Heading back home from PDMA’s Annual Conference and our Business Model Workshop there, I felt it was time to reflect on all the ideas and inspiration from the past days. There’s a lot to take in on a 3-day conference! In that way the conference was actually quite similar to flying over the nearby Grand Canyon: it’s so overwhelming on the moment itself that it takes some time to realize what you’re seeing or what you will take home from it. But great ideas should stick immediately, so here they are top of mind…

Story 1. Black Business Models: Why there are 200M fire weapons in the US.

In the state of Arizona you can carry a gun in public, not hidden, without a permit. Everyone can. This is obviously big business for the whole firearms industry. So where is this coming from? - there are probably different explanations but I was told the following in the corridors of the conference - It originates from the oppression of people before US’ independence, when government rule was imposed on them. The logic following from that: a government could only oppress a whole population if they can enforce it with firepower. That’s why there are currently about 200M firearms in the US, only 2-3M owned by law enforcement forces, all the rest by citizens! Of course the world has changed since then, but the fear of government dictatorship has been translated into a big weapons business, embedded in the constitution. In preparation of our upcoming Black Business Models masterclass, we’ve spoken before about how creating a feeling of fear (Somali Pirates) can drive big business (private security and insurance firms). You see this in a number of industries. Take a critical look at your industry or at services you are buying yourself as a customer, how many are actually based on a (false) feeling of fear, freedom, happiness…? Mexican flue vaccines, anyone? BBM, Black Business Models, Big Business Models?!

Story 2. Try on a fat suit if you sell diet products!

How to understand your customers, really. While everyone is talking about the job-to-be-done, customer insights, the voice of the customer… how many do really understand the people that are buying their products? You don’t really feel that from customer statistics or summaries of ethnographic interviews; those only make you aware of facts or insights. Steven Fahrenholtz, Strategy and Innovation Director at General Mills, brought a good story about how he tries to understand people, taking his innovation team with him in that. When developing new diet products, he went on a diet himself. Quite straightforward, but how many people do it? He would also get his team in a ‘fat suit’ doubling people’s weight, and get them to McDonalds ordering a super-sized meal, talking to people… Some people just broke. That’s something you don’t get out of market studies. In our ideation projects, we use a similar approach: we give the idea team (i.e. The Cast) different characters over a period of 2-3 weeks, including different customer profiles. From that point of view they have to generate new business ideas (see slide 19 of our structured way to create Innovation Blockbusters). Steven’s approach is actually taking that a step further, very inspiring! So, try on your fat suit, sports suit, whatever suit and get out there!

Story 3. Fail Forward, the only way to create an innovative culture.

There’s a lot of talk about failing fast, both in corporates and start-ups, but how many people or organizations are really applying this on the ground. It was inspiring to hear how Tata has a Dare to Try award category. Awarding ideas and projects that fail to encourage people to be bold and innovative, that’s putting it in to practice. Are you failing forward? Do you award OR burn bold ideas that fail?

The conference was very strong on sharing best practices between corporate innovation leaders. I wouldn’t mind some more inspiration next time though. Overall, PDMA’s Annual Conference was good! And the Grand Canyon flight wasn’t bad either. Looking forward to seeing you all at next year’s edition in Orlando, Florida.


Posted on November 4, 2011 in Events
Philippe De Ridder
Co-Founder @ Board of Innovation
Enthusiastic about innovation, new business models, intrapreneurship, and start-up life design. On a mission to make corporates innovate like start-ups.
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