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Creating a New Product: Foresight & Hope

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Like almost everyone in the working population of the UK, I find myself back at work after the Christmas and New Year break. Just two days in, the year is beginning to unfold following the commercial launch of the App-based product Innovation People has developed.

Although not really the focus of this blog, the SPICE Framework – the product – can be downloaded, free of charge from the iOS App Store by typing “SPICE Framework” into the search box.

The focus of this blog is on the process of bringing a product such as the SPICE Framework to market. However I want to begin with a little story.

The story concerns a question put to me recently. The question was a simple one and came in the midst of a conversation about what I have been reading in the past year and how that might have influenced my work. It was this, “What has been the book that has influenced you most in the past year?” It is a good and straightforward question. I dodged answering, not because I was unable to answer but because I figured the expectation of the questioner was that I would answer give an answer summarising reading around the latest thinking about management or innovation or entrepreneurship or whatever. The truth is – and I was reluctant to share this in answering the question - the books that have influenced me the most in the past year have been those of poets and in particular John Keats, Percy Shelley and Simon Armitage’s translation of a fourteenth century English poem entitled Pearl. I realise poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea. I guess what I have found intriguing is the impact these writers through reflecting their own reflections, their own insights on the world in their own words and in oftentimes breaking with convention and surprising the reader.

It seems to me, this is not so far away from the role of the innovator researching and developing a new product, or true innovation will be about working with an insight, a new perspective, something that is not quite yet. That is what Innovation People has been engaged in these past few years. We had an insight that we might research a completely new digital and mobile product that integrates the assessment, development and performance management of people. This has involved developing a whole new approach based on simple and engaging graphics and a user experience that looks and feels more like mobile gaming than business software.

Our research began with the insight that it would be possible to develop this wholly new approach that would inevitably involve challenging some conventional approaches and common practices rather than simply rehashing them. We figured that many conventional approaches to developing people and organisations were poorly researched and designed for a different era. They are certainly not designed for a digital environment. So our research emerged from an insight about what might be.

That’s the point of research; it is about reflection, observation and the testing of ideas in order to gain further insight on the present moment and foresight for future needs. This feels close to the project of the poet.

There are two lines from the Poem, Pearl which was written back in the 14th century. They may seem obscure but bear with me “It is unbecoming to try and to test but to trust no truth beyond those facts that flatter our judgment”. These words challenge me. They challenge me not to settle for the things I have always known and to look for truth beyond conventional methods and experience.

Our own research began in 2008. We worked with a wide range of clients from tiny businesses to Public Sector, transnational and global businesses, testing trying and developing approaches. This research was developed into an approach that became a product applied in real world situations.

The great poet Percy Shelley wrote these words that strike a chord for me, “It is easy for the one who stands outside the prison-wall of pain to exhort and teach the one who suffers”. Real development comes from working with and alongside people in real life, practical situations. That is how we developed our product addressing real world, 21st century challenges. These words are from Shelley’s poem Prometheus Unbound. His subject is the Greek god Prometheus the god of foresight. The poem picks up on a much earlier story of how Prometheus had been tied to a remote rock as a punishment for giving humanity fire and hope. As might be anticipated, Shelley’s work is about his release. To reflect on the words quoted from Shelley, it has seemed to us that a new work of innovation is developed best based upon practical experience. It is all too easy just to look in and come up with solutions.

What we have developed has emerged from a demand for practical resources that connects and engage people in progressively challenging, complex and dispersed working environments where pressures increase and its is difficult to take people out of the workplace and get people together. What we have developed are resources to free and support people in the palm of the their hand, through a mobile device.

If our insight has been that there is an emerging need for a completely new mobile first product integrating assessment, development and performance management then our sense of foresight is that this precisely fits with demand trends where businesses are increasingly seeking products that connect people and keep them on the job.

The app at the heart of this product is now available to download free of charge on iOS and shortly on Google Play. Just type “SPICE Framework” into the iOS search bar or type into a mobile browser on an Apple device.