Thursday, September 25, 2008

5 easy questions from Sun

After writing my post on innovation a couple of days ago, I remembered a conversation I had with some guys at Sun around the same time.

These guys ran Sun's R&D centre in the USA and are tasked with developing new technologies and business ideas for Sun. Sun also had their view on Innovation with a little i or Innovation with a big I. They called it "faster,better, cheaper" or "brave new world".

As part of their role in creating an environment where innovation could flourish,  they gave each staff member a day a week to work on anything they liked. The only limits were 

1. The project had to be declared (ie you had to say what it was)
2. You couldn't spend more than $500 (i.e. creates scarcity which requires some kind of innovation to overcome it)
3. You have to answer 5 questions to start

They are simple to ask, searching and they work.

The questions are

1. What's the problem you are trying to solve ?
2. Who is it for ?
3. How will you know when you are done ?
4. What's the artefact you are creating ?
5.  How would shareholder value be increased through this idea ?

In a corporate world, question 3 can be the hardest to answer as you can often really never know when you are done. Having an honest answer to this upfront makes it easier to weed out the ideas later on when it is clear you'll never be done.

I use these all the time now when I am testing a new business idea for myself or others. They are also really useful when you get too far down the hole and need to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing.

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