Warp It’s Founder, Daniel O’Connor, is here to talk about disruption, innovation, and solving problems. Please read on and enjoy his interesting thoughts...
Defining a problem
I'm not an expert in disruption. I'm not an expert in innovation.
I'm an expert in defining a problem, and delivering a solution to solve that problem.
Organisations are struggling. We’ve been on the edge of recession almost constantly for the last ten years. Processes within a lot of organisations are broken. There's lots of duplication. There's lots of wasted time. I see this in waste management, sustainability, facilities management, procurement… really, I see it everywhere.
The response from organisations, generally, is to shrink the workforce because of this, and so they sack people.
You don't need to sack people, you just need to improve the processes, stop the duplication, and find ways do things better.
Why would you want to identify problems within your organisation? Because you want to improve things.
I’m going to show you how to identify an unmet need within your organisation or within your sector, be it waste management, sustainability, facilities management, procurement or any other department.
I'm going to tell you some stories from my own personal experience, so that you can relate them to your experiences and find the solutions that you desire.
I used to be a Waste Manager at a university, and within Facilities Management I would see large scale tangible waste every day. Waste is a symptom of a broken system, anywhere in the world, because you don’t get waste in nature.
Something I saw on an almost daily basis, for example, was someone throwing out a chair or desk, when it could quite clearly be reused elsewhere.
There are two pain points there. Firstly, you need to dispose of the chair, and that's going to cost you money, but secondly, if there is someone else in your organisation who actually needs a chair, and you're throwing one out, your system is broken.
You can call that an unmet need, or a couple of pain points.
In this particular scenario, the person who was disposing of the chairs was actually really frustrated about having to dispose of these chairs.
When I asked him why he was disposing of the chairs in this fashion, he said that it had been dumped on him at the very last minute without warning.
He's got no storage. He's got no time to find new owners for these chairs. He's got to get rid of them ASAP, so he has to throw them in the rubbish bin or dumpster. That’s a bad situation to find yourself in, but it’s something that is all too common for my liking.
That's when I started to explore this pain within the organisation.
Someone else phoned me up and they said they had 70 chairs to dispose of. I asked them “What's the timeline for disposal?” He said, “they're outside on the lawn right now”.
Another pain point.
That person's got no time, and he's got no storage, so the items get put outside. Luckily enough, the next day, I witnessed a delivery of 30 new chairs to the same address, so I asked the person (let's call him John):
"John, yesterday you got me to dispose of 70 chairs, but today you got a delivery of 30 chairs, almost exactly the same. What's going on?"
With that, John erupted in anger and said he knew nothing about the delivery of the new chairs. There were three departments, and the departments weren't talking to each other about disposals and needs. His anger was justified.
The pain point there was communication.
Here's another pain point. I witnessed this scenario when we were doing a building clearance. Staff had vacated the building and just left reusable items in a store cupboard for the building clearance contractors to dispose of. The pain point there is that they didn't know what to do with it. They had no route to find new homes for these items, so they just left them behind.
People have got no time. People have got no storage. People haven't got the time to find new homes for their old stuff.
I'm starting to really define a problem within an organisation.
Here's another one. I witnessed a building clearance where builders were just throwing out chairs into a skip. I asked the builders what was going on. They were angry because they were supposed to be doing an asbestos survey, but the client had left all of these chairs in a building.
The asbestos surveyors were being paid £2,000 a day to survey for asbestos, not to clear furniture. That is expensive and wasteful for the client.
Also, these chairs could find a home elsewhere very easily on the Warp It system.
To really define the issue, I spoke to all the stakeholders in the chain. I collected some data and feedback from their experiences and I set about building a solution.
The solution was an online platform which matches needs and wants, both now and in the future, one that plans for building moves, the day to day movement of surplus in an organisations, and features great options for users with or without storage.
I'm telling you this story because this is my own personal experience of defining a problem, identifying the pain points through different stakeholders in an organisation, really exploring what the problem was, redefining it really, really distinctly, and then coming up with a comprehensive solution.
Does that make Warp It a disruptor?
I don't consider Warp It to be a disruptor necessarily, but you can consider that we are disrupting the way organisations buy assets.
Here's a real life case study. Northumberland County Council signed up to Warp It. In the first six weeks, they analysed their spend before and after Warp It, and in the first six weeks, their spend in the furniture category only, went down £68K. That's their figures, not ours. Just by creating a nice, simple, easy platform where staff can share surplus assets, they reduced their spend by £68,000 in the furniture category only. We're disrupting how furniture is purchased.