Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Navigate Key Barriers and Proactively Fund Big Innovation

How organizations navigate the barriers to big innovation can often make the difference between epic failure and celebrated market disruptor. Outlined below are the dynamics behind 3 barriers we see most frequently standing in the way of breakthrough and disruptive innovation. This content is intended to help innovation leaders who are seeking to make a bigger impact and already have a firm grasp on the definitions of incremental, breakthrough and transformative innovation.


Funding big innovation is often the first obstacle that many would be innovators struggle to overcome.


Organizations are inherently risk averse, and for good reason. The primary goal of most businesses is to allocate resources in the most efficient way to generate a targeted return for shareholders. If significant resources are allocated with little return, it certainly means leadership change and possibly corporate default. It’s no surprise then that risk avoidance manifests from senior leaders’ fear of losing their jobs. The omnipresent focus on reducing risk locks the organization into its current business model and incremental change to its value proposition and core offering.


Across established organizations, we’ve found that most disruptive and transformative innovation doesn’t occur by choice, rather it is forced by necessity. Typically a traditional competitor delivers a breakthrough innovation with a better value proposition that takes significant market share. For example, Crest 3D White forced Colgate Optic White. In regard to transformative innovation, a nontraditional competitor enters a market with a different value proposition and often new business model that takes significant market share. For example, Nest forced Honeywell to redefine the value proposition of their thermostats.


Outside of a truly visionary leader, the only structured way we’ve seen breakthrough and transformational innovation acquire funding is through a vision. A vision is derived from an organization’s purpose (reason to exist besides making money). A vision contrasts the business implications of the present day value proposition to a vision for a new value proposition, in a future context (likely state of customers, competition, and supply chain relevant to the business). To ultimately acquire funding, a vision needs to incorporate a timeline backward from the future context to present. It should illustrate just how fast change must occur to avoid failure and achieve success, thus driving urgency to act.


Executing big innovation is radically different than executing incremental innovation. It requires intense cross-silo collaboration to design not just the offering around a new value proposition, but often a new adoption strategy, associated go-to-market channels, supply chain and revenue model.


Most organizations measure and incentivize each functional and/or business unit uniquely so that they can efficiently drive top and bottom line goals. For instance, engineering is often measured on execution timelines and manufacturing cost, marketing on customer acquisition, etc. These siloed metrics disincentivize true collaboration and shared wins between them.


Some organizations have built new operational structures from the ground up. For instance, Google structures around cross-functional project groups and incentivizes them through the lens of a project. Others simply bypass the siloed metrics of the core organization by creating a cross-functional spinoff measured as a unified whole. Hershey did just that with the brand Brookside.


Outside of major structural overhauls, one of the most effective ways we’ve seen cross-silo collaboration necessary for big innovation emerge is through a shared, outside-in view of the supply and demand systems at play. Organizational tools can act as a unified business dashboard and are necessary to share and leverage the outside-in view across silos. The demand view most often articulates the goals of target customers within a category, their path to purchase, experience using/engaging with offerings available, and their motivation to advocate. The supply view often articulates transactions between silos and the customer. Together, this outside-in view allows silos to see the impact they have on one another, and more importantly the customer. This simple change in perspective can motivate cross-silo collaboration, radically impact the dynamics of those collaborations, and facilitate the allocation of resources more holistically.


Breakthrough and transformative innovation require passionate people willing to stick their neck out for what they believe is right. In absence of champions, bigger innovation initiatives lose momentum and fizzle out in favor of the status quo.


Breakthrough and transformative champions exist because they have been exposed to something that others in the organization have not – whether methods, skills, industries, competition, environments, etc. These people often leave jobs abruptly if they are over constrained by hierarchy. Hierarchy and its associated 360 goal setting processes frequently establish a pyramid of goals which support each management layer above. Of course hierarchy is important for any organization to efficiently achieve corporate goals, but it can squeeze out the alternate points of view and autonomy to experiment. Hierarchy heavy organizations tend to have homogenous workforces that are really efficient at doing the same thing over and over.


3M is well known for its employee flex time program. Employees are expected to pursue experimental projects that have the potential for bigger impact while aligning to personal interest. Others attempt to outsource champions – whether they need an expert point of view from outside the organization, or hire external teams to run small experiments.


Autonomy + Purpose + Exposure = bottom up innovation champions.  Autonomy to run small experiments can be achieved through a variety of flex time programs and 360 individual goal setting.  Purpose, the organization’s reason to exist beyond making money, provides the ‘why’ for the work.  Not only is the ‘why’ a really powerful employee motivator, it also increases individual risk tolerance. Exposure can be achieved through cross-silo interaction, diversity of  employee experiences and employee training programs.
The potential of the champion equation is greatly enhanced when the role of management shifts from resource distribution (ensuring the same things happen again and again) to resource acquisition (getting the resources necessary to do new things). Leaders should navigate these barriers concurrently. There are hidden repercussions if they are navigated individually. For instance, employee autonomy can be wasteful in absence of organizational purpose and derivative business vision. Organizational tools that alter point of view, uncover root issues and provide a means to bypass internal resistance are essential to driving a more innovative culture. Once tools find an effective home within the organization the barriers can be navigated again and again.

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 in Las Vegas, NV in October! Learn more about the event here:  http://bit.ly/1pHvhY6

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.

About the Author: Tim Sweeney is a designer, entrepreneur and a thought leader in the field of business conceptualization and product innovation. As founding Partner of UPSTREAM, a front-end innovation consultancy that helps leaders drive innovation, he’s helped start-ups to Fortune 100′s apply world-class design thinking to build and realize vision. He holds numerous innovation awards and over 15 patents. Follow @UPSTREAMthought.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Leading for Innovation in Extreme Uncertainty

A recent article, ‘Leading in the 21st century’, in McKinsey & Company Quarterly, shares a series of interviews of leaders from some of the world’s largest and most vibrant organizations. The article suggests that leaders are operating in a “bewildering new environment in which little is certain, the tempo is quicker, and the dynamics are more complex.” It then explores what it means to lead in an “age of upheaval, to master personal challenges, to be in the limelight constantly, to make decisions under extreme uncertainty”.

These points resonated deeply with me, because innovative leaders and start-up entrepreneurs excel at responding to the convergence of forces they operate within, like the ones mentioned in the article. They do this by developing and articulating a cause greater than themselves. By thinking and acting differently in ways that transform opportunities, challenges, problems and constraints into innovative ideas and solutions that change the world forever.

The context of leadership is changing

To thrive in today’s turbulent and uncertain global environment, to face the harsh realities of the competitive, volatile and complex business environment, leaders are being compelled to;
• Become increasingly adaptive and resilient and able to perceive and respond appropriately to their worlds in multiple ways at once.

• See their world holistically and respond to it systemically through the breakdown of internal silos and the development of business eco-systems. Where they engage and collaborate across the private, public and social sectors to promote global, regional and corporate sustainability.

• Sustain their emotional health and well being whilst having the composure to operate calmly, decisively and quickly amid chaos and uncertainty.

Enacting embodying and executing a new context for leadership

Our research suggests that the following factors enable leaders to enact and embody this new context successfully. They can achieve this by developing the innovative and entrepreneurial competences that enables them to flow and flourish with the chaos, complexity and pressure through;

1. Creating a deep, personal, yet global ‘necessity’ for change; by enrolling in a cause greater than themselves, by adopting a possibility mindset, by taking the deep personal accountability towards ensuring its delivery and having a sense of urgency to get it done, no matter what!

2. Embodying an emergent approach; by opening minds, hearts and will to see the world with fresh eyes, by being detached and discerning to let go of the ‘old’ mindsets, behaviors, processes and systems that are no longer viable. To make way for experimenting and prototyping new and agile business models and processes that provide innovative solutions that improve their users’ experience.

3. Being curious, confident, courageous and collaborative; by challenging convention and the status quo, by developing the courage and strong self efficacy to deal with adversity, take intelligent risks and be kind to, and heal themselves (and others) when they fail.

4. Exploring and networking across differing teams, fields and disciplines; by seeking people’s ideas and input, through generative inquiry, listening and debating to harness and maximize diversity of thought, ideas and solutions.

5. Thinking differently; by developing their associational muscle to synthesize and make sense of novel inputs, to discover new directions by making connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas. By creating breakthroughs at the intersection of diverse disciplines & fields.

6. Acting differently; by developing deep leadership presence by role modeling these qualities to inspire and influence others to engage and enroll in the innovation or leadership cause.

This is a much more hard edged, bolder and far more audacious model for leadership, requiring leaders to discard a number of their former operating leadership and team paradigms – “today’s leaders face extraordinary new challenges and must learn to think differently about their role and how to fulfill it. Those who do may have an opportunity to change the world in ways their predecessors never imagined.”

And we all know that taking a road less traveled is never a ‘nice’ or easy option, yet is it always the most worthwhile, rewarding and enduring road to ultimately travel on, even though it might not like feel like it at the time!

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 in Las Vegas, NV in October! Learn more about the event here:  http://bit.ly/1lsbfhu

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.

About the Author: Janet Sernack gained her consulting, education, facilitation, training and executive coaching skills, from 30 years of experience in manufacturing, retailing and learning and development businesses to Australia’s and Israel’s’ top 100 companies. She resides in Israel where she founded a start-up, ImagineNation that teaches innovative leadership and start-up entrepreneurship via The Start-Up Game.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Culture Feasts on Innovation: Here’s What you Can Do About It

You can have the best talent, best ideas, best processes, abundance of cash. If your culture does not align, being successful with innovating starts looking as if it’s a matter of luck. 

Culture Feasts on Innovation: Here's What you Can Do About It from Reuven Gorsht

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 in Las Vegas, NV in October! Learn more about the event here:  http://bit.ly/1nub7ww

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.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Improving Patient-Physician Communication through a Novel Digital Portal: Challenging the Status Quo: Free Webinar

Many in the pharmaceutical and medical technology space today aim to make patient communication both more efficient and transparent.  PokitDok, which serves as a sort of healthcare marketplace, is a service that makes pricing more transparent and open.  MedXCom is improving doctor-patient communication by transcribing cell phone conversations for the patient’s reference.  One of the latest examples of these companies is My GI Health

The effort began in 2011 when a team from UCLA and the University of Michigan, supported by Ironwood Pharmaceutical, set out to improve communication between physicians and patients suffering from gastrointestinal (GI) disease.  Working with a multidisciplinary team of health education experts, computer scientists, psychologists, patient representatives, NIH researchers, and physicians, they created My GI Health – a first-of-breed app that re-imagines how doctors and patients can engage in dialogue.

The team worked from the premise that computers aren't supposed to make things more complicated. Instead, they are supposed to simplify the process of sharing information.  They saw a need to start using them to strengthen doctor-patient connections.  With this insight as a springboard, the team developed a new and innovative system that re-defined the way patients and doctors connect with one another.  Join us for a free webinar on June 11th as we explore the journey of this industry-academia alliance and how they pioneered My GI Health.  We take a look at the impact this innovative program may have on physicians, payers and the delivery of patient care.

In less than an hour, you’ll learn
• How a unique alliance between industry, academia, EHR vendors, and professional societies created a novel, evidence-based digital resource to improve population health
• Study My GI Health as an example app that bridges patients and providers using novel, credible functions
• How an external, patient-facing healthcare app can tie into an EHR to improve outcomes and efficiency in the clinical environment
• Advantages of creating a platform-agnostic, flexible, and adaptable digital resource suitable for broad distribution  

Presented by
Brennan Spiegel, Professor of Medicine and Public Health, UCLA; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Tom McCourt, CCO, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals

Date: Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Time: 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT
System Requirements: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees: Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
Mobile attendees: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android table

Now, you can save 15% on ePharma West when you register and attend this webinar*.  Register now and use code XP1956FEI.

Save the date
ePharma West 2014 | September 22-24 2014 | San Francisco, CA
Register with discount code XP1956BLOG and SAVE $100 off the current rate

*Each individual must be registered separately and attend to be eligible for discount

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Too Old to Drive? Google to the Rescue.

Our society is at a crossroads. Within the next two decades 20% of the U.S. population will be over 65. This causes great debate when it comes to aging and driving. Is there ever a point where someone is too old to drive? Before you answer, consider how giving up the car keys means giving away freedom.

Think back to the last time your car was in the repair shop. Chances are you felt left out, isolated, and perhaps guilty for asking friends, family, and loved ones to change their schedules to help you get around. If you were one of the lucky ones, your car was fixed the same day, but, for senior's giving up car keys, the loss of freedom is permanent.

Consider this quote, "When I lost my license to drive a car that loss built on previous losses I had suffered, my spouse, and dear friends. The grief felt like a little death, but I didn't think others would understand that. After all, a driver's license is not the same as losing someone you love, but the sense of loss was similar for me. I finally went to a support group that was open to any kind of loss, and I found a safe place to talk about it there. That helped a lot."

While senior drivers comprise 9% of the population, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show senior citizens account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 17 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.  Compromised vision, hearing, and reflexes, as well as, medications and medical conditions attribute to the large percent of fatalities.

While the death rates involving drivers aged 75 to 84 is about the same as teen drivers, once drivers pass the age of 85, vehicular fatality rates jump to nearly four times that of teens. Many of the deaths are of the seniors themselves, as it is harder for their bodies to recover from car accidents.

With all the news reports about seniors backing vehicles into school children, smashing into storefronts, or mistaking the accelerator pedal for the brake, it's no wonder there is a call to restrict or ban older drivers. In case you're unsure of your state's renewal and restriction laws, see here.

As it turns out, most states have age-based driving restrictions in place. So what, if anything, can we do to help seniors retain their sense of independence, mobility and dignity? Many advocates for senior drivers point to taxis, carpools, family, and public transportation as alternative ways to get around. But, there may soon be another alternative - a self-driving car.

If Google has their way, self-driving cars will soon be a reality across our nation. Take a look at this video of Steve Mahan behind the wheel of Google's driverless car. Mahan is legally blind with 95% of his vision gone.

And, if you think driverless cars will never be the norm here are some interesting facts to consider:

  • In 2011, Nevada was the first state to pass a law permitting the operation of self-driving cars.
  • The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued its first license for a driverless car in 2012.
  • In 2012, Florida and California became the second and third states to legalize the use of driverless cars for testing purposes.

Yet, the technology for driverless cars may be well ahead of our laws which all assume a human being is operating the vehicle. If a driverless car gets into an accident, who is to blame? The driver? The automaker? The developer of the technology?

Although there are many questions yet to be answered and driverless cars are not a commercial reality at the moment, analysts believe that by 2020 self-driving cars could be a $200+ billion opportunity. In fact, Google recently announced they will be building a hundred self-driving prototype vehicles. Outside of the incredible business opportunity, there are also many benefits when it comes to injuries and fatalities. Google estimates that self-driving cars could reduce the annual 30,000 road fatalities and 2 million injuries in the United States by up to 90 percent.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Can Money Buy Innovation?

Even in our money-driven society, the power of money has limits: there are certain things money can’t buy. Love and happiness come to mind first, but a popular list of things that can’t be supposedly bought with money is much longer and includes such items as “25-hour day,” “clear conscience” and (my favorite) “an honest politician.”

Some would add one more item to this list: innovation. Innovation, they’d argue, is a thing based on creativity, and creativity feeds on intrinsic motivators: natural curiosity, joy of learning, thrill of solving a difficult problem. Extrinsic motivators, such as money, can do little to make a person more creative. Hence, the argument goes, money can’t buy innovation. Many companies have reduced this concept to practice: they launch innovation initiatives and then expect employees to participate in their spare time, for free.

Unfortunately, academic research on incentivizing innovation is still in its infancy and doesn’t provide much help. In a 2013 article in Strategic Management Journal, Oliver Baumann and Nils Stieglitz showed that companies could increase the efficiency of idea-generating process by offering rewards to their employees. Yet there was a caveat: offering moderate rewards provided “a sufficient stream of good ideas, but few exceptional ones.” Moreover, increasing the size of the reward did nothing to boost the number of exceptional ideas. In other words, monetary rewards did stimulate innovation, but only incremental innovation, not radical.

The fact that money can boost innovation in principle makes this glass at least half-full; the fact that money failed to improve the quality of ideation process leaves it half-empty (if not even emptier, given our obsession with radical innovation and disdain for incremental).

Hopefully, future research will bring more clarity to the topic. In the meantime, I see at least two reasons why incentivizing innovation with money makes practical sense. First, incremental innovation, notwithstanding our feeling about it as intrinsically inferior, still forms the basis of any rationally designed corporate innovation portfolio. None other than Google’s Larry Page, hardly an enemy of radical innovation, told Forbes a few years ago that about 70% of his company’s innovation portfolio was composed of incremental improvements of core products. Now, let’s see: if you can increase the efficiency of two-thirds of your company’s innovation projects with money, would you not consider this money well spent?

Second, some companies (Google and 3M are routinely mentioned in this context) have introduced the so-called 20% time rule, a corporate policy that allows employees to use a fraction of their regular time, usually 15-20%, to pursue “side” projects. Should the employees be paid additional money for generating “side” ideas? Of course, not. The problem, though, is that the vast majority of companies don’t have such a 20% time rule; employees in these companies are expected to innovate in addition to their everyday job responsibilities. In practice, that means that extra work is expected from them outside their regular working hours. In plain business language, this is called overtime. As far as I know, when it comes to “routine” business activities, companies aren’t allergic to paying cash for overtime. Why should innovation be an exception?

We should stop practicing innovation snobbery: to believe that innovation isn’t for everyone, but for a few privileged (a.k.a creative) souls; to insist that only radical innovation matters, while incremental one is for losers; to argue that innovation is fundamentally different from other business processes, and therefore normal performance evaluation metrics don’t apply to innovation activities.

Instead, we should become more assertive in our approach to corporate innovation: to firmly align it with the company’s strategic goals; to define what kind of innovation involvement is expected (or not) from each position within the company; to establish metrics by which this involvement will be assessed at each level, from top to bottom. With this in place, innovation will be rewarded as any other top performance would: with promotions, stock-option grants and, yes, cash bonuses.

We also should stop arguing whether we can or can’t buy innovation; we should simply pay for it.

Like this topic? Attend BEI Back End of Innovation 2014 in Las Vegas, NV in October! Learn more about the event here:  http://bit.ly/1p0OdNQ

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.

About the Author: Eugene Ivanov is innovation consultant helping organizations establish internal and external innovation programs. He also assists his clients with selecting and defining R&D problems that can be successfully solved by using crowdsourcing approaches. He tweets at @eugeneivanov101. 
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