Tuesday, July 22, 2014

IKEA and Four Seasons Shine in Social Media Innovation

Photo: Poland. Gmina Raszyn. Janki, IKEA by Albert Jankowski

Photo: Four Seasons Hotel Miami by Marc Averette

Looking for a resource to help take your organization to the next level of innovation? Immerse yourself in innovation at this year's Back End of Innovation (BEI) event in Las Vegas, Oct. 6-8.

John Kao, bestselling author of Innovation Nation, will present "Bringing Innovation to Innovation." During this session, John will present a revolutionary view on the how of innovation, where it is defined not only as a brainstorm-to-blueprint process, but by results based on discipline and practice.

To learn more about BEI and register, go to www.BackEndofInnovation.com

Stay connected with BEI:
- twitter.com/BEI_Innovation #BEI14
- linkedin.com/Back End of Innovation
- facebook.com/BackEndofInnovation

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC is an Accredited Business Communicator specializing in corporate communication best practices. Connect with Peggy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and on her website at www.starrybluebrilliance.com.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Exceptional Execution: Iliya Rybchin

With BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 approaching, we wanted to get an expert’s point of view on innovation execution in today’s increasingly competitive business landscape. We were in luck. Iliya Rybchin, Director of Media & Entertainment, Highnote Foundry sat down with us to discuss innovation strategy and execution.  

Here is what he had to say:

IIR: What is a fundamental characteristic or skill to lead innovation?

Rybchin: Without a doubt it’s entrepreneurial operating experience.  Many innovation initiatives fail because the people who are driving it do not have the experience to get things done.  Ideas are important, good strategy is critical, access to capital is vital.  However, NONE of that matters if it’s placed in the hands of people who can’t execute.  You need people who have shipped products, who have run P&Ls, who have managed people, who have developed technology.  DOERS are more important than THINKERS.  

Many companies place their innovation activities in the hands of smart, vocal “up and comers” as a way to reward them.  Innovation is not a reward!  Innovation is a necessity.  Something this critical should not be used as a reward, it should be placed in the hands of a company’s most capable business leaders.

IIR: Why is the back end of innovation just as important if not more important the front end?

Rybchin: The back end is what delivers results.  The front end is often just smoke and mirrors.  Companies don’t get measured by ideas… they get measured by EPS, revenue growth, market share, etc.  Ideas without back end innovation do not deliver those metrics.  Innovation happens when customers touch products not when executives get a PowerPoint from a brainstorming workshop.

IIR: What best practices support successful innovation execution? What typically stands in its way?

Rybchin: Alignment and continuous close coordination with senior management.  Many innovation activities get off to a good start.  The executives are on board, they appoint a leader, a press release goes out, lots of great quotes, etc.  However, six months down the road, senior executives move on to other priorities and the luster of the innovation program has worn off.  This is precisely when innovation activities start to go downhill.  To be successful, senior management needs to be engaged and be ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS throughout the entire process.  Without the ongoing support, air cover, access to budgets, introductions, etc., innovation can whither on a vine.  Even the well-funded and well-staffed innovation team will struggle when the CEO is not on board.

IIR: What is a piece of advice you would give companies who are creating a corporate innovation strategy?

Rybchin: Don’t create an innovation strategy.  Any company that creates a SEPARATE innovation strategy is doomed to fail.  A company should have a single corporate strategy… of which innovation should be a key component.  Innovation strategy should be intertwined with the corporate goals, mission, and tactics.  The second innovation becomes its own strategy – it becomes a lower priority.  Innovation should become part of the air all employees breath it should be introduced into a company’s DNA… it should not be a prosthetic that gets added after some catastrophe takes away a limb.

Rybchin will be speaking at the upcoming BEI 2014 conference in Las Vegas, NV. The Back End of Innovation is responsible for taking an idea and transforming it into an ultimate product success. Generating the idea is only half the battle. The real challenge lies in taking that innovation, executing it effectively and commercializing it, resulting in driving the bottom line profitability. BEI is an event for those in charge of bringing innovations to life, from using metrics to identify the highest yielding ideas, to creating cultures that drive innovation, to carrying it through to market.

To learn more about the event or to register, click here:  http://bit.ly/1qaSBO8

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Go On a Field Trip to Zappos, The Cosmopolitan, and Switch SUPERNAP at BEI

Have you ever wondered "how do they do that"? Now's the time to stop wondering and uncover the answers you're looking for.

BEI: Back End of Innovation has created an environment where innovation thrives. Hundreds of innovation professionals will gather for best practices and lessons learned from cross-industry leaders. But that's not all, BEI 2014 encourages you to get outside the conference walls to truly immerse yourself in innovation at some of Las Vegas' most innovative organizations.

Back End of Innovation
October 6-8, 2014
The Cosmopolitan
Las Vegas, NV

Download the brochure for full field trip descriptions: http://bit.ly/1md1jIf

The Zappos Tour Experience & A Visit to the Downtown Project: Join us for a tour at Zappos' new corporate headquarters in Downtown Las Vegas for a glimpse into the Zappos culture and a walk in a Zapponians shoes. You'll also have access to The Downtown Project, inspiring and empowering people to follow their passions and create a vibrant, connected urban core in Las Vegas. *Limited to 20 people.

Explore Switch SUPERNAP & The InNEVation Center: See how Nevada's most successful technology start up entrepreneur redefined the data enter and technology ecosystem industry. Inventions and collaborative solutions established by Rob Roy, CEO & Founder of Switch SUPERNAP will be showcased. Plus, attendees will also get an inside look at how Roy is giving back to Nevada through the Innevation Center, a philanthropic, economic diversification engine. *Limited to 30 people.

Behind the Scenes Look at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: Changing the Game in Las Vegas: From talent selection to casino operations, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is changing the game on the famous Las Vegas Strip. You'll get a behind the scenes look at The Cosmopolitan as well as a Q&A session with some of their most innovative leaders.  *Limited to 20 people.

Note: You may only register for one field trip. Placement is not guaranteed until payment has been received.

Mention code BEI14LI & Save 15% off the standard rate. Register today: http://bit.ly/VVQoZF

We hope to see you in Las Vegas this October!


The BEI Team


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

3 Practices to Forge an Authoritative and Global Brand

All startups have the desire to impact the world in obvious or even subtle ways. However, that doesn’t happen just overnight. Building an influential and authoritative brand takes hard work, perseverance, and a tireless and deft personal touch that will eventually propel your brand to global ubiquity. Sometimes, the practices that you have to employ will even be somewhat counter-intuitive. Here are some things - small and big - that you can do to ensure your brand becomes the authority in whatever industry you work in.

1) It Takes a Village - Collaborate.
Your first instinct as a small business or startup is to make sure you get a leg-up on the competition. However, that’s the very same practice that pushed the American economy into a downward spiral back in 2008. However, what most people don’t immediately recognize is that although ideas between “competitors” may be the same - the execution is different. You don’t own the idea, you own the execution. A lot of seeding and networking is required before your brand can grow so don’t be afraid to plant those seeds! Promote the good news of your so-called “competitors” and turn them into your partners. The more partners you gather, the more of a force you’ll become. With the help of your partners, you’ll be able to define the progress of your community and more.

2) Forge a Diverse and Broad Community - The Innovation Potluck
Just because your brand might occupy a high tech or biotech niche doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be talking to someone who exists in the space of fashion or design. Bump and connect to as many people as you can for everyone is limited and they have only so much ability and talent. The more people around you with different things to bring to the table. The more diversity in thought, background, and talent that you can acquire makes you all the more likely to succeed in making massive impact. The most enduring brands in the world are created thanks to cross-collaboration across vast swathes of industries, backgrounds, personality-types, and mindsets. Almost all of your problems can be solved by other people. You have to share what your problems are and people will help you. Remember, you own the execution, not the idea.

3) Be Failure Tolerant and Never Assume Success
Sometimes even an idea with the best of intentions can crack under the pressure of circumstance. Never be afraid to let a project fail. Positions of discomfort always leads to the most compelling takeaways that will enable you to find success on a different iteration of your venture. One method to minimize this potential failure is to never assume success. Operate under the assumption that the only value you will derive from your project is the actual act of doing it. Therefore, find something that you’re deeply passionate about because if you’re working on something that you don’t care about it’s going to be easy to become complacent and actually let it fail without thinking of some method to save it.

These three key practices lead to collaborative thinking. A kind of thinking that scales up the growth of your brand exponentially. Although initial growth may be slow and steady, it is only by forging an innovative community that you can embed your brand in a deeper and more meaningful narrative that can deliver huge impact.

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 in Las Vegas, NV in October! Learn more about the event here:  http://bit.ly/1o4Dv78

About the Author: Jibran Malek is a Marketing Manager at MassChallenge Inc., the world’s largest startup accelerator and the first to support high­impact, early­stage 
entrepreneurs with no strings attached.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Innovation in Canada: Our Visit to the MaRS Discovery District & the Trendhunter.com HQs

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust

On September 29 - October 1, 2014, we will be in Canada for our latest Front End of Innovation Series event, FEI Toronto. We have two distinct opportunities to explore innovation within the Canadian trenches, which  promote adventure learning, designed to literally get you beyond your office, and outside the conference walls, and reset your perspectives and mind-frame as you visit the HQ's of some of Toronto's most innovation organizations with us.

Venture Inside the Trendhunter.com Headquarters

Jeremy Gutsche, CEO & Chief Trend Hunter at TrendHunter.com, Author of Exploiting Chaos, and the forthcoming Better & Faster will deliver a keynote address sharing Six Secret Steps to Outsmart, Out-Innovate, and Out-Adapt your Competitors:

After researching 250,000 innovations with an audience that is like a 100,000,000 person focus group, Jeremy Gutsche and Trend Hunter have uncovered six patterns of opportunity that can enable your research team to more quickly out-innovate, out-adapt and outsmart your competitors.

Jeremy Gutsche
Gutsche dives into the psychological traps that block innovators (and researchers) from realizing their full potential, and how to unlock your hunter instincts to find better ideas faster. The framework has also been battle tested with several hundred brands, billionaires and CEOs who rely on Gutsche, ranging from Victoria's Secret and Coca-Cola to IBM and Hughes Aerospace.

"Trend Hunter is located in a former horse-carriage factory near Queen and SoHo and according to the Wall Street Journal the office is as hip as its occupants. Which really shouldn't be a surprise considering it's their job to spots trends on the bleeding edge. Trend Hunter's office culture has been profiled on CNN, and in the National Post, the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star. And previously, Trend Hunter was named one of Canada's Most Innovative Companies at the Canadian Innovation Exchange." via Techvibes

Following his talk, Jeremy will take us inside the Trendhunter offices in Toronto, where all the trend magic and predications happen.

Explore the MaRS Discovery District

MaRS Discovery District is dedicated to driving economic and social prosperity by harnessing the full potential of innovation. They have built on a rich legacy to create one of world’s largest innovation hubs, a 1.5-million-square-foot complex located in the heart of Canada’s largest research cluster in downtown Toronto.

MaRS is at the intersection of the corporate, small business, government, academic and research sectors. As such, they are able to convene partners from each of these sectors, and foster the collaboration and convergence of ideas that truly drive innovation. MaRS works with an extensive network of private and public sector partners to help entrepreneurs launch and grow the innovative companies that are building our future — startup ventures with broad economic and societal impact.

Earl Miller
Earl Miller is the Director, Partnerships – Government and International Relations. He leads MaRS’ Regional Innovation Centre and is responsible for provincial commercialization relationships,  government stakeholders in the Toronto Region and business development with Canadian trade and economic development officials, foreign governments and international partners.

You are invited to join Earl for an overview of MaRS history and evolution as an innovation hub, a discussion of MaRS venture services - entrepreneurship education, market intelligence, advisory services and capital programs, and an explanation of the Discovery District ecosystem and MaRS' role as a commercialization hub connecting communities of innovators.

You'll get a first-hand look at different business acceleration models - MaRS incubator and MaRS JOLT accelerator as well as a summary of how programs and facility work as an integrated platform to help technology ventures grow and scale.

Space for both field trips is limited and reserved on a first come, first serve basis. In addition to over 50 sessions crafted around your evolving needs - as an innovation, R&D, product development and insights leader - to accelerate systematic innovation growth, from ideation to execution, we've added some can't-miss elements to truly drive innovation implementation at FEI Toronto, like two full-day workshops and five learning labs designed to require you to put innovation to work in real-time through collaborative learning sessions and hands-on activities. Download the brochure to view the complete agenda, speaker and session information. We're saving a you a seat!

Oh, and also with your FEI Toronto pass, you will have access to the co-located North American Consumer Insights Event. Double the content, double the sessions, double the speakers, double the insights, double the value - Don't miss out, register today!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Navigate Key Barriers and Proactively Fund Big Innovation

How organizations navigate the barriers to big innovation can often make the difference between epic failure and celebrated market disruptor. Outlined below are the dynamics behind 3 barriers we see most frequently standing in the way of breakthrough and disruptive innovation. This content is intended to help innovation leaders who are seeking to make a bigger impact and already have a firm grasp on the definitions of incremental, breakthrough and transformative innovation.


Funding big innovation is often the first obstacle that many would be innovators struggle to overcome.


Organizations are inherently risk averse, and for good reason. The primary goal of most businesses is to allocate resources in the most efficient way to generate a targeted return for shareholders. If significant resources are allocated with little return, it certainly means leadership change and possibly corporate default. It’s no surprise then that risk avoidance manifests from senior leaders’ fear of losing their jobs. The omnipresent focus on reducing risk locks the organization into its current business model and incremental change to its value proposition and core offering.


Across established organizations, we’ve found that most disruptive and transformative innovation doesn’t occur by choice, rather it is forced by necessity. Typically a traditional competitor delivers a breakthrough innovation with a better value proposition that takes significant market share. For example, Crest 3D White forced Colgate Optic White. In regard to transformative innovation, a nontraditional competitor enters a market with a different value proposition and often new business model that takes significant market share. For example, Nest forced Honeywell to redefine the value proposition of their thermostats.


Outside of a truly visionary leader, the only structured way we’ve seen breakthrough and transformational innovation acquire funding is through a vision. A vision is derived from an organization’s purpose (reason to exist besides making money). A vision contrasts the business implications of the present day value proposition to a vision for a new value proposition, in a future context (likely state of customers, competition, and supply chain relevant to the business). To ultimately acquire funding, a vision needs to incorporate a timeline backward from the future context to present. It should illustrate just how fast change must occur to avoid failure and achieve success, thus driving urgency to act.


Executing big innovation is radically different than executing incremental innovation. It requires intense cross-silo collaboration to design not just the offering around a new value proposition, but often a new adoption strategy, associated go-to-market channels, supply chain and revenue model.


Most organizations measure and incentivize each functional and/or business unit uniquely so that they can efficiently drive top and bottom line goals. For instance, engineering is often measured on execution timelines and manufacturing cost, marketing on customer acquisition, etc. These siloed metrics disincentivize true collaboration and shared wins between them.


Some organizations have built new operational structures from the ground up. For instance, Google structures around cross-functional project groups and incentivizes them through the lens of a project. Others simply bypass the siloed metrics of the core organization by creating a cross-functional spinoff measured as a unified whole. Hershey did just that with the brand Brookside.


Outside of major structural overhauls, one of the most effective ways we’ve seen cross-silo collaboration necessary for big innovation emerge is through a shared, outside-in view of the supply and demand systems at play. Organizational tools can act as a unified business dashboard and are necessary to share and leverage the outside-in view across silos. The demand view most often articulates the goals of target customers within a category, their path to purchase, experience using/engaging with offerings available, and their motivation to advocate. The supply view often articulates transactions between silos and the customer. Together, this outside-in view allows silos to see the impact they have on one another, and more importantly the customer. This simple change in perspective can motivate cross-silo collaboration, radically impact the dynamics of those collaborations, and facilitate the allocation of resources more holistically.


Breakthrough and transformative innovation require passionate people willing to stick their neck out for what they believe is right. In absence of champions, bigger innovation initiatives lose momentum and fizzle out in favor of the status quo.


Breakthrough and transformative champions exist because they have been exposed to something that others in the organization have not – whether methods, skills, industries, competition, environments, etc. These people often leave jobs abruptly if they are over constrained by hierarchy. Hierarchy and its associated 360 goal setting processes frequently establish a pyramid of goals which support each management layer above. Of course hierarchy is important for any organization to efficiently achieve corporate goals, but it can squeeze out the alternate points of view and autonomy to experiment. Hierarchy heavy organizations tend to have homogenous workforces that are really efficient at doing the same thing over and over.


3M is well known for its employee flex time program. Employees are expected to pursue experimental projects that have the potential for bigger impact while aligning to personal interest. Others attempt to outsource champions – whether they need an expert point of view from outside the organization, or hire external teams to run small experiments.


Autonomy + Purpose + Exposure = bottom up innovation champions.  Autonomy to run small experiments can be achieved through a variety of flex time programs and 360 individual goal setting.  Purpose, the organization’s reason to exist beyond making money, provides the ‘why’ for the work.  Not only is the ‘why’ a really powerful employee motivator, it also increases individual risk tolerance. Exposure can be achieved through cross-silo interaction, diversity of  employee experiences and employee training programs.
The potential of the champion equation is greatly enhanced when the role of management shifts from resource distribution (ensuring the same things happen again and again) to resource acquisition (getting the resources necessary to do new things). Leaders should navigate these barriers concurrently. There are hidden repercussions if they are navigated individually. For instance, employee autonomy can be wasteful in absence of organizational purpose and derivative business vision. Organizational tools that alter point of view, uncover root issues and provide a means to bypass internal resistance are essential to driving a more innovative culture. Once tools find an effective home within the organization the barriers can be navigated again and again.

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 in Las Vegas, NV in October! Learn more about the event here:  http://bit.ly/1pHvhY6

This post was brought you by InnovationExcellence, the online home of the global innovation community, building a growing network with thousands of members from over 175 countries – thought leaders, executives, practitioners, consultants, vendors, and academia representing all sectors and industries. Its mission is to enhance innovation by providing a forum for connection and conversation across this community.

About the Author: Tim Sweeney is a designer, entrepreneur and a thought leader in the field of business conceptualization and product innovation. As founding Partner of UPSTREAM, a front-end innovation consultancy that helps leaders drive innovation, he’s helped start-ups to Fortune 100′s apply world-class design thinking to build and realize vision. He holds numerous innovation awards and over 15 patents. Follow @UPSTREAMthought.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Leading for Innovation in Extreme Uncertainty

A recent article, ‘Leading in the 21st century’, in McKinsey & Company Quarterly, shares a series of interviews of leaders from some of the world’s largest and most vibrant organizations. The article suggests that leaders are operating in a “bewildering new environment in which little is certain, the tempo is quicker, and the dynamics are more complex.” It then explores what it means to lead in an “age of upheaval, to master personal challenges, to be in the limelight constantly, to make decisions under extreme uncertainty”.

These points resonated deeply with me, because innovative leaders and start-up entrepreneurs excel at responding to the convergence of forces they operate within, like the ones mentioned in the article. They do this by developing and articulating a cause greater than themselves. By thinking and acting differently in ways that transform opportunities, challenges, problems and constraints into innovative ideas and solutions that change the world forever.

The context of leadership is changing

To thrive in today’s turbulent and uncertain global environment, to face the harsh realities of the competitive, volatile and complex business environment, leaders are being compelled to;
• Become increasingly adaptive and resilient and able to perceive and respond appropriately to their worlds in multiple ways at once.

• See their world holistically and respond to it systemically through the breakdown of internal silos and the development of business eco-systems. Where they engage and collaborate across the private, public and social sectors to promote global, regional and corporate sustainability.

• Sustain their emotional health and well being whilst having the composure to operate calmly, decisively and quickly amid chaos and uncertainty.

Enacting embodying and executing a new context for leadership

Our research suggests that the following factors enable leaders to enact and embody this new context successfully. They can achieve this by developing the innovative and entrepreneurial competences that enables them to flow and flourish with the chaos, complexity and pressure through;

1. Creating a deep, personal, yet global ‘necessity’ for change; by enrolling in a cause greater than themselves, by adopting a possibility mindset, by taking the deep personal accountability towards ensuring its delivery and having a sense of urgency to get it done, no matter what!

2. Embodying an emergent approach; by opening minds, hearts and will to see the world with fresh eyes, by being detached and discerning to let go of the ‘old’ mindsets, behaviors, processes and systems that are no longer viable. To make way for experimenting and prototyping new and agile business models and processes that provide innovative solutions that improve their users’ experience.

3. Being curious, confident, courageous and collaborative; by challenging convention and the status quo, by developing the courage and strong self efficacy to deal with adversity, take intelligent risks and be kind to, and heal themselves (and others) when they fail.

4. Exploring and networking across differing teams, fields and disciplines; by seeking people’s ideas and input, through generative inquiry, listening and debating to harness and maximize diversity of thought, ideas and solutions.

5. Thinking differently; by developing their associational muscle to synthesize and make sense of novel inputs, to discover new directions by making connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas. By creating breakthroughs at the intersection of diverse disciplines & fields.

6. Acting differently; by developing deep leadership presence by role modeling these qualities to inspire and influence others to engage and enroll in the innovation or leadership cause.

This is a much more hard edged, bolder and far more audacious model for leadership, requiring leaders to discard a number of their former operating leadership and team paradigms – “today’s leaders face extraordinary new challenges and must learn to think differently about their role and how to fulfill it. Those who do may have an opportunity to change the world in ways their predecessors never imagined.”

And we all know that taking a road less traveled is never a ‘nice’ or easy option, yet is it always the most worthwhile, rewarding and enduring road to ultimately travel on, even though it might not like feel like it at the time!

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 in Las Vegas, NV in October! Learn more about the event here:  http://bit.ly/1lsbfhu

This post was brought you by InnovationExcellence, the online home of the global innovation community, building a growing network with thousands of members from over 175 countries – thought leaders, executives, practitioners, consultants, vendors, and academia representing all sectors and industries. Its mission is to enhance innovation by providing a forum for connection and conversation across this community.

About the Author: Janet Sernack gained her consulting, education, facilitation, training and executive coaching skills, from 30 years of experience in manufacturing, retailing and learning and development businesses to Australia’s and Israel’s’ top 100 companies. She resides in Israel where she founded a start-up, ImagineNation that teaches innovative leadership and start-up entrepreneurship via The Start-Up Game.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Culture Feasts on Innovation: Here’s What you Can Do About It

You can have the best talent, best ideas, best processes, abundance of cash. If your culture does not align, being successful with innovating starts looking as if it’s a matter of luck. 

Culture Feasts on Innovation: Here's What you Can Do About It from Reuven Gorsht

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 in Las Vegas, NV in October! Learn more about the event here:  http://bit.ly/1nub7ww

This post was brought you by InnovationExcellence, the online home of the global innovation community, building a growing network with thousands of members from over 175 countries – thought leaders, executives, practitioners, consultants, vendors, and academia representing all sectors and industries. Its mission is to enhance innovation by providing a forum for connection and conversation across this community.

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