Ranked 2nd for Business and management in the Guardian University Guide 2017
Over the past few months at Surrey Business School’s Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE) we have spent a great deal of time working with businesses from many domains who are looking to understand their capacity for new product creation, to develop their potential for innovative thinking, and to shorten the time from ideas into value. For the established organisations, the engagements often start with a simple question:
Why aren’t more of our ideas getting off the drawing board and into our customers’ hands? There seems to be a blockage in our innovation pipeline
Of course, every company and every domain is different. So we’ve looked at this problem from many angles, and come up with varying ways to frame the challenge and address the concerns. However, at the heart of the issue, we believe that there must be a fundamental shift in approach for organizations to successfully improve their innovation capacity. We often refer to this as adopting a discipline of Agile Innovation Engineering. That is, a measured, purposeful set of practices that demonstrate stakeholder value in short, time-boxed iterations.
Key to an agile approach to innovation is embracing a culture of experimentation throughout the organization. Traditional ‘pipelined’ thinking for promoting new ideas, based on long-term lock-in of a complex business plan, must be replaced with a spirit of discovery, adaptability, and re-targeting made necessary by the buffeting any idea will receive in early customer feedback. As Mike Tyson succinctly put it, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth!”
It was with this in mind that I was particularly intrigued by a recent article by Michael Schrage in the Sloan Review promoting “Experimentation & Scaling” as the successor to “Research & Development” in large corporations.
The main conclusions from the article look like a great summary of the kinds of lessons we have been learning as we develop Agile Innovation Engineering: blending design thinking, lean start-up practices, and agile principles in our corporate problem-solving engagements. To expand on Schrage’s key findings, innovation is enhanced when organizations:
Adopting these ideas will help you move firmly in the direction of an Agile Innovation Engineering discipline in your organization.
Award Winning Case History – European Conference for Research Methodology (ECRM), 2016
In collaboration with Dr. Smirti Kutaula (Kingston Business School) and Prof. Mark Saunders (Birmingham Business School), I received a runner’s up prize for our paper titled: “Using Storytelling to Teach Sampling Techniques” at the European Conference for Research Methodology (ECRM), 2016 at Kingston Business School.
Our award winning case history is published in 2016 Innovation in Teaching of Research Methodology Excellence Awards An Anthology of Case Histories ISBN: 9781910810972. Over 40 submissions were entered, proposing innovative teaching techniques for research methods and a panel of judges chose 10 finalists.
Teaching research methods is a challenge for most teachers, yet a sound knowledge of research methods is the key to opening many doors, almost guaranteeing good research outcomes. The task concept which prefaced our paper was to propose an innovative and academically sound means of teaching research methods.
We chose the medium of storytelling. The aim of telling stories was, traditionally, in the form of cautionary tales to help people understand real and complex situations, by creating ‘mind pictures’ which are much easier for us to remember. Because we employed storytelling techniques, the audience was helped to understand the theme and linkage between the ways storytelling can help students understand complex research method concepts – such as sampling – in more relatable and engaging ways.
Our light-hearted storytelling style presentation was well received and gained positive feedback from the judges and audiences. The experience of being a story-teller to an adult audience was amazing, and one which I really enjoyed.
Teaching Fellow in Marketing and Strategy, Surrey Business School
A great first day of the DEAL workshops. A very useful and provocative intro from David Plans, some Digital Economy “ducking and diving” from Alan Brown, then a really wonderful seminar and workshop from Annabelle Gawer for the rest of the day, exploring the changing nature of value and ecosystems due to Digital Platforms. A lively audience, and great feedback from the sessions.
It is an exciting week for us: the first significant gathering of Surrey Business School’s, Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE) top ‘minds on Digital’ in one creative, intensive, and high-energy workshop running a full week in the Business insights Lab – all for the benefit of startups.
The sessions are co-sponsored with ENDuRE, the European Network of Design for Resilient Entrepreneurship. Chief of ENDuRE at Surrey and CoDE team member Dr David Plans kicked off the week with a blast of insight about the challenges, opportunities, and surreal experiences in store for European startups like his, BioBeats. ‘Often,’ he stressed, ‘change is the most difficult part of any business. Even with the perfect business model, startups hit a wall they didn’t anticipate, and die. Even though ‘fail quickly’ is an Agile principle, it’s not great for the economy; however, by failing, we also find out what a good idea actually IS’.
The madness and contradictions inherent in getting a startup off the ground is why ENDuRE got started: to change how entrepreneurship is taught; and to facilitate interaction amongst European startups. The latter isn’t easy: fundraising is different from country to country; cultural logistics vary widely; and Brexit is going to make it harder to have the conversations.
Some more of David’s advice to our audience from both the business community and the Surrey MBA:
David’s conclusions: Resilience is the key — plus testing everything, iterating daily, and getting used to swimming in a sea of change.
Over to Professor Alan Brown, who asked – What does it really mean to be successful? He encouraged the spirit of Experimentation: together within the workshop – but also conducting business in a much more interactive way. ‘It’s possible,’ says Alan, ‘that everything we teach at business school is wrong – that rather than looking to theory on past business cases, we should be looking to ourselves, to “emerging knowledge” as we shape it, to luck, and to experimentation – perhaps this is the new formula for learning, with discovery blended with execution.’
Professor Annabelle Gawer spent the afternoon guiding the workshop through one of the most significant areas of the Digital Economy, using her ground-breaking research on Platforms. Platforms went from enigma to buzzword in a few short years – and Annabelle was there from the beginning. She explains, “Digital platforms constitute 70% of all unicorns (companies whose valuation exceeds $1 billion), and they affect our lives as citizens, employees, or entrepreneurs. This is why we must understand deeply how they create value, as well as what forces drive the distribution of the value created”.
She continues, “Entrepreneurs must understand how to build platform businesses in our digital economy”. Her passion is infectious, and the questions kept coming throughout her session.
Day 2 found us learning about Value and Digital: Professor Roger Maull and Dr Phil Godsiff ran the gamut from Open Data and the Internet of Things to a Blockchain exercise involving Lego, stickers, maths problems, and an imaginary marketplace, in an extremely lively and effective hands-on demonstration of how Blockchain really works.
We’re only halfway through the week, but we’re exhilarated and inspired, and already certain that ‘DEAL’ will be an annual event.
Who knows what the Digital Revolution will look like in a year? We can only guess – so make sure to join us as we get to grips with the next wave of innovation.
The University of Surrey has appointed Professor Ansgar Richter as the new Dean of Surrey Business School, ranked second in the UK for Business and Management and twelfth for Accounting and Finance by the Guardian University Guide 2017.
On 16 June SBS appointed a new Advisory Board, a key to steering and building on success to achieve the SBS vision of excellence
On 28 April the county’s business community came together to celebrate the success of not only the winners on the night but of the thriving Surrey economy in general.
At Surrey Business School, we’ve created an innovative and stimulating environment in which our academics, students and alumni work with international corporate businesses, SMEs and government, offering bespoke consultancy and applied education programmes. Here are just a few examples of some of the organisations we’re currently working with: