Friday, November 21, 2014

Collaboration & Chaos: How to Manage Innovation & Leadership in Complex Systems?

Many of our past Front End of Innovation (FEI) attendees in the US and the EMEA have been fortunate enough to hear a keynote from Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius, Director, The Kaos Pilots – International School of New Business Design & Social Innovation.

Photo Credit: Øystein Eugene Hermstad

As one of our most popular and though-provoking past speakers, we are so excited to be able to support him in the next phase of his innovation journey. We invite the FEI community to partake in his PhD study around innovation and leadership in complex systems - seen through the lens of leadership, strategy and organisation.

There is so much emphasis on innovation as the solution to our pains and hopes - but in fact we do not a have an agreed upon system for it (like TQM for instance), indeed there is still quite some confusion and disagreement in the mere term innovation.

Christer is keen on asking a very fundamental question:

How do organisations actually innovate in these times?

  • Does it correspond with popular management books or other more academic theories? 
  • And, does it pay off? 
  • Is it possible to find new approaches that can help organisation be more effective in their pursuit of innovation, here-under better ways of organizing, leading, and/or developing and implementing strategies for innovation?   

FEI members are exclusively invited to fill out this survey, which asks about innovation within your organizations (it takes around 10 minutes). We ask that you please support this important work and look forward to sharing the results with all of you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Does Your Organization Really Want Disruptive Innovation?

I was recently at lunch with an innovation leader of a Fortune 500 organization. He is a super smart guy and also a great person to “chew the fat” on strategic issues with. We were talking about the desire from his leadership to focus on supporting the development of disruptive ideas.

While this is a really valid topic and there is much talk of the value of disruptive organizations and their ideas, we debated the ability of large, complex organizations to support disruptive thinking.

As you are likely aware, disruptive innovation has been the holy grail of success for corporate leadership over the past 20 years, in part driven by evangelists like Clayton Christensen and his consulting firm Innosight. Of course, since Clayton Christensen wrote his seminal book on disruptive innovation (The Innovator’s Dilemma) in 1997, the business world has drastically changed. The book has also come under scrutiny in a recent New Yorker magazine article that critically examined the underlying research of the book. In the article, Jill Lepore pulls apart certain elements of Clayton’s theory with focus on the motivators of disruptive innovation and an analysis of case studies that were used.

Despite these criticisms, the thinking around the value of disruptive innovation continues. In fact, it has become even more of a priority for leaders of mature businesses, as they see a steady stream of new entrants lining up to destroy their existing business models. In the past these leaders could rely on their scale and reach to crush upstarts. However, now (perhaps justifiably) they are seeing that technology, social and economic circumstances have converged to the point where challenger businesses can rapidly overtake incumbents.

It is only natural for leaders of established businesses to determine that they want to pursue disruptive innovation. Sure, in the right circumstances (e.g. desperate and in fear of imminent collapse), I think truly disruptive innovation can be a valid path to the long-term survival and growth of large, mature organizations. However, most organizations that I deal with are more stable. I feel that they talk about changing market dynamics, competitive landscape, and margin pressures as mid-term concepts, rather than immediate, burning needs that threaten the ongoing existence of their business. As a result, they talk (a lot) about pursuing disruptive innovation, but the reality is that they don’t really want, or are able, to support it.

The reasons for this are complex, but at its heart it is just easier in a large organization to say “no”, rather than a risky “yes”. Ironically “no” as a response rarely has any negative repercussions. Further, as a leader there is an infinite variety of ways to say “no”, without actually uttering the words. Ask for more details, direct the idea to another group, say “yes”, but with an impossible budget or timeline. It’s easy to kill an idea. Saying “yes”, can be risky and time consuming.

So we started talking about how these incumbent organizations can truly support disruptive ideas.

One option is to separate the ides out from the (possibly toxic) culture of the “mother ship” business and grow them through an incubator. The issue here is that the ideas eventually need to come back into the organization to generate the necessary returns, which is when the real problems start.

Alternatively, HR and innovation groups can partner and set up systems to encourage the development of new ideas, but small changes in set HR policies rarely make a long-term difference to how a company operates. We talked about open innovation as an opportunity, but once again, as that thinking is introduced into an organization, they are often shot down (it is generally far easier to say “no” when the idea came from outside).

In the end we both agreed that the only way for a large organization to develop disruptive ideas is to build a broad base of support from within the organization. Short-term steps won’t cut it in terms of developing ideas that seek massive change within an organization. It just makes sense when you think about it.

I have written about building this base of support in the past, but in short, it revolves around the need to build networks of employees within organizations that are connected with innovative thinking and approaches. Some companies choose to call individuals within these networks “Innovation Catalysts”, “Innovation Champions,” etc. Whatever they are called, it is important to note that there are a bunch of variables and approaches to growing these resources, but what is very important is that a full strategic framework to guide the development of the network going forward. Short-term thinking around these networks just won’t work.

So that was lunch. In retrospect I wish it was easier for large organizations to be disruptive, but like I said, it’s just a tough situation and requires a hell of a lot of energy to work well.

I will let you know what we talk about next time around.

About the Author: Anthony is the CEO of Culturevate (, an organization that empowers a company’s employees to execute ideas and inspire a culture of innovation, through employee networks, a resource portal and training programs (developed in association with Professor Chris Labash from Carnegie Mellon University). Anthony is a widely read author (, speaker and advisor to industry leaders at organizations such as Pfizer, U.S. Postal Service, Johnson & Johnson, ADP and Fidelity. He previously led The BNY Mellon innovation program and has a Masters of Commerce (University of Sydney) and Bachelor of Economics (University of Newcastle).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This Week in Innovation: 11/10/14 - 11/14/14

Dan Formosa: 9 Things To Stop Doing In Innovation

Disruption Signals Multi-Billion Dollar Opportunities: Tapping into convergence possibilities in a market worth $2.8 trillion over the next 5 years

Why Innovation Is More Than a Buzzword: It's a Necessity, Companies with in top quartile for innovation see higher growth rates

5 Lessons For Funding Innovation for Social Change

Innovation In Alcohol: Making Non-Alcoholic beer Non-Awful

Robo-Boom, Betting You'll Let Robots Into Your Wallet: Innovation in financial services

BitCoin 101: Why It's Attracting Wall Street Investment

Can Innovation Cause Inefficiencies? 5 things you are doing that might not be as helpful as you think

Why Purpose-Driven Innovation Trumps All: 3 Types of leadership and innovation

Is Apple Disrupting The U.S. Bond Market? Apple breaking into the bond market

About the Author:

Ryan Polachi is a contributing writer concentrating his focus on Marketing, Finance and Innovation. He can be reached at

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Funding Innovation: The Human Endeavor

To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause... -- Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha

Pick any blog about innovation, and you will see an article on the importance of failure. While most discuss how critical it is to fail, I beg to differ, and what most people are referring to with failure is actually just the prototyping process. We know that we will need multiple iterations in order to be successful, and we accept the "failures" as standard interim steps to innovation.

And yet, we don't put our money into supporting and publicizing prototypes.

What companies want to buy into is a sure success, which makes sense from a short-term, bottom-line standpoint, but sure successes are decidedly not innovation! Think about it: if we already know that it is going to work, then it's not something new. What we need to fund instead are the things that we believe will work, that we hope will work, and that we have reasonable evidence to suppose will work. It is not the certain bet that innovators need to fund, but the human endeavor, and the human is the imperfect, and yet also the passionate, capable, and adapting that allows for the relentless pursuit of greatness.

Funding, however, needs to come in multiple forms, and only when all types of funding are involved can there be success. Money is the obvious form, but there is also time, effort, resources, and publicity.

As a 3M team discussed at FEI several years ago, even those who do not succeed should still be recognized for their efforts, and they should have had access to the initial resources needed to try. Indeed, if want want to innovate, we need to be providing resources to those who will further not just a product, but the human condition.

Here's why:

Consider Google's driverless car experiment. They may succeed, or they may not. But, the very fact of their giving this an honest try has changed humanity indelibly, because what was once considered a mere pipe dream is now being considered possible. Thanks to Google, it's no longer of question of if we will have driverless cars, but when. NASA has done something similar.

Tons of money have been thrown at NASA to get humankind out into space, and yet, on the whole, NASA has a slew of very-public failures under its belt. And yet, we fund, and we hope! We hope because companies like Google and NASA are pushing the frontier, as are companies like Tata that are pursuing Jugaad Innovations.

But, while we find ourselves crediting companies with these endeavors, it is really individual people who are redefining the "possible." Nowhere is this more evident than the endeavor of one Dan McLaughlin, a photographer who put his career aside to start The Dan Plan.

In the spirit of Ericsson's 10,000-hour rule (vaunted by Malcolm Gladwell), McLaughlin decided to see if he could become a golf expert in 10,000 hours, with the goal of playing in the PGA. His blog tracks the many ups and downs of the endeavor, which is a journey on which any one of us could see ourselves.

Despite setbacks, and despite a study showing recent caveats to the 10,000-hour rule, Dan continues to see just how far he can go. He is a shining example of the grit[1] that is necessary to pursue the horizon, and represents exactly the sort of character that we are trying to inculcate in both children and employees alike.

Surprisingly, however, Dan is still lacking in sponsorship. People all over the world are watching his endeavor, cheering him on, and hoping that he will prove that anyone can become competent if they apply passion[2] and perseverance (even if they weren't born to it[3]), and yet few have given a funding nod in McLaughlin's direction. Considering how many people dream of having a "Dan Plan" in their own lives, I think companies are leaving money on the table by not endorsing McLaughlin's efforts!

Similarly, companies need to start wondering how many Dans there are in their own firms. How many people are willing to dedicate themselves to a plan that both fits a company's value proposition and might raise the bar on the human condition?  As with The Dan Plan, whether they succeed fully is immaterial, because these people will still remap the realm of the "possible."

Quick results may lead to quick profit, but having a marketing campaign that shows people in the company engaged in a serious endeavor to make life better is a gold mine; consumers will gladly invest in a company that is diligently trying to give back.

Moreover, if a company is not willing to reward the Dans with the funding to proceed, either some other firm will or, like Dan McLaughlin, employees will go off (perhaps with other employees!) and make their own luck.

The key here is that innovation is not about success; it's about the human endeavor.

About the human endeavor: aim for success!

Orin's Asides

1) See also my post on Angela Duckworth's talk at FEI 2013.
2) For more, see research by Bob Vallerand.
3) For a great discussion on this topic, see chapters in Scott Barry Kaufman's Ungifted.

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best. His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. In addition to being the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark, Dr. Davis is an adjunct professor of psychology at Baruch College and a lecturer in Critical and Creative Thinking at UMass Boston. A list of his blog posts can be found here. (@DrOrinDavis)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Beyond the Innovation Boundaries: Inside Vienna's Most Innovative Organizations

Championing and fueling innovation progress isn't easy. In theory, it sounds easy enough and lots of people talk about it and ways to do it, in practice, however, it’s anything but. It’s the common denominator, the struggle all innovators share. Don't go at it alone.

According to a recent international study, Vienna is the “smartest” major city in the world. This year at the Front End of Innovation EMEA, we invite you to go beyond the lecture hall and outside the conference walls as you visit the offices of some of Vienna’s most innovative organizations and explore their innovation ecosystem with us. Earlier, in 2014, you may recall that together, we explored the Munich headquarters of Nokia Siemens Network, BMW Designworks, and IDEO at FEI EMEA.

You take a step, then another. That’s the journey. But to take a step with your eyes open is not a journey at all, it’s a remaking of your own mind.” ― Orson Scott Card

Expedition learning empowers and facilitates real life exploration of some of Austria's most innovation organizations -  join us for a back stage pass and private presentation. Choose your own 2015 (learning) adventure as you explore one of these leading Viennese innovation ecosystems:

Led by the Ottakringer Team, Thursday, 12th March  2015 from 15:15-17:15

(Photo: Wikipedia)
For more than 175 years, Ottakringer has brewed the most refreshing beer in Austria and today is the only urban brewery and one of the last major independent breweries in Austria.

As a medium sized family business, this success came from the combination of both tradition and innovation.

You will experience this innovation first hand as you go on a guided tour of the brewery that gives insight into their innovative production and brewing process, as well as the history, marketing, and current market situation, all followed by a fun tasting.

Led by Wolfgang List, Partner, MOSTLIKELY, Thursday, 12th March 2015 from 10:45-12:45

MOSTLIKELY combines architecture, computer graphics, design and sound. Their outstanding projects vary from buildings to art-installations as well as from videos to music productions, whereas boundaries between branches are most likely free flowing. The agency is run by the five partners Wolfgang List, Kurt Mühlbauer, Maik Perfahl, Mark Neuner and Robert Schwarz.

The tour to their Vienna office will give you an insight into how the factory of the future may look.

For their extraordinary products MOSTLIKELY received awards like "The Prix Découvertes" at the "Maison et Objet" fair in Paris and the "MINI COOPER Design Award" at the "Blickfang" fair in Vienna. Preview some of their work below:

THE LOOP, Graz, 2014: Workshop at the Kunsthaus Graz held by mostlikely for students of the TU Graz.

The loop, a 5m long and 2,5m tall paper scultpture built by 21 students of the TU Graz. The students designed the sculpture in one day and built the whole structure in 4 days under the eyes of the visitors of the Kunsthaus Graz. 330 various stones made out of paper and approximately 900 working hours formed this loop. 
A complex 3D computer model gets transformed into a low tech paper model.
CGI – COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGERY Showreel: This is the place where two worlds meet. The CG-specialist and the Designer/Architect. MOSTLIKELY blends the best of both. With years of experience in the fields of architectural presentations, visualizing concepts and bringing ideas to life, they have worked on animations, visual effects, illustrations, revisualizations, concept designs and motion graphics with numerous agencies and architects.

showreel_2011 from mostlikely on Vimeo.


Led by Paul Pavetich, Head Research and Technology Center Regional Development Austria, Siemens Corporate Technology, Friday, 13th March 2015 from 10: 45-15:00

Vienna is launching a large smart city project at the lakeside district of Aspern, one of the largest urban development projects in Europe. The vision is to create a world-class research project in a real environment (a "living lab"), where the energy-saving technologies needed for the city of tomorrow can be analyzed and optimized.

The tour to Siemens Austria will give you the possibility to learn more about the research activities of Siemens for the smart cities of the future. You will get insights about Corporate Technology, the competence center for innovation within Siemens, and its research groups. During the guided tour through Siemens City, you will see the energy-saving technology implemented in the sustainable office building.

Talk to us about how to #MobilizeInnovation! Tweet your ideas, best practices or biggest hardships.
Together we can do this!

To learn more about FEI EMEA, access the full brochure or register to attend and participate in the field trips, workshops, Trendzwalk and more, visit:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This Week in Innovation: 11/3/14 - 11/7/14

3D Printing Food, Would You Eat It? The future is here you can print pizza among other foods

Who Are The Ultimate Disruptive Innovators? Your Children

Using Data-Driven Strategy for Your Innovation Program: leveraging internal data and gauging sentiment

What's Next After the Cloud? Google Says Containers

3 Ways To Create A Culture of Innovation

New Privacy Tools: The Best Encryption Software to Prevent Snooping

9 Breakthrough Trends Transforming the Future of Marketing

What is Your Innovation Quotient? 3 Ways to achieve what you want

4 Simple Steps for Defining Your Company's Innovation Vision

Tech Tools That Small Firms Need to Avoid via Wall Street Journal

About the Author:

Ryan Polachi is a contributing writer concentrating his focus on Marketing, Finance and Innovation. He can be reached at

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Future of Innovation in Corporate America

In recent years, Fortune 500 businesses have utilized a variety of approaches and positions to encourage an innovative culture within their organizations, with varying degrees of success. Now that growth is once again a corporate priority (after years of cost cutting efforts) and the understanding of how to create innovative cultures improves, there has been increasing focus on this issue from executive leadership.

Over the past few years many corporations have built sophisticated innovation programs, often drawing on the skills and knowledge of employee “crowds”. These crowdsourcing efforts should be focused on identifying, selecting and developing ideas at various stages of maturity, in order to drive a competitive and financial impact. However, the focus has tended to be on the “front-end” of innovation, namely the identification and selection of top quality ideas.

The reasons for this are varied, but while coming up with new ideas sounds like a great approach to generating innovation, especially in the context of engaging employees, real problems often occur in the execution of those ideas. This is what is often referred to as the “back-end” innovation challenge.  As David Burkas said in a Harvard Business Review article (July 2013) “Innovation isn’t an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.”

This idea backlog is often a result of crowdsourced, idea generation activities pushing up against limited resources at the point of execution. In other words, the front-end crowdsourced approach stops at the point of execution. Generally, overworked development groups don’t have the resources, inclination, or incentive to engage in executing these new ideas.

Many leaders are now recognizing that this backlog of ideas created by an activity imbalance represents missed marketplace or financial improvement opportunities. In addition, there is the potential to turn-off those employees that they have worked so hard to engage in the first place.

For this reason, many companies are now reassessing their front-end focused innovation activities, and are shifting attention towards activities that drive the implementation of new products or processes, with a goal of generating a bottom line impact. This represents a significant strategic shift from previous innovation efforts for many companies. The result should be a more detailed focus on driving real business benefit from innovative activities.

Aligned with this move, organizations are extending crowdsourcing efforts from the front, to the back-end of innovation. In other words, these companies are asking employees to not only come up with new ideas, but also giving them the training, resources and network support so that they can develop and launch new ideas. The opportunity to participate in idea development is being positioned as a reward for a broad range of individuals, rather than a burden for already overstretched specialist teams. The benefits to this broader range of individuals that have the opportunity (not obligation) to develop new ideas include expanding their existing skills, building cross-functional relationships and working on high priority projects.

To support these efforts, companies are building and supporting formal (and at times informal) networks of employees that are given the designation as “Innovation Catalysts”, “Innovation Champions”, etc. This remains a side responsibility of these employees, and they are giving opportunities to connect and engage with like-minded individuals, through connections back to often centrally managed innovation efforts.

The short-term goal of these networks is to enhance collaborative opportunities, enhance employee engagement and increase the flow of ideas. The longer-term goal is to create a flexible and responsive pool of future leadership talent and build a basis for cultural change.

These networks can be supported and engaged by a wide range of activities, some example of which include:

·         Access to consistent innovation-centric tools and materials
·         Training around innovation skills and approaches
·         “Exclusive” competitions and challenges
·         Regular communications, including access to newsletters
·         Opportunities to connect and engage with senior leadership
·         Better access to developing ideas, etc.

As an initial step, many network leaders are choosing to focus on training their membership around a set of consistent innovation skills and techniques (I have written about this here). The hope is that these newly trained employees will be able to improve the quality of idea submissions and act as a resource for idea development going forward. In addition, given that the employees have been rewarded with the new training, they should be encouraged to be active members of a network, helping to drive activity and success for the network going forward.

Some examples of companies that are already successfully building cultures of engaged and trained employees include Neiman Marcus, Intuit, Pfizer and Qualcomm. Each of these organizations is taking their own approach to developing and supporting employee networks to drive innovation. What is consistent amongst them is that they are looking to utilize and direct those networks to drive a culture of innovation, with a goal of generating financial impact to the business.

By following the lead of these organizations, other companies are now looking to enhance their own innovative cultures, and to utilize employee networks to drive additional business results. This renewed direction for innovative activities should drive further benefit to organizations, and encourage their success in a globally competitive marketplace.

About the Author: Anthony is the CEO of Culturevate (, an organization that empowers a company’s employees to execute ideas and inspire a culture of innovation, through employee networks, a resource portal and training programs (developed in association with Professor Chris Labash from Carnegie Mellon University). Anthony is a widely read author (, speaker and advisor to industry leaders at organizations such as Pfizer, U.S. Postal Service, Johnson & Johnson, ADP and Fidelity. He previously led The BNY Mellon innovation program and has a Masters of Commerce (University of Sydney) and Bachelor of Economics (University of Newcastle).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Future in Focus: Richard Ramsey, Walt Disney International

Today, foresight is the secret weapon of success. Without foresight, we can’t prepare for what the future has in store for us. This concept has always been important, but now more than ever, it is more difficult to come by because everything in our world is constantly changing. Our technologies, jobs, institutions, even some of our treasured values and ways of thinking are shifting radically, making it very difficult to prepare for future challenges and opportunities. 

I was lucky enough to catch up with Richard Ramsey, Vice President of Human Resources, Walt Disney International, to discuss this rapidly growing importance of using foresight and trends in business. Ramsey will be speaking at the upcoming Foresight & Trends 2014 conference in Los Angeles next week.  

This year, Foresight & Trends unites the most forward thinking, creative and innovative people from across the globe to discuss macro trends disrupting how business gets done. This unique event synthesizes trend insights, consumer insights, foresight, brand strategy, design thinking, human science and innovation into a clear vision for capturing future opportunities with a unique blended learning curriculum. It unleashes valuable knowledge, contextualizes the knowledge into relevant examples for you to apply back to your business, and then empowers you to connect with the future in hands on translation sessions and immersion techniques centered on core themes.

Here’s what Ramsey had to say:

IIR: How do you challenge the status quo? 

Ramsey: There are many ways to approach this.  I will mention two.  First, I try to connect with and hire people who think differently, are curious, and are always looking for a better way to do something.  Second, I try to constantly change my world.  By that, I mean me and the environment that I directly control.  I push myself to constantly learn, unlearn, and re learn.  And, I try to improve and update my immediate environment continuously.

IIR: How does understanding and implementing foresight and trends ensure commercial success in business?

Ramsey: Give an example of how you have done this.  While foresight does not allow you to predict the future, it does allow you to determine if your strategies will survive in different worlds.  We have used scenarios to test our strategies within specific focal areas and are in the process of building foresight into our strategic planning process around the world.

IIR: How do you get your organization to align with your vision of taking action on foresight?

Ramsey: We have systematically built engagement through our senior leadership team and within our general employee population through Futures Teams established in our major markets and regions around the world.  

IIR: Why are trends so important in order to make strategic choices for your business? 

Ramsey: We can begin to act today in a way that prepares us for the future.

IIR: What do you think will be the biggest trend affecting the future of business? 

Ramsey: We began our work in Strategic Foresight when trying to anticipate what the landscape for talent will look like in 2030.  Since we have a large part of our business that is directly interacting with our consumers, and we are managing businesses in 43 countries, this will continue to be a significant driver for us in the future.

IIR: What would the world be like without foresight and innovation?

Ramsey: Like going to Las Vegas. 

IIR: Have you ever been wrong about a foresight or future trend?

Ramsey: We are early in our work with foresight but I would anticipate that I will be answering this question in the future with a “yes.”  But hopefully, there will be a lot more “nos.”

Want to hear more from Richard? Hear from him during his session, “Our Future World Tour: Creating a Global Foresight Practice in Walt Disney International” at Foresight & Trends 2014 November 11-13 in Los Angeles, CA. For more information about the event or to register, click here:

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc.   

Clicky Web Analytics