Monday, March 31, 2008

The Challenge of Innovation

This post is published on behalf of Susan Casserly Griffin at Brainjuicer. You may contact her at

BrainJuicer Innovation Roundtable
BrainJuicer Innovation Roundtable

As part of our ongoing work helping companies accelerate the innovation process through insightful market research, Brain Juicer ( ) regularly facilitates round table discussions with our clients, with thought leaders and general practitioners to just talk about issues that keep us up at night.

Last year we began a series of roundtables across the US and the UK between practitioners in market research, branding and new product development addressing the whole concept of the challenges to innovation and innovators themselves. We videotape these discussions, because even more than your average conference presentation, this is the unvarnished heartfelt sentiments of folks in the trenches.

The roundtable attendees may work or have worked at some of the best companies in the world, but they have seen the “inside of the sausage factory” and they know the thrill of victory and, well, the agonies of the failed product launch.

We like to share these windows into our roundtables, not because they reveal earthshattering solutions but rather that there are common truths that affect all practitioners in the broad discipline called “innovation”. And we would love to provoke more discussion, and perhaps some controversy, if that emerges!

It goes without saying that the process of innovation is not easy, and it is geometrically more difficult for large companies with huge investments in processes and brands and firmly held assumptions about consumer insights. Radical departures are inherently risky. Innovations too often seem to be happy accidents, and the process of invention is at its core a messy business, that seems to defy systemization. Big companies have a low threshold for “mess” and an even more ingrained aversion to the “f” word: failure.

So in the roundtables we have been delighted at the candor of innovation practitioners who aren’t airing the laundry as much as they are revealing the hidden frustrations that are organizational, individual and to a certain extent come with the territory of building sustainability, reliable, repeatable processes for innovation in large companies.

We would love to include others in this process of sharing experiences and hopefully making the discipline more successful (or at least less painful). And we would be interested to see how this roundtable concept could be extended to a broader group.

We welcome thoughts about the video clips as well as more food for thought.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Innovation and Card Counting are not so Different

What can we learn from Sony’s latest picture “21”? Card counters base their decisions in casinos on probability as opposed to statistics. Innovations within organizations are usually statistic-based and not probability-based. I came across this article

written by Stephen Shapiro that compares these two different innovation models.

Here are the two approaches according to Stephen:

Innovation Model #1: Big Bets”

This approach is most commonly used across industries; it is statistics-based. You invest a large chunk of money on a few innovative projects based on data that has been already collected. Stephen describes it as “putting all of your money on 35 black on the roulette table and crossing your fingers”. This can be detrimental, especially if your losses outweigh your gains.

“Innovation Model #2: Learn As You Go”

This approach involves investing in MANY low-risk low-cost innovation projects instead of allocating all your resources on just a few. Then you can eliminate a big percentage of projects that don’t show any promise, and invest further in the ones that show some potential. In the process, you end up eliminating many ideas that will not work, and you would not have spent as much money.

So what have we learned? By following the first approach you are assuming that the innovation projects will be successful according to data presented. In the 2nd approach, you’re eliminating many bad ideas, while raising your chips with the good ideas. Seems simple enough doesn’t it? Let’s get the ball rolling and start implementing probability-based innovation strategies within our organizations…

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Innovation and Education

We all seem to agree that the world needs innovative solutions for the confusing and complicated issues we face. However, we cannot teach people to think in new ways using educational systems that were designed to meet the needs of 19th and 20th century world. They do not meet the elegant aesthetic demanded by the future. We must have the courage to challenge some of our foundational assumptions about education, from pre-K to graduate school.

We have to stop using flat maps to describe round interconnected worlds. It is time to think, teach and learn using an ecology-of-thought model. This type of thinking challenges us to look beyond what we already know and can do toward what we wish we could do. If what we want is learners who can capitalize on diversity and build creative connections between art, culture, economics, technology, human relations, and science to become leaders in the world of innovation, we will have to create innovative curricula and round assessments that promote ecosystems of innovation.

We can do this through creating new programs in Innovative Studies founded on the following assumptions.
1. The world works as a system, hence thinking in systems, or using ecology-of-thought, is

necessary to approach invention or problem-solving
2. Critical thinking can be applied to problems within a discipline, but is not as effective at

creating links across and between disciplines.
3. To utilize ecology-of-thought, we must have breadth of understanding across several

disciplines, and depth of understanding, or expert thinking, within specific disciplines.
4. Innovation can, and should be, linked to any field of study from Archeology to zoology.

A new discipline of study in innovation would then serve to link ideas across disciplines and
cultures to find new ways to ask questions, new ways to explore answers, as well as new cognitive courage to hear ideas.

Old Idea Evaluation Habits Die Hard

On YouTube there are two short sketches which show three cavemen evaluating new, disruptive ideas. In both cases, they are ideas which have been valuable for thousands of years, namely, the wheel and fire. Unfortunately the fictitious cavemen are unable to recognise the value contained in these ideas, and both are discarded.

The point that these satirical films are making is that it is very difficult to evaluate ideas which are so new to us that they do not fit into our established world view. If we cannot relate the idea to things we already know and understand, then we are not able to recognise the potential that it represents.

We observe this phenomenon frequently in innovation projects with our clients. We have seen experts reject good ideas simply because they are not compatible with their subjective image of their company or area of expertise. In other cases, the advantages of ideas do get recognised, but they are rejected anyway, because they "do not fit".

Innovation researcher Clayton Christensen has treated this phenomenon in his influential book The Innovator's Dilemma. In it, he describes an organisation's
value system - a set of rules, assumptions and traditions which exert a strong influence on all the decisions that are made in that organisation - in particular decisions for or against proposed innovations. This leads to the apparent paradox, that it is the most successful companies with the best leadership and management that are least able to pursue disruptive innovations. This is the core of the well-known Innovator's Dilemma.

The following self-critical questions are useful when an idea is about to be rejected:

  1. Are we absolutely sure that we know and understand all the advantages of this idea? Under what circumstances would these advantages be irrefutable?

  2. Are we about to discard this idea just because it doesn't fit our current self-image in some way? Is it perhaps time to update that image?

The second caveman sketch can be found here on YouTube.

The Global Innovation and Quality Center

In a 2007 Social Responsibility report that, Heinz established that it would like to do four things to protect our environment:

- Reduce waste through packaging innovation and recycling
- Conserving water
- Improving energy efficiency
- Lowering green house gas emissions.

In addition, Heinz has also been one or the top companies to contribute to sustainable agriculture. (Source: Business Wire) These were just some of the factors that has made The Global Innovation and Quality Center successful for Heinz.

Two years ago, the Heinz, the food maker, decided to open an innovation center in Warrendale, Pennsylvania. This Global Innovation and Quality Center would be the root of its new goals in order to stay a top competitor in the food industry.

Heinz’s major goal was and still is product innovation. This innovation center was built to do nothing but innovate, both for Heinz’s business in the United States but also globally. It houses a place for focus groups, places to test taste and textures in food labs, places to simulate packaging options and a supermarket stocked with Heinz products alongside the products of tis competitors. With all the experimentation in one spot, Heinz reduces cost by innovating for the entire globe. Heinz pledged two years ago that for the next five years they would contribute $100 million to product innovation. Here, 200 workers such as food scientists, chefs, engineers, packaging designers and quality assurance specialists work together to bring new, locally influenced products to the market across the globe.

This has been successful, because along with product innovation and a 16% increase in marketing spends; it is believed that Heinz can produce a 9 – 10% growth per share this fiscal year. Jimmy E. Matthews, the Vice President of Innovation and Quality, states that the success rates of product launches since the innovation center opened has doubled, from 40% to 95%. (source: The Courier Journal)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Innovation with Ideo

At CNN recently, they wrote an article about the firm Ideo. What they do is go into companies who ask for help with innovation and then monitor the customers with the help of sociologists and anthropologists. They are a firm that looks at a task from the customer’s point of view, and then helps an organization innovate to help capture the need of the customer. By tracking the customer for what they need, they can then go back and provide practical, innovative solutions for new products.

One of the more successful strategies in the past few years was Bank

of America’s Keep the Change. Ideo noted that young mothers were primarily concerned with saving money, in addition to continually rounding up transactions to the next dollar. So, with the development of a new credit card, Bank of America captured a new audience allowing young mothers to save extra money by rounding up to the next dollar. Here’s a link to a presentation at the PDMA about Bank Of America’s Innovation Strategy.

I think that this example with Ideo and Bank of America is a perfect picture of how collaboration can lead to great innovation. Bank of America’s goal is to grow organically, and they found a way to get to the customer and innovated a product that the customer’s probably couldn’t have even suggested.

Digging Inside the Entrepreneurial Mind

What makes an innovator’s brain tick? This post on Future Lab makes a great comparison between what inspired the Wright Brothers to define aviation and innovation today. The inspiration behind their ideas is not so different from what drives entrepreneurs to innovate today. John Caddell includes this excerpt from the book “Miracle at Kitty Hawk: The Letter of Orville and Wilbur Wright” that sums up what motivated these innovators early on:

“Wilbur Wright said, on their way home after the 1901 gliding experiments, that he didn't think man would fly in a thousand years. In a way, though, as Orville Wright said long afterward, it was encouraging to learn that the work of predecessors could not be relied upon. It meant that more knowledge was needed, rather than that flight was impossible.”

Are we so different in this day and age? What are some factors that stimulate your creative juices to branch out innovative insights?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Innovation: Think Outside of the Box

Why does innovation not come easy for many companies? I came across this great post on Innovating To Win that gives us some insight on this phenomenon. To summarize the key point in this post, employees have become to narrow-minded in their approach to innovation. Clearly, it is not their fault…”Technical specialization” has restricted scientists, innovators, and engineers to think outside the box for new ideas since their focus is streamlined on one particular niche.

Real innovation comes from interacting and collaborating with all departments and employees within an organization. We’ve recently come across a useful article detailing 9 Principles of Innovation which you can also read on our previous post. Today I’ll highlight a different principle:


"This is one of my favorites. People think of creativity as this sort of unbridled thing, but engineers thrive on constraints. They love to think their way out of that little box: 'We know you said it was impossible, but we're going to do this, this, and that to get us there.'"

Allow engineers and other innovators to share and sharpen their expertise by broadening their horizons. Only then will innovation slowly shift its way to becoming easy like once before…

Speaker Profile: Gunter Pauli

Gunther Pauli will be joining with Jaine Benyus for a keynote presentation called “Inspiration for Innovation: Learning from Nature,” at this year’s Front End Of Innovation conference this May 19th through 21st in Boston.

On April 4, 1994, Gunter Pauli created Zeri, short for Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives. It was founded to bring intelligent innovative people, such as scientists, business people, and educators together to figure out how to create zero emissions when producing products. These creative minds are coming together to produce items without any emission at all, leading to no pollution and sustainable solutions that provide more jobs without reducing revenue. An essential part of all of this is every procedure used is sustainable by the environment of the plant.

Pauli was involved with the production of the world’s first sustainable factory. The ECover factory was built in Belgium, and has a grass roof, water treatment systems and is powered by solar and wind energy. It produces environmentally friendly products that cause no harm to the person or the environment.

Here are some of the case studies Zeri has produced on sustainable manufacturing processes: Beer, Reforestation, and Asphalt.

In a recent article at CNN, they address Pauli’s role in the development of a forest in Columbia. The new ecosystem they’ve created here is called Gaviotas II. Here, scientists have recreated the rainforest from what was once dirt and grass. The habitat is also self sufficient, producing its own energy and hot water. Pauli’s main reason for helping with this initiative is to show other third world countries that they don’t have to rely on other countries for oil, but instead they can produce the things they need by themselves.

We hope you join us for the exciting keynote presentation from Gunter Pauli at the Front End of Innovation Conference. Next week, we’ll be profiling Janine Benyus, who will be presenting with Gunter Pauli.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mobile Broadband Innovation

The one thing that angers me most when I try to browse the internet on my Blackberry is the slow internet speed. What if something could be done to accelerate the user experience? This latest article on CNet unveils Google’s plan to have the American population browsing the internet on mobile handheld devices at “gigabits per-second speeds by the 2009 holiday season”.

Along with other giants like Dell and Microsoft, they are now battling to gain rights to unused broadcast TV channels that we know as “white spaces”. The reason for this is because these channels can support bandwidths and transfer data faster than most ISPs out there now. Google calls this “Wi-Fi on steroids”.

If this plan is approved and rolls out in 2009, what does this mean for consumers?

The buyer will have faster access to the mobile internet, in more locations than ever. Even if the FCC does not allow for mobile devices to access these “white spaces”, it will not stop others from entering this realm. The consumer demand for faster broadband connectivity on mobile devices will drive innovation to new heights. Google has just started to break this barrier, when will other companies follow?

Innovation and the Stock Market

In a recent article written by Robert J. Schiller, a economics professor at Yale University, he discusses how innovation for the stock market ten years ago is just now showing it’s true effects. This article appeared in the Daily Times.

One of the biggest innovations a decade ago was the invention of subprime mortgages. This is allowing people who had non-preferable credit scores to borrow more money to spend is new to the economy, and we’re starting to see the effects of that. Since the Untied States is so liberal when it comes to the stock market and spending, the chances of growth are very high. And growth was positive over the last few years, until recently. Schiller is in part accusing this innovation for the troubles we are having with the stock market today.

But, while it does sometimes appear that the current crisis is due, at least in part, to financial innovation, financial-market liberalisation has been shown to be a good thing overall.

So our stock market has grown in part due to the liberal way our government allows us to work with our economy. The government, for the most part, has not dipped its hands in to the stock market in years allowing innovation to step in and help the market grow. Innovation is not always perfect the first time. We all may be more affected by this type of innovation more than anything else.

So since we are having these problems with our stock market, do you think it’s better to stop innovating and go back to the way the market was twenty years ago or do we continue innovating at this speed to find a better solution ten years down the road? Either way, people’s lives will be affected now. Is a few years of financial uncertainly for a few years worth the chance for another innovative way to grow the stock market could affect financial times in a few years?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Innovative “Suggestion Box”

Suggestion boxes are a thing of the past, so what’s to replace these old-school boxes? The latest article on the Wired blog highlights a community site that Starbucks has launched that is all about sharing ideas and thoughts. My Starbucks Idea is the name of this community site that allows you to post ideas, vote on current ideas, and comment as well.

The ultimate goal is to implement these ideas, but that can prove to be harder than expected. Here’s an example of what sort of ideas are submitted:

“Starbucks should enable customers to encode their usual customized drink orders on their Starbucks cards and have a scanner available in the front of the store so customers can walk in the store, scan their cards and automatically have the orders 1) paid for off of the card, and 2) sent directly to the barista so the customers can bypass the traditional order line and are ensured that their orders are received correctly.”

While some ideas seem far-fetched, it’s definitely an innovative new process to take under consideration. It’s time to re-evaluate how we handle customer suggestions, and think of building communities as an alternative to the age old “suggestion box”.

**Update: The comments left on this particular post on the Starbucks Gossip homepage (Thanks Brent) describes the likelihood of ideas being put into place by suggesting them on blogs, such as the Starbucks Gossip page or My Starbucks Idea. The chances of success without reaching the source (Howard) directly are slim to none.

General Mills shows innovation pays off

According to a post at the Endless Innovation blog a year ago, General Mills was looking to increase innovation in their stable market of food products. This open innovation announcement was made in April of 2007. They focused on such things as baking products, cereal, frozen vegetables and other standard food products that they produce. They opened an innovation hotline for potential partners who wanted to help them collaborate and make better products. So did this work?

Today, in Forbes, General Mills has announced that their goals to make healthier food options by collaborating and innovating with other companies have increased their sales profit of 9.7%. Their profit for the third fiscal quarter was $3.4 billion. CEO Ken Powell knows that innovation as the reason

"Our product innovation and consumer marketing investments are driving strong growth on the top line," said Chief Executive Officer Ken Powell.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What Makes Google so Innovative?

Every innovative company must adhere to certain guidelines and rules in order to stay ahead of the game. Marissa Mayer, Google VP of search products and user experience, shares 9 principles of innovation that give Google its edge in this article on

Marissa’s 2nd principle caught my eye:


"We have this great internal list where people post new ideas and everyone can go on and see them. It's like a voting pool where you can say how good or bad you think an idea is. Those comments lead to new ideas."

That means that no ideas get overlooked at Google. Innovative ideas do not only flow from corporate execs, but also from middle management and even below that. Many organizations make the mistake of not listening to all employees; don’t make the same mistake in your company. Read the rest of the article to see what principles you currently follow in your business.

Drastic Expectation and Innovation

In a recent post at BQF Innovation, Paul Sloan notes that the only way for drastic innovation to take place in the work place is to set standards for revenue in the workplace drastically high.

Usually managers set goals for their performance that they know they can achieve, such as a 5% to 6% profit increase. This can usually happen by modifying current projects a little bit and increasing the profit. Does this result provide ways to innovate? No. By setting normal standards, workers will continue to work as they have with no incentive to innovate.

So how does this get fixed? Expectations must be raised. Far fetched goals must be set. If the manager pushes his/her employees towards goals, they will be achieved. An environment of expectations must be pushed on an organization in order to see results. The challenge to increase revenue will provide a difference for your company.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Innovation Myths

Often at times we hold certain misconceptions of innovation within organizations. I came across this list of 10 Innovation Myths on the Innovation 2.0 and… blog and it stirs up some interesting notes.

One of my favorite myths listed is number 10, “We don’t innovate around here any more”. I wholeheartedly agree that employees are always innovating and that the innovations are no longer differentiating companies. Innovation does not entail slapping on a new feature on an existing product; consumers see little or no difference in this with competitors’ innovations. When this happens, companies play a game I like to called price-wars since there is little to distinguish between products.

You will find several more myths that I’m sure you are too familiar with in your organization…Which myth or myths currently define your business innovation practices?

Speaker Profile: Peter Guber

This week, we’re introducing you to FEI Keynote speaker Peter Guber. The Front End of Innovation conference will be taking place May 19th thought 21st in Boston.

Peter Guber is the founder and chairman of Mandalay Entertainment Group. This multimedia group has produced many familiar films, such as Donnie Brasco, Seven Years in Tibet, Enemy at the Gates and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Mandalay also produces television shows and controls sports teams. It’s most recent acquisition was Twist Box Entertainment. With this acquisition, Twist Box will become their foundation for a new global source to operate interactive as well as mobile offerings. (Source: Variety)

Peter Guber attended Syracuse University before going on to attend New York University and receiving a law degree. It was at this point that Columbia Pictures pursued Guber for a job. In 1976 he cofounded Casablanca Records. In 1988 when Columbia Pictures was acquired by Sony, he quickly increased Sony’s share in movie production (17% in the 90s), which included nine movies that grossed over $1 million. It was at this point, in 1995, that he turned his sights elsewhere and started Mandalay Entertainment Group. Guber is also a professor at the UCLA School of Theater (Source: AMC).

Here is a link to an interview at Stumped Magazine with Peter Guber where he discusses his feelings on the film industry and how he personally manages his projects, as well as the benefits to creativity and risk.

Come see this innovative speaker present “Ah ha! The MAGIC to success” at the Front End of Innovation conference! Next week we will profile Gunter Pauli, founder and director of Zeri.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Keeping Up With the High Speed Environment

In a recent article called “Winning in chaos: Be consistent & coherent as a brand” in the Economic Times, Gopal Vittal comments on the innovation in the changing environment of the telecom industry. In this speedy industry, there are many things that are fast paced about the industry such as the quick planning cycles, the speed of the industry itself, and the dramatic change of the new customers entering the industry.

So how do you innovate to keep up with a high speed environment such as the telecom industry? You keep customer centricity at the top of all priorities, and you must face that the innovation cycle will probably be cut relatively short, having to alter after you’ve already released it to the market. Why? Innovative products need to be released to the telecom industry market approximately every three months.

To successfully innovate in this environment, Vittal says that several things are critical:

--An innovation culture that is open, non-judgmental and allows for quick prototyping

What other things to do see as vital to keep a fast moving innovative environment moving in your company?

Innovation in the Classroom

The city of Serrana, Brazil, has decided to take matters into their own hands instead of depending on Intel and Nicholas Negroponte, who heads up the One Laptop Per Child Project to supply low cost laptops to the Brazilian federal government for use in the classroom.

But how important is mobility to younger kids? It’s not as if they need to check their emails on the go like corporate executives. Keeping the PC in the classroom will reduce the misuse of these devices.

CNet recently interviewed Victor Mammana, who heads up the display branch of the Brazilian government's Ministry of Science and Technology, about his new project that he is heading in Serrana, Brazil. Victor has co-invented a tablet PC that will be integrated into desktops in classrooms. By the end of this month, over 200 desktops will be transformed into the “Serrano Digital Desk”. Here’s a video of the desk (this newscast is in Portuguese).

These 15in LCD screens cost $30 to build and cost about $550 to integrate them into desktops. The laptops though, only cost roughly $100 to $200, but the city of Serrana seems fine with this decision. Here’s why…

What’s so great about this project? Not only are kids in the city of Serrano getting access to computers in their classroom, but the city of Serrana has decided to employ local citizens to help build these desktops. Even though the tablet PCs are more expensive then laptops, the city is investing in its economy. Victor Mammana mentions:

"The idea is not to make a business out of that, but more like a social franchise. It's interesting, this idea of providing a local solution for a local problem."

This is a great start for the country of Brazil, but I would like to see this implemented on a wider scale in bigger cities. Whether that is feasible is another story…

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Medication calls for Innovation

Did you know that people forgetting to take their medication costs the US government $177 billion dollars a year? One of the big issues between the democratic presidential candidates is the cost of health care. It could go down if little things like this decreased. As pointed out by Innoblog, there are many ways to solve this problem. There are the daily vitamin boxes, a nurse to remind you, or even electronic pill boxes that notify someone when to take their meidicine.

But the best result they’ve found so far is the Patra’s myonePac. In this simple innovative packaging, that may be available at your local pharmacy, a clear plastic pack is created with the date, time, and dosages for all prescriptions that are sealed in the pack.

I think this packaging is innovative for a number of reasons. The obvious, is it will help people take all their medicine at the allotted time. Since the packaging is small, they have the ability to keep it their pockets. Another reason is that the innovators made the packaging small. No hustles with huge bottles that people with arthritis will have trouble opening, but just a simple tear and all of the medicine is there. Most of all, Petra’s making it available to the public easily. Since patients get this from their local pharmacy, the pharmacist will know who requires what medicine, and will know the needs of their patients.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Apple…Always Up to Something

How is Apple able to consistently develop innovative products like the iPod and iPhone? There is no doubt that Apple has created a benchmark for other organizations to trail. Just when you think nothing else can be done to the iPhone, Steve Jobs shocks us once more. Watch this latest video from Steve Jobs in which he unveils the iPhone’s latest beta program, and in which direction he foresees mobile devices going in the future

And to think that the iPhone lagged behind in social networking applications compared to the Blackberry and the Treo. It seems as if Apple has re-worked its mobile strategy to improve the customer experience. No wonder Fortune named Apple as the most innovative company in today’s workforce!

Innovation at Walt Disney Company

In a recent article at C-Net, Chris Hatherly at Walt Disney Company sat down to answer some one on one questions about his thoughts on innovation and how innovation works at Walt Disney.

Hatherly defined innovation as understanding what people need, and then giving them the best solution even though they don’t know they have a problem yet. Creative people must be everywhere, so that creativity is at the core of the company. Also essential is the fact that management has to respect and drive innovation or a company is never going to be successful at innovation. Management must also be tolerant with time, as innovation may take a while to complete itself.

Hatherly also took time to explain the innovation he’s most proud of at Dinesy. Clickables, the new toy product launching soon, is a device that connects kids real lives with online lives. On the premise that online worlds can be dangerous for children, the Disney’s Faries World makes new friends when you click your bracelet with someone else’. The came up with this idea by bringing 50 different people together of varying professions in the Disney company and brainstormed. By the end of the second day, they’d come up with an idea that turned into Clickables.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Google: On the Forefront of Ad Innovation

Google is already a powerhouse in tailoring specific ads to people, but its ads on social networking sites have not performed as well. According to this article on CNN, Google has recognized this dilemma in social networking sites, and is aiming to gain a “very significant position” in the ad display marketplace.

Of course, this move will be made a lot easier since Google has recently acquired DoubleClick Inc, the leading provider of display ads. This is why Google remains ahead of the game...Engineers at Google are able to find problems and instead of cheating the system, they discover new ways to provide solutions for it. This clearly can be defined as innovation.

When can we expect other search engines to step up their innovative processes and come out with a similar ad application? For now at least, it seems as if Google stands alone…

Speaker Profile: A. G. Lafley

Every week until the Front End of Innovation event in Boston on May 19th through 21st, we will be profiling a speaker from our event. We would like to begin by introducing you to one of our key note speakers, A. G. Lafley.

As the CEO of Proctor and Gamble, A.G. Lafley is a world renowned leader in innovation. He began at Proctor and Gamble in 1977, and was chosen as CEO in 2000. He inherited a struggling company that was then and still is adapting to a new global business unit. He saw one of the only ways to get out of trouble was to focus on innovation in his company. In this article at CNN Money, A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan give their key objectives that made innovation work with globalization. They‘ve co written this book, The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation, which will be available on April 8.

When Lafley was given the CEO position in 2002, Proctor and Gamble was a struggling company. Falling well short of profit marks as well as sinking stock prices; Lafley was tasked to turn the company around. His vision to do so focused on five key areas that centered on collaboration among P&G business units, as well as entities outside the organization:

1. The customer was at the center of everything: They began to understand the customer and focus turned to the customer’s need for the product. They began to study how their consumers wanted to use P&G products and began to market and innovate from there.
2. They opened up. P&G brought everybody in to the product process, not only those who were in house, but consumers, suppliers, and competitors. They made a rule that half of everything in the company would come from collaboration that did not occur within the company.
3. They made sustainable organic growth a priority. They made sure their companies grew instead of buying new branches. With growth from the inside, it was a more reliable stream of profit.
4. They organized around innovation. In order to grow, they had to develop new products. They ran a disciplined development, qualification and commercialization process which led to internal growth and innovation.
5. They began to think about innovation in different ways. They ran their innovation process in much the same was as they would run a factory, and they measured innovation from every angle.

Most importantly, Lafley realized that he had to go to the consumer to find out how they were using and wanted to use P&G products. They’re now focusing on innovating for new emerging markets such as China, Brazil and Russia.

Lafley realized that innovation was the key to the growth at P&G. He placed his ideas, as well as those who he brought in to collaborate, on the table and they produced real results.

Come see this world class innovator at IIR’s Front End of Innovation conference. Next week, we’ll profile FEI speaker Peter Guber.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Save Money on your Innovative Startup

So you’re on the verge on a breakthrough and you want run your innovative startup company… How do you proceed with caution and avoid spending money on unnecessary items? That is a question many entrepreneurs are faced with on a daily basis. Jason Calacanis has written a blog post that offers 17 tips on saving money running a startup.

Jason offers plenty of good practical ideas like buying everyone lunch four days a week to save time and buying expensive chairs instead of expensive tables because that is what really matters. Overall, I know that we can all take in most of his advice (I still think that people like to hear human voices so we can’t eliminate a phone system just yet.)

This is definitely a must read for anyone looking to startup their own business. Look it over, what do you think?

Google’s Nine Strategies to Innovation

In a recent article at the Sydney Morning Harold, they outline the nine innovation strategies Google uses to achieve milestone after milestone. This company, which is now worth $145 billion, as well as growing 50% each year since 2002, follows very liberal and open rules when it comes to creativity within the company. They are:

1. Ideas come from everywhere – They can come from anyone, literally, such as the executives, the employees, or the users. Employees in Australia came up with Google Maps as well as Google News.

2. Share as much information as you can – All information possible was traded within the company. For example, every morning before the company was traded publicly, the employees were informed for the revenue of the previous day. This can show the employees that they are have power with in the company and they are trusted.

3. They hire brilliant people – Intelligent people work off of each other. If imaginative people are challenged by others, their ideas will continue to grow.

4. Pursue your dreams – Everyone has heard that at Google, employees receive 20% of their time to work on their visions. Many companies would worry this leads to less productivity, but Google finds that they work on things that will impact the Google website.

5. Innovation, not instant perfection – Google launches products early, long before competitors go to market with the same ideas. This way, the can continue the development process with the input of outsiders and have help getting the product read.

6. Data is A-political – Every great idea is accepted if it has the correct data to back it up. No office politics are used when it comes to deciding which ideas are picked as the great ones.

7. Creativity loves constraints – If a line is drawn, you’ll be more likely to cross it. That’s why Google outlines boundaries for their innovators.

8. It’s about customers, not the money – Google comes up with products for their customers, and not based on how much money the product will make them in the future.

9. Don’t kill projects, morph them – If an idea has already made it through the grinder and proves not to work, Google does not set it aside. They continue to work on the idea because if it made it that far in the innovation process, there’s something there and they can continue to work on it until it’s a complete product.

Many of these ideas are completely contradictory to what many companies express today as their want for innovation. Does your company have any innovation ideas similar to Google?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Green Innovation: Invest or Die

It’s time to start looking at investment strategies for green innovation for the new year. This latest post on Marketing Green shows us that most marketers take their time and delay investments because they don’t see an attractive ROI just yet.

Companies are beginning to invest in green innovation, but not enough…In order to reap the full benefits of green design, organizations must be willing to gruel it out. Businesses that decide to wait it out will be rewarded in the long run. We never said it would be easy…

Disruptive Innovation

In a recent post at Innovation on Purpose, Jeffery Phillips discusses the differences between incremental and disruptive ideas that inspire innovation. As he states, incremental innovations are simply the next step in the product. Disruptive ideas are radical, and usually don’t come from within the industry. As a result, they are responsible for changing the whole industry.

As innovators yourselves, I was wondering what you thought were some of the best disruptive ideas to change different industries? For me, I’d say the iPod from Apple. Where else before was your entire music collection plus some available in your back pocket?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Charting the Ocean Of Opportunity for New Product Development

We’d like to invite you to attend the Charting the Ocean Of Opportunity for New Product Development webinar. Robin A. Karol, Ph.D., NPDP will be our featured speaker. Register to view the webinar on Tuesday, March 18th from 2:00 to 3:00 pm eastern standard time.

About the presentation:
Ideas are the starting point for new product development success. Without creativity, and without the ability to see what could be rather than what is, a company cannot come up with new products. Coming up with ideas for new products is not a random or chance occurrence. It is not dependent on having the best most creative people around. Coming up with ideas happens because you create the environment and implement a process that enables the generation of large numbers of quality ideas. You have to have the right mixture of people involved as well as skilled facilitation and tools to move the process along. In addition, you must have the view of the customer, or potential customer, in the generation of new ideas for a product.

About the Speaker
Robin A. Karol, Ph.D., NPDP Dr. Robin A. Karol is currently Executive Director of the Product Development & Management Association (PDMA). Dr. Karol is a former Manager of the DuPont Consulting Solutions, an internal business consulting group, and Director of Innovation Processes at DuPont. She is a certified New Product Development Professional (NPDP) with the Product Development Management Association (PDMA), and was appointed its first CEO in 2005. Dr. Karol holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from SUNY Buffalo and did a Post-doctoral fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

During this Webinar, you will learn how to
• Turn your company into an idea factory,
• Identify the right people to work in the idea factory,
• Prepare the creative session,
• Take your creative team outside the box,
• Bring your customers into the process,
• Involve experts to provide national information and
• Stimulate the team's creative right brain.

Register now for this webniar.

This PDMA/IIR sponsored webinar is in support of the Front End of Innovation conference taking place in Boston from May 19th to the 21st.

Nike + Apple

Yesterday, we reported that Apple was number one on the list of most innovative organization and Nike was number two. So is it any surprise that these two are working together to innovate your work out time? According to Creativity and Innovation these two have announced another key innovation this week to help enhance you work out while you run.

These two are working with major gym equipment manufactures to make these devices compatible with your iPod nanos, so that they can track your workout. The machines will automatically track your workout and then when you plug your iPod into your computer, the results will be transmitted to via your ITunes account. This way, you or your personal trainer can track your progress enhancing your future workouts. Apple believes that this collaboration will bring them 5% to 10% more sales of the Nano iPod in 2009.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Power of Personal Service

At the Four Seasons Hotel last week in Boston, Stephen Shapiro attended a presentation on how they’re innovating in the customer service industry to stay ahead in hotel service. The EVP of Marketing, Barbara Talbot gave the presentation. I’ve summed up a few parts of his post.

The most important thing at the Four Seasons hotel is the people. Their model of service is: people, product and profit. Four Seasons believes that if they treat the people coming into the business correctly, everything else will follow.

Another key point was that the Four Seasons hotels make their hires according to the attitude of the person, not the experience. They believe all skills can be taught, and it’s more important to have the right kind of person. Also interesting to me is that the customers are treated equal to the employees. Four Seasons believes that if you treat your employees well, they will in turn treat the customers the same way.

Four Seasons believes that there is no other hotel that can match the customer service they have. Why? Four Seasons believes that it’s so engrained in the entire company, no one can live up to their level.

I think it is amazing that Four Seasons claims that their customers are equal to their employees. How many other service providers claim something like that? What do you think of this innovative service?

Fortune’s 10 Most Innovative Companies

Fortune recently came out with their list of the most innovative companies working in today’s workforce. What’s the running theme? They’re all number one in their respective industry and they range from entertainment to medical companies.

1. Apple Apple leads the way in the computer, music and movie (Pixar) industries, and finds new and always innovative ways to share their products every year.

2. Nike Their goal is to make comfortable shoes, and they have done so leading the way in the athletic shoe industry. They’ve also collaborated with Apple so the shoes work with IPods.

3. Medco Health Solutions This drug management company is encouraging doctors to switch to electronic prescriptions, as well as focusing on personalized medicine.

4. Proctor and Gamble Over half of their new products come from collaboration they do with companies other than themselves.

5. Herman Miller This Wisconsin furniture maker works with customers and top designers to make revolutionize the furniture industry. They’re also focusing on making it sustainable.

6. Disney Disney They’re revolutionizing the digital entertainment industry.

7. Fortune Brands This small company has product placement at one or two in virtually every brand it makes.

8. Burlington No. Sante Fe This railroad company has over 32,000 route miles and is now looking to into logistics as well as safer transportation of harmful materials.

9. McDonald’s
This junk food giant is going healthy, with new foods such as salads and healthy Happy Meals, as well as putting nutrition facts on all the labels.

10. ProLogis The biggest owner and operator of distribution facilities in the world is looking to make the planet a greener place. Their work on the new airport in Austin, Texas is their current highlight.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How to Measure Innovation

At Creativity and Innovation, a recent post mentions the new report the US government released on how to measure the impact of innovation on the economy. The report can be found here.

When measuring innovation’s impact on the economy, the government uses the Total Productivity Factor. However, this is not an exact science, but the numbers are based on the assumed result of innovation. There report concludes that there is no exact way to determine the direct results of innovation, yet they conclude that they are going to be measuring two new things in the future to help measure innovation in the economy: measure high tech goods and services, and also work on new data collection efforts. What do you think is the proper way to measure the effect of innovation on our economy?

The Innovation Dictionary

At the Ribbon Farm, Venkat Rao has recently posted a list of the different types of innovators he’s met over the years. He starts off his post by giving his definition of innovation.

Innovation is deliberate, growth-oriented creative destruction in a social context.

Just a few of the types of innovators are listed below:

-- Builder: Making innovation actually happen requires a phenomenal amount of energy, raw intelligence and the sheer energy and ambition for a serious fight. Prototype: Edison.

-- Discoverer: A discoverer is somebody paying enough attention to what he/she is doing, and actually doing enough interesting things thoughtfully, to notice something special. The quintessential prepared mind that fortune favors.

-- Foundationalist: Looks at the underlying assumptions of everything, and tears out and replaces weak ones.

Head over to the Ribbon Farm to see the rest of the list. In addition to the definitions, he gives names of innovators who fit the description. Would you add any types of innovators to his list?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Innovate to save the planet

In an article at Sattler Clothing, they shed light on what Proctor and Gamble are trying to do to help the environment. One of Proctor and Gamble’s goals is to reduce it’s carbon emission by 3%. It has four years left in its current plan. So what have they done to put this plan into action? They’ve decided not only must their innovations help save the planet, but they must add benefit to the user as well.

Two products it has innovated on are Tide Coldwater and Pampers. Tide Coldwater’s fame is that it would decrease energy used in the home by 3%, saving 34 million tons of CO2 released into the air as well as $63 of utilities a year for a family. As for Pampers, they’ve reduced the weight of both the diapers and packaging reducing the waste.

Not only is collaboration working for Proctor and Gamble, they’re doing it to help out our planet. What's your company's plan to go green?

The Brainstorm Facilitator

In a recent post on The Heart of Innovation, it details what is crucial for a brain storming facilitator. Without a great leader, brain storming sessions can turn out to be a waste of time. However, this blog gives us 10 different hats that a facilitator must wear. What are they?

1) The Conductor – You have to get everyone to participate in the meeting. Listen to everyone, and get everyone to contribute something.
2) The Alchemist – Turning lead into gold. Figure out how to transform the ideas into attainable actions that can lead to great things.
3) The Dancer -- Gracefully navigate all areas of the session. Keep the flow going after different suggestions that may not work.
4) The Mad Scientist – If something really creative surges, go with the flow. Get others input on it. Keep the ideas flowing and the idea could be way better than the first.
5) Diamond Cutter – According to The Heart of Innovation, the brain storm facilitator must have three critical components: focused, precise, and dedicated. They can’t be afraid to cut right to the point, keep others on track and know exactly what needs to be accomplished.
6) The Actor – Act like you’re ready to go, interested and everyone will soon follow. If the group sees you’re ready to come up with a few ideas, they’ll quickly follow and be ready to come up with a few of their own.
7) Environmentalist -- One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You can find value in almost anything, make sure something doesn’t get overlooked.
8) Officer of the law – Keep everyone and everything in line. Patrol the conversation
9) Servant – It’s not your soap box for this meeting, listen to others and what they’ve got to say.
10) Stand Up Comic – Provide humor in the situation. Free flowing ideas are more likely to come if the mood is light.

Collaboration leads to innovation. What better way than getting your employees together to figure out what needs improvement. Bring in employees from different departments or different offices. As long as they have a great facilitator, fresh new ideas will surface. What do you see as the hardest roll to fulfill?

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