Monday, September 30, 2013

The big idea: a different kind of idea

Exclusive First Read Every week through October 2013, we will post a short excerpt from our Summer Innovation Book Club Pick: Killing Ideas - You can kill an idea, you can't kill an opportunity By NewEdge CEO, Dr. Pam Henderson

Leaders want different kinds of ideas, the next generation of ideas very much alive and bursting with growth potential—not a one-dimensional idea but an idea that is multidimensional. 

These are Big Ideas, Killer Ideas, ideas that are engineered to reflect the nature of opportunity, intertwined bundles of ideas that form a compatible, attractive offer where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

…Our consumers buy the whole product not the parts. They don’t have the luxury of buying a brand separate from a product, a product separate from a price, or a package from one company and the contents from another. The whole offer is what the consumer takes home in their shopping bag. 

Individual ideas may address unmet needs; but big ideas capture opportunities.

Products end up being Six-Sourced, even if we aren’t building them that way! We need to come together to form big ideas where the parts all work together to tell the same story, the same value proposition.

… Creating big ideas is not a process of hammering out offers that are a compilation of individual pieces. Instead, it is more like a great brewing process—the interaction of the very best ingredients, in the right combination, at a specific temperature, over a critical time period, leading to the perfect brew.- Killing Ideas, Ch 6, Killer Ideas

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Voices from Last Year: Emerging Markets Approaching the Next Billion

In our series “Voices From Last Year” we have been highlighting key themes that BEI Back End of Innovation attendees took away from last year’s event. At BEI 2012 Simone Ahuja, co-author of Jugaad Innovation and Innovation & Marketing Strategist at Blood Orange, discusses the importance and relevance of emerging markets innovators all over the world.

Jugaad Innovation is a look at the mindset and principles of emerging markets innovators and how those can be applied not only in emerging markets, but why that is so important right here in the United States and in the West as we face increasing volatility, globalization and interconnectivity.

So, Ahuja said western companies need to figure out how to innovate faster, better and cheaper like many of their competitors will do if western companies don’t find a way to do it themselves.

Check out the full video below: 

This year, BEI is all about the strategy and execution of innovation. It’s a conference where the entire innovation process comes to life- from leadership & organizational structure, to optimizing the idea portfolio, to process and strategy, to commercializing new ideas, ultimately driving bottom line profitability. We hope to see you there!

Join us at BEI 2013 in November! To register, click here!

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc.
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Future of Collective Intelligence: What’s next in collaboration driven innovation technologies?

We’ve seen some marvelous technologies used to support the front end of innovation the last few years.  Electronic suggestion boxes have morphed into social networks dedicated to innovation and ideas.  But it appears the software creation leaders in this space are focusing on making them better.  A fine thing but hardly revolutionary.  The question is:  Where’s the disruptive innovation required to take this technology to the next level?

This isn’t just an intellectual exercise or a desire for more shiny things.  Studies show the use of collaboration technologies improve time to market, enhance profitability, and impact market share gains.  The competitive company of the future must have Web 2.0 tools to encourage innovation and to compete effectively.
 What big steps have been taken so far? 
Let’s hope at a minimum your idea management system has these baseline innovations incorporated.  (Tomorrow’s innovations rapidly become today’s minimum standards.  )

*     Well the biggest innovative addition is the inclusion of “inspiration” contributions into the shared process.  Users can contribute “other” or non-idea content into the mix.  This serves to inspire audience members to come up with ideas.  So for instance when challenged a user may not have an idea but they may contribute links to articles they’ve read, RSS feeds for publications the group might benefit by following, videos, images, events the team may consider attending, documents, white papers, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations.  These are shared with the hope they inspire ideas from others.
*     Workflows can be automated so promoted ideas are automatically put in front of expert teams and eventually in front of project managers prior to deployment.
Parallel patent workflows can be incorporated into the process to secure intellectual property.  This can be very important when the ideation process is exposed to so many audience members as it inherently is in a collaborative environment. 
*     Downstream idea enrichment has enhanced the front end of innovation, pushing idea collaboration further toward production ready states.  The technology enables experts to perform SWOT analysis and feasibility studies on the very best ideas to enrich them prior to production. A quantitative component enables the comparison of the best ideas before production.
*     Automatic idea promotion empowers community managers so they don’t have to wade through overwhelming numbers of ideas when crowd sourcing yields high volumes.  Automatic idea promotion fueled by social science algorithms provides reliable promotion suggestions.
*     Semantics helps identify similar content so moderators can more easily determine which ideas should be clustered or merged.  It also serves to point out useful content to ideators (“if you like this idea you might want to take a look at this similar information”).  Plus semantics can monitor users’ contributions and therefore identify subject matter experts based on the topic at hand.
*     Sidebar discussions allow non-idea (yet still required to be productive) collaborative communication.  This holds true for Polls or Questions (and the crowd sourced answers that ensue).
*     Easily managed security is a baseline requirement.  As collective intelligence scales, the security of intellectual property remains important. With external contributors and large numbers of internal users in the community, security vigilance is mandatory.  If it’s cumbersome gridlock follows.  The administrators of the idea social network must be able to easily designate who gets to see what exactly.

So what’s next?

You won’t necessarily find answers here.  I’m just asking the question.  In fact I’m hoping to see conjecture on the subject run rampant in the comments section below this blog entry.  But here are some thoughts I have on what the market might expect to enjoy.

Batch Vs. Interactive

Idea management systems, just like today’s social networks, are “batch” by nature.  User one inputs something and presses “submit” before everyone else can appreciate.  With real time message boards, interactive real time video and other “real time” technologies, the speed of collaboration and ideation becomes enhanced.  And it becomes part of an employee’s normal work day productivity.

More visuals and real time video

We have all seen the studies that visuals improve communications and understanding.  Right now images and videos can be attached to content submissions (and even into “comments”).  One advance enables chemists to collaborate on the design of a new molecule for pharma and chemical companies.  Right now Skype, Webex and GoToMeeting are separate applications.   These types of collaborative visualizations integrated into the idea social network will enhance the collaborative innovation process.  

Big data, advanced analytics

SharePoint content can be integrated into the collaborative space but “big data” has other connotations and requires different technologies to manage.  Plus it requires easy to use analytics bundled with visualization tools to appreciate, use and incorporate into the ideation process.

Integration with the Real World

We’re still in the infancy in understanding how best to use idea social networks.  The brainstorming session or other innovation “events” are for the most part a parallel activity set.  Hopefully the social network software and the events will be dovetailed so they complement each other.  Ideally with Innovation becoming a real time activity, the social network will be personified in the form of a Situation Room.  Or even better the idea social network will be part of the fabric of everyone’s workspace.  

How can we orchestrate decentralized competence centers into the collaborative space?  How do we incorporate every business competency?  How do we globalize and decentralize R&D?  How do we merge the charter of the Chief Innovation Officer with the Chief Technology Officer and for that matter with the Chief Marketing Officer?  How do we turn New Product Development on its head so it becomes not based around the launch of a product but instead supports continuous launches?  

The Internet of Things and Integration with 3D printing

For manufacturers, one of the key steps in the patent process is the moment when the first prototype is built.  Designers, engineers and others need to see the idea take form sometimes in order to move it forward.  The future idea system needs to take advantage of the Internet of Things so that production lines and 3D printing become part of the process.

Customer sourced innovation and tapping into talent

Today, with good security administration, idea social networks include crowd sourcing as part of the process.  We invite customers into the collaborative space.  Plus the trend toward outsourcing has pushed talent outside of the building, not always available when needed.  The idea social network of the future has to flexibly, swiftly and nimbly tap into customers and talent on the fly…expanding and contracting the group size as required.  The hurdles of who owns what intellectual property needs to be resolved (not necessarily a technology issue).

Into this thinking you have to incorporate the technology of Customer Experience Management and Voice of the Customer.  How are you going to listen to these people?  How are you going to identify their nature?  How are you going to reach out to them and with what message?  How will you engage; how will you cause a response to your call to action?

This same thinking extends to your employees and outside talent.  You have to ask the same questions about reaching them and communicating them.  At its heart is the question of adoption and engagement.  There’s more to it than “build it and they will come” to a collaborative system as we know.  When you open up the collaborative space to more players and more often these questions loom large and must be resolved.

Challenge:  What does the Innovation Management System of The Future Look Like?

So based on conversations with hundreds of people steeped in the innovation process the above list of future technology advancement occurred to me.  What do you think is in the innovation technology pipeline?

Ron Shulkin blogs, researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  You can learn more about Ron at his biography web You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.   

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. CogniStreamer has been rated as a “Leader” in Forrester’s recent Wave report on Innovation Management Tools. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here . Ron also manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (JoinHere).

The Game that Destroys Innovation -- Part III: A Better Game: Calm Voice

Recap: In Part I, I gave a few examples of the Game that is played in most every company.  It is an insidious game of unwritten rules that forces people to play in a sandbox of pretense so that everyone can claim to be doing the right thing.  I discussed how the Game damages both the company and its innovation efforts.  In Part II, I provided an overview for how to ferret out the Game and eliminate it.  Here in Part III, I discuss the cultural infrastructure that can keep the Game from reappearing and can even lead to major improvements throughout the company.

As I mentioned in Part II, bouncing back from the Game is akin to recovering from a disaster.  People will be raw, stressed, and concerned about both their future and the future of the company, and it will take an influx of time, effort, money, and trust, to rebuild.  But, what should be built?

After discarding the ashes of the old Game, the company must build an infrastructure that rests on nine pillars.  These must be in place fully, or the Game will reappear.  The mnemonic to remember is CALM VOICE:

1) Coaching -- When people make mistakes, and they will, they need assistance with rectifying the situation and growing from it.  Mistakes are occasions for learning and opportunities for coaching.  Coach -- don't reprimand or punish!  (Remember: turnover is expensive!)
2) Accolades -- People need to be rewarded intrinsically and/or extrinsically (as appropriate) for doing work well, and should receive extra rewards for going above and beyond the call of duty.  Exceeding expectations should not be a requirement -- raise the expectations, or raise the rewards!
3) Listening -- Management and leadership at all levels must be able to listen to employees' concerns and ideas -- they are the front line, and they often have a different perspective of which both management and leadership must be aware.
4) Mission/Meaning -- A clear and concise company mission, which doubles as its value proposition, and from which each employee can derive the meaning of his/her work.  This also serves as a benchmark that any employee can use to determine if what (s)he is doing fits with the company and whether (s)he is adding value.
5) Voice -- Employees must be able to speak up (respectfully!) and voice both disagreements and concerns without fear of retaliation.
6) Owning Up -- People need to be able to own up to mistakes and take responsibility for them without undue repercussions.
7) Ingenuity -- People need to have the freedom to unleash their ingenuity while still being cognizant of the constraints of the company (e.g., timeline, budget, etc.).
8) Collegiality -- Honesty and mutual respect must be institutional values that are operationalized at all levels.
9) Explicit -- Any unwritten rules must always be identified and acknowledged once the pattern becomes evident.

A good look at these items would reveal that nearly every good company is built on these nine elements, and it is eminently doable for any company!  Putting these pillars in place after finding a Game, however, is a long-term process that can be painful and costly in the short term, and can take at least 3-6 months for even the smallest and fastest companies.  Some people may need to leave their posts, but make sure that they are reassigned or assisted with procuring another position elsewhere so that they do not face unemployment or the tarnish of termination.

It may sound like too much, but ask what it would cost if the company does not succeed or dies a slow death.  Better yet, ask why even the sky should be the limit!

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Facing reality: opportunity stiflers & stoppers

Exclusive First Read Every week through October 2013, we will post a short excerpt from our Summer Innovation Book Club Pick: Killing Ideas - You can kill an idea, you can't kill an opportunity By NewEdge CEO, Dr. Pam Henderson

As we seek to stretch opportunity, Source by Source, we likely will come across issues that will stifle, stunt, or even stop it in its tracks. Perhaps there is a technical hurdle that must be overcome or the opportunity will be dead in the water. 

Maybe there is an impending regulation that will be tough to meet. The issue could be bad timing—the economy crashes or consumers aren’t ready. If we look carefully we will see that almost every opportunity has at least one Achilles heel—something that will be its downfall if not addressed. 

Identifying this early helps us innovate and strategize against it, or come to the conclusion that the issue is a deal breaker.

 Recognizing stiflers and stoppers early can be one of the keys to unlocking and shaping opportunity. If we can overcome them we may be able to capitalize on an opportunity that has been attacked by many—but never conquered. - Killing Ideas, Ch 5, Big Starters

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Humanoids: From Kicking a Ball to Saving Lives at BEI 2013

BEI: Back End of Innovation gives you the more you need to take a great idea and make it happen. Speakers from Coca Cola, Eli Lilly, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic and more will share best practices in strategy, bringing ideas forward, product launch and turning ideas into growth that you can implement in your organization. 

Dennis Hong, Associate Professor, Founding Director of RoMeLa, Virginia Tech and BEI 2013 Keynote has said that "just a spark of idea and development is not good enough. There's only so much one can do with just a genius idea and creativity, and good engineering and intuition. We need more than that."

And he's right. An idea isn't enough, it's about taking that idea and making it a reality.

Keynote Spotlight:

Humanoids: From Kicking a Ball to Saving Lives

Can humanoid robots save lives? Will they have the capacity to be our friends? Hear how Dennis Hong, Founding Director of Virginia Tech's Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory, is making this happen and meet some of his groundbreaking robots.

November 18-20, 2013
Hyatt Regency
Santa Clara, CA

Download the brochure for full details:

Mention code BEI13LINK & Save 15% off the standard rate. Register today:

We hope to see you in November!

The BEI Team

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Announcing Front End of Innovation EMEA 2014 in Munich

We are thrilled to announce the release of the 2014 Front End of Innovation EMEA conference agenda, and want to personally invite you to the 8th annual event, taking place 4-6 February 2014, at the Marriott Hotel in Munich, Germany.

FEI EMEA continues to connect you to relevant change and to relevant change-makers responsible for trends, innovation, design, R&D, and product development from all across the EMEA. For 2014, we've added some can't miss elements to truly drive innovation implementation:

Innovation Field Trips: Travel to the Munich headquarters of Nokia Siemens Network, BMW Designworks, or IDEO to tour their physical innovation space and participate in a presentation/Q&A.

Munich Trenz®Walk: Generate actionable trend insights that result in new business opportunities as you embark in a culture safari around Munich's most cutting edge areas.

New Focus Areas: Innovation Acceleration, Innovation Networks, the Diffusion of Innovation, Teaching for Innovation.

Plus! Innovation Superheroes join forces on stage in Munich, including:
Navi Radjou, Author, Jugaad Innovation
Gunter Dueck, former CTO, IBM
Frank Stephenson, Legendary Design Director, McLaren
John Bessant, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Exeter
Gabriele Zedlmayer, VP Sustainability and Social Innovation, HP
Magnus Lindkvist,Trendspotter, Futurologist, and Author, Everything We Know is Wrong

We invite YOU - the next series of breakthrough thinkers, dreamers, and, most importantly, doers - to join us this February!

The FEI EMEA 2014 brochure is now available.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Disruptive Innovation: Moving at the Speed of People

More-with-less is our mantra for innovation. But these three simple words are dangerous because they push us almost exclusively toward efficiency.

On the surface, efficiency innovations sound good, and they can be, but more often than not efficiency innovations are about less and fewer. When you create a new technology that does more and costs less the cost reduction comes from fewer hours by fewer people. And if the cash created by the efficiency finances more efficiency, there are fewer jobs. When you create an innovative process that enables a move from machining to forming, hard tooling and molding machines reduce cost by reducing labor hours. And if the profits fund more efficiency, there are fewer jobs.

When you create an innovative new material that does things better and costs less, the reduced costs come from fewer labor hours to process the material. And if more efficiency is funded, there are less people with jobs. (The cost reduction could also come from lower cost natural resources, but their costs are low partly because digging them up is done with fewer labor hours, or more efficiently.)

But more-with-less and the resulting efficiency improvements are helpful when their profits are used to fund disruptive innovation. With disruptive innovation the keywords are still less and fewer, but instead of less cost, the product’s output is less; and instead of fewer labor hours, the product does fewer things and satisfies fewer people.

It takes courage to run innovation projects that create products that do less, but that’s what has to happen. When disruptive technologies are young they don’t perform as well as established technologies, but they come with hidden benefits that ultimately spawn new markets, and that’s what makes them special. But in order to see these translucent benefits you must have confidence in yourself, openness, and a deep personal desire to make a difference. But that’s not enough because disruptive innovations threaten the very thing that made you successful – the products you sell today and the people that made it happen. And that gets to the fundamental difference between efficiency innovations and disruptive innovations.

Efficiency innovations are about doing the familiar in a better way – same basic stuff, similar product functionality, and sold the same way to the same people. Disruptive innovations are about doing less than before, doing it with a less favorable cost signature, and doing it for different (and far fewer) people. Where efficiency innovation is familiar, disruptive innovation is contradictory. And this difference sets the pace of the two innovations. Where efficiency innovation is governed by the speed of the technology, disruptive innovation is governed by the speed of people.

With efficiency innovations, when the technology is ready it jumps into the product and the product jumps into the market. With disruptive innovations, when the technology is ready it goes nowhere because people don’t think it’s ready – it doesn’t do enough. With efficiency innovations, the new technology serves existing customers so it launches; with disruptive, technology readiness is insufficient because people see no existing market and no existing customers so they make it languish in the corner. With efficiency, it launches when ready because margins are better than before; with disruptive, it’s blocked because people don’t see how the new technology will ultimately mature to overtake and replace the tired mainstream products (or maybe because they do.)

Done poorly efficiency innovation is a race to the bottom; done well it funds disruptive innovation and the race to the top. When coordinated the two play together nicely, but they are altogether different. One is about doing the familiar in a more efficient way, and the other is about disrupting and displacing the very thing (and people) that made you successful.

Most importantly, efficiency innovation moves at the speed of technology while disruptive innovation moves at the speed of people.

This post was brought you by InnovationExcellence, the online home of the global innovation community, building a growing network with thousands of members from over 175 countries – thought leaders, executives, practitioners, consultants, vendors, and academia representing all sectors and industries. Its mission is to enhance innovation by providing a forum for connection and conversation across this community.

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2013 with InnovationExcellence in Santa Clara, CA in November! Learn more about the event here:

About the Author: Mike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior.  He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Game that Destroys Innovation -- Part II: Killing Off the Game

In Part I, I gave a few examples of the Game that is played in most every company to a greater or lesser extent.  It is an insidious game of unwritten rules that forces people to play in a sandbox of pretense so that everyone can claim to be doing the right thing.  Any attempt to play by the "official" rules of the office (that is, the ones involving integrity, honesty, fairness, legality, etc.) can lead to severe penalties, and failing to play the Game correctly, despite not knowing the rules or being told the rules, can have similarly dire consequences.  I discussed how the Game utterly destroys innovation, and the company along with it, and here I will provide an overview of how to end the Game.

The biggest problem with the Game is that its first unspoken dictum matches the first two rules of Fight Club: You do not talk about the Game.  There are several reasons for this, the most important of which is that actually discussing the Game can lead to a lawsuit.  The Game conceals discriminatory practices, jobs that were done shoddily if they were done at all, lies and half-truths knowingly told to stakeholders, webs of blame designed to cover people's...actions (and egos), and so much more that can be a liability to the company.  This is precisely why speaking up can cause so much damage, and why anyone who attempts to speak up faces such dire consequences.  In most companies with a Game, there is enough cleverness to bribe the people who are fired to keep them silent (better known as a "severance package").  Moreover, since the individual actions in the Game are often far removed from the consequences, companies can comfortably deny that anything bad is happening, even as they wonder why they are seeing a slow decline in innovation, work/product/service quality, employee engagement, retention, and company loyalty.

Hidden in those problems, however, is the solution!

First, if there is a notable decline in any of the aforementioned, or more people are using sick/vacation days than usual, or there seems to be a spate of insubordination, factionalizing, gossip, or higher stress, do one important thing: check the calendar.  There might be some major event that happened in the company.  If nothing significant has happened (or potentially even if it did), you likely have a case of the Game.

Second, investigate the resignations and terminations that occurred in the last 6-12 months.  Is it a large number?  Are there any patterns?  Are there plausible reasons underpinning these departures?  Might there be other reasons why people left the company that weren't stated?  Is there any information in the exit interview?  It may be helpful to speak to that person's coworkers, subordinates, and managers, to get as clear of a picture as possible as to why things went south.

Third, have someone from outside the company speak with employees under the following conditions (provided in writing): Immunity from any fallout, complete anonymity and confidentiality, and freedom from any further response to what is said.  In return, the employee provides honest and accurate information without fear of retaliation, indemnifies the company against any legal action by the employee (otherwise, the company might not want to hear it), and may not disclose or discuss the contents of the meeting for any reason without explicit prior authorization.  The consultant will form a picture of what is going on in the company, where the Game is alive and thriving, and in what form the Game is being played, and make a general presentation to HR and the C-Suite that highlights these points while maintaining proper levels of confidentiality.

The idea behind all of this is to ascertain the unwritten rules of the Game, and why they exist.  What is the company's exact motive for playing the Game?  What happens if all of the pretense shatters and everything is revealed?  (And, in no way should this expose or punish those who play or propagate the Game -- any threat of that will destroy any attempt to ferret out and extinguish the Game.)

In general, it will be up to the company to reveal the pretenses, take responsibility, and incur any costs.  Honesty is the best policy here, but there must be amnesty and anonymity for all offenders, otherwise the Game will reappear.  The changes in policy need to start with the C-Suite, and be hand-delivered throughout the company.  The C-Team needs to be involved in every step: meeting with all of the relevant stakeholders, laying bare the issues, determining how costs and reparations will be covered, and describing the culture that must be built.  Having some outside help to follow up with employees, and/or having a designated member of HR or the C-Suite on hand to hear anonymous concerns, can facilitate the process.

It is important to remember, though, that this is recovery from a disaster.  Like a colony of termites, the Game eats away at the infrastructure of the company, chipping away even pieces of the core culture.  Rebuilding takes investments of time, effort, and money, but it's better than going down on a slowly sinking ship!

(Stay tuned for Part III: A Better Game)

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Affordable heart surgery that makes above-average profits by giving away medical care – that’s Opportunity

Mother Teresa and Dr. Johannes Maas
 (Photo: Wikipedia)
Exclusive First Read Every week through October 2013, we will post a short excerpt from our Summer Innovation Book Club Pick: Killing Ideas - You can kill an idea, you can't kill an opportunity By NewEdge CEO, Dr. Pam Henderson

In piecing together Opportunities, we will often see something that hits us as ripe for opportunity. These are the exciting nuggets that inspire us to search farther for gold. They grab our attention and start our imagination running. 

Such big a-has are our Opportunity Starters. Perhaps a seed trend—something little that may be set to grow. 

Maybe it’s a white space we found when stretching a dimension or perhaps it is an insight from an unusual user. How about a new technology or business model that could be imported to create new value? These are all exciting and suggest opportunity that may be emerging. 

Opportunity doesn’t reside only in the new, the small, the white space, or the unusual. Opportunity can be overlooked at the other extreme: something old rather than new, a completely black space rather than a white space, or something ubiquitous rather than unusual, something big and even obvious rather than little, like the fact that heart surgery is expensive.

One hundred years after heart surgery’s beginning, only 10% of the people in the world can afford it. So what can one doctor do about such a massive challenge? 

Dr. Devi Shetty was the top heart surgeon in India in the 1990s. He was in the middle of surgery one day when he was asked to make a house call. After declining, he was persuaded that this house call could change his life. It did. The visit was to Mother Theresa. 

Her life inspired him to create a hospital to deliver care to those with need, not those who could afford to pay. Fifteen years later he now runs the world’s largest cardiac hospital, located in Bangalore. They charge, on average, less than $2,000 per open heart surgery, a third of the price elsewhere in India and virtually nothing compared with $20,000 to $100,000 in the US. 

In addition, he has grown the operation to over 35 acres of facilities for trauma and cancer care as well as hospitals in 14 other cities in India. Their telemedicine practice extends to 100 facilities in India and 50 more in Africa. With deployment of more than 5,000 dialysis machines, they now will be the largest kidney care provider in the country. 

They have even created an insurance program in partnership with the government. 

The result is that they are more profitable than the average hospital in the US, even after they give away 60 procedures a week. - Killing Ideas, Ch 5, Big Starters

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Execution: The Difference Between Innovation Failure and Success

Execution. That one word is more often than not the difference between innovation, failure and success. It sounds simple enough. But the reality is anything but. Without the successful integration of ideas at the back end, innovation doesn't happen. 

With BEI Back End of Innovation 2013 quickly approaching, we wanted to get an expert’s point of view on innovation strategy in today’s increasingly complex and competitive business landscape. We were in luck. Maria B. Thompson, Director of Innovation Strategy, Intellectual Asset Management, Office of the CTO at Motorola Solutions, sat down with us to discuss innovation strategy, execution, and culture. Here is what she had to say:

IIR: What is a fundamental characteristic or skill to lead innovation?

Thompson: Abstract and analogous thinking skills are paramount to leading innovation. In order to coach and mentor others to unleash their collective creativity, one must be able to reframe problems and solutions in generic ways, so diverse-thinking non subject matter experts in the domain of the problem can engage, and bring their creative and novel perspectives to bear on a broader solution space.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein

IIR: What best practices support successful innovation execution? What typically stands in its way?

Thompson: The key aspect for successful execution on innovation is dedicated time and resources for conversion of the original idea to a commercial high-business-value product or service. In our experience, conversion must be treated as a first-class program deliverable, with time allocated in Program Plans and Performance Management evaluation systems. Our global Innovation Champions all have a Performance Management goal to spend 20 percent of their time on Innovation, which includes acting as evangelists for the best ideas and concepts that should be resourced and moved onto our product roadmaps.

IIR: What is the key to building an internal innovation culture?

Thompson: It takes a village. In other words, you need to have a “social” network of change catalysts committed to the innovation cause. We call these catalysts “Innovation Champions” and “Inventor Mentors.” These change catalysts are role models for innovation and inventing and co-resident at all global sites. They are selected for their past contributions to innovative products, features and services, and have performance goals they are measured on with regard to their efforts to support an innovation culture and to increase innovation yield within and across businesses.

IIR: What is the biggest obstacle you faced in your innovation strategy? How did you overcome it?

Thompson: Time and resource allocation. PDW, Performance Management… but mostly executive sponsorship. Without senior leadership supporting and visibly recognizing and rewarding employees for their efforts in prioritizing forward-looking work, people will prioritize “business-as-usual.”

IIR: What is a piece of advice you would give companies who are creating a corporate innovation strategy?

Thompson: Start by building on innovative work people are already doing. Prioritize the most important and strategic areas and communicate, communicate, communicate. Recognize ongoing efforts aligned with these priorities, support them, and reward them. Help everyone - across all functions- understand how they can contribute to the innovation pipeline – it is not only the engineering or research role to be innovative!

Thompson will be speaking at the upcoming BEI 2013 conference November 13-15 in Santa Clara, CA.

BEI allows you to build your custom experience- from keynote luminaries (including best-selling author Vijay Govindarajan & Google's innovation evangelist Michele R. Weslander-Quaid), to field trips (PARC, Intuit & PayPal), to business cases (Eli Lilly, Coca-Cola, Motorola, J&J, Colgate & more) to learning labs, to full day open space collaborative exercises . You pick it, you curate it, you achieve it. YOU are in control.
November 18-20, 2013
Hyatt Regency
Santa Clara, CA

Download the brochure for full details:
Mention code BEI13LINK & Save 15% off the standard rate. Register today:

See you in November,
The BEI Team

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Innovation: Now to 50 Years from Now

Innovation wears many hats. That's because so many of us regardless of role, culture or company size are charged with identifying fresh opportunities for growth.

Creating disruption calls for all hands on deck....synthesizing various disparate visionary information into a strategic action plan that is more than just a trend report - it's a playbook.

When the best thinkers come together interesting conversation happens.... When committed DOERS come together, the future happens!

Abn Amro
Adept Consumer Testing
Altria Client Services
Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop
BAE Systems Platform Solutions
Daimler Mobility Services
Binghamton University
Bose Corporation
California State University
Colgate Palmolive
Crewest Studio
Crown Equipment Corp
Disney Destinations LLC
Elephant Ventures
Evolution Fresh
Extend Limits
Fidelum Partners 
General Mills Inc
Fifth Third Bancorp 
General Motors
Green Food Nation
Grid Logistics
IBM Software Group
Institute of Competition Sciences
Interior Foliage Design
Johnson & Johnson
Jugaad Innovation
Mary Kay Inc
Monitor Deloite
Nestle Purina PetCare
PG&E Utility
Post Foods
Plum Organics    
Sony Electronics
Sphere Trending
Starwood Hotels
State Farm Insurance 
Telefonica Digital Spain
The Executive Office
The Fountain Group
The Hershey Company
Tupperware Brands Corporation
University of Southern California
Viacom Media Networks
Village Green Network
Walt Disney Parks & Resorts
WPP Network

The future happens at FT'13! We hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Game that Destroys Innovation -- Part I: We Do Not Talk About The Game

It's called The Game.  There are no formal rules, what rules there are may contradict the "official" rules, and no one will openly admit to the rules or tell you what they are. Management rarely admits to the existence of the Game, and HR tends to deny it, as well.  As an employee, you must play the Game with minimal errors or face severe repercussions up to, and including, termination. 

The vast majority of organizations that I have encountered, from schools, to businesses, to consulting firms, to governments, has some version of the Game, and the only difference between these places is how viciously people play it.  In some places, the Game is just minor office politics, while in other places it is so ubiquitous that it coats nearly every false smile and overeager handshake one encounters.

Here's an example:

Over the course of my many years as a freelance data analyst, I have gotten multiple requests in which I am supposed to analyze the data objectively so that I can arrive at the client's prearranged conclusion.  Yes, you read that correctly.  As an outside consultant, I am expected to be honest and objective and to report whatever is in the numbers.  Yet, the client expects me to massage the numbers, obscure certain limitations, and twist the report so that their unsubstantiated conclusion can appear to be "evidence-based."  My wallet hates me for turning those jobs down, especially since some of them paid decently, and that is the cost of refusing to play the Game.  I know that at least one of those firms got someone else to crunch the numbers, and the biased conclusions did indeed get published.  Some argued with me that since there's always someone willing to take the money and do the job, why shouldn't I?  Can't I just play the Game?

Let me ask you this: If you were using the products/services of the companies who asked me to run data, would you want me to play the Game?  It's a funny paradox, because some of the very people who chided me for not playing the Game admitted, when pressed, that it wouldn't be right for me to do so.  Yet, so many companies expect their data analysts, scientists, and others to be dishonest so that the company can look good, and then wonder why these very same people are not also innovating.  It's pretty hard to innovate when playing the Game forces people to choose between their integrity and their job, and those "little white lies" add up.  Employees end up immersed in fear, and unwilling to venture an unwanted opinion, lest they violate some rule of the Game and lose their job.  But, it is precisely that dissension that is so badly needed in order to identify problems, solve them, and make things work.

Of course, any kind of dissension, even when appropriate, can be risky.  Consider the Game of [in]subordination:

Courtesy of the Peter Principle, too many managers end up in a position of power when they are not trained to handle it (this holds double when the person has to manage experts [here's how to do it]).  In such situations, a highly-competent subordinate eventually comes across a situation where doing what (s)he's told will ruin a project and/or cause a deadline to be missed.  The common "solution" is to do what the manager said, and then to add on enough bonus features to fix it, but there may not be enough time to do both, and a missed deadline can mean consequences for the employee.  Another "solution" is to give the manager the result (s)he requested, and then suggest a fix when the manager sees the problem, but some managers will see the initial screwed-up result, and then tell the employee that (s)he is incompetent (for following the manager's orders!).  This can also result in a missed deadline.  Yet a third "solution" is to ignore the manager's orders and just get the project done properly, but that falls quickly if the manager doesn't like the process and calls the employee "insubordinate."  And, of course, telling the manager what's wrong with his/her orders can be construed as a form of backtalk that will lead to problems, even if the manager supposedly welcomes disagreement.

Some will say that it's all in how the orders are questioned, but there are plenty of managers who want to give their orders and get a "yes, boss" -- any other response is a problem.  I once heard someone counter even that with, "just ask questions instead of making statements."  That can work, but only if the boss understands the reasons for the questions and has the time to answer them.  Otherwise, the boss perceives the employee as stupid, incompetent, and/or wasting the manager's time.  The Game is to figure out which "solution" actually works, and praying to whatever one holds sacred that they guess correctly and don't end up with a manager where none of those "solutions" work.  When employees cannot speak up, and can even be fired for doing their job, there is no innovation.

And then there's the workload Game:

During one consultation, a potential client asked me how to develop an innovative culture in one of her company's departments.  She felt that the people in that department were not doing enough to innovate, and not putting in any effort over and above their basic job descriptions.  I asked about what they were expected to do, and, after highlighting the time-consuming nature of the group's many tasks, I reviewed several initial options.  The first was to make a few strategic hires, the second was to create some incentive for her staff to put in more hours to do the innovation, and the third was to do a full review of the job tasks in the department to restructure the staff's responsibilities to make more room for innovation.  The senior manager stated flatly that there is no money for any of those suggestions, and all of the tasks assigned were essential and could not be removed.  But, if I wanted her as a client, I was going to have to come up with a cost-free suggestion for how to get the staff to innovate.  At this point, most objective people have come to the obvious conclusion that this manager wants something for nothing, but it took me the better part of 20 minutes to explain that.  I did not ask, but I can only surmise at the amount of pressure her staff faces on a daily basis dealing with a manager who expects them to go beyond an overly-full job description.  Even at Google, the famous 20% time has become part of the workload Game.  If employees are not explicitly given time to innovate, and are not directly rewarded intrinsically or extrinsically for doing so, there will be minimal innovation.

Ultimately, an innovating company has two choices: kill off the Game, or go down in flame.

(Stay tuned for Part II: Killing Off the Game, and Part III: A Better Game: Calm Voice)

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

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