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In the last few years, brainstorming has been shot down, put down, and dismissed. Why?
Since 1941, when Alex Osborn changed the culture of advertising with innovative, nonjudgmental thought-generating, brainstorming has been a major part of business. Osborn described brainstorming as “a conference technique by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing all the ideas spontaneously by its members.” He included specific rules including:
- No criticism of ideas
- Go for large quantities of ideas
- Build on each others ideas
- Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas
Everyone’s creative. At least until they have it beaten out of them by education, rules, a pressure to succeed and the risk averse nature of most businesses. What’s equally discouraging is that too many people conclude that the labels are right. They come to believe that they reside among the non-creative. I can’t tell you how many account executives, media planners, product managers and clients have told me as a matter of fact that they are “not creative.”
This kind of thinking is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. If you think of yourself as not creative you’re far less likely to take chances. You become reluctant to put forth crazy ideas. You make too many decisions based on what others will think. You fall into the trap of striving to replicate past successes, which are no guarantee of future performance, or simply playing it safe.
However it’s even more damaging to companies and organizations who think this way as they not only define two classes of employee — creative and non-creative — they relegate the “creatives” — typically the designers, art directors and copywriters — to the playroom, leaving the big, important decisions to the operations and financial people. And we all know what a mistake that is.
"Public innovation isn’t necessarily about something shiny or new or complex, but about something that works better, leads to better results and creates a better pathway forward.
It is about how communities generate and re-generate themselves. For example, The Harwood Institute is working with partners in Battle Creek, Mich. – including the local United Way, Chamber of Commerce, Kellogg Community College, Project 20/20, BC Pulse and the city government. These entities are focused on addressing issues concerning vulnerable children in a way that altogether changes how they and others work together in the community.
Indeed, the very output from being innovative may be so simple that it hardly seems to be an innovation. Consider, for instance, the following example: innovation can involve changing the way we talk about a common concern in a community. Is the discussion framed in terms of “problems,” which usually degenerates into people pointing fingers and placing blame for what’s wrong in the community? Or is it about our shared aspirations for what we are trying to do right?
7 Growth Factors Driving Innovation
I recently attended the 2014 Open Innovation Conference in Baltimore along with a deep bench of senior executives from Intel, Amazon, Under Armour, Pfizer, Clorox and others. As an official social media voice for the event, I had an opportunity to track key themes across a content-packed 2-day program.
From this intense 48-hour window emerged core insights that offer benefit not only to Open Innovation (OI) mavens but those of us who navigate daily in the ‘Closed Innovation’ realm as well. In fact, I would estimate that 85% of the content of the conference applied equally to folks who walk the innovation walk inside their companies and never take on an OI role.
What remained astounding is that the OI executives I spoke with described themselves as operating at the bleeding edge of innovation. In their words, by participating in Open Innovation, they are daily risking career-ending failures.
They are enterprising innovators who are risking salaries and reputations to do what they do. In the words of Dr. Andrew Skulan, head of Partnership Practices at Clorox, “These undaunted executives “are planting a flag for open innovation, and we are going to drive it.”
- See more at: http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2014/03/19/the-bleeding-edge-of-innovation/#sthash.UXLvr5lI.dpuf
How to apply metrics to open innovation (OI)? That's the question we often get from our clients when they start to develop their open innovation capabilities. In order to provide an answer to this critical question, the following article will focus on the key findings of our Open Innovation KPI 2012 study. Based on this study, a metrics-based management toolkit has been developed, which provides the most relevant key performance indicators from the perspective of innovation managers, subject matter experts, and consultants.
I'm always a little cautious about any post that dares to state a definitive number of tasks or components for successful completion of any task. Therefore, it's with some trepidation that I'm going out on a limb to talk about what I think are six critical components for sustained innovation capacity. Note that I am saying six critical, not "the only six critical" because while I'm certain these are important, there are probably others that are just as important.
But, since most organizations don't have these critical capabilities in place, why worry about two or three others until the most important functions are in place.
The optimal balancing of radical and incremental innovation is becoming a Key Success Factor in many industries. Organizational ambidexterity is the approach to achieve this. With a best-in-class ambidextrous set-up, firms can become innovation leader.
The challenge is how to position or reposition today’s resources for tomorrow. I focus on the three horizon framework as this points an organization towards a ‘possible’ tomorrow and then they have to position their resources to ‘ready’ themselves.
Today organizations need to (radically) break free from copying and evaluating to markets in similar ways to their competitors. The difficulties to make this change in thinking is caught up in existing practice, organizations are often ‘wedded’ to best practice, want to stick with the learnt practices that have served them well in delivering particular outcomes in the past.
Today, rather than paying for a daily newspaper, most people get their news for free online and many incumbent media businesses have begun erecting paywalls for their content. Yet, as I’ve said before, paywalls aren’t generally a smart way to go. Successfully implementing a paid platform requires a smart business model, not a moral crusade.
Although there is a tendency to 'throw' more money at developing talent we need to think through the basics first. If talent does not know the direction or the strategic scope it will have a hard time 'driving innovation'. We need to address the fundamentals first in organizations
If we think about innovation as executing new ideas to create value (and we should!), then it becomes clear that innovation is a process. There were some good posts about the different parts of that process this week – here are the ones that caught my attention.
Most likely you are in a traditional organization where management still rules the day, bureaucracy can’t stand in the way or enable innovation. Let’s imagine that you’ve talked about and agreed that innovation needs to become more than simple talk in your organization. To make this happen, you’ve decided to unleash the hounds: the passionate people who you’ve sat on the bench because of their fearless nature to now follow the rules.
Still, who among these mavericks can really push through?
While the quest for innovation as a source of future growth is a minimum common factor, among local and global enterprises, scholars and practitioners are yet to determine a common or universal definition of innovation: in fact because of the lack of consensus on the dimensions and measures characterizing innovation, we do mean different concepts when referring to innovation. However there are elements we almost all agree on.
The search for new business ideas and new business models is hit-or-miss in most corporations, despite the extraordinary pressure on executives to grow their businesses. Management scholars have considered various reasons for this failure. One well-documented explanation: Managers who are skilled at executing clearly defined strategies are ill equipped for out-of-the-box thinking. In addition, when good ideas do emerge, they’re often doomed because the company is organized to support one way of doing business and doesn’t have the processes or metrics to support a new one.
Leadership hates the concept of creativity. Why? Because it represents scary things like change, chaos, and risk, and, uh oh, those icky creative people. Leaders only want as much creativity as is needed to keep the business afloat. Maybe even a little less. They lie through their teeth when they say they want creativity. That’s the PC answer in a CEO survey. That’s creativity in theory. In the real world, in their own organizations — they really don’t want creativity. They really do want innovation but they’d like to skip the creativity step.
We fail to recognize all the capitals that perform in our organizations. Financial capital rules but the majority that make up the underlying knowledge capitals are actually far more valuable to nurture and understand.
In the past few years I have noticed a curious trend in the media -- one I can no longer ignore -- and that is the appearance of seriously derisive articles about brainstorming by self-declared pundits and freelance writers.
I asked myself a different question today: What do I believe about innovation but simply avoid saying to be politically incorrect? What am I not saying?
At the risk of being labeled a curmudgeon I’ve decided to state some things I believe to be true about innovation which may offend. Innovation is difficult and it doesn’t happen enough because of these eight impediments, so, this needs said.
Implementing open innovation requires a shift in mindset and a change in culture. It requires individuals to be open for external ideas and to share knowledge. This is not the way innovation is managed traditionally. For individuals to behave in a way that fosters open innovation, support from the top management seems to be crucial. Is this really the case? Or are top executives too far away from the action when it comes to innovation and open innovation?
Context is everything, it allows people to frame their thinking and direct their efforts. For innovation this is vitally important.
There are tasks we want to do that are reasonable to do and are practical to do. There are activities we want to do that are sensible but difficult to accomplish. Measuring innovation, which sounds important and reasonable, often falls in the second category. It sounds reasonable and important to measure innovation, but is often very difficult to do well. Sort of like measuring sand with a ruler, we may have the wrong tools, or the tools may not exist, or, quite possibly, there are some things we simply don't know how to measure. As Einstein said, not every thing that counts is countable, and not everything that can be counted counts. Let's look at some of the challenges in measuring innovation.
One of the reasons that only about 1/3 of all Fortune 1000 companies have formal innovation metrics is because this simple question does not have a simple answer.
Metrics can be important levers of innovation – for driving behavior, as well as evaluating the results of specific initiatives. Companies like 3M and Google have had innovation metrics for years – the most noteworthy that 10% of employees’ time is dedicated for experimentation with new opportunities. Some companies like 3M have tried to mandate that 35% of the corporations’ revenues should come from products introduced within the past four years.
Alignment is so important. When we align we are able to focus on the task, not what surrounds it. We spend disproportional time working on alignment, we must find ways to address this to 'release' the energy towards positive innovation needed.
A good way to start a brainstorm is to deliberately look for wrong answers. Set the challenge and then ask people to think of crazy ideas which are just plain wrong. Then take some of the more outrageous wrong ideas and kick them around. People will be outside their comfort zone and they will approach the original challenge from a new perspective. Each crazy notion can be provocative and stimulating. What is more each wrong answer is itself the answer to a different question. Sometimes these different questions are more interesting than the original challenge.
What questions should corporate innovators use to increase their odds of success? There are some classics out there, such as Peter Drucker’s (“If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we would start?”), Ted Levitt’s timeless contribution (“What business are we really in?”), and the question Andy Grove asked to transform Intel (“If the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?”).
This is often the way new ideas come about. Someone sees a weak signal and amplifies it. The challenge with weak signals is that you can’t use the normal forms of proof to demonstrate that the idea is good.
When we invent the future, we are combining weak signals with existing ideas to reconceptualise products, services, ways of doing things, and entire markets. That’s more profitable than moving things forward incrementally, but also a lot riskier. Succeeding at requires vision, creativity and courage.
If you want your brainstorming sessions to bear fruit, be mindful of the time before anyone pitches even a single idea.
Because it's the few days before a brainstorm session begins -- the "incubation time" -- that's often the difference between brilliance and boredom.
Unfortunately, most companies don't get this.
If you could ask those that lead innovation, your senior organizational leadership, a series of question that might help unlock innovation blockages would that be valuable?
I just finished a week working with a team of 10 MBA students as part of collaboration with the Wharton Business School in their Global Consulting Practicum (GCP). They had to develop a proposal for our client, and get it signed off – this will guide the work that they do for the next four months.
They had a good week. They worked really hard, over long hours. They developed an excellent proposal, and the client loved it. They are set up to do a really good project.
However, now I know a bit how Doug felt. The team didn’t hit their top gear.
We talked about it on the last day, and I told them this. Unlike me in the mill, they agreed with me (or, at least, they appeared to!) If they find that top gear, they have a chance to not just do a really good project, but to do a great one.
Firstly I would argue that innovation, to be managed well, needs to operate like an ecosystem, the same as a tropical rainforest. Ecosystems to flourish need to experience critical feeds, in the rainforest this is high average temperatures and significant rainfall. Well innovation to thrive needs equal attention; it needs a real focus, above average and significant attention to be well maintained.
We argue for diversity within our innovation teams, in our thinking, in our environment and that is no different from the high levels of biodiversity in tropical rainforests. We need this ‘richness’ of thinking, of approaches, of discovery. We search constantly for ideas, we experiment, and we are subjected to change. We are always looking for that certain something still undiscovered.
Basically, a scientific paper by Richard Daft*, since cited over 1000 times, found organisational innovations trickle simultaneously upward and downward.
In a study of the way schools operate which concluded in 1972, where there are both teachers (the do-ers) and administrators (the managers), he found:
- For delivered innovations about teaching, 77% came from teachers, whilst only 16% came from administrators.
- For delivered innovations about school management, 75% came from administrators, whilst 16% came from teachers.
And for those astute enough to pick up the missing percentage point, those were accounted for by “collaborators”, a term applied to anyone who introduced something new that was neither a teacher nor and administrator.
99% of our clients are now struggling with innovation as their key challenge. Companies need to become asymmetric. They need to embrace the unexpected. They need to be able to cope with chaos, hyper-competition, uncertainty and change. They need to embrace ambiguity, disruptions and turbulence. They need to rehearse the future and serendipity is a big part of the scenarios. Optimisation is a given, not a distinctive feature any more. What set the standards in one market, sets the standard for all. Innovation and opportunity spotting will give you the edge.
I have two wonderful daughters. The oldest is 7 years old, and in many ways, she is the most prolific, efficient and successful user of open innovation that I know, and I think that there is a lot that can be learned from how she does this.
Almost every time that my daughter has a problem that she can’t quickly solve on her own, her first thought – her very first instinct – is to go external. She outsources the solution to her problem… to me, or to my wife.
But when you think about it, it’s an extremely efficient way of working. She might be going about her daily activities, when she then encounters some sort of problem. She thinks about it for a minute and realizes that she can’t solve quickly it on her own.
The call then goes out: “… DADDY!”
How the NFL Can Save the In-Stadium Experience through Digital Innovation
…Before it’s Too Late
Let’s face it, not every NFL franchise has the 12th man behind them, and yes, I happen to be a huge Seahawks fan, so before we go any further, #GoHawks! But last week, leading up to Wildcard Weekend, showed all of us a growing problem the vast majority of NFL franchises are experiencing – and it’s a big one.
- See more at: http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2014/01/11/football-needs-innovation-too/#sthash.v1KsECG1.dpuf
If you want to create a sustainable culture of innovation, you will need to understand that there are always four forces at work -- four currents that are always interacting with each other:
1. Top Down
2. Bottom Up
3. Outside In
4. Inside Out
...we risk creating what I'll call the Failure Fetish, the belief that we MUST fail in order to succeed in the future. Further, we risk creating a High Church of Failure, demanding that individuals and companies risk far too much and learn far too little. Today's story featured a serial entrepreneur with a PhD in vision sciences who has had two entrepreneurial efforts end prematurely. She is a 40 something mom with teenagers, a lot of debt and is considering mortgaging her house to try again. Entrepreneurs and innovators need to be single minded and risk averse, but they also need a rational outlook and a life!
For over two decades, I’ve wondered about how our small startup was able to out-innovate our Fortune 500 competitors. Up until now, I didn’t really understand why that happens so often.
We come once again to the end of a year, in which we look back and ponder the successes, near misses and absolute failures of the year just ended. As the calendar ticks over into a new year we are also confronted with the promise of an unspoiled new year, simply waiting with expectation for all the possibilities to unfold. As people who are both world wise and yet full of promise, we stand on the threshold of a new year recognizing that the failures and baggage from the year just ended could hold us back, trip us up in a moment of triumph, so we agree to shed all of the problems, issues, hangups, bad habits and phobias from the year just ended, to enter a new year fresh and full of promise. We agree to release ourselves from the mistakes and forgive ourselves for the "failures", and to learn from the mistakes but not be governed or cowed by them.
A culture that can protect trade secrets is vital for innovative companies. Such a culture becomes especially important in collaborative innovation efforts where failure to protect trade secrets can severely damage partners and the offending company’s reputation.
I came across an interesting article entitled 10 Great Inventions Dreamt up by Children. They range from earmuffs to crayon holders to an underwater talking device. The stories of their young creators are inspiring for anyone interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. The article begs some questions. Why are children so much more creative than adults? How does that creativity get crushed? What other great ideas do children have that are ignored?
How come that upper middle managers and entrepreneurs look at things in different ways? The answer lies partly in their personality types. It is known that certain personality types work better in certain situations than other. This is also valid for the innovation area, as Bengt Järrehult describes below.
Creative people have messy brains. Their imaginations are messy. Why? Because they don’t want to throw anything out. Why don’t they want to throw anything out? Because they believe on some level that there is always something of interest or value in whatever they encounter.
The way to get creative is by breaking a routine, like doings things you would never do so those unconventional ideas come to the fore. You do that by reading stuff you normally would not read, by visiting places you would not go to, by hanging out with people who are not like you.
That is one part of the equation, with an added observation that you should be mindful about what you read, see, hear, smell, taste and feel. The next part of the equation is to do something with that new knowledge.
The benefit that entrepreneurs have over corporate innovators is that they must support and sustain only one idea. An entrepreneur should have one really good idea or invention and place all of his or her effort behind that idea. A corporate innovator should similarly place all of his or her effort behind an idea, but must confront the fact that there are hundreds of other existing products and services demanding attention and investment, as well as dozens of other potential ideas or avenues to pursue. This prioritization and resource allocation issue is one of the reasons that corporate innovation is so much more difficult that mere invention or becoming an entrepreneur.
Innovation environments require moisturization. You can have the excellent people, the right resources, an amazing product or service idea, and a rigorous innovation process — and still fail. Your organization might appear to be ideally suited for innovation, but under the surface might be slowly drying up.
We have too few processes and models that can help companies that want to embrace open innovation. There is the “Want-Find-Get-Manage” model as developed by Gene Slowinski, but that is about it.
This needs to change and I have begun developing a model on how companies can embrace open innovation. It is based on these 7 steps:
Ever wonder how your company stacks up in terms of open innovation adoption, practices, and maturity? Earlier this year, the tenth anniversary of the publication his landmark book Open Innovation, Henry Chesbrough teamed up with Sabine Brunswicker of Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering to publish results of what is likely the first large-scale quantitative survey of the adoption of open innovation in large companies. The overall conclusion of their survey, entitled “Managing Open Innovation in Large Firms,” is that open innovation is on rise.
If you think about astronauts, you might recall the famous book, later turned into a movie. That book was The Right Stuff. It celebrated the early astronauts, most of whom were "fly boys", test pilots. These guys seemed to have less fear, more interest in testing the limits, and were volunteers. These characteristics are also vital for innovation. When you are likely to disrupt existing processes and practices, you need to have a much higher risk tolerance, and you should be a volunteer.
Many large companies take a tortoise approach to innovation and stay as hidden within their shells as possible, even some who advocate open innovation. Tortoise companies may have creative R&D staff, including many scientists doing good work, but they keep these inventors hidden in the shell rather than encouraging them to publish or present their work.
I recently sat down with Don Creswell, cofounder and principal consultant at SmartOrg, to discuss the role of innovation strategy these days and just how critical it has become for businesses to grow.
When it comes to successful innovation execution, companies face some big hurtles, according to Creswell, Specifically, there tends to be a lack of consistent process or a too rigid a process; along with the inability to tolerate failure.
There are lots of stories about successful open innovation initiatives, but we do not really hear much about those that fail. I see three key reasons for this: 1) Lack of willingness to share failures, 2) Open Innovation is a never-ending process, 3) Copanies have not even started their open innovation journey.
I notice a pattern emerging this week. A consistent set of blogs that examine what executives and managers get backward about innovation. It's interesting, actually. As a consultant who is regularly planning and leading innovation projects, it can be a bit disconcerting to see how often well-meaning teams get things almost exactly wrong.
Many managers are too willing to innovate that which they understand and are familiar with, and ignore what is new, unusual or uncertain. Further, many firms innovate around internal capabilities or technologies rather than based on customer expectations or needs. What this leads to is a constant "doubling down" on existing capabilities, features or technologies, rather than an introduction of new capabilities or features.
Earlier this year Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted the collapse of most megabudget movies and the end of Hollywood as we know it. What gets less attention, though, is HOW motion picture production is being turned upside down. More than a million screens are coming to worldwide consumers each day. Film and content producers are using all electronic production tools; they are producing and distributing internationally; the content is built to be played on phones/tablets, DVD’s, on TV screens, and in theaters - - - all in numerous languages. The shift to a new paradigm is more momentous than is generally recognized. And it is setting the stage for a new, decentralized cast of characters, companies and investors that will “make it big” in what might be called the era of the “screen-buster.” One firm is leading the way in this content explosion, the Ford Movie Group. It is producing quality films and content employing virtually all of the new capabilities. It has demonstrated the effectiveness of the new techniques with 7 films in various stages of production.
Today we grapple with more uncertainty than ever before. For many of us this is the time of year when planning out the future becomes more ‘top of mind’. These are moments where we have to stop chasing the daily numbers, pushing the immediate projects that are in the pipeline and turn our attention to laying out our future plans. Sadly we often make a poor ‘stab’ at this thinking through process; we don’t get our thinking into the right mental frames.
The problem for management is anything discussing the future enters the ‘zone of uncertainty’ and this ability to often ‘read the tea leaves’ can very much determine the future health and direction of the organization. Ignore these shifts or signals and you are on the path to your own ‘destruction’.
Being successful at innovation is a skill. One that takes time, patience, strategic intelligence and amongst other things, funding. Many organisations succeed only after they have experienced embarrassing failures and learnt some tough lessons in the process. How do others succeed with their innovation efforts? What is the secret? In this article we use the inspiring philosophy of Steve Jobs as stimulus and ask innovation managers about their “secret sauce for innovation success”. Learning from others reduce risk because resurrecting the organisational “innovation corpse” is not an action anyone should be tasked with.
Even though, the open innovation movement is more than 10 years old, we still see people who are more concerned about protecting their assets rather than connecting them with others in order to create more opportunities faster.
It seems as if we still have to remind ourselves of this great qoute by Bill Joy: “Not all the smart people work for you.”
Most companies begin on a shoe-string -- under-funded, under the gun, and under the radar. The company I co-founded in 1986, Idea Champions, was no exception.
Clearly, we'd have to do something different if we were going to distinguish ourselves from the 600 other companies vying for the same customers.
Anna Yström is now defending her thesis on how open innovation collaboration – the context in which different organisations meet and work together to create knowledge and innovation – can be led. For four years, she has closely studied SAFER, the vehicle and traffic safety centre where 25 organisations collaborate and conduct innovative activities. Anna argues that in work like this, another perspective on leadership and another way of enacting leadership than in traditional organisations are required. It also puts greater demands on everyone involved accepting the lack of clarity and the uncertainty that arises in these contexts.
A small number of “idea scouts” and “idea connectors” are disproportionately influential in producing successful open innovation outcomes. Smart companies make sure they are linked.
In life and in business, we are often told, “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.”
From my perspective, this is bad advice. I want people to bring me bigger and better problems. Or, as the fortune cookie I got last night (above) implied, if you don’t focus on the right question, the answers/solutions may be useless.
Unfortunately, most people continue to work on solutions to problems that don’t matter.
This handy infographic by CIPHR.com captures the latest research on using sensory stimuli to enhance creativity. If you want to inspire workplace creativity, consider using these guidelines.
Facing increasingly dynamic and unpredictable environments, firms are required to develop convenient innovation strategies, constantly adapt them to changing conditions and properly implement strategically aligned initiatives throughout their organizations. Innovation portfolio management (IPM) can act as the pivotal tool to translate strategic objectives and priorities into project-based innovation activities. Furthermore, it provides a framework to convert raw ideas into real investment opportunities, based on their risk profile.
In this work we use the theory of Crowd Capital as a lens to compare and contrast a number of IS tools currently in use by organizations for crowd-engagement purposes. In doing so, we contribute to both the practitioner and research domains. For the practitioner community we provide decision-makers with a convenient and useful resource, in table-form, outlining in detail some of the differing potentialities of crowd-engaging IS. For the research community we begin to unpack some of the key properties of crowd-engaging IS, including some of the differing qualities of the crowds that these IS application engage.
Leaders have dual roles when managing innovation. In a bottom-up role, they stimulate innovative results as they facilitate ideas and initiative coming from individuals and teams. In a top-down role, leaders are the primary means for the organization to realize its innovation goals and strategies. A fundamental challenge is to balance these two roles.
We've got to find a way to reduce corporate resistance to innovation, and remove or eliminate the inertia that many corporations retain. While successful companies may feel secure with existing products and market share, that security is a myth. Much of what the resistance and inertia is based on is on protecting a customer base and market share that is under constant attack. Taking a reactive mindset and resisting change is counterproductive. Good innovators already understand this and take the fight to the market through proactive innovation. Good innovators don't hunker down, defend share and resist innovation. On the contrary they attack adjacent markets and rework their products to keep competitors off guard and uncertain.
For many business leaders, failure is a four-letter word. Traditional management theory has conditioned us to run our companies under the philosophy that failure isn’t an option.
Often times with failure comes punishment or even termination from the organization but as innovation leaders we know that failure is the more likely outcome. How can we rationalize these two radically distinct perspectives?
- See more at: http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2013/09/04/using-the-innovation-pipeline-to-drive-growth-address-failure/#sthash.VFCTd4yQ.dpuf
I've been thinking a lot about the reasons why innovation seems so important and pervasive, and equally so poorly implemented. Everywhere I go, executives are talking about the need for more innovation. Elected officials at the federal and state level praise innovation. CEOs and senior executives extoll the importance of innovation. Entrepreneurs talk about innovation as the lifeblood of their businesses. Yet for all the talk about innovation, there's a huge gap between what gets talked about and what gets done.
The underlying assumption of brainstorming is that people are scared of saying something wrong. In a period where employees still were scared to speak up, brainstorming was experienced as revolutionary.
Since the fifties a lot of people have challenged the effectiveness of brainstorms.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How can we unleash innovation all across our company?” Through the course of working with dozens of different organizations and teams, I’ve noticed four common traps that are all too easy to fall into, and nearly always get in the way of building a culture of constant innovation. I call them temptations, because they are the siren call to many an innovator. They're quite intuitive, and thus very hard to resist.
Do you assume that broadband web access is nearly universal? It’s not. Millions of rural Americans have no, or quite poor, web access. Our government allocated part of the 2.9 billion in the stimulus package (The American Recovery and Reinvestment act of 2009) to solve this problem. For many, probably most rural Americans — this had no impact at all. This inequality of access has the USA ranking 26th in the world. In Internet access! And we’re slipping.
This does not bode well for USA innovation.
A growing number of firms have realized that their innovation goals cannot be fully satisfied solely through their internal resources. Consequently, managers are increasingly supplementing their internal innovation efforts by tapping into the knowledge of external collaborators, taking an open innovation perspective (Chesbrough, 2003, Elmquist et al., 2009).
Traditionally, these external collaborators consisted of one type of external stakeholder, often other firms or customers. Nowadays, the sources of innovation are changing. Other types of stakeholders, such as competitors, activists and special interest groups have become active, well-informed and interconnected partners for innovation.
Organizations that are successful at innovation naturally develop a strong innovation culture. But supposing an innovation culture doesn’t yet exist in your organization. Then how can you develop it?
It's probably a distinction without a significant difference, but I try to distinguish very carefully between entrepreneurs, inventors and corporate innovators. While there are some significant overlaps in goals, purpose and intent, there are also some very significant differences which I'd like to explore.
Plugging in an electric vehicle is, in some cases, the equivalent of adding three houses to the grid. That has utilities in California—where the largest number of electric vehicles are sold—scrambling to upgrade the grid to avoid power outages.
Electric cars being sold today can draw two to five times more power when they’re charging than electric cars that came on the market just a couple of years ago.
Using the real life stories of not only well-known business figures and founders, but also everyday innovators who have created everything from a Craigslist for people with disabilities to a Pakistani school for young boys who had been indoctrinated into the Taliban, Bill Jensen's interviews offer an inside look at the character of some of today’s greatest change makers.
Because of efficiency and effectiveness, and their cohorts in crime, Lean, Six Sigma, downsizing, outsourcing and right sizing, most organizations run today on the bleeding edge of staffing efficiency. This means that the bottom line in most corporations looks good, and the top line is often stagnant. Firms have placed so much emphasis on efficiency and cost cutting that there's little time, focus or resource to think about growth.
I’m on record with several groups of people on what I think the next big thing in social media will be, and in my opinion the next “big” thing will be small.
I think people will grow weary of vast networks of “Friends” and “Connections” that aren’t really personal friends (Facebook) nor true business connections (LinkedIn), and seek out a place where they can create an ultra-closed network of ultra-close people they really care about and really do business with.
The challenges for innovation management are mounting: convergence of industries, shortening product life cycles, explosion and globalization of knowledge, rising importance of business model innovation, increasing impact of internet-based social networks are just a few of the megatrends that generate new realities for innovation managers.
These new realities require innovation leaders to find out how exploration and exploitation can be run simultaneously and balanced concurrently. In theory, there is also the concept of a consecutive balancing in which a firm “switches” between exploration and exploitation. From a practitioner’s perspective, however, this is not a real option since the management of the switching cycles is overly complex and the whole approach is too sluggish to adapt to swiftly changing conditions.
Even people with deep experience need to refresh their skills. As we say in innovation circles, it's a journey not a destination. That is, even people who have years of experience can learn something new to apply if they are willing to open up their minds. Developing skills and extending or refining skills and knowledge is vital, especially as we are increasingly in a knowledge based economy. Training is vital - in quality or in innovation, but the depth and type of training in these fields rapidly diverge.
Innovation is the process of idea management:
Of course, you need ideas. But once you have them, you have to select which ones are most promising because we never have enough time and resources to execute them all. And we do have to execute – that’s a critical step.
Whenever I facilitate a brainstorm session for an organization, I follow a rule of having all the participants in the room scribble down every single idea they can think of within the first 5-10 minutes – and then throw them all away.
There are three reasons I do this.
During a recent meeting where team members provide updates on their innovation projects, one of the project leads pushed back when I challenged the team to “go faster”. So what should you do when you feel your patience is waning on a project?
When we loose our patience, we exhibit worry and anger. If we are the boss, we have a tendency to want to jump in to the project and start micromanaging. Innovation takes longer than you expect. Get used to it.
Idea Enrichment is a must have step for Disruptive Innovation.
The review of ideas is an important step in the ideation process. Crowdsourcing a topic will yield lots of contributions. You’ll end up with a ranked list of ideas. But are they of any value? The trick is to take the very best or winning ideas and THEN look very critically to see if they’ll fly.
Innovation nearly always suffers some form of “mind the gap” and yet we tend to ignore the obvious and stumble into these gaps or fail to recognize them completely. These ‘gaps’ comes in so many different ways and guises.
We are in a need to constantly “mind the innovation gaps”, these are everywhere.
I'm constantly amazed at how often I see people confusing an idea with an innovation. The difference becomes quite clear once you've run a few experiments with some element of the idea.
But there's the rub: Most people struggle to understand what they must do when it comes to testing an idea. In fact, they struggle with the idea of trying to fail early in order to succeed later. Instead, they assume their idea is a good one (it usually isn't), craft a business plan (which holds little relevance in today's disruptive environment), run some numbers (mostly fantasy resting on a leap of faith assumption) and seek investment capital to run with it.
We have our innovation metaphors all wrong. Too many of them relate to point where we make the creative connection between ideas: the flash of inspiration
the eureka moment, a stroke of genius, and so on.
All of this makes us think that innovation is an event. But it’s not – innovation is a process.
Obviously, since innovation by nature is a non-routine, creative and unpredictable task, metrics might seem like something for the Controller-nerds, rather than a common skill that is central to the innovator’s DNA. And while many argue that too much measurement stifles innovation, it still remains key for the survival of every business. Assessing progress and measuring the impact of your innovation activities enables you to change your strategy before mistakes become expensive or great ideas are refused. While the development of innovation metrics in general is still an emerging discipline, there is absolutely no clear guidance on how companies should approach them in order to measure the success of their open innovation initiatives. Anyway, in these times of fast changes, there is actually a good chance that the ‘old’ systems you set out to measure innovation won’t match the challenge you’re going to face when piloting the new and emerging trends of open innovation.
Is innovation failure a contradiction? Innovation leaders and analysts say no. Venture Capitalist and Forbes writer Henry Doss observes that “…failure is a feature of highly innovative organizations….[T]here is a strong correlation between failure and innovation.” According to Doss, in a culture which is open to risk and experimentation, “[t]he paradigm is not one of failure, but one of frequency of trial.”
As of late, innovation has become the corporate buzzword because it’s one of the biggest mysteries to business leaders. But, you can’t force innovation to happen. Instead, it’s about how you shape your corporate environment so that innovation is possible.
A new study from Accenture, “Why Low Risk Innovation Is Costly,” revealed that less than one in five chief executives believes their company’s strategic investments in innovation are paying off, while half said their companies were less likely to risk implementing breakthrough ideas. So, what are these unsuccessful CEOs and their people doing wrong with their strategic investment in innovation?
You've been working at a small start-up for a while now when a large, deep-pocketed corporation comes knocking, asking you to join its innovation team. Should you take the job? Will this be the chance to exercise your entrepreneurial imagination in a more secure environment with ample assets? Or will you end up drowning in bureaucracy, pining for the white-knuckled start-up pace you're used to?
We have similar concerns whenever we consider accepting an innovation engagement.
Innovation isn't stalled because we've run out of ideas or out of steam. There's a deeper issue at stake. Innovation appears stalled in many industries because the product or service has reached its point of diminishing marginal returns for innovation. In other words, for many products and services, the next big innovation will be a significant disruption. You can tell when this is true by watching what is being "innovated" - the base product, or other ancillary features.
This article speaks about the growing sentiment of the new generation of feeling entitled to try to change the world and argues that this feeling of entitlement is a necessary ingredient to future innovation.
Having a reputation as an innovator is the ‘holy grail’ in business today. Leaders and companies want to be seen as innovative, and be tied to the many associations that come with it: creative, marketing leading, cutting edge. Leading business publications including Forbes, Fortune and Fast Company celebrate and publish an annual list of companies they consider innovative.But what is it to be innovative, and how do leaders foster it within their company culture?
The value of taking a thought walk whenever you are looking for new ideas.
Most Innovation research is focused on Product Performance. We as consumers admire the latest gadget, and seek to attain the “next big thing”. Innovation leaders and inventors often pursue innovations at the higher tiers of their markets because this is what has historically helped them succeed. However, according to Doblin’s research, there are more opportunities to create competitive advantage in the other types of innovation. In many cases these innovations may be more cost effective, and can even generate a higher rate of return.
So you’re convinced that investing in innovation is a good thing to do but you’re not sure that you are getting good value from your investment. You’ve seen over a dozen articles on innovation in the last year alone – typically these focus on a few iconic examples (such as Apple, eBay, or P&G) – but some of the advice is conflicting and you wonder how applicable it really is to your industry. You might be thinking that some of your innovation management practices need improvement but there seems to be little empirical evidence or reliable benchmarks about what really does and doesn’t work.
Arthur D. Little’s 8th Global Innovation Survey can help you address these problems. We’d like to share some initial findings with you and invite you to benchmark yourself against your industry peers.
Your market is never stable. One dangerous assumption that organisations make is that they know what market they are in, and that this will remain stable. Information technology is wreaking havoc on traditional industry boundaries. John and I visited a research lab for an engineering company last week, and it was very clear from the projects that they are working on that the firms that will win in this traditionally very conservative industry will be the first ones to become fully knowledge-based. As projects get more complex and more expensive, managing the flow of data becomes increasingly important.
We, today, are a lot like the blind men when it comes to innovation, especially when we are focused on discovering new customer needs and expectations. In many discussions about what "customers" want, it often seems like we have a group of learned blind men who know only their particular perspective. Some speak about EXISTING customers and their needs. Some speak about POTENTIAL customers and their needs. Some speak about the firms internal CAPABILITIES and TECHNOLOGIES, as if this matters. Some talk about future SCENARIOS and TRENDS that may occur. Some talk about specific SEGMENTS of customers, ignoring others. Some will talk about what they believe to be true, not what customers have told them. In the end, many clients often have very narrow, segmented and biased interpretations of customer needs, often influenced by current market conditions and the existing capabilities of the business, rather than what they've learned by interacting with customers.
A checklist of questions designed to generate a lot of ideas quickly and easily
Why are some companies better at using anticipatory intelligence to generate innovation than others? And more importantly, how will that intelligence be distributed to enhance innovation competitions? Responding to these questions, four scenarios are suggested below.
The evolving nature of futures studies forces us to rethink how foresight is being used for mitigating approaching "tsunamis." That rethinking not only embraces our functional prospects, but also addresses heuristic aspects of foresight as a profession. One of those heuristic features is anticipatory intelligence. Anticipatory intelligence is defined as "an oft-cited rationale for conducting foresight that provides background information and an early warning of recent developments. (UNIDO a & b, pp. 23, 228)"