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How to create an empowering company culture – and drive innovation

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How to create an empowering company culture – and drive innovation 1

By Julia Shalet, author of new book The Really Good Idea Test.

Let’s firstly reflect on why innovation is important. We have all heard the phrase “innovate or die”. It means that we need to be responding quickly to changes in our markets to stay ahead of the game. To do this we are dependent on individuals to spot those opportunities and also the organisation to have a culture where new ideas are given a chance to blossom into successful initiatives that have a positive impact on the bottom line. We need our companies not only to be open to the question “What if” but to be able to quickly answer “What next”. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Ring fence a fund for innovation to show you are serious

If you keep all your development costs in the same pot, then new ideas may never win out when pitched against proposals for developments where the ROI forecast is far more reliable. By putting aside some money for new idea development, you are signalling to the organisation that you are willing to invest in the unknown. You will show them that, while you have an existing business to run, you realise the importance of staying dynamic, evolving with our changing environment and market.

I have worked with so many teams who tired of coming up with new ideas as they never seemed to go anywhere, this has happened to me too as a product person who was told to “go innovate”. Why ask me to innovate if you are not  prepared to invest?

  1. Devolve decision-making powers to allocate that budget 

Now you have a pot of money, you can enable managers who are lower down the organisation to make decisions to award in small increments from that innovation fund. It seems to me that the higher up the organisation that a new idea is presented, the more chance it seems to have of being killed off!

In the early days of an idea we do not need a full business case. There are a number of stage gates for new ideas to go through that need funding at each stage. So I suggest awarding incremental funding, in quite small amounts across a few stages of idea development.

At the very first stage, some simple market research needs to be carried out to gather evidence about

  1. Whether the problem, need or desire exists
  2. Whether it is big enough to bother building a solution
  3. Whether there is an opportunity to provide a better solution than what is currently available

The most commonly cited reason for failure of new products is a misperception of what the customer wants and needs, so this is the most important set of assumptions to test first.

  1. Empower people to test out their own ideas 

This is not grand scale market research, this is giving people the tools to go and get initial evidence. It gets people started with just five interviews and a structured research script. I have been helping people to test their early ideas for decades and with a bit of practice, the majority of people really can do this themselves.

Why waste time putting together visions of the solution and business cases based on pure guesswork and pipe dreams? Instead, by enabling people with ideas to carry out some focussed, quick and cheap research interviews themselves, you will help just those validated ideas to be presented when more serious investment is required.

Being able to research ideas is an energising activity; as you gather evidence of problems and find opportunities, you build up a greater understanding of your organisation’s place in the world. It is enlightening and empowering and creates a real positive experience for all those who have done it.

These are just a few suggestions of how to drive innovation into the culture of an organisation so that it becomes part of what everyone does – a way of life. Make it easy for people to progress ideas, remove unnecessary internal barriers and pointless star gazing. Once the door is open to ideas, coming up with ideas may not be the hard part, so empowering teams to carry out quick and easy early idea testing will identify which ideas to take forward. In this way, only really good ideas will move forward as decisions to invest along the way are based on evidence, not hypothesis and dubious business case assumptions.

Forget setting up innovation labs, or internal incubator programs and competitions,  instead try to weave innovation into the fabric of your culture. It is one of  the best ways you can strive to stay ahead of the curve.

Business

JPMorgan to launch UK consumer bank within months

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JPMorgan to launch UK consumer bank within months 2

LONDON (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co will launch a digital consumer bank in Britain under its Chase brand within months, the U.S. banking giant said on Wednesday.

The bank said the new business had already recruited 400 people and would offer a range of products, including current accounts.

The UK venture will be led by Sanoke Viswanathan, who has been named chief executive. Viswanathan was previously chief administrative officer for JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank.

The digital bank will be headquartered in London’s Canary Wharf financial district, with customers supported from a new call centre in Edinburgh.

Reports about a likely tilt by JPMorgan at the UK consumer market have been circulating for around a year, but the bank had publicly disclosed few details.

“The UK has a vibrant and highly competitive consumer banking marketplace, which is why we’ve designed the bank from scratch to specifically meet the needs of customers here,” said Gordon Smith, CEO of consumer and community banking for JPMorgan.

(Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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European regulator clears Boeing 737 MAX airliner for return to service

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European regulator clears Boeing 737 MAX airliner for return to service 3

(Reuters) – Boeing Co’s modified 737 MAX airliner is safe to return to service in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Wednesday, lifting a 22-month flight ban after two crashes of the jet which caused 346 deaths.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said it had “every confidence” that the plane was safe following an independent European review of changes ranging from cockpit software to maintenance checks and pilot training.

“Let me be quite clear that this journey does not end here,” Ky said in a statement.

“We have every confidence that the aircraft is safe, which is the precondition for giving our approval. But we will continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely as the aircraft resumes service.”

Regulators around the world grounded the MAX in March 2019, after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet five months after one flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea. A total of 346 passengers and crew members were killed in the two crashes.

The United States lifted its ban in November, followed by Brazil and Canada. China, which was first to ban the plane after the second crash, and which represents a quarter of MAX sales, has not said when it will act.

Relatives of some crash victims have strongly criticised the move the clear Boeing’s best-selling airplane.

EASA represents 31 mainly EU nations, excluding Britain which formally left the bloc this month. Britain is expected to issue its own separate approval on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Rachit Vats; editing by Jason Neely)

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Wall Street expects near-record iPhone sales despite delay, shut Apple stores

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Wall Street expects near-record iPhone sales despite delay, shut Apple stores 4

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – During the last three months of 2020, Apple Inc delivered its flagship iPhone 12 model weeks later than normal iPhone debuts and shuttered some of its stores due to the pandemic.

But Wall Street is still expecting a near-record sales quarter for the Cupertino, California company’s signature device when it reports fiscal first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, with estimates of $59.8 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv as of Jan. 26. If Apple beats the number, it could eclipse its all-time record of $61.58 billion in iPhone sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2018.

Analyst largely attribute the boost to the timing of the iPhone 12 lineup, which had a new look, 5G cellular data connectivity and new models at the top and bottom of the sizing range.

“They have an extremely good understanding of what their refresh cycle looks like and when waves are possible and whey they are not,” said Ben Bajarin, head of consumer technologies at Creative Strategies. “Every bit of data across China and Europe has shown that not only was the installed base getting older, but people were not refreshing. I think (Apple) knew it would be heavy refresh cycle.”

Analyst also expect strong Mac sales of $8.69 billion, according to Refinitiv data from Jan. 26, thanks in part to the introduction of models with the first central processor chip for its laptops and desktop that Apple designed itself. Overall, analysts expect $103.28 billion in sales and earnings per share of $1.41 for Apple’s fiscal first quarter.

A “super cycle” of booms in iPhone sales after several more modest years are not new to Apple – the company’s previous high came after it announced the iPhone X, with a new design. During previous cycles, Apple’s shares often traded at lower price-to-earnings ratios than its rivals due to Apple’s dependence on the iPhone.

But those ratios have risen over the past year, and analyst Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein wondered how much further they can go.

“At 33x consensus (fiscal year 2021 earnings per share), and buyside expectations above the Street’s, we struggle to see case for material outperformance in (Apple), absent a surprise product announcement or migration to a bundled hardware subscription model,” he wrote in a note to clients.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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