DIY Research and Development (R&D)

R&D refers to the “creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.”1

Ensuring that our businesses are positioned in the best possible way to remain competitive means that we can keep up with modern trends and the ever changing demands of our clients. Whilst for some, this process can be tricky to manage (the desired goal and result can be a little hazy) but we all should try a include a certain amount of R&D into our business operations so we have a better idea of where we are.

I’m currently doing some work for a client which requires a solid understanding of what opportunities are out their for their business both now and in the next few years to come. As we establish a Baseline from which we can build our project upon, we need to understand what the condition of the business is in much like a SWOT analysis. Whilst part of the process is to understand the key strengths and potential opportunities the business has, it is important to position it within the real world and create some context.

The Internet has a inordinate wealth of knowledge out there which we can glean our information from without much expense. Just in a few hours you can fill up your OneNote folder with so much information and the Fear of the Unknown (FUD) that it can all become a little overwhelming. What you may forget is that you already have a huge wealth of empirical information within your business that you can easily tap.

For a few hours this month, I recommend that you get hold of some large sheets of paper to look at where your business is at the start of 2010 and where you would like to see it before the year is out. Many of you I’m sure do this mentally, but visualising your thoughts allows you to go down different thought processes to include every idea that pops into your brain(s). Have a sheet of paper that list your previous strengths and successes, a sheet that shows things that are in the process or that should be taken off the back burner, a sheet that lists what you believe to be the things your customers and clients want from you, and a sheet that lists what others in your field of expertise are doing to compete.

If you plan this as part of a four step process (see below), you will find that those sheets of paper will be constantly added to and a testament to the potential of your business.

Step One: grab a presentation/flip chart pad and head them up with at least four different headings i.e. previous strengths and successes; ideas that didn’t work but still have potential; what do our clients want and need?; what are others doing that we like (listing what you don’t like about their business isn’t necessarily going to give you the leverage you need to develop since hopefully you’re not doing any of them!). Sit either on your own or with your team and brainstorm – throw everything up there and remember to be the Enemy of the Ordinary!

Step Two: review all the ideas that are up there and select three or four which you think are most viable and popular with the business. Elect time for people to research and think about each of these so that you can validate the information. Look at other businesses that have adopted remarkable ways of implementing these ideas and see how you could adopt them within your own organisation.

Step Three: present the ideas back to the team so that you create a platform to develop the ideas further. Refer back to your original sheets of paper if necessary but use clean sheets of paper for each idea so that you can space out your ideas.

Step Four: prioritise which of the ideas is the most popular and achievable. With everyone on board and contributing to the ideas, you can be sure that they will assume a responsibility to make them successful. Set clear time frames and targets to each of the ideas and ensure they are part of a regular review process to ensure positive momentum.

I hope that not only will you get some fantastic new ideas to help your business for 2010 and beyond but you will also be amazed at the volume of ideas and enthusiasm your team has to also offer.

Remember: “A problem shared is a problem halved” which probably brings us back to the reason why we spend so much time on the Internet!

Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.


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