Monday, November 26, 2012

Drive Successful Innovation at the Front End through Consumer Co-Creation

The consumer is the ultimate judge of every new product/service offering - and yet the consumer is often absent from the development process. Consumer participation is critical to ensure you drive successful front-end innovation.

Introducing the all NEW FEI EMEA Customer Driven Innovation Summit: Co-Creating for Innovation, By Demand

Featuring sessions on:

• CO-CREATE: The Collaborative Innovation Process
Pierre Swart, Global Head of Innovation Delivery, British American Tobacco
• Innovation through Global Collaboration: Nokia’s Ideas Project
Kirsten Kuehl, Head of Developer and Community Innovation, Nokia
• From Value Chain Business Logic to Brand Eco-System: Consumers Are Not Just Consumers Anymore
Tormond Askildsen, Senior Director, LEGO Group
• Dealing with Customer Centric Innovation: How to Fuse the Entrepreneurial Spirit with the Desire to Control Risk in the Corporate Environment
Pamela Pauwels, Director Customer Insights and Innovation, Philips Healthcare
• Customer Driven Innovation at Nestle Research Centre
Andrey Evtenko, Consumer Insight Specialist, Nestle Research Centre, Nestle

Take a look at this year’s program to see how some of the world’s leading companies are successfully introducing customer co-creation into their innovation cycle.

Readers of this blog save 15% off the standard rate. Mention code FEIEMEA13BLOG to reserve at this rate. Register here:

Phone: 1.941.554.3500 

P.S. Don't forget to join us for our upcoming webinar series! Details here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reminder: Embedding an Innovation Rhythm

For many organisations, innovation is an engaging strategy for growth, pivotal to future success and prosperity. Unfortunately though, it comes with few guarantees, is loaded with risks of all kinds, and whatever you do, and however well you do it, you will be wrong (somewhere).

This is not necessarily always a problem, and through learning we can correct the mistakes. Innovation and learning are not separate entities, they are, an inseparable rhythm, just like breathing. With this in mind, Mars Incorporated has set about embedding new innovation approaches in the organisation.

David Thomas, Global Innovation Leader, MOS Program Manager (Innovation for Growth), Mars Incorporated will be joining us on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 3 PM GMT/10 AM EST to discuss this topic in a live webinar.

Thomas spoke on this topic at the 2012 Front End of Innovation EMEA event in one of the most well attended and highly rated sessions, so we're pleased to revisit the session for our online "stage". 

Guest blogger Frauke Lohr covered the session for the Front End of Innovation blog here . Get your own glimpse of our Front End of Innovation EMEA offerings by registering for this webinar here.

To register for the other web seminars in our complimentary series*, or for the 7th annual Front End of Innovation EMEA conference, visit our event website here.

*Please note, we've unfortunately had to cancel our webinar session "How to Take Advantage of the Sustainability Trend and Innovate into the Future" featuring Faith Taylor, SVP Sustainability and Innovation, Wyndham Worldwide. We hope to reschedule the webinar soon, stay tuned for an updated time. 

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She can be reached at mleblanc [AT] iirusa [DOT] com with any questions about this webinar series. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Webinar Recording Available: Social Product Innovation with Marcel Baron, IBM

Last week we were joined by esteemed Front End of Innovation EMEA speaker Marcel Baron of IBM for a webinar update on his 2012 presentation "Socially Synergistic Enterprise: Balancing Internal and External Collaboration to Improve Innovation."

Baron discussed the fact that businesses are currently facing several challenges:
Consumer demand is constantly evolving requiring better analysis of insights.
Customers need products to meet requirements as they develop.
Long lead times of raw materials / parts require tighter integration of development and manufacturing teams.

Companies can develop differentiated products and services faster and cheaper through Social Product and Service Innovation

For a replay of the webinar, view the video here:

Or view on the ReadyTalk site here:

To register for the other web seminars in our complimentary series, or for the 7th annual Front End of Innovation EMEA conference, visit our event website here. Readers of this blog save 15% off the standard rate. Mention code FEIEMEA13BLOG to reserve at this rate.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She can be reached at mleblanc [AT] iirusa [DOT] com with any questions about this webinar series. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Save on Front End of Innovation EMEA Conference

We just want to remind you that as a reader of the Front End of Innovation blog, you can save 15% off registration for the 2013 Front End of Innovation EMEA Conference. Register now so you don't miss out on the lowest price this year!

Here is a quick glance at this year's program:

• George Buckley, Executive Chairman of the Board, retired President & CEO, 3M • Christer Windelov-Lidzelius, Director, The Kaos Pilots – International School of New Business Design & Social Innovation
• Jean-Philippe Deschampes, Professor of Technology & Innovation Management, IMD Business School
• Mads Nipper, Chief Marketing Officer, LEGO
• Jean-Michel Cossery, Chief Marketing Officer, GE Healthcare
• Jason Foster, Founder & Chief Re-User, Replenish
• Vince Voron, Head of Desgn, Coca-Cola North America
• Christian Bason, Chief Innovation Officer, Mind-Labs
• See the full list of speakers.

• 2 full-day Summits - the Future Trends Summit and the new Customer Driven Innovation Summit;
• OR the Half-Day Workshop on Sparking Strategic Innovation;
• OR the Half-Day Copenhagen TrenzWalk: A Revolutionary Approach to Predict the Future. *TrenzWalk is available to the first 20 registrants.
• Download the brochure for full descriptions.

• Business Model Opportunities: Featuring speakers from Alcatel-Lucent, Air France/KLM, P&G, Siemens, and LEGO Serious Play.
• Aligning Innovation Ecosystem: Featuring speakers from General Mills, Coloplast, Unilever, and Swisscom.
• Thriving in Emerging Markets: Featuring speakers from Ericsson, Reliance Industries, Pepsico India, Unilever, and Columbia University
• Design as an Early Influencer in the Innovation Process: Featuring speakers from Nestle Nespresso, The Kaos Pilots and Heineken.
• Innovation Execution: Featuring speakers from Swiss Post, Merck Serono, DSM Innovation Center and Erasmus University
• Download the brochure to see session descriptions.

Plus! New Connect Meaningfully Through a Challenge Activity. Four team-based challenges put you and your peers to work on-site to create solutions to your biggest obstacles to making innovation happen. The top teams (as voted by your fellow attendees) compete on stage to identify the ‘winning’ idea.

Readers of this blog save 15% off the standard rate. Mention code FEIEMEA13BLOG to reserve at this rate. Register here:

Phone: 1.941.554.3500

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reminder: Socially Synergistic Enterprise: Balancing Internal and External Collaboration to Improve Innovation

We're excited to be kicking off our Front End of Innovation webinar series this week with our first session.

This Wednesday, 14 Nov, 2012 at 3 PM GMT/10 AM EST please join us in welcoming Marcel Baron,Senior Marketing Manager, Innovative Marketing, IBM for "Socially Synergistic Enterprise: Balancing Internal and External Collaboration to Improve Innovation"

Product and services development have evolved, this presentation explains how IBM integrates clients, customers and other stakeholders in the development of products and services. It provides examples on how new product development strategies are influenced to support innovation that matters, for the company and for the world.

Baron presented one of the most highly rated sessions at FEI EMEA 2012, don't miss this chance to join us for further innovation insights. Register for the session here.

View all sessions in our complimentary FEI EMEA webinar series here.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She can be reached at mleblanc [AT] iirusa [DOT] com with any questions about this webinar series.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Creative Mindset: COFFEE

It's great news for us coffee drinkers that researchers are starting to notice the health benefits of the breakfast of champions.  Me and my cup of dark roast have enjoyed many a productive morning, and it's a serendipitous accident that one morning my coffee accompanied me into an email discussion about getting into a creative mindset with innovation consultant Gregg Fraley.[1,2]
Description: Coffee cortado (An latte art exam...
(Photo: Wikipedia)
 It occurred to me that coffee is a great mnemonic for some of the key items needed for getting into a creative mindset:


Connection is about putting things together, and looking for ways that they may fit.  Many items seem like they have no relationship, and yet a prodigious number of innovations have been a combination of two disparate items.  For example, cars and restaurants had nothing in common, until the concept of drive-thru turned a vehicle into a patron's "table."[3]  As an exercise, find pairs of items (and eventually triplets, etc.) that do not seem to go together, and find ways to relate them.  Some ideas  may seem silly, but some will be surprisingly piquant!

Openness requires one to be willing to consider ideas that may not seem valuable or relevant immediately.  This also involves being in a constant state of readiness for a new idea to pop up and be woven into the fabric of one's thoughts.  Most importantly, this involves being able to listen to people and their ideas, even if they may be unlikely candidates for an idea.[4]  Many car companies have made significant improvements to their manufacturing processes by being open to input from front-line employees.

Focus involves the diligence and concentration required to attend to the problem at hand.  It is a balance with openness that keeps one centered on the particular puzzle under consideration while still allowing items to enter from the periphery.  Focus means staying on task, removing unnecessary distractions, and not doing things checking your email while you are working on something.  Be open to whatever comes along, but make sure that it can be linked to whatever you are doing -- try making the link first, but dismiss the item otherwise.

Fearlessness pertains to not being afraid of failure.  When failure is perceived as an actual threat, creativity goes down the tubes as people shoot for conservative, risk-free, tried-and-true solutions.  Consider how many inventions were flops on their first go-round.  Fulton, Edison, and Darwin are just some of the many famous creators of products and ideas who failed multiple times (and/or needed several go-rounds to succeed), and who would not have invented anything if messing up were as costly as it can often be in this day and age.  Moreover, such fearlessness is a key element of a flow experience, which is often associated with more creative and high-quality products.[5]

Embracing is a complement to openness, and is about harnessing the power of "Yes-And".  Ideas can sometimes be dismissed rather quickly and/or judged to be of little importance or relevance.  Yet, as noted in the post on "Yes-And"  Instead of insisting that everything conform to limited specifications, and instead of merely considering something new or different, embrace new ideas, even if their value is not immediately apparent, and try to integrate them into your current train of thought by using "Yes-And."  As Michelle James put it, "Yes-And is the new No-But."

Encompassing means considering all of the angles, viewing the problem in an all-encompassing fashion.  Sometimes this requires making the strange familiar, and the familiar strange[6].  In other cases, these means taking the perspective of different stakeholders, and as many as possible at that!  An alternative is trying on the viewpoint of someone who thinks differently.  For example, as a psychology researcher, I have gotten a lot of mileage out of working with engineers and asking how they view the research questions I am working on.  Similarly, it can be helpful to include the opinion of detractors and naysayers, all of whom may see the issue differently, and may have caveats that, when considered fully, may lead to a more satisfying and effective solution.

As with all prescriptive solutions, creative mindset COFFEE is easier expressed than imbibed.  It can take a lot of work to maintain both openness and focus, and to be embracing as well.  Creating an environment that fosters the fearlessness and boldness to be creative can require a large investment, and sometimes some sacrifice.  Connection, too, takes a lot of practice, especially among those who have been encouraged to play it safe.  It likewise takes significant effort to put on another mindset, or to refrain from taking it as a threat or personal affront if someone else has a better idea.  Yet, as bitter and difficult as some of these items are to swallow, it is a taste that can be readily acquired.  After all, COFFEE can have major benefits -- and don't forget the milk and sugar![7]

Orin's Asides

1) I strongly recommend reading Gregg's blogg about creativity and innovation.  He has a ton of great ideas and insights, and is one of the bloggers I tweet most often.
2) For the curious, this webinar on creativity and innovation was the result.
3) For those who like seeing this show up in math, Euler's Formula (in complex analysis) is another great example.  It's a brilliant way of connecting i, e, pi, 1, and 0 in one equation.  Understand this one and you'll seriously impress your R&D people!  (proof)
4) This holds triple for managers who should be making sure to listen to their employees and customers.  There's a great article in the Harvard Business Review that touches on this.
5) See Csikszentmihalyi's books on the subject: Flow, Finding Flow, Creativity.  (Disclosure: Csikszentmihalyi was also my graduate advisor.)  Some of my own research (forthcoming) explores this topic further, and also highlights some of the benefits of flow in the workplace.
6) See Gordon's work on synectics (Wikipedia has a good overview with links to sources).
7) For a more extensive review of these concepts, see the last chapter of Teresa Amabile's Creativity in Context.


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.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Congrats to our Front End of Innovation EMEA All Access Pass Winner!

A few weeks ago, the Front End of Innovation team announced a unique chance to win a free all-access pass to the 2013 Front End of Innovation EMEA event. Thanks to all who participated!

We are excited to announce the winner for the contest:

Marcel Bogers

Marcel, we will be contacting you shortly with details about claiming your prize!

As a reminder, all of our blog readers can save 15% off the standard rate! Mention code FEIEMEA13LINK when registering to reserve this rate.

Registration Information:
Phone: 1.941.554.3500

We look forward to seeing you in Copenhagen!
The FEI EMEA Event Team

Stay in Touch: Find us on Twitter:
Hashtag: #FEIEMEA

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bringing in the Talent: How an Innovating Company Can Get the Right People in the Door

(Author's introduction: This post is an abridged version of a longer essay posted on my website.)

Despite the high levels of unemployment, many companies are constantly complaining that they can't find top talent. Since having great people on board is an integral part of being an innovative company, it is important to understand why it is so hard to recruit them.  While it is easy to blame education, parenting, social milieu, and a host of other factors, the most obvious culprit, and the one that organizations can control, is the hiring process.  Here are some of the best ways to get hot talent in the door.

Describe the position using goals, not skills

The first question to ask is: what are you looking for?  Typically, job descriptions are based on the last person who did the job, and the hiring manager is looking for that person's clone, which results in a long list of requirements that can box the role into a narrow space that can inhibit creativity, innovation, and (most importantly) initiative.  Instead, scrap the old view of the position, and rebuild it, starting with the goals inherent in the position.  Consider each of the following questions:

Questions for Designing a Job Description

1) What must the person in that job accomplish?  What would constitute meaningful progress on a day-to-day basis in that job?[1]

2) How does that person's role integrate with the department/division, the company, the clients, and/or the mission/aims of the firm?

3) What constitutes doing a good job in that role? (Remember: do not start with the person who occupied it previously!)

4) How do you want/expect the person in that role to grow with respect to knowledge, skills, attitudes, and capabilities?

5) In what ways do you hope the person will expand his/her role, and what career trajectory(ies) would (s)he be able to take?

6) What freedoms can you afford the new hire for defining his/her role?[2]

7) What opportunities are there for the person to find meaning and fulfillment in the position?[3]

From there, write the job description in the least-restrictive way possible.  Show the answers to the questions above, and include the essentials for the position.  Rather than asking for a standard cover letter, ask applicants to describe: a) their plans and vision for the position, b) how they intend to make a unique contribution to the company, and c) what excites them about the position, the company, and its mission.  While some might contend that such is the purpose of a cover letter, most organizations prevent that by posting laundry lists of skills and capabilities that need to be checked off using the resume and cover letter.

Create a realistic vision of whom to hire and make sure the new employee can thrive

In addition to having a clear, goal-oriented job description, it is important that the company be realistic about whether the job and employee both fit with the culture of the organization.  Companies frequently have unrealistic expectations of employees, the jobs they [can] do, and what kind of culture is necessary to support the roles and functions of the jobs.  As such, they can end up using hiring and onboarding practices that send the talent packing.

One major pitfall to avoid is "unicorn hunting"[4], which involves overloading the job [description] with so many items to check off that it will be next-to-impossible to find a suitable candidate.  One company that wanted me to recommend a candidate sent me a job description, and my response was, "This is a human being you're looking for, right?"  I know thousands of talented people (both employed and not), and not one of them was qualified to do this just-above-entry-level job -- the position required knowledge of accounting, marketing, graphic design, and web programming.  Eight months later, the company still had not filled the position.

Select for the factors that cannot be acquired on the job

While it is certainly great when companies can bring in a candidate who is ready-made for the job, this occurs far less frequently than one might expect.  There is always a certain amount of on-the-job training required, be it the tacit knowledge of the company, the specific procedures used by the organization, and/or the avenues through which the hire should channel his/her specific capabilities.

Thus, select a candidate on the factors that cannot be taught quickly and easily, like deep experience and required knowledge/skills (again, keep that list as short as possible!).  This includes factors like: a) interest in the work (do not judge by college major!), the company, and its mission; b) fit with the company's culture and people; c) a solid foundation in the meta-skills needed for the job.  The latter item is the trickiest to define, and yet it is the most important.  Meta-skills are the wherewithal to develop capabilities that fall under the same category as the meta-skill.

For example, many software companies used to pose computing problems to applicants without specifying which programming language (e.g., C++) to use.  This tests the meta-skill of algorithmic thinking, which can be applied to computing problems through the use of a particular programming language (skill) -- that is, good algorithmic thinkers are able to learn programming languages easily.

Recruit people from the places where they are likely to be

While this sounds like plain-old common sense, I would point out that most companies place a generic posting on a general job board, which results in a flood of applications with a couple of gems buried in a mountain of silt.  Other companies, looking for generically "smart" or "creative" people, tend to dig at the US News and World Report's supposed top schools, and those companies are riding on so many erroneous assumptions that they deserve the applicant pool that they get.  Still others hunt for prey at their successful competitors, hoping for a crumb that falls off due to someone getting annoyed or having to move due to life circumstances.

Instead, target potential applicants in places where you are likely to find them.  For example, figure out which universities are most represented by successful people in your company, and have them reach out to the alumni network of their alma mater.  Most especially, use internal recommendations.  Successful people in your company may know other great people to hire, or may know others who are well-connected in a given field (you might even consider rewarding people for good recommendations).

Use an open and communicative hiring process

I am continually stunned by the stories I have heard from people in the hiring process.  I know amazingly talented people who have been utterly dehumanized, and still others who were dismayed at the way they were treated.  This is bad news for a company's reputation (these stories do get out, and sometimes in public forums like Vault), and it costs them talented applicants.  It is crucial to remember that any candidate who is good enough to get onto your radar is probably good enough to be recruited by your competitor(s), too, so following these guidelines will make your company more competitive in the talent market.  If necessary, consider the time it takes to follow these suggestions to come from the marketing/branding budget, as they are all directly related to preserving your company's good name.

1) Confirm receipt of materials.
2) Create two short-lists of interviewees, and dismiss the others, in a timely fashion.
3) Schedule interviews in advance and communicate changes.
4) Make the interview experience a good one.
5) Follow up within a specified period.
6) When you have chosen the right candidate, proceed quickly and decisively.

There is plenty of talent; go get it (and keep it)!

There is enough talent out there that companies should not need to compromise .  It is important to remember, however, that talent is more related to meta-skills than actual skills, and this is why it is important to use a goal-directed job description.  Since there is enough talent to go around, but fierce competition for recruiting it, companies must engage in fair, timely, and communicative hiring processes, recruit strategically, and give every applicant a positive (or at least non-negative) experience.  Coupled with a goal-oriented job description, relevant application documents (like a targeted cover letter), and a sufficiently wide purview for seeing talent, companies should have no trouble getting great people in the door.  What remains is for the company to keep them with a strong mission, high job meaning, engaging challenges, and a great culture.[5]

Orin's Asides

1) A very large study by Teresa Amabile has shown the extreme importance of meaningful progress.  I highly recommend the book she wrote with Steve Kramer about the study: The Progress Principle.
2) Remember that creativity flourishes only when there is room for it to do so!  See research by Keith Sawyer, among others.
3) Many researchers, especially Dutton, Wrzesniewski, and Grant, have shown the importance of this matter in job performance and job satisfaction.
4) Great Wall Street Journal article on this.
5) The author thanks Scott Crabtree for his thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this post.


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, November 7, 2012

How to Breakthrough Creative Road Blocks? The Oblique Strategies App

Brian Eno
 Brian Eno
Thirty-six years ago, artists Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt published a deck of 55 cards set in a wooden box, each observing a random or cryptic aphorism, to be used by artists, specifically musicians, to break through creative blocks and barriers. I recently learned about Oblique Strategies from an exercise with Mark Pollard, the VP of Brand Strategy of the creative digital agency, Big Spaceship, and then looked into what I could find about them as a tool to add to my innovation and creativity toolbox.

How the game is played: The deck can be used as a pack or a single card can be drawn from the shuffled pack whenever a dilemma occurs in a working situation. The problem then can be reworked through the lens of the selected card or several until refined and resolved.

A card may state something like:
  • State the problem in as little words as clearly as possible.
  • What would your closest ally do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Work at a different speed.
  • Honor thy error as a hidden intention

The Oblique Strategies App

Back in 2008, Lifehacker wrote about the Oblique Strategy iPhone app,which now added a simple interface to a legendary creative tool.

The app is still available for free at the iTunes store and was updated this year by creator, Viktor Kelemen. It's highly rated.  There is also an app available for Android users here.

Using this simple technique and its app to clear creative paths would put you and your team right up there with artists like Coldplay, David Bowie, MGMT, who have used the cards while working on music albums. Give it a try and let us know how it goes.

Do you use any apps or similar techniques to help clear barriers to creativity and innovation within your business? Let us know which ones you like best in the comments below.

About the Author

Valerie M. Russo, Social Innovation Lead, Senior Strategist at IIR USA, has a background in technology, anthropology, marketing and publishing.  Russo has worked in a variety of digital media roles at Hachette Book Group, Aol, and Thomson Reuters. She is a published poet and maintains a literary blog. She may be reached at Follow her @Literanista.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Myth of Hiring Passionate Employees

Often, I hear companies talk about wanting to hire passionate people who care deeply about the company's aims and mission, and for a good reason.  Passionate employees are more likely to lend a helping hand, put in more hours, and generally go the extra mile.  They are also less likely to take vacations and sick leave, and are more likely to stay with the company.  The key word here is likely, and all of these points presume that any passion the employees bring in can actually survive in the firm.

That is, what matters more than a potential hire's passion is whether the company stokes passion:

  • Does the company have an inspiring mission?  
  • Do managers encourage their employees to go the extra mile and give them the resources and autonomy to do so?  
  • Is failure acceptable so that people don't feel punished for a well-intentioned (and well-reasoned!) attempt to be helpful?  
  • Are people rewarded for taking initiative?
  • Can employees see the meaning of their work and the impact they make?  

Note that all of these questions have everything to do with the culture of the company and nearly nothing to do with the employee.  Some companies think that if they just hire a critical mass of passionate people that things will get done, but this is hardly going to ring true unless the culture, and especially the management, makes getting things done a possibility.

What really facilitates the benefits of having a passionate employee is rolling out the red CARPET:

Challenges -- an employee can use his/her skills to the fullest, such that (s)he must do her best every day
Autonomy -- an employee has the freedom to act in accordance with his/her passion
Resources -- an employee has the wherewithal to go the extra mile
Professional development -- an employee has opportunities to learn and grow in/with the company
Enthusiasm -- an employee can share his/her enthusiasm with others and have it reciprocated
Tangible impact -- an employee can tell that what (s)he is doing is meaningful and valuable

Without these six items, an applicant's passion matters only with regard to how miserable (s)he will be at the job, as there is nothing worse for a passionate employee than having their gung-ho spirit crushed in a choking office culture.

Thus, rather than hiring for passion, a company's primary focus needs to be on rolling out the red CARPET to create a passion-rich environment for its employees.  After that, the firm need only look for applicants who fit the company culture, secure in the knowledge that any such hire it makes will be a innovative contributor.


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.

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