How to do Stimulus Mining at a Trade Show

Good Morning Innovation Leaders, This week we introduced the beta version of the Innovation Engineering iPad app at the MEP quarterly meeting in San Diego.

The entire community will get the app later in the spring with the release of Innovation Engineering Labs 2.0.   It includes over 50 different improvements to help you in your quest to Increase Innovation Speed and Decrease Risk.

It will integrate seamlessly with your Stage Gate or Lean Product Development system.  It also provides your company's Management and Process Black Belts with some industrial strength tools as they lead the creation of a sustainable innovation culture within your organization. IMPORTANTLY:  All benefits from the upgrade will be available on all devices as we will continue to support cloud computing.   If you have an internet browser you will be able to use IELabs 2.0.    Those with an iPad will get the extra benefits that are made possible because of the advanced nature of the iPad platform. After the meeting in San Diego - I went with our Tech team to the Mac World trade show in San Francisco.   Our purpose was to do Insight, Market, Tech and Future Mining to guide refinement of our 3 year development pipeline for the Innovation Engineering Institute.  

Recall, just as the original Deming effort on quality -  The Innovation Engineering Institute is an alliance of government, academics and industry.

Deming had the pioneering support of NY University - we have the University of Maine.

Deming had the pioneering support of the Department of Commerce - we have NIST MEP of the Department of Commerce

Deming had the pioneering support of Nashua Corporation - we have the Eureka! Ranch.

Together - government, academics and industry meet to talk about where we are going from a development perspective.

The learnings from the show - and our 3 year pipeline are not ready for public disclosure.   However the methods we used to get the learning can be of value to you.   You can use them at your next trade show.  Or even, you can use them when reviewing your latest trade publication.

1. Start on the Fringes:  We started our tour in the "bad rent district."   As I've seen before - this is where we found some of the coolest new technologies.   It was in the small booths we found people doing amazing things.  We started here because frankly it often took energy to figure out what these pioneers were doing.   Often, the actual programmer was at the booth - and while they could explain technically they had a hard time explaining "why should I care?"

Not all were worth while.  In fact, many were down right worthless.  However, we found 4 rock solid Tech Mining wow's that offer alliance possibilities.

2. Ask What's Next:  When we were speaking to the actual creator of the hardware or software we would ask not just what it was but what are they working on next.  When you got to a real entrepreneur they were happy to explain their next dreams and ideas.   This gave us insight into Future Mining - and connections for Tech Mining.  These conversations are helping guide the 2 and 3 year parts of our innovation pipeline (remember given the speed of change in the digital world 3 years is like 10 years in other industries).

3. Do Fail FAST Fail CHEAP with Those that Really Know:  At the larger company booths I got quickly frustrated with sales and marketing people who only knew what they had been taught to say. Fortunately - at every one of the large company booths there was a technical person who actually knew things. It took patience to get to him or her - but it was invaluable for Tech Mining & Market Mining.

When we got to the company tech geek we did a rapid fire Fail FAST Fail CHEAP cycles.  I painted a vision of what I'd like to be able to do -- describing the "ideal benefit"  then the company tech geek explained what they could or could not do to help us.  Importantly, I didn't try to fake that I understood all the geek speak.  Instead - I had two of our best geeks there to do translation for me :).

In these geek conversations - we were pointed to areas of their web site that had free tech resources that could do what we wanted (in one case we were connected to a place that allowed for a demo to be built this weekend!).  In another case the geek told us that they couldn't help - but he went to a computer and found us two other companies that could help us. In another case she helped us find ways to adapt their technology to do something we or they had never thought of.

4. Make it Real:  At a number of booths we pushed hard to see, feel and touch the technology.  We got to see how the customer will experience the technology.  We asked questions about why they had made design choices. In the process we got invaluable Insight mining.

5. Borrowing Brilliance: There were a number of booths where people were selling integrated software for running a restaurant, hair salon, doctors office practice, dental office practice, etc..  We used these to get Market and Insight mining.  We translated what they were doing - into what a Black Belt at an MEP Center or inside a company might need to run their "innovation practice."   These are people who've spent hours thinking deeply about an area.  Looking at what they are doing inspired ideas for us.

We also reviewed a wide range of project planning systems.  We listened close to what the sales people said made them meaningfully unique.  We have some potential Tech Mining partnership opportunities that can accelerate our development.  And/or we have ideas for how to integrate the best benefits of 6 different systems.

6. STOP and THINK:  Working a trade show can be mind numbing.  It's stimulus overload.  So, just as we do during Leadership Institute - we took a number of breaks - to sit down as a team and reflect on what we'd learned. This aligned our whole team. In some cases - we had different perspectives on the potential for a technology - in those cases we made a return visit to validate what was truth.  In other cases - one of us saw a vision for something that others didn't see.

Trade shows are very tiring.  However, they are a wealth of stimulus mining if you think deeper about them.

As you create a sustainable culture of innovation - trade shows can be an invaluable tool for helping you increase innovation speed and decrease risk.


Doug Hall

p.s. If you have any "wish lists" for things you'd like in Innovation Engineering Labs 2.0 - either post them in response to this blog posting by clicking on the link to go to the Labs website.  Or, tell your MEP, U Maine or Eureka! Ranch Black Belt what you'd like.  Think BIG.  There are amazing technologies available today.