Unconventional approaches that can lead to breakthrough innovation

Robin Barnwell

Looking to achieve breakthrough innovation? Sometimes the answer lies in an unconventional approach. Contributor Robin Barnwell describes a couple of approaches that have worked well for him.

Total Innovation

In our business we are passionate about achieving breakthrough innovations and I’d like to share a few examples of how we really push the envelope. Let’s start with the fire alarm. It’s seldom used for real but reaches right across the whole campus with a very clear message:

"Emergency, please leave the building by the nearest exit."

We tapped into this paradigm to alert our numerous project managers to consistently achieve the weekly status report deadline. Every Friday at 10am we send a very clear message to instruct people wherever they are:

"Emergency, all project managers must submit their status report immediately."

Imagine the employee delight we achieved with this regular reminder, a simple but really effective change.

Or how about the "Six Sigma Results Tree" we erected in head-office? Our black belts come and randomly pick a low-hanging fruit (project opportunity) and return when complete with a green-paper leaf for each £100k saved. It goes to prove that money really does grow on trees.

What about group dynamics in meetings? We reviewed the Six Thinking Hats methodology and didn’t really understand it. So what did we do? We innovated of course! We took the Six Thinking Hats’ one-dimensional concept (e.g. creativity, optimism & judgement) to the next dimension and applied the Roger Hargreaves’ management methodology. We found the Hargreaves - Mr Men approach provided a much richer set of one-dimensional characters as shown:

We started strongly with clear insights from Mr Clever and outstanding levels of quality from Mr Perfect. Things started to wobble when we found Mr Quiet hiding in the cupboard and Mr Lazy would never show up for meetings. But we had to call a halt when Mr Tickle took his role too passionately and Little Miss Sunshine made a formal HR complaint! But we did enjoy seeing them run around and around the meeting table, "Here comes Mr Tickle……Tickle Tickle Tickle".

I could share other groundbreaking innovations but I need maintain confidentiality to retain our truly competitive edge!

Happy April 1st!