Thursday, September 30, 2010

EPIC Innovation Conference Registration Giveaway Contest!

We want to give our FEI blog readers a special chance to win a pass to EPIC which is taking place October 27-29, 2010 in New York. In order to enter you need to submit the following information to Anastasia Ioannou – with EPIC Contest in the Subject Line.

Job title:Department:

Winners will be selected on Friday, October 8th. Enter today for your chance to win

Make sure to click below to find out more about the EPIC Conference.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Where do you see the future of society heading?

Join Rennie Davis, Former Member of Chicago 7 and Chairman of the Foundation for New Humanity at Future Trends 2010 for his Keynote Presentation “Change Yourself to Change the World: Pioneering the World’s Greatest Discovery”

Future Trends
October 18-20, 2010
Eden Roc – Miami
Brochure Download
Register Today
-Join our LinkedIn group, Future Trends for exclusive discounts

Rennie Davis says, “the big event is not behind us but right in front of us.” He sees the present public climate of hysteria, anger, blame and finger pointing re-scripting the world. He also sees the present negative climate culminating in a great turning out of the fear into a new humanity. Drawing from recent discoveries in the field of particle physics, he makes the case that the world’s greatest discovery is presently occurring. Gandhi’s famous statement that you have to be the change you seek for the world is more than philosophy. It describes the science of how our world works. When we blame we turn our power over and become the victim. What we condemn is what we experience and what we fear is what we attract. The world’s greatest discovery makes every human being the origin of their own experiences. It will be pioneered by a new human awareness. To change the world, you first have to change yourself.

The 1960s changed the country and re-shaped a world. Rennie Davis was one of the most prominent leaders of the era, coordinating the largest anti-war and civil rights coalition of that decade. In this rare public appearance, one of America’s great story tellers takes you on a history journey through the turbulent days of the 1960s.

Connect with Rennie and our other amazing line-up of speakers next month in sunny Miami. It’s not too late to register!

We look forward to seeing you next month.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chance Favors The Connected Mind

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

I think Louis Pasteur was right. “Chance favors the prepared mind” he said. It does seem a bit oxymoronic, but by and large I think the sentiment is generally accepted. We must prepare ourselves with knowledge, as well as prepare our minds to recognize, acknowledge, and act upon opportunities that arise. Innovation depends on it.

Being prepared is good.

But arguably being connected is even better.

Author Steven Johnson - whose previous books include The Ghost Map and Everything Bad Is Good For You – has adapted Pasteur’s famous quote.

“Chance favors the connected mind.” – Steven Johnson

I don’t normally plug books or products for others (and know that I have nothing to gain by doing so), but I’m making an exception today. Author Steven Johnson has a new book coming out called Where Good Ideas Come From (it’s not due out until October 5). I’ve not been given an advanced copy so I can’t attest to all that is in it. I did happen to see him present at FEI 2010 in May though where he essentially floated many of the ideas and stories put forth in this new book. I thought his stories and ideas concerning innovation interesting, entertaining, and useful.

Instead of attempting at this time to provide my own overview of the book I’ll simply let you watch this animated preview put together by the publisher. It’s pretty good.

Steven Johnson’s new book may not actually have much effect on your connectedness. I imagine it might help however with your preparedness.

The FEI Europe team is currently accepting proposals for event sponsorship

The FEI Europe team is currently accepting proposals for event sponsorship. As a Sponsor/Partner you will have the exclusive opportunity to highlight your expertise and showcase your offerings, while securing your role as an "Industry Thought Leader".

Our goal is to provide a comprehensive environment that simulates a marketplace whereby the tools, technology and expertise are integrated into the philosophy and offerings of the event. Recognizing partnerships are critical to the success of innovation our goal is to ensure the solutions provided match the needs of our FEI audience.

If you are interested in exposing your expertise, thought leadership or technology to qualified r&d and innovation decision makers at top European and multinational Companies and you have something new, unique, valuable or revolutionary to showcase then please read on.

The Front End Event: The World Leader in Advancing Innovation is doing an OPEN CALL FOR SPONSORSHIPS - providing you with the unparalleled opportunity to connect meaningfully with the largest high quality gathering in Europe of industry leaders of innovation, r&d, product development, engineering, marketing, research & insights. Past attending companies include: BMW, P&G, GE, 3M, AB Inbev, L'Oreal, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, Medrad, Heineken, Bombardier, The Hartford, SC Johnson, Dow Corning, Philips, Sanofi Pasteur, Zimmer, IDEO, Alcoa, Nokia, Whirlpool, Deutsche Telekom, Mars Food, Roche, Adidas Group, Unilever, BBC, Shell, AstraZeneca and many more.

To ensure our attendees are being exposed to the latest innovation and services, we are now accepting submissions for a limited number of presentations, branded opportunities and exhibit spots. If you are selected you will be contacted with more information and pricing details for our sponsorship and exhibition packages, all of which can be customized based on your specific marketing goals and objectives.

Please submit a one-to three-page written profile outlining your company's innovative product, process, or solution addressing the following data points in the format outlined below. We will review and notify you of the status of your application once the review process in completed (approximately 1 week).

1. Name of the innovation/solution

2. Summary of the innovation/solution including:

a. What problem does your innovative product/service solve?

b. How is your product/solution unique?

c. What is the significance and importance of this innovation to you

d. What type of exposure are you looking to secure?

e. How important is branding to your company?

Submit profiles electronically to:

Monday, September 27, 2010

It takes more than installing an innovation system to successfully roll one out.

It takes more than installing an innovation system to successfully roll one out. There are a couple of steps, people and teams required. Some of these resources are from your third party vendors. Others are people you’ll require internal to your organization.

Who gets invited?

Of course most organizations start out with a Proof of Concept (POC) or Pilot program. This makes sense as you can ascertain how to eventually deploy the system enterprise-wide with what you’ve learned during this first phase. The question is: “Who do I ask to participate in the pilot?”

Some project leaders might choose to limit the participation to those within their own department. This way you can control the users because they all report to you. You can also limit exposure, so if you come across any negative experiences, it’s “our little secret”. You iron them out and don’t make those mistakes on the enterprise roll out.

But social science tells us the POC’s users should have several attributes. One, they should come from a wide cross section of departments, job skills, expertise and experience. Having engineers, marketing people, information technology folks, etc. provides the different insights that typically benefit an idea management pursuit. If you want chaos, disruption, the free flow of information then you welcome it with open arms. Failure is not a goal, but it is an acceptable part of the results.

Two, the user community should be of a certain personality type: The innovators and the early adopters. These types of folks happily embrace the exciting new technology. They welcome the opportunity to try out something new. They’re thrilled to watch the process unfold, knowing they are playing a part in an exercise likely to yield breakthrough steps for their organization.

A workshop led by a third party innovation expert is probably the best way to help you identify and recruit your users. The value of your user community increases with wider adoption, as you reach “critical mass”. Social science (and my head of development, Wim Soens) tells us we should have a minimum of 50 to 100 “active users”. We consider “active users” people who log on at least 5 times per month.

Internal Roles

It’s not like you can introduce the idea management tool like a general collaboration tool, by giving out log ins and letting it take care of itself (forgetting about it). You need innovation managers for a variety of reasons.

One, you need to challenge your user community properly. Incremental innovation is fine and you should be happy to accept unsolicited ideas. But what we really want out of the system is help in the areas that concern the organization: We have a big event coming up and we need to figure out how to maximize all the money we’re spending on it; Revenue is down from last year and we need to energize our customer community by introducing the next breakthrough product. In fact an idea management tool should really yield breakthrough innovation and innovation managers are there to properly challenge the user community.

And they are also there for fine tuning. You don’t want your user community to go off on useless tangents. While you’re chasing that next breakthrough product, someone says, “Why can’t we make something like the XYZ product we all had when I was a kid?” Suddenly everyone is commenting and voting on this line of thinking. You might need an innovation manager to step in and say, “That product was pulled from the market because it was discovered it was poisonous. Focus on this instead”.

You also need internal innovation managers to keep an eye on the action. Maybe they’ll eyeball a comment or a discussion that deserves to be promoted to an idea. Maybe the tag cloud or similarity search inherent in your system allows the innovation manager to notice two separate ideas are similar enough to be merged (or similar yet distinct so the ideas should remain separate but be clustered as they get promoted through the system). (By the way, note to self, make sure your idea management system has tag cloud and similarity search technology, as well as the mechanisms to promote comments and discussions to fully fledged ideas).

Here’s a third reason to have an innovation manager. You need someone to nurture system adoption. There is a big controversy amongst idea management software vendors on how to encourage participation. Some may support the concept of ‘rewards”. This can include T Shirts, iPods, iPads, Laptops or even Cars. The problem with that is how you top these for the next best idea challenge.

Others may go for the “badge” system. In this concept, the software notes who participates the most. Like Foursquare, you can get a badge for being an expert in something or other. In fact these systems promote the idea that users should have some of their bonus pay associated with this. The problem with this is that it is easy to “game” the system. What is to stop users from just submitting willy nilly without thought to the quality of their submissions? They’ll just post all sorts of garbage, get the badge and get their bonus.

Finally getting to my point, the third reason for an internal innovation manager is to “market” to the community and encourage them to join the discussions currently being bandied about in the idea management system. An innovation manager can send out a newsletter with links to the most important ideas, challenges, discussions or comments. “Click here to post your idea on this subject”. These newsletters can be sent out daily, weekly or monthly. Also he can set up a twitter account that users sign up for and send out tweets.

The idea management system itself can help the innovation manager by pointing out to the user community what the most popular places are in the system and who contributed most recently. What discussions are everyone participating in? What ideas seem to be getting everyone’s attention? What videos are they watching?

Adoption is important and selecting the right audience for the POC is key. Marketing is important, it keeps people in the game. Tag cloud technology is important, it lets users find experts and enables innovation managers to find similar ideas to cluster or merge.

It’s not just collaboration: It’s collaboration with a purpose! It’s not just the collection of ideas: It’s the solicitation of ideas the organization needs. So you need the right software, the right users, the right leaders. And the payoff? Not incremental innovation (although that’s nice) but BREAKTHROUGH INNOVATION that enables your organization to compete effectively and stimulate your customers to start buying again.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation management system. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . He has written extensively on Idea Management (Read Here) .

CogniStreamer® is an idea management software tool. It is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external partner companies or knowledge centers join forces to create, develop and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected areas. The CogniStreamer® portal is an ideal collaborative platform that invites users to actively build a strong innovation portfolio. In addition it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge sharing. The CogniStreamer® framework is used by industry leaders such as Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp. CogniStreamer® represents the best use of adaptive collaborative technology such to harness human skill, ingenuity and intelligence.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

“EPIC Insights” Podcast Series Features Innovation Authority Mark Johnson

Innosight Chairman and Author of “Seizing the White Space” Offers Blueprint for Operationalizing Innovation

“Get out of your own way,” advises business model innovation authority Mark Johnson. For established Fortune-class companies, in particular, this may be the first and most difficult step toward building and sustaining a culture that fosters the capacity to innovate and create new growth opportunities.

Johnson – with his business partner, Harvard’s Clayton Christensen – has mastered the art and science of helping companies harness disruption for competitive advantage.

In this first installment of the expert interview series, “EPIC Insights: Innovation Activation,” Johnson outlines the framework for an organizational approach to managing radical change that can not only inoculate a company from disruptive external forces, but predispose it to shaking things up from within.

Mark Johnson will share his model for unlocking transformational growth opportunities in detail at IIR USA’s 1st Annual EPIC (Entrepreneurial Partnerships Innovation Conference) October 27-29 in New York City.

Listen to the podcast

Download the transcript or read it below

Greetings and welcome to the Institute for International Research Podcast Series: “EPIC Insights – Innovation/Activation”. This will be the first installment in a series of interviews with thought leaders and experts in the Innovation/Activation domain, each of whom will be featured at IIR’s First Annual EPIC Event taking place October 27th through the 29th in New York City.

This group of speakers encompasses a wide variety of industries and functions, but they share one common denominator. Each of them has a unique talent for realizing the untapped commercial potential of what I’ll call: “The innovation surplus stockpiled in the minds and on the shelves of corporations and individuals alike.”

Today, we are very fortunate and most delighted to welcome Mark Johnson. He is the Chairman of Innosight and the author of: “Seizing the White Space – Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal.”

Before we get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and a little bit about Innosight?

Mark: Sure. Well, my background, I started actually in the US Navy. I went to the US Naval Academy and spent eight years in the nuclear power program of the US Navy on a surface ship and was in the first Gulf War and decided to get out. I enjoyed the management aspect of the Navy, but not deployment. So, ended up going to Harvard Business School. That’s where I met Professor Clayton Christensen of “The Innovator’s Dilemma” fame and we decided to start a company together to apply the principles of disruptive innovation. We started Innosight together in January of 2000. So, Innosight’s been around for just a little over 10 years. We are a strategic innovation consulting and investing firm and we are really focused on helping companies identify and develop new growth opportunities to help them address disruption that may be happening to their industry or just stagnation in their core markets. So, how do you create those really powerful, game-changing, new growth opportunities and how do you make that a repeatable process? That’s what Innosight’s about. It’s a pretty dynamic duo. (Laugh).

Can you tell us a little bit about: “Seizing the White Space.” What inspired you to write the book and tell us a little bit about it.

Mark: Well, the company started based on disruptive innovation. Clay Christensen’s work from “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, which was all about how well-intended, good management run companies all of a sudden lose their way. So, what was the root cause behind that? It became about these disruptions; these disruptive technologies, these innovations that happen that topple the top firms. As we dove more into the work, we realized that it wasn’t really about disruption in the sense of the technology. It was really that companies weren’t able to address the threats because of their established business model. We intuitively knew that, but we didn’t really have a good understanding of what does it mean when we talk about business models and business model innovation. So, this book is really about getting deeper and understanding in a fairly straightforward and as fairly simple a way as possible how to understand a business model, how to innovate a business model and how to manage that kind of innovation to create new opportunities. But also as it relates to simply managing the change that might be necessary in the organization to get out of its own way and do things differently to create that new growth opportunity.

It’s almost a professional Darwinist aspect to it as though these companies don’t really seem to have the, if you will, intuition to adapt to anything that might come along the way. Is that kind of the approach that you are looking at here?

Mark: That’s exactly right. I mean, they have the intuition of when they are going to be threatened or at least the insight to know when there is a threat on the horizon. Or the idea that: “Boy, we better do something different” as it relates to trying to come up with a new product or do things for a customer a different way. But, when it comes to the organizational adaptation, having to organize a different way or operate and coordinate in a different way or turn a profit in a different way, those things are very difficult for companies to do.
They have a real hard time, just as people do, of really changing in any fundamental way. So, one of the ways to help is to get at why a company is in business in the first place and what is the core DNA of what makes a business successful? If we can get at that and self-recognition of what we are about as an organization, then we have a better chance of understanding how we might need to change it to address the fundamental changes that are happening in the environment.

So, with that as a background, let’s use that as a launch pad into discussing a real concept that you referenced, obviously in the title of your book, but frequently elsewhere. And that is the concept of white space. Can you explain what this means to our listeners?

Mark: Well, white space is not a new term. I think it’s at least perceived to be an area that’s about doing something that’s unchartered; an unchartered market, uncharted territory, a whole brand new market. An area where some company or some individual hasn’t gone before or it hasn’t been developed. Those are all true statements, but as I thought about white space in the sense of a clean slate, of going into those places that one has not gone before, I think the crisper definition of that is when companies not only have to go into a new market, but when they have to change again the way they make money or the fundamental way they organize and have a different, say, operating model. When they have to make those changes to the fundamental business model, that’s truly a company’s white space. That’s where the slate really is a blank slate and they have to really think in a way that puts pieces together in ways that hasn’t happened before. When you think about new markets, you can say that’s white space and unchartered territory, but oftentimes companies are leveraging what they’ve done all along. They’re just putting it into a new context. Therefore, they are not really working off of a blank slate. They are doing things the way that they’ve known how to do it for a very long time. That’s the distinction I’m making.

On some level, we are talking about being equipped to handle what might be considered an external threat. But, on another level, I think what you are getting at (and correct me if I’m wrong) is a company’s innate ability to think differently and to exploit opportunities that really they might have been blind to because they are accustomed to, again, doing things in a very traditional sort of conventional way, dependent upon the company’s culture. When you and I spoke earlier, you mentioned that even very established and stable traditional companies periodically need to undertake what we’ll call “radical steps”, even if the threat isn’t immediate. So, I’m wondering if you could elaborate on that. Why do you believe it? And could you provide us with a couple of examples of instances where this approach has been successfully embraced, as well as perhaps instances where it wasn’t embraced to the company’s detriment when it should have been.

Mark: Sure. Well, I think every company faces the reality that the market is going to change before them. Products that were once highly differentiated over time become commoditized and growth in these markets slows as more and more people are consuming and the market becomes saturated. So, they can face growth gaps. They can face margin pressures as these products commoditize. They can face new technologies that come in that disrupt the existing technology, such as what happened in the computer industry and the personal computer disrupting the mini computer, which actually disrupted the mainframe computers. So, there’s technological evolution. There’s just major market shifts that happen, such as what we are experiencing in energy and clean tech and the need to have renewable energy for the whole concern about the environment. So, the reality is that any company that sustains or lasts for a long time is going to face some of these market forces. And the ability to be able to undertake radical change (being able to do things fundamentally different to address what might be a whole new customer with a new value proposition or a major change that’s going to happen in the industry) requires the ability to not only establish and extend their core business, but create new business opportunities that in the term “radical” is radical compared to operating and just strengthening the core business.

A number of companies have demonstrated in a very successful way the ability to periodically make these radical steps while continuing to operate and sustain the core business. For example, IBM is a maker of mainframe computers, but was still able to understand that personal computers could be disruptive to mainframe and its mini-computer business. They established a separate operating company that worked in a different way down in Florida to sell personal computers, which were very disruptive to the mainframe business. Disruptive in the sense that it was a different business model; it was a different way of making money and operating and distributing to customers. Hewlett Packard set up a different way of selling printers with its inkjet printer group that was run in a very different way than the laser jet printing group that was in Boise, Idaho. It was able to do both, but it required the ability to set up a different business. Apple Computers, as we all know the famous story about the iPod, that was a big shift for Apple because it was doing something they never did before, which was to get into music retailing; an entirely new market for the company. And it required not only selling a product, but a service called: “iTunes.” And then, of course, there have been all kinds of added businesses since then. But, again, it’s been a very successful example of being able to embrace doing things radically in order to, in Apple’s case, address declining market share and break out of the role of being the perpetual niche player in the personal computer market.

On the failure side, unfortunately, there are a whole host of failures to cite. Kodak was never really able to embrace digital imaging until it was too late, I think, for the company to be sustainable or relevant in any real way. The whole newspaper industry, as an industry, has been so late to the game of being able to address its disruption through the Internet and be able to devise things that go beyond just putting newspapers online, but coming up with whole new business models to embrace delivering content in novel ways. The list could go on. In the airline industry, established incumbents like Delta trying to get into discount airlines, but only doing it half-heartedly with Delta Song and as a result, having to shut down only a few years after its start.

The one that always comes to mind for me is Smith Corona in word processing. But to your point, sometimes these aren’t overnight events. They can be death by a thousand cuts, sort of gradually. What is of interest to me is that you were talking about innovation. You mentioned that it can be disruptive from multiple perspectives. So, operationally being one example. Obviously, your market is another and so on and so forth. So, we are not necessarily talking about line extensions or the sort of safe innovations that companies typically turn to. This is, at its core, almost a business model for innovation that you’re going after. Is that safe?

Mark: Yes. The focus here is really about those circumstances in going after whole new growth or addressing a threat where serving a customer in a fundamentally new way because you are now in a new market or because the existing market has been reinvented. In order to serve that customer in that value proposition it’s going to take not only changing the product or changing the marketing approach, but the organizational approach behind that, the business model, to include the way that you make money. That would have to change, as well. That’s what I mean by business model innovation. There’s those fundamental, systemic, organizational, financial changes in order to support the ability to serve either new customers in fundamentally new ways or existing customers in fundamentally new ways because you’ve moved to get to that next level of need through them, such as they want to just have something done in a much more customized and convenient way.

I guess the million-dollar question is how to do that. And along those lines, “radical” is a very scary word for most people and, certainly, for most organizations. But, according to you it need not be provided the organization has the appropriate structure in place. So, you advocate a framework, almost a philosophy, a methodological approach to innovation. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?

Mark: Well, I think the first point about white space is to think about: “Well, gosh, this is this area of high ambiguity” as a way I define it, where you have to change the whole way you operate and turn a profit, as well as reaching these new customers and new markets, etc. So, you have all of these unknowns and assumptions of how are you going to go and do that? So, then that level of mystery leads companies to say: “I’m not going to do that because it seems so risky and so scary.” Especially compared to the way companies are sustaining themselves day-after-day, which is they have a core business and they are basically executing and operating because they know what they are doing and they’ve been doing it for a very long time. So, if you’re going to go into this now stark area, stark contrast from what the core business is doing, you have to go in with some structure and some way of thinking about how do you de-risk some of those elements that you’re going to have to address and how do you get started and how do you think about the steps? That’s where coming up with a definition and a framework for a business model is the first step. It’s to understand what is your core business model, how does it work and then going into these new markets. We need a way to say: “How do we build the appropriate business model to achieve this new growth area that’s in our white space?” The very first step is to start with the most important piece of the business model framework that I articulate in my book, which is you have to understand the most important, unmet jobs that these customers you are trying to reach need to get done and build a powerful value proposition, an offering that defines how to address those jobs. Once you’ve done that, then you can talk about designing on paper a business system using again the Four-Box Model that can address that value proposition. That’s the second step. Then the final step is to recognize that any new business creation effort requires iteration. No successful new venture has got it right the first time. In fact, 90% of successful new ventures change their business model four times before they get it right. So, for the third step, you have to have an approach that’s about learning and testing, but not learning and testing like you would do in an R&D setting or a product development setting. It’s got to be in a large market in the market. It’s about what AG Lafely of P&G said was transactional learning. So, if you can think about those three major steps (focus in the market to understand important, unmet jobs and build value propositions that you know are compelling. Second, get into design thinking mode to construct a business model that can address, in the right way, those value propositions and then third, have the ability to test and learn in the market, which means go more slowly that what an established business would do with its market and customers). Then you have structure and you have a process and approach by which you can make these new areas of growth much more predictable and much more disciplined.

It’s an interesting complement, for lack of a better term, to what the EPIC Conference IIR is putting together is all about, which is really about creating strategic partnerships to activate what, again, I’ll call that innovation surplus that’s tucked away on shelves at many companies collecting dust and sitting in the back of people’s minds. Where do the principles that you’re advocating fit into this and how can they be applied to bring some of these neglected ideas to life?

Mark: I think the first point I would make about this is oftentimes the innovation ideas that are tucked away in the shelves are product ideas, are concepts, are technologies, or inventions that just haven’t yet been commercialized. I remember having this workshop or actually a CEO Summit that included Bob Higgins, who is the Managing Director of Highland Capital Partners. And he observed, going through this business model effort and discussion, said: “I recognize now when we invest in technologies and companies that have these technologies, our outcome is really 50/50 of whether we’re going to be successful. But, every time we invest in great business models behind these business ventures, we win.” So, I think where this fits together, or where I know this actually fits together, is understanding that great businesses are about wrapping great business models around enabling technologies and products and ideas that have the opportunity to have impact and have the opportunity to get commercialized and sustained through the means by which a company can create economic value for itself. But, that requires these business model techniques, this understanding about how value is created and delivered, then captured beyond just the innovative product ideas and sort of unique ideas in order to create true success. I think for an audience like EPIC, which has many entrepreneurs, of course, and investors in it, getting beyond the investment in just the technology to understand the importance of the business model that needs a wrap around it and the ecosystem can get us to a higher level and a higher hit rate in a much more predictable pattern of success.

One final point on this question is I’ve talked about this in a Harvard Business Review article I wrote about jumpstarting the clean tech economy. The reason I wrote it is because I observed with clean tech, we have all this investment in technology; billions and billions of dollars, venture-backed, Government-backed and we have a lot of effort going on to try to get the right policies in place to get these technologies actually implemented in the market to be true renewables. But, I don’t see much investment in any real, serial-incubating of businesses of matching that into target markets where you could actually think about this systemically and making it happen. Until we can get beyond just technology and policy to integrate with business model understanding, we are not going to see the actual commercialization of things the way we would if we had a broader view of what are the different levers of innovation beyond the technological one.

For anybody who is listening, if you would like to hear more from Mark Johnson, he is going to be our Keynote Speaker at IIR USA’s First Annual EPIC Event that’s taking place on October 27th through the 29th. I believe Mark is speaking on the 28th, if I’m not mistaken, in New York City. Mark’s presentation is entitled: “How Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs can Unlock Transformational Growth Opportunities through Business Model Innovation.”

Is Your Organization Playing With a Full Deck?

Guest Post by Steven Shapiro

Look at any group of people who effortlessly work well together. Odds are the individuals share a lot in common with each other. They might have similar backgrounds, expertise, interests, or personalities. This is natural. Contrary to conventional wisdom, opposites do not attract. We find it easier to work with people who are like us. As a result, teams that lack diversity are the norm.

In fact, there is plenty of scientific research suggesting that homogeneous teams do indeed perform better than more heterogeneous ones for “low difficulty” tasks – those with lower levels of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity. However, research also shows that in situations involving “high difficulty” tasks, heterogeneous groups consistently perform the best. Innovation is, by its very nature, fraught with uncertainty and complexity. It is obviously a high-difficulty task. Although homogeneous teams are more efficient, it is the uniformity of thinking on these types of teams that limits breakthrough ideas and reduces innovation. Ensuring a range of innovation styles should be the goal in constructing such groups in order to maximize team performance.

Unfortunately, diverse teams, left to their own devices, are rarely efficient. Differences of opinion, creative tension, and infighting will naturally emerge. Individuals who think differently do not naturally communicate well with each other. Therefore, it is important that innovation teams be given the tools to “play well together.”

Putting this together, we end up with three simple principles. And these are the three key principles of Personality Poker:

1. People in your organization must “play to their strong suit.” That is, make sure that everyone understands how they contribute to and detract from the innovation process. This includes ensuring that you have the right people with the right leadership styles in your organization.
2. As an organization, you need to “play with a full deck.” Embrace a wide range of innovation styles. Instead of hiring on competency and chemistry, also hire for a diversity of innovation styles. Every step of the innovation process must be addressed with people with the right innovation styles.
3. “Deal out the work.” That is, you must divide and conquer. You can’t have everyone in your organization do everything. Instead, get them to divvy up the work based on which style is most effective at a given task. You can’t have everyone generating ideas, or focusing on planning.

Innovation is the life-blood of your organization. It is crucial for long-term growth. Without it, your business will almost certainly become irrelevant and commoditized. Unfortunately, although it is important, it is not always easy. However, applying these three simple principles can help you create high-performing innovation teams that consistently “beat the house.”

What is the future of Global Economic Trends?

As we continue our “Future of…” series, we are thrilled with the amazing response from our Front End community. Thank you for your participation in the discussion and for your willingness to share your thoughts on the future. We’re all watching our wallets these days a little more than we did a few years ago and as The Great Recession comes to a very welcomed close, we ask our Front End community to share with us your thoughts on the Future of Global Economic Trends.

With this week’s focus on economic trends, this is the last week to save on your Future Trends 2010 registration! Hurry, this discount ends on Friday, September 24 so register today and save!

Let’s get those minds working … what does the Future hold for Global Economic Trends?

Important issues in global economics are setting the state for future innovation. American Express, VP of Chairman’s, Innovation Fund, Steven Faktor will explain how to assess the competitive environment, identify key macro trends, and harness innovation to build long-term competitive advantage during his presentation at Future Trends 2010. Faktor will discuss the melding of post-recessionary economics with innovation strategies, provide a better understanding of the “new normal” in economics, discuss emerging winners & losers after the Great Recession, and share the new rules for innovators. Change begins with you and Future Trends will inspire you to lead the way!

Future Trends
October 18-20, 2010

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Innovations Examined

Dr. Phil Samuel

In my last blog, we examined a definition for “innovation” that is increasingly adopted by companies around the world. This definition involves three themes - bringing a new idea to life, generating new value for customers and generating new value for the business (provider). We also defined value as the ratio of desired outcome expectations (benefits) to undesired outcome expectations (cost and harm). The objective of every innovation is to bring about a new solution to life that generates more (new) value to customer and provider.

Let us examine some historical inventions through the lens of the three themes behind innovations. Consider Incandescent Light bulb, and Motorola’s Iridium satellite phones. Did they contain new ideas, did they come to life, did they generate new value to customers and did they bring about new value to the provider?

A new era in illumination started in 1802 when Humphry Davy created the first incandescent light by passing the current through a thin strip of platinum with high melting point. Although the illumination was not very bright or lasted long enough to be practical, it provided the starting point for the next 75 years of research and experimentation to improve the idea behind light bulb. Most of the effort focused on making the filament last long. In 1878 Edison filed his first patent application titled "Improvement in Electric Lights", followed by the demonstration of a successful light bulb in 1879 using carbon filament that lasted 13.5 hours of burning. Persistent experimentation and hard work led to the discovery of carbonized bamboo filament that lasted over 1200 hours. Edison’s genius lay not in just the product invention of light bulb but the business model innovation of bringing electricity to people’s homes.

Looking back, we can see that the invention, improvement and commercialization of light bulb brought lots of new ideas to light! The introduction of light bulb coupled with electricity transmission changed our lives forever. The era of candles and oil/kerosene lamps was transformed into a more convenient, safe, predictable and easy to use method of illumination.

In 1998, Motorola lunched the services of Iridium phones 11 years after engineers developed the concept and accumulating 1000 patents on the technologies behind them. The phone system offered reliable communications from anywhere in the world via a network of 66 low-Earth-orbiting satellites. The Iridium system allowed worldwide voice and data communications using handheld satellite phones. The Iridium network boasted coverage for the whole earth, including poles, oceans and airways. Before the launch, Iridium apparently screened over 200,000 people, interviewed more than 23,000 people from 42 countries, and surveyed over 3,000 corporations and identified an attractive group of customers interested in the satellite phone solution. Finally, many analysts forecasted a very bright future for Iridium satellite business owing to the company’s experienced top management team. Unfortunately, after spending over $5 Billion and a year later Iridium filed for bankruptcy.

It goes without saying that Iridium Satellite phone system brought many new ideas to life. Unfortunately, it failed to generate value for large set of potential customers and hence value for Motorola. While the satellite phone provided the benefit of placing calls conveniently from any location on our planet, it came with much cost and harm including heavy and bulky phone, high initial cost of the phone, high cost per call and difficulty with communications when line of sight to satellite was poor. The arrival of mobile phones and spread of GSM enabled customers to find alternate ways to make calls when not having access to a land line. The iridium project serves as an example of poor execution of the three themes behind innovation.

Dr. Phil Samuel is the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) for BMGI, a management-consulting firm specializing in performance excellence and innovation. An integral part of BMGI’s management team since 2005, Phil brings more than a decade of experience to his role as CIO, helping clients in-source creativity and increase organic growth potential. Phil is a dynamic speaker and published author, whose most recent credits include the books, “Design for Lean Six Sigma: A Holistic Approach to Design and Innovation” and “The Innovator’s Toolkit: 50+ Techniques for Predictable and Sustainable Organic Growth.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The idea management wars

The idea management wars. I’m going to blame Forrester and Gartner. They predicted every big company would have an idea management system in place within the next five years. Suddenly Innovation is the byword at every organization and executives are telling their directors to “Go out there and get us an idea management system”. Hurry up and don’t be too picky because that’s what Forrester and Gartner (and Aberdeen and Frost & Sullivan) says we’re supposed to do.

And of course that premise is ridiculous. But the need for innovation is not ridiculous. Companies, and for that matter industries, business corridors and even countries all recognize that pursuing an innovative approach might be the key to survival in the hectic, competitive, highly technical world we all live in. And an idea management system is certainly at the heart of such thinking.

First, without a doubt a culture of innovation is more important. People need to know that their employer is open to new ideas. Specialists need to know they’re allowed to spend some time on their pet projects; their novel ideas. They need to know that if they fail it’s not a disaster. In fact it’s a sign they’re stretching, trying something new, something different. It should be rewarded.

It’s often hard to believe at large corporations that disruption, chaos and failure may feel like an uncertain sea, but it is instead the nourishing soil for great new ideas and innovations. The team members must feel it is OK to fail in fact “we’re impressed you tried”.

Having got the “you need more than an idea management system” phrase out of the way….You still need an idea management system. It has to have a couple of attributes: It has to be collaborative, it has to have a social science driven idea promotion scheme and it has to let contributors see the progress of their contributions. And there are lots of systems to choose from.

I examined the market earlier this year and found oodles of solutions (the number keeps changing with new introductions, failures, mergers, etc.). A couple of these companies have been quietly deploying systems for as long as a decade. Some led the market, but made the mistake of selling perpetual licenses and have since sagged under their own weight. Some others have had huge capital infusions and in light of Forrester and Gartner have used the money for marketing (sometimes instead of development).

A couple of the vendors are spitting out the seeds from their sour grapes, being critical of the competition. It is a stressful world we live in, but still we should all learn to be gentlemen. The fact is the market is so huge every vendor in the space can make enough sales to sustain themselves. But there is pressure, and the visionaries who create such cool innovation software sometimes can’t understand why the market doesn’t see appreciate their vision.

The acquisition of idea management software should be pursued the way any other enterprise software is acquired. Good discovery needs to be conducted internally. A survey of the vendors (including demonstrations) needs to be conducted just so the team can learn what features should be asked for. A requirements list (and a wish list) needs to be composed. Then a healthy survey of the available software (with a grading mechanism) needs to take place (“who did we see again that had that doohickey we liked?”).

Of course you want to check the financial stability of the company. You want to see their track record at other companies. A good place to start is to talk to your competitors, your partners, your customers and your suppliers and see what they’re doing.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation management system. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . He has written extensively on Idea Management (Read Here) .

CogniStreamer® is an idea management software tool. It is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external partner companies or knowledge centers join forces to create, develop and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected areas. The CogniStreamer® portal is an ideal collaborative platform that invites users to actively build a strong innovation portfolio. In addition it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge sharing. The CogniStreamer® framework is used by industry leaders such as Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp. CogniStreamer® represents the best use of adaptive collaborative technology such to harness human skill, ingenuity and intelligence.

Great Innovation Teams Are Not Simply A Collection Of Great Individuals

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

I’m not looking for the best players, Craig. I’m looking for the right ones.” – 1980 U.S.A. Olympic Hockey Coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) during a discussion with Assistant Coach Craig Patrick (played by Noah Emmerich) concerning Olympic hockey team selection, from the motion picture Miracle (2004)

My son performed well enough during a baseball evaluation process this past spring to warrant being selected for the local summer 10AAA travel baseball team. And because he did well enough, I was subsequently given the opportunity to be the head coach. One of my first duties was to select the team.

About 80 kids tried out for the 10 year old travel teams in our community. Ultimately five travel teams would be assembled, but only one top tier AAA team was being formed. Every kid that tried out went through a fairly extensive evaluation process, utilizing independent evaluators and multiple stations and criteria to score each participant. When evaluations were complete I was provided a comprehensive set of evaluation spreadsheets with scores for all 80 kids. From this list, I in conjunction with an association “selection committee” put together a team of 12.

In putting together a baseball team, common sense – let alone the rules - tells you that it’s not feasible to select everyone. Nor is it feasible to put everyone in your organization on every innovation team you create. You might expect innovation to be everyone’s responsibility, but don’t attempt to have them participate on every individual team. Choices need to be made. The factors you use to create teams might vary from organization to organization, division to division, or even team to team depending on the directive. But generally speaking I’d think you’d look at individual abilities, the need for intellectual, demographic, cultural, and educational diversity, as well as other elements. And although many might prefer not to acknowledge such things, politics and favoritism can creep into the process as well.

In an effort to scuttle complaints concerning politics and favoritism, a decade or more ago athletic associations all across the country began moving toward “objective” evaluations – processes that utilized independent evaluators documenting easily measured criteria. Once kids were evaluated using this method, teams were often formed by simply selecting the top 10 score getters, or top 12 score getters, etc. depending on the particular sport or team being formed. Such a process is relatively transparent, easily understood by kids and parents, and is arguably “fair”. But it doesn’t inherently result in the best teams.

A collection of great individuals does not necessarily make a great team. The 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team should be evidence of this. This team, which included a young LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony lost more games than all other U.S. Olympic basketball teams combined. They walked away with a Bronze Medal.

I’ll not bore you with all the details of our baseball team selection process, other than to simply say that our association has created a fairly robust evaluation process – one that has removed politics and favoritism by making the process “objective”, yet preserved the ultimate goal of creating quality teams (not simply a collection of good individuals) by allowing for other factors. I wasn’t’ forced for instance to blindly select all the kids that scored highest in their evaluation. There are other considerations to be made.

The 10AAA team I coached this summer was a very special team. The team won a state championship and had an overall record of 24-1. Arguably the process worked. Arguably we selected the right kids for the team.

Hopefully your best innovation players are also the right players. Putting an innovation team together under such circumstances is pretty easy. If the best aren’t right for the team though, you might have to make some tough decisions. Depending on your own definition of “best”, don’t blindly select the “best” individuals. This might be psychologically difficult, but realize you’re putting together a team, not a collection of the best individuals. For me personally, if faced with the choice, I’d take the right players over the best every time.

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