Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Use a changebox to identify the best way to implement your solutions

When John Adams is composing he makes use of what he calls his 'Earbox'. This is a software module that contains a great many modes and scales. Adams can input a passage he has written and the box will rework it into any of the modes and scales it contains. 

This enables Adams to explore how a passage sounds within the context of a particular mode or scale, or combination of such. He can then choose a version of the passage that best meets his expressive needs.

By using non-musical rather than musical modes, we can apply the concept of the Earbox more widely; we can apply it to the solution selection phase of the creative problem solving process.

The Earbox would become a 'Changebox', be conceptual rather than computerised and work as follows:

  1. You identify the solution you want to put into the Changebox.
  2. You create possible modes that your solution could be implemented within. Possible modes are: personal and individual; team and group; organisational; wider sector; public or private; social or commercial; economy or deluxe (plus any others you consider relevant).
  3. You turn a room into your Changebox by covering its walls with flipchart and allocating wall space to each mode.
  4. You introduce your solution to the Changebox. You consider each mode and use an OWNORS Analysis to identify the implications of implementing your solution within it. OWNORS stands for Opportunities, Weaknesses, Novelties, Obstacles, Risks and Strengths. What are the opportunities presented by each mode? What are the weaknesses of each mode? What is novel or unique about each mode? What obstacles does each mode present? What risks are associated with each mode? What are the strengths of each mode?  
  5. You identify how the opportunities, novelties and strengths can be maximised or exploited to good effect and how the weaknesses, obstacles and risks can be minimised.
  6. You identify the modes that best meet your needs and purpose.
  7. You create an action plan that will enable you to implement your solution effectively within the selected modes.                   

For example:

Let us assume you have identified offering more information and services online as a solution that will enhance user and customer service and improve efficiency. 

Possible modes that this solution could be implemented within are: personal; customer grouping or demographic; wider public (potential customers/users); basic or 'upgraded' mode; free for the social good or chargeable for profit.

You would create a Changebox by covering the walls of a room with flipchart and allocating wall space to some or all of the modes mentioned above, plus to others you think relevant.

Then you would transpose your solution into the various modes contained within the Changebox. You would do this by applying an OWNORS analysis to each possible mode of your solution.

So, if the online solution was being implemented at the individual or personal level (each customer or user being contacted and personally introduced to the system and encouraged to use it):

  • A possible opportunity could be the chance to create closer relationships with key customers/users.
  • A possible weakness could be its high cost and resource intensiveness.
  • A possible novelty, something unique to this mode of solution, could arguably be the more equal and enhanced two-way communication between individual customers and the organisation, which could lead to new insights about customer needs and preferences.
  • A possible obstacle could be lack of customer availability and engagement with the process.
  • A possible risk could be customers becoming alienated and irritated by the high degree of targeted interest and attention they experience.
  • A possible strength could be customers having their needs met more quickly through the use of less resources.

You would identify additional aspects under each section of the OWNORS analysis and, as mentioned above, your OWNORS analysis would be applied to each mode of solution within the Changebox.

Once you completed the above process, you would identify how to maximise or exploit the positive aspects of each mode and minimise the negative ones. For example, you could positively exploit the unique richness of the two-way communication offered by the personal mode of the online solution by arranging real-time Internet discussions with individual customers. To minimise the possibility of alienation of customers you could do some research into the times of day, month or year customers would be most willing and able to engage with the process.

Next, you would consider the results of all your OWNORS analyses and select the modes of solution best suited to your needs and purposes. To  help your decision-making you could create a Decision Grid or Matrix and use it to rate the suitability of each mode of solution.

Finally, you would create an action plan for implementing the selected modes of solution effectively. This would need to specify what needed to be done, by when and by whom. It may also need to specify the type of resources and support needed for effective implementation.

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