Becoming an Innovator

Fresh thinking on systems, products and processes

You can learn to innovate: while there is no”innovation process”, there are techniques, tools and strategies you can use. You can integrate these techniques into your existing development process to make you more creative, and to look at problems in a more productive way. Innovation is not an additional task, it is part of what you do.

The objective of innovation is to find a better fit between your business and your processes, systems, products and services. An innovative solution is one that costs no more—it usually costs less—and makes innovative use of existing processes and technology. An innovative solution is one that provides more customer satisfaction when delivered, and anticipates the organisation’s needs for tomorrow. Innovation means looking at the problem in a different way to find the solutions that evade conventional requirements techniques.

Innovation is not the same as invention. Most innovations reuse existing elements or ideas by recombining them in innovative ways. Even the prolific Thomas Edison invented very little—most of his innovations,including the light bulb, X-rays and the phonograph, were recombinations of existing ideas and technologies. Similarly, most of the elements you need for your next innovation are available to you now. You just have to know where to find them and how to recombine them.

We cannot claim that this course will turn you into another Thomas Edison or Leonardo da Vinci. However, we can say that you will learn enough innovation techniques to generate better requirements—those that make your next system better than anticipated, work more harmoniously in its business environment, and generate less change requests.

From ivory tower to office floor

Your business does not run on features and functions—it runs on processes and systems. This course is about improving your business processes, your software systems, and the service or products you provide to your customers. These are improved by fresh, innovative thinking; by finding a better, more innovative way of carrying out your day to day business. Innovation is the task of the business analysts and the other stakeholders when they are gathering their requirements. Innovation is part of the development processes—the part that discovers new and better things that the systems should do, and more effective ways to do them. In most cases, the innovations needed are relatively simple—they just need thought.

Who is this for?

The seminar is intended for product managersbusiness analysts, their clients and other stakeholders involved in gathering requirements for the new system/business process/product. It is also suitable for others who should be innovators—those who have responsibility to ensure that their organisation’s products, processes, services and systems are relevant and competitive.

What will I learn?

  • Getting started — Introducing the idea that anyone can be innovative if they let themselves, and if they use the right techniques and approaches.
  • Innovation grounding — We set out the fundamentals of innovation, and take a look forward to some of the techniques you will use.  You are introduced to examples of innovative business practice and draw lessons from them.
  • Removing constraints — Constraints are restrictions imposed on the problem space. For example, you have to send an invoice to your customer, or you must approve expense claims before paying them. However,when   closely examined, some constraints are able  to be removed, or changed, with startlingly innovative results.
  • Innovation triggers — These are things that business analysts should pay attention to when innovating for new systems and processes.For example the Connectivity trigger means keeping your customers connected to your business through an “information umbilical cord”; the Participation trigger is about how you make your customers involve themselves in your business. We look at these and other innovation triggers.
  • Ideas brokers & recombination — Being an Ideas Broker means collecting processes, ideas and technology that can be combined in an innovative way to make a new service, product or system. Most of the raw material for innovation is available to you right now, they just need to be seen with an innovative eye.
  • Storyboards and scenarios — Storyboards are a creative technique used to explore possible future scenarios by showing how the eventual user could interact with the system or product. Storyboards and scenarios are a particularly business-friendly way of illustrating your innovations.
  • Other innovation techniques — Having extra creativity tools in your toolbox is never wasted. We look at Combination, the simple idea of combining two things to make something better; Weakness into Strength, to take the weakest part of the process and turn it to an advantage; how to use Analogies to find an innovation by similarity; Brainstorming; Incubation; Prototyping and others.
  • Innovation and your organisation — Here in the final session we relate the course to your own workplace, and how to apply these techniques in your work environment. We look at where in the development life-cycle it is most appropriate to innovate. We also look at organisational barriers to innovation, and how they can be overcome.

Beyond brainstorming

These are practical innovation techniques that have been used in many situations to provide new and exciting ways to solve problems. We teach the techniques by explaining them and then having you apply them in workshops to realistic problems. At all stages, you can discuss with your instructor how they can be applied to your own work.

Your Instructors

Suzanne Robertson

Suzanne’s current work includes research and consulting on the management, sociological and technological aspects of innovation and its effects on systems requirements. The product of this research is Volere, a complete requirements process and template for assessing requirements quality,and for specifying requirements. Suzanne is author of many papers on systems engineering, and also speaks at numerous conferences and universities. She is a member of IEEE and on the board of the British Computer Society’s Requirements Group. She was the founding editor of the Requirements Column in IEEE Software. She is also a very creative cook. Suzanne lives in London, and frequently lectures and consults in continental Europe.

James Robertson

James is a consultant, teacher, author and practitioner of innovation. He is co-author of the best-selling Mastering the Requirements Process, Second Edition. He also co-founded the Volere approach to requirements engineering. His most recent book is Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies:Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior, written with fellow principals of The Atlantic Systems Guild (Tom DeMarco, Peter Hruschka, Tim Lister, SteveMcMenamin, Suzanne Robertson), a London and New York think tank known for its research into new systems engineering techniques. James travels between his home in London, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, where his requirements seminars play to full houses. In his first career he was an architect. He would like his next career to allow more time for fly fishing.

To be better; to anticipate what people want; to create something different that works better; to provide something that people don’t already have.”

For further information, please contact your nearest relevant agent.   Scheduled public courses are shown in the Volere events column of the Home page.

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