Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 3 at EPIC Partnerships

The final day at EPIC Partnerships focused on making partnerships happen by finding the right people, player, and tools. We heard great presentations from Kris Halvorsen, CIO at Intuit, the imaginatik team, and Dan Cherian from Nike. Attendees also got a chance to make their partnerships grow through the 2nd EPIC mashup at the end of the conference.

We want to thank all the speakers, attendees, and to our sponsor imaginatik for making this successful event. this Here are a few snapshots throughout the final day at EPIC. Enjoy!

Dan Cherian from Nike

imaginatik Team

EPIC Mashup #2

EPIC 2010 - Diverse Points of View on Working With Outside Organizations

Lawrence Lee, Director of Business Development, PARC (Palo Alto Research Center)
Blaine Childress, Research Scientist, Open Innovation, Sealed Air Corporation
Galen R. Hatfield, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, RTI International

Here are 2 questions which were asked to the panel below:

Q: How does your company get around sharing capabilities and risk rewards with outside companies?

Blaine - We're still early in the process but we began to get brickwall projects. We know they are important to the business unit and we have tried do conduct campus meetings and brainstorming sessions but still hadn't gone anywhere. If you think the project can still be done then but just not internally, then you have to step outside your comfort settings and partner with outside organizations.

There is one example where we posted a specific problem and got 36 responses. So we had the chance to choose the best 5 that were most important to us.

Q: How would you open up the dialogue with outside partners?

Galen - RTI lives and breathes on the RFP process and it the basis for how we get our business. RFPs can slowly drift away from what the intent originally is so you have to structure an abstract and be very generic in your description. Don't use jargon and terminology that is too specific to your company.

EPIC 2010 - Keynote Bringing Innovation to Life

Keynote: Kris Halvorsen, Chief Innovation Officer, Intuit

David Lidsky from Fast Company led a fireside chat with Kris Halvorsen at Intuit. Here's some of that discussion that took place during the chat.

Q: Do you have an example of a painstorm and how it led to customer innovation?

We realized the best thing we can do is bring the customer into sessions so that they can experience the pains they were having with the products. We had to capture customer empathy and work with teams to create a great outcome from this collection of emotions and feedback.

Q: What's the best way to structure a small team to ensure the best possible outomce into bringing an idea into reality?

Make sure to set the timeframe as a limit first. It gets you one step closer to closing the project. You also need to ensure that failure is ok because it allows you to focus on the importance of failure. Failure allows you to come up with a hypothesis that will allow you to progress.

Q: How do you measure the impact of all this activity in order to make sure it delivers on organic growth?

The clear thing is to have a customer benefit. Along the points of experimentation we measure how much money we have saved for the customer. On they measured how much customers saved on loan interest rates, car insurance, etc.

Q: Recently you released an Intuit 2020 report with trends that you see playing out in the future. What is the value in creating that kind of report and how do you use that internally to drive innovation?

If it's just a report given to the public then there's no value but if there's an operating platform to use the information in the report then there's some sort of value.

Day 2 at EPIC Partnerships

Day 2 at EPIC Partnerships started off with a bang. Throughout the day we heard presentations from great keynotes such as author Mark Johnson and grand innovator Alexander Blass. Mark taught us that in order to understand business model innovation we must first understand what business model is. Alexander Blass took us through an amazing personal journey during his keynote, and taught us that we must be passionate about what we do in order to truly innovate.

Lastly, the day ended with the 1st part of the EPIC Mashup in which attendees and speakers were paired off by industry to network and solve problems. Make sure to check out the photos below!

Keynote Mark Johnson

EPIC Mashup #1

We're looking forward to the last and final day here at EPIC Partnerships!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

EPIC 2010 - Keynote Tales From An Innovator: From Ideas to Implementation

Keynote Presenter: Alexander Blass, President, Alexander Blass International, Grand Prize Winner, Top Innovator of the Year Award for "revolutionizing charitable giving."

Innovation is changing by the day across the world. Bengal, India which was popular for the arts and culture is now producing the most engineers worldwide. Walmart starting importing only 6% internationally in 1995 but now today the company imports more than 50%. Companies like Bell Labs, Intuit, Alcatel-Lucent, Proctor & Gamble, Bombardier, NASA, & Pfizer which are all companies represented here at EPIC are all global leaders in the innovation space in its respective industry.

Alexander mentioned that you don't have to look at China or India for your next partnership. All you have to do is look to your right and your left. There are tons of companies in the US which you can partner with for innovation.

Great ideas require a great team to implement them. No great idea from a big company has come to place without a knowledgable team backing it up. Innovation reveals passion and values, and so it can say a lot about an innovator.

Alexander's passion was philanthropy and helping others because of his parent's experience surviving the Holocaust. His parents never turned their back away on anyone that needed help and this same principle can be shown through his innovations today. After spending many years as a venture capitalist he realized that he wasn't fulfilling his true passion.

True innovations improves the human experience whether it's putting a smile on someone's face or making someone money.

Say hi to EPIC sponsor imaginatik!

We were able to catch up with this year's sponsor, imaginatik, at their booth. Chris Townsend from imaginatik gave a brief overview of what the company does. Check out the clip below.

EPIC 2010 - Diverse Points of Views on Business Models

George Abe, Lecturer and Faculty Director of the Applied Management Research (AMR) Program, UCLA Anderson School of Management
Carrington Smith, PhD, Director, Licensing, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc
Stephen Meller, Chief Innovation Catalyst, P&G
Mike Summers, U.S. General Partner, Cody Gate Ventures
Frederic Zussa, Director, Worldwide Strategy & Innovation, Pfizer, Inc

Here are a few questions that were asked to the presenters during the interactive Q&A.

Q: How do you separate the junk ideas from the good ones?

George - Universities are filled with white space. If UCLA does not want to move forward with patents and licenses then they scrap it and won't patent it. If people are offended they often ask to patent the license themselves but once they find out how much it costs to file for a patent they usually back off.

Carrington - Part of open innovation is knowing what you have. In terms of white space, technology companies are limited. Most ideas that come forward address a business need

Q: How big is the team that goes to the decision process for patents?

George - There is a staff of 15 and you need a graduate degree from the technology space or business field.

Q: How do you measure the increases in innovation?

Stephen - We measured innovation as a "significant change" to what is already out there on the market.

Day 1 at EPIC Partnerships 2010

Day 1 has at EPIC Partnerships has officially ended so here's some videos and pics throughout the day. Make sure to subscribe to this blog feed to receive live updates from the EPIC event throughout the day. Enjoy!

Presentation from Pfizer: New and Innovative Business Models That Foster External Collaborations

Here's a snapshot of our attendees networking during the break.

Lastly, the first day ended with a great keynote presentation from Barbara Corcoran, a real estate mogul from The Corcoran Group and the Star of ABC's hit show Shark Tank. In her presentation she gave insights on how to lead your team to greatness through her own experiences.

The first day had so much to offer and we're looking forward to the start of day 2!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

EPIC 2010 - New and Innovative Business Models That Foster External Collaborations While Balancing Risk and Reward

Richard D. Connell, Ph.D, Vice President, WW Head of Exxternal Research Solutions COE, Pfizer Global Research & Development, USA

The pharma industry is ever-changing and so is facing a number of challenges to its business model. There is a new need to do things differently and to do different things. Here are some things Pfizer is doing:

-New modalities in drug discovery
-Extracting more value from existing assets
-New business model and partnerships

By making their drugs available to people who want to experiment, Pfizer is able to create new uses for their drugs. Pharma lives and breathes in trade secrets and so implementing crowdsourcing can be tricky. Unlike other industries, pharma has yet to figure out how to use crowdsourcing without harming the business.

Pfizer incentivized innovation not only by running a contest and giving a plaque to the contest winner, but they also had a press release with the winner. The cost to Pfizer was practically nothing but the benefit and branding for the winner is high.

What are some other business models in the pharma industry that can foster external innovation?

EPIC 2010 - 21st Century Portfolio Management

Ted Arnstein, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, NXP Semiconductors

Ted mentioned that NXP Semiconductors was able to rise from a downfall by dropping several business units which were not successful. They decided to change their structure from dogmatic to a more creative one.

NXP also looked for non-monetary sources of value such as equity, revenue-sharing, cost avoidance, and enhanced business opportunities. NXP took a non-marketable asset, which was a product development facility in France, and took a different look at it. NXP decided to market it as a solution as opposed to a facility and the result of this was massive venture capital backing.

What are some other examples of recent spin outs on businesses which have proven to be very profitable for companies?

EPIC 2010 - Venture Selection: Hitting the Bull’s-eye Requires a T-E-A-M-S Approach

John B. Riggs, Vice President, Bell Labs, Head, Alcatel-Lucent Ventures

During his time at Alcatel-Lucent Ventures, John Riggs made sure that every investment decision made by the company always went through the criteria T-E-A-M-S. This is the reason why their ventures were so successful.

1. T= TEAM. The first principle is to focus on the people to determine if they have the tenacity and perseverance to achieve their goal.
2. E=Extractability. The venture must have little or no interdependencies with other company products.
3. A=Adjacency. Does the venture align with the company strengths and strategy.
4. M=Money. Does the venture have significant positive business impact
5. S=Secret Sauce. Does the venture have the potential to create competitive advantage through innovation?

This is the criteria that Bell Labs followed religiously behind every venture. What is the criteria your company follows before investing in a business venture?

Welcome to EPIC Partnerships!

EPIC Partnerships has officially kicked off at the beautiful City Winery in New York City! Just as a reminder we'll be updating our blog readers throughout the day on everything that's taking place at the event so make sure to follow us here and our hashtag #EPICPartnerships. Here's some snapshots we've taken so far.

City Winery in NYC


EPIC Sponsor Imaginatik

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Author Steven Johnson Talks About "Good Ideas"

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to listen to author Steven Johnson talk live about his new book “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation”. Mr. Johnson visited the studios of Minnesota Public Radio and spoke with MPR radio host John Moe about a plethora of interesting ideas. If you’ve got about 55 minutes, take a listen. Play it on your computer while you work. It’s worth it. Play the discussion directly or visit the MPR website.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What’s New In Innovation?

Here are the top ten things I learned from some of the best innovation professionals last week.

Last week I went to the Optimizing Innovation meeting in NY. There were many different industries and disciplines represented. But everyone had a VP Innovation title. And everyone wanted to both share and learn about the latest in innovation.

Smart Innovators Attended

First, the industries. There were companies who produced soft drinks, pharmaceuticals, appliances, motors, consumer packaged goods and much more. Hearing about innovations in one industry proved to inspire thought for applications in other industries.

Second, the disciplines. It was fascinating to note that VP’s of Innovation might be responsible for design, for packaging, for engineering, for production and much more. It was very exciting to hear how innovations occur in many different departments and led by people with varied education.

Innovators have to sell their management on the concept of accepting change.

Some Specific Innovation Case Studies

We heard case studies about many different innovations. We heard how Coca Cola revamped their coin operated machines with eye catching, asymmetrical doors (cleverly designed to retrofit existing machines in order to save money). We heard how Whirlpool thought creatively to put their products into different rooms of the house (the garage, or man cave) and technology into their traditional product lines (USB connectivity for washer and dryers so you can use your smart phone to remotely program custom washing cycles for your clothes).

We learned how important innovations in packaging can affect revenue. Estee Lauder’s team is constantly introducing thousands of new SKU’s with attractive, eye catching packages to continuously intrigue consumers.

Challenges To Innovation

Speakers also told us about their innovation processes. We heard how front end of innovation software tools can make innovation a people oriented endeavor. Innovators have to sell their management on the concept of accepting change. And they have to constantly evangelize to their fellow employees to get them to engage in the innovation process.

Top Ten Latest Ideas In Innovation

We heard some ideas about innovation that are dramatic and significant:

  1. Whirlpool was able to “smash-up” Six Sigma with Innovation processes, a shocking thought considering they appear to be opposite approaches. Assembling highly structured processes with disruptive, chaotic approaches is a remarkable accomplishment.
  2. We heard innovation managers tend to hire for passion, not skills. It is more important to have avid, creative thinkers than those dedicated to their disciplines. Plus people in innovation are constantly learning.
  3. If you’re going to encourage innovators to take the risk of failure, then you have to encourage the people to fail fast (so you don’t invest any more money than you have to). If you are going to say failure is OK, you should do more than just that. Innovators encourage people to “celebrate failure” by noting the lessons learned, perhaps having a celebratory dinner. Failures can save the company money when the Quick Kill happens, shutting down the project before more money is spent.
  4. Many apply Practical Innovation on things we know, but also dare to innovate with forecasted concepts. It is a lot harder to innovate on things that don’t yet exist; the chance for failure is exponential (guesses on guesses).
  5. Collaboration tools are not only for ideation but can also be used to preach innovation to the rest of the company.
  6. Although Innovation frequently takes away budget from other programs, when the innovations yield revenue (like licensing your patents to other companies) innovation can pay back the debt; gaining the support of other departments.
  7. Innovators must get past “cognitive barriers”. This means they have to get past “functional fixedness”; to stop making assumptions. The best example was pointing out when DVDs came out; they looked just like the VCRs that preceded them, even though they really didn’t have to.
  8. Innovators like to embrace Humble Leadership. Respecting the opinion of everyone on the team is more important than acquiescing to the HIPPO (the highest paid person in the room). The example here is that the product or idea resulting from the consensus of all your smart people is probably a better choice for development investment than the pet project of your CEO.
  9. Collaborative tools are required for the creative, fuzzy front end of innovation. It enables contributors from many disciplines to be found when needed and to work together on breakthrough ideation.
  10. Innovation requires organizations to make an approach with a different management style. Collaborative idea management tools enable a more flat organization, agility, flexibility, user driven accomplishments and distributed flows. It encourages fuzzy boundaries, even open borders (instead of silos of information) and transparency for open business models. Innovation requires a collaborative tool to surface the best (and breakthrough) ideas that any organization requires to survive in today’s competitive economy.

Always great to participate in a meeting to compare notes with innovators; to learn what they are doing and how they apply all the different approaches to the subject. Today’s innovation leaders are serious about their work and understand they need passionate people, collaborative systems and management’s support to accomplish their goals.

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.

Live From EPIC Partnerships This Week!

The EPIC team is making final preparations for the opening of this year’s conference this Wednesday. 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 EPIC Partnerships 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 group that we will continue to post throughout the event. Don’t forget, if you’re attending the conference and twittering, use #EPICPartnerships 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!

EPIC Partnerships

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EPIC Spotlight: Stephen Meller, Chief Innovation Catalyst, P&G

Stephen Meller, PhD
Chief Innovation Catalyst
The Procter and Gamble Company

Dr. Meller is originally from Adelaide, South Australia. He received his B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons.), and PhD from the University of Adelaide. After travelling the world for a year, he spent 6 years at the University of Iowa, on the research faculty in Pharmacology studying the basic mechanisms underlying chronic pain before moving to the Procter and Gamble Company in 1994. Since moving there 14+ years ago, he has held various R&D roles in Health Care where he was ultimately responsible for the Health Care Technology and Clinical organizations. For the last 5 years, he has been in a corporate role where he is now on the leading edge for the global open innovation programs at P&G (Connect + DevelopSM; C+DSM).

In that role, he now serves as Chief Innovation Catalyst, in addition to leading the global technology innovators and entrepreneurs “community of experts”, the North American and Latin America open innovation hubs and several key business and technology platforms across the company. He regularly speaks on C+DSM around the globe. P&G has been recognized externally for its C+DSM by being listed as one of the top 10 most innovative companies in the world for the last 5 years. Also during that time, Dr. Meller has been a key driver on the technology strategy approaches for P&G’s Sustainability and Industrial Biotechnology programs and its impact on global consumers. He regularly speaks on Industrial Biotechnology around the globe and its role in driving sustainability.

Stephen Meller will be presenting Open Innovation at EPIC Partnerships this October.

Bio courtesy of TechConnect

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Innovation Is Girl Talk

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

Mashups aren’t necessarily new and innovative anymore, but they are becoming more prevalent.

Some have been pretty good in the past, or at least yummy. Think Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups - “you got chocolate in my peanut. No, you got peanut butter in my chocolate.”

Some may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but weren’t the best. Think TV-VCR combo machines.

Some haven't even been real, but were pretty darn funny. Think Saturday Night Live’s “Shimmer” skit. It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping.

Seems mashups are all the rage in music and music videos these days. Makes sense given the technology and the relative ease with which elements can be spliced. One of my kids’ favorites is the Top 25 Pop 2009 Remix by DJearworm. And just this past week I noticed Norwegian Recycling’s “Miracles” video mashup made its way to the Yahoo! frontpage. I thought this one pretty cool.

Even recent hit singles such as Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” with Rihanna or Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys combine rap, hip-hop, and pop in what might not technically be considered a true mashup, but are still reminiscent of the genre.

I have no doubt mashups will become increasingly pervasive in music. The novelty will likely wear a bit sometime soon and perhaps we’ll wonder what life was like before them.

One of the true innovators in the musical mashup realm is a guy by the name of Gregg Gillis. He performs and releases music under the name Girl Talk. When I first heard his songs I was totally blown away. Still am. Amazing is the word. For some, the hip-hop oriented style of Girl Talk might not be overly appealing (and if you take issue with the sometimes less than savory language of hip hop and rap music, you probably shouldn’t have a listen. Don’t bother.) Unlike the Norwegian Recycling “Miracles” track or more traditionally sampled songs (like that heard in Naughty By Nature’s song O.P.P. for instance– which riffs on the Jackson 5’s song “ABC”), Girl Talk layers multiple tracks at once and seamlessly connects sequences. He combines hip hop, rap, classic rock, pop, and more. There’s actually a little bit of music for everyone in virtually every song. Like I said it’s amazing. Songs aren’t simply spliced sequentially. It’s a whole new Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound. Take a listen at the Girl Talk MySpace page to the tracks “In Step”, “Hand in the Air”, or “Play Your Part Pt 2” (I’d tell you to listen to “Play Your Part Pt 1” or “Still Here”, but I know the language right from the get-go would offend.)

I imagine there will come a day when mashups aren’t simply the realm of music and music videos. Things like the ultralight aircraft originally started as a hang glider combined with a lawnmower engine in somebody’s garage. Or what about the spork? These won’t be the exception in the future. Consumers are likely to start making their own creations more and more and sharing with others. I’m tempted to make my own electric shaving razor from Legos. And I sure hope someone actually introduces “Shimmer”. A good all-in-one floor wax and dessert topping could be pretty useful around my house.

Monday, October 18, 2010

“Forward Focus” Podcast Series Talks “connectonomics” with Yahoo!

Yahoo! Director of B2B Strategic Research and Insights Edwin Wong Delves Into Women’s Social Connections in the Age of New Media

Women will impact over $13 trillion dollars in purchase decisions, estimates Yahoo’s B2B strategic research head, Edwin Wong. And 40% of women interviewed said they would choose spending time on the Internet over even sex!

Edwin Wong
Director of B2B Strategic Research and Insights

In this second installment of IIR’s Future Trends expert interview series, “Forward Focus,” Wong discusses the value of online media to women, how and why they use the various platforms available, and the implications for marketers that wish to connect with women in a way that is appropriate and consistent with women’s online connection norms and values.

“When you talk about what social media means, it’s much bigger and broader than what we consider as marketers as social media,” said Wong. “It’s not just about Facebook. It’s not just about Yahoo! It’s about Twitter and where do AOL, MSN – all of these brands that are out there, even our own personal blogs… How do they all fit into this realm of connections?”

To answer these questions and more, Yahoo! initiated a series of research with more than 3000 women. What are they looking for when it comes to connections?

“As a result, we think we’ve found a new way to really think about all the social connections that women have in this space,” said Wong, who will lead a symposium on the emerging concept of “connectonomics” at IIR USA’s Future Trends conference October 18-20 in Miami, Florida.

For more information about Future Trends, please visit our website.

Forward Focus is a special podcast series for IIR USA’s Future Trends conference taking place October 18-20th in Miami, Florida. The podcast series features experts who will be speaking at the event and who are leading the way from best practice to next practice.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Join us NEXT WEEK for Future Trends 2010!

Next week we meet in beautiful Miami, FL for Future Trends 2010.  The event features trends and insight presentations on The Future of... America, Technology, Work, Consumption, Innovation, Healthcare, Digital Products, Aging, Brand, Global & Emerging Markets, Social Media, Education, and much more.
Download the brochure for full event details!
Future Trends
October 18 – 20, 2010
Eden Roc – Miami

Future-proof yourself. Attend the one trend event that's all about business impact. Experience the difference at Future Trends 2010. We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

“EPIC Insights” Podcast Series Features Master Innovator Kris Halvorsen

Intuit Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Shares the Secrets to Building and Optimizing a Company-Wide Innovation Program

In 2008, Intuit CEO Brad Smith instituted a radical, company-wide innovation program by top-down directive, with Chief Innovation Officer Kris Halvorsen at the wheel. Over the course of two years, the volume of viable options in Intuit’s innovation pipeline tripled!

In this second installment of the expert interview series, “EPIC Insights: Innovation Activation,” Halvorsen outlines key elements of the program, which includes unstructured time for people to step away from their daily duties to attack new problems in new ways, and a rewards system to incentivize innovators.

Of particular interest for E.P.I.C.’s attendees, a revolutionary feature of Intuit’s program is the “Intuit Partner Platform,” which among other things provides access to data in the company’s established offerings to enable third-party developers and partners to help drive innovation at Intuit.

“It doesn’t suffice to have creativity inside of the boundaries of your company if you don’t have a way of connecting with and leveraging outside talent, ideas and new thinking,” said Halvorsen.

Learn more about Intuit’s explicit spirit of open innovation from Kris Halvorsen in a special presentation at IIR USA’s 1st Annual EPIC (Entrepreneurial Partnerships Innovation Conference) October 27-29 in New York City.

For further information and to register today, please visit

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 second installment in a series of interviews with thought leaders and experts in the Innovation/Activation domain, each of whom will be featured at IIR USA’s First Annual EPIC Event taking place October 27th through the 29th in New York City.

This group 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 the innovation surplus stockpiled in the minds and on the shelves of corporations and individuals alike.

Today, we’ve got a very special treat for you. I am extremely pleased to welcome Kris Halverson. He is a Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer at Intuit. Kris, thank you for joining us today.

Kris: Thank you.

Before we get going, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and, in brief, what qualified you for this kind of role and what you do?

Kris: Right. What I think qualifies me is I have a deep sense of intellectual curiosity that has driven me from my hometown of Oslo, Norway where I embarked on my personal quest for knowledge at a very early age. I got interested in language and linguistics at an interesting time when Noam Chomsky had recently re-defined the way in which you would approach that very complex topic and be able to subject it to formal analysis. I spent my university career, really, on a quest for interesting problems and interesting people to work with in formal linguistics. After a while, in the early 70’s, computing was coming online and I got interested in the possibility of interpreting language using machines. That brought me to MIT where I spent some very interesting years with a great group of people, both in psychology, linguistics and computer science AI. That set the direction for the next 15-20 years where I was at Xerox PARC Research Center doing research and leading research in all different aspects of content processing. Eventually, the Internet came and PARC actually was, early on, one of the people who attacked the problem of cataloguing the Web. True to PARC tradition, we didn’t commercialize that, but I think we were the first people who had the “Web in a Box” (all of the Web content on spinning discs) and subjected it to both statistical and linguistic analysis. After that, I switched over to HP where I ran the research
for the services business for HP. Fascinating experience that brought me to India and China where I had a chance to set up the first IT industry research labs that were really focused on creating offerings for emerging markets, as opposed to creating offerings for Western markets in emerging markets. During this time, I also had the opportunity of complementing my technologist’s point of view with a more holistic view of business in that I joined the Board of Semantics when Internet security became a pressing problem in 2000. And also two companies that in size were very different from than the ones that I had been used to at HP or Xerox; much bigger. I got a real interest in how smaller companies operate, how they can be the engine of growth and in particular, how you take large scale innovation from large scale companies and then custom fit them into a much smaller frame, but one that you can move faster.

To your understanding, Intuit obviously established a company-wide innovation program. Can you tell us a little bit, as far as you know, as to why they did that, when they did it and what did the program at the time entail, both from a conceptual and an operational standpoint?

Kris: Innovation is really in the DNA of the company. Scott Cook, the co-founder of Intuit, he has from the very beginning when he approached the problem of helping people with their personal finances been there with a mindset of customer-driven innovation and understanding the deep customer problem and then finding ways to solve it well so that that can also be used to build a sustained competitive advantage. So, I think in a certain sense, the program was always there. But then, as companies grow, mature, some of the spark disappears and in the mid-2000’s -- in 2006 when I joined the company, there was a recognition that even though Intuit had been recognized by as serial and done it with personal finance and very low cost, Payroll had done it with bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks that did accounting without people having to know about accounting. Even though the company had been the introducer of truly innovative offerings over and over again, the last five years -- we look back from 2006, we hadn’t had big wins in terms of new product offerings that really took off big. We had, probably the last one had been TurboTax Online, which was huge, obviously, but that was actually done early; in the late 90’s when Intuit was very early to the online services game with that offering. So, the then CEO Steve Bennett said: “We need to do a re-fresh here.” He turned to me and we agreed that it was really a deficiency at the time in the technology pallet that the company had to work with. It was desktop-focused, TurboTax Online, had taken data entry using keyboard to a fine art, but it wasn’t anything else in terms of image recognition, speech recognition, other ways of communicating with the systems. It didn’t have a presence on mobile devices, for example. It wasn’t open to user contribution and the social aspect of computing. And that, I think, was the first step in the program. Then our new and current CEO in January, 2008 came on board, Brad Smith (an internal hire). He had been with the company for five years. He was really the one who said: “We want to have a company-wide program. We want to be an innovative growth company”. And set a focus for us around social, mobile and global expansion. And the program was then rolled out on a broad basis. It included unstructured time for people to be able to take time off from their daily duties to attack new problems in innovative ways. Established a program to reward innovators. Implemented “Horizon
Planning” that helps us with resource allocations so that we get a good balance between long and short, etc.

How about some of the results from that effort? Can you tell us a little bit about how your focus on innovation has helped produce?

Kris: I think the most striking thing was that in the course of two years, we tripled at least the number of “at bats”. I’ll tell you what I mean by that. We believe in launch and learn, small team, rapid duration with customers and in order to win with that kind of democratized innovation process, you have to have many “at bats”. You can’t just use central planning and say: “These are the three initiatives. We’ll invest in these for the next five years and we’ll roll them out.” You really need a good supply of options. And then have customers and the market decide which ones are the winners and then do the right kind of focusing as a consequence. Prior to 2008, we simply didn’t have enough “at bats.” Through this program we went from about 10 introductions of customer-facing offerings, pilots, experiments, to about 30 in 2008. And that then opened up options for us. For example, we saw again in 2008 the first mobile offering from Intuit in a completely new platform, new technology and it now became possible for our customers to use a mobile phone to accept credit card payments, for example. Next year, we saw the use of image recognition in the tax offering with SnapTax where you could use your camera phone to take a picture of your W2 if you had a simple tax situation and the rest was really done for you. The system interprets what information is on the form, your name, address, social security number, income, withholding, etc. and then goes all the way through an electronic filing. So, you could see that we moved both in quantity and in type initiatives into a whole new sphere, I’d say.

Sounds like a place where you are having a lot of fun.

Kris: I think that’s true.

When you mentioned earlier that innovation is in the DNA of Intuit, an organization devoted entirely to the kind of innovation thinking with the resources that you have, it is something that requires some support and some champions. It’s obviously not for everyone. Can you tell us a little bit about who the champions of this function are and how do you encourage employees, since it is company-wide, to really get involved in that innovation bandwagon?

Kris: Very good question. Yes, it is company-wide and it is really kind of a mass movement. We do believe that everybody has the potential and really the obligation to apply their innovative spirit to the customer problems that we go after. It is really about encouraging and enabling the whole company and not just an elite team. The senior leadership in the company, as I mentioned Scott Cook, the founder and Steve Bennett, the CEO when I came on and most definitely Brad Smith, our CEO since 2008, have been firmly behind the proposition that the key to growth is innovation and the programs, whether it is that unstructured time, whether it is the innovation awards, whether it is the innovation galleries where we highlight the results of employee’s inventions and innovation attempts.

They have all been fully supported and championed by those senior leaders. Then it is also -- our company is structured around 10 business units. The general managers in the leadership of each of those business units, likewise there they implement the vehicle that needs to be engaged in order to have the innovation program be sustained. Finally, enthusiasm among the employees has, in particular for the notion of unstructured time and being able to go after new problems and be expected to have time to do that even though their priorital list is full up with near-term priorities for current releases for software, that they also have the confidence that by giving them the time to engage with new challenges, we will eventually get the energy and ideas out of that to grow in the future. That that encounters enthusiasm and engagement from the employees is really important to get it to work. So, you need both the senior level commitment, but then the engagement and enthusiasm from all of our employees.

To accomplish it on a company-wide scale, it’s pretty impressive to be able to do that and it speaks volumes about the organization. If I can move on to the next question, part of EPIC’s charter is to help organizations bolster their innovation pipelines by thinking more strategically about partnerships from a variety of perspectives. I know Intuit obviously has a very, very strong internal innovation aptitude. Can you share any experiences, advice or anecdotes related to partnering for innovation and maybe some lessons you’ve learned along the way? Or how Intuit might go about something like that.

Kris: You are absolutely right. It doesn’t suffice to have creativity inside of the boundaries of your company if you don’t have a way of connecting with and leveraging outside talent, ideas and new thinking. Obviously, there are more smart people outside of your company, regardless of how smart the people who are inside are. There are more of them on the outside. We found that having an explicit open innovation dimension to our program was important. But that intent of sourcing ideas from the outside isn’t enough, particularly if you are a software company. You need to have the interfaces, to have the platforms, to have the spirit of openness that is required for people to be able to connect in with the capabilities that you already provide through your offerings. So, we embark on the creation of what we call: “Intuit Partner Platform” that exhibits, interfaces, provides access to data in our established offerings so that our third party developers or partners can leverage that to their benefit/our benefit and in order to solve the customer problems. I think that mind shift of not only opening yourself up to ideas from the outside, but structuring in our case our code base in such a fashion that people can access it and can extend it, that’s a critical step in accelerating innovation by being able to put the multiplier that a partnership can bring into action.

Kris, you’ve given us quite a bit to think about here. I wish I could listen to you all day. Unfortunately, you have places to go. So, for our listeners who want to hear more from Kris Halverson, he will be delivering the keynote presentation at IIR USA’s EPIC Event on Friday, October the 29th. His presentation is appropriately entitled: “Bringing Innovation to Life.” I can’t think of a better person to be speaking on this particular topic. Kris, I want to thank you very much for being so generous with your time and sharing your incredible insight with us today.

Kris: My pleasure entirely.

For our listeners, if you would like to hear more or learn more about IIR USA’s EPIC Event (and again, this is the first annual EPIC taking place on October 27th through the 29th in New York City), you can please visit us online at

That will wrap us for today. We hope to see you in October. And once again, our great gratitude to Kris Halverson from Intuit who joined us today. We are sure to learn quite a bit from him on the 29th. Take care everyone.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What can my company get out of an idea management system?

What can my company get out of an idea management system?

Well, obviously you can get ideas. Maybe that’s not so obvious, but using persuasive design, a good idea management system can encourage your team to collaborate and allow your organization to tap into the wisdom of the crowd. And good algorithmic social science can help your innovation managers sift through the thousands of resulting ideas to figure out which ones are best. But you can get some other things, too.

By definition when you deploy this collaborative tool you’ll get Organizational Engagement. Everyone will be talking and working together.

Using challenges and seeding, your idea management system will give your team Strategic Guidance. Not only will they be all talking together but they will be talking about what you want them to be talking about. Whatever is troubling the executives of the company is what innovation managers should be putting in front of the team as challenges.

The inherent Knowledge Management system included will enable people to post content and allow others to search for it, retrieve it and view it.

It will enable people to Problem Solve. When they have a project that stymies them and seems like a plateau, they can search to see if anyone else has explored the topic or just plain ask for help. And help can come from every discipline represented on the system. Some great lateral thinking comes when you pose marketing problems to engineering and finance people. And, as noted in the preceding paragraph, your people can put their hands on the information they need when they need it.

A good idea management system will enable your team to find experts when you need them. In fact the best ones will suggest which people are the most expert for the subject you’re pursuing.

If your idea management system has a promotion process with multiple levels and supports feasibility studies, it can serve as a training ground for junior managers. This gives them a taste of what it takes to be a manager at your company with responsibility for managing a project from beginning to end.

Your marketing people will be able to gain insights into what your customers are thinking. For everyone who believes good research preceding project launch is a good idea, this is the gold you were looking for.

Your customer service people can respond swiftly to erratic quirks in your marketplace by having their fingers on the pulse of your customer community. In fact your team may learn of issues while they are on the horizon rather than in your lap.

Wrap Up

On the surface organizations license idea management software not to just gain incremental innovation resulting from unsolicited suggestions (although a good system will accept these too) but to determinedly seek out and grasp the next breakthrough innovation that will drive revenue for your company. But you get a bunch of collateral benefits that are tougher to cost justify, but likely just as valuable, such as organizational engagement, strategic guidance for your team, enabling your team to find the information and people they require when they need it, plus an in depth understanding of your market.

Ready for a demo yet? Give one of us a call.

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.

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