Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FEI2011 - Morning learnings



Saw themes from both morning keynotes reemerge in the breakouts. In particular, the importance of failure and the value of co-creation. The intersection of these two nicely played out in the conversations I listened to, where testing with customers and learning from the inevitable mistakes to improve and retest, were highlighted in real business case examples. Dan Edgar from DuPont shared their reinvented front end process, Melody Roberts from McDonald’s shared its test & learn design-focused co-creation process, and Kaaren Hanson from Intuit shared organizational processes that feed a small scale, low-risk testing process to roll out its big ideas.


In the late-morning keynote, Terri Kelly, W.L. Gore CEO, first wowed us with their incredible diversity of offerings. She lauds that aspect of the business in combination with 1) its unique culture, 2) emphasis on personal relationships, 3) high expectation for networking, 4) minimal bureaucracy, 5) environment that encourages innovation and collaboration, 6) leadership defined by followership, for its success and growth. She also points to the high level of autonomy within the organization. Gore Associates espouse 4 principles in pursuit of innovation: freedom, fairness, commitment, and waterline (measuring risk to core). She shocked many of us in saying that many of their innovations took 10 years to mature. Terri says to watch enthusiasm and go with the energy, creating small groups to pursue opportunities. She advises staying honest, reconciling that “products must do what we say they do.” Other best practices: implement a reward system that rewards the innovators via peer review, collaborate with customers and end-users, and leverage culture to drive success. Some challenges: 1) balancing focus with entrepreneurial diversity, 2) valuing innovation and organizational effectiveness, 3) developing sufficient capability and capacity of leaders. In this part of the presentation, the power of the AND came through – need to balance both flexibility AND discipline, innovation AND efficiency. She closed with some critical insights: 1) Constant leadership vigilance is necessary, 2) make sure all of your practices and policies reinforce an innovative environment, 3) don’t let discipline be viewed as a constraint to innovation, 4) organizational choices are important (ask: what are you going to be best at?), 5) ensure balance of skills and support in teams, 6) embed innovation philosophy, tools and disciplines throughout the organization, and 7) handling of failures sets precedent for risk-taking. Lastly and most impactfully she posited, “A continuous discovery process, environment and people are more important than tools and processes.”


Leading into the lunch/networking break the trends continued in my FEI experience as I heard stories from NASA and Diageo about managing failure and risk.



- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)


Clay is a Business Innovationist with Creative Realities, an innovation strategy consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to their Innovationist Blog where all things innovation are discussed. You can find out more about Creative Realities at www.creativerealities.com

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