I recently attended TM Forum’s Management World Americas in Orlando, the largest BSS/OSS event in the industry. The key theme of this year’s event was about how to unlock new monetization opportunities as carriers look to recoup network investments. One approach discussed was to leverage existing networks and service enablers. The other approach to monetization discussed was to create of new services—cloud services were probably the most talked about development at the event. I thought this poster I saw at the event was a poignant reminder of the vast untapped potential that many see in existing services.
Several of the keynotes and debates were around enabling the two-sided business model suggested by the Telco 2.0 initiative.
I agree that these are indeed great opportunities, yet the orthodoxies of the industry are clearly holding us all back from exploiting these and other opportunities.
Innovation Workshop – What happens when we let go of our preconceptions?
I always present, moderate a session track, or lead some other activity at Management World events that I attend. This time, the forum added a new format on the third day: “intensive debate”. Within this framework, I led an interactive workshop on “Digital Service Innovation – the new era of service provider innovation”. Here are a few pictures from the workshop as well as a short video. As you can see, it was very interactive.
Orthodoxies that hold us back
We began the workshop by prodding and realizing what are the most “deeply held beliefs”, assumptions, or “orthodoxies” in our industry or companies. Because we believe so strongly in them, we hardly stray to defy them – and that’s how these orthodoxies hold us back. Here are a few of those orthodoxies participants came up with that represent deeply-held beliefs across the telecom industry:
- We are trusted dinosaurs that do networks
- We will always be there
- We have to do it all ourselves
- We do not tolerate failure
- The customer must buy from us
- We’re network-centric, not service-centric
- The old business model is good enough
- We’re afraid to get away from our core
- Whatever we install must last 10 years
- We must focus on what we know best, look at ARPU
- We are large, process-driven à slow delivery
- What worked last year will work next year
- We provide an indispensible utility
- We are not innovative
One can only imagine how many opportunities have been missed, and continue to be missed, by our industry due to these and other orthodoxies. However, by recognizing them, and deliberately breaking them, we can think outside the box.
Later in the workshop we used a method called “break an assumption” in order to generate ideas. For example, by breaking the assumption “we cannot tolerate failure”, a participant came up with the idea of “identifying two niche services to develop, targeting teens or seniors, and bring them to market regardless of the risk of failure”. Breaking the assumption “whatever we install, it must last 10 years”, someone came up with the alternative assumption that “stuff changes FAST” which inspired him to raise the idea “partner, partner, and partner with innovators… focus on how to partner NOW”.
Tossing ideas in the air, literally!
Once we understood the orthodoxies holding us back, we posed our challenge, which was “What are key new services that communication service providers can launch to create their next wave of innovation?” and began our “brainwriting” exercise. In this exercise, each participant wrote ideas on paper and threw them to the middle, picked up other ideas, added to them – and in each round I offered different inspiration and instruction on adding ideas, to keep the creativity flowing. While doing so, we deliberately broke many of the orthodoxies and assumptions we hold.
Some interesting ideas
Here are a few interesting and raw (copied from the notes) ideas that came up (among the hundreds of ideas):
- Every time you turn on your mobile device it provides a NEW set of music, movies, news, shopping, and other items based on personal preferences. The service improves its suggestions ability over time by learning from your past behavior.
- Use mobile triangulation to stop drug dealing: service providers provide surveillance cameras in public areas and combine with profiles and data to predict and track criminal activity. Meet with law enforcement to create a win-win solution.
- MyTV: deliver ability to upload video and pictures to an IPTV service provider who renders it out to granny’s MyTV VOD stream. Granny can see videos and pictures without a PC. Include other content, voice command, 3D, touch screen TV. Partner with Facebook to deliver personal content on TV – MyFacebook Channel.
- No subsidies, no contracts, come and go as you please service offerings.
- New employee to become CTO assistant for a week – to come at problems with a fresh perspective.
In about 20 minutes, we came up with nearly 200 ideas. Out of them, there are some real gems.
Prioritizing and selecting the ideas
When innovating, it’s important to come up with a lot of different ideas as it inspires additional breakthroughs. Once you have a lot of ideas, it’s important to evaluate them and focus on the ones that bring the most value per effort. So in order to narrow down the ideas, we used a priority matrix and dot voting. We considered both the ease of implementation as well as the payoff on a priority matrix and then copied all the ideas from the “quick wins” quadrant onto a mind map. We then used dot voting to choose the most compelling. The ideas selected “best” by the participants are here:
The innovation tools and techniques
In this short 75-minute session, we used a few creativity and innovation tools from the Amdocs Innovation Pack, which contains 30 techniques for thinking creatively, either as individuals or in groups, to yield powerful results and insights. In the workshop, the tools we used in rapid succession were: Orthodoxies, Challenge Statement, Break an Assumption, Brainwriting, Priority matrix, Mind Mapping, and Dot Voting.
At Amdocs, we have trained over 3,000 employees in use of these tools, and we use them often.
Even though this was the last day of the conference, which typically suffers from sparse participation, we had about 50 participants in this energetic workshop. Participants experienced lots of “aha” moments as we innovated together on the future of the industry. Steve Cotton, who currently heads up the revenue management initiative within TMF, beat me to the punch and wrote a glowing blog post about his experience in this session, calling it “a session to remember”. Thx, Steve.