I had the pleasure of attending my fourth Front End of Innovation conference, held this year in Boston. The place was packed with the most creative, smart (and by definition) innovative people one could hope to meet. If satisfying your intellectual curiosity is important to you, this was a great place to engage in wonderful conversations. I did A LOT OF listening!
The list of attendees numbered over 400. Each of these folks spend their day job work day focused on how to be innovative, how to produce innovative products, how to use innovation processes at their companies or they just plain study the topic of innovation. If you didn’t get a chance to go, here are a few notes on my experience.
Here's a panoramic view of the exhibit floor during lunch.
There are generally four types of people at the show.
- There are those who are interested in launching a collaborative innovation program at their company.
- There are those whose focus is on innovative design.
- There are a number of people who are chartered to find exciting new products or services that their company can license or buy (I call them “scouts”).
- And lastly there are a slew of folks like me, presenting a technology or consulting offering that can facilitate the innovation process.
There were half a dozen authors at the show and upon my departure my suitcase was laden with signed copies of new books with the word “innovation” in the title. Oh yeah, I also got a free mini umbrella, two small stuffed animals and a T-shirt in a pretty trendy color.
Here are some of the things I learned this year.
1. New Information Presented in New Ways
During one session focused on how to get the people on your team to participate in the innovation process, the person sitting next to me commented that they’d heard this type of message before.
But I pointed out that our presenter
- was delivering some new insights based on his experience actually launching programs;
- that he was offering some best practices gleaned via trial and error;
- and that for many in the audience, this was the first time they heard that Adoption and Engagement was an important topic deserving attention.
We learned (at least) that rolling out an innovation program needs to be done properly…and that you likely get only one chance to get it right lest you lose the confidence of your team.
The speaker also pointed out you need a few high quality participants, not a high volume of participants.
2. New Innovative Approaches to Get the Word Out
There seemed to be fewer vendors represented on the show floor, although at least eighteen companies stepped up to man a booth. It is no small expense to have a booth at a show like this, and each of these companies have enough confidence in the innovation arena to put forth this significant investment.
Plus a number of companies offered their sponsorship in other ways.
- Some companies sponsored “Tracks”; the topic of the day.
- Others sponsored the presentation of case studies during sessions.
- Still more sponsored lunches, cocktail parties and even the lanyards for our name tags.
The audience got to hear the messages of a variety of different innovation companies in a variety of different ways.
3. New Players in the Innovation World
As usual I had great conversations with very smart people during shared meals, in the halls between sessions and on the exhibit floor. I heard from companies who are just getting into innovation and came to learn what the leaders have already accomplished. I spoke with organizations that have embraced innovation for at least a decade and came to share their successes (and hear about the success of others). Some came to hear what people are doing in other industries with the hope that they can take those experiences and use them in their own field.
4. New Business Opportunities
The most important measure of success when it comes to “show participation” for a company like mine, a company offering collaborative innovation software, is how many companies are kicking off new projects that require our technology. Not to be too mercenary about it, but those “leads” are the benefit we’re hoping for with our sponsorship and our attendance.
And the good news is a number of very large companies came by our booth to learn more about our offering. These enterprises searching for software solutions included several companies in the CPG category, a major pharmaceutical company, several manufacturers driven by new product development and a technology company. They came to the FEI show determined to find out who was offering collaborative innovation software. I’m glad we had a booth and that I was in the booth when they stopped by.
Did I mention that Boston has Seafood?
Lastly I’d like to point out the meeting was held on Boston’s waterfront and I had the pleasure of eating fresh crab, lobster, shrimp, and oysters while enjoying great views of shiny, tall buildings, waves lapping up against the harbor and a modern, cavernous meeting space. So…good information, new and interesting people and profitable experiences. It was a great show.
About the Author
Ron Shulkin blogs researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management. 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.