During last few days I have been fortunate enough to participate in few meetings with our top management and these meetings have been a huge learning experiences for me. One such learning, was using storyline technique for writing effective presentation, email or blogging.

The technique is called The Minto Pyramid Principle, or the SCQA technique. The SCQA technique provides you with a flow, that you could use to write your storyline. It helps you write introductions that engages the audience attention before they are told the answers.

Ohh, by now you must be wondering what does SCQA mean? So before you get any impatient, let me describe them,

  • Situation – describe what is the current situation
  • Complexity – describe the tension / issue in the situation
  • Question – describe the question in response to the issue / tension
  • Answer – suggest answer to ease out or mitigate the issue / tension

Now lets take few minutes to describe what each of above point means.

Situation

As I mentioned earlier, the Situation describes what is the current situation with regards to the subject. This could be something that the audience may already know. This establishes the context of the discussion.

As soon as the audience might think I know this, what different are you telling me?  you know you have hooked them in the discussion and you may want to start telling them about the complexity.

Example

For last 6 months our availability has been very good and above the threshold.

 

Complexity

Ok, you set up the context and you have explained the situation. However, now is the time when you actually mention the actual problem or an issue that you want your audience to know.

The answer to the question What happens now that we understand the situation or  What happens next? might help you create a tension un the minds of audience with regards to the story you are telling. Also, once you trigger the tension or curiosity about the possible question, its time you tell the question.

Example

However, this month the situation has changed and we had an unwanted dip in the availability statistics.

 

Question

The question will arise logically after the context you have set and problem complexity you have mentioned in earlier two points. In most of the cases it might automatically come in the minds of the audience, but you may just want to logically put the question forward.

Example

So what do we need to do to recover from the availability loss and resolve the situation?

 

Answer

The answer to the question is the main substance of the whole story and you have to make your point emphatically here.  Try to summarise your answer first – completing your introduction to the answer and later break it down into details and write the main body of your presentations or story.

Example

We need to complete find the root cause of the problem. Ensure the problem is fixed and put a plan for prevention of reoccurrence.

 

I am convinced that using this technique for providing updates would be really effective in day to day work, however I am sure it would take a bit more time for me to actually understand practice the SCQA technique.

After all, this has been explained to us by our Vice president and he seems very convinced of the benefits of using this techniques 🙂

The method is explained in greater detail in Barbara Minto’s book "The Minto Pyramid Principle".

First of all, I must apologize to myself for not being able to post anything on the blog.  Its indeed been a very hectic time both at work as well as at home.

Indeed, its not easy to be a father of two !!

Anyways, back to the topic !

I always thought innovation is something that can never be taught on the job and I thought it must come from within individual to break the mould and find out better ways of doing the job. I never thought that you can actually teach someone to think innovative and come up with innovative ideas, implement the innovation concepts and practice innovation techniques.

How wrong I was to think that !

I have been part of the Innovation Sessions in my organization and the experience there has been nothing short of great. Not only these sessions have given me a direction to think different on innovation, but also to learn more on various innovation techniques and processes. 

With this post, I would starting a new article series Learning Innovation based on my own learning and my thoughts on the same. I hope this first post will give you few leads to help yourself learn more on innovation techniques and processes so you can also try them in your organization,

 

Innovation by Subtraction

Innovation by Subtraction is a bit uncommon process but might yield surprising results.

To use the IbS process for doing an innovation in a process, we are expected to make a list of components of the process. The list should contain the MUST have components of the process. Now, as a part of the IbS, you are expected to brainstorm on how the process would still function without each of the components.  We are expected to innovate the potential value or benefits would be without the components.

However, the most important part of the solution must be the fact that the solution should not compromise the business value or benefits coming out the process. It should sound like a workable business idea !

The examples we discussed within our session were very interesting and the ideas that came out were even better. Have a look at the following table which might give you an idea on how radical can your thinking get when you remove the most essential part (you thought) from your process, service, product.

 

Product / process

Most essential part of your product / process

Innovative Solutions when you remove the most essential part

Mobile phone Battery charging

Can the phone use solar energy?
Can the phone use bio cells?
Can the phone breath?
Self sustaining power?

Laptop Keyboard Can it use touch screen?
Can it use gesture control?
Can it read your brain?
Shopping Shops Shopping as a service?
Can the experience be made better?
Assisted shopping with experts?
Better value for money?

 

IbS has been a catalyst for many great innovations over the year.  Most notably of them were,

Phone call with IVR (Interactive Voice Recording)

The most important thing when you deal transactions on phone, are of course the people.  You need someone to listen to you and act on your instructions or help you in dealing issues. Now when you apply the IbS rule to this process of a phone call and remove the most important part of the process, the listener (person) and replace with an automated solution, what remains is an innovative solution of IVR.

Business benefits – Significant reduction of costs, reduction in errors, more customer satisfaction in general.

Client server technology

The most important part of the computer functionality was the business processing and the subsequent hardware that is consumed by desktop PCs do support the business processing. When you remove both 1. an ability to compute itself  and 2. CPU unit, what remains is an innovative solution of Client server technology. The server controls the business processing and has significant CPU power while the clients are more of dumb terminals with only monitor & keyboard as significant hardware. You can still perform full tasks and can add more terminals with less costs.

Business benefits – Significant reduction of costs, space & consistent performance

Touchscreen

Did you ever think of any computing device until last few years with no keyboard to interact with? Calculators, mobile phones, notebooks, desktops were all having dedicated keyboards for users to interact with them. You now take out the most important part of the device interaction i.e. keyboard and the innovative solution is to have a touch screen interface. Touchscreen technology has been touted as one of the most popular device interaction technology now a days with more and more devices giving option of touch screens.

Business benefits – Style factor, bigger screen areas, better interaction techniques

 

So, think on you can use the IbS technique for finding out innovative ideas and solutions for your processes, services.