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We thought we were being innovative, but we weren’t

We thought we were being innovative, but we weren’t

Hive is one of Cervus Defence’s solutions to help militaries all over the world make better use of the vast amounts of data that underpin all training activity.

Alan Roan, Managing Director and co-Founder of Cervus Defence, and Amanda Coleman, Chief Scientific Officer at Cervus Defence, tell us about their experience of SETsquared’s online Innovation Workout.

Alan: Cervus Defence has been in business for seven years and started off as a venture by three ex-military personnel that wanted to make decision-making better for the military. We’re based in the Porton Science Park in Wiltshire.

We provide analytics and turn them into decision support and performance assessments for the frontline to move them from being predominantly reactive to data-driven. The analytics we provide are optimised for the job that organisations are currently trying to do, diving deeper to capture KPIs that more accurately measure performance. The organisations we work with might be in the military, branches of government, or any company doing frontline work that’s safety critical.

What were your main takeaways from the Innovation Workout?

Alan: The Innovation Workout allowed us to test not just our annual business plan, but also our long-term business plan, and it was really helpful to have someone external testing it.

It also gave us the opportunity to communicate our ideas with some incredibly punchy, external assessors, who would feedback constructive criticism but also advice. For me, getting advice from these experienced people who’ve done it before was gold dust and I could have paid a fortune for that if the Innovation Workout hadn’t come along.

I really enjoyed it because it was like a speed dating of ideas, it forced me to sit down and do tasks quickly.

Amanda: I think even in a small organisation like ours, that creative element of innovation usually gets forced to the sides when you’re having to deal with sales and processes, and all the day-to-day constraints. That’s what we were trying to carve out time to do, so it was really good to be properly immersed for three days.

The other thing that I really enjoyed was being in a virtual room with loads of people who were at different stages of the innovation journey including an organisation that was probably a few steps ahead of us in terms of their capability. I enjoyed throwing ideas around with them and even though you’re solving someone else’s distribution crisis, it meant that we were being creative and thinking in a different way, and then applying that back onto our own environment. This gave us the opportunity to apply better lateral thinking and to see how others would come at the problem.

Have you seen any positive changes in your business since the Innovation Workout?

Alan: The Workout changed the way I was thinking and made me realise that I needed to split the business because we thought we were being innovative, but we weren’t. We’ve reorganised the business as a direct result of the Innovation Workout and we’ve now created an innovation practice that’s driving our value propositions. I think we’ve now got a much better and more focused approach to the way we’re going to do things.

It also really helped me understand what the mutual benefits of partnering with academia are and how accessing grants could fund certain parts of our growth strategy.

Amanda: The Workout exposed to me a way of reinvigorating innovation and bringing it into this small enterprise where we have the freedom to apply it however we want. Although we still have a process to ensure we capture everything and stay on track, the Workout’s approach was much better. The new approach focused on the idea of the feasibility and attractiveness of the idea, and then focussed later on whether it’s going to make money or if it’s worth doing, which I really liked.

Would you recommend the Innovation Workout?

Alan: We have seen massive, genuine value in the Workout and the post-event side of things. We’ve had some really useful conversations and advice on investment, and we now understand the grant process a bit better.

You’ve got to come at it with a completely open mindset and you get out of it what you put in, and we just went for it.

Amanda: It’s definitely worth having a conversation with the SETsquared team to find out more, because there’s lots of support there even if the Innovation Workout isn’t quite right for you. I think it’s really useful and is a great opportunity to have a go at it for free.

The next Innovation Workout is taking place on 13 & 14 June.

Find out more about the Innovation Workout





The Swindon & Wiltshire Digital Business Acceleration Hub and the SME Competitiveness programme are both part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

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