Thursday, January 31, 2013

See which companies are attending FEI EMEA

There are 3 key ingredients that take a conference from a nice to have to a MUST ATTEND: Unparalleled Content, Immediate Actionability and Meaningful Networking.

Now in its 7th year, Front End of Innovation EMEA has a proven history of delivering all three.

Unparalleled Content: Providing all new stories from the best of academia and corporate (from the former CEO of 3M to the CMO of GE Healthcare)... plus 50+ additional perspectives.

Immediate Actionability: Throughout the event, attendees participate in real-time working groups and are challenged to produce real solutions to real challenges. All attendees will receive a copy of the conference Executive Summary summarizing key takeaways for easy implementation and sharing.

Meaningful Networking: Our proprietary Matchmaking program makes it easy to find the right people among the hundreds that attend, so you can form career-long relationships. Attending companies to date include:

Alloy Ltd
AP Moller Maersk A/S
Arcelik AS
Audi AG
BD Medical Pharmaceutical Systems
BeeOne GmbH
Boxwood Ltd
Brand Management Group
Britvic Soft Drinks Ltd
Caracta Business Direction
Coca-Cola Co
Coloplast AS
Columbia University
Creaholic SA
Danish Technological Institute
De Beukelaar Groep
Dentsply IH AB
Dow Corning Europe SA
DSM Food Specialties
DSM Innovation Center
Ernst & Young GmbH
European Patent Office
Evonik Industries AG
FFG - Austrian Research Promotion Agency
FH Technikum Wien
Firmenich Inc
Firmenich SA
FunderMax GmbH
GE Healthcare
General Mills
Grundfos A/S
Grundfos Management As
Heineken International
Henkel AG & Co KGaA
Innovate how to Innovate
Innovation Leadership Network
Innovia Technology
Invest in Finland
K is K Consumer Centric Concepting
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Lego Systems Inc
Lyse Energi AS
Mars GmbH
Motorola Solutions
MSD Denmark
MSD Sharp & Dohme GmbH
My Replenish
Nestle PTC Lebensmittelforschung GmbH
Nestle Research Center
Nestle System Technology Centre
NineSigma Europe
No Idea
Nokia Mobile Phones
Novo Nordisk A/S
Pepsico India Holdings PVT LTD.
PFI Plattform for Innovation Management
Philip Morris ApS
Philip Morris Switzerland SA
Philips Lighting
PMI Engineering SA
Point-Blank Int GmbH
Procter & Gamble
Rabobank Nederland
Reliance Industries Limited
Scandinavian Tobacco Group A/S
Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh & Lothian
Siemens AG
Swiss Post International
Swisscom Mobile AG
The KaosPilots - International School of
Toyota Motor Europe NV
Universitaet Wien Bibliotheks- und Archivwesen
Value Leap
Vlerick Business School
Vodafone Group Services GmbH
Ziggo BV

FEI EMEA has a proven history of bringing together the best of the best in innovation across the EMEA. Join us for FEI EMEA 2013 in Copenhagen and experience for yourself why the FEI brand is recognized as the World Leader in Advancing Innovation.

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  

The Front End of Innovation Event Team

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Managing Smart Cookies

English: Peanut butter cookie with a chocolate...
 (Photo: Wikipedia)
One of the most difficult challenges I have been hearing about of late is managing really smart people. 

Innovating companies unquestionably need the best people they can find, and are looking to hire the most intelligent, creative, and talented people possible.

Depending on how the terms are defined[1], and the method used for hiring top candidates (see my post on that[2]), the result can be employees who are way more knowledgeable, smart, etc., than their higher-ups in the company.

This is a management minefield, and while a number of articles have come out about managing "geeks," many of the ones I have seen are well-meaning attempts to explain the nature of the geeks.  By contrast, the focus here is about how a manager can deal with more-intelligent, more-experienced, and more-skilled subordinates.

It's hard!  

Might as well address the elephant in the room: managing people with higher capabilities can feel very threatening to the ego, and likewise to one's position (if they're more talented, perhaps they can replace you!), which makes the task seem far harder than expected.  Smart cookies tend to ask more questions, challenge managers more often, deviate from assignment specs in the name of doing something better, try to "improve" things that the manager thinks are sufficiently effective, explain things in detailed and complicated ways that others do not understand, and tend to question or ignore company policies that they find unreasonable (like getting around company firewalls to visit blocked sites).  Each of these is tough to deal with by itself, but the full set can be daunting!  Yet, there are a number of effective strategies that managers can use for handling these challenges.

Termination is not a good option.

First of all, turnover is expensive!  All the costs of hiring, onboarding, and training add up to a significant sum, so it is far more worthwhile to learn how to manage someone effectively than it is to replace the person.  Second, talent is hard to find, and talent has plenty of options if you or your company can't handle them.  Recession notwithstanding (not to mention the many errors companies make in seeking talent), smart cookies are always in demand, and they are not a dime a dozen.  If you find a smart cookie, keep it!

You're the manager, not the doer.  

A smart cookie's job is doing; your job is managing.  This is a key difference, and it's one that you must remember.  Managing means providing tasks, goals, and resources, along with project integration, coordination, and timelines.  As a manager, you should understand what your employees' jobs are, and how those jobs are generally done, but only so that you will be more effective in providing clear goals, reasonable tasks and timelines, the right resources, etc.  Even if your smart cookies are twice as good at what they do as you would be, remember that this doesn't matter because you're not doing what they're doing, and you shouldn't have to do so, either.  When you delegate tasks, remember that you are also delegating responsibility.  As such, give your smart cookie all the freedom you can (see below) so that (s)he can mobilize his/her capabilities in the way that (s)he finds most effective.  Correct and coach as necessary.

This is not a threat to my authority! 
When managing smart cookies, this is the mantra.  They don't have your job, and many of them don't want your job.  When your smart cookie challenges you, start by remembering that you are the one with the authority, and that (s)he is not threatening that in any way (and probably has no desire to do so!).  In most cases, the challenge is about the fundamental aspects of what the smart cookie is working on, such as the ultimate aim of the project, the method assigned for accomplishing it, or some rule or policy that doesn't make sense to him/her.  Where possible, indulge the challenge, and make a time in the near future to sit down with your smart cookie for a meeting of the minds, and take advantage of all of his/her ideas (after all, you were smart enough to hire that cookie -- get every crumb you can!).  Ultimately, you may need to override the challenge, but there are easy ways to do so (see below).

Handle challenges quickly.  

Sometimes, managers don't have the time or energy to indulge the challenge because they are juggling more balls than even their superiors would consider reasonable and they are stressed/frazzled/exhausted.  If you are in those circumstances, take two minutes (rest assured, you have them!) and do the following:

1) Acknowledge the challenge
2) Point out that you don't have time to deal with it now
3) Acknowledge that (s)he may be right [perhaps even on every point], but that you/company can't deal with any changes [even if they are better!].
4) Where relevant, point out that the smart cookie's work is being integrated with other work and that there is no time to change the standards/specs for this project (and a reminder here that the perfect is the enemy of the good -- managers know this, but even smart cookies might not).  

Getting good results out of challenges.  

If you think you will have some time later, suggest that the smart cookie write up the challenge as a memo, clearly outlining the problems and solutions, and make a time for him/her to present it to you, and later to the team -- reward good memos and ideas with nothing less than public praise (if not some bonuses [see here for ideas]).  If you think the employee will have the time to put some extras into the final product, offer him/her the opportunity to do so, and make sure to give it some attention, feedback, exposure, and praise/bonus if it is good.

Give smart cookies room to shine.  

In many cases, over-reliance on rules, specs, and procedures can cramp the talent right out of your smart cookie, and sap his/her initiative besides.  As much as possible, provide your smart cookie with the leeway to pursue a goal as (s)he sees fit.  Keep in mind that there may be a lot of questions up front as (s)he clarifies the main goals of the task, the purpose/meaning of the task, and what it is you really want.  This kind of front-loading prevents people from bugging you throughout the project to get clarification on specs -- as interruptions are costly, and you're going to spend the time one way or another, make the time up front.  Additionally, the front-loading provides sufficient background for the employee to take initiative and be creative in light of the project's goals.  Thus, as much as possible, give smart cookies a desired end-result, answer their front-loaded clarifying questions, and then step back and prepare to be wowed.

You are the coordinator.  

Even though smart cookies may have superior know-how with regard to doing, you have the coordination and integration skills.  Just as you need to respect their capabilities, they need to respect your integration and coordination needs.  Remind them of this as necessary, but remember that they are not in your position, and do not have your perspective.  As such, even though their "better" ideas will make sense to you, they may be beyond the grasp of the stakeholders!  It is your job as the manager to know what stakeholders need and can handle, and you may need to remind your smart cookie to respect your knowledge and experience in that realm (be as gentle with reminders as you would like them to be with their challenges -- it sets the tone!). 

Managing is not about fairness; it is about coordination and flexibility.

This is one of the hardest lessons for managers to learn, and also one of the hardest to articulate.  This holds double when it comes to things like company policy.  Consider this: many policies come about because some exceptional idiot did something irresponsible, and now everyone is presumed to be similarly idiotic.

Especially with your smart cookies, the latter assumption is a bad one.  If they want to duck policy, and you don't see any harm in it, indulge them (or turn a blind eye).  If your company blocks a gaming site, and your smart cookie likes to game while (s)he ponders (or needs that kind of break), what difference does it make if (s)he is working hard and his/her products are good?  Don't assume that the game time would end up being productive work time -- people need incubation, and they also need breaks[3].  Consider the flexibility and attendant frustrations of allowing minor violations as the costs of "Wow!"

Having smart cookies work for you is good for your ego.

Call it an indecorous truth if you must, but having smart cookies in your employ is an ego-booster.  After all, it means you are awesome enough that top talent wants to work for you, you are clever enough to identify and hire top talent, and you have the top-notch management skills to keep top talent and enable it to produce great works.

Better than that, your group's fantastic products will get you and your team lots of recognition and rewards from your higher-ups (that can mean bonuses and promotions for you).  Remember that you're in charge of the team, so your name goes on all the great stuff it produces!

So don't sweat managing smart cookies.  It's eminently feasible, it's good for the company, and it's really good for you!

Orin's Asides
1) Never mind how vague the terms "intelligent," "creative," and "talented" actually are.  Even scientists can't find consensus on how to define them in a measurable way.
2) Also see Ron Riggio's two articles on avoiding wacky interview questions that supposedly help people find top talent.
3) This is a focal point in my research.  Feel free to ask me about it or join one of my studies. </research plug>


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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What we can learn from Pandas about corporate Innovation?

A few weeks ago, Thomas Blekman, Chief Effectuation Officer at Effectuation Intelligence Netherlands and lecturer in Corporate Effectuation and Strategy at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, shared this warning, "If we don't want to turn into the next Kodak, we should apply corporate effectuation."

He offers us a snippet of what innovations lessons we gleam from pandas in the video below:


Intrigued? We invite you to join Thomas as he discusses "The Orchestration of Effectuation: How Managers Can Organize Entrepreneurial Behavior in a Corporate Setting" in the FEI Classroom at the FEI EMEA 2013 conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, taking place on March 4-6. Don't miss your opportunity to hit the books and join us as we go back to school.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to get a Free Pass to Front End of Innovation EMEA Conference

We’re offering an exclusive all-access complimentary pass (a £2,225 value) to attend the 2013 Front End of Innovation EMEA event in 4-6 March 2013 in Copenhagen.

We’re looking for experienced bloggers who are well-versed in innovation to begin blogging now and also at this year’s event. In return for your posts, you’ll be able to connect with FEI speakers and fellow attendees, attend educational sessions and training seminars delivered by industry thought-leaders and corporate practitioners on the content areas of innovation.

To apply to be a guest blogger, simply send your name, title, company, writing sample(s) (a link to your blog is recommended) and a few sentences about why we should choose you to be our 2013 guest blogger to

BLOGGER is responsible for all hotel & travel costs.

We will review the submissions and contact the chose guest blogger directly with more details.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Consumer Trends Innovators Need to Be Aware Of in 2013

Recently, we've been asking for product recommendations on LinkedIn from those who have attended an FEI event. One such recommendation, written by Mikel Cirkus, Global Director, Conceptual Design at Firmenich, included the following sentence "Innovation without foresight is like hunting blindfolded."

We couldn't agree more, and that's why the Front End of Innovation EMEA program is packed with sessions that will fulfill your foresight needs: from our annual Trenz®Walk: to our Future Trends summit, to our keynote address, "Tapping Into and Profiting from the Hottest Consumer Trends" with Henry Mason, TRENDWATCHING.COM recently released their 2013 Trend Briefing, and you can bet that some of these spaces will be ripe for innovations. Take a look at some of our favorites:


“Emerging brands from all over are catering to emerging middle classes from all over.”

While the last two decades were about developed markets catering to emerging ones, and emerging markets increasingly catering to developed ones; now get ready for an explosion in products and services from emerging markets for emerging markets.

Think Chinese and Brazilian brands selling to the middle classes in Turkey, India or South Africa. Or vice versa.

On top of that, with these emerging market brands having cut their teeth operating in fast-rising emerging markets and catering to ever-more important emerging middle classes, expect even more of the next global mass market powerhouses to come from emerging markets.

The numbers sure are juicy: in 2013, the GDP of emerging markets will exceed advanced markets for the first time (measured in Purchasing Power Parity terms) to USD 44.1 trillion versus USD 42.7 trillion (Source: IMF, October 2012).

One exercise for anyone (whether you’re in an emerging market or not) with global ambition: ask yourself who are the new power players in your industry?


"Digital technologies are the new medicine, as doctors and physicians turn to health apps and services to improve health outcomes. We flagged the rise of DIY HEALTH* last year but increasingly, with over 13,000 health apps in the Apple app store it’s not a case now of finding an app, but finding the BEST one, and – given that this is a health issue – one that is accurate and safe. So in 2013, expect consumers to turn to the medical profession and medical institutions to certify and curate these products, with doctors also 'prescribing' them, much as they prescribe medicines, as part of a course of treatment. And for health providers, these digital ‘medicines’ promise to reduce costs by making consumers more aware of their health, improve compliance, and allow remote monitoring that can pick up warning signals earlier. Even if you’re not in the health industry, and think APPSCRIPTIONS isn’t relevant for you, we bet that an hour spent considering the bigger underlying trend – towards mobile driven service delivery – could yield some profitable new insights. * DIY HEALTH was about consumers using tech to track, manage, monitor and improve their health. Usually in an informal and self-imposed way."

"If data is the new resource, expect consumers in 2013 to start demanding their share of its value.

To date, the ‘big data’ discussion has focused on the value of customer data to businesses. Now, increasingly savvy consumers will start to reverse the flow: seeking to own and make the most of their lifestyle data, and turning to brands that use this data to proactively offer customers help and advice on how to improve their behavior and/ or save money.

Of course, this is nothing new in the world of entertainment (think film recommendations and re-read our TWINSUMER Trend Briefing from 2005 ;-) but in 2013 expect even 'mundane' industries to start taking consumers' data and making it useful.

A word of warning: brands will have to walk a fine line between offering consumers a valuable (and ideally seamless) service, and freaking them out with aggressive if not downright scary 'services'. Yes, consumers want to feel served to, but they don't like to be watched."
You can catch up on all of's "10 Consumer Trends for 2013" on their website. Which of these do you think holds the greatest potential for innovation? One of the above, or perhaps one we didn't mention here?

Register now to join Henry Mason of and other leaders in foresight at the Front End of Innovation EMEA. Save 15% off the standard rate by mentioning code: FEI13BLOG

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She is the voice of the Front End of Innovation EMEA event on twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Innovation Insights: Interview with Stefan Lindegaard

Leading up to the 2013 Front End of Innovation EMEA event, we'll be chatting with some of our dynamic speakers for a sneak peek of what they have in store for this year's conference.

Stefan Lindegaard, whose work for 15inno we featured here last week, will be presenting "Using Social Media for Innovation Efforts."

He was kind enough to complete a brief interview for our blog, including the following insights:

What’s the first step you’d recommend for someone just getting started with social media innovation efforts?

This starts with a simple question: “What’s in it for me?” If you can’t find “business” reasons for you to engage with social media, then you need to give this some thought first. The same goes for leaders asking their people to start using social media. This is worthless if you don’t have an answer to this question first.

The “What’s in it for me?” question is not about money; it’s more about how you can get better at your work by using social media. An example could be that a corporate innovation team can identify the right partners for innovation ecosystems faster if they know how to use the search functionality on LinkedIn. It starts with their challenge on finding the right people. Once they know this challenge, they can start looking into how - or if - social media can help.

This takes us to the next important step. Most corporate innovation teams – as well as many individuals – need to find ways to upgrade their mindset and skills on how to use social media for business reasons. Hopefully, they can find some good insights in my book. 

Read the full transcript of the interview here. 

Register now to join  Stefan Lindegaard and other innovation leaders at the Front End of Innovation EMEA. Save 15% off the standard rate by mentioning code: FEI13BLOG

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She is the voice of the Front End of Innovation EMEA event on twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn

Monday, January 21, 2013

Why You Should Invest in the Front End of Innovation

If there was one year, you couldn’t miss the FEI conference – this is it.

See what past Front End of Innovation attendees
had to say about the value of their FEI Experiences:

You can view more personal endorsements here and even add your own.

2013 is a year of moving forward, collaborating with the best from industry and academia to transform uncertainty into opportunity. FEI is your catalyst to do just that- to drive purposeful change. Download the conference brochure here.

2013 event highlights include:

A Powerhouse Keynote Lineup Featuring:

Keith Sawyer, Author, Group Genius, Professor of Psychology, Education and Business, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
Laurenz Schaffer, President, BMW GROUP DESIGNWORKSUSA
Vivek Wadwah, VP of Academics and Innovation, SINGULARITY UNIVERSITY
Denise Morrison, President & CEO, CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY
David B. Angus MD, Co-Founder, NAVIGENICS; Professor of Medicine and Engineering, USC
Alexander Osterwalder, Author, Business Model Generation
Wim Elfrink, SVP and Chief Globalization Officer, CISCO
Todd Henry, Author, The Accidental Creative
Nelson Farris, Chief Storyteller, Director, Culture & Heritage, NIKE

In depth focus into the most critical issues facing the industry:

Technology and the Race for the Future
The Science of Creativity: Creativity as a Core Competency
Why Won’t You Let Me Innovate? Championing the Environment for Success
Challenge the Status Quo: Creating Future Value through Business Model Reinvention
The World Turned Upside Down: Winning in Emerging Markets
Design as a Catalyst for Solving Complex Problems
Leveraging Voice of the Customer to Deliver Breakthrough Product Performance
Ideation and Collaboration: Finding the Next Big Idea
Turning Foresight into Action
Portfolio Management as a Tool to Strengthen Decision Making in R&D

Register by January 25 & Save $700.

Join us and make an invaluable investment into your future and the success of your business.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Flashback Friday: Video Interview with Alberto Alessi after the 2012 FEI EMEA

Last year at the Front End of Innovation EMEA, Alberti Alessi, President, Alessi s.p.a. presented "Daring Intuition: Living on the Borderline of Possible and Not Possible."

This event summary deck from Pure Insight details some of the key takeaways from the session (starting at slide 26):

In this video, our conference chair Dr. Peter A. Meier caught up with Alessi to ask him some of the questions we didn't have time for during his dynamic live session. Watch the video for a behind the scenes peek at the Front End of Innovation EMEA:

For more conversations like this, join Dr. Peter A. Meier as he chairs our 2013 event 4 - 6 March, 2013 in Copenhagen.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reminder: Book Your Room for FEI EMEA!

Will you be joining us at the Front End of Innovation EMEA in Copenhagen? Time is running out to reserve your hotel room at the special conference rate.

Attendees should book their reservation at and add BIIR020313 in the code box to receive the conference discounted room rate of DKK 1550 = Euro 210.00.

Rate cut-off date is 18 January 2013.

Hotel Scandic Copenhagen is located in central Copenhagen, with stunning views over the water and Copenhagen city, and close to attractions such as Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens. The hotel is one of Copenhagen's tallest buildings with a bird's-eye view of the city. Copenhagen's attractions are right on your doorstep when you stay at hotel Scandic Copenhagen. Tivoli amusement park, Nyhavn and Stroeget shopping street are all within walking distance of the hotel.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Three Reasons To Keep Taking Innovation Chances from Stefan Lindegaard

We recently noted that not only has innovation not peaked, but we believe this will be the most innovative decade in human history and recent comments from our LinkedIn group are in agreement. However, we can't just sit comfortably and take this as fact; complacency is the enemy of innovation, companies and individuals need to continue to take chances.

Three recent posts on 15inno by Stefan Lindegaard highlighted this theme for me, showing me (at least!) three reasons to keep taking innovation chances.

1. Even innovation mainstays risk being overtaken by more nimble competitors.

In "Why P&G No Longer Leads Open Innovation" Lindegaard writes "You can get complacent or you might start protecting your position too much. The latter could result in a behavior that is too defensive, which could lead to not investing enough in staying ahead of the competition."

2. In a changing world, you can't rely on opportunities coming to you the way they once did

In "Are Universities, Tech Transfer Units Open Innovation Losers?" Lindegaard notes that complacency may be challenging the university space as well, writing "many universities are still stuck in an old-times mentality or structure making them believe that they can just make their assets publicly known, set the terms and wait for the big companies to come begging for access to their assets."

3. Even Innovation Programs Can Become Predictable

Lastly, in his January 8th piece on "The Future State of Open Innovation" he writes "Too often, [corporate innovation champions] are playing catch up rather than trying to make their organization competitively unpredictable by using the innovation toolbox." Getting stuck on one way of managing innovation or generating ideas is apt to mire you in some of the same problems your company faced before embracing an innovation program. Keep taking chances and evolving to embrace new developments, and don't get hung up on the buzzwords.

Lindegaard is a prolific resource on innovation; his site,,  is always an excellent read and at the upcoming Front End of Innovation EMEA conference, Lindegaard will be presenting "Using Social Media for Innovation Efforts." I'm looking forward to being challenged to greater innovations then.

Register now to join  Stefan Lindegaard and other innovation leaders at the Front End of Innovation EMEA. Save 15% off the standard rate by mentioning code: FEI13BLOG

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She is the voice of the Front End of Innovation EMEA event on twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn

Monday, January 14, 2013

Innovator Spotlight: Sir George Buckley

In a March 2010 feature, the Wall Street Journal Sir George Buckley, then CEO of 3M, was quoted as saying: "If you don't invest in the future, there isn't going to be one. A lot of the stuff we spend on may not deliver a product for two or three years. There may be no return. But the alternative—not doing—is worse," but also "We often think innovation is making a breakthrough at the top of the pyramid. That's often not where the hardest challenges are. The hardest challenges are often: How do I make a breakthrough for next to nothing?"

In what continues to be a challenging economy, the issue remains the same. We need to innovate. We certainly can't do nothing, but how do we make that next breakthrough when budgets are strained to the breaking-point?

3M celebrated a "century of innovation" as far back as 2002, but even this market leader found themselves struggling in today's marketplace. In this feature with Economist Magazine, Buckley shares some ideas for facing innovation challenges:

My key takeaways include:
Make room for failure through diversity - be in having many different projects or working in different sectors.
Keep one eye on the quarter, but one eye on the long term. "Unless you play in the long-term, the future won't be there when you want it."

To hear more, join Sir George Buckley, 3M, ARLE CAPITAL PARTNERS for his keynote session "Revitalizing Growth and Innovation in the World's Oldest Innovative Company" at Front End of Innovation EMEA on 5 March 2013.  Register & Save 15% off the standard rate  Mention code: FEI13BLOG

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She is the voice of the Front End of Innovation EMEA event on twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Which Innovation News do you want first? The Good News or The Bad News?

Which Innovation News do you want first?  The Good News or The Bad News?  

The Good News:  You know your company must embrace innovation if they’re going to survive this economy.  You’ve done your homework; you know you need easy-to-use yet powerful technology.  You enable everyone to work together.   Contributions are captured.  Your organization’s executives are on the bandwagon.  They’ve delivered a great kick off speech and let everyone know they’re encouraged to put aside time for innovation.

You’ve selected the best technology to serve as the backbone for this new-found culture of innovation.  You begin to assemble all your smart people on line so they can collaborate.  You’ve identified the “early adopter” types in your organization so you can empower them to be leaders.  Those individuals with common areas of interest are identified and grouped.  

  • You’ve identified the challenges most likely to yield incremental innovations so you’ll get some quick wins to both cost justify all the expense and to keep everyone excited about the endeavor.   
  • You’ve taken the issues your senior executives lose sleep over and translated those into challenges your team members can mull over and make contributions toward.    
  • You have a plan to (down the line) invite your vendors, your distributors, your partners, your customers and academic experts with useful domain knowledge into the process.
  • Smart people are making useful contributions based on your guidance and the encouragement of management.   
  • You’re getting great ideas.   
  • Good ideas are pulling in additional opinions, enriching the very best ideas.  
  • The system automatically generates wonderful reports noting growing adoption rates, high activity numbers and detailed packages for the best ideas, readying these winning concepts for production.
OK Now The Bad News:  (Cue the evil music.)  Although people are suggesting great ideas, there are those in your organization wearing black hats.  Their comments are not devil’s advocate in nature.   The comments shoot down the new ideas, as well as shooting down the inventor who posted the new concept.  It appears these “Negative Nellie” –types gleefully push down other folk's creative thinking.   Team members who stuck their necks out are suddenly discouraged; they’re self censoring.

Idea submission comes to a screeching halt.  You can watch the graphs trend downward.  You’re contemplating the destroying the “Mission Accomplished” banner.  

What To Do? 
Well you can have the software alert you whenever these people contribute so you’re poised to  moderate these comments.  You can edit their work.  You can delete their negative contributions.  But here’s where I’m going to suggest a more extreme action plan…You need to give them the boot from the collaborative environment.  

You need to ask them to leave.   You’re essentially “unfriending” them.  Of course you can give them read only access so they stay in the loop but they can’t put forth their destructive attitudes.   

My premise is this: 
Those with conservative prejudices can not only derail the positive energy and the thought processes of your go-getters…they’re likely not adding too much to the conversation anyway.   

Closed-minded people have impaired creative problem-solving skills.

What you might be missing by taking this action…One of the great things about collaborative environments is the way the technology can enable knowledge transfer and sharing.   

A collaborative environment can facilitate positive mentoring.   

When college graduates come to your organization fresh from school, they’re usually missing the “real world” expertise required to do their jobs effectively.  

The collaborative process helps those senior domain experts share best practices with the next generation.  It’s essential to growing the next generation of expert team members.  But as we know (anyone who tried to teach their grandmothers to use email) more senior folks can be resistant to new technology.  They may be equally resistant to new ideas.  They’re conservative by nature.
You want their contributions, based on their experiences, to provide their mature perspectives.  But you don’t want them to shoot down creative thinking before it even gets off the ground.  Today’s sophisticated collaborative software enables “alerts” so the system moderators can be notified when key words or phrases are posted so action can be taken.  Thos who evidence themselves as destructive contributors can be “followed” so that all their contributions are brought to the moderators’ attention; their negative input …well…moderated.

The technology isn’t the strategy, but it is the backbone for the collaborative innovation effort.  The best software systems have built in tools to make this whole process easy.   Great contributions may be serendipitous, but luck doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Tadmor, C. “Not Just for Stereotyping Anymore:  Racial Essentialism Reduces Domain-General Creativity”, Psychological Science Journal.

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) . You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.
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, Doctors without Borders, Eandis, Imec, Phillip Morris, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp.

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