(115) Innovating

On this week’s show Matt & Chris chew the fat over the concept of Innovation.

Some of the models that Matt talks about can be found in this short thread of blog posts:


Chris’s South Park reference is here:

-Transcript produced by Otter.ai. You might use it for accessibility, but it’s really here so you can search for things we have talked about –

Matt Ballantine 0:21
Hello, and welcome to Episode 150 and of WB 40, the weekly podcast with me Matt Ballantine and Chris Weston, oh we’re

back? It was a short interlude. But after a week off, where I spend my time being eaten by images in the Lake District, and then doing lots of work with innovation, I’m back, you’re back. WB 40 is back. It’s good to be back.

Chris Weston 0:42
It is good to be back. We’re here we’ve got everything that we need in as much as we’ve got computers and internet connections, my squeaky chair, and everything’s as it should be.

Matt Ballantine 0:52
And there’s something about that room, isn’t it? Because that isn’t the same chair that used to have the screen has a new chair that went in the didn’t squeak and now squeaks.

Chris Weston 0:58
Yeah, I said suspect that it’s probably the crippling cheapness of the chip. It is adding to its creakiness, and I should maybe we should have invested in a more worthy piece of furniture. But I just was too mean. So now it’s me. It’s quite comfortable. But it’s but it’s greatly.

Matt Ballantine 1:17
I’m sure you can just charge a new employee a new chair, they go.

Chris Weston 1:22
What’s a good idea?

Matt Ballantine 1:25
Right is note, Chris isn’t going to be charging his chair to his

Chris Weston 1:28
nose. That was a joke. That was a joke.

Matt Ballantine 1:33
Anyway, what we’ve been up to?

Chris Weston 1:35
Well, I’ve been going to Brussels to see people in the European Commission. I mean, it actually is one of those things that I am still getting to which of the three parts of the European sort of legislature, the Commission, the council and the parliament. And remembering which ones which is probably the

Matt Ballantine 2:00
the trick me see if I can remember so the European Parliament is a bit reelect me peace or Yes, the members of European Parliament MEP clues in the name. The Council is the representation of the governments of the member states.

Unknown Speaker 2:18
And then the commission is effectively the European civil service. Yeah, what do I don’t understand why people find that so hard.

Chris Weston 2:25
I just don’t think of it as three things you know what I mean, you just think of it as one amorphous blob. And it isn’t also the Berlaymont building, which is the European Commission building. There’s an enormous, enormous kind of banner on the side of it, which tells you that it’s the European Commission building, and right at the top of it, and this is just as far as you can see, the top is it says hashtag team Juncker. So presumably that has to be replaced now that all doom has been replaced. But it seems like a big job.

Unknown Speaker 3:01
Have you seen that what happened to the

Unknown Speaker 3:04
the railway crossing over the 25 just for them 40 Junction that they just need to get

Matt Ballantine 3:10
what he called can’t remember anyways, not pizza chance anymore. It’s great shame. I love that boot graffiti. Anyway, that’s enough local knowledge. Good minds could see that you’re just basically travelling backwards and forwards between the West Midlands and the European Union before complete breakdown of the transportation system nation this year, which will prevent you from doing just that.

Chris Weston 3:32
Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s always possible. But you know, that remark I just do by them.

Matt Ballantine 3:37
Might be by the time HST gets in place that you’ll be able to go back to Europe again Friday.

Unknown Speaker 3:43
All good.

Matt Ballantine 3:45
Actually, did you go over the weekend, I watched the the BBC series years and years, which if you haven’t seen is worth a watch is interesting there. Yes, the guy who was the guy who was behind the reason writing of Doctor Who, Russell T. Davis, who was it bits and bobs before that, but basically, it’s a series set in the near future. So it goes between now and then over the course of the six shows, it goes out to about 2029, I think is when it stops about 10 years ahead. And it charts the rise of a populist politician. And but it also has a load of themes around artificial intelligence and transhumanism and the refugee crisis and ageing population and genetic stem cell research and, and and is it little bits of it, that will be corny. And there’s some bits who’s very sad, but it’s very interesting sort of thought provoking the way in which kind of technology and politics and stuff is all intertwining. And it’s Yeah, it’s worth a watch. And I play for the next couple of months, I think, fully taken off. So that’s my worth a look. But I also, I’ve started reading a book, which is by a guy called Jamie can’t remember his surname, but I miss my dinner last week. And it’s called the people versus tech, or maybe the tech versus people who have people versus tech. And he’s looking at, again, how social networks in particular, and political systems are becoming increasingly disjointed and the problems that lie they’re in. So all that stuff around that sort of, it’s all a bit going wrong. What do we do about it, which I think is useful conversations to have?

Chris Weston 5:31
Yeah, I was listening to the radio the other day. And we’re also listening to it under beyond in a place I was and it was on radio, too. And Jeremy vine was on button. And then this sort of very familiar accent came on talking about how we needed a radical approach to the way that tech is taking over our lives. And we shouldn’t use the automated tools in supermarkets, which I agree with, actually. But lots of other stuff that that was quite clearly a bit bonkers. And of course, I was pulling. Who doesn’t who’s got a big thing about tech at the moment? He, he thinks it’s, it’s going to cripple us all. But he has lost his marbles in recent years. Poor fella.

Unknown Speaker 6:11
He has a bit it’s just on the edge of going full David night.

Matt Ballantine 6:15
But no. So this time, I think it’s Tony Bartlett, I’ll look it up in a minute. But one of the things he was talking about, he’s talking at the dinner about this stuff, as well as he giving books out and talking about

Unknown Speaker 6:28

Matt Ballantine 6:30
the cultural stuff and this is something that I’ve talked about a bit over the last few years is that this cultural assumptions are built into the software that we use, whether that’s, you know, out of work social networks, or whether it’s in work, communications, and collaboration platforms. And those cultural values that are built into those are a very unique set of cultural values that work within possibly certain parts of San Francisco and community life, but might not necessarily be a place to the rest of the world. And that is coming in spades in the moment with what’s happening with social networks in particular, but also the it’s allowing populism and populist politicians to be able to have direct access to effectively broadcast media for the first time and the scary stuff that’s going on as a result of that. And there’s no diversity in the groups of people who are producing all this stuff. And that so there’s not a set of values or cultural input, outside of a very limited number of people who live in San Francisco that’s really powering all of this stuff that is having a massive impact on the way in which our political systems are kind of creaking under the pressure of all this information around. So

Chris Weston 7:49
yeah, we’ve all been doing some stuff on diversity recently, as well. And the whole point about that, which is kind of been accepted. Now in a lot of coding teams. And as much as if you if you have lots people in your, in your development team who are all the same, you’re probably not leveraging software that’s going to be usable by a wide variety of people. And that’s kind of understood and accepted, even though actually changing is difficult. And maybe it’s still in the too difficult box for some. But you also see in in organisations that do provide a service and there and an IT departments a very good example. So you’re not necessarily creating software, but you are producing processes and ways of working and expect managing expectations about how things are going to get done at when they’re going to get done. And who by that are that reflects your, your diaspora in your your in your team. So it’s not just about code, it’s about services. And in your example, there it’s about processes and and access to different types of texts. And now I think that’s a it’s a really valid point.

Matt Ballantine 8:53
Yeah, interesting. And we’ve got an interview coming up in a couple of weeks time that it could at Amy Golding. And she spread this and one of the things that she and I discussed was, actually is the encouraging of different groups, particularly women into STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, actually part of the problem, because what that does is reinforces the idea that technology should be run by stem people, not that technology should have a broader church or people in it and not just scientists and technologists.

Chris Weston 9:24
Yeah, it’s it’s one part of the puzzle, isn’t it? And yes, there should be more women girls in STEM. But as you say that that’s a stem is the mechanics of how something works. It doesn’t have to be the entirety of it definitely, definitely shouldn’t be.

Unknown Speaker 9:38
Anyway, what have we got on the show this week?

Chris Weston 9:41
Well, we’ve got a quiz Matt,

Matt Ballantine 9:43
we have. I’m very excited about that. Even though we’ve already just done it, which you shouldn’t be watching on video, you understand. But if you haven’t, you won’t do it, then you’re wondering, this is a podcast, where’s the video and I know that you know, quite frankly, for me in a single video on it is a video not a podcast. Anyway, there’s a quiz coming up. And

Chris Weston 9:59
so I’m looking for today, having done that

Unknown Speaker 10:03
temple thing, it’s all

Chris Weston 10:05
parts possible. We are also going to talk about innovation. But

Matt Ballantine 10:10
we are going to talk about innovation. So that’s something that we’ve both been looking at quite a bit recently, and I’ve been running some programmes around. And so we thought it was time for just you and me to have a chat about something. And innovation is on both our mind. So that’s what we’re going to talk about. So that will come up after we’ve gone straight to the quiz.

Chris Weston 10:38
So I’m what I’ve got for you is a quiz. And it’s about faxes, faxes. Now, you might think that this is about history. This is some kind of Chris has got some lovely facts about faxes from the 80s or whatever. But no, this is about now. Yes, we know this. It’s a it’s a well known fact. But thank you for talking. So I’ve got this quiz for you. And it’s from a survey by IDC, of course, will be sponsored by IDC. But I have no personally sponsored by IDs. And they do some amazing surveys, in fact, gathering and they’ve done one now this isn’t brand new, this is a couple of years old, or maybe 18 months old, but I think none the worst for that because it’s it’s a bit it’s looking forward over to two years. So I’m going to ask you a question. This is about Western Europe. Right? And the question was in 2017, over the next two years, do your expect you? Do you expect your organization’s facts easy to increase? stay the same? or decrease? Okay. Well, no, no, this is it. This is a this is a business wide survey across Western Europe. So we’re not talking about Africa or Asia or just Western Europe. So out of the hundred percent of answered, I need you to tell me what the percentages were for increase, stay the same and decrease. And I’ll give you on 5% either way,

Unknown Speaker 12:32
very generous, very generous man.

Chris Weston 12:35
I am a very generous man.

Matt Ballantine 12:36
Okay, so this is two years ago, but looking forward to this is before GDPR. But just at the point of which people were starting to pat themselves about GDP,

Chris Weston 12:48
GDP was pretty much settled in terms of its the form it was going to be by the Muslim.

Matt Ballantine 12:53
So there are some organisations for whom facts would have been seen as a possibly great little trick way of getting around you CPR regulations. So I will say that 10% of organisations across Western Europe said they were going to see an increase in facts. When asked two years ago, I would say that there’s probably very few organisations that actually heavily use facts anymore. So therefore, the majority would say it would stay the same, but because the majority outside of the healthcare industry would have said that it was next to negligible. So if it was zero, it would stay the same. And again, me with only a trick questions. Oh, no. So I will say that 70% of organisations will have said that it would stay the same, leaving a remainder of 20%. Who said it would get less? Okay.

Chris Weston 13:51
We’re not far off with the less. Okay. 25%. So they would get less? Yeah. In terms of the increase and stay the same, though, actually, 53% of respondents said it would grow. And 23%. So in when we said that we say the same. And I thought that was pretty amazing. It is. And there are some answers in here. And a lot of people say, but who responded this, that to the facts is more secure than email, because it’s going point to point. And you pretty much know the recipient has got it when you send the

Matt Ballantine 14:38
petition here, as long as you know, the point of which is going to is the right point, if it’s the wrong point. Bad things happen. The last facts exchange I had with a bank, they sent me somebody details in depth about a mortgage application have been turned down. And I got a phone call immediately afterward saying terribly sorry about the facts you just received. To which I replied, not terribly sorry, is Mr. Johnson will be?

Chris Weston 15:04
Well, I agree with that. And I also remember somebody was thinking I think it was a hospital. So as you say, healthcare, still use these things. And a lot of the faxes would, as you might remember, they would drift off the end of the fax machine, and then secrete themselves under the table that it was on or the or the set, or the filing cabinet, whatever. Managing faxes at the end, bit of an issue. Absolutely. But yeah, they said Top Reasons for fax volume growth, we have integrated with email. So he’s us. So that’s why it takes away the security part. And a lot of it was about customers. Well, our customers still use it. So we need to do it.

Matt Ballantine 15:47
Yeah, I heard that a bit in the legal sector, where they said that the land registry still want to do it was always somebody else’s fault. Why they weren’t getting rid of it. Always somebody else’s fault. There you go. But anyway, thank you very much fascinating insight into both the facts is two years ago.

Unknown Speaker 16:05
I’ve got an idea for the next quiz. So we’ll be doing that in Episode Two. So look forward to being able to test you on knowledge can’t wait.

Chris Weston 16:20
So innovation matters is something that everybody wants to do. There’s always an innovation programme running in a larger organisation. And we’ve seen it done pretty badly. You’ve seen it done badly. And I’ve seen it done badly. And we’ve seen it fail. And a lot of the reasons why it fails is pretty tragic, because people put a lot of good effort into it. It’s not as if they be blocked trying or they’re just being deliberately obtuse about it. Everybody’s trying to do these things. Because they think that if they don’t innovate, they will fall behind their competition. And there’s good reasons to think that’s, that’s that’s true. But real, really, when people try to deliberately encourage innovation, they end up going down one of a few pastor I and and one is, as you were saying to me earlier, is this business of, we want to innovate. Show us how it’s been done before that kind of thing.

Matt Ballantine 17:17
Yeah. So that’s a question that I’ve been asked on more than one occasion. And for most of the last 10 years or so I’ve regarded it as an utter oxymoron. And why on earth? Would you want to ask that question? And I realised it wasn’t very constructive. And doesn’t doesn’t win me new work. So I started to think about that question a little differently. For me, I think the starting point, has been actually putting some definition about what people mean by innovation. And the best model that I’ve yet been able to get to, is the play matrix, which I’ve been working on, on and off for about three years now. And that is a way of thinking about stuff that divides the world into two things, problems and solutions. And two states have either problems or solutions been known or unknown. So most at scale organisations are geared and optimised to work with known solutions to known problems. So industrialised production processes, best practice, Six Sigma, all of that stuff is predicated on the idea that we know what it is that we want to do, we know the way in which we are going to achieve it. And we will be able to achieve economies of scale by being able to repeat that way, but doing something ad infinitum, and maybe make tweaks to things to be able to enhance or to better react to the world outside us. But it’s just tweaking. And that’s brilliant. Because as you look around the room in which you’re sitting at the moment, and it’s, you know, you somebody listening, whoever, most of the things that you will see are the results of the production processes that come from how this ability to be able to do things at scale by having known solutions to known problems and is brilliant. The challenge for organisations is that they to optimise to be able to do that, by necessity means that you’re not very good at changing things and dealing with the world when you don’t know what the solutions are to problems. Or even worse, we don’t even know what the problems are, you do see a better known solutions to unknown problems. And I think that there is a value in that and the value is usually to be able to be seen to be able to keep up with your competition. So, for example, any financial services institution at the moment is talking openly and loudly about blockchain is demonstrating a known solution to an unknown problem because none of them doing anything that actually is going to change anything in the short term. But all of them need to be seen to be doing it because of the wise they will not be seen as being competitive in the market, because they’re not being innovative. And even ever, everybody knows that it’s an Emperor’s New Clothes thing going on, doesn’t matter. If you can competition on doing something you need to be doing as well. When it comes to dealing with unknown solutions, it gets harder.

We’ve had a couple of decades now of Agile approaches within software development entering into organisations and software organisations and also general organisations. And agile at its core is a an approach to dealing with unknown solutions to known problems. And usually it doesn’t work in certainly non software organisations very well, because they’ll frame a project in a way that is completely determined by we know everything, you write a business case, that will be a thing that will determine exactly what will happen when how we spend what we spend, when it will be delivered and everything because you need that to get past the finance people to get approval. And by the time you framed a project like that, your opportunity to be able to be agile and adaptive and be able to iterate on things is really hard. But if theory agile approaches should be a way of being able to allow an organisation to discover what the answers are to problems, where it doesn’t know what the answers are. And the idea of being able to have time and space to be out and work where you don’t know either the problem or the solution, which is a sort of state of tinkering is next to impossible to do in organisations. Because that’s just not what you do. You don’t just sit around playing with stuff, you don’t just ask the question, wonder what happens if, because nobody’s going to sign that off. And it’s really hard for organisations to better my that’s all the time and space. And my thinking about what innovation is, is innovation is having the ability to do that free form thinking the generates ideas, the ideas are turned into experiments that can be tested. And it can be tested and tested until they become products that can be tested and iterated and designed and redesigned entity, but something that you might eventually say, this now is something that is robust enough for a spare to take into the industrialised processes of old and we can scale at that point. If you’re a software organisation, you might these days actually decide that you never get to a point where you’re operating at the sort of industrialised fixed at scale, because you’re constantly iterating the products, but you still got infrastructure and stuff behind it to be able to analyse it, and you might outsource. So Amazon Web Services, for example, or scaled infrastructure to enable you to better run at scale, adaptive, constantly evolving products, some interesting stuff, how that if you’re building a new street lamp, you’re not going to be able to do that iteration. Because once you set the casts, that’s kind of what streetlamps gonna look like you might be to change the bowl maybe or stuff like that. So thinking about that as a framing, and being able to say, innovation is where you are doing things differently, and reacting to the world outside you or trying to be able to develop new markets, it’s really hard to most organisations, because it’s not just not how they get to

Unknown Speaker 23:21

Chris Weston 23:22
No, that’s very true. But you’re talking about kind of, in, as you say, industrialised innovation or processes to encourage innovation. And that’s often the people who try to think of it in that way, are often and doing it wrong, because they are, they’re trying to force it in that sense. And it doesn’t come by being forced, not normally. I mean, you got guys go back to your fairly predictable nonsense about blockchain and Emperor’s New Clothes. The reason that banks are making it such a fuss about it and trying to make it look as if they’re doing something is is is very, very valid. And as much as they know that there is a risk and all of their shareholders know that there is a risk that if if a decentralised currency could come along, doesn’t have to be doesn’t have to be the kind of Bitcoin is going to rule the world or anything like that, it’s just going to be a way for people to be able to transfer and money or to transact across across borders, that doesn’t involve them, then they’ve got a serious and potentially existential problem on their hands. So in order to show that their shareholders that they’re not going to going to be under threat from this, they have to show that they’re playing in that game. It’s not that the is not the concept of Emperor’s New Clothes in terms of cryptocurrency, but it’s definitely that their efforts to get into it, our best kind of PR tech. And that’s the problem. So now, that’s it, that’s kind of forced innovation, oh, my God, look at this, it’s going to be if we’re not careful, or maybe it’s not, but whatever it potentially has the potential to, and therefore we must look as if we are on top of it, we can’t just sit there, twiddling our thumbs, otherwise, investors will go and invest in less risky banks that are that pretend they’re doing something about it, when you get to innovation, actually happening in organisations is tends to happen. It just happens. Happens all the time. And we talked about this before me around shadow IT and things like that. But the fact that people will find ways to make things happen that they couldn’t do before, because if they don’t do it, their jobs will be painful, and irritating. So they’ll find ways of, even if it’s a salesperson, for example, taking somebody out for lunch, in order to make a sale, if their corporate policy says that there’s gonna they’re not going to get expenses approved for taking because it was after lunch, then they’ll either pay for themselves, or they’ll charge it something else, you know, they’ll, they will find a way, get the job done. A friend of mine, once upon a time working for the organisation would tell me that he would have to go into a take his team at higher room somewhere, put them all in the room with their laptops, and then put his mobile phone in the middle of the table and switch on his hotspot and get them all to work off the Wi Fi there. And this was a few years ago, okay, were four before you got a lot of mobile mobile data, because that was the only way they could get all the team to focus on something for a whole day. And he said that they will produce five times as much work that way as if they were all sitting in their various offices on that that equipment. He wasn’t allowed to use his personal data. You know, it was a corporate policy that said, No, you’ve got to be on this, you’ve got to be using our network. But he did it because he knew he had a deadline to hit on a certain project, and he needed to get it done. And if that company had an innovation programme that looked for areas of excellence, that all little islands a bit of innovation, they would see some we’re doing that and go, that’s a good idea. Why don’t we invest in personal Wi Fi devices that we are that we can control. And we were happy to have in our network that we can give to our teams and say, yeah, take your teams away, have these have these sessions, and get your work done. That’s how you encourage and develop innovations by looking for things that are happening, because they will happen. People are ingenious, you know, people, people will find a way to do things more quickly feel or find a way to interact with that new customer who has to use Lotus 123. Or in or speak to that customer who happens to be in, in another country, you know, they’ll use Google Translate or something to people will do things and they’re not perfect, and they’re dead. And they aren’t necessarily industrial, industrialised or scalable in the way that they do them. But when you spot them, and you pick them up, you can do that. And I think that’s probably where the most valuable innovation happens is by understanding that it’s already having and I’m finding ways to encourage you and replicate it rather than stomping it down with the telegraph hammer.

Matt Ballantine 28:06
Yeah, and it’s the way in which actually, so much of what goes on in organisations is there to mitigate against these things happening. And the challenge also to be able to go between the transit transitions to be able to go between, just mucking around and tinkering with stuff to be able to turn those into, you know, experiments that can be tested and to see whether there’s a good idea there or not to continue, you know, you get these, I’ve worked in organisations where there have been innovation competitions, where they’ve generated loads of ideas, and then spend, literally years analysing to work out whether these are good ideas as a paper based exercise, when they could have been getting on and trying out some of the things and working out what the next step would be to be able to, to test the idea to going from an idea to

Unknown Speaker 28:58
a testable

Matt Ballantine 28:59
experiment, which validates or invalidates the strength of that idea. I’m working with a technique at the moment, which is called the riskiest assumption testing, which is you if you’ve got an idea, work out what assumptions you have about that idea. And then work out a test that enables you to test the riskiest of those assumptions. And if you can either find a test for that assumption, or you test it and you find that it fails, you can just move on to the next idea. So I’ve got this great idea for a new product. What I need to do first of all, probably is I’m assuming that my customers want that product? How do I go about testing that? Well, I could cleverly ask some of my customers whether they think it’s a good product idea or not. And then from that I’ve got at least have some sort of validation about whether it’s good to move on or not.

Chris Weston 29:54
Yes, and what you’re talking about there and and the kind of replication or standardisation and scalable scalability of innovation. It only works if your culture is good. And you’ve got the right way of thinking about these things. If you do, if you take take my the example of my friends, Wi Fi, and setting up his team to use my fi kind of, or Wi Fi on a phone and excited. It Tim would say don’t worry about that will deliver something for you. So you’re not going to do that, because that’s that’s uncontrolled, but will give you a modified device. And they will then put a brand new policy out saying we absolutely under no circumstances which use your own personal Wi Fi and data, you must use this thing that we’re giving you which will do the same job. And they’ll give you something that just half the job is really slow, and only works in half the places in the country. And essentially, it just makes everything worse is that that’s that’s not what I meant. But now that’s what you’ve got to use. And we’re going to stamp on what you were doing before. So people in that case will actually stop bringing innovation to you because you are you are rubbish at making it work. And that kind of culture, the way that people respond to and try to, in that kind of well meaning parents but rubbish out things going away. That’s the thing that will stifle you innovation, because people will actually hide them away, they won’t allow you to see them, they won’t allow you to see what they’re doing. Because they’re worried that your your break it if you see it.

Matt Ballantine 31:34
Yeah, this is why it was always such a nonsense when you’d have people in it rolls talking about how they were going to be both innovative and clamp down on shadow it. It’s

Unknown Speaker 31:48

Matt Ballantine 31:50
So there is one alternative to this. And this is I think, actually against for the kind of PR tech and the market positioning kind of frowned upon, because we can’t admit to this. But actually there is a very, very direct model for innovation. That actually is what most ASCO and organisations operate. And that is to be able to do your your your innovation through acquisition. So wait until companies whatever have proven themselves, acquire them, pay a lot for it. But you’ve then taken out any the risk of it being a tough product. I’ll give you a really good example of this. I saw somebody tweeting a few days ago about how r&d spend in the last five years has gone for Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, as I think it was those for the gone from about $15 billion a year to about $54 billion a year. And that’s really interesting, except when you know that that first year, when it was $15 billion. Facebook paid $16.4 billion for WhatsApp. So Facebook in one acquisition spend more than itself and three other competitors, total r&d spend on the acquisition of one company. And I’ll tell you why I bet WhatsApp has had more impact for Facebook than all of the rest of that spending over the rest of that time put together, quite frankly, because it’s done to bear to show how innovative you are, it’s not there to bear to necessarily drive out new products you get. Once you get to a certain size and scale. You stop innovating and you start acquiring

Chris Weston 33:36
raw, that’s true. But you have to make sure that your culture doesn’t then stop innovation happening and the company have acquired doesn’t, because you can quite easily say Well, we’ve we bought this company now. And we’re going to take all the good bits from you and all the good bits from us. But the bits you think are good about you aren’t necessarily good.

Matt Ballantine 33:54
Well, I don’t know. Because actually maybe a certain point No, that’s exactly what you you want to do, you want to take this company that has scaled and often scaled rapidly. And you want to put it into a steady state. So you do want to stop what it was. And that’s also where the risk is, then it’s about being at it. If I can say if you look at WhatsApp, it hasn’t really evolved a huge amount other than see many behind the scenes to bear to get scale into it. But it kind of does the job. And it’s kind of frozen. Now. You know, converse is, you know, as you know, even with this LinkedIn since Microsoft acquired it about six or so years ago, you know, it’s not really, it doesn’t always feel like it’s about to collapse dramatically. When you get some glitches and stuff anything. The architecture under this is now really showing its age.

Chris Weston 34:43
I’ve got a I’ve got a LinkedIn, gripe at the moment because somebody sent me it was internally, actually IDC, somebody shared a job that competitor was hiring for or not. So I clicked on it. And now at the top of my LinkedIn feed every now and again, I’ll start getting these jobs, you might be interested. Alright, so I’ll click Hide this, I don’t want to see it. And it’s like, you won’t see this again. Guess what? I will?

Matt Ballantine 35:07
Yeah, now there’s, yeah, there’s a lot of stuff in there. But the point is that, you know, Microsoft again, you know, LinkedIn has just plotted on in its own way. LinkedIn was a fairly mature platform, and it was acquired. I don’t know there’s something in that actually, if organisations more since Hey, we do innovation through acquisition, we’re really good at it. And I think there have been a few in the past. I think WP p, the big global marketing agency got to be the biggest global marketing agency purely through its acquisition route. And it actually was very loose coupling type acquisition in that maybe gave a few shared services, but, you know, had its agencies competing with one another, as the way Sarah like to run it. To this, you know, there’s different models that it’s not just about having a big r&d department. And actually, you know, big r&d departments are notorious for the fact that they come up with great stuff that is never monetized by the organisation for whom it has been, you know, dreamt up, you know, Xerox PARC is a massive example of Absolutely. The the Kodak example of inventing digital photography, and then not really being able to do anything with it. The

Chris Weston 36:18
other also a counter examples in Microsoft as well on air in terms of Microsoft, as you say, they bought LinkedIn, they also bought Yammer, which they never done anything with, really. And partly because I think they just thought, Well, why did we buy this, it’s not it’s not like us, and also to sit and Skype, of course, which they took from being a fairly mature but but pretty useful tool. And they’ve managed to wrangle it into being Skype for Business, which is, which is probably the worst thing. Worst, I think, not large scale software product product that I’ve used in quite a long time. And I used to take take WhatsApp for an example, if I get a message on WhatsApp, I’ll get it my phone. And then if I can turn it to my computer, it’s on my computer. If I use Skype for Business, and I go on to a chat, it will say, Oh, this chats happening on another device. And I have to go back and sit at my computer to carry on the chat. Even though I’m signed into my phone on my computer, it is painfully rubbish. And the sooner is dead, the better. And

Matt Ballantine 37:27
yeah, it is interesting that Microsoft with Skype, were able to acquire a tech brand that had become a noun to become a verb. And they’ve managed to turn it back into being and

Unknown Speaker 37:40
people don’t say I’ll Skype you in the way that they used to

Chris Weston 37:43
know that’s very true. They do so FaceTime. Oh, yeah.

Unknown Speaker 37:48
Did you see sorry, as a complete aside, the new thing is launched in FaceTime.

Chris Weston 37:54
I posted it in the group.

Unknown Speaker 37:57
Did you see the scary stuff about it?

Chris Weston 37:59
But what the say that you’re looking at the shows you look in the camera? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 38:05
As terrifying.

Chris Weston 38:06
I think. I don’t think it’s terrifying. I think it’s the future. I think that if you can get to the point where it’s showing me nodding interest, interestingly, at a video conference call was I’m making a cup of tea. That’s perfect.

Unknown Speaker 38:21
Yeah. Anyway, the fakes are everywhere.

Chris Weston 38:23
Well, and also is that the oldest got to do is watch a few hundred hours, maybe not even a few hundred as given my total response. Library. Watch, if you want some hours of video of me on conference calls, and probably I wouldn’t even have to be there at all it would the machine learning would just be able to respond in the way that I probably would. to anything that’s going on.

Matt Ballantine 38:45
It’s I’m sure that will be the future. That’s a complete other side that

Chris Weston 38:49
they’re not then so I had an idea. She’ll tell you my idea. Okay. And then me in a box, right? So it’s been a box

Unknown Speaker 38:57
in idea I felt about Christmas.

Chris Weston 39:00
Well, that there’s the poignancy, it’s mailbox for when you’re in a box. So ml that watches a video of you. And then when you’re dead, it can pretend to be you.

Unknown Speaker 39:13
This is transhumanism

Chris Weston 39:15
talk, well I do is a bit macabre. But I thought well, actually, we’re getting to the point where somebody will offer that as a service, they’ll offer to record you a whole bunch of videos of you for a few days, maybe in a few weeks. And if you if you’re wealthy enough, you’re paid to go and sit and go through many, many hours of interviews. And then an avatar of you through a whole bunch of deep learning be able to respond to things, depending on the question you answered, and leave a digital kind of AI version of yourself behind. That’s just horrible. But yeah, it seems to me like the next step is really creepy. I’ve

Matt Ballantine 39:56
noticed there’s a chat group about water worked with last year, and I knew reasonably well within my sort of working network. And very sadly, he died a few months ago. And every so often, there’s a few documents that he and I had worked on together in the project that we did last year, where there his comments sitting there in Google Docs. And it’s really creepy. Even just a comment like that left by somebody who you know, isn’t now going to be able to respond to it. So there’s there’s some of this is where we get into those questions about the cultural values of Silicon Valley and what have you, and not really thinking about the broader cultural implications of the way the software works glass, a totally different storey for the moment. So innovation is probably not well understood in terms of what it is, and it’s probably not well supported within large scale organisations. What can organisations do to go about trying to do some, but reduce the risk, try to get more success from it?

Chris Weston 41:00
Well, I think it’s really important to to understand what you’re going to do with your innovation when you’ve discovered it. So whether you try and mine it in loads of sessions, where you get to everybody sitting down with coloured paper and whatnot, or whether you go and look for it in terms of your islands of excellence, I think you’ve got to have a process, and you’ve got to have time and effort and space available afterwards. It’s a bit like, it’s a bit like drilling for oil, you know, if you if you went out all that, and you spent all your money drilling for crude oil, and you found crude oil, that’d be fantastic, wouldn’t it but actually, if you’ve put no thought into how you’re going to refine it, you’re just left with a whole bunch of black gunk, that you that is not useful to you, you need to be innovation needs refining and processing and, and, and working. And it isn’t useful in its kind of raw form. And that’s, that’s where a lot of organisations go wrong there. They put all their effort into mining it and haven’t got really any time or effort or money left to refine it.

Matt Ballantine 41:59
Yeah, that’s I’ve seen happen in a number of organisations in which I’ve worked over the years. And somehow you go from idea to amazing new products or services in market. And there’s a sort of magic thing that happens in between the nobody things through and

Chris Weston 42:18
so I thought nobody knew underpants, there’s ondemand, cultural reference, underpants, Christian Mark profit, that’s kind of the collecting on the peninsula, and why but are they gonna make profit out of it? Okay, we’ll get that the young people will get them.

Unknown Speaker 42:33
Yeah, nice be on me.

Matt Ballantine 42:36
So you’ve got this challenge about actually, if you’re going to do innovation, how much are you willing to invest in it? And then where do you put the investment, and you need to sort of start to better understand a bit of that. And I guess, also for organisations to be able to think about how. So I actually had a conversation with a client today about something on this very point, which is too often, innovation, funding is justified and pursue business cases that are following the known solution model. So they’ll say, we’re going to invest 50,000 pounds into this blockchain project, because it will deliver us a wonderful new solution to be able to save the world, where actually maybe the framing for how you get the right levels of sort of seed investment in new ideas should be we’re going to invest 50,000 pounds in blockchain to work out whether it’s worth as making further investment in blockchain or not, or when the time might be right. So it’s not quite as easy to justify that unfortunate because the way in which many investment process work, but trying to be able to do it on reducing down liability on future investment, rather than trying to do it on a return on investment on something that’s incredibly shaking unknown.

Chris Weston 43:51
Yeah, that’s very true. And I guess it comes back to our conversation earlier about if you’re seem to be investing in this stuff that reduces your risk profile to the markets and then go out well, they’re spending money on this. So that will help people to invest in that company. And of course, you’re you know, you’re mitigating your tax liabilities as well. So it’s all good even if nothing comes with it. I

Matt Ballantine 44:14
also think the stuff that’s within Eric Reese’s most recent book startup way, haven’t do some we’re raising a generation which is the audience surveys, startup incubator place. and head back with Alex rockers Lee talks a lot about how, by doing experiments in innovation, what you’re able to do is to better remove some of the uncertainty. So if you’ve got a I don’t know, there’s a 10% chance that blockchain will be your company’s future. What can you do to experiment and innovate to take that probability to there’s a 40 or 50% chance or even I guess there’s a zero percent chance. Either way, you’re starting to better resolve down uncertainty, which is usually stuff that you finance people are interested in, even if it’s not a perfect, there will be a definite return on investment.

Unknown Speaker 45:09
So there we go.

Matt Ballantine 45:11
If you want to see some of my ramblings about this stuff, I will put a link to the little models that I use to better help clients go through some of the stuff around innovation, and I’m sure we can dig out some of the research that you’ve been looking at recently as well Christopher.

Chris Weston 45:26

Unknown Speaker 45:28
So that will be on the website at wp 40 podcast.com.

Chris Weston 45:40
Thank you for listening and getting all the way through this podcast. You can find us as always on Wb 40 podcast.com and Spotify on a cast on all of those places. And you can see us on Twitter at Wb 40 podcast and on our website at Wb 40 podcast.com. If you can leave us a review because we’d love it.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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