What’s new pussycat? – Musings on Innovation

What’s new pussycat? Click on the picture for the book

This is a preview for the new book ‘Punk Rock People Management’, available as a high quality print version at Punk HR and  as a Kindle book.  I’ve included an extract from the book on the theme of innovation to whet your appetite.  Our title suggests that we ought to have some music from Tom Jones – hardly punk rock!  But a sideways shuffle takes us to one of Tom’s classics performed by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band – the wonderful tortured tale of Delilah:

Here’s the extract:

INNOVATION – What’s new pussycat?

I once read a book entitled “Innovation in HR”, published by an HR institute.   I was moderately excited to receive the book, which was a gift for perceived services of acting as an ‘agent provocateur’ to the profession – by the way that’s ‘irritant’ in English.  You can be sure that, once an HR professional starts speaking in French to you, they are about to be inauthentic.  Imagine my disappointment when I opened the book to find it empty – ha, ha!  ‘Caveat emptor’ I should have replied to keep the foreign language HR intercourse going….

Yet, perhaps that is a little unfair, and I feel I deserve to have my bare bottom thrashed with hawthorn twigs for even having such thoughts!  Nonetheless, I must be brutally truthful, in that this rather long book had very little to say other than ‘be positive’.  This in itself is often only half the story in terms of innovation.  It may be nice to surround yourself with ‘shiny happy people’, but they don’t always succeed in the innovation game.  If Isambard Kingdom Brunel had decided to hold a series of ‘iron horse focus groups’, 360 degree appraisal forums and ‘drop in customer transportation strategy listening sessions’, he would probably have never built the Great Western Railway and the world would have never have discovered Swindon – some good points in this then – oops!  If James Dyson had written a pleasant letter to Hoover explaining his minor concerns with their vacuum cleaner rather than getting fed up and  making one that sucked (in the best sense), we would NOT now have “The Dyson” as a new name for “The Hoover”

In short, innovation in new products and services requires more perspiration than inspiration.  Innovation is not over when the flip chart is full in the brainstorming meeting and everyone has imagined 101 ways to use a paper clip as a labour saving device for nail care in HR.  Cold sweat, blood and sometimes tears are required.

If you want to innovate, know that perspiration matters more than inspiration, and comes AFTER the brainstorming session.  Too many so-called innovation social networks are only concerned with creativity.  This fine as far as it goes.  However, there is evidence to suggest that modern social networking websites are a new displacement activity, replacing ironing, daydreaming and focus groups at work.  In the words of Andy Warhol and Lou Reed “It’s work” that counts.  Toyota stands out by being excellent at execution as well as inspiration.

Punk Rock People Management offers us three lessons on innovation:

  • Perspire more than inspire.  A walk on the wild side to discover new ideas is necessary but never sufficient for profitable innovation.
  • Run the numbers alongside the brainstorming and recycle your thinking until the innovations have been tested to destruction to improve the ratio of new ideas : profitability.
  • If your innovation is more ‘product push’ than ‘market need’, know that you need to work much harder and differently to succeed.

‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available for FREE via the Punk Rock People Management webpage.   If you like this extract, you will LOVE my other books – so ‘BOGOF’ – Buy One and Get One Free !  Contact us to book your next conference keynote based on our heady mixture of business leadership and music.  You can watch a slideshow of some Punk Rock HR women previewing the contents at ‘I Kissed an HR Girl and I Liked it‘.  Big thanks to Lindsay Wakelin Photography and Sue Cook for this.

To finish, here is Rock’n’Roll’s greatest failure John Otway performing Delilah at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)  annual conference to the amazement of 200 HR professionals!  John attempted to innovate by organising his own record-breaking Rock’n’Roll World tour in the style of Spinal Tap, but failed.  This is an innovation story in its own right, more of which will be told in the post on Spinal Tap.

 

Kissing a fool

 

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2 responses to “What’s new pussycat? – Musings on Innovation

  1. This from Linkedin:

    Deirdre Nicholls • ..perhaps its as simple as allowing people to dream; leaving them alone and removing pressure to perform. Perhaps question the incessant stimulation of children and leave them alone sometimes, with the wherewithal to draw, or read, or cut out paper, or make stuff unobserved and undirected….

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    Philip Walsh, MBA(Open) • I think having ideas is the easy part – the difficult stuff is making the idea into a reality. While I agree with Peter’s comments that innovation is “more perspiration than inspiration”, in a corporate environment we need more than just perspiration. Some recent articles like http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/mcgrath/2011/09/for-growth-new-ideas.html and http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfischer/2011/08/29/air-cover-innovations-secret-ingredient/ cover some parts of this. Certainly within my own company we have lots of ideas – what we need more of are managers and employees who are willing to “put some skin in the game” and get on with (or support with air-cover those who are getting on with) the hard graft of taking these ideas through the stages of development and implementation.

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    Peter Cook • I must agree with Philip re the hard graft end of it. Ideas are plentiful, execution is rare. Some do need rather less pressure to generate new ideas however and we do have a nation of kids that have not really experienced anything like the B822 precepts that are so valuable in setting a climate where innovation can grow.

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