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The Innovation Series: Part Six, Segment Three The Innovation Retreat
Mike Wynne's Global Profit Builder
The Innovation Series: Part Six, Segment Three
The Innovation Retreat
October 2007
In this issue
-- The Innovation Priority
-- The Innovation Retreat
-- Situation Analysis Summary
-- Discussion
-- Light Bulb Moment!
-- Metamorphosis - Turning an Idea into an Action Plan
-- The Prototype

If you have been following the Innovation Series in Global Profit Builders, and like what you have seen to date, please forward a copy of this newsletter to at least three people - or more - who you believe would be interested in the topic.

Designer Desks USA Innovation Team

This is the continuation of the previous newsletter titled You Become President of Designer Desks USA. You, as president, and your team have analyzed the benefits of your products and those of your competitors. You have also ranked them according to their relative value in the eyes of your customers. Now, what do you do with the information and your findings?

The Innovation Priority
  • Your problem is not so much what to do with the information and findings, but how to find the time for it. The regular weekly meetings with your staff are only about an hour and a half long; they are chock- full of items that demand immediate attention. How much time can you afford to devote to something as vague and abstract as Innovation?
  • In today's very-fast paced market, you can't afford not to devote time to innovation! There will always be fires to put out. The natural tendency is to let the Urgent displace the Vital. Most companies do, and then wonder why they are loosing ground in their markets. Unless you make Innovation a Prime Priority, you will fall behind those competitors who are reinventing themselves constantly.

The Innovation Retreat
Friday morning, you open the retreat with a review of the company's current market situation. You also define the primary goal for the retreat: to come away with a desk concept or design that embodies the features and benefits that most end-users would like. The secondary goal you state as "having fun while working on the primary goal." You then hand over the session to Mark, the consultant.

"Good morning. If somebody told you that automobiles would no longer be available in six months what would you do?" Mark asks.

Nobody expects that kind of question. For a moment, they think it's a joke. Someone actually says, "Start a horse farm." That gets a chuckle, but Mark repeats the question.

"I would want to know why," says, Luke, the distributor.

"Life without a car in the suburbs would be impossible", says, Ralph, the customer. "I would probably sell my house and move to the city. Most things are within walking distance there."

"I'd be busy convincing people they should set up offices in their homes and, of course, buy our newest desks," says Gary, the VP of Marketing.

"I would want to know how we would get our supplies and ship our finished products," says Sam, the VP of Manufacturing.

"I would start training our sales people on how to do more selling by telephone and e-mail," says Jim, VP of Sales.

You, the president, don't say anything. Mark looks at you and asks, "And you, sir. What would you do?"

"I would bring this team together, analyze the situation, explore our alternatives, and seek a solution to the problems this would bring us," you reply.

"And that's why we are here," Mark says. "Not because of automobiles possibly disappearing in six months, but because your best products could easily be out of the market in that time. All it takes is a new concept that satisfies all the currently unsatisfied aspirations of your clients. Then, once first users and trendsetters start the buzz about the new product, you could be out of business. Now let's get down to business because we could be running out of time."

A sense of urgency is born among the group at that moment. The key to successful innovation, Establish a Sense of Urgency, kicks in, and the team is eager to get started.

Note. If you don't recall, or missed the Designer Desk USA situation analysis in our previous newsletter, You Become President of Designer Desk USA, you can find it at

Situation Analysis Summary
  • Findings: From the customer rating comparison of benefits with other desk brands, it was apparent that Designer Desk USA's products were behind in the areas of desk height and comfort. In terms of which benefits customers felt were most important regardless of specific brands, storage space capacity, productivity, affordability, and ability to accommodate additional equipment (such as computers, telephones, printers, etc.) were also of critical importance. The leading desk in terms of height comfort was 8 inches taller. Today's generations tend to be taller and have longer legs, but it is important to keep in mind that not everyone fits that description.
  • Concerns: Affordability, esthetics, manufacturing feasibility, storage space, and flexibility.

The discussion goes on for the better part of an hour, at the end of which:
Jim (Sales) says, "Looks like we are going to need a wide variety of desks to accommodate all sizes." Luke (Distributor). "Impossible. No one could afford to carry such an inventory." Sam (Manufacturing). "Good God! I hate to think of the production challenge; it would be a nightmare." Ralph (Customer). "Would it be possible to design and produce a desk with adjustable height and flexible other features?"

Light Bulb Moment!
Like deer caught in a headlight, startled, they all look at one another.
Mark quickly turns to you and asks, "That sounds like it could be a revolutionary concept. Do you think it might be the sort of thing that would create buzz in the marketplace?"

You think for a few seconds, and reply, "If - and it is a big IF - we could make it and launch it properly, it just might resonate throughout the market. I think somebody may have tried something similar a long time ago, but it didn't go anywhere. If we do this, the product cannot look like something makeshift; it has to have a sleek, sophisticated look to it."

Metamorphosis - Turning an Idea into an Action Plan
The rest of that day, and all of the following day are spent on
  • Thinking through the process of designing the desk
  • Listing the possible challenges
  • Exploring possible solutions
  • Setting a timetable

At the end of the second day, Mark summarizes the results:

"Here are the highlights of our two days. The decision is to go ahead with the adjustable desk concept. A designer firm will be brought in to help with the esthetics, but the actual crafting of the new desk will fall to Gary, Sam, and Jim.

Luke and Ralph are invited to review sketches and blueprints as soon as they are ready. We want to have a prototype built as soon as possible to run it by customers and others for their opinions. The target date for a prototype is 60 days from today.

Yes, it's tight but we need to have something we can actually see, touch, and try out as soon as possible. Drawings and sketches help, but nothing can give us a quicker feeling for the product's feasibility than the prototype.

We will give ourselves 30 days to play with the prototype, before committing to a final design, and starting production. Luke and Ralph, your input and insights will be invaluable at that time.

We want to have the new desks ready to ship 165 days, or five and a half months from today; that's Sam's job. Gary and Jim are to have the Marketing and Sales strategies worked out by then. If all goes well, we will launch the product 180 days, or six months from now."

Once again, a sense of urgency is instilled into the process.

The Prototype
Sixty days later, a prototype was ready. It wasn't a finished, polished, perfectly functional product, but there was enough there for everyone to get a feel for its potential - or the lack of it. The tentative name selected for the new desk is The Multi-Tasker. Here is a list of its features:
  • Adjustable Height. Provided by telescoping metal tube legs that can be fixed at any height within a range of 24 inches. Consideration is being given to offering an electric motor system that can quickly adjust the height.
  • Expandable Length Desktop. Desktop can be expanded from 4 1/2 to 6 ft length by pulling out a reinforced, self-supporting, 1 1/2 ft. extension hidden under left end of desktop.
  • Two Stand-Alone 2-Drawer Filing Cabinets. These can fit under the desk at its lowest level, or placed alongside; their tops add more horizontal surface for placing other equipment such as printers, faxes, or scanners.
  • Two shallow Drawers. Placed immediately under the desktop for storing miscellaneous supplies. The middle drawer is designed to hold a computer keyboard.
  • Electrical Outlets. To accommodate a variety of electrical equipment and gadgets, several outlets have been placed under the sides and back of the desktop. Like a Power Strip, the outlets are connected by a single cord that is plugged into a wall outlet.

Designer Desks USA is not alone! Your business may be facing the prospect of losing sales right now. Your competition is working 24/7 to lure your customers and prospects away with new products and services. Protect and grow your business. Start innovating now by contacting Michael Wynne for a free consultation at (630) 420 2605, or e-mail Visit our website at

Contact Information
phone: (630) 420 2605

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