How to start an inno project and build commitment your team?

You have a vision, you gathered a team and you even have a budget. And now, how do you get your team started? List your team’s expectations, build a common understanding, and let your team take on responsibility. You also have to come to terms with the fact that the project involves uncertainties.

We have the ambition to create a tool that provides micro-learning to train cognitive biaises. Today we have a prototype. Last spring, we had only a vision to lead us. As told in a previous post, one of my colleague detected a need in an industry and an opportunity for us to create a new tool. He gathered a small team and invited us for a kickoff meeting. We were all motivated. How could we proceed?

During the kickoff, we jolted ideas around, and used sticky notes to draw the project. It was important that we all had a common understanding of the tool we wanted to create. This kickoff meeting was also the moment when we created a team spirit and built personal commitment.

Ownership, responsibility and role

As motivated as I was to play my part, I needed to understand how I could contribute to the project and how much time it would involve. We started by writing down the outputs we expected from the meeting. The expectations were various.

Our expectations for the kickoff meeting

Kevin expected us to take ownership. The initial idea came to him and he wrote a paper about it. He expected us to work as a team and take ownership. This is what he means by ‘Co-sign Whitepaper’.

To me ownership meant responsibility. The moment I commit to a project means that I stop saying ‘Kevin’s idea’ or ‘Kevin decided’ or ‘Kevin meant’. I start saying ‘we think’, ‘we decided’. It also means that I committed myself to play my part, make time to work on the project.

I needed to understand, the role that I would play, in other words how, with my competences I would contribute to the project. This is expressed as ‘Where do I position myself?’ From the beginning we are a multidisciplinary team. We have learnt to contribute with our respective skills. Understanding my role leads to better planning. If I understand my tasks and how I relate to the other team members, I can organise my agenda and be available when I am needed.

During this meeting we also decided how we would communicate about the project to our stakeholders’, which at this point, were internal. We finally defined the next steps and decided the content of the next workshop.

Map the idea – understanding with drawing

We were sitting down, listening to Kevin. Sitting around a table is so limiting! Ideas cannot express themselves, they keep eluding and the energy slowly runs low. We couldn’t see what Kevin was explaining. After a moment of deep concentration, I tend to relax a bit, which means that I am not being this concentrated. At some point, we were all running low on energy. Thus we started drawing.

White walls are a blessing. Someone starts drawing and you can add up your idea, then everyone can see and add his/hers.
It started with a sketch, and step by step it became like a map. A map of the idea, where we could navigate, see the stakeholders, start apprehending who we needed to talk to, what we needed to understand, what remains unclear, what is our role, our strengths and weaknesses.

Let your team take ownership by drawing together the idea.

It very much looks like this: drawing, talking and gesturing. When you stand, the flow of ideas wraps you up and before you realize it, you are ‘in it’, you take ownership and you belong. You stand and draw together. It has nothing to do with sitting and looking at someone talking, you are part of it.

Drawing of our project

Our drawing got more complex while our understanding of the situation got clearer.

Be kind to your blue side and deal with uncertainties

Have you ever heard of the DISC assessment? That test attributes colors to people after a test. I never took it myself, but I often heard some friends refer jokingly to it. When they refer to the ‘blue colleague’, they talk about his preciseness, attention to detail and his capacity to be systematic. As I started this project, I realised that part of me, that I will call my ‘blue side’ backed off, because it was unconvinced. My blue part tends to refrain the overly enthusiastic and risky part (I don’t know the color of this side yet ;-)

In other words, during this meeting, my blue side realized that there is a huge part of unknown in this project. When you start an innovation project, you have to be aware of the fact that some uncertainty and risk will always be present. During my studies and work life, I have been trained to try to avoid mistakes and evaluate risk. I usually try to have a fairly good idea of the success I expect  from my actions before I perform them. Starting an innovation process is the contrary of this. It is jumping in the unknown and imagining something that does not exist… yet. You need to be open-minded and accept the risk and unknown.

To conclude: we mapped the project and I accepted the probability to fail

It was time for me to accept that mistakes are part of the game and to come to terms with the probability of failing. An innovation process is made of ups and downs, test, success, mistakes and iteration. The risk is part of the game.

During this first meeting, we mapped the project and the stakeholders It gave us the necessary common grounds to start working together. To draw the project allowed us to clearly see the expertise we needed. We planned the next steps and organized the first workshop where we would invite other experts. The project had officially started.

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The exciting day I started an innovation process for a learning tool

We currently address the need for a modular framework for bite size learning, and we are now investing to create the next level micro-learning system. Innovation ‘for real’ is nothing like you might expect. It does not happen like an apple falling off a tree: good ideas do not fall from nowhere. You have to be open to challenges, to be motivated to work with the team and in a ‘safe’ place, an environnement where trying is allowed.

How to be open to innovation?

You have to be open to new challenges, which is difficult even close to impossible if you are stressed out or under tight deadlines for example. During my first year at Liip (2016), I undertook many projects that had started before I had arrived. As a result, I had little time for planning or strategies, I undertook what was already started. During this first year, everything was new, I was in the turmoil of an event, or in a middle of a project, my whole energy was focused on current tasks.
Before Christmas 2016, my knowledge of the enterprise and the field had exponentially expanded. It allowed me to grasp the necessary bigger picture of my enterprise’s needs and challenges. Simultaneously, many projects came to an end, as a result, I was not under tight deadlines. In other words, I was open to new challenges and ideas. I had cognitive capacity to take on new challenges. When Kevin, a colleague I barely knew, approached me, I welcomed his project with an open mind.

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Why did I change my mind about open data?

Knowledge against fear and suspicion – open data is beneficial

Generally disagreeing about any kind of data sharing, I realized my behavior was mostly based on fear. Fear is a major impediment to anything innovative and to any kind of change. Why did I change my mind about open data? It is about differentiating between public and private data, and about the fact that data made public are first of all edited.

New work – new ideas

In November 2015, I started working at Liip and I had a lot of new projects and inputs. The core of my work is the same, I completely changed field though. I stand now in the middle of a flow of innovative ideas and energy, which is very motivating and helps me be constantly open-minded.
One of my projects, last spring, was the coordination of Liip’s involvement at the annual opendata.ch conference. No, I cannot communicate about anything if I don’t understand it! Otherwise I would write complete bulls**t, people would notice it and Liip would lose all credibility on the subject. In other words, I had to know what I was talking about in order to be able to talk about it.

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Embracing the opposite – Andy Yen and Bertrand Piccard at #ICTimpuls16

I quickly rushed to Lucerne this afternoon for the ICTimpuls16-track about how to succeed with selling Swiss ICT services and products abroad. And for Bertrand Piccard’s keynote – it was worth the time.

Andy Yen of Geneva (and San Francisco) based ProtonMail gave a very encouraging speech about how to present one’s company and products in a different market like the U.S. – it’s basically all about being way more bold than we are used in Swiss culture, embracing risk, and seeking to fail as fast as possible. By investing in sales in the U.S., ProtonMail actually “got the rest of the world for free”. My question, if ProtonMail is also active in other domains of myData than e-mail, or considering to move into that direction, Andy answered in the affarmative. I am very much looking forward to what’s coming there in the future. Thanks, Andy, for your great insights!

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I would have liked to post a picture of one of Andy’s slides here, but it’s written “confidential” on them – don’t know, how serious he is about that.

Bertrand Piccard – on the big stage – managed to catch the attention of the audience masterly. A psychiatrist by formation, and a leader by talent he inspired my thoughts throughout his speech. Betrand advocated for always changing one’s altitude to be able to find solutions. Surrounding oneself with less of the same, more divers people surely is supporting that. To be innovative and creative, one has to drop ballast – one’s beliefs, certitudes – and try the opposite. Erradicating emotions and applying a pragmatic attitude can help. Being innovative is not tied to achieving something spectacular, but allowing and fostering to think in other directions. “If one accepts a crisis, it becomes an adventure – if one does not, it stays a crisis”. Life is less about what I know, but more about my doubts and being able to ask questions.

Betrand ended with asking the audiance: “What story do you want to tell? What’s your dream?” I bet everyone in the room was thinking about what ballast one could drop to reach one’s dream. Listening to critical voices helps you in answering that decisive question. Thanks, Bertrand, for your continuous engagement in making our world more energy efficient!

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The fears about innovation and Users’ loyalty – how can a UXer help? Part 2/2

Innovation and changes are risky meanwhile necessary. UXers can support change and deal with risk management. Discover in 3 steps, how UX can help dealing with these fears… and help bringing innovation.

In my last blog post, we realized that companies are faced with an ambiguous situation, between innovation and users loyalty. Meanwhile users want  cutting the edge experiences and dislike learning news things.

1: Deal with these bad feelings concerning change in companies

I have bad news. If your company is struggling at innovating, maybe it is because it is excellent at killing good innovation ideas. Big companies are expected to innovate, but managing people in such companies just freak out at the simple idea of dealing with edgy ideas.

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The fears about innovation and Users’ loyalty – how can a UXer help? Part 1/2

Innovation – what a buzzword! The request for innovation is everywhere, in every request for proposal, even on the lips of some end users. As if companies that do not innovate go bankrupt. End users want exciting experience, and reject change at the same time. It is an ambiguous situation.

Let’s innovate while keeping users happy ! But how?

Innovation: Risky but necessary

Innovation is everywhere! Is every existing thing not good enough and has to be improved? As if we required on a daily basis cutting the edge and exciting experiences! May it be only for pouring coffee in our mugs, or for giving feedbacks to developers who implemented what we co-designed with a client, or for completing a survey, booking a room, making a conference call…

The users of a product know what’s wrong with a product, what is not working properly, what takes too much time. In other words, they know what could be improved. It might be risky  for a company to take the leap, because end users might dislike the change.

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When Innovation Exceeds the User Need – The iCloud Case Study

Yesterday I saw a video about a talk given by Johnny Chung Lee, a Human Computer Interaction researcher currently working at Google on the Project Tango platform, at Stanford HCI Seminar – «Interface Technologies That Have Not Yet Left the Lab». I was impressed about the amount of extraordinary ideas which still haven’t reached the market. For many of them the time hasn’t yet come. Though as Johnny Lee mentions, one of the reasons why they may fail is the lack of good Experience Design. Interfaces are there to capture the user need. Technologically driven people still tend to ignore the frustration felt by a user when he/she can’t achieve his/her goal. The over-excitement about new technology blinds them and puts the user into second place. That’s why one should always ask oneself – Why should a user use my product?

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Let’s build the Life Sciences Hub of Europe

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Lift Basel, taking place from 29-30 October 2015, the not-to-be-missed conference connecting Life Sciences and Technology, had one clear message: It is time to innovate and think differently for all stakeholders in order to address the future of health.

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Liip supports Delightful User Experiences

UX Lausanne 2014 conference inspired a local and an international audience by offering a variety of perspectives about our nature.

Our souls, our lives, our day-by-day is more and more widely influenced by the contribute of new ambitions, cross knowledge and the errors we keep solving from past. Contemporary life is easier – he hope for better, but it might not be.
Throughout history, we have been living faster due to a forward thinking which allows us to do more in less time. But that time seems also faster, or we are taking more time then what we want to see…

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