Charles Boulton Innovation Coach

Previous Work

Please click on the example projects below for more details.

Coaching a main board director during the creation and launch of an innovative service that reshaped corporate direction

I helped a director of a progressive housing association during the introduction of a new service portfolio. I acted as a discussion partner as she defined the new services and introduced them, initially in the face of deep scepticism from her board colleagues. Then as the new services impinged on the mainstream organisational functions we helped her to choose her stance on key boundary issues and to navigate the organisational politics to support the new services. Finally we crafted her assessment of the impact of the new services and justification of the future funding of expanded services in her part of the organisation. Bringing objectivity and innovation evaluation tools I helped her build robust arguments and to plan strategies in the face of organisational opposition.

Helping a cosmetics company transform their innovation, product development, product management, processes and culture

I led a client taskforce that overhauled their innovation and product development and launch processes. The diagnostic demonstrated shortfalls and value destruction and helped us to prioritise attention on key areas of product definition, on working with suppliers and on transfer to manufacture. With three parallel teams we redesigned the processes and the organisational structure, while highlighting underlying cultural barriers that would block improvement. Therefore we embarked on a culture change programme to underpin the roll-out. I coached the teams and the first few product development projects as we successfully rolled out the new approaches over six months. As a result of this project the client secured a £10M p.a. contract with a major retailer and re-launched their flagship range which achieved a 20% uplift in sales

Helping a global food company create a strategy for innovation, new innovation processes, organisation and planning the change programme

Leading a client taskforce drawn from across the company I helped them to work up a new innovation strategy, setting priorities and directions as they changed focus to build branded products. We worked up new innovation and product development processes and designed the organisation and jobs to support the new ways of working. We developed a change programme for roll-out. Their new strategy has enabled them to grow volume and margins in new areas despite the cost pressures of increasing commodity prices.

Helping an aerospace company review a novel power technology and plan its exploitation

I helped them to assess the potential for, and write the business plan for exploitation of a key technology within the company. Working with a client analyst we assessed candidate markets and business models, identified critical technology performance attributes and their likely evolution from development plans, especially against competing technologies. We explored exploitation options, both inside and outside the company and began the search for a champion to take the technology beyond the development lab. Although we identified more than £10M of opportunities, the risks posed by competing technologies and the likely evolution of key markets made the overall proposition unattractive.

Working with a corporate venturing team to redefine their role, change strategy and trim the portfolio

I helped a team to assess the corporate venturing activities of a global aerospace company. Reviewing their strategy, we assessed the structure and management processes and discussed the team's aspirations and performance to date. We agreed new screening and assessment criteria and evaluated their current portfolio of projects. By talking to the corporate venturing arms of companies in the electronics, defence, telecommunications and FMCG sectors we collected valuable insights to benchmark our client's operations. We recommended changes to improve the strategic impact of their venturing as well as streamlining the cost base of their portfolio.

Coaching a spin-out team as they built an independent corporate entity

I worked with a new venture team as they carved out a fuel cell manufacturing operation from a commercial parent, attracted investor and strategic support, helping them to define their commercial and technical objectives and prepare for investor due diligence. I helped the management group to define their product development and launch plans and coached their integration into a cohesive team. My work provided a foundation for the appointment of the executive team to the separate corporate entity, valued today in excess of £200M.

Helping a drinks company choose its technologies for the future

I first worked with this company in 1997, helping them to craft a technology strategy that enabled them to become leaders in the development and launch of new drinks. We worked together again in 2004, this time as I coached a team drawn from across its UK and US operations to develop a new technology strategy to reflect the emergence of global brands across global markets and changes in consumer preferences. I was invited back in 2009 to review their updated strategy, this time with an emphasis on open innovation to increase the cost-effectiveness of their product development and to reflect the growing concerns about energy and water use in operations. This continuing relationship has been underpinned by their continuing desire to be a leading innovator in their market.

Working with an investment bank to identify innovation trends

For four years I have been working with an investment bank, reviewing trends and the unfolding landscape of global corporate innovation change and innovation on a quarterly basis. As a discussion partner, my role is to bring an external perspective from working across many sectors to help them to choose themes to guide investment, to identify weak signals that indicate investment opportunities and to ask the interesting questions that open up new areas of opportunity.

Helping a corporate development team map its mission, role, processes and culture

My client had set up a team specifically to pursue innovation and new business opportunities within a global commodities producer. They asked for help in describing their mission and proposition to make themselves of most value to the business units. In a series of workshops we went on to articulate a role that would be valuable, attractive to recruits and with an impact that could be measured. From here, we worked up management processes and KPIs and identified the culture that the team's founders believed would ensure success. The team has totally exceeded expectations, initiating projects that have delivered more than £5M in savings and that offer well over £50M in additional revenue.

Auditing a telecomms project, helping the manager to refocus the team

The project was behind schedule and over budget and if it failed it would threaten the company's survival. I was asked to review the project and worked with the project manager to prioritise the recovery actions, to refocus the team onto a new plan and to rebuild corporate confidence in the team's work. Most importantly, I helped him to get a critical software team re-engaged and committed to the new plan. The product launched only a little late and the company survived.

Innovating with a heating products group's product team and creating a new technology strategy

The client was committed to innovation, but was being left behind by competitors. Suppliers controlled much of the important technology and new legislative pressures across Europe are both an opportunity and a threat. I worked with a team drawn from three group companies to develop innovation options, to specify the possible solutions and to map out implementation routes. Simultaneously we developed a new technology strategy to underpin new ways of working and we looked at how to rationalise the product range to focus on innovation. Within six months the new product ranges were under development, the innovation options being pursued and an overhaul of the routes to market had commenced.

Coaching start-up and spin-out teams from universities and companies

I have worked with a number of start-ups, helping to define strategy, to articulate a clear proposition and to design the business models. I've coached embryonic teams and helped prepare investor presentations. I've created financial forecasts and marketing materials. Speed, pragmatism and objectivity are key in such cases in order to identify the opportunity accurately and hit the market window to build revenue before the cash runs out.

Helping a software company to find new customers and business models

Working in a small client team for a financial services provider of backbone software services and tools we explored their opportunities in exploiting Web 2.0 technologies as a service to their client base. Surveying the market I found intense competition, but we identified a business model that would build on their unique client relationships. Reshaping the proposition we worked with them to create a proposal that is now embedded within their strategic plans for the next few years, building a whole new area for the organisation.

Helping a medical products company to improve risk management

The client had an enviable reputation for developing and launching innovative new products; indeed they had created whole new product families in their market by working closely with leading medical specialists and practitioners. However, the company had strayed into technologies that it didn't fully understand and had incurred financial losses from warranty and repair claims from its most recent product. Working alongside the product management and development teams we reshaped the portfolio and created new management processes to explicitly identify and manage new product development risk. After two years without a new product the company launched six within eighteen months, none of which succumbed to their previous reliability issues.

Aligning the marketing and product development teams of a drinks company, improving collaboration for better product launch

It started as a strategy problem, but it soon became clear that personality clashes and mutual incomprehension between the marketing teams and the development teams were crippling their capacity to bring products to market. I worked with individuals and then with teams and then collectively to uncover the difficulties, to find solutions and to build a cohesive innovation community. The next new product achieved double-digit growth for the next five years and became leader in its category.

Helping an organisation manage a change programme through a period of austerity

I had worked for this client a number of years earlier, helping them to understand 'the unwritten rules of the game' and they asked me back to help them manage a culture change to a new world of constrained resources and ever-greater outsourcing. We reviewed the unwritten rules, showing how some would block organisational flexibility while others could act as levers for change. We developed a change programme that is scalable and low key, fits their new aspirations for culture and is maximally cost-effective.

Updates and recent work can be found at Latest Work.

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