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When you watch or read about Space X’s latest feats in space, or when you learn new facts about what’s going on in the space station, or when space modules are landing on Mars, you know for sure there’s a lot of highly competent suppliers providing all of the components necessary to make those journeys possible.
Welcome to Grant Anderson’s world. He is the co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Paragon Technologies, providing safety and climate controls for astronauts making those journeys. The company’s vision is to possess an “adventuresome spirit seeking solutions that allow humans to expand their previous limits.”
It would not surprise you that he is quick to quote passages from the book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” written by Clayton Christensen, a guru of disruptive innovation who died in 2020.
Christensen opens the book with a cogent observation: How was Amazon capable of displacing Sears as the number one go-to option for American consumers wanting to purchase needed products or services?
His inquiry was very important because all business leaders fully understand their companies are subject to disruption in the marketplace in ways they could never have anticipated.
So, what is the prescription for staying ahead of the curve of disruptive technology?
Christensen suggested several practices that can assure continued technological leadership. He asked:
Grant Anderson embeds those practices in how Paragon delivers innovative solutions to its customers’ needs. Since those frequently require government compliance, they have to get it right.
When his team works for the customer, they spend a lot of time upfront trying to understand what the customer’s real challenges will be. Frequently, new technology is so sophisticated they don’t fully understand their needs.
At the end of that process, they put down the insights they picked up from the customers in writing. They want the customer to approve that working document. If the customer suggests changes, those are incorporated and agreed to in writing.
They do not employ PowerPoint. Anderson quotes Yale professor Edward Tufte, who argued in a feature article in “The Wire” magazine that PowerPoint has become more of a tool that helps the presenter rather than the audience; hence, it becomes more of a lobbying tool than a precise analysis of the real problems.
The advantage of Paragon’s approach is that the risk of new technology is shared between you, the developer and the customer. It reduces the risk of blindsiding the customer.
Paragon also ensures that the new technology teams are kept small and focused in accordance with Christiansen’s recommendation.
Finally, the testing stage is performed using the lean methodology. They try to test inexpensively so they can adjust until they find a workable solution. Sometimes that means dates for completion have to be adjusted or altered.
This is preferable to the typical American approach to innovation: “Shoot ready aim.”
But remember that taking the time upfront in the innovative process dramatically reduces the risk of failure when your product is ready for market. Or with Paragon, one might say it’s ready for launch!
They cannot afford to have failures.
I recommend you meet with teams assigned to any new technological initiative for a customer and lay out the steps they will religiously follow until the customer signs off and is ready for market.
Lastly, Paragon is continually asking its customers that are strategic partners what new and innovative technology trends they see coming. What do they feel is not working?
That information is captured and helps Paragon focus on presenting new and innovative ideas to solve those potential or emerging problems.