Friday, May 30, 2008

Open Innovation Becoming Significantly Important

In a recent commentary article at Forbes.com, Edward Bernstein, took a moment to comment on the ever growing importance of open innovation.


US companies are seeing today that it’s important for them to reach out and work with other companies throughout the world in order to bring the best thoughts and ideas into their company. A common theme for this in the United States is to look to other countries for their knowledge to help bring in new ideas.


Bernstein pointed out that one of the reasons a lot of a company’s innovation may be done overseas is because they’re close to the local market. How is innovation for a product suppose to turn out for the best if we’re innovating in the United States for an eastern European company? He also pointed out that a lot of innovation is done China and India, due to their growing markets and expansive knowledge on many topics.


I was intrigued by this:


For the U.S., this may become a serious problem, as our increasingly strict immigration policies prevent top students, who come here to study at our universities, from staying and working here.


Do you think this could be a significant problem in our future?


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Innovation and the Economy

In a recent post at Seeking Alpha, Michael Steinberg contemplates Alan Greenspan’s theory of the results of innovation with the economy.

According to Greenspan, we’re seeing the innovative equivalent of a “bubble” due to the financial innovation that took place in the 1990s. The housing boom was due to the new options to buy homes.

However, there’s no reason to pop this one bubble, because the economy could turn out stronger in the future. He alludes this to the growing of the internet. If we hadn’t of had the .com bubble burst in the 1990s, the internet wouldn’t have grown at the speed it had, and would not be as large as it is today. Is our current state of affairs just one small part in the continuing innovation of our economy?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Costco a Leader in Innovation

In a recent post at Creativity and Innovation, they shed light on a newer business to the top twenty of the Innovation Index, Costco. This chain is known for their great prices, the convince and their treasure hut style of shopping.

Over the past year, they’ve seen exceptionally high sales in wine, televisions, diamonds, as well as seafood. One of the most renowned items is the fact that they’ve grown a chicken business from very little to a revenue of $173 million a year.

So what does Costco do to keep growing? Now they’re looking elsewhere, and growing their business by expanding offerings related to gas, car washes, Costco Travel, Costco Home, as well as growing their retail chain online at Costco.com. Innovations in these categories will grow their business by 2 to 5% in 2008.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Watch and Learn

A poll “What sources of innovation ideas do you find most valuable?” was recently taken at Innovating To Win, and its results are not so shocking. The majority of voters find watching trends outside of their industry to be the most valuable source of innovation ideas.

What does this mean? Even though watching trends within the industry is important, most innovators are looking outside of internal expertise when looking for product innovation. I’m sure results are expected to change over time since trends are constantly evolving, but what’s your take on it? Be sure to take their latest poll What drivers of Green Innovation do you see in your organization?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Politically Correct Euphemisms in IT - Translated!

Politically Correct Euphemisms in IT - Translated!

(a little holiday weekend fun, for all the FEI folks retunrning from Boston ...)

I recently attended a professional seminar, and noticed a propensity for politically correct euphemisms to describe life in corporate IT. This was a typical group of IT professionals, representing a variety of companies - small and large, public and private. As with most group meetings, we started with a trip around the table; quick introductions, plus some highlights of "what's hot" for IT these days. The careful language wouldn't fool the experienced; however, a casual listener might see the knowing smiles on the nodding heads and think that we were either participating in a great conspiracy or dazed from too much coffee.

As I aspire on these pages to improve the quality of communication between IT and business, I feel duty bound to provide this partial translation page - what they say versus what they mean.



The project has been a challenge ...

    We bit off way more than we could chew, and will probably blow the budget by 50%

We are considering ...

    We talked about this one over beers, but there's no chance in heck of going forward ...

... looking at opportunities for SaaS ...

    We're under budget pressure, and are desperate to say something to keep Finance off our backs about data center costs.

The database is growing rapidly ...

    We massively underestimated growth rates, and are scrambling for capital to buy more disk.

The developer is quite aggressive ...

    ... they don't have time for documentation, debug in production and have polluted their workstation with multiple versions of component libraries that will cost millions to roll out

We did a pilot in CRM, and now we are comparing to salesforce.com.

    The sales team played with it, realize they have to actually type data into the system, and now they're trying to delay as long as possible.

    ···- alternative -

    They asked for a shared contact database, we came with a $3M package implementation, and now we're scrambling to save face ...

... that's gonna stress us a bit ...

    Another six months of nights and weekends? Good thing my resume is up-to-date ...

We have managed to create 18 instances of the ERP

    The business can't make organizational decisions

    ···- alternative -

    Our development teams can't agree on a common QC cycle

    ···- alternative -

    We never had a long-term plan, this grew by evolution, and now we need a revolution

We've implemented (insert module name here) - which is ... interesting

    This thing has more bugs than a VW convention in a swamp; we're in a first name basis with the core development team, and half the code has our IP in it.

... using the latest and greatest, and some we're still waiting on ...

    The rep sold us vaporware, and we've already maxed his voicemail box demanding a delivery schedule (or a refund)

... after a lot of pain, discussion and analysis ...

    we are on our fifth attempt at implementing, but the business sponsor can't cancel because he's overcommitted on the ROI

It's a legacy system, home grown, and its old.

    We've gone through five lead developers, the original author is playing shuffleboard in Florida, and if the disk crashes we're hosed because we don't have the source.

This is going to drive quite a lot of work.

    I'm stunned at how poorly thought out the project plan is ...

[ long list of acronyms and letters]

    We are rabid technologists ... by the way, how come executive management doesn't invite me to meetings?

We're revisiting [something] (strategy, software package, implementation approach) after the acquisition ...

    Awesome! We can cancel this screwed up project and restart it after the new owner settles in!

    ···- alternative -

    The new team runs a pretty tight ship ... good thing my resume is up-to-date ...

We're going through a process of stabilization before rollouts continue.

    We hit too many walls and the business is fed up, so the project goes no further.

    ···- alternative -

    Another high priority project came along, and we got pushed down the to-do list.

The biggest challenge is the cultural shift.

    Technical implementation is equivalent to C:INSTALL, but we'll be in training classes for months.

We experienced a little bit of a hiccup.

    When the install dialog said "Are you sure?", I experienced a giddy sense of optimism that was quickly countered by a suitably horrible sound from within the drive ...

It's a learning opportunity ...

    It's a chance to hone our skills at backpedaling, debugging on the fly, and byte-level disk sector editing.

We met our service level objective

    Good thing we sandbagged the the target run rate.

... and this is what's going on ROW (Rest of World) ...

    We don't like international travel, so our strategy stops at the border ...

... (refers to ) my soon-to-be partner (acquisition/joint venture) ...


    ... my soon-to-be subordinate, unless kick him out of his chair ...

    ···- alternative -

    Good thing my resume is up-to-date ...

Regional translations may vary; I invite your input on additions and variations ...
Previously (on the lighter side) ...





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Friday, May 23, 2008

Next Steps

I wanted to post quickly about my desire to hear from our readers and LinkedIn group members about what features and funtionality you would like to see if we were to develop a community experience tied to our event website and this blog. I know many of you read about the latest trends regarding social media - such as this blog and social networking, such as LinkedIn. But because of the unique interests of our LinkedIn Group and our readers and FEI attendees I want to be sure that I hear from you all exactly what you would be interested in. Feel free to leave your comments, I hope to hear from as many of you as possible.

Thank you.

FEI Update: Exhaustion, Exhilaration, Inspiration

What better words can I use to sum up my experience at Front End of Innovation? Exhaustion played a big factor in not getting a post up on Wednesday, followed by a day in the office playing catch-up with work. But I wanted to be sure I posted before the holiday weekend here in the US and share the details of the last day at FEI and some of my own thoughts on the experience. I want to say now I invite anyone who attended, speakers, delegates, and sponsors who would like to share their thoughts, please feel free to let me know I would welcome them as posts here on the blog.

First of all Wednesday morning began once again with an opening by Bumper Carroll of The Second City, he once again energized the crowd before the first keynote, A.G. Lafley. This was an interesting experience, it was a Q&A session moderated by Scott Anthony, president of Innosight, who began by asking A.G. several questions regarding his book, The Game Changer, which was then followed by several questions from the audience. I have to say I was very impressed by A.G. as were many in the hall, he clearly understand the need to work at innovation, not just for to succeed, but to learn from failures in order to continue evolving in the marketplace.

A.G. made some remarkable points including how the issue at P&G isn’t the lack of ideas, a company that size with so many employees has an abundance of ideas bubbling to the surface. The issue he described is the process: moving so many ideas forward into development and commercialization. No small feat for any organization of any size. He also went on to describe how important the consumer is in this process. He pointed how often as companies gather feedback from their customers, they often can only tell you what they like and don’t like, rather than what they want. Then he described one remarkable example. He talked about how the Tide cardboard boxes always received high marks in customer surveys; women regularly described them as the best packaging. With feedback like that P&G naturally assumed this was the case, but then A.G., before he was CEO, was in the field, actually side by side with women who were using these Tide cardboard boxes as they did their laundry. And he was amazed at how they opened these boxes. How do you think they opened them? With their hands? That’s right; they often had screwdrivers or some other instrument to use to open these boxes in order to avoid damaging their nails. A small, simple insight that showed P&G that they actually did not know what their customer in fact needed.

I wish I can say I have a small podcast of at least one of his responses to some great questions, but of course in the 21st century I made the one cardinal mistake of technology. I forgot to check the batteries to recorder. Oh well. Don’t forget, we had a video crew on hand recording our keynotes and in the coming weeks and months I’ll be uploading them here and the event website.

Well after rushing out after A.G.’s session and buying and installing fresh batteries it was time for Deborah Ancona, Seley Distinguished Professor of Management and Faculty Director of the MIT Leadership Center, MIT Sloan School of Management. She had a very interesting presentation that covered the subject matter of her book, X-Teams. She went into some detail regarding the nature of X Teams, how they function distinctly from more traditional concepts of project teams in most organizations.

She focused on her case study of Microsoft’s experience with their NetGen team. It was quite interesting; in fact, our camera operator video recording her session afterwards mentioned to me how he was the camera operator during Microsoft’s project with the team and how they recorded hours upon hours of every moment with the team. I actually have a small podcast of Deborah describing the team HERE.

After Deborah, Ray Kurzweil, author, researcher, inventor, and technology expert presented. His was a very interesting presentation that looked at how technology has exploded at the end of the 20th century and now in the 21st century and as a result what impacts it has had on the economy, business and our society. He had some great examples of what has been done, one particular example was the advancement of cell phones, imaging and speech software that has very recently culminated in a cell phone for the blind that can take a photo of any written text and then read it out loud to the listener. It was amazing to see it actually work. At the end he answered questions from the audience; I recorded one of them HERE. He has also made his presentation available here.

Finally the last keynote presentation was given by Michael Giersch, VP of Strategic Planning, IBM Corporate Strategy. He gave an inside look at the tremendous changes that have occurred at IBM as they implemented strategy after strategy to foster and develop new business areas. He was very candid about the internal strife and failures IBM underwent until it finally developed a new strategy that it currently follows for emerging business opportunities. I think many of you will find this very interesting to see how painful it can be for a company to come up with new ways of expanding and evolving. I captured a small portion that you can listen to HERE.

After a morning packed with these great presenters, it was off to more networking and then break-out sessions and tracks. There really was so much to see and do. Putting on an event of this size with the caliber of speakers and collaborators is daunting to say the least. But many of you who attended had the chance to meet some of the team who did such a great job this year and at events past to make it worthwhile. I hope those of you who were at FEI felt it was more than worthwhile, it inspired you, and you left with new ideas for your own organizations. I also came away with some great ideas specifically regarding this blog and our LinkedIn group. I plan to share shortly and I truly hope I will get your input. For those of you who couldn’t I hope these posts could at least give you a sense of the great experience here at FEI, and I hope those who did attend and agree it was a worthwhile experience will leave their own thoughts and perspectives either as comments or as blog posts if anyone is interested in posting.

As I mentioned we video recorded quite a bit of content so in the coming weeks we’ll be upload and sharing here and to the LinkedIn group, and we welcome anyone who participated if they have any relevant content from the event or related to the Fuzzy Front End of Innovation, feel free to share. It’s been a great experience attending FEI, I’m looking forward to our European event in Monaco next January. We’ll certainly keep you informed of details in the coming months. Thank you all and stay tuned, we’ll be sharing regularly with you so keep checking back often.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

FEI Update: Getting Ready for Day 2

It's bright and early and I'm getting ready for the start of the conference this morning. But before everything begins I thought I would share some posts from across the blogosphere regarding FEI:

Innovating to Win blog:

At The Front End of Innovation

And Still More from the Front End of Innovation

Innosight blog:

Have an Innovation Question for P&G's A.G. Lafley?

The Better Research blog:

Research for Innovation

Hospital Impact blog:

Innovation Conference in Boston

Innovativeye blog:
Front End of Innovation USA 2008

Later today I hope to post some details from this morning's keynote presentations, stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

FEI Update: That's Just Day One

Well what a first day, so much to see and learn. I had the chance to walk through many of the tracks and through the exhibition hall spending a great deal of time meeting with attendees discussing the event and the great presentations.

The first day was closed with a keynote presentation by Dean Kamen, founder and president of DEKA and founder of FIRST. He gave a great presentation, discussing innovation vs. invention, the realities and challenges of innovation, as well as the great work of FIRST. I really want to share with you the first 10 minutes of his presentation which you can listen to HERE. He begins by discussing the South Pointing Chariot and the compass both from ancient China. I think you’ll find it very interesting and compelling.

At the end of his presentation he discusses his FIRST organization. I have to tell you I was very impressed as he describes the issue of American youth’s focus on the sports and entertainment industries rather than developing a passion for learning, the sciences, mathematics, engineering. He founded FIRST with the goal of creating that interest and passion for learning but by engaging the adults in the youth’s lives to give them the role models they need and involving them in a unique sport tournament

Over the past 15 years the organization has grown in a national yearly event that reaches children in high school, junior high and elementary school. The amount of companies involved goes beyond the Fortune 500 but includes many local businesses that team together to sponsor these youths. I think you’ll find the story of FIRST just as remarkable as the audience did today. You can listen to it HERE. Afterwards attendees had a chance to meet with some of the youth teams and see their robots in action, something my pictures just don’t do justice.

After the presentation it was off for some great networking; I happened to stop by a cocktail hour hosted by our friends at Invention Machine, who are here presenting during our Innovation Thought Leaders giving a session on “Innovation through Biomimicry”. While I was there meeting with other attendees, I was introduced to Peter Egelston, founder and president of Smuttynose Brewing, and after an initial discussion about the name Smuttynose, I asked Peter to tell me about the great sustainable innovation that Smuttynose is implementing and hoping to incorporate into a new brewing facility they hope to begin construction on in the months to come. I think you’ll find it a remarkable example of how any company can take some great steps going green and developing sustainable innovation. You can listen to it HERE.

Also a colleague of ours, Adam Zand of Topaz Partners has his thoughts of day one from FEI as well as some podcast interviews, enjoy and expect to see more soon.



Overall this has been a remarkable first day with great learning and networking opportunities. Tomorrow I’m expecting some great keynotes by A.G Lafley, Deborah Ancona, Ray Kurzweil, and Michael Giersch. I’ll try and post tomorrow as soon as I can.

FEI Update: Morning Sessions

Where to begin? Just so much information, it’s hard to go through everything, I’m sure many of our attendees are thinking the same thing I am, there’s just not enough time to see all of the great presenters. This morning we kicked off with two keynotes, Peter Guber, Founder and Chairman of Mandalay Entertainment followed by a joint presentation by Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry Guild and president of the Biomimicry Institute, along with Günter Pauli, founder of the ZERI Foundation and Professor Systems Design at the Politecnico di Torino.

Before Peter began, the MC for FEI, Bumper Carroll got everyone energized, even getting us all to do the wave. Once everyone was awake and ready to start, he turned it over to Peter Guber. Peter began the keynote sessions with his presentation, Ah-ha! The MAGIC to Success, and he touched on several points. He discussed how even in the face of pain and embarrassment of failure, many of us strive for success because of how seductive it can be. The basis of the magic of success is our inherent oral ability to storytell. In any instance when we are trying to convey an idea or make a pitch in a sales call, we should keep in mind the points of MAGIC:

M: Motivation – Your desire and passion for the concept or idea or point you are trying to convey.

A: Audience – Rather than consider a person as a client or a customer, treat your listener as your audience and you are more aware of their response to your message.

G: Goal – Your focus, your intent has to be clear and understandable to your listener.

I: Interactive – Telling a story isn’t about speaking one way, but engaging the listener, involving them in your story and responding to them

C: Control or rather the willingness to surrender control in engaging your listener making them apart of your story,

My summary doesn’t do justice to the essence of his presentation. But HERE is just a small portion of his discussion you can listen to. The audience responded enthusiastically giving him a standing ovation at the end of his presentation. Then Janine and Gunter began their presentation.

We've previously posted on the topic of Biomimicry, but here was a chance to listen to Janine and Gunter as they presented some remarkable case studies of how new companies are learning from nature and how it has resolved some of the same problems that businesses regularly create products to solve. The possibilities were amazing when you consider that by studying how nature has evolved these solutions, we can use them in industry, products, buildings; the list goes on and on. In fact there just wasn’t enough time for them to cover all the case studies and uses they had in their presentation. But HERE you can listen to a small portion of one of the examples they shared with us today.

After the keynotes it was time for us to network, visit with the great sponsors and exhibitors, and to begin attending the various tracks. Later this evening, Dean Kamen will be speaking. I’m excited to hear him speak and see some of his FIRST Robots. I’ll try and post again later this evening. Stay Tuned.

FEI Kicks Off



Last night FEI began here in Boston with an introduction by Robin Karol, Executive Director of the PDMA followed by The Second City, with a presentation from Bumper Carroll, Group Creative Director. Robin took the time to discuss the great relationship between the PDMA and IIR in the Front End of Innovation, as well as discuss the PDMA, its vision, goals, its presence across the globe, and the various events it has each year. I met with her very briefly afterwards and she gave me some highlights, you can listen HERE.

Bumper Caroll gave a great presentation with a focus on “Improvise to Innovate.” There were a lot of great points such as the concept of using Yes, And, to be positive and inviting as ideas are shared. It was a great presentation that had the audience participating actively including team improvised poetry. That doesn’t begin to describe the mayhem, but it was a great time for us all. I recorded a snippet of the presentation you can listen to HERE. Then I had the chance to meet with Bumper afterwards and he gave some highlights which you can listen to HERE.

This was followed by a great evening networking in the exhibition where I had a chance to meet with so many of the attendees, speakers and sponsors. I'll be covering the event today and I'll log in and try to update you all as the day progresses.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Live from Boston: It's FEI!

As promised I’m here in Boston getting ready to cover the event and meet with members of our LinkedIn group and other attendees here at FEI. I drove up from New York to Boston, a decision I made because I had driven it so much when I attended college here in Boston. Coming down the Mass Pike, I-90, into downtown Boston is something; watching that beautiful city skyline rise up, I thought I should visit Boston more often.

FEI start in just a few hours this evening. I had a chance to walk through the World Trade Center conference space as everyone begins setting up; it’s amazing the amount of work and effort that goes into an event this size. I also had a chance to meet with some sponsors and other attendees who have all offered to guest blog during and after the event. Be sure to subscribe to our feed so you can see the latest from here in Boston.

Coming through the space I ran into Kim Rivielle, Managing Director, Marketing & Strategy Division at IIR, and Jennifer Finer, Senior Conference Producer for the Front End of Innovation US and Europe. Both were very busy overseeing the final details before things begin tonight, but they were good enough to quickly chat with me and give me their thoughts before the event begins. I’ve shared it here

And as I promised over the next few days I’ll be posting as often as possible, check back often, and as our guest bloggers and I try and share with you all the great experience here at FEI.

Europe Developing Sustainable Innovation

Europe is on it’s way to becoming the innovation capital of the world. Not too long ago, we posted about how Dundalk, Ireland, is striving to innovate a way to power the Irish country side.

A new article at Green Loop details how Europe is poised to take the next step in being the innovation capital of the world through sustainable innovation. Enviu is an international organization who works together to educate individuals and find profitable, sustainable solutions to save the environment. This organization is banding together with several other innovation labs throughout several countries (Spain, Denmark, Poland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands). Each countries innovation lab focuses on a different aspect and goal for innovating for their environment. The full project is detailed and updated on their blog can be read here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Harvard Business Study Links Motivation to Creativity

In a recent study released by Harvard Business School, a study was done to find the effects of business life on the amount of creativity produced.


The study consisted of 238 people from seven different companies. Each day the participants were asked to fill out daily journals that included numerical ranked questions dealing with: Information about their work day, emotions, motivation, work environment, in addition to brief description of their work day and detailing one event that stood out.


At the end of the research phase, these participants provided 12,000 entries. There was concrete evidence that:


People have their best days and do their best work when they are allowed to make progress.


The study now had evidence that positive emotions lead to a higher amount of creativity, and can also reach this junction by being allowed to make progress. Even little amounts of progress in one’s inner work life can lead to higher amounts of creativity.


To receive the creativity out of your employees, HBS Study provided this:


Support employees' progress in their work every day. Set clear and meaningful goals for them; provide direct help, versus hindrance; offer adequate resources and time; respond to successes and failures by drawing on the experience as a learning opportunity, not just a moment to praise or reprimand; and establish a culture where people are treated with respect.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Innovation Center of the Southwest Asia

Even though they sit in a seat of constant turmoil, Israel has continued to develop their industry to become one of the most advanced countries in Southwest Asia. According to this article at Monty C. M. Metzger’s blog highlights why Israel has become one of the most innovative parts of this region of the world.

According to Metzger, Isreal has the second largest amount of start up countries within its borders through out the world. They only trail the United States. Even though they have few natural resources, they are still self sufficient in food production. They also export vast amounts of goods including fruits, vegetables, and pharmaceuticals. They’ve made a huge profit off of this industry as well:

Leading exports include fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, software, chemicals, military technology, and diamonds; in 2006, Israeli exports reached US$42.86 billion.

Another key part of Israel’s innovation is the amount of technology that is concentrated in its borders. Just behind Silicon Valley is Silicon Wadi. Many big name tech companies that are already well established within their borders, including, Intel, Microsoft, Google, and Cisco Systems, just to name a few, have begun to invest in difference cities of Israel including Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Are you in an innovation rut?

At Jim Carroll’s blog, he takes up the tough question of what to do when your company is in an innovation rut. To keep up with the competition, he points out that it is vital to keep realigning your company to the constant changes that are happening in your industry. The easiest way to do this is through constant innovation, but many companies are so focused on day-to-day activities that companies can’t step back to find the next step or innovative idea that will keep them up to speed in their industry. Jim provides several difficult question every company should address in order to keep the innovation rut away from their organization:

  • How quickly is our marketplace changing? How quickly might it change in the future? What's the impact on what I sell, and how I sell it?
  • How are our products changing? Will they change faster in terms of features? Will support become easier, or more complex? Can we manage to operate in a faster market?
  • Are our products moving upscale, or are they becoming commodities, such that you'll be forced to compete on price? Can we do something so that there is more of a service element to our product?
  • What new competitors are appearing, or might emerge in the future? Is the basic business model threatened? Is there more likelihood of direct outreach to the consumer rather than through an existing distributor/wholesaler network?
  • What moves could we make to make sure we can remain competitive? You really must ask yourself some probing questions as you go through this process. You need to challenge yourself and think what might really be different in five years, in terms of what you sell, who you sell to, how you sell it, and who you are selling against.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Biomimicracy: Borrowing from Nature

In a recent article at CNN, they discuss the fundamental principles of biomimicracy. Biomimicracy is the new idea that turning to nature and copying her designs is the way of the future. Janine Benyus, a key note speaker at this year’s Front End of Innovation Conference, coined the term in 1997.

Recently, German botanists observed the way the lotus plant’s leaves were drying, which inspired them to create a faster drying process in paint.

Professor Julian Vincent of Bath University calculated that when continuing to work on a project and turning to engineering, there would be a 12% increase in energy use while turning to biology and observing only lead to an increase of energy by 5%.

Janine Benyus concluded the article saying, Doing it nature's way," she says "has the potential to change the way we grow food, make materials, harness energy, heal ourselves, store information, and conduct business." In observing the natural world around us, we can obtain numerous benefits and advancements that may take so much more time in traditional research and development. But better yet, what we can learn in observing the world around us now could help us to save the planet itself.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Right Web2.0 Tool for the Audience (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook)

The Right Web2.0 Tool for the Audience (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook)

The volume of Twitter posts popping up in my feed reader is ticking upward, a phenomenon I find interesting because of something I noted recently on LinkedIn. A few weeks ago, a new feature appeared, enabling me to report what I'm working on - Twitter for the office crowd. Always willing to try some flair, I jumped on the bandwagon, and set up a recurring ToDo for updating my LI-net on the day's focus.

meta-tweet


That lasted less than two weeks - some clear (and discouraging) trends had emerged:


  • Few people in my network were using this feature, and actively noting what we were doing - and it was primarily folks that I know are active bloggers, engaged in the practice of Web 2.0 (and they, too, have trailed off in their LI-tweets)

  • For the "regular" folks in my network, it was the one activity (daily or twice daily updates) that generated the most inbound comments. I got multiple e-mails, noting that I must be manufacturing additional hours each day.

  • Without fail, whenever you mention SAP, data warehousing, or any other specific technology, every product sales rep or consulting firm in your network will call that day and offer a$$istance.



I remain a fan of LinkedIn and social networks in general, but my personal jury is still out with Twitter. I think I want it to succeed, but I'm not sure exactly what it can succeed at. The ideas and innovations are still coming in - one of them is sure to make sense to the wider audience, right? In the mean time, I just don't see it catching on in the mainstream enterprise business environment.

I wonder if the gap is generational, or just a different target audience? Much like the difference between Facebook and LinkedIn - is it GenX vs the Millennials, or is it social network versus professional network? Earlier this week, Bernard Lunn weighed in with his compare and contrast post, and observing that both platforms attempt to add Yet Another Messaging Medium to your current array. Dennis McDonald's reply post backs up the notion that there are different audiences in play here - he also has done a deeper dive in Facebook than I have, so if you want a more qualified and detailed comparison, check out Dennis' work.

Or maybe Hugh MacLeod (gapingvoid) has it pegged ...

insightful


Note that Mr. MacLeod is clearly a Twitter fan - maybe he gets this stuff it better than I ...

Previously ...


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Innovation How-to from Pixar’s Leading Director

Pixar continues to deliver ground-breaking innovative pictures time after time. The McKinsey Quarterly recently sat down with Brad Bird, Pixar’s two-time Oscar winning director, and interviewed him on his approach to fostering innovation and creativity in his teams.

Here are some of his approaches as detailed in the interview:

Shake things up: Brad encouraged his team to use “cheats” to create effects that they thought were not possible.

“You can build a flying saucer, or you can take a pie plate and fling it across the screen. If the audience only sees the pie plate very briefly and you throw it just right, they will buy it as a flying saucer.”

Hire Involved People: People who innovate time and time again are actively engaged in the progress of the project. They are consistently asking themselves how to better situations, and how to solve problems.

Improve Dynamics Between Teams: Companies work with different departments on a daily basis. The trick here is to effectively combine all collaborative ideas, and implement that creativity in a harmonious way.

Get Your Team to Collaborate: Very often we find that employees do not speak up when they have creative ideas. How do we break this mold? Brad critiqued and analyzed his team’s work in front of everyone, thus humiliating and encouraging together. Within a matter of months, people became more comfortable shouting out ideas, since meetings became so open.

Improve Morale: Productivity levels will drop for employees who do not feel invested in their work. Give workers a chance to voice their opinions and ideas, and morale throughout the company will be boosted.

This approach has helped shape the creative culture at Pixar. Listen to Brad Bird talk about his thoughts on how ideas become visual through animation.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Nokia and User-Generated Innovation

Companies can learn a lot from the Finnish handset maker Nokia. For quite some time Nokia has gathered customers’ ideas from around the world through online applications, and used these ideas to help shape ideal and dream products. What’s the cost for online applications? It’s virtually free.

This article in BusinessWeek highlights how Nokia’s mobile phone application Sports Tracker took off in ways developers never dreamed of. This app was primarily meant to have cyclists and runners take advantage of Nokia’s global positioning capability, but soon enough people used this application for sports such as paragliding, hot-air balloon riding, and motorcycle riding. Due to overwhelming responses, online groups, communities, and “favorite routes” were created.

Nokia Beta Labs is the website where it allows users to login and rate applications that Nokia designers have created. Nokia has seen tremendous success in the launch of Beta Labs, but what are some other examples of companies who have also used the same innovation approach?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Saving your ideas?

In a recent post at CommunityGuy, Jake McKee posted one of Ze Frank’s videos. In this video, Ze Frank tackles a common question of all innovators, “What happens if you run out of ideas?”


Ze points out instead of acting on those ideas, many of us simply keep them in our heads. Why? You’ll come up with many excuses not to bring them out and expand upon them. While you’re not pursuing your ideas, they’ll become embellished and have more brilliance than the first time you thought of the original idea.



Ze takes the time to point out that on first try when we unleash the idea upon the world, most ideas turn out horribly. But by the second or third go round, you’ve got a lot or experience and have learned how to make these ideas much better.


So when an innovative idea comes to you, write it down, get it out and start working with it immediately. You can never get the time or energy back you’ve waited on an idea that swims in your head. And if you’ve discovered one of those ideas was really bad, you now have time to come up with plenty of others that may not be so bad.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Innovating In Difficult Times

A colleague from our FEI LinkedIn group recently forwarded to us the article, Innovation dilemma for CEOs in down economy, written by Mark Atkins, CEO of Invention Machine; which takes a closer look at four suggestions CEOs should implement to drive innovation within an organization through a recession period.

In this article, Mark first mentions 2 key factors that are driving a need for new product enhancements and innovation. The first is that about 70% of products that are generating revenue today will soon be obsolete within a span of five years. The second factor is that 60% of the baby boomer workforce that helped take companies to new innovative heights will soon retire and will be replaced by a more tech savvy group.

With this in mind, Mark offers the four following suggestions:

1. Drive the innovation agenda:

CEOs must stress the importance of the innovation agenda to all employees. After all, innovation almost always starts from the top. Mark gives the example of how Steve Jobs from Apple Inc. “rolls up his sleeves and launches a new product every year.” Even through a recession, CEOs should not cut R & D budgets, but should encourage departments to keep delivering innovative products.

2. Encourage new product development and enhance existing products

Since most of the revenue-generating products will become obsolete in the next five years, there must be a focus on new product development and the re-engineering of existing products for new markets, which Mark mentions in his article as “create or perish”. Companies should invest their time in discovering the evolving needs of its current customers as well.

3. Invest in technology to drive repeatable innovation

Hands down, best-in class companies are more likely to have a successful innovative process. Why’s that? Best-in class companies invest heavily in technology that creates innovation repeatedly instead of a one-hit wonder.

4. Track return on innovation closely

Investments in new product development and innovation must yield an attractive ROI. Concepts and ideas must come into place, each and every time.

Taking a look back at some best-in class companies like Apple, Nokia, Pixar, and Google to name a few, all of these companies share one thing in common…they continue to innovate time and time again even through a struggling economy. They’ve all fostered these four steps, and have rendered tremendous success in their innovation practices. Encouraging product innovation throughout these organizations has proven critical to their efforts in maintaining a competitive edge.

Monday, May 5, 2008

FEI Speakers Around the Web

While browsing through my Google Reader today, I came across a few mentions of some of the keynote speakers we have at FEI Boston this year.

A.G. Lafley says innovation is the reason for its 8% increase in quarterly net profit from one year ago here in this Business Week article.


And here at Creativity and Innovation, they demonstrate how organizational learning leads to greater amounts of creativity in organizations. Deborah Ancona is mentioned in this article, noting that collaboration and looking to the outside world when working on group projects is vital for the most effective innovation.


The Front End of Innovation Conference is quickly approaching! Join us in Boston from May 19th through the 21st at the Boston World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel to hear these speakers give their insight on how they’ve brought innovation into key parts of their business.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Take Risks or Be Left in the Dark

When was the last time your company took a huge risk like entering a new market, or trying different pricing strategies? The main theme discussed in this post from the OnlyOnce blog is that to be truly innovative, an entrepreneurial company must be able to see opportunities, and most importantly go after them.

Original flight innovators like the Wright Brothers inspired aviation by taking chances, instead of conforming to the norm. Wilbur and Orville both knew that more knowledge and testing were needed in order to perfect flight. We can take a lot in the basis of innovation from our predecessors.

The next time that you feel as if your company has hit an innovation slump, hold a company poll to rate the level of risks your organization has taken on a scale of 1 to 10. If your organization rates anywhere from 6 and below, chances are that your company is not taking enough relevant business risks that will define it as an “entrepreneurial company”.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

RSS: Underappreciated Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

RSS: Underappreciated Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

We added RSS capabilities to our internal PMO systems this past month, and traffic & content is already building up to become a valuable resource. Some have [correctly] noted that this increased visibility puts a bit more pressure on project managers and team members, to keep updating project blogs with pertinent information. This "time shifting" of communication should develop into the most effective way to let the rest of IT know what is happening in all areas.


There are some very interesting threads and conversations going on ... for example:



  • One Supply Chain systems team informs us of process improvements in product development - nothing to do with IT, but interesting nonetheless

  • Another team is putting together ideas that will take some significant IT costs out - that's a very active thread

  • The SAP application team is debating with the Basis team on the merits of a Unicode upgrade - and onlookers from Supply Chain Planning and Data Warehousing are noting dependencies on Unicode in their platforms

These spontaneous, organic, and very impactful "conversations", between people still experimenting with a new technology, show me real potential for spontaneous innovation and idea sharing. More evidence of the value of [judicious] experimentation with new technology - no silver bullet, but just enough spark to start a few fires.


Interested in learning more about RSS? There's lots of good reading out on the Internet ...


via LinkedIn Answers:



Interesting Visualizations ... (from RWW)



  • Voyage is an imaginative RSS-feader which displays the latest news in the "gravity area". Interesting navigation - I don't think this is practical for internal use, but it sure looks good!

  • Newsmap translates news feeds and frequeny to a variable bar graph approach.

  • Universe DayLife is, well, spacey. Translates the universe of news and connections to stars ...

Musings on Best Practice ...




    Desktop RSS Readers - Folks in PTV IT are using these ...




    So, you're more of a visual person?



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    Open Innovation is a Two-Way Street



    Open Innovation is currently one of the hottest topics in innovation. It is often proposed as a silver bullet for innovation problems and a guarantor of future growth. Every few days there seems to be a new website dedicated to open innovation.

    Indeed, Open Innovation does hold the promise of providing important benefits from innovation; however, judging by the descriptions to be found in the internet and the press, it is seldom understood correctly.


    The term "Open Innovation" was proposed by Henry Chesbrough, Professor of Management at the University of California. In doing so, he created a paradigm shift in corporate attitudes towards innovation. Until recently, all phases of the innovation process were kept strictly within the corporation; Chesbrough calls this "Closed Innovation". By contrast, with an Open Innovation approach, a company opens its innovation process to external participation, for example for customers, suppliers, independent experts or even for the entire world. The impenetrable walls with which companies surrounded themselves become permeable. This opening up has many beneficial effects on innovation activities - Chesbrough calls this an "increase in the metabolic rate."

    Two crucial aspects of this new permeability are that it is valid firstly in both directions (inwards and outwards) and secondly along the entire length of the innovation process (from ideation to marketing).

    However, almost all discussion of Open Innovation is limited to the enabling of external participants in the ideation phase. This is exemplified by the Lead User method and a plethora of new websites supporting crowdsourcing such as openinnovation in Switzerland or FellowForce in the Netherlands. Limiting the interpretation of Open Innovation to this one aspect ignores many other equally important opportunities described by Chesbrough (such as the licensing out of intellectual property), which are essential to the success of the overall concept.

    One of the few balanced illustrations of Open Innovation to found on the internet is by BASF Future Business Corporation, a subsidiary of the German chemical corporation BASF, which is dedicated to pursuing new technologies which are currently outside the parent corporation's purview.

    Our experience in dealing with clients at their Front End of Innovation shows that they often develop more good ideas than they can implement themselves. In many cases, these are ideas that could be commercialised via joint developments, licensing out or spinoffs. However, these chances are usually ignored, and the potential of the idea is lost. Open Innovation would help to prevent such losses, and the return on investment in the idea generation process would be even greater.

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