EP 11 – Interview with Ally Muller on Corporate Innervation

In this episode I speak with Ally Muller from GOYA consulting about her experiences on corporate innervation. What makes for an innovative company and how to avoid the innovation graveyard where projects and ideas go to die. Ally is an experienced consultant and has worked with many large multinational firms. You can find out more about Ally Muller and her book, Corporate Innervation, on her website and LinkedIn profiles below: https://www.goyaconsulting.com.au/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/allisonrmuller/


Hello, and welcome to the business octopus where we talk about all things sales, marketing and technology. I’m Avon, Collis CRM and marketing automation specialists at relevant and all around good guy. And today I’m joined by le Mullah from Goya consulting, here to talk about corporate innovation. Welcome, how you doing? Hi,

thank you very much for having me on.

No worries at all. So we met a wild guy. And we were talking about innovation, and talking about like digital transformation and experiences that businesses have with that. And with projects and programs of work, you want to give us a little bit of a background on where you’re coming from. And you know, what is

innovation. So basically, what we do is we build innovation ecosystems inside organizations and large corporates, because we understand that innovation needs to be done differently. And innovation is also something that not only does something that we aspire to, it’s fun and exciting, but it is actually going to be the driver of growth and change as we move forward into the future. And the whole purpose of what we are trying to do at Goya consulting is really unlock the genius inside the organization, we understand that the ideas, the genius, the incredible intelligent ideas are already there. So we just need to make sure that we can unlock that, and get people to think about what truly is innovation, which is something that we would like to term as something new and different. That adds value to the bottom line. And I just want to emphasize add value to the bottom line, because that’s something that’s really important so that we don’t just innovate, for innovate sake, we are doing something for our people, for our company and for our customers. And that’s where we think that their success is our success,

I think you hit an important point there is that you gave it a definition, a very specific one, I think that, you know, sometimes these words tend to become a little bit like buzzword, people just want to want to say it because it’s the lightest thing or because it makes them sound like they know what they’re talking about. But I think when people stop thinking of it as a thing that you do, like, the thing that you do is is the outcome that drives the result, innovation is just the sort of, I don’t really like saying journey too much either. But it’s the it should be that the thing that you have to do, it’s like the spanner it’s not the actual thing that you build.

Yeah, exactly. And we think about innovation is creating a whole culture inside an organization. And we do a couple of things. So we try and make sure that we are emphasizing on creating and not replicating. And we’re really like really strong about this. Because if we are just replicating other people’s ideas, and we’re meeting the market with this, we’re no longer innovating. And the problem with that is that we are creating a bit of laziness inside the organization. Because why do you need to be innovative if you can label the adoption of somebody else’s idea or buying a different piece of technology or digital transformation. And I say that in inverted commas as innovation, it stops the real creative genius from bubbling to the top, and showing what we really need to do to fix those pain points, or the future problems of customers that we haven’t thought through yet.

Yeah, I think we if you’re a small business, it’s easy to look at busy big business and just copy what they did. But if you’re a big business, and you want to stay big, and not get overthrown by the competition, then you know, you need to come up with those new ideas. It’s not good enough to copy, you know, maybe hungry, Jack’s might be able to copy Mac is on there. What’s the latest one, they’ve got the jacks cafe instead of the MC cafe. But they’re a shadow brand. That’s the strategy, they don’t have to come up with the new stuff. But Mark is to stay at the front have to keep coming up with the new stuff. You know, the guy that accidentally spilt sand on in the glue factoring invented sandpaper. That was a whole new thing. But that’s innovation.

Exactly. And it’s like if we don’t allow the space and the opportunity for these ideas inside large organizations, we will be left just mimicking the individual startups and the small businesses that are able to be really nimble, flexible, and come up with these new ideas. And I talked about building a whole ecosystem inside the organization. And that’s something that’s really critical and something that I like to stress with executives and leadership teams when I work with them. Because it’s not about using your same standard strategic project methodology that you would for all of your ideas, you really do need to create a whole separate innovation ecosystem because it does play by separate rules and If we don’t give him the space to do that, it just won’t meet the parameters of risk, budget time. And you know, the project management goals for prioritization to be able to go forward. And when we don’t allow that space, and that’s what we don’t get any new innovation, we just get the same old ideas, that consistent ones that we know, we can get that return on investment. So it is about building a new space and new methodology and a new workflow, which is why we call it corporate innovation inside the organization.

So I think, you know, from my perspective on the in the CRM world, you know, you think about opportunity pipelines. And that’s more about the sales side. But I would imagine you kind of need a bit of an ideas pipeline, as well, where, you know, some early stage and you want to have a few of them. It’s not just what’s that one big idea, there’s no such thing as that one big idea, it’s probably, you know, that one big transformational idea is once in a blue moon. And if you’re, if you’re so lucky to get it, then great. But, you know, that takes a lot of hard work, and it probably takes a lot of our hormones along the way. You know, there’s probably a few small wins that you can afford, and you can do right now. And you know, you could probably get some some really good outcomes from it. Is that, is that accurate?

Absolutely, it really is about building a whole portfolio of different ideas, we want to take everything from the genesis of something really small, that little tiny acorn, to seeing what we can work through to the development at the end. And you’re right, it really isn’t about just looking at those big massive ideas. Because yes, they may come along. But the reality is, is this smaller and medium sized ones, that we can actually do a lot more work on and be a lot faster with and get a lot more return on our investment more quickly. And also, it’s quite often those smaller and medium ideas that give a lot more return to the customer quite quickly. We can work on those big ideas. And it is important to do so because it is about having a structured portfolio. But it is also about creating value back to your internal and external customers. And how do we do that if we’re just putting all our efforts into something that is that distracted by this, you know, that whole unicorn type idea, we have to be really cautious about which ones we’re going to work with and how we’re going to play with them.

I think, you know, I’ve done a bit of studies around new product development. And you know, you have to like you’ve got the latest toaster, the latest vacuum cleaner, it’s got this feature, it’s got that they’re all marketing points. And you know, to an extent it’s probably quite similar, but it’s very niched on products. And so yeah, you have that pipeline, you have that, like, Alright, let’s look at everything that’s about to move forward. What can we test on small scale? Then what can we, you know, get other people’s opinions on, then you start to do financial studies, then you start to do like full rollout plans. And there’s this there’s a whole lot of stuff that goes behind the scenes of, you know, the the latest toaster, that does your washing or something like that. So I think that there are some similarities, and you touched on a point like those small wins, you know, you think back to corporate academic theory, talking about cars in, you know, small improvement, continuous improvement, small improvements over a long time, and that compound growth of, you know, 1% a day, just just improve 1% a day, what’s the decision behind, you know, when you go for a small win, or a big win, like, is there? Is there a deciding factor that that sways, you’re thinking? Well, actually, what

we do with the organization is we build a really bespoke structured decision making and prioritization process. And what we really do is have to put the customer at the center of that, and in relation to the strategy, so it does have to align with that. So we build a matrix of what we’re going to decide on at that point. And we have to remember, there’s also budgetary restrictions, there’ll be resource restrictions. And sometimes it comes down to what skills do we have in house? What are we able to do, compared to what do we need to outsource? So we have to weigh that in, in amongst all that to say, what do we think we can actually achieve? And what do we believe this will give to an outcome for our customer? So that we’re not just focused on Yeah, this looks really amazing. This could be a new piece of technology, or this could be a new product or a piece of equipment. What will actually give the most bang for our buck to our customers, or and something I don’t ever want to look over is, what about our internal customers? What if it’s something that we are shifting the way that we work with our customers internally, to create a better experience which creates greater efficiencies, which learning turns create a better outcome for the external customer? We have to it’s a complex matrix that we put together and a complex decision making algorithm that we work on, but that’s what we need to do. These are all the factors that we need to work for each organization that we come together with.

You’re talking about internal customers, I guess I, you know, I had to keep asking people, you know, what’s your T shirt size when we send the latest company shirts. So, you know, I just created a field in CRM as part of the onboarding process. So now like that, that I guess, is my sort of example of what an internal customer might be. And that’s very small scale. But you know, it could just be, you know, what’s my leaf balance? Or what’s my, you know, how do I get this job item done internally? You know, I think sometimes people kind of don’t really understand what internal customer means. Is that, is that your understanding of what it is?

Yeah, absolutely. So it’s something so not everybody will have an external facing customer. But everybody has a customer. So you might be a part of the organization that is a service delivery for other parts of the business. So you could be the finance function, you know, you could be the risk function, you could be lots of different things, but you do all have customers. So it’s how we work together to make a better experience for you. And, you know, we’ve worked with organizations where we have created technology solutions to create better and more efficient outcomes to manage things like risk is one really good examples so that we think about how do we work in the project structure to manage this process even faster to we can get a better outcome? Can we automate it, can we do something in the technology space to make it better, there’s lots of little mini innovations that we can do in that space, to create a better outcome, and they all add value.

So, you know, I, whenever I try and do my approach to my customer, I always think, you know, what, I think about like, the corporate value chain, and and you know, all businesses do all of these parts, and we want to try and look at what makes that business unique? And how do you implement a process that makes them stand out? Obviously, from the CRM side, you don’t want to put them someone in a box, and then make them change their business to suit that box or that platform or something like that. So for you, I guess, on your side, Is there like a strategic planning component? Do you look at your competitors and what their strengths and weaknesses are? How does that into influence your your thinking?

So yeah, we have a complete innovation strategic planning process that goes along with this. And we also have a series of customer journey mapping methodologies that we’ve built bespoke around innovation to manage this so that we can really put the spotlight on what we need to do and where we need to go. In some instances, we do do those market assessments. So we look at what our peers are doing in that space. And other times, we don’t, simply because the spotlight really has to be on the customer. Because the one thing I relate to is a really interesting story where I’m thinking of, you know, if we keep our eyes on the target, and we are focused on the finish line, rather than looking to the side of us, we’re going to be able to step ahead a little bit faster. So we keep our eyes on the customer, what they need, where we believe their future is actually going and how do we test that? And how do we work with them to create the most appropriate and best solutions for them. And we’ve got a lot of methodologies around that. And we’re building new ones every day for new organizations,

I think sometimes it’s important to have an outside view, like we’ve got, I created an ideas pipeline, and everyone’s supposed to put their idea and then contribute. But we don’t necessarily always get, you know, everyone’s busy or not necessarily focused on it. You know, we do have a strategic meeting every week where we go, here’s a new function feature or whatever we built, does anyone got any ideas or thoughts or whatever? And so we’ve got some mechanism in place, probably not the most robust, but I think, you know, in a lot of companies that don’t even do that at all, you know, innovation is probably a little bit broken. Would you agree?

I would totally agree. And I hats off, it’s really great that you’ve got that process. And, you know, there’s there’s two things I want to say to that. One is you never know when the ideas are going to happen. So for me, it’s actually what I talk to organizations about is how do you make that option available? 24, seven, to your people, because most people don’t come up with that new idea. When they’re right in the middle of their work day, they are gonna be your client meeting, or they are just head down in no time some type of delivery. They come up with those things when they when they run, they’re in the shower, they’re walking the dog, they’re doing all these other things. So how do we think about the process to capture ideas so that we don’t lose them when they go home when they start the dinner or they do the Washington whatever it is? Yeah. The other side to that is, it can’t stop at an idea repository. One of the worst things we can do for our people inside organization’s is allow them to provide an idea and then do nothing with it. It’s actually quite demotivating. And what I call that is the innovation graveyard. And that is also where your innovation culture goes to die. And it’s simply because when nothing happens, and people can’t see any progress, and there’s no transparency on their ideas, or even any feedback, because it’s okay for an idea to not be okay. But feedbacks critical, you then start a culture of why bother? Why would I give you my brilliant genius idea. And I’d really love to share a really interesting story around this. So I worked with a really large infrastructure organization. And there was a group of people who worked in compliance, and you know, compliance is always seen a bit boring of a sexy, exceptionally relevant and entirely necessary. And they kept providing their idea, and no one will listen to them. And they said, we’re not going to do that, you know, it’s not going to make the budget, I don’t think that’s appropriate. So they stepped out of the organization, and they pull their money. And they hired some amazing tech developers, and then they ended up building this incredible SAS platform for compliance management infrastructure. And they’ll never need to go back to those compliance jobs ever again, they’ve certainly made their fortune and they’ve done something amazing. And so for me, it’s like, why would we take ideas and not assess them, to have a process of assessment, so that we don’t lose that gold, so that we don’t think, oh, that’s boring, we wouldn’t want to do that. It’s what’s great for the people, what’s great for the organization, what’s going to make it better to do the job today?

I think, you know, as far as us being a small team, we can generally act on it pretty quickly anyway. So there’s not that, that that sort of lag, but in a larger organization, you got to pull them, you’ve got to assess them, you’ve got to, you know, before you commit a full time or a couple of your full time resources at it, you want to make sure it’s actually worth worth spending the time on.

So, really,

and, you know, like, as far as having those, those rounds, or those guided phases, you know, maybe have a regular meeting, I guess on, you know, from the product perspective, it’s called full screen, you look at all of the entire pipeline, and you go, alright, this is in that car that’s going to be promoted, that one’s demoted. So I can definitely see a lot of similarities there. But I can also see that the importance, you know, as far as, and I guess, I’m still trying to get a bit of traction on on my Innovation Hub. But I’m always planning for the 100 plus company, you know, 1000 plus one day, and you know, that the the Innovation Hub, is there needs tweaking needs improving, but there’s a link on the on the intranet page, there’s a link in the email for the some internal stuff. There’s, like you said, Those little spots, I’ve had an employee call me up and say, Hi, I’ve got an idea for a podcast. And if you go back through, you’ll find it in our YouTube, but it’s, she’s like, gotten that made redundant from COVID. And she said, I want to do this thing. I think it’s, you know, this new structure of works been amazing. But yeah, capital up like she had the idea whilst driving for a coffee after dropping their kids off.

At school, it’s usually comes in those moments of distractions. So we just have to make sure we don’t lose them. And you’re right, we have to put them somewhere and assess them. And I I’m on the same page as you I’m a huge advocate of making all ideas and the process completely transparent. We want nothing to be hidden away. We want to see who’s working on these ideas, how they’re progressing, what stage they’re at, did they get funding, which ones got selected and why which ones didn’t and why? It should never be a secret. We want to be all in and completely transparent on this.

I know that Pixar have a concept of it’s called plussing. So no one is allowed to detract from someone else’s comment or addition. So when they they’re sitting there, and they’re going around saying, All right, well, we’re gonna have the story. What’s in the story? All right, this should be a princess, right? princesses ride the dragon, okay, the Dragon has ice instead of fire. And no one can take that away. And then at the end, then they’ll go and assess everything, but like everyone is encouraged to positively impact. And I think, you know, just from doing brainstorming exercises, those stupid comments that people make, like, you know, if it would only work if clouds are blue, you know, just some idea that’s so outlandish and ridiculous and is completely impossible, could trigger an idea and someone else So I think, you know, every input is valued, valuable in some way, shape, or form

completely. And you know, just following on I love Pixar and I, and I love the things that they do, but in the methodologies that we’ve put together, we’ve actually borrowed a little bit from You know, improvisation for actors, so that when we do these sessions, we don’t allow anyone to say no. So it’s same as an improv. So you have to say yes. And, yes. So when you say no, you’ve completely shut your brain down, you’ve turned off any opportunity to think through that idea. It doesn’t have to be an idea that we end up doing. But we just have to be able to open up our minds and think about it in a different way. So the word no is removed from the room? And yes, and is the first thing you have to say when you answer to a new idea. So yeah, I love leaning on these different creative elements in these different ideas, because it does help shape new and different ways of brainstorming and thinking about things. I think, you know, what you’re doing is amazing. It cuts through psychology,

corporate culture, strategy across the other organizations, project management. It’s such a quite an interesting area, in and of itself. So I think with that, that’s, that’s been a fantastic episode. And I really appreciate your time coming along here today. If you’re listening and you’d like to hear more about LMR and corporate innovation, then she’s got a book. If you’ve got the if you’re looking at the video version, she sent me a copy. It’s been great. It’s a really good rate, and it talks a lot about the How to and what defining exactly what the problem is, and considering the steps involved to solve that. So if if you’d like to find out more about Goya consulting, you can go to Goyaconsulting.com.au. And as always at the end of the episode, in the comments, I will link her LinkedIn and her website for you to go and have a look. Otherwise Thank you for listening to the podcast. And if you have any questions or you’d like to be on the show, you can check out relevate.com.au you and fill out the contact form otherwise, take care