Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Webinar by SPSS on 5/13: End User Analysis: The Power of Collaboration

Here's a free webinar being produced by The Market Research Event and SPSS that I thought might be of interest to our readers. It is being presented by Jennifer Galvan, manager of sales engineering at SPSS Inc, on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 from 2:00PM - 3:00PM EST. The webinar will demonstrate how users of SPSS Inc. software can easily create their own analysis and reports, and then share these results through a Web browser.

For organizations facing tight budgets and limited resources, this webcast offers valuable strategies for operating more efficiently and effectively.

Register for it below, mention priority code MWS0023BLOG

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pondering the Great American Idea

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The second sentence of the United States Declaration of Independence is likely one of the most recognizable phrases in the English language. It’s an unbelievably important idea that is oft repeated. It was thought so important in fact that a revolutionary war was fought over it.

What’s particularly interesting to me is the fact that historically wars are most often disputes about land, power, or even revenge. Certainly revolutionary wars are a bit different because they can involve the premise of self-governance. But even revolutionary wars are not inherently based on new ideologies. The American Revolution stands alone as a war about a new, powerful idea.

But social studies class this is not. A discussion concerning the merits or origins of the underlying premise of the Declaration of Independence is not forthcoming. What I would like to highlight is the possible, although improbable, thoughts surrounding the Declaration signing. I was looking recently at John Trumball’s 1819 Declaration of Independence painting (the reason why is not exactly clear even to me) and began wondering what some of the Founding Fathers may have been thinking about this new powerful idea. (As an aside - not that this really matters for purposes of this discussion - Trumball’s painting actually depicts the presentation of the Declaration to Congress, not the signing itself.)

  • Being the principle writer of the Declaration, did Thomas Jefferson (the prominently placed tall one standing just off center to the right in the Trumball painting) know whether this idea was any good? Did he have an effective way to evaluate the idea?

  • John Adams (the shortest of the standing five and with his right hand on his waist) may have been lamenting that he never has good ideas like those of Jefferson.

  • Ben Franklin (with the long hair to Jefferson’s immediate left), creator of the first public library and fire department, and inventor of the lightening rod, bifocals, a stove, odometer, and much more, could have been thinking that he has way too many ideas to effectively implement.

  • John Hancock (seated in the forefront in the lower right corner), may have been thinking this idea of Independence may in fact be too BIG to effectively manage.

  • And Samuel Adams (seated inconspicuously in the second seat of the front row on the left side of the painting) was trying to figure out what to do with his new idea for “Independence” beer.

These are all obviously satirical ponderings. I have to believe the Founding Fathers certainly knew the importance of the idea and the stakes at hand. Their lives, literally, depended on the outcome of the revolution. The questions and thoughts fictitiously presented here are meant simply as a metaphor for the different types of questions posed by today’s organizations throughout the world when conjuring new ideas.

Front-end struggles are typically fairly complex and rooted in various types of problems. Some organizations, like John Adams, may think they don’t generate enough ideas. The Jeffersonians of the world are not certain whether or which ideas are any good. And others like Franklin may have a portfolio full of ideas but are unable to prioritize them effectively. Organizations operating in the spirit of John Hancock or Sam Adams may not be confident in their ability to handle the really great idea or simply don’t know what to do with it in the first place.

No matter your situation, I imagine implementing a good idea development system could certainly be to your benefit. I’ll not attempt to outline here what a good idea development system looks like. Perhaps another time. But note that I use the term “idea development” and not simply “idea generation”. It’s my impression that organizations, when they decide to place emphasis on the Front End of Innovation, decide to concentrate primarily on idea generation, when in fact they’re likely deficient in more important elements of the process. Generating more ideas in my estimation is the easy part of the front-end process. What organizations truly lack is the means to develop ideas once they’re captured. Not only must you generate ideas, but also must you have the methods for discussing, evaluating, prioritizing, communicating, and acting on those ideas.

It’s not enough to simply generate ideas.

I wonder whether the United States would even exist if the Founding Fathers simply generated ideas.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Most Innovative Companies of 2009

BusinessWeek recently compiled its list of the most innovative companies based on an annual survey of top executives by Boston Consulting Group. As no surprise, Apple took the top spot, followed by Google, and Toyota. What are some of the companies you think should be on this list?

Friday, April 24, 2009

When innovation is perceived as the problem

I recently found this article at UPI. US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently made some observations on the perception of innovation. Innovation can be successful, but it can easily misfire, the current economic state is a testament to that. Two statements in the article caught my attention:

"Innovation, once held up as the solution, is now more often than not perceived as the problem," he said, adding later, "good intentions," among financiers "are not enough."

What are your comments on this?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Xerox CEO: Don't cut back on innovation

In her recent article in Fortune magazine, Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy expressed how important it is for companies to expand their innovation strategies throughout these difficult financial times. Mulcahy writes,

I know from experience one of the biggest mistakes that can be made right now is to slash investments in innovation. And by innovation, I don't just mean product research and development. It can also be innovating in new markets, launching new businesses, and even disruptive innovation in work processes. To be sure, a company's R&D investment pool looks tempting in tough times. And draining it might save a few jobs or help make the quarterly results less painful. However, if you fail to fund the future, all you'll be left with is a really lean company trying to churn old ideas into new business.

We encourage you to read the rest of her article on its original post here.

Is your company cutting back on innovation or are you pressing on?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Front End of Innovation Group April Newsletter

Here's the April edition of the Front End of Innovation Newsletter we regularly send out to FEI LinkedIn group members. Don't forget to join our FEI LinkedIn group to receive announcements, get the latest discussions and news pertaining to our group.

We look forward to meeting those of you who will be joining us next week in Boston for the Front End of Innovation event! If you're not registered yet and would still like to join us, check the newsletter for a special discount code!

View the newsletter

To Patent, Or Innovate, That Is the Question….

On my never ending march across the web, I came across an interesting blog post on CNET highlighting that patent filings so far in 2009 have dropped significantly from previous years. Matt Asay highlights that some reports see this as a clear indication of the bad economy and what a detrimental impact it will have on innovation. Matt and other reporters take the stance that in fact such a drop may help innovation; that perhaps significant number of patent fillings in recent years are simply not legitimate and pointless. However, factually, I’m not sure if that’s necessarily accurate; because there does not seem to be a system in place to quickly and easily analyse patents, their nature and their impact within an industry. So its difficulty to say the rising number of patents in previous years was simply the ever growing number of at-home inventors (or programmers) desperate to lock in a patent and their million-dollar dream.

But this got me wondering, why can’t we simply go through and look up as much detail as possible about patents or even patent fillings to better understand their impact down the road particularly as it pertains to licenses and royalties paid by companies down the line who use the patents; or litigation as disputes arise to the validity of the patent in the first place. So naturally where did I turn? Well I just put in two search terms Patents and Innovation and I was introduced to several articles and reports that look at the crumbling nature of the U.S. Patent System.

Now there are numerous FEI readers who are far more versed in IP matters, and I certainly welcome them to post their comments and links to points on both sides of the issue. But clearly there is a vocal community of corporations and individuals who are frustrated with the current patent process. The result has been recent legislation submitted in both Houses of Congress. The issue now is whether these reforms in fact benefit large corporations and their IP goals or actually create a flexible, streamlined system that clarifies the process and creates the necessary safeguards against wasteful litigation and summary judgements but ensures the rights of inventors and patent holders. A tall order indeed.

I began by reviewing the ever-worthy Patent Law Blog (Patently-O) that looks at the legislation on the docket. They highlight specific reforms including these:

  • First to File: Moving to a first-to-file system that credits invention based on the filing date of the patent application rather than on the date of actual invention.

  • Damages: Must look to the invention's "specific contribution over the prior art" to determine damages.

  • Expanded Reexamination Proceedings: Reexaminations may be requested based on published prior art, or evidence of prior public use or sale in the US.

  • Additional Post Grant Review: Within 12 months of issuance, a third party can file a cancellation petition based on any ground of invalidity (rather than simply prior art).

  • Patent Litigation Venue: "A party shall not manufacture venue by assignment, incorporation, or otherwise to invoke the venue of a specific district court."

From Patently-O, I moved on to recent articles on BusinessWeek and SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle’s portal) that I thought were interesting because they seemed to look at the legislation from two perspectives.

In the first place, this piece in BusinessWeek, Are Patent Problems Stifling U.S. Innovation? has Mark A. Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School, consider some particular issues and possible reforms that seems to look at the issue from the side of big business, or at least that’s my take. Now the article begins to highlight the issues mentioned briefly above; the sheer volume of patent fillings that has left a backlog of over a million applications – and their questionable nature/value; safeguards for patent filers against litigation and the particular issue the new legislation addresses, of focusing on who filed a patent first rather than who invented the item in dispute first.

In my mind, and maybe I’m reading into it too much, I definitely got the impression that the law has the significant backing of big business - and it clearly does. But the question that comes to mind of course; do the suggested reforms in fact hurt the patent system to the benefit of large corporations, or will in fact create an improved system to the benefit all?

Clearly not everyone thinks so. In this post on SF Gate, the position is raised about the failure of the legislation to meet the needs of smaller businesses and individuals and would in fact weaken the patent system to the benefit of large corporations:

“The current form of the bill, SB515, still contains features that would undermine the patent system. The proposed post-grant provision, for example, would create several new avenues for challenging a good patent's validity and endlessly blocking its enforcement. Moreover, the bill does not fix the central problem of the existing re-examination system: serial attacks that consume a patent owner's time and money by creating new and redundant proceedings. Those that request re-exam should meet a higher threshold and consolidate their concerns into one proceeding. This provision will harm independent inventors, universities and small companies whose valid patents would be attacked for strategic and commercial reasons as now happens in Europe.”

Where does this leave us? Well, it’s a guessing game. Clearly the legislation will be discussed and negotiations are going to lead to a comprised version of the bill between the Senate and the House’s own versions of the legislation. But there may be a growing constituency that will begin to lobby Congress to make broader changes to the legislation to the benefit of small businesses and individuals. Nevertheless, many of the most vocal advocates make a very clear point – the system needs fixing with too many patents leading to an exponentially growing backlog and a weak and never-ending patent re-examination process that forces patent holders into ongoing litigation battles that eat up precious time and resources.

So while patents may be down this year, it’s hard to say if in fact it’s a good sign or a bad sign as suggested previously. We simply have too many patents outstanding that are not moving through the process fast enough. Worse, we have several litigation efforts that seem to tie down valuable resources better spent on innovating rather than fighting in court. It’s a system that seems to be bursting at the seams desperate for fresh perspective and solutions to help innovators across the US. I welcome comments and links with other perspectives on the matter, and I will be happy to update my post with those valuable insights.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thriving in Turbulent Times: Perspectives from Jim Collins

Jim Collins, keynote speaker at the Front End of Innovation Conference, was recently featured in the cover of the April edition of Inc Magazine in which he was asked what entrepreneurs can expect in the next 30 years. According to Jim these are great times for entrepreneurs, even though we are amongst clouds of chaos, uncertainty, and risk.

During the interview Jim mentions that leading entrepreneurs during the past three decades all have something in common. Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Steve Jobs of Apple, Jeff Bezos of, and Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, just to name a few, all wanted to transform society and had huge ambitions. Sure technology has changed across the years (telephone & faxing from the Stone Age to Web 2.0 capabilities today), but the basic principles and fundamentals to build a great company from 30 years ago have not changed. Building a culture of people who share a set of values, have clear and established responsibilities, and perform to their very best - the companies that build around these set of ideas will surely thrive.

Here's a quote that jumps out from the article:

"Well, you can't have a great company if you don't have a successful business, and you can't have a successful business if you don't at least have a workable idea."
All aspects of business including company morale, values, business processes must be strategically sound in order to bring out the best in innovation. It all goes hand in hand.

The innovation movement is a constant learning curve which has gone through several evolutions throughout our timeline. Kudos to Jim for laying out these secrets to business success!

We are particularly looking forward to seeing Jim Collins speak on the critical x-factors for thriving in the changing economy with his keynote speech "How Good Organizations Can Become Great" at the Front End of Innovation Conference next month in Boston. There is still some time left so make sure to signup early. Hope to see you all there!

A Big Wave of Innovation

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

My wife, generally speaking, does not share my affinity for documentary films. That’s not to say she won’t sit down to watch one every once in while if the subject matter looks intriguing or she’s confident it’s a quality piece of work and not a downright snoozer. For her to stay awake during a late night viewing though, ideally whatever documentary we watch should not only be informative, but also contain a certain level of entertainment quality.

In recent years it seems more and more documentaries have effectively combined interesting content with entertaining storytelling. Some of my personal favorites over the years include (in no particular order) The Thin Blue Line, Supersize Me, Spellbound, Hoop Dreams, Fog of War, Gonzo, Roger & Me, as well as virtually everything created by Ken Burns – The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, and more. (The films of Ken Burn’s actually have a style more traditional in nature than many of the other titles, but they’re still unique and the content is extremely interesting.)

When I was younger, I did my fair share of downhill skiing (current academic attendance rules would actually prevent me from missing as many days as I did my senior year of high school in order to ski). And like many other avid skiers, I always enjoyed a good Warren Miller film. I still do. My eyes were opened however in 1985 to a new genre of ski film, introduced by Greg Stump. Time Waits for Snowman (followed by other films such as The Good, the Rad, and the Gnarly, as well as The Blizzard of AAHHH’s, and others) made me, and likely thousands of other kids and young adults, want to ski more and more. One might even argue in fact that Greg Stump, not only changed the ski film genre, but perhaps single handedly introduced the world to the concept of extreme sports and all that they had to offer. We perhaps take it for granted today, but there was once a day when the X Games didn’t exist.

In 1966, director Bruce Brown released the influential and now classic surf film The Endless Summer. It’s unique and has stood the test of time. I still enjoy watching it. But like the Warren Miller films, The Endless Summer in my mind has been usurped by a film even more captivating.

Filmmaker Stacy Peralta, who co-wrote and directed the 2004 feature Riding Giants, eloquently captured in this film the origins and history of surf culture, and more importantly the rise of big wave surfing. It is in this film that some important lessons for innovation can be gleaned. [As an aside - some of you may recognize the name Stacy Peralta. He’s the guy that brought to the big screen the story of the pioneering 1970’s Zephyr skateboarding team in the 2001 film Dogtown and Z-Boys, which if you recall contained its own innovative elements – such as draining swimming pools to create a 360 degree self contained half pipe for skateboarding. (Add both Riding Giants and Dogtown to my list.)]

I’ve watched Riding Giants at least a dozen times, the most recent of which just a couple weeks ago with my wife who I insisted, despite the late hour, needed to watch it in its entirety without dozing off. There have even been several occasions in which I’ve watched the film back-to-back in the same evening. I consider it that good. And some of the inherent lessons about innovation (which aren’t actually explicitly stated as such) are very enlightening.

The final storyline in the movie centers on a big wave surfer by the name of Laird Hamilton. He’s arguably the greatest big wave surfer of his generation, or perhaps all-time. For me, his story illuminates three lessons of innovation:

1) The most obvious lesson, if simply because Laird explicitly acknowledges it in the film, is the teamwork and collaboration needed to do what he does. Laird and his compatriots pioneered what is known as tow-in surfing. Rather than wait and catch big waves individually just off the shoreline on fairly traditional surfboards, Laird and his buddies take jet-skis several miles out to sea to catch even bigger waves that previously couldn’t be surfed. As the name implies, tow-in surfing involves being towed behind a jet-ski on a surfboard (which is more like a combo surf and snowboard) into a big wave. Sometimes huge waves. This innovative maneuver simply wouldn’t be possible if not collaborating with a team.

2) A more subtle, yet inherent innovation message in the film is the necessity to “commit”. In the same way big wave surfers need to overcome their fears, anxieties, and doubts in order to commit to a particular wave, so too must organizations commit to innovative actions. It’s not acceptable, especially in current economic times, to simply offer lip service to innovation. Cost cutting is the easy way out. But be bold. Don’t get thrown against the rocks. Engage your customers. Bolster your services. Invest. To emerge stronger from these troubled economic times, you must commit to avoid the big wipeout.

3) When asked by his stepfather, Billy Hamilton, why he does what he does, Laird responded “I’ve trained my whole life for this.” Therein lies the third lesson. Innovation is a pursuit. You cannot expect that one day you’ll wake up and simply decide that today is the day I’m going to be innovative. Your organization cannot turn on and off the innovative switch when it’s convenient to do so. It takes work. It takes effort. It takes time. It takes heart. Don’t expect it to be easy. And if you decide to abandon the path of innovation because you deem it simply too difficult to sustain, or it doesn’t fit with your “strategy” any longer, so be it. But don’t be a poser. Please. There’s no such thing as an “Innovation Bum”.

Monday, April 20, 2009

FEI 2009 Keynote: Jody Turner

Jody Turner, Founder,

Wednesday 8:30

Be the new global standard in your field, break the mold and invite conversation, change the game worldly and wisely.
The world is shifting from a growth economy to one that includes community conversation as a major component of brand relationship development and marketing. What is the consumer up to and what are successful brands up to in order to stay connected to the evolving consumer landscape? How do you track what the consumer is doing, how do you translate it to your brand strategy? During this session we will be looking at top examples, discuss where it is all leading us and how we can feel some empowerment as we future strategize.

Jody Turner is a premier connector of inspirational people and information, presenting at world events, gleaning and reporting back influential design and lifestyle trends to companies worldwide. Jody’s focus is strategic deliverables via topic driven trend presentations, project design and content ideation labs. Jody founded Culture of Future and Culture Lab over 6 years ago, working with some of the top communication and branding experts driving forward lifestyle, culture and design perspectives for larger global entities.

Jody has joined the Board of Directors for the Architecture + Design Museum, Los Angeles and has been invited to join the Fast Company Magazine experts online blog. Additional clients include CEOs For Cities, Apple, MySpace, Adidas Advanced Technology, Sony Design, Samsung, Starbucks, The Gap, Microsoft Pioneer Experience Studios (PMX), IDEO- San Francisco/NY, Home and Garden Television.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Archived Web Seminar: Standing Out in a Commoditized World

Standing Out in a Commoditized World

The co-founders of Peer Insight, Jeneanne Rae and Tim Ogilvie, recently took a look at these three big themes of service innovation in 2009:

(1) How to create a repeatable/systemic capability,
(2) Using service innovation to solve wicked social problems, and
(3) New tricks enabled by emerging IT and analytics.

If you missed this live seminar, here’s your chance to view it at your own leisure.

View the Archive Web Seminar

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Is Cost Containment Impacting Pharmaceutical Innovation?

By: Dr. Sandra Reynolds, Datamonitor senior pharmaceutical analyst and report author

With the costs of providing healthcare spiraling, governments and payers across the seven major markets are implementing cost-cutting initiatives in an effort to combat these escalating healthcare costs, which in turn is putting even greater pressure on pharma companies. Recently the National institute of clinical excellence (NICE) in the UK reject four new kidney cancer therapies on the basis of cost effectiveness. This decision effectively denies patients access to these novel drugs, a decision that has angered healthcare professional and patients alike.

In addition to pharmaceutical companies being under pressure due to the credit crunch, ever fewer novel products are coming to market, contributing to the declining return on investment. With the cost-effectiveness of a product at the top of the agenda for payers, pharmaceutical companies need to focus upon developing truly novel drugs if they wish to achieve a premium price and strong reimbursement position. However, according to independent market analyst Datamonitor senior pharmaceutical analyst Dr. Sandra Reynolds: ”This also comes at a risk in an increasingly safety-conscious era, leaving Pharma in a difficult-to-win situation,” she says.

Rising global healthcare costs putting pressure on governments and payers

Global healthcare costs are rising due to increasing ageing populations and poor lifestyle choices – particularly in western markets – combined with a lack of or insufficient existing cost-saving initiatives. Consequently, governments and payers across the seven major markets are implementing numerous healthcare cost-containment policies. With Pharma experiencing declining returns on investment, the ability to make a profit will become increasingly difficult if innovative drugs are not launched in the near future.

The innovation capacity of the pharmaceutical industry is determined, to a great extent, by the external environment. Consequently, pharmaceutical innovation is likely to suffer in Europe and Japan, partly due to increasing government barriers in gaining access to reimbursement lists. Government’s push for greater use of generic drugs will also increase the pressure on Pharma and ultimately on its ability to be innovative.

With that said it is entirely understandable why governments push for generic substitution and Pharma to an extent recognize this. However, there is an onus on Pharma to respond to the reality of global healthcare costs and adjust. Streamlining its R&D efforts and making strategic pipeline decisions early on in the development process will become vital, Dr. Reynolds says. “New drugs must show ‘value for money’ in terms of therapeutic outcomes and the companies that develop them must be able to demonstrate their efficacy if they want to receive favourable reimbursement.”

The US P&R system – generally regarded as relatively lavish-spending by international standards – has also become more cost conscious due to rising healthcare costs, which in turn are driving up insurance premiums. Insurance firms are beginning to seek better deals on prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies, so to avoid raising insurance premiums further in a country that is in an economic recession, Dr. Reynolds says. “Large enrollment numbers in the Medicare Part D drug program has also increased costs with the Federal government reacting by looking to negotiate drug prices with the Pharma industry to reduce healthcare expenditure.”

P&R controls will become more stringent globally with introduction of value based pricing

In Europe healthcare systems are outdated, financially inefficient and in need of modernization. Remedying this situation is a long-term and hugely expensive process, so focusing on cutting costs on prescription drugs is a quick win. However, in the long-term this could be damaging to the development of new innovative drugs by pharmaceutical companies. The way forward for Pharma will be the implementation of assessments of cost-effectiveness that demonstrate value for money in their products, Dr. Reynolds says. “In addition, strong differentiation from competitor products will be essential in order to achieve reimbursement status and a return on investment.

“The industry must, therefore, adapt its R&D strategy and incorporate pharmacoeconomics early on in the drug development process,” she says.

With the UK’s National Institute of Clinical Evidence (NICE) evidence-based pricing strategy, gaining reimbursement for new medicines has become increasingly challenging and frustrating for pharmaceutical companies. Even when NICE approves a drug there is no guarantee it will reach patients if the National Health Service fails to implement its use due to its high cost, even if it is below the set limit of £30,000 ($60,000), as the limited funding of Primary Care Trusts means they cannot afford it.

Evidenced-based pricing is becoming an attractive P&R tool in other healthcare markets. Germany has also introduced a cost-benefit assessment for new and approved drugs in its equivalent of NICE. This will be carried out by the Institute for Quality and Economic Efficiency (Institut für Qualität und Wirtschaftlichkeit im Gesundheitswesen). If a drug fails to make it onto the reference pricing system due to a negative review, the GKVs (Germanys public health insurance funds) will more than likely not receive reimbursement. In the US where prescription drug sales have increased from $216.7 billion in 2006 to $274.9 billion in 2007, there has also been mention of setting up a comparative effectiveness board as the current director of the Congressional Budget Office believes that at present less than 50% of all medical care is supported by evidence of effectiveness, Dr. Reynolds says. “As such, leading health economists in 2007 called for the Comparative Effectiveness Board to review the cost-effectiveness of current medication, in the same way that NICE does in the UK.

“This means Pharma will have to work much harder at the differentiation of their respective products from competitors and demonstrating health benefits/outcomes if it is to succeed in securing reimbursement, and potentially their own financial future,” she says.

Related research:

Pricing & Reimbursement - Seven Major Markets Update

Valuing Pharmaceutical Innovation: Pricing and reimbursement for innovative therapies

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Practical Innovation Lessons from Software Vendor R&D

I recently had the chance to listen in on a roundtable discussion involving a software developer's R&D group, discussing some of their thoughts on architecture. Some interesting ideas around "innovation" ...

Innovation vs. Cost Control

A question from the floor - how sensitive are the R&D arms of major vendors to existing investments in infrastructure for their installed base? The response was framed with a pair of quotes: "Innovation without disruption" is apparently one of their goals. However, is that just fancy talk? Doesn't true innovation only come from disruptive technology? And "Invention only happens once or twice, in the lab. Innovation is about taking Invention up to scale". This last one, I think, is the powerful bridge to reality; good ideas are just that, until you can make it a reality for the whole corporation, given limitations of scale plus existing policies / standards.

Innovation vs. Resistance to Change

This line of discussion also made me think that new IT tools / initiatives should be sensitive to our internal user's existing investments in knowledge / understanding. For internal IT, maybe an important, required conversation would be to agree on the layer / level down to which you will allow "disruption from innovation". A sensitive balance, and a tough level to identify.

Measuring Success

How does an R&D lab at a software developer measure success? "Productive end-customer adoption" - how many current customers adopting this stuff in production? It's one of their KPI's, and a potential learning for corporate IT - could an internal development group's KPIs include metrics for internal rate of adoption / use of new stuff we put out into production? They also quoted "Crossing the Chasm", saying that 80% of innovation is "wasted" - never gets into production, sees the light of day. Is this bad? Nope, the nature of R&D is that a majority of the interesting ideas "fail".

Corporate IT rarely thinks of themselves like a software developer, but there are many lessons to be learned from those folks.

Air India Uses Innovation to save $16M

Air India will now save $16M on their flights by implementing innovative alternatives to traditional air travel. According to Fast Company, the airline has cut contingency fuel from 5% to 3% and decreased aircraft weight by reducing the amount of water, the weight of food carts, and the magazines on board. Also, Air India has adopted new methods of flight, such as flying at a straight line at optimal altitudes and speed, practicing a "continuous descent" approach during landing, and using a single engine during taxiing, and also deriving pre-flight power from sources on the ground.

Money saving and environmentally friendly--now that's innovation.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Innovation is Dead….umm, I mean The Dead

C. Engdahl
Product Marketing Manager

Before departing on business trips during which I travel alone, I’ll often check into local happenings in and around the city I’ll be staying. On multi-night trips I’ll typically have at least one evening while away without some sort of previously arranged business commitment. Despite my affinity for reading, rather than sit around a hotel all the time, I choose to explore the city in some fashion. Most often I look for music concerts, art shows, or a sporting event to attend. Over the years, circumstances have allowed me to see and experience some pretty amazing things. R.E.M. at the fabled Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The Samples at Irving Plaza in New York. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Alamo. The Golden Pagoda in Kyoto, Japan. Allen Iverson at the Wachovia Center. The Minnesota Golden Gophers 1997 opening round NCAA tournament game in Kansas City (the year they made it to the Final Four). As well as some cool jazz at the Blue Note, a little punk rock at CBGB’s, a few Broadway shows, and various major league baseball games throughout the country.

A musical regret this is not, for I wasn’t actually born yet during their heyday nor really old enough to fully appreciate them throughout the 70’s and early 80’s. But I never did see the Grateful Dead live in concert. And when Jerry Garcia died in 1995, I knew I never would. I had always wondered though, especially after Garcia left this world, what one of their concerts would have been like. Had I missed out on something unique and special? Probably.

Prior to traveling to Florida late last year on business, I checked a favorite website to see if anything of musical interest might be playing in the area during my stay. I was attending a conference in Clearwater and low and behold Bob Weir with his band Ratdog was playing at a local concert hall on the second night of my trip. Although this wasn’t the Grateful Dead, seeing the legendary band’s guitarist with his own jam band would likely be the closest I’d ever get. The Dead (minus Jerry Garcia) hadn’t toured since 2004 and who knows if they would again. They don’t typically schedule shows in or near Minneapolis anyway. And even if they did, my personal schedule likely wouldn’t allow me to attend. The Clearwater Bob Weir show was my chance to get a hint of what once was. I had to take it.

I’ll not attempt to describe the concert. Even if I felt capable of writing something that adequately captured the evening’s events and music, I don’t want this post to turn into some sort of concert review. For brevity sake, let’s simply say the concert was excellent. It was both a musical as well as cultural experience. I’m glad I went.

By this point, many of you reading this entry are probably thinking “what’s the point of all of this?” How could all this rambling possibly have anything to do with Innovation or the development of front-end ideas? I didn’t really think of the connection myself until I picked up a stray USA Today newspaper over lunch last week while eating a Turkey Club Panini at Einstein Bros. Bagels.

In the Life Section of the April 9, 2009 USA Today was an article titled “The Dead not Grateful Dead.” Apparently The Dead (their chosen name since Garcia’s long strange trip ended) are going out on tour this summer (I doubt they’re coming to Minneapolis btw). Seeing the picture of Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, and Bob Weir in that USA Today article made me think again about the Ratdog concert from a few months back. The long jams. The improvised creative moments. The onstage chemistry. The collaboration. The kernels of innovation.

The night of the concert, I walked into the auditorium at Ruth Eckerd Hall about five, maybe ten minutes after Bob Weir and Ratdog had already started playing. The room was actually fairly well lit (in several different ways). But because everyone was standing, I couldn’t see the markings on the seats even after I found my aisle. Thus I couldn’t be absolutely certain which individual seat was mine. The room hadn’t yet developed the low hanging haze I assumed would be forthcoming.

After flashing my ticket a couple times and attempting to explain the current situation to a young man who was clearly on something more than just my seat, he finally asked me “are you a cop?” I assured him I was not. And with what was left of his attention now at my disposal, I again indicated his presence in my space. He cordially vacated my seat by stepping over the back of the rail and taking up residence right behind me. I had to smile, for that clearly wasn’t his spot either. When I set out to attend the concert that evening, I never imagined my business casual clothes might prompt some to identify me as a narc. But I digress.

It could be argued that the Grateful Dead are innovative in a variety of ways. You may not be a fan. But even taking their style or approach to music out of consideration, you have to give them credit for perfecting the art and business of touring and merchandising. They were a pioneer for instance in the onsite delivery of night-of concert recordings and have likely sold more t-shirts than countless other bands combined. You could actually argue though their music isn’t really all that innovative in the same way one might look at Gershwin, Woody Guthrie, Miles Davis, or Radiohead. But in a live setting, there may have been no rival to the Grateful Dead. They had many of the same elements needed for innovation that other bands possessed – a bunch of smart people, creativity, and collaboration. But they went beyond the norm in live situations by actually adding an element of discussion to their music. Discussion is an integral part of developing great ideas. And the Grateful Dead had live discussions like no others.


Yes, discussions.

[I don’t remember any onstage discussions.]

As Paul Kantner (founding member of Jefferson Airplane) once said, “If you can remember anything about the sixties, you weren’t really there.” So if you don’t recall any onstage discussions during a Grateful Dead concert, I wouldn’t really worry about it.

I posit though that the improvisational elements and general nature of the live Grateful Dead jam sessions were really discussions masked in music. There was definitely a dialog going on. Just listen. (Note: If you’ve had or have difficulties understanding the discussions, maybe the language they speak is simply one with which you are not familiar. Perhaps you need help translating the material. In such situations some - not me necessarily - might suggest a shot of Electric Kool-Aid or the assistance of a one Mr. Brownstone.)

Make no mistake. The Grateful Dead indeed had discussions onstage. And the collaborative results were exceptional. Innovative in fact.

I’m not a big fan of large stadium, arena rock, or festival style concerts. I prefer more intimate settings. I can’t help think though I should make an attempt to see Phish, Dave Matthews Band, or String Cheese Incident in concert before it’s too late and I’m forced to wonder again what might have been. I’d hate to think I missed out on a great discussion.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mass Innovation Nights in Boston

Recently at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltman, Massachusetts, local innovators came together for Mass Innovation Night. Bobbie Carlton is the leader behind the nights, which he views as a science fair for adults. With the power of social media, such as Twitter, blogs and emails, he lets innovators local to the Boston area know about the gathering, which is a way to help local companies introduce their new, innovative compaies to the public. Read the full article here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today's Web Seminar: Systematic Innovation: Building Capabilities and Processes to Make Innovation More Predictable and Repeatable

Here's your last chance to register for today's webinar, "Systematic Innovation: Building Capabilities and Processes to Make Innovation More Predictable and Repeatable" presented by Trisha Pergande, Director of Strategy and Innovation at General Mills. The webinar will take place today from 2:00 to 3:00 PM.

Register for the Free Webinar
Mention priority code G1M2104W1BLOG

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Innovation Jobs

C. Engdahl
Product Marketing Manager

This past week while digging in my bedroom closet to retrieve a gift I had purchased for my wife’s birthday, I happened across a copy of a Wired magazine I hadn’t read yet. I knew I hadn’t read it because it was still in its plastic mailing sheath. Despite my attempt to remain as current as possible when it comes to various types of news, I can’t say I’m 100% successful. I’m slightly embarrassed to confess this newly found issue of Wired wasn’t new at all. It was from November 2006. As I paged through the magazine however I found it ironically informative and interesting. Although much of the “gadget” coverage in this issue was somewhat out of date, there were a couple stories I found particularly timely.

On page 136 of the November 2006 issue of Wired magazine begins a story entitled “The Perfect Thing”. The article recounts the development and October 2001 introduction of a new innovative product.

Any guesses for what this “perfect thing” might be?

“The Perfect Thing” article was adapted by the author Steven Levy from his book of the same name. If you’re familiar with the subject matter of Levy’s other work, perhaps you’ve already figured out this “perfect thing”. Let’s just say I rather enjoyed the chapters from his book “Hackers” about the early days of Apple that included Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

By October 2001, Woz was long gone from Apple, having left his duties with the company in 1985. The United States had just experienced September 11 and was in the midst of a declining stock market that would bottom out about a year later. Consumer psyches were shaken and confidence was low. Sounds like a perfect time to introduce “The Perfect Thing”.

When he held it in his hand for the first time just prior to its public launch, Bill Gates said “It looks like a great product”. Gates got to see this “perfect thing” because Steven Levy had brought it to a small dinner in New York for a group of journalists on the eve of the Windows XP launch. After examining it carefully, “It’s only for the Macintoch?” Gates asked. At the time, yes.

Figured it out yet?

The Shuffle, Nano, and Touch would all come later. The public love affair began though on October 23, 2001 when the original iPod, now referred to as the iPod classic, was first introduced to the public.

Off the top of my head, it’s difficult for me to think of an individual person that personifies “innovation” more than Steve Jobs. Maybe it’s just his image, persona, or mystique that I find appealing. Maybe. But even if you don’t like Steve Jobs or want to give more credit to the largely nameless legion of employees at Apple (and Pixar) that help develop its products, you’ve got to give the man at least some props. His track record virtually demands it (just think what happened to Apple under the helm of John Sculley. No offense John). Outside the business world other innovator names throughout history also obviously come to mind - Martha Graham, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso, Miles Davis, Tony Hawk, Jonny Mosley, Prince, Einstein, Thom Yorke, and [insert the name of your own favorite innovator here]. In a competitive and technological business environment though that’s ever-changing, Jobs has remained consistent for many, many years.

In my current issue of Rolling Stone (issue 1075, April 2, 2009) – an issue that didn’t get lost in my closet – the editors of the magazine put forth “The RS 100 Agents of Change”. The list of 100 includes artists, leaders, policymakers, writers, thinkers, scientists, and provocateurs. As Rolling Stone puts it, “the list is not necessarily about power in the old-fashioned sense but about the power of ideas, the power of innovation, the power of making people think and making them move.” To bring my point home about Steve Jobs, the RS 100 only includes four technology-related business people that came to prominence before the internet era. They’re on the list because of their current activities. But the fact that they came to prominence prior to Netscape’s public offering is particularly meaningful to me. It suggests they’ve been doing what they’re doing for quite some time. Pretty impressive.

The four I refer to are Will Wright (No.84) maker of SimCity and more recently Spore, Bill Gates (No.26) founder of ….well, you know, Shigeru Miyamoto (No.13) chief designer at Nintendo - creator of Donkey Kong and more recently the Wii, and Steve Jobs (No.3). Rolling Stone calls Jobs “the greatest innovator in the place where people and technology meet.” He’s been doing it a long time. And interestingly, Bill Gates, perhaps considered Steve Jobs closest contemporary throughout the computer age, is actually on the RS 100 list not because of his latest innovative technology efforts, but because of his grand philanthropic endeavors. In my mind Jobs stands alone.

At the end of “The Perfect Thing” article Jobs is quoted waxing philosophical on the development of the iPod. “If there was ever a product that catalyzed Apple’s reason for being, it’s this [the iPod]. Because it combines Apple’s incredible technology base with Apple’s legendary ease of use with Apple’s awesome design. Those three things come together in this, and it’s like, that’s what we do. So if anybody was ever wondering why Apple is on the earth, I would hold up this as a good example.”

I can’t disagree.

Keep up the good work, Steve.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ten Places to Find New Product Ideas

Graham Horton (Zephram Corporation, Germany)

The first step in the innovation process is to define the so-called search fields. These are the broad areas in which idea generation is to be carried out. Search field definition is important, because it enables more precisely targeted questions during idea production. Without it, the ideas scatter much more widely, and many of them will not match the client's needs.

For generating ideas for new products or for improving existing ones, there is a very useful checklist of search fields. This checklist was originally described by Peter Drucker in his book Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and was recapitulated by Michel Robert in his book Product Innovation Strategy. The checklist describes ten events or developments which can provide insights into where new successful products might be found:

  • Unexpected Successes: Where did something go better than expected? A well-known example is Ray Kroc, who was a salesman for milk shake-mixers. One day he noticed that one particular small restaurant had placed an unusually large order for his machines. He looked into it and discovered that the restaurant was doing extremely well. Kroc bought into the business, and McDonalds was born.
  • Unexpected Failures: Where did something go wrong unexpectedly? Here, Robert cited the well-known example of the Edsel, which flopped disastrously - despite a huge effort by Ford. However, Ford learned from their mistake that the automobile was becoming a lifestyle object, and their next model - the Mustang - was a huge success.
  • Unexpected External Events: Unexpected events can create new needs. For example, the oil crisis in the 1970s created a need for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Japanese manufacturers reacted quickly and were thus able to secure a foothold in the US market.
  • Process Weaknesses: Bottlenecks and other process problems can indicate the opportunity for new or improved services. For example, many people who book a flight also need a rental car and a hotel. These three things which inconveniently used to be separate steps in the travel process have now been combined by many travel agents into one convenient package.
  • Industry / Market Structure Changes: Changes in an industry or market can lead to changes in demand. For example, in healthcare, there is a growing interest in alternative medicine, which has led to a large number of new products and services.
  • High-Growth Areas: Fast-growing markets create many opportunities. Social networking applications in the Internet are currently one such market, which have enabled success stories such as Facebook and YouTube.
  • Converging Technologies: When two or more technologies reach a certain level of maturity, combining them can create interesting new products. One example are automobile navigation systems, which have only become possible through the combination of microprocessors, flat screen displays, DVDs and satellite-based information systems.
  • Demographic Changes: New demographic groups and milieus mean new needs. In many countries, there are growing ethnic minorities, at whom new, specialised products can be targeted.
  • Perception Changes: When the public perception of a certain product or issue changes, then new offers can be created to serve this perception. The mobile phone used to be simply a communication tool. However, it has now become a lifestyle accessory, which has led to products such as ring tones and colourful snap-on covers.
  • New Knowledge: On the supply side, new knowledge enables new solutions, while on the demand side, it creates new needs. For example, the gradual diffusion of knowledge about the health problems caused by smoking has led to many quitting aids and other substitute products.

This checklist contains helpful suggestions for generating new products. However, they are very abstract, and thus not directly applicable for ideation. They need to be transformed into more concrete questions, which are better suited for use in an innovation workshop. For example, the process weaknesses can be examined using questions such as:

  • Where can two successive process steps be combined?
  • Which process steps are superfluous?
  • Which step forms the bottleneck?
  • Which step needs a better interface to its predecessor or successor?
  • Could any steps benefit from being split in two?

It is part of our craft as innovation consultants to be able to take such abstract recommendations and insights, which are often to found in the innovation literature, and to derive effective questions from them which lead (our clients) quickly and easily to good ideas. This is one of the measures of a professional ideation workshop.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Trickle-Up Innovation from P&G

This article in BusinessWeek highlights how market leader Proctor & Gamble recently saw an opportunity to offer a a product, which was originally created for lower-income consumers in Mexico, in more developed countries.

The product in question here is an over the counter cough medicine called Vicks Cough Syrup with Honey. Big companies like General Electric, Microsoft, Nestle, and Nokia are amongst others that are now rethinking their corporate strategies as affluent customers in the US and Western Europe are no longer able to afford many luxuries. Vicks Cough Syrup with Honey was first introduced in Latin America in 2003, but has seen incredible growth in Western Europe.

Vijay Govindarajan, Chief innovation consultant at General Electric, mentions "Many of the business solutions America needs for the next 50 years could be found in emerging markets."

Do you agree with his train of thought?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Follow FEI on Twitter!

Front End of Innovation now has a Twitter!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Innovation as a Learning Style

This fantastic video looks at how innovation can be best cultivated with the different talents of your team.

Check it out--what is your learning style?

Innovation as a Learning Process from Roger H. Shealy on Vimeo.

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