Business musings

Articles and thoughts about all things innovative and strategic

Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Innovation  Our News  

Earlier in the year, we ran an innovation masterclass at the Coventry Growth Hub for the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce. It was great to see everyone getting their heads around innovation and what it means for their business. The event has been featured in C&W in Business and we thought you’d like to see the article.

Participants explore how to become more innovative during the Chamber’s January Masterclass run by strategic innovation consultancy Stocker Partnership

It’s looking like 2015 will be the year of innovation…

For the 30 businesses that attended the Chamber’s Innovation Masterclass run by Stocker Partnership, it’s looking like 2015 will be the year of innovation.

The well-attended event was relocated to the conferencing facilities at Cheylesmore House due to high demand from business professionals wanting to learn how to apply innovation in their businesses.

Innovation specialists Matt and Debbie Stocker from strategic innovation consultancy Stocker Partnership challenged participants to think differently about their businesses and to step beyond their everyday experiences.

They opened the group’s eyes to the fact that it is possible to innovate anything and everything within a business, rather than innovation being limited to the creation of new products alone.

Sarah Hickman from Public Marketing Communications said, “Innovation can seem like a daunting subject that doesn’t necessarily apply to your business on a day to day basis. When you think about innovation you tend to think of organisations like Apple. You might think, ‘I could never aspire to be an organisation like that.’

“The Masterclass has been useful because we’ve learnt ways that you can actually apply innovation to your business. Even if you’re a small business or a sole trader, you can still innovate and there are practical steps you can take to introduce innovation.”

The Masterclass covered a number of powerful innovation tools, from disruptive thinking that challenges accepted norms in your marketplace or company, to using the power of silent crowdsourcing to generate ideas and solve problems through BrainSwarming.

It also looked at how approaches from another industry can be introduced to expand thinking and unlock new ideas as the latest Software as a Service revenue models were applied to create new income streams. Participants worked hard throughout the morning to develop practical ideas that they could implement as soon as they got back to the office.

Matt Stocker, Director of Stocker Partnership, shared, “It was great to see everyone beginning to view themselves as innovators and starting to understand the value of innovation in their businesses at a deeper level. Innovation is a hugely powerful tool that can be used to drive revenue growth, reduce costs, solve complex challenges and differentiate businesses from the competition. I’m excited to see how the great ideas that everyone came up with will be applied in their respective businesses over the coming year and the impact that this will have.”

This article originally appeared in the May/June edition of C&W In Business, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber’s official magazine.

Posted by Matt Stocker, stored in: Innovation  Our News  

Introducing our Stocker Partnership video! Filmed and edited by the talented Nico Turner, it gives you a short introduction to who we are, what we do and how we do it. If you like what you see and wish to explore working together, do get in touch!


Continue reading for the full video transcript


From The Guardian to Cisco, big business to small, it seems that everybody is talking about the Internet of Things — but what exactly is IoT and why does it matter?

In our latest SlideShare, we take a deep dive to explore the many faces of IoT in Healthcare. Technology research and advisory company, Gartner currently place the Internet of Things at the peak of inflated expectations and there are certainly challenges. But IoT also holds real promise for healthcare and it is already making an impact today.

We demonstrate why the Internet of Things has a far reaching impact across all determinants of health and how it could lead to a broader model of healthcare. We look at some of the technologies that are available to buy or that are already in development today, whilst also exploring some of the very real challenges that integrating such technologies into healthcare presents. Finally, we offer some ideas about how you can get involved, whether you are a healthcare professional or not.

Find out more by viewing the SlideShare below.

Coventry MakerSpace
A couple of months ago, Coventry MakerSpace opened for business at the Koco Community Resource Centre in Spon End, Coventry. A really exciting addition to the local community, there are already some great projects underway, including MakerKids and a hand built Arcade Machine. If you fancy joining, membership is just £25 per month for unlimited access.

Back to my design roots

Debbie spotted Coventry MakerSpace via MeetUp a little while ago, and having persuaded me to go along to one of their Maker Open Nights (held every Thursday), I got the design itch again. In the last month or so, I finally made the leap to join.

Before my Management Sciences degree at Warwick, my original intention was to be an Industrial Product Designer and I completed the first year of an M/Des BSc in Industrial Product Design at Coventry University before transferring to Warwick. I don’t regret my degree or career change in the slightest, but I do still love design.

I love the way design trains you to think. How it teaches you to visualise ideas and bring them to life practically; to prototype, test, scrap stuff and start again. I love the constant learning as you challenge yourself to fuse ideas and concepts together into a cohesive whole. Once you’ve learnt to think that way, I don’t think it ever leaves you.

So having decided to join MakerSpace, all I needed was something to design and make! Given that we work with a lot of technology and software businesses, I wanted to choose a challenge that would be relevant, that would develop my skills and understanding, and that would, of course, be fun.

My other requirement was that I wanted to write a series of articles both on the project itself and on some of my thoughts about the design/creation process. I’d like to include some of the interesting technologies I come across along the way too.

A good excuse for a Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi (portrait)Having been hankering after a Raspberry Pi for a while, I decided to base whatever I designed around that. In some ways it feels like a cliché—make something, use a Raspberry Pi, post it on Instructables. Even so, I loved the potential flexibility of the Pi—it is essentially a blank canvas, albeit with certain constraints. With the arrival of the Pi—the new B+ revision with 512MB RAM and micro SD card—at the Stocker Partnership offices, I really had no excuse!

Given that the main reason I was drawn to the Pi was its flexibility, I wanted to create something that didn’t hinder this and that stayed true to the blank canvas approach. The issue with failing to narrow the scope adequately, of course, is you can end up with something that does nothing very well—not unlike the new F-35 Fighter Jet, although my project is admittedly significantly less expensive! A Frankenstein of design, if you like.

In narrowing the scope, I did know that I wanted whatever I made to be audio focused and to have a touchscreen interface. I also knew I didn’t want it to look like spaghetti junction with wires sprawling in all directions, unlike most of the Pi creations I’d seen. I knew I wanted the project to be my own creation and that I didn’t want to just follow someone else’s instructions—ideally, I’d like to do something a bit unique. Finally, I wanted to 3D print, and potentially laser cut, the case to explore these technologies in a product design/prototyping context.

So I wouldn’t say the above counts as a ‘clear brief’ as such. More, a creative direction in which to explore further. This outline was certainly good enough for me—and given that I am both the client and the designer, I’m pretty confident that I can clarify more further down the line when I know more about what’s actually feasible!

Watch this space for more updates as I work on the project…

MakerSpaces are creative spaces in which people can gather to create, invent, design and learn. Typically, these community spaces provide access to opportunities and technologies, such as 3D printers, computer-aided design (CAD) software and wood working tools, that would otherwise be inaccessible or unaffordable for many. 

Coventry MakerSpace has been set up to support the makers, engineers, designers, artists, programmers, computer scientists, modellers and all the other people who like being creative in Coventry. It’s an organisation run by members for members in a relaxed and safe environment. To find out more about Coventry MakerSpace, visit @CovMakerSpace
Facebook Coventry MakerSpace
Wiki Coventry MakerSpace Wiki

Not only has Debbie’s work been published on one of Hong Kong’s leading education websites but Matt’s opinions have now reached as far afield as Australia. In September, we received a rather surprise email from the editor of Tasmanian Business Access asking if it would be possible to feature Matt’s review of one of the best selling business books of all time, Good to Great by Jim Collins. Of course, we were delighted to say yes.

Tasmanian Business Access connects with the people and businesses of Tasmania, one of Australia’s most dynamic regions. Each month, 20,000 copies are distributed direct to businesses, networking groups and selected residential areas throughout Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport.

Matt’s review was featured alongside the thoughts of Iain Bayly, Editor and Publisher of Tasmanian Business Access. For this article and others, including insights on creating a learning culture, why sales doesn’t have to be a necessary evil, and when business failure is not business failure, download the full publication.

Header of the Tasmanian Business Access October 2014 edition

Tasmanian Business Access - Good to Great Book Review

Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Innovation  Leadership  
Allan MurungiIntroducing guest writer, Allan Murungi

Today, we’re thrilled to introduce a new guest writer to our blog, Allan Murungi. As someone who is studying for an MBA at Warwick Business School, we met Allan at a WBS case study event earlier this year and were instantly impressed with his passion and enthusiasm. In his own words, Allan is an Innovation and Creativity enthusiast, IT Professional, Warwick MBA student, avid book reader and (recently) keen (road bike) cyclist.

The story of IBM’s resurgence during the period 1994 to 1998 is a story of innovation and creativity from the bottom up, started and championed by David Grossman. Grossman’s vision and tenacity resulted in IBM transforming itself from a company that was in decline into an Internet Services firm that rode the wave of e-commerce opportunities to the tune of $20 billion by the end of 1998.

And yet this begs the questions: Who was David Grossman? How did he manage to lead this innovation effort at IBM? And can this innovation and creativity process be replicated?

In organisations, innovation and creativity have traditionally been considered the domains of Chief Executives and other members of the C-suite. The best example of this is perhaps John Chen, formerly of Sybase Inc., who is now leading the turnaround at BlackBerry. As recently as June of this year, BlackBerry has, under his leadership, reported a positive net income of $23 million, up from an $84 million loss during the same period last year.

Innovation and creativity are also generally considered the domain of Research and Development. For instance, the vaunted R&D division of Apple gave us the iPod and iPhone, while Pfizer, the US pharmaceuticals giant, has maintained its dominance through such R&D as developed Viagra.

Where does David Grossman fit in all of this?

During the Winter Olympics of 1994, David Grossman, then described as a midlevel programmer at IBM, sat at home watching the Olympics on TV. As the official technology partner of the Olympics, IBM was responsible for collecting and displaying all the results. This gave the firm the exclusive privilege of displaying the IBM logo at the bottom of the screen, together with an interleaving of IBM ads at regular intervals.

However, upon surfing the Internet, Grossman discovered that Sun Microsystems had set up a rogue Olympics streaming site, complete with the Sun logo and marketing. As such, if someone only had access to this online stream, they would be given the impression that Sun Microsystems was the Winter Olympics’ official sponsor!

Grossman promptly reported this to his superiors, which resulted in IBM’s legal team sending Sun Microsystems a cease-and-desist letter. But Grossman didn’t stop there. He saw the opportunity that the Internet presented and set out to get IBM on board.

First, he set up a demonstration for senior executives in which he showed them exactly what the Web was and the vast potential it held for IBM. This piqued their interest and got their support. Grossman then became the right-hand man to John Patrick, who was present at Grossman’s first demonstration and worked in corporate strategy. Together, they worked on projects to convert IBM’s disparate divisions to the potential of the Web and to design IBM’s first homepage. Grossman and a handful of IBM’s best Web engineers rescued the website that broadcast the chess match between world champion, Gary Kasparov, and IBM Supercomputer, Deep Blue. By the time the Summer Olympics came around in 1996, IBM had built the first ever Olympics website, which also happened to be the world’s largest website at the time. And by 1998, IBM had a huge web presence!

So what does this mean for innovation in your organisation?

Grossman was just a frontline employee. He certainly didn’t have responsibility for innovation and creativity in IBM and he wasn’t part of the strategic planning team. And yet his contribution is credited with enabling IBM to successfully harness the power of the Internet at a critical time, in turn ensuring that the company maximised its potential.

The question then is: Was IBM lucky to have the tenacious and passionate David Grossman on its team?
And the answer is: Absolutely!

Would IBM have got on board with the potential of the internet without him? Maybe/Eventually/Possibly.

Our questions to you then are:

  • What is your innovation and creativity strategy?
  • What are you doing to support and engage your frontline employees in innovation for your company?
  • Are there systems in place to capture the generation of ideas, select the best ones and try them out?
And for those of you who like the research…

The complete story of IBM’s turnaround can be read at Harvard Business Review:
Waking up IBM: how a gang of unlikely rebels transformed Big Blue

Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Our News  

Photo of Matt sitting in front of a radio microphone and wearing headphonesEarlier this summer, one of our good friends, Adair Richards, invited Matt to appear on Radio Plus.

On Monday evenings, Adair presents a drive time show, in which he invites local and global stars to the studio for some honest chat.

In a short interview, Matt and Adair chatted all things business. Highlights included the motivation behind setting up a business, what it’s like to work with a business partner who also happens to be your wife, thoughts on consultancy, and ideas about how to solve the England football team’s crisis in the World Cup!

Listen to the full interview below (approximately 12.5 minutes). You can also check out Adair’s show every Monday between 5pm to 7pm on Radio Plus, 101.5FM.

Continue reading for the full interview transcript

Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Innovation  Our News  Strategic Planning  

Our Agile Strategy Planner is a brand new tool that enables you to create a dynamic strategy. We’ve been using it in our work with clients for just over a year now and thought that it was about time to release it into the wild!

The Planner acts as a bridge between strategic intent—that is, your vision, strategic priorities and core objectives—and detailed implementation. It allows you to take your intentions and to rapidly prototype what these might look like in reality. As you visualise how one objective impacts another, you’ll quickly be able to see whether your strategy is realistic and if you need to scale back your plans or can in fact afford to be even more ambitious.

Well documented strategic plans are important but there’s a danger that they become a weighty tome sitting on a shelf gathering dust. Their relevance can also be fleeting for those firms that operate in fast-moving, unpredictable markets. We wanted to create an approach that was different. As a tool, the Agile Strategy Planner is flexible, collaborative, transparent, easy to use and visual. It’s also suitable for all kinds of organisations—from software to services, corporates to charities, and everything in-between.

We’ve released the Agile Strategy Planner under Creative Commons so it’s free to use and adapt, even commercially. The only requirements are that you share alike under the same license and that you give appropriate credit to us, the Planner’s original creators.

We’ll be sharing more of the thinking behind the design of the Agile Strategy Planner soon but in the meantime, find out more by viewing the SlideShare below—the short guide has all the lowdown you need to get started. Free downloads for both the 3-year and 5-year planner are also included or simply download now.

If you use the Agile Strategy Planner in your organisation, if you have thoughts, feedback or ideas that you’d like to share, or if you progress our work under creative commons, we’d love to hear all about it! Do drop us a line and feel free to share on Twitter #AgileStrategyPlan

Earlier this year, we were busy researching, writing and designing the challenge for the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition.

Held on 25-26 April by Warwick Business School, the competition brought together multi-disciplinary teams from 12 university-based business schools across Europe. In a close-run contest, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford emerged victorious, walking away with both the title and the £4,000 prize.

Sponsored by global providers of transformational medical technologies and services, GE Healthcare, and global business and technology leader, IBM, the competition was focused on a big data solution designed to both stimulate progress in clinical neuroscience and improve outcomes for those with a neurological disorder.

Taking up the challenge to recommend a scaleable business model for this digital product were teams from Aston Business School, Cranfield School of Management, ESADE (Spain), HEC Paris (France), IE Business School (Spain), Lancaster University Management School, Manchester Business School, Mannheim Business School (Germany), SDA Bocconi (Italy), University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, and Warwick Business School.

Photo and Twitter collage from the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition showing the welcome icebreaker event on Friday night, the kick off of the competition day itself, and case materials.

On hand to act as a sounding board for participants as teams developed their ideas were experts from GE Healthcare, IBM, KPMG, the NHS Health & Social Care Integration Centre, University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire, Warwick Medical School, and WebMD.

Adding another invaluable perspective were Ken Howard and Dorothy Hall, to whom we were introduced by client and changemaker, Gill Phillips, creator of the award-winning Whose Shoes? approach.

Ken describes himself as an old biker, sci-fi fan, granddad, music lover and free thinker. He was diagnosed with dementia around 8 years ago but has been living with its effects for much longer. Although little can be done medically, Ken is determined to fight dementia every day by challenging himself and staying involved as much as he can.

I am conscious that I have a short shelf-life. It makes me impatient and frustrated that progress is so slow. I am trying to achieve as much as I can. There is life after diagnosis.

Dorothy is an Independent Social Worker and Practice Educator. Like Ken, and having had personal experience herself caring for a close relative with dementia, she is passionate about increasing awareness. Dorothy is also an advocate for flexible, personalised, imaginative care arrangements.

Together, experts and advocates prompted participants to an awareness of multiple perspectives and the vast array of complex challenges involved. Neurological conditions include not only Alzheimer’s disease and dementia but also stroke, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and more. Collectively, such conditions are estimated to affect up to one billion people worldwide and the World Health Organization believes these disorders represent one of the greatest threats to public health today.

Photo and Twitter collage from the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition showing participants meeting with experts, teams working on the challenge and a team as they presented.

Not only was it timely to focus on neurological conditions but big data solutions to global health challenges are extremely current. Enterprises of all sizes are grappling with demanding technological, regulatory and market challenges, and the business models required continue to be disruptive. Neither the participants nor the judges had an easy task ahead!

In a twist on last year’s format, teams were judged over two rounds. Mannheim Business School, ESADE and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford emerged as semi-finalists, after which the three teams were given one final challenge to reconcile against the clock.

Photo and Twitter collage from the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition showing  the three semi-finalists (Mannheim Business School, ESADE and Said Business School, University of Oxford) in action.

After much deliberation by a judging panel that included senior industry experts and leading academics, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford were pronounced the winning team.

With combined experience in medicine, pharmaceuticals, neuroscience and computer science, the team not only delivered a strong presentation but were able to answer all the judges’ questions with persuasive reasoning and supporting evidence. Together, Grace Lam, Yen Nyugen, Marco Pimentel, and Sindhura Varanasi presented a well thought out approach to a tough challenge.

And although there could only be one winner, all were worthy contestants.

Photo and Twitter collage from the 2014 WBS International Healthcare Case Competition showing the winner's announcement, judging in action, and experts, judges and the WBS Executive Team..

Once again, feedback on the day was incredibly positive, and as Warwick MBA student and competition organiser, Corinne Montefort, said: “The competition was a great success.”

As always, it has been our absolute pleasure to be involved. The work of both WBS staff and the Case Competition’s student Executive Team was outstanding and we’ve been privileged to work alongside such an array of great people, from sponsors to experts and judges. Thanks must go to all.

Looking forward to next year and watching the competition grow once again!

In the meantime, we leave you with kind words from two members of the final judging panel…

Debbie and Matt of Stocker Partnership prepared the case study which formed the basis of the Warwick Business School International Healthcare Case Competition 2014. The quality of their preparation and investigation was impeccable and the case set up a highly engaging and challenging scenario on which the whole competition revolved. I’d have no hesitation in recommending Stocker Partnership for this or related specialist support and I’d be delighted to work with their team again!

Dr Jagdeesh Singh Dhaliwal
Medical Advisor, Healthcare Technology & Innovation, Global Government & Health
BT Global Services

I really enjoyed the case presentation, and given the time constraints, the scope was judged very well. Complex and with sufficient detail, the literature review, ambiguous data, overview of the environment, and the setting of some true and false trails for the students all worked well. If the participants worked well as a team, with the right experts – as Oxford did – then they could make a very good showing.

Alan Davies
Medical Director, Global Medical Affairs
GE Healthcare

Coverage elsewhere around the web

Warwick Business School: Said win £4,000 and WBS Case Competition

University of Oxford: CDT in Healthcare Innovation student Marco Pimentel and team from Said win WBS International Healthcare Case Competition

Mannheim Business School: MBS participants succeed at renowned Warwick Business School Case Competition


Have you ever wondered exactly what corporate values and purpose are or how to go about defining them for your organisation?

Based on our own experience and drawing on research from Jim Collins, Jerry Porras and Nikos Mourkogiannis, amongst others, our short guide gives you the low down on exactly what values and purpose are, why they matter to an organisation, and how to work with your people to create them. Real world examples from a wide range of organisations, businesses and charities (such as Google, Help for Heroes, Volvo, P&G, the RNLI, and more) are included, along with practical exercises for you to work through.

To find out more, view the SlideShare below.