Friday, October 31, 2008

Could new law improve innovation?

Yesterday, the US Court of Appeals rejected a patent application which will end the patenting of business methods that are considered more entrepreneurial than innovative. This ruling generally affects "thoughts" and there are no physical objects used in the rulings.

According to CNet News:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled on Thursday that the patent application at issue was not tied to a machine and did not result in a transformation, both standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court for patentability.

What do you think about this ruling? Will this increase or hinder innovation in the software industry?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

AG Lafley talks about consumer insight

At the Front End of Innovation website, we've recently added the second part of AG Lafley's keynote talk from the 2008 FEI US event. We invite you to watch. Part two focuses on how Proctor and Gamble and AG Lafley got reacquainted with their customers, and began to create new products according to what they observed in the natural environment of their customers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Issuu finds a way to evolve the publishing world

Some industries have been struggling lately. The publishing industry is an example (CosmoGirl closing, and The Christian Science Monitor stopping daily newspaper). A new innovative website looks to change some of these things in the industry, and FoxBusiness took a look. Issuu.com is an online publishing service that was created to solve the problems associated with online publishing. Anyone can publish an article in the format equivalent to a printed publication. Companies have begun to see the value, as MTV Networks, Guardian Books, and The Bantam Dell division of Random House have started publishing with Issuu.com.

What do you think a website liket this can do for an industry? It's publishing articles and documents for free, both for major corporations and the common people. It's already shown a great amount of success. Is this what's next for publishing?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chicago Innovation Awards

Check out the winners of this year’s Chicago Innovation Awards. These innovators are at the top of their game and I’m looking forward to spending time researching their great work.

According to BusinessWeek, “This year's winners are as impressive as ever, ranging from Abbott Laboratories (ABT)—metro Chicago's biggest company measured by stock value—to PrepMe, a 2005 startup with only 10 full-time employees. The winners' creations include Internet services, of course. Just as impressive, they've also discovered ways to improve gear or processes that go back centuries.”

For more information on the event, click on the BusinessWeek’s Special Report.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Podcast: Recession Proofing Your Business With Innovation

This morning came across Steven Shapiro’s interview with Susan Friedman on “Riches in Niches” radio in which they discussed innovation and business success in today’s economy. Everyone seems to be worried about innovation practices in our current economic situation, and so this interview gives a few tips on how to survive through these troubling financial times.

Click on these links to view the 30 minute interview broking in two parts, Innovation Interview Part 1 and Innovation Interview Part 2, or stream it like by visiting Susan Friedman's page.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Innovating for the Future

In a move to increase the number of scientists and engineers, the European Science Foundation (ESF) is holding an exploratory workshop, as reported here. There are five sessions including: Entering the Labour Market, Human Capital and Careers, Labour Mobility, Researcher Performance, and R&D workers in industry. Co-convenor Andries de Grip had this to say regarding the workshop:

"Freeman stated that policy makers do not seem to be fully aware of the fact that scientists and engineers are the key actors in innovation, and will therefore be crucial for the future competitiveness of developed countries, which is at risk in both the US and Europe"


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Innovative Ideas From Tech Awards

Discovery Channel recently created a slide show celebrating the winners of Tech Awards, hosted by the Tech Museum of Innovation. It is an annual award given out to contestants for technological innovations in the fields of environment, education, economic development, equality and health. Five winners for each of of the previously mentioned categories are selected and are the recipient of $50,000 split between them. One of the winners created a means to produce fuel using plant oil. VWP (Vereinigte Werkstätten für Pflanzenöltechnologie), asked the question "What if producing food also produced fuel?" which led to the creation of the project "Carbon-Dioxide Recycle Concept for Food and Fuel." More of the winners and their winning innovative ideas can be seen here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Adult Stem Cells Therapies

In a recently provided analysis from Frost & Sullivan, innovation and "therapeutic potential" have been seen with testing of Adult Stem Cells. As this article from MarketWatch informs:

"Adult stem cell therapies were traditionally thought to have poor therapeutic potential because they could only be produced in limited quantities or as needed. Now adult stem cells have the potential to become standardized pre-made therapies that can be mass produced."

This new data may prove to be a step forward in stem cell research, since many of the reasons for difficulty with this type of research surrounds the use of embryonic cells. Adult stem cells do not carry the same negative stigma.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Innovation for the Sake of the Economy

FCW.com recently conducted an interview with Judy Estrin, current CTO at Cisco Systems. Her opinion is that Science and Technological Innovation have been the main reason for U.S. economic growth in the past, however, the current climate is not continuing to foster this type of atmosphere. In her book, "Closing the Innovation Gap", she discusses the importance of innovation, and how it is imperative for the U.S. to start on the path of cultivating innovation once more, as we discussed in this previous post. One of the points she makes in the interview conducted by FCW is:

"If you want sustainable innovation, which is really what we need to drive the economy, it’s not enough to have exciting new products. The iPod is a wonderful device, but in and of itself, is not enough to drive the economy. What you need is innovation in lots of different areas. You need breakthrough types of innovation like the Internet, whether it’s to drive the economy, to improve the quality of life, or to solve some of the major challenges that we have as a nation and a planet."

What are your thoughts on her perspective?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Innovation in Canada

The Gazette reports that innovation and infrastructure projects are the way to go in Canada to foster it through its weakened economy. Even though there is no recession in Canada, the country is still feeling the impact of the global economic crisis.

The article mentions that innovation will help generate future prosperity in the country, developing new and higher value for products and also creating more efficient ways to produce and deliver these goods and services. Roadblocks to innovation practices in this country include politicians that do not want to invest money in innovation because of troubling times in the economy. Investments today made in innovation processes will directly impact the future of the country. It will be interesting to see how things will span out for the country of Canada over the next 10 years.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Innovative Architecture Plans throughout the Globe

The global economic crisis does not seem to affect plans for innovative building architecture across the map. This article in BusinessWeek shows us how many architects are working seamlessly on building some of the tallest buildings around the world.

At Cityscape Dubai, a property developer Nakheel unveiled plans to build a $38 billion, 3,000 ft skyscraper by the year 2020. Technology, materials, and design are becoming more sophisticated by the day, and so there at least 69 supertall buildings currently in construction. Interesting enough most of the supertall buildings under construction will not be in the US. Could there be a direct correlation to the struggling economy?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Innovation 101

Researching the web I came across Steven Shapiro’s article “Innovation 101” on IABC. There isn’t much literature out there explaining why innovation is necessary, and so this article helps to answer that exact question.

Corporations might find themselves asking this question, what can innovation do for my company? Steven believes that innovation, used properly can achieve the following:

  • Reduce costs
  • Increase service levels to customers
  • Improve overall employee performance and retention
  • De-commoditize a commodity business
  • Become recession-proof
What has your corporation been able to achieve through its innovation processes? I’m interested in hearing what other businesses out there have experienced through experimenting with different innovation methodologies.

Make sure to read the full article here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Will Economic Concerns Affect Your Innovation Strategy?

The current economic situation will play a pivotal role in today’s innovation process. James Toddhunter has posted a survey that asks the following question, “Given global economic concerns, what is your organization doing about innovation?” at Innovating To Win. It will be interesting to see the results of the survey, do you think that most companies will play it safe and pull back from investing in innovation processes or will corporations look towards innovation to lead the way through turbulent times? Take a second to cast your vote here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Option Portfolio for Innovation Projects


In the previous article The Innovation Portfolio we saw how innovation projects can be visualised as a portfolio using different dimensions for their organisation. One good example for such a portfolio can be found in a very interesting article by Ian MacMillan of the University of Pennsylvania and Rita McGrath of Columbia University titled Crafting R&D Project Portfolios. This article can be found in the book Managing Strategic Innovation and Change edited by Michael Tushman and Philip Anderson (which, incidentally, contains many more valuable contributions.)

In the model of MacMillan and McGrath, the axes of the portfolio diagram are defined by two types of uncertainty of success. Market Uncertainty describes the uncertainty of commercial success owing to factors such as demand, competitors' responses or the effects of future laws and regulations. Technical Uncertainty describes the uncertainties with respect to the ability to successfully pursue the project to completion. These uncertainties can be due for example to technical difficulties, availability of resources or size of necessary investments.

Depending on their position in the portfolio, different innovation projects have different meanings for the company.

Projects with both low market uncertainty and low technical uncertainty are incremental innovations, for example improvements to existing products or line extensions. Such projects are technically feasible, and their commerical success is relatively easy to predict.

Projects with a medium level of uncertainty are often so-called platform projects. A platform project will lead in the medium term to a new product based on a new technology, which will serve as a basis for a whole series of subsequent incremental innovations.

Both incremental and platform projects are carried out with the goal of generating revenue; they are intended to produce new products in the short to medium term which protect market share.

By contrast, according to MacMillan and McGrath, innovation projects which have at least one dimension of uncertainty should be treated as options rather than revenue generators. In the stock market, a (call) option is the right to purchase a certain stock at a future date. If the stock goes up, then the right is exercised, if not, then it expires without being exercised. Options are a mechanism for investing a comparatively small amount of money in order to be able to participate in a future development. According to this reasoning, innovation projects with a high degreee of uncertainty should be viewed as options; they are tickets to possible future markets or technologies.

Innovation projects with a high degree of technical uncertainty but only a low or medium degree of market uncertainty are termed positioning options. These projects are carried out when the chances of a given technology achieving full functionality are unclear, or when several technologies are competing for primacy. If the technology concerned works out or comes out on top respectively, then the positioning option facilitates the entry into the market. The goal of a positioning option is therefore to acquire proficiency in a given technology.

Innovation projects with a high degree of market uncertainty but only a low or medium degree of technical uncertainty are called scouting options. These are projects which are feasible, but for which the commercial success is unclear. Scouting options are therefore used to gather information about the market.

Finally, innovation projects with both a high market uncertainty and a high technical uncertainty are called stepping-stone options, because they serve as stepping stones to completely new markets and solutions. They are by nature both positioning options and scouting options.

The importance of each field in the portfolio depends on the type of company and the market it is in. A good innovation strategy recognises the meanings of the various fields and formulates goals for each one to be acheived by innovation management. In a market with fast technological changes, for example, positioning options may play a larger role, while in a trend-oriented consumer market, scouting options will be more important.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Innovation Portfolio


The innovation portfolio is an important instrument of innovation strategy which has direct and important consequences for innovation management. It is used to structure and visualise the current set of innovation projects in a company. Its primary goal is to ensure that a company's innovation activities are balanced; that it is neither over- nor under-invested in any particular strategically functional area of innovation.

The most common structuring tool for an innovation portfolio is the well-known three-dimensional diagram shown above. Each innovation project in the company is denoted by a circle of a certain size at a specific coordinate in two-dimensional space. This gives three dimensions for characterising each project.

Some characteristics of innovation projects which are typically used are:

  • Market uncertainty
  • Technical uncertainty
  • Sales volume
  • Time to market
  • Implementation costs
  • Strategic potential

The innovation portfolio plays an important role in the final phase of idea evaluation. There, each idea is entered into the diagram, and it is determined how well it complements the already existing and planned projects. Ideas which compete with an already occupied location in the diagram may need to be postponed, or they may replace the existing project. On the other hand, ideas which fill a critical empty space in the diagram may well be assigned an increased priority as a result.

The innovation portfolio also plays an important role at the very front of the front end of innovation, since - at least in a well-managed innovation process - gaps in the project space should automatically trigger ideation activities. These ideation tasks can be precisely directed towards the specific need that has been identified in the portfolio structure. Thus, instead of just looking for generic "ideas for new products", the innovation manager will be able to design his or her ideation activities to generate "ideas for platform products with a time to market of at least three years", for example. The latter task has - by virtue of its precision - a much higher chance of success.

This is one example of how a great deal of the fuzziness can be removed from the "fuzzy front end of innovation."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Have It Your Way -- innovation at Burger King

In Miami, overlooking the Miami International Airport, the Burger King headquarters stand. On the ninth floor, the product innovation team meets to find new ways to present traditional foods in new way for the Burger King menu. The Herald Tribune of Sarasota, Florida recently took a look at what goes into the innovation at Burger King. Here, here is a cafeteria and a test kitchen where they 'ideate'. They use fast food marketing terms to communicate such as LTO -- Limited-Time Only, SOS -- Speed Of Service, and HFFU -- Heavy Fast Food User. They find catch slogans that will pull in the customer and sauces that will set them apart from other food chains. They cater their food creations to different region, states and countries.

Jon Schauflerberger is the Senior Vice President at Burger King. Before taking starting at Burger King four years ago, he worked in various positions relating to Taco Bell and Arby's. He looks at Burger King's products as off center and edgy.

They have to find a way to appeal to both in-store customers and those who come through the drive through, which accounts for 70% of their business. Some of the newest things to come from Burger King: apple fries (apples cut in the shape of french fries) and burger shots (mini burgers served in pairs). They continue to find new ways to draw customers in, and the Whopper is their key product. They focus on customization of their burgers. The Whopper alone can come in 221,184 ways.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Importance of Intellictual Property

Tom Donohue recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post emphasizing the importance of the United State's protection of intellectual property and its influence on the ability to remain the top an innovation leader in the world. The United States is about to face a time where they see competition from other countries that have recognized the importance of innovation. However, the US is at the top of protecting it's own intellictual material.

In 2006, the United States led the world in global patent filings, accounting for more than one-third of the total. This was spurred by industry investing more than $223 billion in research and development. America's IP-intensive industries have created 18 million jobs for U.S. workers--jobs that usually pay better and are expected to grow faster over the next decade than the national average.

In 2008, Congress passed the Pro-IP Act of 2008 which strengthened civil and criminal IP laws. Yesterday, we observed how one of the goals of the next US President needs to be promoting and encouraging scientific education and innovation and R&D needs to be a main focus of all the scientific organizations. We've also highlighted that Judy Estrin wrote a book about the current problem of scientific minds dwindling in the US. How do you think protecting intellictual property will encourage creative minds? As Donohue stated, it's added jobs to our workforce, and can give us way much, such as alternative energy sources and cures for diseases.




Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The future of US innovation

With much of the world's focus on the current American presidential election, Ed Paisley looks at what the next American president needs to do to both improve the economy and keep America as a leader of science and technology.

However, he fears that with all of the problems coming out of the Bush administration, that the focus of the next president will not be on the innovation and research that is needed to keep our economy strong. Paisley believes that science, innovation and research are critical in restoring the United States economy. He points out that many things in this country rely on federal investment, including the economy and the future workforce. It's critical to focus on the math and science skills of the current generation being educated. The next president needs to focus on not only educating the brightest minds in the world, but also keeping them in the United States.

Paisley also believes that top scientific agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health and the Department of Defense need an increase of 7 to 10% in their budgets from the government. The next president should also set broad goals for the scientific world, and let the top researchers set the promising directions.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Can innovation die in an industry?

At Bleacher Report, they asked an odd question: Is innovation over for Indy 500? It pointed out that throughout the years, this famed past time has given us many innovations: Aerodynamic downforce, raised cockpit engines, and energy deflecting crash structures. The last true innovation given to us by the Indy 500 was the SAFER Barrier. Since the Indy and NASCAR leagues split into two, competition has risen and the innovative ways have since stopped.

This article made me stop and think. Innovation is needed for companies to stay ahead of the competition. Have you been in a situation where innovation has just stopped? Is this a healthy thing for industry competition, no matter what industry you are in? What are your thoughts?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Innovation starting on the local level

In Surprise, Arizona, bio-science and innovation has become an important focus for the town. West Valley took time to look at the town with a focus on bio-science. The recent merger of Sun Health and Banner has been a foundation for their life science studies. With the merger, Surprise is looking to attract more bio-science workers to their area. The City Council sees benefits in opening innovation centers and bringing in more talent with their community college. Goals like this could prove beneficial for the talented professionals introduced to the community and new businesses. There growth rate of bio-science jobs in in the area is 18% since 2002, which outpaces both Arizona and the United States.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Innovation and Simplicity Go Hand in Hand

Many times companies try to hard to instill complex and intricate designs and features in order to unlock innovation. This post on Endless Innovation shows us that companies like Apple and Google have innovated time and time again my embracing principles of simplicity.

I found this particular example from Maeda’s book The Laws of Simplicity interesting. There is a tradition in Japanese culinary called omakase where sushi chefs choose every element of the meal for guests. Even though not directly related to Fortune 500 companies organizations can still learn something from this example. Does your company practice any laws of simplicity?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

FEI Europe 2009 announces keynote speakers

With the Front End of Innovation Europe event right around the corner, we’d like to introduce you to who we have in store for this year’s speakers. In addition to the stunning location of Monte Carlo, Monaco, we’ve got some of the world’s leaders of innovation bringing their insights and thoughts at this year’s FEI Event. We’d like to begin by introducing you to Jeremy Rifkin, Efstratia Zafeiriou, Leo Roodhart, and Jan Kriekels.

Jeremy Rifkin is the president of the Foundation of Economic Trends. He’s also the author of seventeen best selling books, including The Hydrogen Economy, The European Dream, and The End of Work. He’s an advisor to the EU on such issues as the economy, climate change, and energy security; he is also an advisor to the European Commission, the European Parliament, and several EU heads of state including the president of Spain and the Chancellor of Germany.

Leo Roodhart is the leader of Shell’s Corporate and Strategic Innovation program. Through this program, he helped identify and sponsor the development of new and breakthrough technologies for the oil industry. He supports innovation in the strategy units throughout the Shell Corporation.

Efstratia Zafeiriou is the head of marketing and trend research at Audi. On the team at the Audi Lab for Market Research, they concentrate on market research with focuses on product design, brand/product management and market research. Jan Kriekels is an anthropologist who looks at design creatively and for design to have the core values of art, creativity, sustainability, and user driven co-creation. He founded Uchronia with Arne Quinze, their goal being a way to give creative people design products and encouraging a creative economy.

Stay tuned for more information on the great innovative minds we have for this years event. We look forward to seeing you in Monaco, January 26 - 28 at the Fairmont in Monte Carlo, Monaco for the Front End of Innovation Europe 2009!

(Sources: The Foundation of Economic Trends, Plaxo, Audi Lab, Uchronia)

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