Friday, April 30, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Eric Wilkinson, plus the Cambridge Consultants team

Eric Wilkinson is Head of Product Development at Cambridge Consultants. He’s worked on large innovation and development projects across a number of sectors, and is a keynote speaker at FEI. We thought you’d like to have a chance to meet him before Monday, so here he is.

Eric will be joined at FEI by several other members of our team from the UK office who are also looking forward to FEI next week.

Lucy Rowbotham is the Consulting Director who leads the Innovation Management business at Cambridge Consultants. She has over 20 years of experience helping corporations to embrace innovation, and has worked on over 50 major R&D projects. “As well as new people, I’m looking forward to catching up with some familiar faces from FEI in Europe” she says. You can find out more about Lucy’s approach in her recent post.

Rachel Harker and Duncan Smith lead the Consumer Product Development business at Cambridge Consultants. Rachel’ s specialities include wellness and eco innovation, and she has a particular interest in working with startups and fast growing SMEs. Duncan is currently busy with our new Suma interface technology in between working on domestic appliances and low cost consumer electronics.

Ruth Thomson works on both Authentication Systems and Consumer products and is a Visiting Industrial Fellow at Cambridge University specialising in the implementation of Open Innovation. Ruth says “I’m looking forward to exploring brand protection technologies and supply chain protection as areas of innovation with the other delegates”.

Serge Roux is a Principal Industrial Designer from our Cambridge MA office. He has worked on both consumer and medical device development and is a champion of the user experience in innovation. He’ll be showing the Vena connected inhaler on our stand, #28.

Kickoff for FEI US Next Week!

The FEI team is making final preparations for the opening of this year's conference. As readers of this blog we offer you an opportunity to share in some of the great presentations and information from the conference. This year to help you stay informed and in the loop of everything that is happening here at FEI as it is taking place, we have several tools in place like live blog posts, twitter updates, photos from Flickr, daily emails, and discussions in our LinkedIn and Facebook fan page that we will continue to post throughout the event. Don't forget, if you're attending the conference and twittering, use #FEIBoston in your tweets to share in the conversation.

We plan to be live-blogging throughout the conference, so be sure and subscribe to our RSS feed to continuously receive updates direct from the conference. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The “Golden 24 Hours” that could add tens of millions to your turnover

If a large company wants to bring a radically new product to market, then its director-level management must invest substantial time into the project, especially during the initial concept-generation phase. If the senior director team do not commit at least 24 solid hours during the formative stages, then the project will almost certainly fail.

After 20 years of experience helping corporations to embrace innovation, and work on over 50 major R&D projects, I developed a ‘Golden 24 Hours’ principle to help ensure innovations make it to market. The concept has already been recognised by many international clients, who typically look for new product lines that will generate additional turnover of tens of millions of dollars.

To succeed, the ‘Golden 24 Hours’ investment needs to involve directors covering the key disciplines such as marketing, manufacturing and engineering. The director with each of the major responsibilities needs to invest at least 8 hours in kick-off meetings, covering topics from the initial blue sky thinking, to project budgeting and objective-setting.

Having worked on so many major projects with blue-chip organisations, I realised that if the initial time investment comes to less than a combined total of 24 hours, then an idea is unlikely to come to fruition, no matter how good it is.

When a major R&D project is cancelled, it’s often attributed to some spurious reason such as a change in corporate organisational structure, or change of market emphasis. The underlying problem is almost always that key director-level staff have not signed up. Between them, they have to commit at least 24 solid hours to the ambition-setting processes or the project will almost certainly fail.

Most R&D departments are well suited to handling the development of new generations of existing products, which move technology along in moderate steps. However, more radical ideas are often shelved because by their nature they often necessitate significant change. That change might involve new production processes and capital equipment, or new types of sales channel, and only the most senior echelon of management is able to sanction this.

As examples, Cambridge Consultants has worked with Royal Philips Electronics and Scotts to develop radically new product lines. With Philips, the result was an additional 55 million Euros of turnover in the first year. With Scotts, a whole new product area was identified. Both cases involve serious changes to production, marketing and distribution. If at least 24 hours of input are required, then how does that time get used to best effect? Here at Cambridge Consultants we’ve developed a robust methodology to bring together the needs of the developers and the corporate management, one that has mechanisms and moderation to resolve internal conflict and barriers to progress.

On more than one occasion I’ve had clients jealously say of a competitor’s innovation: ‘but we did that in our own labs X years ago’. The solution to getting more radical ideas out of the lab lies in significant effort being applied to generating a clear understanding of the implications, across all key corporate levels. Understand the ‘Golden 24 Hours’ well, and a company’s innovation culture can really be brought to life.

I first wrote about this in 2006 in an article in Interface, and it was widely publicised, but it is as true today as it was then. The team here at Cambridge Consultants have adopted the “golden 24 hours” as a recommendation to all our clients who are developing radically innovative products.

To discuss this further please contact us or come and see us at stand 28 at FEI in Boston next week.

Lucy Rowbotham is Consulting Director for Cambridge Consultants.

The Art of Consumer Empathy Part IV - Cultural Commitment

In Empathy Part III we discussed empathy-building through consumer communities and ethnography. Part IV concludes this series with tips to building a continuous commitment to consumer empathy in your company. Can't wait to meet you at FEI 2010! Look me up to say Hi at the TNS Booth.

Do You LIVE Your Consumer? Experience THEIR Value Chain First-Hand?

The highest order consumer-empathic organization is attained when your cross-functional team and senior leadership internalize what it is like to walk in your consumers' shoes at EVERY STAGE of the consumer value chain, and apply that empathy as one input to decision making. Embracing consumer empathy doesn't require that you run a marathon in your consumers' footwear, but it sure helps to walk the proverbial mile. The activities below can be employed to ensure empathy development becomes a stronger part of the team mindset and company culture.

Live Your Brand to the Fullest: Empathy can be cultivated through first-hand personal experience with the brand in the various consumer environments across every moment of the consumer experience. Not to be confused with whirlwind market tours, occasional store checks, mystery shoppers, and in-lab product use. Think about the various touch points with your product or service in its natural purchase, use, and post-use environments. Have you personally experienced each touch point for your product(s) and those of your competitors? If not, you may be missing a key phase in the empathy chain, oblivious to consumer tensions, frustrations, and fascinations. If this seems like stating the obvious in your organization, great news. However, a reality re-set may be in order if your managers live very different lives than your consumer base and do not routinely experience your offering(s) along its full continuum in natural settings.

Systematize the Journey: Establishing a consumer empathy culture requires creating new habits and routines. If not built into expected accountabilities, the vision will fall victim to other pressing priorities. Commit the team to personally live the consumer's value chain and to spend some specified time each month building empathy through informal consumer connections. Don't wait for the next focus group, ethnography, or shopper study.

  • -Create a list of touchpoints for your product(s) and your consumers
  • -Brainstorm a pool of consumer observation activities that individuals can do independently, requiring only the five senses and an hour or two every few weeks
  • -Hold periodic team immersion excursions, including physical and virtual field trips to gathering places relevant to your consumers
  • -Schedule regular meetings and conversations with experts who are in daily contact with your consumers
  • -Maintain a personal empathy journal to schedule your activities, keep notes of your observations, and noodle on ideas sparked as a result
  • -Create an empathy exchange journal for the team to share their personal observations
  • -Conduct regular team empathy summits to debrief, discuss hypotheses, activate learnings
  • -Verify some of the most compelling hypothesis through follow-up action

Final Thoughts: Consumer Empathy in Your DNA

Developing consumer empathy can shift your team's perspective from consumer researchers to consumer champions, from brand managers to brand builders, and from product developers to game-changing innovators. As you consider your commitment to developing stronger consumer empathy in your company, remember: the ultimate success metric of consumer empathy is the effectiveness of the action you take as a result of that empathy. It is the action that ensures the "what you know" about your consumers becomes the "what you do" for your consumers.

source: Food & Beverage Matters Blog, P.Kish, TNS Landis

My Wish for FEI 2010

Looking at next week's FEI agenda, I got to thinking how far innovation has come as a trend. Back when I was covering the topic at Forrester -- just two years ago, keep in mind -- I was exposed to a constant stream of briefings, speeches, and corporate presentations on innovation. And I'm convinced, that the type of presentation I saw regularly just two years ago -- would never fly today.

Back then, everybody took a lot of time -- sometimes 5, 6, even 7 slides -- just to explain what they really meant by "innovation". People would go to great lengths just to explain, for instance, why innovation was so important and why executive support was so crucial. Each of which, of course, although perfectly valid reasoning, was a dead giveaway that in fact innovation was not yet considered important, and that C-level support was not yet forthcoming...

Today, gearing up for FEI 2010, I’m struck by the degree to which this mindset has changed. It’s as if the need to answer “why” has vanished – replaced by a sense of urgency to press forward. Now, most everyone assumes you know why innovation is important. And most everyone assumes you can get top-level support. That’s quite a sea change from just a few years ago – when innovation as a topic was more evangelical than it was pragmatic.

To which I say, let’s make FEI 2010 a conference to stimulate *action.* Already I’ve noticed quite a healthy twitter buildup to the conference – not to mention the blogosphere and conversations between colleagues. There is momentum, there is buzz…there is an excitement which is thrilling for those of us who care so deeply about Innovation Management, and Open Innovation, and the Front End of Innovation.

My wish, then: That each of us leaves this year’s conference with real, tangible action items. If in the past, you've left feeling inspired, then this year, I hope you leave feeling empowered…eager to march back to the office, roll up your sleeves, and start building (or expanding) your company's culture of innovation, brick by brick.

There is a feeling in the air – I can sense it – that Innovation’s time has come. I hope you feel it too. If so…let’s not let it pass us by.

Chris Townsend is VP Marketing at Inova Software, a leading Idea Management software and services provider. Before that, he covered the Innovation Management topic at industry-analyst firm Forrester Research.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Dr. Sophie Vandebroek CTO, Xerox & President Xerox Innovation Group

Dr. Sophie Vandebroek
CTO, Xerox & President
Xerox Innovation Group

Dr. Sophie Vandebroek is chief technology officer and president of the Xerox Innovation Group for Xerox Corporation. She was named to this position January 2006, and became a corporate vice president in February 2006.

Vandebroek is responsible for overseeing Xerox's worldwide research centers and for maximizing the company's multimillion-dollar investment in research and technology.

Most recently, she was chief engineer of Xerox Corporation and vice president of the Xerox Engineering Center. As chief engineer, a position she assumed in 2002, Vandebroek was responsible for coordinating Xerox's engineering efficiency and effectiveness, a period during which Xerox refreshed more than 95 percent of its office product line and launched its flagship iGen3™ Digital Production Press. Prior to that, she served as chief technology officer at Carrier Corp. From 1991 until 2000, Vandebroek held a number of increasingly responsible roles at Xerox including technical advisor to Xerox's chief operating officer and director of the Xerox Research Centre of Canada.

Here's an article from FastCompany profiling Dr. Sophie Vandebroek.

Don't miss Dr. Sophie Vandebroek's keynote speech Innovation: Turning Inspiration Into Critical Customer Assets at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Bio courtesy of Xerox.

Open for Innovation

Until last June I was the Innovations Leader at Kodak European Research. Along with my colleagues, I developed the Open Innovation and Technology Intelligence strategy to help the centre achieve its mission of identifying excellent science and technology from across the European region for Kodak. I spent lots of time in Open Innovation (OI) communities discussing and sharing best practice and experiences with other multinationals who were also establishing and implementing OI strategies.

Last June I moved up the road (30sec less commute!) to Cambridge Consultants where I was surprised that my previous impressions - of a big box of clever people working on difficult problems - didn't really capture how we work with our clients. In fact, my job move had just shifted me into a different part of the OI paradigm.

Since arriving it's increasingly clear to me that we are an intermediary for OI.

The staff here are used to describing ourselves interms of the application of technology for radical market benefit and how that adds value to our clients. But Chesborough's language for Open Innovation is different: OI talks of networks, intermediaries, and identifying where and from who you can find technology solutions and answers to technology questions. I've sat with many multinationals recently and I can see them struggling to see the questions we can help them address in an OI framework. In other words where do we fit in their OI strategy.

Of course being called 'consultants' doesn't help our clients work out who we are and where we fit, as the vast majority of our work is design & development as opposed to management consultancy. But we are 50 now, and I'm not going to start the argument about brand names with Patrick (our Marketing Director). For what it's worth I don't think you mess with brand equity like ours unless you're desperate.

So I've been thinking... We definitely don't need to change WHAT we do, we're good at it and it works, we just need to change the language in how we frame our value so that OI savvy companies can easily see how we fit as part of their strategy. So here's a try... Cambridge Consultants is an intermediary for OI. Here are some examples of questions we are asked to answer by clients as diverse as P&G, Coors, Unipath and Laurastar:

  • Can you find a technology solution that will deliver the radical market change I need?
  • Can you take my partial idea and make it a reality?
  • Can you take this from the lab to the warehouse?

Mark Harrison from our client Diageo and my colleague Eric Wilkinson will be talking about how unreasonable behaviour can be a driving force for this type of innovation as part of the keynote on Monday at FEI, so please come along. You can find out more about our innovation management work here and more discussion on open innovation on our blog.

Ruth Thomson works on Authentication Systems and Consumer Products at Cambridge Consultants.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FEI Here We Come

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

As I sit here prepping for the upcoming FEI conference in Boston, I feel a certain sense of anticipation. There will be a plethora of ideas circulating about and much discussion to go with them. I love ideas, the buzz they generate, and their power. Hope to see you at the show.

If you're one of those people that for whatever reason is waiting until the last possible moment to register, feel free to use priority code FEI2010CHIP to get a 20% discount.

If you're unable to attend the FEI Conference in person next week, I invite you to tune-in to this blog. I'll be posting regularly during the conference on keynotes, panel discussions, and other presentations. I'll do my best to bring you the important highlights.

Until then, I'll leave you with this quote:

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." - John Steinbeck

Is there still such a thing as a commoditised market?

I don’t believe there is such a thing as a commoditised market any more. There seem to be opportunities for innovation in every market.

We work with a lot of companies in what I used to think were commoditised markets. Fungible* goods like fruit juice used to be considered commodities before companies like innocent made them characterful, highly differentiated and, above all exciting for consumers. I’d love to work with innocent, by the way, if anyone there is listening, although I’d have to fight my colleague Rachel to get to the meeting first.

My background is in the hifi industry, a case in point. It’s a roller-coaster ride of an industry where LP, CD, DVD and Blu-ray have each in turn threatened to commoditise the market to the point where the lowest common denominator was so good that there was no pull from consumers to differentiate. But in every case a whole spectrum of distinct companies emerged who were successful with products from the astonishingly cheap to the outrageously expensive. Even MP3, feared as the death of hifi due to its inherent poor quality, has spawned everything from give-away products to luxury goods, and iPod, the industry benchmark, is hardly a low common denominator.

Beverages are another classic example, and not only fruit juice. I grew up thinking that instant Nescafe was the benchmark for coffee. Now I have a world of choice from excellent convenience coffee through to beans roasted to order. The humble tea bag, 102 years old, was a commodity for most of its years before Tetley showed that innovation could make you stand out from the crowd in even the most un-differentiated market. Their round tea bag was the radical innovation that not only helped them regain market leadership but also provoked their competitors into responding with distinctive products.

So are there any commoditised markets left, with truly no differentiation? Or am I right in thinking there are opportunities for innovation in every market?

I’ve posted a discussion on Linkedin for this topic, and on the Cambridge Consultants consumer products blog. Let me know your thoughts.

(*one of the “benefits” of doing an MBA is that you learn words like fungible which are very useful for dropping into meetings – thus marking you out clearly as a management consultant, or somebody who has done an MBA, or, frighteningly, both)

Duncan Smith is Commercial Director, Products & Systems Division at Cambridge Consultants

Monday, April 26, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Bert Jacobs, Co-Founder & Chief Executive “Optimist,” Life is Good

Bert Jacobs
Co-Founder & Chief Executive “Optimist,” Life is Good

Bert Jacobs is the co-founder and Chief Executive Optimist of The Life is good Company. A $100 million privately held business based in Boston, MA, Life is good® spreads positive vibes with its colorful collection of apparel and accessories. Jake, Life is good’s iconic hero with the contagious smile, teaches men, women and children that optimism is fun, healthy, and empowering.

In 1994, with a combined sum of just $78 in the bank, Bert and his brother John officially launched Life is good. Today, Life is good products are sold by over 4,500 retailers nationwide, and in 30 countries worldwide. Bert, John, and The Life is good Company are living proof that “Optimism can take you anywhere.”

Believing that consumers are already overwhelmed by too much “noise” in the marketplace, Life is good has never spent a penny to advertise its products. 100% of the company’s growth is attributable to consumer word-of-mouth.

In 2006, at the Life is good Pumpkin Festival on Boston Common, Life is good broke the Guinness World Record for the most carved, lit pumpkins in one place at one time. Because Life is good considers children its ultimate source for inspiration, the company is totally committed to helping kids who face unfair challenges. 100% of all funds raised from an ongoing nationwide series of Life is good Festivals as well as 100% of profits from a growing number of Life is good products benefit the Life is good Kids Foundation.

Bert has appeared on CNN’s Tips from the Top, CNBC’s Business Nation, and The Donny Deutch Show. Life is good has been featured in the New York Times, on the cover of Inc Magazine, and on NBC’s The Today Show.

Don't miss Bert Jacob's keynote speech Optimism Can Take You Anywhere at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Bio courtesy of Bright Sight Group

Innovation: Among universities but not in corporate

In a recent article in the Zanesville Times Recorder, they look at how Ohio is concentrating on improving it's presence in the nation's leaders when it comes to academic and university innovation. The number of scientists and engineers in the state has risen since 2004. However, to continue with their innovative presence, many of the companies in the state must contribute to the state's innovative ways.

According to Ohio State professor Michael Bills,
"This country was founded on ingenuity, invention and innovation. In the past 20 years, (business has) become exclusively focused on ... productivity and efficiency to the point where we drained any budget for exploration and experimentation."

What do you think of Mr. Bill's opinions?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Tom LaForge, Global Director of Human and Cultural Insights, Coca-Cola

Tom LaForge
Global Director of Human and Cultural Insights

Tom delights in collecting human and cultural insights from around the world which he uses to help guide the development of portfolio and M&A strategies; brand, product and package creation; and new communications. He has explored such topics as the meaning of well-being, sports and fitness, vitality, indulgence, and the rising value of design in over 30 countries. He is fascinated by the unprecedented set of socio-historic drivers that are generating dramatic attitudinal changes across the globe – such changes as expanding worldviews, increasing demands on producers (and consumers) to address social and environmental challenges, and the increasing value of human creativity.

Tom holds degrees in Marketing and Economics from San Jose State University, has studied Human Visual Perception at Stanford University, and consumer psychology at the University of Ghent, Belgium. He loves books and don’t even get him started on Scrabble.

Don't miss Tom LaForge's keynote speech How Global Macrotrends Are Reshaping The Desires Of Tomorrow’s Consumers at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Nash Equilibrium: Optimizing Team Innovation

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

My goal is to increase the odds of success for each player on the floor, but without negating the odds of success for everyone else in the process.”

Steve Nash - point guard for the Phoenix Suns, 2-time NBA Most Valuable Player

I’ve decided to create a new award. It’s called the John & Steve Nash Innovation MVP award.

I studied a fair amount of game theory as part of my post-secondary education - including basic auctioning systems and classic Prisoner Dilemma scenarios, to more complex competitive systems and the subtleties of theorists like John von Neumann, Morgenstern, and Nash. In fact I was in graduate school and became pretty excited when John Nash (the subject of the book and subsequent movie A Beautiful Mind) won the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics.

When I launched Big E Toys about six years ago I did so with a board game called Coopetition (pronounced co-opetition) – the underlying premise of which was loosely based on the 1950 Ph.D. thesis of John Nash. At the time, Coopetition was the only party-genre board game to incorporate all four essential classic gaming elements – skill, knowledge, luck, and strategy. What made it truly unique was the interdependence of the players in the game. Because it incorporated both competitive and cooperative elements, the actions of any one team affected the outcome and decision making strategy of every other team and vice versa.

This time of year, with the advent of the NBA playoffs, I’m often reminded of another Nash - Steve Nash, point guard for the Phoenix Suns. A truly remarkable player. A player whose innovative playing style coincidently loosely embodies the theoretical framework of something called the Nash Equilibrium – the concept of a game involving two or more players, in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing his or her own strategy. As you might have guessed, the Nash Equilibrium takes its name not from NBA star Steve Nash, but rather Nobel Prize-winning economist John Nash.

“My goal is to increase the odds of success for each player on the floor, but without negating the odds of success for everyone else in the process,” Steve Nash has said. Some may think of Steve Nash as the quintessential “team player”, a player that routinely sacrifices himself or foregoes his own scoring opportunities for the good of the team (he has after all been the NBA assist leader multiple times.) It’s more than this though. He simply has an innate understanding of what it takes to optimize his teams’ performance.

Do you have anyone like this on your innovation team? I’m not talking about your “all-stars”, your “scoring leaders”, or anyone who “sacrifices” himself for the team and thus becomes a non-factor himself. These might be obvious choices for an Innovation MVP award. But I’m talking about someone that inherently knows how to make everyone better while simultaneously performing up to one’s own potential. Do you have one of these people on your team?

In an article written in November of 2005 for what magazine I don’t remember, author Chuck Klosterman writes:
“The reason Nash destroys people is because he transmogrifies the Suns’ offense; he maximizes the potential of every player on his team, regardless of how much (or how little) raw potential each one possesses. He will consciously create short-term sacrifice if that loss yields long-term social benefit to players who would be mediocre as self-reliant individuals. From each his ability, to each his needs.”

If you know someone worthy of the John & Steve Nash Innovation MVP award, feel free to send your nominations to me at

Unlocking the secrets behind Stage-Gate® metrics

by: Paul Gould
PMO Director, Innovation
Cytec Industries, Inc.

So how do you measure innovation success? Sales of new products, the number of patents filed or the return on your R&D investment?

The stock analysts love the Vitality Index (VI%) on annual reports - the percent of sales generated from products less than three-to-five years old. And Dr. Robert Cooper, the creator of the Stage-Gate® product development methodology, has been quoted as saying that “High performing companies have average sales of 27.5% generated from products created in the last three years.” This metric in particular uses a rear-view mirror approach: looking at where you have been, and then averaging your performance over a number of years. But how helpful is it to only look backwards when making decisions about the future of your company? We live in a dynamic world with a dynamic economy and shorter and shorter product life cycles. The pressure is on for all of us innovation practitioners to be more predictive about our trajectories into the future and to be more certain that we are on the right path. TODAY.

In 2009, my colleagues and I attended a number of conferences and seminars designed to examine the health of an organization’s innovation process. Together, we counted over 130 examples of metrics that companies have used to try and measure and declare innovation “success”. The focus on measuring innovation metrics shows a universal understanding that tracking the right metrics are important. The right metrics will likely vary from company to company, industry to industry, but some common ones include NPV targets, the number and speed of projects through the pipeline, and resources deployed.

However, after talking with colleagues in several different industries, a different picture emerges. It seems that many companies are focusing a substantial portion of their development resources on establishing innovation metrics or ensuring reporting quality – NOT on advancing their innovation maturity.

It is as though the metrics themselves have become “king” and not the process. I also speculate that many people are still struggling with understanding the key drivers at work in their innovation process. (“If you do not know which metrics to measure, then dazzle management by reporting lots of metrics.”) The up-side to the “metrics are king” mantra is that it gives people who are responsible for the process lots to do and something to show for it. (“I was able to deliver my metrics by the 5th of every month.”)
But how do we get beyond creating, gathering, reporting and providing generalized explanations about the innovation metrics and really understand the underlying behaviors and processes that drive real innovation – and then implement positive change?

I am not saying that metrics are a bad thing. In fact, without metrics to monitor the innovation processes that I am responsible for, I would be lost. As each company progresses on its own path to innovation maturity, they need to reach a place where they are executing the process efficiently and effectively, using innovation metrics as a way to benchmark their progress. In my own case, my company has worked hard to develop our innovation processes, supported by a good PLM system that provides reliable metrics. Consequently, we have achieved a high level of process maturity, especially by our industry’s standards.

What I am saying is that:
1. The best way to monitor innovation process health is by measuring the right metrics. There is no “one set of metrics that fits all” so determining the right metrics to measure depends upon your organization’s innovation strategy.

2. Implement a reliable innovation metrics reporting system so that you can track your progress over time. This is a key milestone along your path to innovation process maturity.

3. Don’t stagnate your innovation process by focusing most of your efforts on gathering, reporting and providing generalized explanations about your innovation metrics. Instead, use the metrics to guide your work in creating innovative new products.

4. To determine the right innovation metrics for your company, you will need to continually and consistently measure the outcomes of your innovation process (point 1). To grow the process beyond a stagnation point where “metrics are king” (point 3), you will need to challenge yourself to dig deeper and really examine what is happening behind the scenes, and what is really driving the success – or failure – of your innovation process. Then use that data to inform your development decisions and implement positive change.

I believe I have found a process that will allow you to unlock the secrets behind Stage-Gate® metrics using a combination of consumer marketing techniques, Design for Six Sigma and LEAN. If you are interested in learning more, join me for this Webinar on April 29. I’d be interested in hearing how your company is using different approaches to the Stage-Gate® methodology to achieve results.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Art of Consumer Empathy Part III - Insight Techniques

Do Your Approaches to Deep-rooted Understanding Maximize Your Insight AND Empathy?
Of the many tools employed to unearth empathy-driving insight, well-utilized consumer communities and well-constructed ethnographic studies can enhance insight and consumer intimacy greatly by revealing deep-rooted motivations and behaviors. This deeper insight is often what separates "me too" innovation from "Wow!" innovation.

Consumer Communities: Are you primarily using online communities for on-demand but traditional tabulated surveys, open-ended questions, and focus groups? Your ability to drive deep and spontaneous insight may be limited to what marketers feel is important versus what consumers are naturally discussing as important to them. Think about pushing your approach. Below are three ways to get more from your online communities:

  • Vary your exercises to tap into the diversity of how people think and create (we call these the consumer thought centers). If verbal language is the only way you communicate with online panels, you miss the richness members can contribute.
  • Augment your community periodically with new and surprising participants and sources of expertise to expand the conversation and generate participant excitement. Don’t restrict yourself to those with an obvious connection to your category or topic. Work the peripheries, or be brave on occasion and go beyond the edge. Working on a food product? Invite a yoga instructor or musical artist into the conversation as a creative expert. Want to uncover what’s really irking your consumers? Announce that your CMO will be on the panel to discuss whatever is on members’ minds. Need to spark excitement and spontaneous conversation? Access a celebrity personality who can open the door to unexpected avenues of discussion.
  • Consider new analytic approaches to derive more from your interpretation. For example, consider content analysis or laddering of online dialog to better understand consumer language and latent emotional connections.
Ethnography: If your ethnography resembles on-location structured interviews, you may be missing the opportunity to leverage this tool for its full worth including understanding the cultural context and emotional drivers of behaviors. Explore new and unique approaches, such as the three described below.
  • Employ less intrusive (unmoderated) observation. The less intrusive your presence the more honest the behaviors and conversations you will observe. Place video cameras in-home, in-store, or in-hand for video journaling; then flesh out your understanding with follow-up interviews or video chats to more closely examine the most perplexing, interesting, and repeatedly observed behaviors. One of the most revealing and actionable ethnographic studies I experienced involved a triad of exercises. A motion activated camera in respondent kitchens provided a 24-7 look at food preparation; a new product was entered into the mix to capture real experiences preparing and serving it in their natural environment; in-home family interviews conducted after analyzing the video provided additional explanatory texture.
  • Mix up your ethnographic techniques. Supplement traditional in-home and on-location interviews with silent observation (friendship gatherings, shop-alongs), and even join-in techniques (where you become a participant during at home dinners, parties, spring-cleaning, internet shopping, etc.). Yes, join-in techniques are not anthropologically pure, but they can be great ways to break down walls and engage in real conversations.
  • Use ethnography for downstream innovation, not just upfront. Observe your prototypes in use or consumer reaction to a new product in store. The more realistic the task, the more actionable the learnings. This is particularly helpful with new package structures, recipes, and even technology use.
The Power of “And”: Whatever your preferred insight techniques, consumer empathy comes from weaving together the complete consumer tapestry, not from isolated events with unconnected threads. Create a portfolio of approaches for both “exploratory” and “explanatory” objectives. Seek the power of “AND” by combining unobtrusive observation, hands-on and join-in participative tasks, and conversational approaches.

Expanding the power of your insight techniques is important when creating a consumer-empathetic organization, but has its limits. If you are ready to make the ultimate commitment to consumer empathy building in your company, it is time to engage the organization to “live your consumer” outside the official research plan…the topic of our fourth and final empathy post.

source: Food & Beverage Matters Blog

Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille Discusses Leading Drivers of Sales Success

Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, a keynote in this year's FEI US Conference, was recently featured in Inc Magazine. In that article he dives into the human psyche to uncover what truly makes great salespeople. Rapaille has made a career in uncovering mental models for corporations aiding their employees, customers, and organizations. From all of his reserach conducted around salespeople, he has characterized them as happy losers.

Right off the bat one would think that salespeople are being criticized by being called happy losers, when indeed the opposite is happening. Happy losers are people who see rejection as a challenge, and those who are rejected 95 percent of the time and win only about 5 percent. Research conducted points that initial rejection only stimulates great salespeople into trying harder and to not give up.

This also goes for innovation practices. Those that quit while they're ahead, well...they won't get very far.

Make sure to check out the full length article here.

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Jeb Brugmann, Author, Welcome To The Urban Revolution

Jeb Brugmann
Author, Welcome To The Urban Revolution & Founding Partner, The Next Practice & Faculty Member, University Of Cambridge Program For Sustainability Leadership

Jeb Brugmann has been instrumental in urban development in 49 cities in 21 countries in his two decades of work on urbanization. His work over the years has been officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, three UN Summits and the UN Climate Secretariat (Kyoto Protocol). He has received numerous awards and government funding from twelve different countries. For more than two decades, Jeb Brugmann has developed strategies for governments, corporations, international agencies, and nongovernmental organizations to tackle global issues at the local level. From 1990 to 2000, he served as founding secretary general of the InternationalCouncil for Local Environmental Initiatives, the international environmental agency for cities, countries, and towns. His initiatives have involved thousands of cities in more than fifty countries. A strategy consultant to organizations and leaders internationally, he also serves as a faculty member of the Cambridge University Programme for Industry.

Don't miss Jeb Brugmann's keynote speech Moving Beyond the Core: New Business Model Creation at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Bio courtesy of Barnes and Nobles.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Leveraging State Funding to Push Innovation

The federal government has and continues to play a key role in driving innovation. Research and development grants for new technologies have always played an essential role in getting cutting-edge ideas to market.

What’s getting funded these days? Energy efficiency. The Obama administration has put a tremendous emphasis on energy conservation, sustainability, and alternative fuel sources. The President recently ordered federal agencies to set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut energy use, save water and recycle more. The order calls for a 30% cut in vehicle fuel use by 2020, a 50% increase in recycling by 2015 and the implementation of high-efficiency building codes. This shift in policy is resulting in a change in the way companies innovate and how we think about sustainability.

What’s new in the latest infusion of funding to spur innovation is that state governments are playing a key role. And, this money is not only going to companies that produce energy, but to the industrial sector that uses the vast majority of the nation’s energy supply. In fact, many state governments are offering federal tax credits and state funding opportunities for capital upgrades or retooling projects to reduce energy consumption. This is a great time for companies to take advantage of this policy shift to push innovation projects from “No Go” to “Go” with state government funding.

For example, one of our clients recently won a state-level grant to replace a 40-year-old boiler in its manufacturing facility, resulting in an annual savings of about $1 million in energy costs. While this internal investment had been on the company’s list for years, other initiatives had always taken precedence. By applying for state funding, the project was pushed from `no go’ to `go’. This project was a win-win situation because the company saved money in reduced energy costs and repairs and became more efficient. The government won because the state reduced its overall energy consumption in order to meet energy reduction goals.

For up-to-date information on government agency solicitations, check the ITECS Insider.

Don’t miss Susan Ward speaking at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. She will be a panelist for the Technology Fishbowl – How Can We Change the Rules? on Tuesday, May 4th.

Not going to the show? We invite you to join us for a free Webinar on: What’s The Big Deal with Energy: Wading Through the Funding Streams

When: April 28, 2010 - 11am EDT
In this Webinar, Susan Ward will address the major concerns the U.S. has around the future of energy, and the funding streams and investment they are putting forth in the quest to become the world’s alternative energy superpower. She will also appraise the current administration's initiatives and discuss future trends. Specifically, this Webinar will:

· Discuss the current administration’s initiatives, where funding is currently going and who is getting it.
· Share thoughts on expected new legislation, and the resulting energy and investment trends.
· Relay information about access to funding and procurement opportunities.

To register for this webinar, please contact or 404-210-4140.

Susan Ward is the Founder and CEO of ITECS Innovative Consulting,, a technology marketing company that helps businesses, universities and nonprofits fund, develop and commercialize high-potential technologies by leveraging the government as a funding source or customer. ITECS has secured more than $100 million in government funding and assisted in more than $500 million in successful technology product introductions, for a 70% hit rate with industry proposals. Susan can be reached at or hear her speak at FEI on Tuesday, May 4th.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Vijay Govindarajan Founding Director, Tuck's Center For Global Leadership

Vijay Govindarajan
Founding Director
Tuck’s Center For Global Leadership

Vijay Govindarajan ( is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on strategy and innovation. He is the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business and the Founding Director of the Center for Global Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He is the 2009 Professor-in-Residence and Chief Innovation Consultant for General Electric. He has been recognized by BusinessWeek, Forbes, and The London Times as a top thought leader in the field of strategy. He works with CEOs and top management teams in Fortune 1000 corporations to discuss, challenge, and escalate their thinking about strategy. He is the co-author of the best selling book, Ten Rules For Strategic Innovators: From Idea To Execution, which has been rated by The Wall Street Journal as a “Top 10 Recommended Read”.

Don't miss Vijay Govindarajan's keynote speech Moving Beyond the Core: New Business Model Creation at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Bio courtesy of Tuck

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Wisdom of an FEI Conference Crowd

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

“…chasing the expert is a mistake, and a costly one at that. We should stop hunting and ask the crowd (which, of course, includes the geniuses as well as everyone else) instead. Chances are, it knows.”
- from The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

I’m looking forward to the upcoming 2010 FEI conference in Boston (May 3-5). The accumulated brainpower of the presenters as well as attendees is sure to be tremendous. I wonder what kind of collective wisdom will be in the crowd.

I recently finished reading James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds. Good stuff. Interesting. Thought provoking. James of course has one of the keynote presentations Tuesday morning May 4th at the FEI conference. His “Success Through Synergy” presentation is bound to be a good one.

There is much in the book The Wisdom of Crowds on which I could comment. It is a rich and entertaining text, and clearly well researched. Sprinkled throughout the book, Mr. Surowiecki provides an assortment of real-world examples to illuminate the potential wisdom of crowds. He illustrates his points using academia, a variety of industry examples, personal experience, and other enlightening anecdotes.

This isn’t meant to be a book review though, so I’ll stop short and simply say The Wisdom of Crowds was a good read.

In thinking about the upcoming FEI conference, I can’t help wonder whether the assembled crowd could potentially be wise.

According to Surowiecki, there are four conditions that characterize wise crowds:

Diversity of Opinion – the idea that each person has some private information, even if it’s just some sort of interpretation of known facts

Independence – a person’s opinion is not determined by the opinions of those around him or her

Decentralization – people are able to specialize and draw on what’s referred to as “local knowledge”

Aggregation – a mechanism exists to turn judgments into a collective decision

If a group satisfies these conditions, its judgments are likely to be accurate.

Given the eclectic nature of attendees – different industry and academic backgrounds, different age-groups, different geographies, etc. - at the FEI conference, I imagine the conference crowd could be pretty wise if given the opportunity to make some sort of collective decision. They’ll be a lot of smart people mingling about. But ironically, the individual brainpower of attendees isn’t inherently what would make the crowd wise. A true crowd includes “the geniuses as well as everyone else.” It’s the Diversity of Opinion, Independence, Decentralization, and mechanism for Aggregation that gives a crowd its wisdom.

Paradoxically, the only thing I can think that might diminish the potential overall wisdom of the crowd at FEI, is the fact that everyone assembled is there for the same reason. Might the homogenous nature of our pursuit of innovation skew our collective wisdom? Might we lack a diversity in mental mindset that shields us from potentially powerful breakthroughs?

Perhaps we should invite some people off the street to join us.

If you haven’t already signed-up to attend FEI2010, feel free to use promo code FEI2010CHIP to get a 20% discount.

New Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation Survey

By Dan Keldsen
Innovation Strategist at
Information Architected, Inc.

In our late 2009 Innovation Management research, we focused on the Business Management side of Innovation - ownership, funding, the existence of innovation teams, et al. (See free download of Innovation Management research)

Q2 2010 Crowdsourcing Project
For our latest research, we're focusing on Crowdsourcing - whether an internal crowd, external, crowd for hire, or anywhere in between.

Take the Crowdsourcing Innovation Survey Now.

If you're interested in the topic, please take 5 minutes to provide your insights/feedback into your own experiences with Crowdsourcing, or the plans that you and your organization have to take advantage of Crowdsourcing.

Ten respondents will receive a Personal Innovation Assessment (VIEW) - and all will receive personal notification of the results of this research.

Take the Crowdsourcing Innovation Survey Now.

Thank you in advance for your time, and stay tuned for the results in a few weeks.

Dan Keldsen
Innovation Strategist at
Information Architected, Inc.

Monday, April 12, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Robin Chase, Founding CEO, Zipcar and GoLoco

Robin Chase
Founding CEO
Zipcar, and GoLoco

Robin Chase is founder and CEO of GoLoco, an online ridesharing community. She also founded and leads Meadow Networks, a consulting firm that advises city, state, and federal government agencies about wireless applications in the transportation sector, and impacts on innovation and economic development. Robin is also founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the largest carsharing company in the world.

She is on the Board of the World Resources Institute, and the World Economic Forum Future of Transportation Council. She served on the Massachusetts Governor’s Transportation transition team, and the Boston Mayor’s Wireless Task Force. In 2009, she was included in the Time 100 Most Influential People. Robin lectures widely, has been frequently featured in the major media, and has received many awards in the areas of innovation, design, and environment. Robin graduated from Wellesley College and MIT's Sloan School of Management, and was a Harvard University Loeb Fellow.

Don't miss Robin Chase's keynote speech More Meadows at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Bio Courtesy of

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Art of Consumer Empathy Part II - Respect

Are you ready to embrace the need to create a culture of consumer empathy in your company to drive more relevant innovation? Then it is time to assess whether your organization needs a consumer empathy booster shot, and to hard-wire consumer empathy techniques into your organizational DNA. The answers to a few simple questions, ranging in degree of commitment involved, can help you judge whether consumer empathy in your organization is in short supply:

1. Fundamental:
Does your organization respect consumers and prospects across all touch points?

2. Advanced:
Do your approaches to deep-rooted understanding maximize your insight AND empathy?

3. Hard-Wired:
Do you LIVE your consumer? Experience THEIR value chain firsthand?

Does your organization respect consumers and prospects across all touch points?
From how you research consumers for insight building and evaluative testing, to how you communicate to them in media and at shelf, and how you respond to them in post-purchase satisfaction transactions – all are touch points that can be improved when consumer respect and empathy influence your decisions.

A sure sign your empathy switch may be set too low is a lack of consumer respect during the front-end insight efforts that are essential to getting innovation right. Do you suffer from attention deficit during qualitative and abusively long quantitative surveys? Shamefully I admit to guilt on both counts at times!

Kidding Aside: Let’s face it, lengthy days observing repetitive consumer groups or interviews can become tedious. Backroom conversation, humor, and multi-tasking relieve the tedium and tension. But if you observe that your consumers are becoming the brunt of behind-the-mirror jokes because of who they are, how they look/act, and what they say, then empathy may be in short supply. And if your focus groups are becoming an exercise for the ears of your moderator only, perhaps it is time to rethink how you use qualitative. Are you conducting too many sessions, inviting too large a group (front or back room), or staying too superficial to be truly enlightening?

Time Value of Consumers: Another signal of a respect gap is the length and quality of the interview experience, particularly for quantitative. It is common for marketing to pressure their consumer insights partners, and for consumer insights to then pressure their research suppliers, to expand the length and complexity of surveys. If you respect your consumers, respect their time and your insights will be higher quality.

Yes, this is basic. But if you disrespect your consumers when you need them to reveal their deepest emotions and behavioral motivations, you short change your ability to collect, recognize, and internalize meaningful elements of the consumer equation. Respect your consumers and you can connect at deeper levels through even more powerful techniques such as consumer communities and ethnography... the topic of our upcoming empathy post.

source: Food & Beverage Matters Blog

Innovation at the Masters

According to The Augusta Chronicle, this Wednesday, the Masters Golf tournament is going to be the first television program ever to be broadcasted in 3D. Chairman Billy Payne stated that innovation at the Masters is tradition. They were also the first program to be broadcasted in High Definition.

According to the Chronicle:
The 3-D broadcasts, made with help from IBM, will be from 4-6 p.m. each tournament day on Comcast channel 897 or 986, depending on (the Augusta) area. You may cover your eyes to protect them from a spraying sand shot, and the National's fabled ups and downs of the greens will be more visible -- as the lay of the land gives you better depth perception.

Even though those watching will still need 3D glasses, this is a first in television history.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bringing Brands Back to Life Through Innovation

According to this article in BusinessWeek Imation, a leader in recordable compact discs, has spent a lot of time over the past coupe of years rejuvenating Memorex as a line of consumer electronics as well as the Imation brand itself.

Mark Lucas, soon to be CEO of Imation, mentions that Imation is "pedaling as fast as we can to demonstrate improvements in our performance."The company has expanded its Memorex brand by offering Wii accessories as well as speakers, turntables, and other audio gear. Will this revival strategy work for Imation? That seems to be the bigger question.

Looks like only time will tell.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

FEI US 2010 Speaker Highlight: Teresa M. Amabile, Author & Professor, Harvard Business School

Teresa M. Amabile
Author & Professor,
Harvard Business School

Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School. She is also a Director of Research at the School. Originally educated and employed as a chemist, Dr. Amabile received her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1977. Her research investigates how life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. Originally focusing on individual creativity, Dr. Amabile's research expanded to encompass individual productivity, team creativity, and organizational innovation. This 35-year program of research on how the work environment can influence creativity and motivation yielded a theory of creativity and innovation; methods for assessing creativity, motivation, and the work environment; and a set of prescriptions for maintaining and stimulating innovation. Dr. Amabile's current research program focuses on the psychology of everyday work life: how events in the work environment influence subjective experience ("inner work life") and performance (creativity, productivity, and commitment to the work). Before joining HBS, Dr. Amabile held several research grants as a professor at Brandeis University, including "Creativity and Motivation," from the National Institute of Mental Health, and "Downsizing Industrial R&D," from the Center for Innovation Management Studies. She was awarded the E. Paul Torrance Award by the Creativity Division of the National Association for Gifted Children in 1998, and the Leadership Quarterly Best Paper Award by the Center for Creative Leadership in 2005.

Dr. Amabile has presented her theories, research results, and practical implications to various groups in business, government, and education, including Lucent Technologies, Procter & Gamble Company, Novartis International AG, and Motorola. In addition to participating in various executive programs at Harvard Business School, she created the MBA course, Managing for Creativity, and currently teaches the course in Leadership and Organizational Behavior.

Dr. Amabile is the author of Creativity in Context and Growing Up Creative, as well as over 150 scholarly papers, chapters, case studies, and presentations. She serves on the editorial boards of Creativity Research Journal, Creativity and Innovation Management, and Journal of Creative Behavior.

Don't miss Teresa M. Amabile's keynote speech Inspiring Innovation: Re-Energizing You, Your Team And Your Organization at the Front End of Innovation Conference this May in Boston. Hope to see you all there!

Bio Courtesy of Harvard Business School

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Day Without Shoes: Empathy in Innovation

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

Bring some air freshener. The boardroom might get a little stinky.

Podophobists beware.

It might be a little impractical, socially awkward, or perhaps simply violates a long standing human resource policy within your organization concerning personal attire or hygiene. But I invite you to at least consider the possibility of going without shoes for one day…or a few hours…or even just a few minutes this Thursday, April 8. Might make you feel like a shaman. It could be enlightening.

I’ve written before about TOMS shoes. Before it was because I wanted to bring attention to their unique business model. It’s innovative, inspiring, and worth emulating whenever possible. Their One-for-One approach, although not necessarily a realistic possibility for a typical organization, should give all of us something to think about. I mean really, who wants to be typical? (Then again I suppose there are other ways of being atypical.)

Today is not about TOMS shoes’ business model. It’s about feet. It’s about not wearing shoes for a day.

TOMS is “asking people to go the day, part of the day or even just a few minutes, barefoot, to experience a life without shoes first-hand, and to help spread awareness of the impact a simple pair of shoes can bring to a child’s life.” If you visit the One Day Without Shoes website you might actually find an event near you in which you can participate. People are going for walks all over the country barefoot.

If you’re not already aware, TOMS sells shoes. And for every pair they sell, they give one away to a child in need. One-for-One.

One Day Without Shoes, independent from the social impact of such a day, actually highlights for me an interesting, useful element within the innovation process. It’s called empathy. In this case TOMS is asking us to literally step out of our own shoes in order to understand what it’s like to figuratively live in someone else’s shoes. This is not unlike attempting to understand one’s own customers. It’s sort like taking Voice of Customer activities to the next level. It’s about vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of another. Increase your understanding, increase your resolve, increase your innovation success by empathizing with your subject.

Even if you can’t take in a meeting on Thursday, April 8th barefoot. Even if you can’t walk around the office without shoes. Even if you’re slightly embarrassed by your somewhat gangly feet. Even if you didn’t get that pedicure. Go for a walk – over lunch, on a break, after work, whenever – barefoot. Might make you feel like a shaman. It could be enlightening.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Singapore innovating the way we look at water

Bijoy Mohan of the Business Times in Singapore looks at how the country is innovating the way they deal with the water cycle. The National Water Agency of Singapore focuses on conservation at all four stages in the water life cycle: collection, treatment, distribution, and reclamation. Authorities looking at ways to implement technology at each stage of the water life cycle. Mohan also focuses on how innovators shouldn't be the only players in the water conservation process, but government authorities, consumers, trade players and private organizations need to all pitch in to create successful water conservation in Singapore.

What do you think? Do more countries need to have a National Water Agency? What an other countries learn from Singapore about their continuing innovative efforts to conserve water?

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