Wednesday, May 5, 2010

FEI2010 - Are There Such Things As Innovation Inhibitors?

C. Engdahl reporting from FEI2010

Are There Such Things As Innovation Inhibitors? (A Fishbowl Session)
Participants:
Leighton Cooper (LC), Alcoa
Brian Glassman (BG), Int'l Journal of Innovation Science
Tom Granzow (TG), Herman Miller
Roger Miller (RM), former La-Z-Boy

The "Fishbowl" format at FEI2010 is somewhat like a panel discussion. It's a little more chaotic however in that it's more collaborative (with the audience) in nature, less structured, and more spontaneous (there aren't really any "canned" questions). My post here will reflect this format and thus be a bit more stream-of-consciousness, perhaps at times chaotic. I'm sure I'll miss a few things but I'll try to capture a few relevent streams. I'll be using participant initials to indicate who said what. Buckle up. Here we go...

? (plus a number to indicate different people) = question from the audience

[formal participants are introducing themselves]

BG – [introduces idea of Cultural Barriers]
?1 guy from Goodyear – We created iTeam at Goodyear plus formal process for innovation which incorporates "lean" (because of direction from boss). “Lean” is part of our culture. Can you comment on this or other cultural inhibitors. How do we deal with these?
BG - I don't like lean for front-end
LC – “lean” suggests a linear event. Front-end is non-linear in nature.
BG – Lean is predictable, formal, process oriented. This is in direct conflict to Front End activity
BG – toward Goodyear guy – your boss simply loves “process”
?2 – Even though lean conflicts with Front End activities, we still want tools that create repeatability. Therein lies the conflict or challenge for all of us.
?1 Goodyear guy – I don’t think there’s enough emotional intelligence and servant leadership to help co-workers.

?3 Risk is another factor out there affecting the Front End. Companies don’t want to take risk. Typical project these days are about saving money. Companies aren’t stepping out.
BG – risk is definitely an inhibitor. Are there ideas for overcoming this?
?4 How I get measured is a factor.
?5 Portfolio mgmt helps
LC – our CEO is implementing a new 3-yr and holding sr mgrs to it. Sr. Mgmt incentivized based on 3-5 yr plan (growth plan).
TG – we have a 3-5 year plan, but product development budget based on one year
?6 – is 3 years long enough? What’s the right length?
LC – we have 3 year business plans, and up to 5 yr R&D plans. What’s the right time frame? Depends on business plan – aerospace (10-15 years). Electronics (a year)
TG – we can put plans together and say at the end that they’re a joke. R&D plan isn’t accurately aligned with budgets.
RM – payoffs take a long horizon. Get 2 or 3 projects to payoff in long-term to compensate for all the projects that tank. Hopefully projects that are going to fail, fail quickly. Get them off the docket.

[A statement made early in the introductions that I thought worth conveying is as follows:]
(TG) - "Because of the Aeron chair success, some people began to say you shouldn't listen to customers. Customers absolutely despised what Aeron looked like. The other half of the story though is that Herman Miller does 'comfort" testing. Aeron scored extremely high on 'comfort'. You never hear this part of the story.”

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