting be combined with the value of enjoying your food?
• How can the value of comfort in travel be combined with the value of excitement?
• What are the values inherent in the investment process?
Team two is the idea team. The idea team takes the defined values from the value team and seeks to design an idea that would allow defined values to be delivered in a practical way. It isn’t just a matter of delivering the values, but of delivering them with sound business management skills and in a way that is good business sense. There has to be profitability and there has to be cost control.
It is possible to define values in a very broad and general way. It is also necessary to define values very precisely. It is not enough to say that you would solve a problem by finding ‘a suitable solution’. There is a need for ‘valufacture’ (a word I created to describe the creation of value).
The idea team takes the defined values from the value team and seeks to design an idea that would allow the values to be delivered in a practical way.
It is not just a matter of delivering the values, but of delivering them in a way that makes business sense. There has to be profitability and there has to be cost control.
This team has a real need for formal creative processes such as lateral thinking. The goal is clearly defined: how can we deliver the specified value?
At first this separation of ‘value design’ from ‘idea design’ might seem artificial, but it has the practical merit of defining targets more precisely. In too many cases a creative person has an idea and then looks around to see what value it might deliver. Here the process is reversed.
If the value is ‘instant viewing of photographs’, then the idea team might think in terms of Polaroid photography or stand-alone digital printers, which can print the photographs from your digital camera cards immediately.
Team three is the implementation team. At first it may seem that this function duplicates the ‘idea team’ function. At times there may be an overlap.
If the idea team comes up with stand-alone digital printers, then the implementation team looks into the availability or possibility of these. The implementation team would also do the decision making on who would own and service these machines.
• Would they be in stores or on their own in shopping malls?
• What existing organisations might be interested inco-operating in the matter? - and so on. Implementation has to go into detail in a very specific way. It is not enough to say: ‘there would be a way of doing this’. The specific way would have to be spelled out.
• How is it going to be done?
• Who is going to pay for it?
• What might the problems be?
The implementation team needs to be able to answer all such questions in a detailed and specific way. There may be a need for new creative ideas in the way that an idea is implemented. There may even be a need to modify the original idea to allow it to be implemented in a particular way.
Team four is the assessment team. There has been a defined value. There has been an idea for delivering that value. There has been a specific suggestion as to how the idea might be implemented. The assessment team can now look at the whole picture.
• Will the idea work?
• Will the idea be acceptable?
• Are the costs acceptable?
• Will the idea be profitable?
• Will the idea be durable?
• How strong a competitive advantage does the idea provide?
Many of these questions will already have been considered by the preceding teams, who may be asked to give their answers to the questions.
The assessment team is not just a critical team. It is the team which can look at the total idea. The team should function in a positive and constructive sense. Where necessary, modifications might be suggested. The assessment team should contain creative people as well as number-crunchers.
The proposed teams - Value, Idea, Implementation, Assessment - work separately, but together: like the four legs of a horse or the four wheels of a car.
Another analogy might be the human digestive tract. Each part does its prescribed job and then passes matters on to the next section.
The clearly defined function of each team clarifies the thinking and ensures that every aspect of an innovation is fully considered.