The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Olga Kokshagina and Allen Alexander
|The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Olga Kokshagina and Allen Alexander|
|Summary: Sue was so impressed by The Radical Innovation Playbook: A Practical Guide for Harnessing New, Novel or Game-Changing Breakthroughs by Olga Kokshagina and Allen Alexander that she wished that she had a good business idea of her own so that she could use the book. Perhaps that was what she was talking about when Olga and Allen popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Date: December 2020|
|Interviewer: Sue Magee|
Sue was so impressed by The Radical Innovation Playbook: A Practical Guide for Harnessing New, Novel or Game-Changing Breakthroughs by Olga Kokshagina and Allen Alexander that she wished that she had a good business idea of her own so that she could use the book. Perhaps that what she was talking about when Olga and Allen popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
- Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
Olga Kokshagina and Allen Alexander: Innovation managers, or would be innovation managers - who want to create innovations or deliver on an innovation strategy.
Innovators themselves who are seeking to develop radical or breakthrough ideas, in corporate contexts rather than as a start-up.
- BB: It's a brilliant idea: a workbook to guide you through bringing innovative ideas to market. Why has no one ever done it before? What prompted the idea and how long did it take you to bring it to fruition?
OK & AA: There are amazing guides that exist about how to bring ideas to the market, but mostly they adopt a process perspective. Our book proposes a practical guide to help both guide the development of ideas during the discovery, exploration and prepare for take-off phases but also considers the different organisational structures that will support the more radical innovations. We don’t think anyone has taken this approach as yet.
Our experiences of working with different companies, of different sizes and different parts of the world prompted us to write the book. We could see that innovators and executives often struggled to determine how best to support their employees and exploit the full potential of breakthrough ideas. With this idea in mind we developed our book
- BB: Olga - I gather that you're based in Australia and Allen - you're in Exeter in the UK: how did you find collaborating on The Radical Innovation Playbook when you were just about as far apart, physically, as it's possible to be?
OK & AA: Writing a book really reminded me of the value of strong relationships - Olga and I had a good relationship through regular face-to-face discussions at conferences and events (in Sweden, the US and Italy in the past 18 months) . We just built on that, using online tools and aligning our calendars together - it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience - the real question is “what now”?
I would say that we wrote the book following a blended format for collaboration using the benefits of both online and face to face environments. The idea of the book itself was born during a discussion Allen and myself had during the ISPIM [Ed: The International Society for Professional Innovation Management] conference in Stockholm in June 2018. We worked on the proposal and discussed how we see our collaboration going forward. We have met again in June 2019 in Florence to discuss the final delivery. Following a number of screen time, we were able to deliver the manuscript on time.
- BB: COVID-19 has changed the world. Do you think it will also have opened up opportunities for innovation which weren't there before?
OK & AA: COVID-19 did come as a challenge to our national and global ecosystems. History shows us that every crisis can be an opportunity to embrace change, reconsider how we do things and seize new opportunities. As Peter Diamandis puts it “The challenge is the market opportunity.” And the opportunity is massive. It is much easier today to test ideas globally and see more objectively how people relate to them (whether you are testing product- market or solution-market fit).
- BB: You both obviously have all the abilities and the knowledge to bring innovative business ideas to market. Has either of you ever thought about starting a business yourself?
OK & AA: Olga: Definitely. I had a chance to help develop a spin-off of the university I worked with in France. Additionally, I was involved in developing ideas in the corporate settings that led to successful businesses. For my own company - yes, this is definitely an option I am keen to explore in the future. In the meanwhile, I do freelancing work along with my formal role as a researcher.
Allen: For me - I run my own consultancy activity alongside my formal role at Exeter. This helps me keep abreast of the real world and to work on blended problems - the combination of academic and consultancy is a real win-win. My own company - it is perhaps a dream I might pursue one day, but for now this works on many levels.
- BB: What's the most common mistake innovators make when they're bringing their idea to market? Do you find that some innovators will persist in trying to force a bad idea through?
OK & AA: One of the common mistakes we see in both intra- and entrepreneurship is poor market testing. It is a common practice nowadays to collect feedback even at the early stages, present the MVP and design tests to collect feedback. Though, often innovators are not clear on what are their main (and most critical assumptions), what they are testing exactly. So any feedback appears as a good feedback and does not help them to progress on the idea. Additionally, learnings need to be processed systematically and evidence collected. The learning dashboard is crucial.
Another common mistake is when we conduct tests with our existing clients, friends, family members - you need an objective audience.
- BB: I know that you're both surfers: is that how you met? If not, how did you connect with each other?
OK & AA: ISPIM brought us together and in particular, we are both interested in industry- driven research. We have set up a Special Interest Group on industry - university collaboration within ISPIM (now Breakthrough Methods SIG). We have yet to surf together - but perhaps one day!
- BB: As children, what did you grow up hoping to be? Do you have any regrets?
OK & AA: Olga: I used to be a gymnast and competed at the national level. I do not regret not pursuing this path but I think I did learn to be focused and self-organised thanks to it. An engineer by training, I love working on understanding complex systems from both technical and market perspectives.
Allen: I am an Engineer by first career and most people who meet me spot that quite quickly - the life I have as an innovation scholar enables me to work with engineers but also with businesses and so - No - no regrets, as the blend between technical and market is where the fun is for me.
- BB: What are your hopes for 2021?
OK & AA: Olga: We truly hope that 2020 did teach us that we cannot continue exploiting the existing systems, we need systemic changes in our way of working, learning and in dealing with some of the big societal challenges. My work is increasingly focused on the transformation needed in the healthcare sector to enact the changes needed.
Allen: My recent research focuses in on the Circular Economy and how we drive out waste and create circular innovations - that pay back to the environment, to society and to the economy in equal volumes!
- BB: What's next for Olga Kokshagina and Allen Alexander?
OK & AA: Olga: As one of the students I interviewed for the European project Vision I am currently working on pointed out: we are done with simple questions, we need to be dealing with BIG ones; find the ways to approach, understand them and deal with them collaboratively. I would love to contribute to both solving these challenges and also come up with mechanisms to help deal with them globally.
Allen: For me it is about circular economy and collaboration - so I would like to go on and work with Olga again and I would like to explore - maybe - a Circular Innovation playbook?
- BB: Thank you both for taking the time to talk to us: we hope that your wishes for 2021 come true.
You can read more about Olga Kokshagina and Allen Alexander here.
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