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Inspiring Innovation Video, Ken Tencer, Cause a Disturbance

The Perfect Dose of Innovation

MedAvail is reshaping the future of healthcare and Spyder Works is proud to have contributed to the shaping of MedAvail.

A Canadian company with investments from large pharmacy chains, MedAvail and MedAvail’s MedCenter™ kiosk redefine and extend the reach of today’s pharmacy.

The MedCenter pharmacy kiosk allows customers to fill prescriptions quickly and easily from any location, any time, while on the go.

Says Randy Remme, Chief Technology Officer of MedAvail, “Going to market with a radical breakthrough in technology, convenience and the engagement of pharmacy customers required an understanding of the healthcare business and an intimate knowledge of customer experience. John and his team at Spyder Works brought it all to the table.”

With easy deployment into convenient locations, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, and corporate clinics, customers have ready access to their prescription medication and OTCs without having to travel to a pharmacy.

Says John Paulo Cardoso, founder and Chief Creative Officer, “In creating the brand and contributing to the design elements of the user interface for the OTC version of the MedCenter, our team looked past the technology to the positively disruptive experience for the customer. As with all of the breakthrough market launches that we work on, clarity of concept is paramount – customers need to understand and engage with ease or the opportunity will be lost.“

MedAvail’s MedCenter can be located virtually making them pharmacy’s answer to the ATM, and providing the ultimate in convenience and ease of use for the pharmacy customer.

The Pizza Saver and nine other innovations that surprise and delight

Originally published on August 12, 2014 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail:

Many business leaders shy away from innovation because they think it’s too complicated, but in reality, the process is easier than they think. Successful innovation harnesses the obvious.

The essence of innovation lies in understanding consumer needs and capitalizing on market shifts. It’s about continually re-engaging customers by meeting their changing wants and needs, even before they realize they’re changing.

Companies should start by recognizing the many practical, easy and effective examples of innovation. The following 10 examples will set your brain spinning and help you see how simple it can be to develop new products, services and processes that make a splash in any market.

The common theme? They’re all examples of ways to surprise and delight customers by addressing one of their challenges.

1. Pizza Saver: Seriously? The mundane little table-like plastic part that holds the top of the box away from the pizza? For those who suffered through university with pizza stuck to the inside of cardboard boxes, life has never been the same. Kids today have no idea how good they have it, but Carmela Vitale does. She was awarded a patent for this three-legged wonder in 1985.

2. Cakepop: Credit Angie ‘Bakerella’ Dudley for this delightful creation. The lollipop-type pastry is bright, fun, engaging and a wonderful treat. It will never be mistaken for health food, but it’s a huge improvement over a big slab of cake, and the on-the-go ease of the lollipop stick is perfect for today’s hectic pace.

3. Double-window drive-through: If the drive-through wasn’t already fast food’s answer to our busy lifestyles, the double window was the icing on the cake. The second window lets restaurants separate the money exchange from food service, saving time and reducing friction. Simple, yes, but a nice addition to the customer experience.

4. Taco Bell’s breakfast taco waffle: Behold, a taco-shaped waffle shell wrapped around a sausage patty or bacon, with scrambled eggs and cheese, served with syrup. Why did this make the list? Taco Bell has finally figured out an in-brand way to extend its hours of operation and generate more revenue per square foot. Operating leverage is a tasty treat for every business.

5. Wheels on suitcases: Thank you, Bernard Sadow, for introducing these babies in 1970 (despite the fact he was turned down by countless department-store buyers). What traveller wants to lug 50 pounds of baggage through never-ending airport terminals? For the record, it took humanity a year longer to put wheels on suitcases than it did to put a man on the moon.

6. The HondaVAC vaccum cleaner in the Honda Odyssey: This was a tough one. Do busy families choose the Dodge Caravan’s Stow ‘N Go seats, which let you create more storage space in your minivan without having to haul out the seats? Or do they choose the Odyssey, with its built-in Shop-Vac ready to clean up every little spill? Choice is good.

7. Velcro shoes: For those too young or too old to fuss around with laces, and for their care-givers, Velcro closures are a game changer. They make the great outdoors more accessible than ever. Plus, a shout-out for Velcro jumping, where you slip into a full-body Velcro suit and leap onto Velcro-covered walls, just for the heck of it.

8. Self-sealing envelopes: For those entrepreneurs who used to end each business day writing out cheques and licking their tongues raw – what took so long?

9. The Post-It note: It’s the semi-sticky poster child for simple, breakthrough innovations. But with 3M producing 50 billion of these a year, how can we ignore it? Especially since the humble Post-It brand has now become the national sponsor of the speed-innovating phenomenon known as Startup Weekend.

10. Squeezable jars: Whether you’re pouring mayonnaise, jam, honey, or ketchup, the squeezable jar is welcome relief for every meal. Old brands such as Britain’s Marmite spread are finding new life in plastic packaging. Little things make a big difference.

If you’re out to make a difference in your market, you’ll face two well-known barriers to change: the naysayers who argue “that’ll never work” or those who say “we don’t have time to innovate.” Ignore them. Target a problem. Look for simple solutions. And keep the innovations coming.

Americans want to be Bill Gates. Canadians want to be careful

Originally published on July 15, 2014 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail:

Someone recently asked me if I found any differences between the audiences I speak to in Canada and the U.S. The answer is yes. “Americans want to be Bill Gates. Canadians want to be careful.”

I’m not sure why this is. While Canadians are known for their more conservative approach in general, our entrepreneurs were at least as daring as the Americans’ in opening up the West, building the national railway, and pushing back the frontiers of communications, medicine, and technology. Still, when I speak about entrepreneurship and innovation in the U.S., there’s buzz about success and fortune; you can almost hear the American Dream springing to life. In Canada, however, the word entrepreneur is still painfully associated with the term ‘small business.’

Across Canada, at cocktail parties and banker’s offices, our should-be heroes of industry and innovation are still too often dismissed as wild risk-takers who needlessly put their savings and financial security on the line. But entrepreneurship is so much more than that. Businesses that employ fewer than 500 people in North America have accounted for two-thirds of job growth in the past 10 to 20 years. The dreamers and the risk-takers are the growth engine that drive our economies. So let’s not label the entrepreneurs behind these businesses and the opportunities they pursue ‘crazy.’ Rather, let’s go with ‘crazy important.’

Still, there is something to be said for the Canadian approach to entrepreneurship. While we need more people to take initiative and champion change, there’s merit in doing so conservatively. I like to advise entrepreneurs to dream big, but proceed with caution. What exactly does this mean? There is never a shortage of opportunities in business; they’re everywhere. The key to success lies not in putting all your hopes — and life’s savings — into the first Big Idea you see, but in taking time to define the very best venture you will actually choose to pursue.

In last month’s column, I addressed the process of bringing together your team to generate great new business ideas. We talked about the power of the group dynamic and the “Yes, and…” process that enables your team to generate a wall of Post-It notes full of ideas.

Once you’ve done that, however, you need to begin culling those ideas into a manageable short list. More importantly, your ideas should be relevant to you, your business and your prospective customers.

Sounds obvious, I know, but judging by the number of times that I read about companies selling off non-core assets or dropping unprofitable clients, I realize that dreams of glorious short-term returns too often overcome solid analytical thinking.

I approach opportunity assessment with a rigorous, three-pronged approach. I like to rank each business opportunity according to three criteria: global (which includes ensuring that each new idea aligns with your company’s high-level, strategic direction, its vision, its mission, and so on), sales and marketing (rigorously identifying the ideal customer, target markets, time-to-market, and the competitive landscape) and financial (analyzing the projected top-line revenue, contribution, productivity ratios, net profit, and so on). The bracketed examples are, of course, only a few of the concepts you need to think through; there are many others that your team will think of or may already have in place.

Before anyone on your team gets carried away by a shiny new idea, it’s extremely important that you rank each opportunity you are considering against all three of these criteria. Don’t fall into the trap of saying, “this is a great idea, even though it’s not in keeping with the long-term vision of the company. I’ll worry about getting back on-strategy next quarter.”

Unless you rank new opportunities thoroughly and objectively, ruthlessly matching them to your strategy and capabilities, you will have little chance of converting even the best new ideas into successful and highly profitable new products.

The moral of the story? Embrace the American dream, believe in the possibility of success, but exercise good old Canadian caution along the way.