It was great to spend the day with my colleagues, beneficiaries and sponsors of the highly successful Ideas In Transit project – A project that studied, encouraged and funded innovations in transport developed from the “bottom-up” by users.
5 years of effort against a deliberately woolly scope was a leap of faith for the sponsoring TSB, EPRSC and DfT. Certainly it would have been easier to just give the money to a large system integrator company to make another hopeless on-line application for catching trains. Some would have said safer too. But how would such a predictable “top-down” approach have dealt with the almost instant emergence of the disruptive technologies that arose within weeks of the project inception? The iPhone, the App store and the catch-up rivals at Google completely changed the landscape to favour the target groups.
Because the project scope accepted that there were big unknowns “out there” we designed the project to observe this changing use of technology, now in the user’s hands, and how it influenced behaviour. This helped define the most effective interventions that could be made to support the “little-guy” innovators.
Combining with Ordnance Surveys moves to more social innovations, their first Open API (Open Space – another of my projects… it was a busy time ;-)), and the Governments insistence upon Open Data from OS the concept of GeoVation was born. A process of camps, facilitated and mentored business plan bullet-proofing sessions and the inevitable x-factor judgements yielded 10 great new businesses. Those from the transport challenge we saw how
Mission Explore increased kids’ engagement in their environment and use of the national cycle network by offering adventurous challenges unique to each location.
FixMyTransport developed an app that made childs play out of reporting deficiencies in any part of the travel infrastructure
myPTP is a colossal aggregation of all the key data services to make an information tool that encourages better choices on our regular commutes
CycleScape that appears to harness the inner monster within each of us cyclists by providing a common platform for campaigning.
Access advisor finds the optimal journey for the disabled and
Sustaination creates a food enterprise network based around a dating site for food businesses (those that grow, those that sell and those that transport).
Most of these ideas tap into that spare mental capacity that people now appear to have for reporting, capturing data and socialising on the net. None of these ideas would come from a collective of agencies and large commercial companies and logistics experts. The essential ingredient in each is a heavy dose of passion which the presenters had in spades during their 5 minute pitches.
So what do the sponsors get from this project? A nice set of references? a very nifty logo and brand name (… you guessed it…again one of mine ;-))? No. What this project has equipped our sponsors with is a PROCESS. Tried and trusted, developed over years, refined from previous initiatives and now responsible for the new businesses returning honest tax money to Vince Cable.
Ideas in transit is an extendbale set of interventions; creative problem solving methods proven to work. This can be standardised, grown, franchised and exported.
Thank you Ideas In Transit; this is surely a sustainable outcome we can all be proud of… but more importantly take advantage of to survive the next big disruptions.
It’s time to sharpen the saw. Get the manuals out and get another qualification. And although I’ve lived, studied, and adapted
(and blogged!) on Agile PM approaches, I need to get a piece of paper. The piece of paper I am going for is the Certified Scrum Master certificate. How I’ll get there is via UNICOM on a 2 day training course on 11/12th July.
During ESDIN we had great success in adapting the Agile PM roles for our geographically dispersed team. Now it will be interesting for me to see how it runs with us all in the same room for 2 days!
UNICOM have a great reputation and when even the most proficent “natural” Scrum Masters are finding the course of benefit, I had to take part.
A Royal charter was granted by the ELF king to allow anyone to utilise reference data in a seamless way across Europe.
Once the King had made his wishes known a team of E.L.F.s helped him define these terms and shaped his ambitions into plans, his subjects into teams and commitments to build were made.
All in a days work when facilitating the European Location Framework coordination committee team at EuroGeographics HQ in Brussels as last week. Our meeting of Mapping agencies, associations, architects and software experts had come together to coordinate a much larger community of stakeholders in the crucial work of harmonising all location data across Europe. Brought together by the shared belief that this work will unlock the potential of all Public Sector Information, we left the meeting with a clear vision, time line of goals and agreed team structure that will make all this happen.
Sometimes the desperate need to get ideas down into the Gantt, spreadsheet and project definition documents can preclude this “wishful” stage. In fact, when done properly, it engenders the buy-in and strong visual memory that lets us carry a shared ambition with us.
Practically? Our geographical dipersal means we’ll fall back on the technologies to enable the team. 37 Signals Basecamp, Doodle.com for scheduling, Skype, Powwownow and GoTo meeting/ webinar for our virtual community events. Once we’re bidding, budgeting and defining project submissions no doubt dropbox will provide a shared workspace for drafts and the Googledocs will be our framework for agile project management (Sprint backlogs and stand-up meetings).
This is a great suite of community enabling technologies; but hasn’t anyone pulled all these abilities together in the one place?
The momentum is there, the community defined, the shared dream is clear. The focus now is now to execute the plans in the most effective way.
It’s one thing to have a great idea, it’s another to do something about it.
Bringing those two activities together is simply know as “Innovation”.
Innovation is the route to prosperity and regardless of which industry you are in, being good at it is the most critical bell-weather of your future growth.
Okay, so this is all pretty obvious. But where do the ideas come from and how do you turn them into a reality? Simple.
Creativity: where it comes from…
The answers out “there”. For the work in EuroGeographics, ESDIN, dbyhundred and my projects with other companies there’s a range of tactics to finding those illusive nuggets. All of them start with really identifying the problem area and asking the right questions in the first place. Getting past pre-conceptions is critical but also makes these sessions a lot of fun. You can’t delve straight into creative problem solving. You have first to warm up. If working on your own this may be a meditative relaxation approach; if with a larger, perhaps international, group there are a huge range of approaches to move people into a creative state and begin to introduce the methods you’ll use for the business end of idea creation. This is also a great opportunity for the facilitator to guage the group on language capability, style, likes and dislikes. So the warm up is essential in tailoring your approach to get the most from the collective wisdom of your team.
Once they’re with you you move into a staged process of surfacing issues, converging on the real question, structuring discussions and gearing toward an agreed set of actions that address your problem statement. Doing this and developing ownership does not mean the fun ends with the warm-up! And personally I enjoy the use of gambling games, reversals and other mental excursions to tap into whats really happening in this interaction.
Action: how to make a success of a great idea…
Great ideas don’t put themselves into action. And the people that do this critical part of the job (ie. delivering) are not always the ones that came up with the idea. In my experience a potent technique is Agile project management. Taking the view that not all the beneficial outcomes of a project can be anticipated at the outset means the traditional project management approaches on their own will limit your success. In an Agile “Scrum” project the daily stand-up meetings, the adherence to specific roles and the structure of a product backlog focussing on resource availability, impediments and the destruction of barriers on the way to meeting a common objective makes each Sprint empowering for the team and beneficial for all.
The results of these approaches were recognised by the European Commission whose appointed reviewers on ESDIN stated the “management structure” was “responsible for the success” of this “excellent, well executed” project, the results of which “…play an important part in the development of the pan-European Spatial Data Infrastructure.”
I’ve been privilaged to work through the whole of this process in a number of projects now; from idea generation through to implementation. As the challenges get more complex, skills in these areas become increasingly important and the more innovative we have to become in our efforts to innovate!