Friday, June 29, 2012

The Back End of Innovation Event will help YOU get your ideas to market.

In 1928, Otto Rohwedder introduced the first automatic bread slicing machine. It was the best thing since, well, sliced bread. But it wasn't until almost 15 years later, when Wonder Bread started marketing pre-packaged sliced bread that the invention took off. Ideas aren’t enough. Ideas need to be commercialized.

This October in Boston, The Back End of Innovation Event will help YOU get your ideas to market.

It will do even more than that. It will help your organization create a sustainable and repeatable innovation. BEI is all about execution. This event explores the people, the process, and the partner’s involved in the system.

BEI is more than an event. It's where the entire innovation process comes to life, from leadership & organizational structure, to portfolio management & processes, to managing the eco-system of suppliers, to commercialization, and finally to marketing and launching a product a service.

Highlights from this year's program:


- Solving the Jigsaw Puzzle of Development: Creating a Sustainable Innovation Culture - John Ruckart, AT&T and Dr. Stefan Uhrlandt, JOHNSON & JOHNSON MEDICAL GmbH

- Driving Results Through a Pervasive Innovation Culture - Moderator: Luis Solis, IMAGINATIK PLC

- Using Diversity to Boost Innovation: Practical Cases from Switzerland - Mieville Laurent, UNIVERSITY OF GENEVA

- Working with Customers to Inform New Product Design - Erin Satterwhite, 3M COMPANY


- Open Source Partner Strategy - Jennifer Kim Field, UNITED NATIONs FOUNDATION

- Partnership that Match Corporate Objectives: Lessons from the Leaders - Dr. Gene Slowinski, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY

- Strategic Partnership to Help Deliver Corporate Objectives - Owen Carryl, AVERY DENNISON


- Rapid Prototyping: Building to Think, All the way to Launch - Scott Mackie, IDEO and Dave Weissburg, IDEO

- Energy Innovation Accelerator - Mark Bellamy, GE ENERGY

- Sleeping Well Through the Nights: The "HOW-TO" of Improving Manageability & Reducing Failure Risks of Innovation Execution by an Order of Magnitude - Greg Yezersky, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN INSITUTE OF PROFESSIONAL INNOVATORS

- Knowledge Supply Chain - Matthew Hamilton, WELLSPRING WORLDWIDE, INC. and Russel M. Walters, JOHNSON & JOHNSON CONSUMER PRODUCT WORLDWIDE


- Commercial Success Probability - Michael Lynch, NASCAR and Jeff Beck, SPARC

- Seek Opportunities Achieve Results - Kevin R. Lassila, BYK USA, Inc.

- Emerging Markets, Reaching the New Billon, Innovation & India - Dr. Simone Ajhuja, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE BUSINESS SCHOOL

Visit our website and download the brochure to see full session descriptions and speaker list.

BEI explores Innovation in practice that will prepare you with new skill sets, talents and leadership to PUSH innovation further in your organization. We look forward to seeing you in Boston!

The Back End of Innovation Team

Registration Information: 
Register reader of this blog & save 15% off the standard registration link, use code BEI12BLOG.
Phone: 888.670.8200

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Innovation Book Club Discussion: The Wide Lens

As you may by now be aware, our Innovation Book Club Selection for June 2012 was The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation by Ron Adner.

Ron Adner, is a Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship at Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College. His book, The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation, has been heralded as a path-breaking guide to successful innovation in an interdependent world. His pioneering Harvard Business Review article, "Match Your Innovation Strategy to Your Innovation Ecosystem," is assigned reading in over fifty global MBA programs. He will join us to present a keynote address on BEYOND INNOVATION at BEI: Back End of Innovation taking place October 9-11, 2012, in Boston, Mass.

Congrats to our four winners who will shortly be receiving a signed copy of the book. All winners have been notified. Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.

Throughout this book, Ron Adner asks "How can great companies do everything right — identify real customer needs, deliver excellent innovations, beat their competitors to market — and still fail?" He presents case studies from various industries (for example: electronic health records, Michelin tires, eBooks & 3G phones) illustrating some of the key causes of innovation breakdowns. In each case, it's not the product that is the problem, but the process. Adner then provides some actionable processes for eliminating innovation breakdowns (such as the chart, left).

It's an interesting and inspirational read for anyone who is interested in innovation, and especially apt for those who are looking to create reproduce-able, successful innovation processes at the corporate level.

I've drafted some questions to get our conversation on the book started and posted them in our Back End of Innovation Book club. Join the discussion now. Even if you haven't finished the book, feel free to chime in with your thoughts on this topic.

All group members are invited to post their unbiased reviews, comments and questions on the thread. We will post a recap of some of the best comments and reviews from LinkedIn to feature and share publicly here on our blog, with the permission of the contributor.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She tweets about innovation under the @BEI_innovation moniker, and everything else at @Leblancly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Happens to Ideas?

If you have a great idea, what can you do with it?

Welcome to the Information Age, where much of our value and capital hinges upon not just the knowledge we bring and apply, but the ideas that we generate.  We come up with ideas all the time, probably on a daily basis[1], but how often do we get to use them?  When ideas relate to our personal lives, and our personal tastes, we can implement them based on their practical feasibility.  But, how about when our ideas would need to be implemented by someone else, like our employers, companies we like (or used to like), or institutions we support?

Many of us wish we could send our idea to someone, have that person cause it to be implemented, and reward us for giving them something useful.  This is a complete violation of the adage ideas won't work unless you do, which makes such wishful thinking easy to dismiss.  On the other hand, people who want to share their ideas without doing anything more are exactly what companies hope for when they ask for suggestions from their customers (Starbucks implements this particularly well!)[2].  And, when companies are truly open to suggestions from their customers, they are in a far better position to innovate in ways that will delight their customers!

Of course, not every institution is actively soliciting ideas, and that leaves plenty of people with good ideas without an outlet.  Despite the argument that people should implement their ideas themselves, many people lack the know-how, time, and capital, to do so, and may not know how to get those three resources if they wanted to make something happen.  But, if they were to give the idea to the right people, it could be turned into something useful, and perhaps even profitable.  To give a personal example, I once had a suggestion for a commuter rail system about how they could increase both convenience of ticket purchasing and revenue, and mentioned it to a conductor.  He had no clue what to do with the idea, and suggested that it would be ignored if I tried to submit it.

Now, maybe my idea would not have been so profitable for the company, but since my suggestion matched the strategy of nearly every commuter rail system in the Northeast (which I mentioned!), I think it reasonable to suppose that the company in question is leaving money on the table.  You could argue that any commuter rail service working in a major city must be aware of what similar companies do, and thus already considered the idea.

Another argument would be that, because I was a graduate student working on things that had nothing to do with transit operations, I lacked a sufficient level of field-specific knowledge to make a good recommendation.  A third contention would be that this train system probably faces a significant amount of feedback and is too overloaded even to hear a good idea.  All three of these scenarios are possible, as is the case that my suggestion could have led to millions in revenue.

The example highlights three reasons why ideas get ignored:

1) Institutions have the potential to come up with the idea themselves (as Apple curtly points out).
2) People lack the requisite field-specific knowledge to provide creative ideas[3], or, at least, relevant knowledge is considered a necessary criterion.
3) There are far more ideas being submitted than can be handled.[4]

All three of these reasons are directly translatable to impediments that block a company's innovative processes.  For the first reason, substitute "Management" or "The C-Suite" for "institutions."  In some companies, the leadership has no interest in ideas that it did not generate (and this is for a variety of reasons, though I have yet to hear a good one!).

To overcome this obstacle, leadership needs to recognize that it is often far-removed from some of the day-to-day operations of the company, and recognize that those who understand the exact operations of the firm, and those who interact with customers, may consequently have insights that the leadership would not be able to generate.

While research shows that being creative requires field-specific knowledge[3], idea generation can actually benefit from having an outside perspective.  A fresh viewpoint, such as that of a novice or outsider, can help avoid entrenched thinking (an analog of functional fixedness), and also apply a different perspective to a problem.  Customers, for example, may not understand a company's operations, or how to make products, but they do understand how products are used, how they could be better, and how the company that makes them can further meet/exceed customers' needs/expectations.

If a company is going to be willing to listen to its customers (as well it should!), it also ought to listen to its employees[5].  As noted, these are the people on the ground who know what is going on, and they may actually have field-relevant knowledge (which the leadership may lack).  Thus, giving employees opportunities to voice and implement their ideas could be highly advantageous and profitable (just ask Valve, which gives its employees all the resources they need to implement new ideas[6]).

With so many people having ideas, it is decidedly impossible to address and implement them all, but that should not stop a company from trying to find and use as many good/useful/profitable ideas as possible.  Some companies have "write to the top" policies that let employees get their ideas up to the leadership, and others use retreats, round tables, and Fed-Ex Days, to get ideas moving.  Yet, one of the simplest solutions, which I have seen in shockingly few places, is simply to have an idea board (serious kudos to the University of Texas at Austin for theirs).  Of course, in all cases, the company needs to have a culture that encourages people to be proactive and entrepreneurial -- this means knowing that the leadership will listen, and that everyone has the potential to make a difference.

None of this, however, is a solution for everyday people with interesting ideas, though IdeaExplore is certainly trying to implement one, and there are sites with suggestions for how to submit unsolicited ideas to companies (example).  That said, ideas have been, and will continue to be, a strong component of intellectual and personal capital.  Keep thinking![7]


Orin's Asides

1. This is what Kaufman and Beghetto call either "mini-c" creativity or "little-c" creativity [see their paper on the subject; overview here].
2. Some companies even reward people for really good ideas (like the Netflix Challenge, though the solution was not implementable [article]).  Still other companies (like Innocentive) allow firms to issue challenges and crowdsource for answers.  Also, here's why it's important to learn from customers.
4. To this I will add a fourth reason: People do not know how to express their ideas.  This turns out to be one of the most difficult obstacles to surmount, and there are many companies, coaches, and business thinkers who help people describe their ideas with greater clarity.
5. Remember Herb Kelleher's advice: “You have to treat your employees like customers.”
6. This is most visible in Valve's handbook.
7. The author thanks Joel Chudow for his contributions to this article


Orin C. Davis is the first person to earn a doctorate in positive psychology. His research focuses on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring, and it spans both the workplace and daily life. He is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and a freelance consultant who helps companies maximize their human capital and become better places to work.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Keep Your Ideas Fresh! Adoption & Engagement in Collaborative Systems

Sometimes it’s appropriate to be fresh!  Let’s face it; you periodically refresh your web site and your slide deck template.   

Well, you have to constantly think about your collaborative innovation system and refresh it to an ever changing audience with ever changing interests and needs.

Collaborative innovation systems go through evolutionary stages.  Sometimes the connections are self forming (when we find those with common areas of interest by accident), other times because the administrators of the systems nudge people into useful clusters.  The actual process of collaboration only works if there’s a point to the exercise: a goal; a reason for people to log in and touch bases.

With collaborative systems for innovation, users ask themselves “Why should I visit the site”?  And if there is value to be found there, they’ll show up and jump in.  Perhaps because I know everybody posts their white papers there, or there’s an RSS feed to an industry magazine I like, or maybe I know there‘s a conversation there I find appealing.

Let’s digress for a moment and talk about something most of us are familiar with:  Facebook.  Way back when we all logged in, we tried a bunch of new things.  Facebook administrators responded and kept tweaking the portals’ appearance and functionality based on statistical analysis of usage behavior.  Nowadays a lot of people have peeled away, while others stop by every day to check in with a small cadre of those with common interests.  

So maybe they see what their friends did yesterday or last night.  They see what new pictures people posted.  They comment or engage in a dialogue about a topic.  Then they log off.  Maybe they log in later for the same routine; or maybe they wait until tomorrow.

Once in a while “big news” happens or someone amongst their friends posts something provocative.  Then there’s a flurry of comments, discussions and collateral postings.  Then the topic loses its allure and people settle back into their daily routine.

Collaborative systems for innovation are similar.  First off Corporate Managers worry about adoption and engagement.  This means they think about how to lure users in from on line arenas where they dwell.  So users get a link in an email “Please give me your thoughts on this, click here”!  Or users discover a URL in a private corporate twitter feed with “I just posted a new idea, please give me your comments, click here”.
When they arrive in the collaborative innovation portal, corporate administrators think about how to cluster users.  They use “persuasive guidance” to lure the user’s eye and clicking fingers to where they want the “call to action”.  

Maybe there’s a “team” dedicated to a discipline (e.g. engineers, marketing people click here) or to a topic (e.g. those who want to talk about carbon bonding issues, or Latin American markets click here”).  Or maybe they encourage participation in an activity (e.g. please use our General Idea Box or Click Here to Join our Brainstorm Week!).

Some of these collaborative engagements have used multiple time zones and the discussion morphs as the work week progresses.  Other groups dive into a real time discussion forum where one user poses an acute question requiring a rapid solution and everybody else jumps in.  This is sort of an electronic brainstorming session that just keeps going on.  There easily can be multiple “rooms” with different topics being discussed.

So like Facebook again, users typically log into collaborative innovation systems for one of three reasons:   
  1. They have an idea they want to post and share. 
  2. They want to conduct a search to see what others have posted on a particular topic to help solve a problem….or maybe they’ll ask for help or 
  3. They log in,  driven by curiosity, to see “what’s happening” from amongst team mates they respect, to learn; to add to the discussion, ( and like Facebook) Corporate Administrators have to think about how to make the collaborative innovation environment useful and interesting to support these three activities.  

“Let’s change the layout, the colors, and the team names.   Let’s come up with an exciting interesting challenge.  Let’s open this discussion to a new group of people.  Let’s ask our vendors or our partners, or our customers or the public to join the conversation; to provide input; to give us their ideas.”

The point is:   corporate collaborative innovation systems or Idea Management Systems need to be administered, monitored, analyzed, modified and tweaked on an ongoing bases.

A successful innovation system keeps changing “the point of interest” to make everyday fresh, new and interesting.  A successful collaborative innovation system will work hard to help users satisfy their users’ intellectual curiosity.

As I said earlier, sometimes it’s appropriate to be fresh.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation ecosystem.  CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation.  You can learn more about CogniStreamer here

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here)

CogniStreamer® is a Knowledge Management system, an idea management software tool…in fact a social network dedicated to innovation.  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, Phillip Morris, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp. CogniStreamer® represents the best use of adaptive collaborative technology to harness human skill, ingenuity and intelligence.

Innovation Secrets of America’s Got Talent

If you’re thinking like an innovation mercenary, then you’ll find innovation inspiration everywhere. Including the reality television show America’s Got Talent (AGT).

We know innovation hinges on the Big Two—Uniqueness and Relevance—which together account for about 85% of all innovation success. On a recent episode of AGT, an Earth Harp performance gave us a look at a couple key levers of Uniqueness and Relevance.


The biggest instrument most of us are aware of would be something on the order of a string bass, a sousaphone (the wrap-around tuba in marching bands) or perhaps Neil Peart’s drum set (the drummer from Rush…there, I invoked Rush!).  The Earth Harp uses the whole theater as the sound chamber—literally tying the stage to first balcony.  When thinking “scale” as a lever of uniqueness, we’re often impressed by 50%, 100%, or every now and then 200% more than the expected size.  How about something 2000% larger?  Couple that with what seemed to be original music, played by a clear master of this breakthrough instrument, and you have a very exciting Uniqueness story.

How This Relates To Innovation Work: Look for opportunities to scale on an order of magnitude that no one else would even begin to consider.  The quickest way to cut through competitive clutter is to have no competition.


What would it be like for you, an audience member to be inside the instrument?  I would love to get inside an acoustic guitar when a Segovia was playing it.  With the Earth Harp, you are literally involved in the performance, like egg whites are involved in meringue.  Hear it, feel it, be it.  It’s one thing to feel a pounding bass in your chest from massive speakers at a loud rock concert, but this seems to be a very different experience, substituting the brute force of volume for something approaching the other-worldly.  It seems like the music would entirely surround you.

How This Relates To Innovation Work:

Seek out ideas that involve your customers at a heightened level and have more potential to resonate long-term. Uniqueness doesn’t work if there’s no intention of repeat purchase. To be relevant, something needs to burrow itself into our lives and stay tethered there so we can enjoy the experience of it again and again.

So what can innovationistas learn from a somewhat formulaic reality contest?  Innovation can be spurred by approaching Scale and Involvement in a fresh way.  Use that inspiration to start thinking of strategies/levers that can drive to each of the Big Two.

Challenge Yourself:

Consider new Uniqueness and Relevance levers for your product-market space.  Within each lever, think outrageously, not just incrementally.  Where does it take you?  Go far beyond reasonable, then scale it back to something that’s still obviously breakthrough, but perhaps just a tad more approachable or feasible

About the Author

Adam Hansen is a Facilitator and VP of Innovation at Ideas To Go, Inc. Ideas To Go is an innovation process consulting firm. Our expert facilitators, along with our Creative Consumers® associates, will help stretch your thinking to discover insights, areas of opportunity, and your next big idea. For additional information, contact

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Innovation Book Club Update: Win a Copy of The Wide Lens

We're excited to announce a give-away of our June Book Club selection The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation by Ron Adner.

Ron Adner, is a Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship at Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College. His book, The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation, has been heralded as a path-breaking guide to successful innovation in an interdependent world. His pioneering Harvard Business Review article, "Match Your Innovation Strategy to Your Innovation Ecosystem," is assigned reading in over fifty global MBA programs. He will join us to present a keynote address on BEYOND INNOVATION at BEI: Back End of Innovation taking place October 9-11, 2012, in Boston, Mass.

To learn more about all the BEI Keynotes and program, click here and download the full agenda.

To Enter This Give-away:
You have several options for entering our book giveaway, and for each task performed you will receive one entry into the contest. Tweet about the book club (as much as once per day), follow us on twitter, "like" us on Facebook or "like" this blog post, or leave a comment below telling us which session you are most looking forward to at BEI: Back End of Innovation. We have four copies of the book to give away and winners will be contacted at the end of the contest. This contest runs through 06/26/2012 at 12:01am. Enter using the widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Refresher on How the Innovation Book Club Works:

Every month, the FEI Team will select a recently published book based on innovation. We will feature the book here on The Front End of Innovation Blog.

This month's book club discussion will take place in our Back End of Innovation LinkedIn Group. Next week I will be posting some discussion questions to get us started, and expect to read some insights from our featured author as well. You must be a member of our LinkedIn Group to participate in the conversation. You can join here.

All group members are invited to post their unbiased reviews, comments and questions on the thread as we read the book together (or if you've already completed it). We will post a recap of some of the best comments and reviews from LinkedIn to feature and share publicly here on our blog, with the permission of the contributor.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She tweets about innovation under the @BEI_innovation moniker, and everything else at @Leblancly.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

MegaTrend Watch: Innovating with Robotics

Pictured: A Still From The Film "Robot & Frank"
In a recent article, "THE GLOBAL 20: The Big Trends That Are Changing The World" Business Insider wrote of robotics "The potential growth in this sector is enormous," noting "service robots will become increasingly common. Consumer, cleaning, and surgical robots already exist. These range from relatively simple consumer robots like the Roomba to increasingly sophisticated tools for heart surgeons."

At the upcoming Back End of Innovation conference, Vice Admiral (Ret.) Joseph W. Dyer, iRobot Corporation will be discussing "The People Side of Innovation: A Toolbox" in a Kick-off keynote, and Famed Futurist, Physicist, TV Personality and co-founder of the string field theory,Michio Kaku discussed some near-future automation and robotics trends at the recent Front End of Innovation 2012, so naturally we were interested in diving in to this MegaTrend further. What were the leadership forces behind it, and how were companies bringing innovative robotics technologies to market?

Perhaps taking this trend from on-the-edge to mainstream here in the U.S., in June of 2011, President Obama called for "a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies," specifically looking to establish "U.S. leadership in next-generation robotics" This PCAST slideshow underlines the initiative further, citing lost ground "in the production of high-tech products, including those resulting from U.S. innovation and inventions, and in manufacturing-associated R&D" as a reason for the initiative.

So, in the past year, have we seen an influx in robotics innovations? Smart Data Collective's Alex Olesker recently said no, citing the “Valley of Death” or "point where government funding tapers off but risk remains too high and rewards too obscure for private funding to kick in" noting iRobot's Roomba as the one successful consumer robot that persists. Olesker feels the answer will come from The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) which "has announced a “grand challenge” for robot builders." iRobot's products do come from a military background, and are used in emergency situations as well, such as disaster relief in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, featured below.

But there are other possibilities as well: perhaps the answer lies in the health care industry or in education. This infographic on "Robot study buddies" points out some potential uses of robotics in schools, and the KATE project from FutureBots Humanoid Lab takes the idea one step closer to reality with a humanoid bot intended to interact with children. In health care, 'Snakebots' may soon aid doctors in surgery and several companies are moving to develop robots that can provide in-home services, for example, to the elderly. (The film Robot & Frank, pictured above, explores a humorous view of this very real possibility.)

Forbes reports that Dmitry Grishin, the co-founder and CEO of Russia Internet giant Mail.Ru. has launched a new $25 million fund headquartered in New York, (again citing iRobot as a company on the forefront of this industry.) The Forbes article notes that "for many venture investors, betting on robotics is not palatable because it is quite risky and can take longer than the typical five to seven years to develop a company," but for companies who have room for riskier projects in their innovation portfolio, it seems to us that involvement in robotics is right on trend. A similar piece in The Atlantic states that "Grishin sees particular potential in the field of personal robots, he told me, for the automation of everyday necessities like home maintenance, education, healthcare, entertainment, and transportation."

Are you exploring robotics? If so, what are your strategies for managing innovation in this risky, but trending field? Tweet at us with your ideas and experiences, or comment below to share.

To learn more, join us for "The People Side of Innovation: A Toolbox" with Vice Admiral (Ret.) Joseph W. Dyer,  iRobot Corporation on Tuesday, October 9th 2012 at Back End of Innovation. Save 15% off the standard registration rate with code BEI12BLOG. Visit the website to register or learn more.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing...and an Asimov fan on the side. She may be reached at
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Join Us for a Free Webinar Tomorrow on Effective Co-Creation

Our Front End of Innovation partners at Hype Innovation would like to invite you to attend free live webinar, “Effective Co-Creation – How Open Innovation Programs Can Deliver Breakthroughs,” presented by Colin Nelson, Director of Strategic Consulting.

As some of you might remember, Hype Innovation joined us last month at Front End of Innovation 2012, where Colin Nelson presented a session on Optimizing the Creation of Breakthrough Innovation in Global Organizations. If you missed Colin's session track in Orlando, or would like to revisit the practical, actionable content shared in the session, you now have the chance to do so by registering now and saving your free seat!

During this interactive webinar, you will learn about the following

  • How to push beyond the enterprise to look for breakthrough innovation
  • What type of structure can you use to select the right groups, partners, and participants
  • How to map ANY Open Innovation program to ensure you are covering all relevant areas
  • Best business practices and customer case studies from open innovation experts
Time: 11:00 AM - 12:00 AM EST
Date: Tomorrow, June 20, 2012
Presenter: Colin Nelson, Director of Strategic Consulting 
Hosted by HYPE Innovation 

About the Presenter

Colin Nelson is Director of Strategic Consulting at HYPE Innovation, a leading provider of Innovation Management software and solutions for over 11 years. Using the power of the workforce, third parties and customers, Colin helps clients engage disparate groups to support existing or newly established programs on Innovation, Cost Reduction, Business Transformation and Business Improvement. He works as a subject matter expert and thought leader on how people engage to share ideas and collaborate with others, online and at scale with global innovation leaders such as Continental, General Mills, Hershey’s, Peugeot, SCA, WD-40 Company, and many others, focusing specifically on processes and innovation behaviors.

About HYPE:

Visit their website at to learn how HYPE enables companies to transform their best assets – employees, customers, partners, and suppliers – into dynamic and engaged innovation communities. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

From Front End of Innovation 2012: Rob Cross on Energizers

Orin's Introduction: During Rob Cross's lecture on social networks, he spent some talking about the people who energize and de-energize the people around them, and I want to zoom in on that particular part of the lecture.  Take a look at Prof. Cross's research here.

It is no secret that one of the keys to innovation is having the right people around.  Of course, it is important to hire for talent and skill, because those are necessary for doing the basics of the job.  Passion and interest are always a plus, because they lead to an increased willingness to go the extra mile.  But, for innovation, companies need to hire what Cross calls "energizers" -- these are the people that transfuse energy into the people and projects with which they interact.

Here's why energizers are important:

  • Energizers get more from those around them, increasing people's engagement in conversations and willingness to put discretionary time into relevant projects.
  • Energizers elicit people's creativity
  • Energizers tend to win out in the internal labor market and with customers
    • Ability to motivate others is as, or more, important than knowing the answer
  • Energizers promote work satisfaction and learning among those around them
  • Energizers create additional energy that spills over into follow-on interactions
    • De-energizers can be deadly on this front
  • Energizers tend to see possibilities (realistic ones) instead of constraints
How do energizers create these effects?  

In their day-to-day work, there are four key behaviors in which energizers engage:

  • Create personal connections (build trust)
  • Build reciprocity
  • Follow through on commitments
  • Stand for something larger than themselves
Energizers also exhibit five key behaviors in their interactions with coworkers:
  • Engage in possibilities
  • Attentive in meetings
  • Help others contribute
  • Disagree productively
  • Show flexibility
Many of these nine behaviors help create high-functioning teams and foster creativity (Orin's aside: see Keith Sawyer's book, Group Genius, for more on this.), so it is no surprise that energizers foster innovation.  One of the keys is for management to find the energizers, put them in key positions, and help set off the fireworks.

(Orin's aside: During the breakout discussions, I heard two interesting views on energizers, and wanted to include them: 
"Energizers are part of the conversation.  They are smiling, they are mobile, and are focused entirely on you (not distracted or unfocused, or act like they are listening).  They use body language to send you clues that they are actively listening.  [They] make you feel like they care and that you are important in that moment." -- Tim from Progressive Foam Technologies
"Energizers have a spirit of generosity, [and are] open to ideas." -- Raphael from BBMG)

About the Author

Orin C. Davis is the first person to earn a doctorate in positive psychology. His research focuses on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring, and it spans both the workplace and daily life. He is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and a freelance consultant who helps companies maximize their human capital and become better places to work.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Human Side of Innovation Help

For those of us who love the power of brainstorming, the current trend to bash the benefits of it is tough. It seems to have started with Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, where she claims group brainstorming is worthless. (A book that compelled me to write an article pointing out some of the issues with her research and assumptions.) And was followed by several articles with similar themes of demonizing brainstorming—including The New Yorker and Fast Company.

These articles prompted me to start thinking about how a responsible client would go about hiring an innovation company—especially when there is so much conflicting information being bandied about. If I were in their shoes, how would I decide amongst all the companies who are offering services that are supposed to help me innovate?  How could I guarantee that the company I picked to help in our innovation efforts would deliver what we need and want?

The answer, of course, is that there are no guarantees in this, just like in life.  So I’m going to offer some thoughts on how to minimize the risks of going wrong, and maximize the chances for success. In short, my suggestion is to treat this relationship like you would any other relationship in your life.

Do You Trust These People?

Innovation (Photo credit: Seth1492)

This is not about whether you trust their model or their process. Models and processes are plentiful; everybody’s got one. That’s not to denigrate their importance. It’s critical that innovation is repeatable; structure is absolutely necessary. So every innovation firm has a structure, process, or model that they follow. And most of them work quite well. If you think someone’s model seems reasonable, it probably is. So you need to decide if you trust the people as much as you trust the model. If by chance, something does go wrong, are these the people you want in the lifeboat bailing with you, or are they potentially going to bail on you?

Do They Care What You Think?

Early in my career, I was an assistant brand manager at Quaker Oats, working on the Gatorade brand. The senior management hired one of the big strategy consulting firms to rethink the future of the brand. After a meeting with the consultants (in which they pretty much ignored the opinion of everyone on our team), I privately asked my 2-levels-up boss, “Don’t you think they’re kind of … arrogant?” (I actually used a different “a” word that I won’t repeat here.)  Her response was, “Yes, totally. But they’re really smart.”
In my relative naiveté, I assumed she must be right and that intelligence trumps all else in a relationship like this. Over time, however, I’ve learned differently. I now know that the people I want to work with are the ones who view our work together as a collaboration.

No matter how smart a consultant is, they will never know your business like you do. They know DIFFERENT things than you know, and have DIFFERENT experiences than you have. The magic happens when those diverse sets of knowledge and expertise come together. So, don’t hire someone who agrees with you on everything, and does exactly what you ask for every time. And don’t hire someone who tries to look smarter than you, and doesn’t value your experience as important or unique. Hire someone who listens to what you say, but also challenges your assumptions, who adds value with their perspectives, questions, and suggestions, and who works WITH you to arrive at the best solutions.

Get beyond the first date before you tie the knot. Who are you really?

A client recently said to me, “We hired Firm X on the basis of the guy who originally presented to us. He was charismatic, smart, funny, and he really won over our whole team. As soon as we hired the firm, they sent in a bunch of inexperienced 24-year-olds to do the work, and we never saw or heard from him again. Obviously, we were a lot less impressed with the resulting work than we were with the initial presentation.”  Ask some questions about who will actually do the work. Is it the person/people presenting?  If you’ve only ever spoken to the Business Development specialist, ask to also speak to the person who will lead your project, and make sure that person also feels right, before you sign the contract.

Do you like them well enough to live with them?

It’s quite likely that you are going to work closely with these people for a while, and in some relatively intense environments. For example, you may find yourself in a dark back room of a focus group facility with them for several days. Would you enjoy going out to dinner with these same people every night afterward? Do you think that would be fun and/or relaxing after working with them for many days? If so, then dive in and hire them. If not, look around a little more. The best kind of consultant-client relationship is one where you’re actually so energized by the hard—and often exhausting—work you're doing together, that you still want to hang out at the end of the day.

Of course, all the rational factors will play into your decision — quality, price, timing, output, etc. But even after you apply those filters, you will likely still have lots of potential partners to choose from. If you consider the human factors into your decision, you’ll ultimately be happier in your work with them, and more satisfied with the results.

About the Author

Susan Robertson is a Facilitator and VP of Business Development at Ideas To Go, Inc. Ideas To Go is an innovation process consulting firm. Our expert facilitators, along with our Creative Consumers® associates, will help stretch your thinking to discover insights, areas of opportunity, and your next big idea. For additional information, contact

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